That little old word ‘truth’.

Truth: the true or actual state of a matter.

Well nothing complicated about the definition, is there!  If only society was equally motivated by getting to the truth of climate change.  Yes, I know I’m being naive!

Why my mini-rant?

I’m well in to James Hansen’s book Storms of my Grandchildren and it’s confirming my fears about the issues that are facing mankind now!  But more of that later.

What triggered me putting ‘pen to paper’ was a recent report from the Yale forum on climate change and the media.  Here’s how it opened,

Scientific Consensus Stronger than Scientists Thought?

Bruce Lieberman   May 2, 2012

More than two decades after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began publishing the latest scientific consensus on the globe’s changing climate, widespread doubts persist in the U.S. over whether there really is widespread agreement among scientists. It’s the primary argument of those who deny basic scientific foundations of warming.

But new and innovative survey results suggest the consensus among scientists might actually be stronger than the scientists themselves had thought.

The battles to define and debunk scientific consensus over climate change science have been fought for years. In 2004, University of California San Diego science historian Naomi Oreskes wrote about a broad consensus she found after studying 928 scientific papers published between 1993 and 2003.

But what I found deeply fascinating was that later on Bruce Lieberman, the report’s author, lists in detail the actual levels of agreement compared to the perceived levels.  To make it easier to take in, I have amended the telling differences to italic.

In sum, the newly released poll results identified surprisingly common points of agreement among climate scientists; and yet for each point, those scientists underestimated the amount of agreement among their colleagues. The results:

  • Human activity has been the primary cause of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures in the last 250 years. (About 90 percent of respondents agreed with this characterization, but those respondents estimated that less than 80 percent of their scientist colleagues held that view.)
  • If governmental policies do not change, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will exceed 550 parts per million between 2050 and 2059. (More than 30 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 20 percent of their peers held that view.)
  • If and when atmospheric CO2 concentrations reach 550 ppm, the increase in global average surface temperature relative to the year 2000 will be 2-3 degrees Celsius, or 3.2-4.8 F. (More than 40 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that less than 30 percent held that view.)
  • If governmental policies do not change, in the year 2050, the increase in global average surface temperature relative to the year 2000 will be 1.5-2 degrees Celsius, or 2.4-3.2 F). (More than 35 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 30 percent held that view.)
  • The likelihood that global average sea level will rise more during this century than the highest level given in the 2007 assessment of the IPCC (0.59 meters, 23.2 inches) is more than 90 percent. (More than 30 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that less than 20 percent held that view.)
  • Since 1851, the U.S. has experienced an average of six major hurricane landfalls (> 111 mph) per decade. The total number of major hurricane landfalls in the U.S. from 2011-2020 will be seven to eight. (Nearly 60 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 30 percent held that view.)
  • The total number of major hurricane landfalls in the U.S. from 2041 to 2050 will be seven to eight. (About 35 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that less than 30 percent held that view.)
  • Given increasing levels of human activity, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere can be kept below 550 ppm with current technology — but only with changes in government policy. (Nearly 70 percent agreed, but those respondents estimated that just over 50 percent held that view.)

Now back to Hansen’s book.  Here’s what Hansen writes starting on p.144,

Getting to the truth!

Sea level rise is one of the two climate impacts that I believe should be at the top of the list that defines what is “dangerous,” on any time scale that humanity can imagine.  Ice sheets take thousands of years to build up from snowfall.  Reasonable “adaptation” to a large sea level rise is nearly impossible, because once ice sheets begin to rapidly disintegrate, sea level would be continually changing for centuries.  Coastal cities would become impractical to maintain.

The other climate change impact at the top of my “dangerous” list is extermination of species.  Human activities already have increased the rate of species extinctions far above the natural level.  Extinctions are occurring as humans take over more and more of the habitat of animal and plant species.  We deforest large regions, replace biologically diverse grasslands and forests with monoculture crops, and introduce foreign, invasive animal and plant species that sometimes wipe out the native ones.

Hansen points out that about a billion people live at elevations less than 25 metres (81 feet).

I included a short video of James Hansen in a Learning from Dogs Post just a few days ago.  You’ll find it here – go and watch it – and think about the truth!

Photo: Winston Churchill, photographed by Cecil Beaton, at 10 Downing Street, London, in 1940.

Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.– Winston Churchill

5 thoughts on “That little old word ‘truth’.

  1. Nice quote from Churchill. Glad you’re getting to grips with Storms of my Grnadchildren – you should particularly appreciate the final chapter. I read the post on Yale Climate Forum but was more impressed by the survey revealing that over 75% of US citizens accept reality and want action taken to prevent catastrophe. How much longer can the Republican Party continue to deny reality (and thereby deny the electorate a choice)?

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  2. Thanks, you two, for your comments. Always love seeing your contributions. Have been a little distracted the past few days as tomorrow’s Post will make clear. Paul

    Like

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