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Global Warming

Studies

Project: Climate Change and Global Warming
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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Nature publishes a study by climate scientists Raymond Bradley, Michael Mann, and Malcolm Hughes concluding that the last few decades were warmer than any comparable time period in the last 1,000 years. Their study shows that the pace of warming was most dramatic during the last century. The authors identified the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as the dominant factor in the observed increase in global temperatures. [Nature, 4/23/1998 pdf file; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/23/2006]

Entity Tags: Malcolm Hughes, Raymond Bradley, Michael Mann

Category Tags: Studies-academic

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report on global warming, concluding that the planet’s atmosphere is warming faster than expected, and that evidence supports the theory that it is being caused by human activity. The study predicts that the world’s average surface temperature will rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit between 1990 and 2100. The IPCC’s 1995 estimate had only projected an increase of 1.8 to 6.3 degrees. The higher temperatures will cause glaciers to recede, pushing sea levels between 3.54 and 34.64 inches higher, the study says. Tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas will be displaced by the rising sea levels. The report also supports the conclusions of a 1998 study arguing that the last few decades of the twentieth century were warmer than any other comparable period in the last 1,000 years (see April 23, 1998). The IIPC’s 1,000 pages-plus report, written by 123 lead authors from all over the world, drew on the work of 516 contributing experts. At a news conference coinciding with the report’s release, IPCC chairman Robert Watson says, “We must move ahead boldly with clean energy technologies and we should start preparing ourselves for the rising sea levels, changing rain patterns and other impacts of global warming.” [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001; Reuters, 1/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Robert Watson, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

The journal Science publishes a study suggesting that a major factor in rising ocean temperatures is likely “the increase of anthropogenic gases in Earth’s atmosphere.” The study’s conclusions are based on analysis of historical ocean data pertaining to the latter half of the twentieth century. These findings are supported by results that were produced by an atmosphere-ocean general circulation model. [Levitus et al., 2001 pdf file]

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-academic

The National Research Council issues a report on global climate change that was commissioned by the White House. The opening paragraph of the document reads: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by computer model simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid regions to drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on the magnitude of the warming and the rate with which it occurs.” [Committee on the Science of Climate Change, National Research Council, 2001; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Boston Globe, 6/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), National Research Council (NRC)

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report concluding that evidence indicates that human activity is the major force behind global warming. “The report analyzes the enormous body of observations of all parts of the climate system, concluding that this body of observations now gives a collective picture of a warming world…. A detailed study is made of human influence on climate and whether it can be identified with any more confidence than in 1996, concluding that there is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” The panel also notes in its report that “the globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the period 1990 to 2100.” Roughly 1,000 experts from around the world participated in the drafting, revising and finalizing of the report and approximately 2,500 helped review it. [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Boston Globe, 6/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

The Environmental Protection Agency sends the United Nations a report on climate change, in which the US admits for the first time that human activity is largely to blame for recent global warming. It attributes rising global surface temperatures to the burning of fossil fuels and details the potential effects of continued warming. For example, the report notes, “A few ecosystems, such as alpine meadows in the Rocky Mountains and some barrier islands, are likely to disappear entirely in some areas. Other ecosystems, such as Southeastern forests, are likely to experience major species shifts or break up into a mosaic of grasslands, woodlands, and forests.” However the report does not recommend cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Rather it suggests adapting to a warmer climate, saying that nothing can be done about the greenhouse gases that have already been released into the atmosphere. Neither industry nor the environmental groups are pleased with the report. Industry’s opinions were conveyed in letters during the comment period in 2002. They had objected to the conclusion that greenhouse gases were contributing to global warming. On the other hand, environmentalists are bewildered by the the administration’s unwillingness to address the problem. “The Bush administration now admits that global warming will change America’s most unique wild places and wildlife forever,” says Mark Van Putten. “How can it acknowledge global warming is a disaster in the making and then refuse to help solve the problem, especially when solutions are so clear?” [Environmental Protection Agency, 5/2002; New York Times, 6/3/2002]

Entity Tags: United Nations, Mark Van Putten, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

The Journal of Geophysical Research publishes a study by research meteorologists Richard Wetherald and Syukuro Manabe on how global warming might impact the hydrology of different regions. According to their computer model, high latitudes would experience higher run-off rates as a result of global warming. Winters would see higher soil moisture levels than winters currently do, while summers would see lower than normal soil moisture levels. Soil moisture in lower latitudes would be lower year-round, potentially leading to the expansion of deserts. [Wetherald and Manabe, 2002]

Entity Tags: Richard Wetherald, Syukuro Manabe

Category Tags: Studies-academic

A review article by scientists Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas on global warming is published in the peer-reviewed journal Climate Research. In their article, the two astrophysicists review the work of several scientists and argue that the twentieth century was not the warmest century during the last 1,000 years. [Soon and Baliunas, 2003] Their article is promoted widely by organizations and individuals funded by ExxonMobil (see Between 1998 and 2005) [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 14 pdf file] as well as by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) who says the paper is proof that natural variability, not human activity, is the “overwhelming factor” influencing climate change. [US Congress, 7/28/2003] But after the paper is published, three of journal’s editors—including incoming editor-in-chief Hans von Storch—quit in protest. Storch, explaining his resignation, calls the paper “flawed” because “the conclusions are not supported by the evidence presented in the paper.” He adds that he suspects “some of the skeptics had identified Climate Research as a journal where some editors were not as rigorous in the review process as is otherwise common.” [Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/5/2003] Additionally, 13 of the scientists cited in the paper publish a rebuttal saying that Soon and Baliunas seriously misinterpreted their research in the paper. [Ammann et al., 2003 pdf file; American Geophysical Union, 7/7/2003]

Entity Tags: Hans von Storch, Sallie Baliunas, James M. Inhofe, Willie Soon

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

A Pentagon-commissioned analysis on the potential impact of rapid global climate change warns that such an event would likely cause global instability on a massive scale as governments try by any means to defend and secure diminishing food, water, and energy supplies. “Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,” the report suggests. “Once again, warfare would define human life.” Wealthier nations “may build virtual fortresses around their countries”in order to keep out millions of starving and displaced refugees. The report’s authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network, believe the threat is serious and possibly imminent. Randall tells the London Observer that it may already be too late to avert a disaster. “We don’t know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years,” he says. In their analysis, the authors say the issue “should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern.” It is “plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately.” The report recommends additional research on the issue and preparing a contingency plan to deal with the potential impacts of a catastrophic change in the climate. “No-regrets strategies should be identified and implemented to ensure reliable access to food supply and water, and to ensure national security.” [US Department of Defense, 10/2003; Fortune, 2/9/2004; Observer, 2/22/2004] The report was commissioned by Andrew Marshall, an influential Defense adviser who heads the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment. According to the Observer, the report is suppressed for months by top officials. [Observer, 2/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Peter Schwartz, US Department of Defense, Doug Randall, Andrew Marshall

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Studies-government

The American Geophysical Union (AGU), representing over 41,000 scientists from 130 countries involved in the study of atmospheric and ocean sciences, solid-Earth sciences, hydrologic sciences, and space sciences, issue a statement titled, “Human Impacts on Climate.” The opening paragraph states: “Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth’s climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth’s history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century….” [World Wildlife Fund, n.d.; American Geophysical Union, 12/2003]

Entity Tags: American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

The journal Science publishes a paper written by two of the nation’s leading atmospheric scientists concluding that “modern climate change is dominated by human influences” and cannot be explained by natural causes. The article, titled “Modern Climate Change,” warns that climate change “may prove to be humanity’s greatest challenge” and that “it is very unlikely to be adequately addressed without greatly improved international cooperation and action.” The authors, Kevin Trenberth, head of National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)‘s Climate Analysis Section, and Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, insist that “there is no doubt that the composition of the atmosphere is changing because of human activities, and today greenhouse gases are the largest human influence on global climate.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 12/4/2003; Karl and Trenberth, 12/7/2003; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Kevin Trenberth, Thomas Karl

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-academic

The US government’s Climate Change Science Program concludes in an annual report to Congress that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the only likely explanation for the rapid increase in global surface temperatures over the last three decades. It notes further that carbon dioxide and methane levels “have been increasing for about two centuries as a result of human activities and are now higher than they have been for over 400,000 years. Since 1750, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 30 percent and CH4 [Methane] concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 150 percent.” The report, accompanied by a letter signed by the secretaries of energy and commerce and Bush’s science adviser, represents a dramatic shift in the administration’s view on climate change. Two years prior, when the Environmental Protection Agency similarly concluded in a report (see May 2002) that global warming is the result of human activity, Bush had dismissed it as something “put out by the bureaucracy” (see June 4, 2002). Myron Ebell, of the ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization that is part of a campaign to discredit the consensus view that global warming is the result of human activity, says the report is “another indication that the administration continues to be incoherent in its global warming policies.” The report also acknowledges studies indicating that higher CO2 levels stimulate invasive weed growth more than it does crop growth. [Climate Change Science Program, 8/25/2004, pp. 79 pdf file; New York Times, 8/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Myron Ebell, Climate Change Science Program

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

The prestigious Geophysical Research Letters publishes a paper summarizing the results of a study that suggests that Antarctica may warm rapidly during the next 50 years. Researchers Drew Shindell and Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies used computer modeling to predict the effect of increased ozone levels over Antarctica. Ozone levels are expected to increase over the next few years due to international treaties that have banned ozone-depleting chemicals. The computer modeling suggested that, while Antarctica has mostly cooled over the last 30 years, this trend may quickly reverse because higher ozone levels will likely lead to the disruption of the westerly winds that currently provide a buffer against the warmer temperatures of lower latitudes. The higher temperatures in turn could result in the loss of the continent’s ice shelves. [Shindell and Schmidt, 2004; NASA, 10/6/2004]

Entity Tags: Drew Shindell, Gavin Schmidt

Category Tags: Studies-academic

The Journal of Climate publishes a paper by hurricane expert Robert Tuleya and NOAA climate scientist Thomas Knutson suggesting that an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may increase the intensity of hurricanes. Knutson’s study is based on computer analysis performed at the Commerce Department’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. The two scientists created some 1,300 virtual hurricanes using a more powerful version of the same supercomputer simulations that the NOAA uses to track and predict the behavior of real hurricanes. The New York Times reports that according to independent experts “this study is particularly significant… because it used half a dozen computer simulations of global climate, devised by separate groups at institutions around the world.” MIT climate scientist Kerry A. Emanuel says Knutson’s study “is by far and away the most comprehensive effort” to analyze the issue using computer simulations. [New York Times, 9/30/2004; Tuleya and Knutson, 2005 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas Knutson, Robert Tuleya

Category Tags: Hurricane intensity, Studies-academic

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), an international study four years in the making, warns that the Arctic is warming “at almost twice the rate as that of the rest of the world.” According to the study’s overview report, presented at a conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, the melting of sea ice and glaciers are a clear sign that the climate is undergoing drastic, possibly irreversible, changes. The study predicts that all ocean ice could disappear some time between 2060 and 2100. As more and more ice melts, temperatures are expected to increase at a quicker pace because of a positive feedback loop: higher temperatures melt more ice, exposing more ground which, unlike ice, absorbs the sun’s heat, thus increasing the temperature even more. The Arctic’s melting “will drastically shrink marine habitat for polar bears, ice-inhabiting seals, and some seabirds, pushing some species toward extinction,” the study’s 139-page overview report says. Another potential impact of the melting ice would be the release of carbon-rich methane gas currently locked in the permafrost. Scientists are also worried that the fresh water pouring off the melting glaciers will disrupt the North Atlantic Ocean conveyor current which brings the warmer Gulf waters to the Northern Atlantic keeping the region warmer than it would be otherwise. The report was commissioned by the Arctic Council, an international forum made of the eight countries that border the region: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the US. Six circumpolar indigenous peoples’ organisations are also represented in the council. Arctic warming is changing the ecology of the region in a way that is threatening the livelihoods of circumpolar groups like the Inuit and Athabaskans. The study’s findings—based on the work of more than 300 scientists and five different computer models—are contained in a 1,200-plus- page, fully referenced scientific report that underwent a rigorous peer-review process prior to publication. [Arctic Council, 11/2004; BBC, 11/2/2004; Independent, 11/11/2004; Reuters, 11/8/2005; One World, 11/9/2005] The study was actually completed months before its release on November 8, but was delayed by the Bush administration until after the elections, according to Gordon McBean, an ACIA participant from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction at the University of Western Ontario. [Inter Press Service, 9/10/2005]

Entity Tags: Arctic Council

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Politicization

Science magazine publishes a study by science historian Naomi Oreskes describing how a review of “928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords ‘climate change’” failed to turn up even one study explicitly challenging the consensus opinion that global warming has anthropogenic causes. [Science Magazine, 12/3/2004] Her findings are disputed by Dr. Benny Peiser, a senior lecturer in the science faculty at Liverpool John Moores University, who says that his own review of the abstracts from the ISI database found that only one-third implicitly backed the consensus view, and explicitly, only one percent. He tries to get his findings published in Science, but the magazine does not accept it. [Daily Telegraph, 1/5/2005] Peiser later sends 34 abstracts, which he insists challenge the consensus view, to Tim Lambert, a computer scientist who blogs on environmental issues. Lambert and his readers note that only a few of the abstracts actually appear to question anthropogenic global warming. They also note that the authors who do dispute global warming have backgrounds—such as petroleum geology, and energy and power engineering—that are typically sympathetic to the views of industry. [Lambert, 5/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Naomi Oreskes, Tim Lambert, Benny Peiser

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors, Presentation of science

The journal Nature publishes an article by MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel suggesting that rising sea temperatures are producing stronger hurricanes. His study found that a combined measure of duration and wind speeds among North Atlantic hurricanes and North Pacific cyclones has almost doubled since the 1970s. “The best way to put it is that storms are lasting longer at high intensity than they were 30 years ago,” says Emanuel. [Emanuel, 2005; USA Today, 7/31/2005]

Entity Tags: Kerry Emanuel

Category Tags: Hurricane intensity, Studies-academic

The George C. Marshall Institute publishes a book titled, Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming. In its press release announcing the book, the institute says the book “demonstrates the remarkable disparities between so-called ‘consensus documents’ on global warming… and climate reality.” The book, edited by longtime climate contrarian Patrick Michaels, a meteorologist, features essays contributed by Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, Randall S. Cerveny, John Christy, Robert E. Davis, Oliver W. Frauenfeld, Ross McKitrick, Eric S. Posmentier, and Willie Soon. Michaels is affiliated with at least ten organizations that have been funded by ExxonMobil and the Marshall Institute has received some $630,000 from ExxonMobil in support of its climate change program (see Between 1998 and 2005). [George C. Marshall Institute, 12/14/2005; Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 pdf file]

Entity Tags: John Christy, Willie Soon, George C. Marshall Institute, Ross McKitrick, Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, Oliver W. Frauenfeld, Robert E. Davis, Randall S. Cerveny, Patrick Michaels, Eric S. Posmentier

Category Tags: Industry, Presentation of science, Causal factors, Studies-academic

2006: Tibetan Glaciers Melting Fast

The Chinese Academy of Sciences reports that Tibet’s glaciers are melting at an increasingly quick pace and will decrease in size by 50 percent every decade. Over the last 20 years, the country’s average temperature has increased by 2 degrees Fahrenheit. The plateau’s 46,298 glaciers, which cover almost 60,000 square miles, provide water to 300 million people in China alone. According to the academy, the melting of the glaciers will result in an “ecological catastrophe.” The region will suffer more droughts and sandstorms and the tundra will turn into a desert. Many of the world’s largest rivers will be devastated. “The melting glaciers will ultimately trigger more droughts, expand desertification and increase sand storms,” says Dong Guangrong, a spokesperson for the academy. [Xinhua News Agency, 2/5/2006; Chinese Academy of Sciences, 2/27/2006; Independent, 5/7/2006]

Entity Tags: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Category Tags: Melting glaciers, Studies-academic

A team of Russian and American scientists conclude in a study published in the journal Science that the melting of Siberia’s carbon-rich permafrost could result in the release of about 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the next 100 years. That would almost double the atmosphere’s current load of the greenhouse gas which currently stands at about 700 billion tons. When permafrost melts, it makes organic material available to microbes which convert much of the carbon in it into carbon dioxide. This process results in what is known as a “positive feedback” loop whereby the increased presence of greenhouse gases leads to more warming and consequently to the melting of more carbon-rich permafrost. Leading climate models do not factor in the melting of Siberia’s permafrost, which covers some 400,000 square miles, when trying to make predictions about climate change. Previous estimates of the amount of carbon contained in the permafrost have put the value much lower. “We have known [about] the permafrost in Siberia before,” explains atmospheric scientist Bala Govindasamy, “Previous estimates for global permafrost [are] between 200 and 400 [billion tons]. This study has found higher carbon content in the Siberian permafrost and estimates that the total global amount could be about 1,000 [billion tons].” This report “makes it kind of scary—it means there’s a form of climate risk that we really haven’t got a good handle on,” notes Chris Field, director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford. Another scientist, paleoclimatologist David Anderson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climate Prediction Center, tells the San Francisco Chronicle that carbon dioxide released from Siberia “could raise temperatures dramatically beyond the current projections. Second, it could raise the rate at which temperatures rise.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/16/2006; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/16/2006; Zimov, Schuur, and Chapin, 6/16/2006]

Category Tags: Studies-academic

A National Academy of Sciences study concludes that the last few decades were warmer than any other comparable period in the last four centuries. The study’s findings are based on evidence from tree rings, boreholes, retreating glaciers, and other indicators of past surface temperatures. The study was commissioned by Congress in 2005 to investigate whether the claims made in a controversial 1998 climate study by climate scientist Michael Mann are true. That study had concluded that the climate is now warmer than any other time in the last 1,000 years. Mann had also reported in his study that the 1990s were the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year. The authors of the current study say they were unable to draw any solid conclusions about temperatures extending beyond the last 400 years for lack of reliable data. Nonetheless, they do agree that available evidence indicates that Mann’s conclusion regarding the last 1,000 years is indeed “plausible.” “Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th Century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium,” the report concludes. [National Research Council, 2006; National Academies, 6/22/2006; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/23/2006; BBC, 6/23/2006]

Category Tags: Studies-academic

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) argues that “the present warming and associated glacier retreat are unprecedented in some areas for at least 5,200 years.” As evidence, it notes the widespread melting of mountain glaciers, the uncovering of plants that were buried thousands of years ago, and a change in the chemical isotopes of ice cores taken from seven mountain glaciers over the past 30 years, including the Huascaran and Quelccaya ice caps in Peru, the Sajama ice cap in Bolivia, and the Dunde and Puruogangri ice caps in China. According to the study’s authors, the ice samples also indicate that there was a sudden cooling of the climate five millennia ago. [Independent, 6/27/2006] Additional evidence of the sudden climate change has come from Mount Kilimanjaro; African lakes; Greenland and Antarctic ice cores, lead author Lonnie Thompson notes in an interview with the Washington Post. “There are thresholds in the system,” he says. “There is the risk of changing the world as we know it to some form in which a lot of people on the planet will be put at risk.” [Washington Post, 6/27/2006]

Category Tags: Melting glaciers, Studies-academic

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) concludes that there is an 84 percent chance that human activity is responsible for rising sea surface temperatures (SST). Climate scientist Tom Wigley, one of the study’s authors, says data from 22 different computerized climate change models showed “exceptional correlation” between human activity and climate change. The only plausible explanation for the dramatic increase in sea surface temperatures is deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. “There is less than a one percent chance that the changes in SST could be the result of non-human factors,” Wigley explains. The paper also finds that higher sea surface temperatures are increasing the frequency and intensity of storms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. [Inter Press Service, 9/12/2006; Boston Globe, 9/12/2006; Santer et al., 9/19/2006]

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

The National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that 2006 was the warmest year on record. Average temperatures in the US were 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than mean temperatures for the 20th century. Seven months were much warmer than average, and December 2006 was the fourth-warmest December on record. An NOAA news release acknowledges that the warming is being caused by human activity. “A contributing factor to the unusually warm temperatures throughout 2006 also is the long-term warming trend, which has been linked to increases in greenhouse gases,” it states. “People should be concerned about what we are doing to the climate,” says Jay Lawrimore, chief of NOAA’s climate monitoring branch in Asheville, NC. “Burning of fossil fuels is causing an increase in greenhouse gases and there’s a broad scientific consensus that [it’s] producing climate change.” [National Climatic Data Center, 1/9/2007; United Press International, 1/10/2007; New York Times, 1/10/2007]

Entity Tags: Jay Lawrimore, National Climatic Data Center

Category Tags: Studies-government

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues a summary of its fourth report concluding for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal.” The authors of the report also conclude that there is a 90 percent likelihood that greenhouse gases produced as a result of human activities have been the main cause of global warming since 1950. In its last report (see January 22, 2001), the panel made the same assessment, but with a confidence level of only 66 to 90 percent. The 20-page summary, meant for policymakers, will be followed by four technical reports that will be completed and published later in the year. The panel’s conclusions are based on “a three-year review of hundreds of studies of past climate shifts; observations of retreating ice, warming and rising seas, and other changes around the planet; and a greatly expanded suite of supercomputer simulations used to test how the earth will respond to a growing blanket of gases that hold heat in the atmosphere,” the New York Times reports.
Partial list of conclusions -
bullet Global temperatures will increase 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit if carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere attain levels twice that of 1750, before the Industrial Revolution.
bullet Concentrations of carbon dioxide have reached a level not seen during the last 650,000 years, and the rate of increase is beginning to accelerate.
bullet Even a moderate warming of the global climate would likely result in significant stress to ecosystems and change longstanding climate patterns that influence water supplies and agricultural production.
bullet Sea levels will likely rise between 7 and 23 inches by 2100 and continue rising for at least the next 1,000 years.
bullet “It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.”
bullet The panel expects that precipitation will increase at higher latitudes, while rainfall will likely decrease at lower latitudes. Semi-arid subtropical regions could see 20 percent less rain.
bullet Oceans will absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide which will form carbonic acid, thus lowering the pH of seawater and harming certain kinds of marine life such as corals and plankton.
bullet If the level of greenhouse gases continues to grow, average temperatures by the end of the century could reach temperature not seen since 125,000 years ago when ocean levels were 12 to 20 feet higher than they are now. Much of that extra water is currently locked in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, which are beginning to melt. While there is evidence that the glaciers and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic could flow seaward far more quickly than current estimates predict, the climate change panel did not include this in its assessment because it is forbidden by its charter to engage in speculation. According to Michel Jarraud, the secretary general of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, “the speed with which melting ice sheets are raising sea levels is uncertain, but the report makes clear that sea levels will rise inexorably over the coming centuries. It is a question of when and how much, and not if.”
bullet The harmful consequences of global warming can be lessened if governments take prompt action.
Responses -
bullet Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which administers the panel along with the World Meteorological Organization, says: “In our daily lives we all respond urgently to dangers that are much less likely than climate change to affect the future of our children. Feb. 2 will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet. The evidence is on the table.”
bullet John P. Holdren, an energy and climate expert at Harvard, who is the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says the report “powerfully underscores the need for a massive effort to slow the pace of global climatic disruption before intolerable consequences become inevitable.… Since 2001, there has been a torrent of new scientific evidence on the magnitude, human origins and growing impacts of the climatic changes that are under way. In overwhelming proportions, this evidence has been in the direction of showing faster change, more danger and greater confidence about the dominant role of fossil-fuel burning and tropical deforestation in causing the changes that are being observed.”
bullet Richard B. Alley, one of the lead authors and a professor at Pennsylvania State University, says: “Policy makers paid us to do good science, and now we have very high scientific confidence in this work—this is real, this is real, this is real. The ball’s back in your court.” [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2/2/2007 pdf file; New York Times, 2/3/2007; Independent, 2/3/2007]

Entity Tags: Michel Jarraud, John P. Holdren, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Achim Steiner, Richard B. Alley

Category Tags: Causal factors, Hurricane intensity, Studies-government

Some skeptics of global warming embrace a recent scientific study showing that ocean bacteria, not greenhouse gases and fossil fuels, are the primary cause of global warming. Unfortunately for the skeptics, the study is a hoax. The faux study, published in the “Journal of Geoclimatic Studies,” is laden with pseudo-scientific jargon “proving” that bacteria in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans emit at least 300 times more carbon dioxide than industrial activity, and apparently fools skeptics. A British scientist e-mails the report to 2,000 colleagues before realizing it was a spoof. A US scientist calls the report a “blockbuster.” [Reuters, 11/8/2007] The conclusion of the “study” is especially interesting to those who dispute global warming. The authors write, “[W]e recognize that in [overturning man-made climate change] we lay our careers on the line. As we have found in seeking to broach this issue gently with colleagues, and in attempting to publish these findings in other peer-reviewed journals, the ‘consensus’ on climate change is enforced not by fact but by fear. We have been warned, collectively and individually, that in bringing our findings to public attention we are not only likely to be deprived of all future sources of funding, but that we also jeopardize the funding of the departments for which we work.” [Note: The site hosting the spoof study has disappeared from the Web, but remains for now in Google’s cache.] [Institute of Geoclimatic Studies, 11/3/2007; Grist Magazine, 11/9/2007]
Rush Limbaugh Taken In - Talk show host Rush Limbaugh tells his listeners of the study, apparently misunderstanding a warning from global warming skeptic Dr. Roy Spencer. While Spencer tells Limbaugh that the study is a spoof, Limbaugh tells listeners that the study proves global warming itself is a hoax. Spencer will apologize to Limbaugh for “not being clear.” [WeatherQuestions (.com), 11/11/2007] (Spencer is a scientific adviser for the “Interfaith Stewardship Alliance,” a “coalition of religious leaders, clergy, theologians, scientists, academics, and other policy experts committed to bringing a proper and balanced Biblical view of stewardship to the critical issues of environment and development.” [Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, 2005] Conservative blogger and global warming nonbeliever Neil Craig writes: “This could not be more damaging to man-made global warming theory.… I somehow doubt if this is going to be on the BBC news.”
Hoax Exposed and Revealed - But real scientists quickly knock the study down. Deliang Chen, professor of meteorology at Sweden’s Gothenburg University, says, “The whole story is a hoax.” Two of the report’s supposed authors claim to be on the Gothenburg staff, but Chen says they are not students or faculty at his school. [Reuters, 11/8/2007] The research center cited by the article does not exist. Nor does the “Journal of Geoclimatic Studies,” which supposedly published the study. [WeatherQuestions (.com), 11/11/2007] The actual author of the spoof uses the pseudonym “Dr. Mark Cox” in an interview for Nature magazine’s blog, “The Great Beyond.” “Cox” says he wrote the spoof “to expose the credulity and scientific illiteracy of many of the people who call themselves climate skeptics. While dismissive of the work of the great majority of climate scientists, they will believe almost anything if it lends support to their position. Their approach to climate science is the opposite of skepticism.” He says the science proving global warming “could scarcely be clearer.” To a question asking what he would say to those taken in by his hoax, he replies, “More fool you.” [Nature, 11/9/2007]

Entity Tags: David Roberts, Deliang Chen, Rush Limbaugh, Gothenburg University, Neil Craig, Roy W. Spencer, Mark Cox, Nature

Category Tags: Presentation of science, Studies-academic

At least 19 Congressional Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), say that the Obama administration’s “cap-and-trade” proposal would cost American families $3,128 apiece in extra taxes.
Misrepresenting an MIT Study - Boehner, McConnell, and their fellow Republicans base their claim on a 2007 MIT study. However, one of the study’s researchers, John Reilly, says that the Republicans are misreading it. According to Reilly, any tax burden on American families would not be felt until 2015, and the cost would be closer to $31 per person and $79 per year. The controversial claim originates in a Web posting by the House Republican Conference on March 24, which says: “The administration raises revenue for nationalized health care through a series of new taxes, including a light switch tax that would cost every American household $3,128 a year. What effect will this have on Americans struggling to pay their mortgages?” The St. Petersburg Times explains that the GOP’s “light switch tax” is a reference to President Obama’s proposal to tax power companies for carbon dioxide emissions, and allow companies to trade emissions credits among themselves. The program is called cap-and-trade. Republicans say the power companies would pass the tax on to electricity consumers, thus creating what they call a “light switch tax”—a term the Times calls misleading in and of itself. According to the MIT study, such a program would raise around $366 billion per year; Republicans divide that figure by the 117 million households in the US and get $3,128 in additional costs. Reilly says the Republicans are “just wrong. It’s wrong in so many ways it’s hard to begin.”
Corrected by Study's Author - And, Reilly says, he told House Republicans so when they contacted him on March 20. “I had explained why the estimate they had was probably incorrect and what they should do to correct it, but I think this wrong number was already floating around by that time.” Republicans also claim that the Obama administration intends to use cap-and-trade money to pay for what they call “nationalized health care,” a claim refuted by details of the program released by Obama officials. (House Republicans later amend this claim to say that the program will pay for “increased spending.”) The Times notes that Boehner rebuffs a second attempt by Reilly to correct the claim that the program will cost American households over $3,000 per year.
Further Falsehoods - Instead, nine other Republicans and the neoconservative Weekly Standard begin echoing the claim, with the Standard claiming that their figures show an annual cost of over $3,900 and accusing Reilly of “low-balling the cost of cap-and-trade by using some fuzzy logic.” Reilly says the Standard “just completely twisted the whole thing.… It’s false.” Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) takes the claim even further, saying that the huge annual tax would be levied on “every living American.” Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) restates the cost to $4,500 per family, and fellow House colleague Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) raises the rate to $4,560. Fox News correspondent Jim Angle reports Gregg’s claim without refutation or examination; on a later Fox broadcast, Gregg says, “every time you turn on your light switch, you’re going to be paying a tax.”
Denouncing the Lies - Reilly has written to Boehner and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to denounce the GOP’s distortion of the MIT study. Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) accuses the Republicans of “using an intentional misrepresentation of the study,” and says: “One of the things I find most distressing is their repeated falsehood about somehow a $3,000 increase in taxes on the American people based on a research done by MIT. They talked about it four times again last night!… The fact is that in the budget we have an opportunity for people who want to be legislators not communicators to help us allocate how those benefits will be utilized.” [St. Petersburg Times, 3/30/2009; Think Progress, 4/1/2009; Think Progress, 4/2/2009]

Entity Tags: Judd Gregg, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Obama administration, John Reilly, Jim Angle, Cynthia Lummis, Earl Blumenauer, House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, House Republican Conference, John Boehner

Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises

Category Tags: Policies, Politicization, Press releases, Studies-academic

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