Monday, 30 July 2007

World statistics updated in real time

There are some absolutely staggering stats on this website, updated in real time:

Its well worth a visit and a ponder.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

More poor climate science in the local press...this time from a councillor

Rather bizarrely and contrary to all the best scientific advice Councillor Brian H Hopkinson seems to be saying that we should all fly more, yes more, in order to help reduce climate change ('Global Warming', Bristol Evening Post, July 25)! What an incredible reply this is to my letter (see blog entry of July 9th) correcting earlier writers climate science errors. Clearly he is wrong and has not looked into the idea of global dimming he refers to that much.

It just reinforces the point in my letter (July 9th blog) that people contributing to the climate debate need to get all the facts of this complex matter straight. This is especially important for elected representatives, like Councillor Hopkinson, because they are presumeably more active in debate and their views may have more influence on public opinion.

Brian said '...if we stop all flights, which some so called eco-friendly experts propose, we may well accelerate our demise even quicker.'. By this logic flying is good for our climate!

Some climate scientists feel that aeroplane vapor trails are implicated in global dimming, but the constant flow of air traffic previously meant that this could not be tested. Near-complete shutdown of flying for three days following the Sept 11 terrorist attacks gave an opportunity to observe the climate of the USA absent from the effect of vapour trails. During this period, an increase in daily temperature variation of over 1 °C was observed in some parts of the USA, that is, aircraft vapour trails may have been raising nighttime temperatures and/or lowering daytime temperatures by much more than previously thought. Note that both temperature raising and lowering effects are happening here.

Brian clearly thinks the dimming phenomenon is in opposition to global warming. He is wrong about this. He is guilty of the mistake of not looking at the whole picture, as other letter writers have been. It's a lot more complex than either a warming or dimming issue. Global warming and dimming are not mutually exclusive or contradictory. In fact they are both clear indications of human ability to impact our climate systems!

Global warming and global dimming in fact occur at the same time. Global dimming interacts with warming, blocking sunlight that would otherwise cause evaporation and the particulates bind to water droplets. Water vapor is one of the greenhouse gases. On the other hand, global dimming is affected by evaporation and rain. Rain has the effect of clearing out polluted skies. You can see how the two, warming and dimming, are all part of the climate change picture.

Climatologists are very keen to stress that the roots of both global dimming causing pollutants and global warming causing greenhouse gases have to be dealt with together and soon. Misuse of the science by people like Councillor Hopkinson risks confusing some of the public. This results in people on this letters page wrongly writing that trees around airports will suck up all the pollution, melting ice does not raise sea levels (July 9th blog) and now, flying helps to reduce climate change. Its highly damaging exactly at the point when we need well informed clarity from the people we elect.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Informed debate needed on climate change not poor use of science

Two recent letter writers make basic scientific mistakes in their statements about climate change in the local press. People contributing to public debate on the issue should take great care to get all the facts about this complex matter straight. There is a danger that the public could be misled into thinking that there is not a big problem when there is, and that there is no need to take action, changing our behaviour, when there is an urgent need.

Pearl V Smith feels the expansion of Bristol Airport is fine because 'The airport is surrounded by trees, and they absorb carbon and give off oxygen - many, many more trees than Bristol has.' ('Trees near airport suck up pollution', Bristol Evening Post letters, July 6). First: there are nowhere near enough trees to absorb all the carbon. Second: if there were enough trees the amount and rate of absorption is highly uncertain and of course the carbon is only stored for the life of the trees. Third: aircraft are rapidly transforming carbon, which natural processes have locked into fossil fuels over millions of years, into carbon dioxide gas, in flights of seconds, minutes and hours - trees can't possibly absorb at a rate that can practically compensate for this.

David Camlin feels that sea levels are not going to rise because of melting ice sheets, saying 'As Archimedes could have told you if he had visited the Antarctic, ice shelves, which are afloat on the sea, do not cause any contribution to sea level rise when they melt.' ('Climate change debate', Bristol Evening Post letters, July 6). First: there are ice sheets on Antarctic land that are melting and this adds water to the sea (also the case for places like Greenland in the Arctic by the way). Second: when both floating ice and ice on land melts there is a highly significant change of colour from energy reflecting white ice to energy absorbing dark sea. This means less of the Sun's energy is reflecting back into space and more is absorbed, raising the temperature, expanding the ocean and causing sea level rise. Third: since 1945 the Antarctic Peninsula has experienced a warming of 2.5 degrees, approx five times the global average rise, in part because of the colour change on melting. The annual melt season there has increased by two to three weeks in just the past twenty years.

Its very important that we have well informed debate on climate change. People should use the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, set up by the United Nations, as their major source since they have looked at all the research on all sides of the debate and assessed its quality and consistency. They are saying that climate change is real, serious, urgent and our fault. To conclude differently is to fly in the face of the best expertise the world can currently assemble.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Live Earth pledge

When I saw former USA Vice President Al Gore's climate change film An Inconvenient Truth ( he went up massively in my estimation. I had not fully realised the depth of his involvement in the issue, going way back to the 1960's, even before then.

I've been watching some of the Gore inspired Live Earth concert today and signed up to the pledge below. I hope you will go to this site to sign up for it too:


1.To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next 2 years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth;

2.To take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become "carbon neutral;"

3.To fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

4.To work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation;

5.To fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

6.To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests; and,

7.To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Climate change: real; serious; urgent; and we are the cause

Its reported today that a recent Ipsos Mori poll found 56% believed scientists were still questioning climate change. They are wrong to believe this. Scientists have reached a consensus that climate change is a real, serious and urgent issue and that we are the cause.

Recognizing the global climate change issue, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. It is open to all members of the UN and WMO.

The IPCC assesses on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis, the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific/technical literature. Its view is evidence based and they have concluded in their assessment reports, including their fourth one, being published this year in stages, that we have caused a serious problem that must be tackled with urgency.

Anyone still dismissing or playing down climate change is flying in the face of the best expertise that the world can assemble to examine the matter.

I agree with Royal Society vice-president Sir David Read when he said: "People should not be misled by those that exploit the complexity of the issue, seeking to distort the science and deny the seriousness of the potential consequences of climate change. The science very clearly points towards the need for us all - nations, businesses and individuals - to do as much as possible, as soon as possible, to avoid the worst consequences of a changing climate."