Global warming kills

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Mon Aug 23 18:06:05 MDT 1999

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<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT face=Arial size=2><BR> </DIV>
<DIV></FONT>I had written:</DIV>
<DIV><BR>>>Now, one of the big unknowns in the current scientific
discussion is whether<BR>>>increased water in the atmosphere and increased
cloudiness will lead to a<BR>>>re-enforcement of the greenhouse effect or
its mitigation. One hypotheses is<BR>>>that the effect of water vapor is
to act as a stabilizer given the specific<BR>>>conditions of earth and its
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>To which Louis replies: <BR>><BR>>I haven't heard about this at all.
Do you have a citation? What I do know<BR>>is that the internal combustion of
carbon-based fuels simultaneously<BR>>produces "greenhouse
emissions", and sulfur dioxide which in the upper<BR>>atmosphere has a
cooling effect. The problem is that the warming components<BR>>of the lower
atmosphere have a much, much longer life-span than the cooling<BR>>components
in the upper atmosphere so that the meliorating effects of<BR>>sulfur dioxide
are short-lived. The other problem with such a "balancing<BR>>act"
is that sulfur dioxide has negative side-effects such as acid
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>    I'm not surprised that you "haven't heard about
this at all." A lot of my presentation was based on what I remember from
interviews conducted with professors and grad students involved in basic
climatological research almost a decade ago, when, if you remember, every hot
summer day would be adduced as one more piece of evidence that global warming
due to a carbon dioxide greenhouse effect was a fact.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>    The net effect of my investigation was to convince me
that the science was in a lot more primitive state than most news accounts led
us to believe. A doubling of the level of one greenhouse gas was certainly
worrisome, because, all <EM>other things being equal</EM>, it should lead to an
increase in the temperature of the globe. But there was really <EM>no way
</EM>to predict with any degree of scientific certainty what the <EM>actual
effect </EM>would be, since it would depend of myriad interactions. And, almost
certainly, the reason why summer heat records were being broken so often had to
do with the heat island effect of urban areas, NOT global climate change.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>I think it won't
surprise you to know that what I learned then remained mostly in my head and
wasn't reflected in the news program that I worked for except in a negative way,
i.e., there was less hyping of the subject and more disclaimers, and hedging,
you know, "While scientific debate is continuing, some experts believe ...
But others say ...". </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>But the actual
story of the world's ecology and climate, and that the key to it water, 
not carbon dioxide, was way too complicated to a 2-minute "package" or
even a whole series of them on a half-hour television
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>Since then I've
tried to follow the topic. Most often I've been struck by the degree of
"noise" journalists and politicians add to the attempts of scientists
to communicate their findings to the public. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>Undoubtedly, for
example, you've heard that satellite measurements confirm the past few years
have been the hottest on record. You probably haven't heard, though, that the
actual data is more contradictory: surface temperatures have been up, but
contrary to the predictions of the computer models, and "common sense"
global warming advocacy, the temperature in the lower layers of the atmosphere
has not gotten higher, and, if anything, has declined
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>At any rate,
what most struck me by what the scientists told me was the dialectical nature of
earth's climate. Despite tremendous variability of the "weather," the
sum net effect of countless interactions is to maintain the globe stable in a
temperature range compatible with life -- and this over prolonged periods of
hundreds of millions of years. </FONT></FONT></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>    <FONT size=3>If you do want
to delve further into this side of it, probably the best place I know of to
start that is easily accessible is the material of NASA's Marshall Center, some
of which is posted on the web. Following is a brief extract dealing with the
"anomaly" of divergent surface and lower atmospheric
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><FONT size=3></FONT></FONT> </DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2>* * *</FONT></DIV>
<P><FONT face="Times New Roman"><IMG align=right height=90 hspace=5
src="cid:001a01beedc4$75147340$c4150e04 at computer" width=90 NATURALSIZEFLAG = 0>
<FONT size=+2>T</FONT>he atmosphere is extremely complex in its behavior.
Because of this, finding the correct explanation for the behavior we observe is
complex as well. Virtually all scientists will agree that a doubling of the
amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere should have <I>some</I>
effect on the temperature of the Earth. But it is much less certain how or if we
will <I>recognize</I> the effects of this increase. There are several
    <LI><FONT face="Times New Roman">First, the influence of a man-made doubling
    of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is small compared to the
    Earth's natural cooling rate, on the order of only a percent.<BR></FONT>
    <LI><FONT face="Times New Roman">Second, there is a much more important
    greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, namely <A
    href="">water vapor</A>.
    Water vapor over the Earth is extremely variable, both in space and in
    <LI><FONT face="Times New Roman">Third, the ways in which clouds and water
    vapor feed back and ultimately influence the temperature of the Earth are,
    at best, poorly understood.<BR></FONT>
    <LI><FONT face="Times New Roman">Fourth, while the whole Earth is indeed in
    a state that scientists describe as "radiative equilibrium," where
    the incoming sunlight equals the outgoing infrared radiation to provide a
    roughly constant overall temperature, the surface is far from this radiative
    balance condition. Evaporation and convection processes in the atmosphere
    transport heat from the surface to the upper troposphere, where it can be
    much more efficiently radiated into space since it is above most of the
    greenhouse-trapping water vapor. So in short, it is this convective
    overturning of the atmosphere - poorly represented in computer models of
    global warming - that primarily determines the temperature distribution of
    the surface and upper troposphere, <I>not</I> radiation balance.
<P><FONT face="Times New Roman"><IMG align=bottom height=20 hspace=5
src="cid:001d01beedc4$753f2cc0$c4150e04 at computer" width=20 NATURALSIZEFLAG = 3>
<FONT size=+2>The Answer Lies Partly in a Better Understanding of Water's
<P><FONT face="Times New Roman"></FONT>
<TABLE border=0 cellPadding=5 cellSpacing=3 width=100%>
        <TD vAlign=top width=55%>
            <P><FONT size=+2><FONT face="Times New Roman">A</FONT></FONT><FONT
            face="Times New Roman"> computer model is only as reliable as the
            physics that are built into the program. The physics that are
            currently in these computer programs are still insufficient to have
            much confidence in the predicted magnitude of global warming,
            because we currently don't understand the detailed physical
            processes of clouds that will determine the extent and nature of
            water vapor's feedback into the Earth's temperature.</FONT></P>
            <P><FONT face="Times New Roman"><BR>And the Intergovernmental Panel
            on Climate Change (IPCC) agrees:</FONT></P>
            <P><BR><I><FONT color=#ff0000>``Feedback from the redistribution of
            water vapour remains a substantial uncertainty in climate
            models...Much of the current debate has been addressing feedback
            from the tropical upper troposphere, where the feedback appears
            likely to be positive. However, this is not yet convincingly
            established; much further evaluation of climate models with regard
            to observed processes is needed."</FONT></I> <BR><BR><FONT
            color=#000000 face="Times New Roman" size=3>- Climate Change 1995,
            IPCC Second Assessment</FONT></P>
            <P><FONT color=#000000 size=2>* * *</FONT></P>
            <P>The whole piece is available at:</P></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></P></DIV>
<DIV><FONT color=#000000 size=2><A
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>>The other important question is deforestation. Most scientists tie
global<BR>>warming to the combination of burning oil and coal, and the
widespread<BR>>disappearance of tropical rainforests which absorb carbon
emission gases.<BR>>It seems to me that Marxists must embrace the
preservation of the Amazon<BR>>rainforest, for example, not only on
ecological foundations but because it<BR>>is the home of indigenous peoples
facing genocide. These are not just<BR>>"economic" questions, but
ones that involve our ability to respond to those<BR>>who are defenseless in
the face of murdering multinationals. Workers Party<BR>>and rubber-tapper
Chico Mendes was in the forefront of the struggle and was<BR>>murdered for
his efforts. Check Alex Cockburn and Susanna Hecht's "Fate of<BR>>the
Forest" for an account of his martyrdom.<BR></DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>My understanding is that on global warming as a whole, deforestation is a
minor factor. There are very important reasons to oppose the abuse of such
resources however, some of which you note. In addition, I would say that
<EM>similar</EM> arguments apply to other questions that are presented as mainly
"global warming" concerns, such as automotive and industrial
pollution. <BR></DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>>There are essentially 3 positions on the global warming issue. One
is<BR>>skepticism of the sort defended by EC Apling and Jose. The other is
what<BR>>might be called mainstream middle-class environmentalism of the sort
found<BR>>at the IPCC conference. It does not challenge capitalism, but
offers<BR>>bandaids. The 3rd is a Marxist approach of the sort that the
Democratic<BR>>Socialist Party in Australia exemplifies. Although I had
strong<BR>>disagreements with their position on the Balkans war, I still
endorse the<BR>>ecosocialist approach embodied in their publication Green
Left Weekly. This<BR>>is from their webpage at <A
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>I think you're right to say there are a variety of political positions
about global warming. My point is that political positions are getting all
muddled up with scientific discussions. I must confess I'm much less attracted
to the idea of presenting a workers party as the "best fighter"
against global warming and human extinction. To see why, let's look at the
beginning of this article.<BR></DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>>A SYSTEM WITH NO FUTURE<BR>><BR>>Humankind may be an endangered
species due to the rapid and ongoing<BR>>destruction of the natural
environment. The forests are disappearing. The<BR>>deserts are expanding.
Billions of tons of fertile soil are washed into the<BR>>sea every year.
Numerous species are becoming extinct. Seas and rivers are<BR>>poisoned. The
air is polluted. The ozone layer is being depleted and global<BR>>warming
threatens catastrophe. </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>This is the same old catastrophism of the Third International and the
Transitional Program, now cast into ecological bottles. In places like the
United States, Europe, Russia, --at least in the densely populated zones-- the
truth is that there is no "natural" environment left, i.e., the
pre-human environment. This is even true of the vast "unspoilt"
expanses of the American West. And in many other places the human-imposed
environmental makeover has been well nigh complete. And is an ecological
holocaust about to consume these places? I don't think so.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>We need to remember that WE are ALSO part of the "natural"
environment, as have been other dominant species before us. that forests were
being destroyed and reborn long before people evolved, that billions of tons of
fertile soil were being washed away, that much of Florida was a coral reef and
now it's dead, that numerous species were becoming extinct (including a half
dozen of more of our own ancestors) that periodic warmings and coolings of the
earth did cause catastrophes. This sort of thing simply comes across to me as a
reactionary Jeremiad against all change, a longing for simpler times, quite in
the spirit of the feudal socialists denounced in the Manifesto.</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>Quite apart from that, does ANYONE on this list believe this silly prattle
that "mankind" may be an endangered species due to ecological and
climate changes? Is there anybody here who thinks we are, as a species, unlikely
to survive a rise of 3 feet, or 300 feet, in the main sea level? The only real
threat to the future of humanity as a species (and to the future of most other
species) is a nuclear war. </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>><BR>>The last decade was the hottest of the last hundred years. It
included six<BR>>of the seven hottest years known to humanity, and the
hottest year in<BR>>recorded history was 1990. </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>These statements are redundant and dishonest, for the truth is we only have
records for the past 100 or so years. The sweeping statement "six of the
seven hottest years known to humanity" is meant to evoke the idea,
"six of the seven hottest years ever since the human race arose,"
which is NOT TRUE as far as we know. This hothousing is then coupled immediately
with global warming, and with predictions that irresponsibly imply a degree of
scientific knowlege that does not exist, as follows:</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>>The "greenhouse effect'' threatens a rise in sea<BR>>levels of
between 30 and 50 centimeters by the year 2050, which would flood<BR>>many
coastal zones, some densely populated. Other forecasts are shorter<BR>>term
and more alarming. </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>I hope the quote I offered above from the NASA scientists' web site begins
to explain WHY such projections are impermissible, unless frankly and honestly
presented as conjecture and speculation. It'd also be more accurate to say about
the greenhouse effect in general, that it is the only thing that permits life as
we know it to exist on the surface of this planet. In this way, too the
socialist press should differentiate itself from bourgeois journalism: by the
respect it has for factual accuracy in all fields, and especially those having
to do with scientific knowlege. The bourgeois media sensationalizes scientific
reporting like it does everything else, to get the attention of as much of the
public as possible in order to sell their "eyeballs" to advertisers.
So of us old enough to remember will remember the LAST global climate change
scare, in the 1970s, when, it was said, we might be heading into another ice
age. </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>The problem isn't that the earth really isn't getting warmer or really
isn't getting colder, but that the capitalist press seizes on partial truths,
conditional projections, guesses and so on to paint hair-raising pictures of
catastrophes instead of trying to give its readers or viewers a genuine
understanding of what the scientists are doing or have discovered. (The flip
side of the coin of this is the "magic bullet" syndrome, where some
particular research advance is hyped out of all promotion and presented as if it
could be the cure for aids, cancer and so on).</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>Even worse, specialists in public relations, i.e., in manipulating the
bourgeois media, are perfectly aware of this, including the spokespeople for the
greens. They do not hesitate to present the most alarmist and catstrophic
speculations with little explanation or context, quite confident that the
bourgeois press will seize on the alarmist element and give their group or their
political candidate the desired exposure. </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>It is no coincidence that the only institution held in lower esteem by
Americans than the government is the bourgeois press. The workers media should
do everything possible to differentiate itself from the b.s. and obfuscation of
the capitalist press, not copy its exces+ses.<BR><BR>>It's not just a problem
of the future. That may look dim but so are the<BR>>environmental conditions
under which most people live today. In many urban<BR>>centres pollution is
reaching life threatening levels. In the United States<BR>>over one billion
kilograms of toxic chemicals are released into the air<BR>>each year. More
than half of the US population live in areas where<BR>>pollution levels
exceed government standards. In Sydney, fish caught<BR>>outside the major
sewerage outfalls are contaminated with pesticides<BR>>averaging more than
120 times recommended safety limits pesticides that<BR>>could cause cancer.
Beach pollution, toxic waste dumps, oil spills and<BR>>workplace pollution
are everyday problems worldwide. </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>Is it really true to say that pollution is reaching "life threatening
levels" in general in many urban centres in the United States and
Australia? Is it even true to say that pollution is getting worse in major urban
centers in the U.S. and Australia?</DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>
<DIV>Now, the article says many things that are undoubtedly good and true and
useful. But it does so in a framework of such bombastic hyperbole that, really,
it is hard to take it seriously. It is of one piece with the rhetoric about an
acute economic crisis and utter pauperization of the American population one
hears from some socialist groups. </DIV>
<DIV> </DIV>

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