Wednesday, February 25, 2009
While the world’s leading climate scientists paint increasingly grim scenarios about where global warming is leading, various polls confirm that the public is relatively unconcerned. The blame for this apathy in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence that human civilization seems to be heading for almost certain disaster on a scale that is unprecedented is attributable to the media according to Dr. Neil Gavin from the School of Politics and Communications Studies at Liverpool University. Science Daily reports that Dr. Gavin and his research colleagues found fewer articles published in the media on climate change over a 3-year period than are published on health matters during a period of one month. Dr. Gavin concludes that “Climate change…may not be high enough on the media agenda to stimulate the sort of public concern that prompts concerted political action.” It is difficult to know what it would take for the media to cover global warming for this type of political action to result. Most parameters of global warming are incremental. Global temperatures are increasing as predicted but the rate is only about .2C per decade. Sea level is rising as predicted but the increase is only about 3 to 4 mm per year. The atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide have gone off the charts compared with the previous thousands of years but it only has been increasing by about 2 parts per million annually. These trends projected into the next several decades are ominous to say the least according to almost all climate scientists but it is difficult for these dire projections about the future to compete with a collapsing economy, wars and threats of terrorism, new information of the risks of heart disease and cancer, etc. The day that the media provides adequate coverage of global warming in time to provoke concerted political action to avert catastrophic climate change may just never arrive.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
The predictions on climate change by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the years keep getting gloomier and gloomier, but a leading climate scientist from Stanford University, Chris Field, thinks the IPCC's latest predictions are not gloomy enough. A report by Agence France-Presse posted on Yahoo News says that Field, a senior member of the IPCC, believes that a greater-than-predicted increase in greenhouse gas emissions from 2000 to 2007, mainly attributable to coal burning to generate more electricity in developing countries, has increased the potential for disastrous effects of global warming. He warns specifically about higher temperatures increasing the possibility of tropical forests burning as a result of drying out and Arctic tundra thawing, each of which could potentially release huge amounts of greenhouse gases. This would set up a positive feedback mechanism which Field says “could spiral out of control by the end of the century.” Field says that “We don’t want to cross a critical threshold where this massive release of carbon starts to run on autopilot.”
Sunday, February 08, 2009
In what almost sounds like something out of a Hollywood disaster movie, the Guardian reports that climate scientists from around the world will hold an emergency meeting in Denmark next month to try to get the politicians moving on fighting global warming. An update will be published on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report of two years ago which will be more specific on some issues such as prediction of sea level rise. It would seem that there is already far and away enough information about the climate change crisis to warrant all-out action to stop global warming, so it is a little hard to fathom what this meeting will accomplish. The public doesn’t seem concerned enough to take to the streets and demand action so most politicians seem content to fiddle away as the disaster unfolds. Gradual warming with lag times of decades isn’t the type of crisis that will arouse the masses. The past two decades of mostly apathy is evidence of that.