Azara Blog: Global warming in oceans

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Date published: 2005/02/19

The Financial Times says (subscription service):

A leading US team of climate researchers on Friday released "the most compelling evidence yet" that human activities are responsible for global warming. They said their analysis should "wipe out" claims by sceptics that recent warming is due to non-human factors such as natural fluctuations in climate or variations in solar or volcanic activity.

Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California have been working for several years with colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to analyse the effects of global warming on the oceans. They combined computer modelling with millions of temperature and salinity readings, taken around the world at different depths over five decades.

The researchers released their conclusions on Friday at the American Association of the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington. They found that the "warming signals" in the oceans could only have been produced by the build-up of man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Non-human factors would have produced quite different effects.

Tim Barnett, the Scripps project leader, said previous attempts to show that human activities caused global warming had looked for evidence in the atmosphere. "But the atmosphere is the worst place to look for a global warming signal," he said. "Ninety per cent of the energy from global warming has gone into the oceans and the oceans show its fingerprint much better than the atmosphere."

Prof Barnett added: "The debate over whether there is a global warming signal is over now at least for rational people." He urged the US administration to rethink its refusal to join the Kyoto Protocol, which took effect this week.

The first caveat is that the computer modelling was postdictive, not predictive, so is less valuable than it would otherwise be. But it is a bit of a joke that people are still arguing whether mankind has an impact on the climate. You just have to go one mile out of London to see the huge difference in the local microclimate moving from an urban to a rural environment. Britain (and Europe) long ago chopped down most of its forests, and the idea that this has had no impact on the weather is fanciful at best. Unfortunately because of the rightwing demagogues who hold power in Washington, this carping about mankind's impact seems to be the level to which the debate has sunk. But scientists and the so-called environmentalists should also understand that it is not (yet) illegal for mankind to have an impact on the environment. Mankind is part of nature whether these people like it or not. All species try and occupy and consume as much of the biosphere as possible, it's called natural selection.

The real question here is what is the scope and impact of global warming and what can be done about it economically and equitably. If these scientists are so concerned about global warming then why do they insist on contributing more to global warming than 95% (if not 99%) of humanity, including attending these jamboree conferences involving huge amounts of air travel. The real point of the exercise seems to be more political than scientific, as is made clear with the reference to the Kyoto Protocol. However the idea that the Kyoto Protocol is going to sort out global warming is a joke.

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