Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Global Warming: More or Less?

Thomas Riggins

Many Republicans and other rightists deny there is any problem of global warming at all. The New York Times complains that Congress doesn't take the threat seriously. Meanwhile six billion tonnes of coal a year, half by China alone, is set to be burnt to fuel the world's industries. So is global warming getting worse or not?

Climate scientists rely on complicated and sophisticated computer modeling to come up with their estimates of global warming and its future consequences. Below is a brief review of four major scientific studies between 2008 and 2010 which will give us some idea of what is going on.

A Cornell University study was reported in Science Daily in 2008 which claimed global warming was being overestimated ("Global Warming Predictions Are Overestimated, Suggests Study on Black Carbon" ScienceDaily Nov. 25, 2008).

Black carbon is carbon in the earth's soil that results from the burning of organic material. There are many types of carbon in the soils of the earth and they are continuously releasing CO2 into the air-- at different rates depending on the source of the carbon.

It only takes a few years for organic matter in the soil to be released into the atmosphere as CO2-- except for black carbon. Scientists have found it takes from one to two thousand years for this type of carbon to convert to atmospheric CO2. Many popular computer models have not been been taking this fact about black carbon into consideration.

Once adjustment is made for this, the Cornell scientists reported, the amount of CO2 predicted to be released from the soil in the next 100 years is reduced by 20%. This is really significant because soil based carbon annually produces 10 times more CO2 than that produced by all "human activities combined."

This may reduce the estimate of future climate change, nevertheless, global warming is still heating the earth and a future catastrophe cannot avoided if we do not act to reduce this heating trend.

A ScienceDaily report from June 11, 2009 ("Carbon Emissions Linked To Global Warming In Simple Linear Relationship") from scientists at Concordia University, shows that there is a direct relationship between the amount of CO2 emitted and the rise in global temperature. Maybe we can't control natural CO2 emissions, but we have to control human emissions of CO2 which are exacerbating the natural carbon cycle.

Professor Damon Matthews, who headed this study, says that if there is to be hope limiting global warming to just 2 degrees [Celsius] we must limit ALL our FUTURE carbon emissions to 500 billion tonnes "about as much again" as we have emitted since the start of the Industrial Revolution. That "all" means forever! Good luck with that.

On July 13, 2009, ScienceDaily reported on an article in Interscience ("Trapping Carbon Dioxide Or Switching To Nuclear Power Not Enough To Solve Global Warming Problem.") This report, from scientists at LuLea University in Sweden, found that neither converting to nuclear power nor trapping CO2 [two of most popular capitalist solutions, besides cap and trade a non solution] would solve the global warming problem. That's nice to know but they don't provide any alternative solution.

Finally, as of this week. An article published on November 22, 2010 ("Cloud Study Predicts More Global Warming" from ScienceDaily) doesn't give us much to look forward to. Scientists from the University of Hawaii Manoa have constructed what they think to be the most up to date computer model with respect to the future extent of the earth's cloud cover over the next 100 years as it reacts to global warming. Clouds reflect much of the heat from the Sun back into space before it gets trapped by green house gases. Well, their model shows that the cloud cover will be much thinner than other computer models have considered and so IF they are correct then even the worse predictions of climate change would be underestimates of "the real change we could see." It is up to us comrades. Neither the bourgeoisie nor its politicians can solve this problem

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