One of the first things President-Elect of the United States Donald Trump did was to renege on the 2015 Paris Agreement, a global initiative to combat global warming. The reason: “Man-made global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese”, claimed Mr Trump.
To be fair, Mr Trump had been calling it a hoax since 2012, long before he ran for President. Reactions on Twitter then were quick. Perky McJingles (@AidanJohnMoffat) simply said “fuck off” and Jared Earle (@jearle) joined in with “I love the Donald. Proof that stupid still exists”.
(Featured Photo via ABC | John Locher, AP Photo)
That 2012 tweet quickly became the most retweeted tweet of the 2016 US Presidential debate. But is the President Elect correct? To refresh your idea of what is global warming, read this first.
As ludicrous as Mr Trump sounds, he’s not alone. In 2009, the Daily Telegraph’s article reported about “Climategate”, a series of leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) that detailed how the facility’s director Professor Philip Jones had discussed tactics with colleagues to avoid releasing data about the centre’s highly influential record on the global temperature.
Dr Jones, said The Telegraph, is in charge of two key sets of data used by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to draw up its reports. Dr Jones’ global temperature record has the most influence out of four sets of data used by the IPCC and governments to base their “predictions that the world will warm to catastrophic levels unless trillions of dollars are spent to avert it”.
The emails also exposed the devious ways Dr Jones and his colleagues used to manipulate data through their computerised models to lower past temperatures and to “adjust” recent readings upwards to show an accelerated warming. Their readings were disproved in Australia and New Zealand when the countries compared official temperature record against the original data on which it was derived. The Telegraph reporter, Christopher Booker has followed up with another article in 2015 about tampered data reported by a climate blog.
In 2015, US news site Breitbart also claimed the taxpayer-funded National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been covering up data that showed a “pause” in global warming, In its article, it claimed the NOAA has been politicised and “there has been no ‘global warming’ since 1997”. It backed up its claim by citing the RSS satellite records (which has the most reliable global temperature dataset, according to the website) that showed the global temperature had only increased by 0.05ºC per decade. The article noted the IPCC had grudgingly acknowledged the rise was smaller than the 0.1ºC range of error for thermometer readings and was considered inconsequential.
(Photo: Summit County Citizen Voice)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has also been accused of refusing to release data under the Freedom of Information Act, said The Washington Times. Attorney Chris Horner, a known critic of global warming, led the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) lawsuit against NASA for withholding information. The article said NASA had recalculated its data and overturned on its 2007 report that said 1998 was the hottest year on record for the US contiguous states when it was in fact 1934. NASA later changed and said 1998 and 2006 tied for the hottest year, with 1934 being slightly cooler.
However, The Washington Times and Mr Horner also have a chequered past. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which claims to protect the US civil rights movement, said “The Washington Times has a history of hyper stories, shoddy reporting and failing to correct errors” while Mr Horner has been linked to multiple fossil fuels corporations with the CEI receiving more than US$2m in funding from ExxonMobil. Mr Horner had also spoken at the 2015 Coal and Investment Leadership Forum, which included owners and chief executives of coalmining and energy companies, in their guest list, said sourcewatch.
Myriad online pundits have also called global warming a hoax. The globalclimatescam.com provides 10 reasons why the climate change is fake by citing record ice data by NASA and record snowfall in 2014, when it was claimed to be the “hottest year ever”. It also cites the same RSS data in the Breitbart article.
However, looking at NASA’s record, cited by Global Climate Scam, the agency said sea ice behaves differently in Antarctica and the Artic. While it acknowledged that the Antarctic sea ice had hit record highs between 2012 and 2014, it returned to average levels in 2015. What was alarming was the Artic sea ice had reported a sharp decline. “The decreases in Arctic sea ice far exceed the increases in Antarctic sea ice”, said the NASA report.
The Guardian’s opinion piece by professor of thermal sciences John Abraham claimed the “world continues to warm and their (climate deniers) favourite myths have died. Dr Abraham said modern instruments have been recording the change caused by human-emitted heat-trapping gases and have the data to back global warming claims. Dr Abraham also debunked the global warming “hiatus”, deferring to a report that said “when the sample size is small (such as a short time period with very few years), a so-called ‘hiatus’ will always appear. Anyone claiming a “hiatus” shorter than 12 years will almost always find one”.
A report by Oil Change International in September 2016 warned fossil fuels reserves could push past the threshold for dangerous climate change. If crude oil and coal are allowed to be gathered beyond their projected lifetimes, it could punch through the two-degree Celsius cap for global warming laid by the Paris Agreement.
On the back of the President Elect Trump’s hoax claim, more than 800 scientists have signed an open letter urging the US to address climate change to protect “America’s economy, national security and public health safety”. The letter called on Mr Trump to make America a clean energy leader, reduce carbon pollution and dependence on fossil fuels and publicly acknowledge that climate change is real, human-caused, and an urgent threat.
As proponents and deniers of Climate Change continue to debate its truthfulness, the real danger comes when world leaders close their minds to possibilities. As it is, we do not understand what’s causing the messed up weather and extreme climates. Studies need to be conducted to learn its implications and solutions if – and when – it happens, but when one party slaps a “hoax” label on climate change, it is effectively shutting it down – and killing the earth along with it.
What is global warming?
According to Live Science, “Global warming is the gradual heating of Earth’s surface, oceans and atmosphere.” Global warming occurs when more heat is trapped within the earth’s atmosphere during the greenhouse effect due to human activity. Under normal circumstances, the greenhouse effect is what maintains life on earth: Radiation from the sun is absorbed by the earth and reflected up to the atmosphere as heat. The gases in the atmosphere then absorb up to 90 percent of this heat and beam the rest to warm up the surface. This leaves us with the comfortable 15ºC average global temperature that preserves life.
This temperature is maintained when there is a delicate balance of “water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)”, said Live Science. The problem begins when man introduces too much of certain types of gases into the atmosphere.
(Photo: Climate Change Knowledge)
In the 1960s, bio-scientists, who worked in the fields of forestry and agriculture, worked with geochemists (whose work laid traditionally in academic centres like the Scripps Institution of Oceanography) and other scientists, including atmospheric specialists in meteorology, started a carbon-cycle community. This think-tank produced a computerised model that simulated the actual climate of the planet, including sea ice, deserts and trade winds in all the right places.
Out of curiosity, they doubled the amount of CO2 in their simulated atmosphere and found it raised the global temperature by a couple of degrees. While the rise of rise of the CO2 was a concern, research in the 70s to 80s found that methane and other gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) emitted by human activities “could have a greenhouse effect that was sometimes molecule for molecule tens or hundreds times greater than CO2, reported Physicist Spencer Weart and the American Institute of Physics.
In 1958, the late Dr Charles David Keeling, who had earlier developed an accurate system to measure the concentration of CO2 in the air, surveyed the atmospheric CO2 concentration using seaboard and airborne measurements as well as measurements at Mauna Loa Observatory and other land stations. The study was based on the suggestion by Nobel Laureate Dr Svante Arrhenius that the CO2 in the air might have been increasing due to the burning of fossil fuels. The Mauna Loa record, or “Keeling Curve” confirmed the theoretical notion of the CO2 increase within a few years of measurement. The study has become the standard icon symbolising the impact of humans on the planet.