Almost lost amidst the (justifiable) outrage and attention regarding the Iraqi prisoner abuses is news that a team at the University of Washington has knocked down the last scientific objection to the notion that global warming is real, and that human activity is a significant causal factor.
As reported in the May 6, 2004, issue of Nature, researchers from UW investigated why, if surface temperature records show clear signs of warming, satellite measurements of the troposphere -- the atmosphere from the ground to about 11 kilometers up -- did not. Opponents of the human-caused global warming model pointed to this contradiction as a sign that climate change wasn't real or was triggered by natural causes. According to Dr. Qiang Fu's team, cooling in the upper atmosphere -- itself a known result of greenhouse gases -- alters the satellite measurements; when that is accounted for, the troposphere data matches precisely with current models of human-caused warming.
While not good news in the "we're all going to be just fine" category, it does mean that we now have a much better understanding of the mechanisms underlying global warming, as well as confirmation that the current models work. It also means that the inevitable continued objections to doing anything about global warming have likely lost any remaining scientific credibility.
The Nature link above is to a short report; the article (linked from that page) is not freely available. Better details on the story can be found in this article from the London Times, and this release from UW, via Eurekalert.
Wow, are YOU hopeful!
The F.U.D. produced by the fossil fuel industry and ideological think tanks is astonishing in its quantity and breadth.
The lastest, most egregious line of argument from the denial crowd:
Scientists publish results like this because they're trying to scare people into giving them grants for further research.
Just because 90% of scientists think global warming is happening doesn't mean it is because science doesn't run on consensus.
People trying to translate these facts into policy have a long, hard struggle ahead of them.
I think it's going to take a really horrible awful climate disaster to get the ball rolling.
Note that I didn't say that opposition would cease -- in fact, I said the opposite. It's just that the one leg upon which a real scientific objection to global warming theory could stand is now gone, so that continued opposition would have to be political.
And, yeah, today I'm hopeful. Tomorrow I'll go back to my usual sullen self.
Aren't you a little quick to call it the final proof already? Can't we even wait until other scientists have gotten their replies in? See this crumb trail post and the reply to this study by Roy Spencer.
I deny nor confirm climate change - honestly I don't know. This post doesn't have an agenda, but I do think you are judging too fast by immediatly claiming a study is right.
"this post" was referring to my post.
Dig the greenhouse warning icon!
Oh, was that from the contest?
Time to make a sticker out of that, for gas pumps and tail pipes.
Indeed, that's the Greenhouse Warning icon from the Viridian contest, the winning design by Jason Cole.
Frank, I'm not sure what to say to people at this point who claim to have no opinion on the reality of global warming-induced climate change. The evidence is pretty damn overwhelming at this point; I don't know what more a reasonable person could ask for as confirmation. What would it take for you to accept the science?
As for the specific article linked to in this post, it's not new data that needs to be analyzed and confirmed, it's a more sophisticated analysis of existing data. The article includes quotes from other climatologists appluading the new approach (as well as a critic of global warming in general, whose response is essentially "it's not real, and if it's real, it doesn't matter, and if it does matter, it's not real (etc.)"
"Frank, I'm not sure what to say to people at this point who claim to have no opinion on the reality of global warming-induced climate change. The evidence is pretty damn overwhelming at this point; I don't know what more a reasonable person could ask for as confirmation. What would it take for you to accept the science?"
That's simple: knowledge of the science, of which I don't have that much, but I'm working on it. I read up on politics and science in my spare time, of which I don't have that much either. I'm still working on it. I just stated this in my post to make clear I was not coming from a fundamentally global warming-skeptic direction, hoping to avoid misinterpretation. I, by the way, am not so skeptical about precautionary measures. What case is there against sustainable solutions? I am not a regular visitor of this site for nothing.
My point was not that global warming does not exist or even that this study is wrong, but that I think to claim with a new study which barely has the ink dry that it resolves the question is counterproductive because it only stimulates debate where the latest studies that conflict with eachother are immediatly claimed to be right. The next time a study like Soon & Baliunas (claimed by many to be junk) comes out the media will have reason to say: "see! it doesn't exist!" because they are stimulated to think new studies automatically are right. This study might very well be right, but perhaps it contains errors and because of all the claims of truth the debate will have lost even more quality.
I'm not against healthy global warming debate - I'm against debate where people judge too soon which becomes counterproductive - for the global warming side too.
"As for the specific article linked to in this post, it's not new data that needs to be analyzed and confirmed, it's a more sophisticated analysis of existing data."
Indeed it's a new interpretation, but it's disputed. Of course about any fact in this debate is disputed but I would wait until the people who dispute it (Spencer & Christy for example) have sent their replies in (if they choose to do that, if they don't, or it's bunk, you might get me over to your side on this study). Then we can have a healthy debate and even possibly improve the current research so that we are absolutely certain of the facts.