Is the Scale of Climate Change overstated?

March 28, 2010 · Filed Under news · Comment 

Many people say:

“The scale of the negative effects of climate change is often overstated and there is no need for urgent action.”

What does the science – and the Royal Society – say?

Under one of its mid range estimates, the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the world’s leading authority on climate change – has projected a global average temperature increase this century of two to three degrees centigrade. This would mean that the earth will experience a larger climate change than it has experienced for at least 10,000 years. The impact and pace of this change would be difficult for many people and the ecosystems to adapt to.

However, the IPCC has pointed out that as climate change progresses it is likely that negative effects wold begin to dominate almost everywhere. Increasing temperatures are likely, for example to increase the frequency and severity of weather events such as heatwaves, storms and flooding.

Furthermore there are real concerns that, in the longterm, rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could set in motion large scale and potentially abrupt changes in our planet’s natural systems and some of these could be irreversible. Increasing temperatures could, for example, lead to the melting of large ice sheets with major consequences for low lying areas throughout the world.

And the impact of climate change will fall disproportionately upon developing countries and the poor – those who could can least afford to adapt. Thus a changing climate will exacerbate inequalities in, for example, health and access to adequate food and water.

Has Climate Change become the new Religion?

March 25, 2010 · Filed Under news · Comment 

For many people, their opinion on climate change is more a religious type of faith rather than one based on science.   It’s understandable because most of us are not experts and must rely on the work of those who are.

Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists tell us that man made global warming is happening, we are baffled when a few others come up with credible sounding arguments that seem to back the sceptics. Many people prefer to have blind faith in the sceptics arguments because they do not want to give up their fossil fuel enabled standard of living or do not want to contemplate the catastrophe that is waiting if we do not take action.
As non-experts, we need help to understand some of the debates in this complex area of science, and fortunately, no less a body than The Royal Society- as the UKs national academy of science- has produced an overview of the current state of understanding of climate change and responds in easy to understand terms, to eight key arguments that are currently in circulation by setting out where the weight of scientific evidence lies. We feel that this is really helpful to many people and so we show these responses here on Peak Food.
Burning the massive reserves of fossil fuels in a very short time frame will not only alter the climate but will bring our oil and gas dependent farming industry to its’ knees when those finite resources become scarce and expensive due to depletion or to events in the middle east where 60% of remaining oil reserves are. It is the stated ambition of Islamist extremists to establish a Caliphate to rule that entire region and deny “Muslim oil” to the hated infidels. US and western policy is to fight wars to stop that happening but success is not assured.
At some time we will be forced to devise a sustainable way of living, using the abundant solar energy that reaches us each day more effectively, rather than the ancient solar energy stored in oil and gas. The farming industry will, by necessity, have the major role in collecting that energy via the plant leaf.

Number of Sunspots effect Earth’s Temperature?

March 24, 2010 · Filed Under news · Comment 

People want to believe climate change isn’t happening.  One common argument used used is: 

It’s all to do with the sun – for example, there is a strong link between the increased temperature on earth and the number of sunspots on the sun.

But what does the science – and the Royal Society –  say?

 Change in solar activity is one of the many factors that influence the climate but cannot, on its own, account for the change in global average temperature that we have seen in the 21st century.

 Changes in the sun’s activity influence the earth’s climate through small but significant variations in its intensity. When it is a more “active” phase – as indicated by a greater number of sunspots on its surface – it emits more light and heat. While there is evidence of a link between solar activity and some of the warming in the early 20th century, measurements from satellites show that there has been very little change in underlying solar activity in the last 30 years. There is even evidence of a detectable decline – and so this cannot account for the recent rises we have seen in global temperatures. The magnitude and pattern of changes to temperatures can only be understood by taking all of the relevant factors – both natural and human – into account. For example, major volcanic eruptions produce a cooling effect because they blast ash and other particles into the atmosphere where they persist for a few years and reduce the amount of the sun’s energy that reaches the earth’s surface. Also, burning fossil fuels produces particles called sulphate aerosols which tend to cool the climate in the same way. Over the first part of the 20th century higher levels of solar activity combined with increases in human generated carbon dioxide to raise temperatures. Between 1940 and 1970 the carbon dioxide effect was probably offset by increasing amounts of sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere, and a slight downturn in solar activity, as well as enhanced volcanic activity.

During this period global temperatures dropped. However, in the latter part of the 20th century temperatures rose well above the levels of the 1940s. Strong measures taken to reduce sulphate pollution in some regions of the world meant that industrial aerosols began to provide less compensation for an increasing warming caused by carbon dioxide. The rising temperature during this period has been partly abated by occasional volcanic eruptions.

Is Climate Change affected by Cosmic Rays?

March 11, 2010 · Filed Under news · Comment 

Many people want to believe climate change isn’t happening and use arguments such as:

“The climate is actually affected by cosmic rays.”

 But what  does the science – and the Royal Society – say?

Cosmic rays are fast moving particles which come from space, and release electric charge in the atmosphere. Any effect that cosmic rays could have on the climate is not yet very well understood, but if there is one, it is likely to be small.

Experiments done in a laboratory hint that cosmic rays could play a role in the development of tiny particles that could in turn play a part in the formation of clouds. If this happens in the same way in the atmosphere – which isn’t proven – it might lead to more clouds, which generally have a cooling effect by reflecting the sun’s rays back into space. Whether the whole chain of processes actually occurs in the atmosphere is speculative, but some of the individual steps are plausible.

It has been proposed that this process would act to enhance the influences of the sun on the climate. We know that when the sun is more active it’s magnetic field is stronger and this deflects cosmic rays away from the earth. So the argument is that a more active sun would lead to fewer cosmic rays reaching the earth, resulting in fewer clouds and therefore a warmer earth.

However, observations of clouds and galactic cosmic rays show that, at most, the possible link between cosmic rays and clouds only produces a small effect. Even if cosmic rays were shown to have a more substantial impact, the level of solar activity has changed to little over the last few decades the process could not explain the recent rises in temperature that we have seen.