Friday, February 2, 2007

Paris panel says global warming is man-made with 90% probability


Maybe this global warming problem could be posed as a null hyptothesis for an AP high school statistics class, but an international panel in Paris announced Feb 1 that there is a 90% probability that observed rises in carbon dioxide and greehouse gasses is manmade.

The group was called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes, sponsored by the United Nations and the report is called Summary for Policymakers. The Washington Post story in Feb 2, 2007 by Juliet Eilperin is here, called "Humans Faulted for Global Warming: International Panel of Climate Scientists Sounds Dire Alarm." The comparable New York Times story that day is by Elizabeth Rosenthal and Andrew C. Revkin, "Science Panel Says Global Warming Is 'Unequivocal'; Cites Human Role; 3-Year Study Foresees Centuries of Rising Temperatures".

The report suggests that an inflection point in temperature growth can be reversed around 2050 with massive changes now. Otherwise, global temperatures could rise by 4-11 degrees F by 2100. A melting of the Greenland icecap could disrupt the Gulf Stream feedback loop and cause a sudden chilling of Europe's climate, however. Sea levels could rise by up to 20 feet, flooding much of the Eastern Tidewater coastal plain from Florida to southern New Jersey (the areas in dark green in old World Book state elevation maps).

In a demonstration, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, as well as surrounding areas, and the Coliseum in Rome were powered down for 5 minutes, with a 1% drop of power usage in those cities.

International problems come from the fact that developing economies (especially China) with high populations are likely to want to increase per-capita energy use as they try to raise their standard of living toward western levels.

This problem eventually will lead to new debates about personal lifestyles and behaviors, although the skewing of birthrates (lower in developed economies) complicates the debate.

There are still some detractors who claim that climate change, while definitely occurring, is a natural cycle. For example Jack Kelly in The Washington Times Feb 4 has a column "Warming and that lucky old sun." There has been criticisim that the U.N. report is based on modeling, not actual experience. But the graphs and charts in Al Gore's film and book "An Inconvenient Truth" demonstrate otherwise.

Robert J. Samuelson has an op-ed "Global Warming and Hot Air" in the Feb. 7, 2007 The Washington Post, here. He reiterates that developing countries will not be willing to relinquish their standard of living increases for the West, and talks about trading carbon credits as if they were assets. He has an interesting, if perssimistic perspetive.

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