Sunday, 19 April 2009

Is Global Warming Just Hot Air?

As someone with a scientific and engineering background one of the things that really gets my goat is when so-called experts publish just one side of a story as if it were the whole truth. Politicians and social activists love black-and-white statements because they can use them to motivate people. But ask any engineer who understands the topic and he'll usually shake his head and say, "I'm afraid it's not that simple..."
Global warming is a case in point. We the public are fed a regular diet of sea-level rise, irreversible climate change and man-made meterological catastrophe. "Global warming is a reality and it's all man-made," our leaders scream. "We must all fly less, pay more for our petrol, reduce our carbon footprint and use less plastic bags." Plastic bags? That's just one example of how a side issue gets tacked onto the main argument and whipped up into a campaign bandwagon for political ends. Yes, plastic bags pollute the environment and endanger wildlife. But they don't cause global warming any more than any other manufactured product does.
The truth is, the whole issue is not as simple as the green machine would have us believe. Yes, there is some evidence that things are changing, but there is also a host of evidence that this could well be just part of the natural cycle of things and far less man-made than we have been led to believe. For example, you might remember recent reports by 'experts' that the Antarctic ice sheet is melting on an unprecedented scale and that as a result we are likely to suffer catastrophic sea level rises of up to six metres by the year 2100. Only last week the Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett echoed this, insisting that global warming was causing ice losses throughout Antarctica. "I don't think there's any doubt it is contributing to what we've seen both on the Wilkins shelf and more generally in Antarctica," he said.
Unfortunately, he's a politican; and what you won't have heard about is the other information recently released by the Head of the Australian Antarctic Division's Glaciology Program, Ian Allinson. He reports that sea ice losses in west Antarctica over the past 30 years have been more than offset by ice increases in the Ross Sea region, just one sector of east Antarctica. "Sea ice conditions have remained stable in Antarctica generally," Dr Allison says. He also says there is no evidence of significant change in the mass of ice shelves in east Antarctica nor any indication that its ice cap was melting. "The only significant calvings [icebergs breaking away] in Antarctica have been in the west," he said. And he says that even those might not be unusual. "Ice shelves in general have episodic carvings and there can be large icebergs breaking off - I'm talking 100km or 200km long - every 10 or 20 or 50 years."
Interesting eh?
Ice core drilling off Australia's Davis Station in East Antarctica by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-Operative Research Centre shows that last year, the ice had a maximum thickness of 1.89m, its densest in 10 years. The average thickness of the ice at Davis from the 1950s until now is 1.67m.
Want more? A paper to be published soon by the British Antarctic Survey in the journal Geophysical Research Letters is expected to confirm that over the past 30 years, the area of sea ice around the continent has expanded. And let's not forget the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research's report, prepared for last week's Antarctic Treaty meeting in Washington, which noted the South Pole has experienced "significant cooling in recent decades". How come they never mentioned that bit on the news?
The reality is, the whole global warming question is not as simple as it's made out to be and there is a wealth of information that doesn't fit in with today's political and social agenda so it's simply not reported. We need to be careful not to blindly swallow everything the 'experts' tell us, because the facts show that sometimes what they're telling us isn't science - it's propaganda.

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