For a situation that most knowledgeable scientists say is an increasing crisis facing the planet, Congress has gone pretty light in learning about climate change.
Today, Congress broke a two-year drought in learning the latest on climate science, when the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee held Congress’ first hearing on the subject in that time, Wired.com reports. It heard from a scientist for the first time in three years.
“The US experienced $14 billion disasters in 2011, a record that surpasses the previous maximum of 9,” Christopher Field, an author of the U.N.’s climate change report said. “The 2011 disasters included a blizzard, tornadoes, floods, severe weather, a hurricane, a tropical storm, drought and heatwaves, and wildfires. In 2012, we have already experienced horrifying wildfires, a powerful windstorm that hit Washington DC, heat waves in much of the country, and a massive drought.”
The hearing, coincidentally, came in a week in which one of the more famous climate change skeptics on the question of human contributions — UC Berkeley physics Professor Richard Muller — jumped ship. In a series of research papers, he concluded the Earth’s warming is manmade, an assertion that started another round of an argument that predates the last time Congress held a hearing on the notion.
He was countered by David Evans, a former consultant for the Australian Greenhouse Office, who switched from being “a warmist” (as he describes them) to a skeptic. His article appeared in the Brisbane Times today.
The climate models predict that the outgoing radiation from the earth decreases in the weeks following a rise in the surface temperature, due to aggressive heat-trapping by extra humidity. But analysis of the outgoing radiation measured by NASA satellites for the last two decades shows the opposite occurs: the earth gives off more heat after the surface temperature rises. Again, this suggests that the amplification assumed in the models simply does not occur in reality.
And back and forth we go.
Nothing was really learned in the Senate hearing today, except that people pick the data that confirms what they already believe, and disregard much to the contrary.
But writing on the NPR blog, 13.7 Cosmos and Culture, Marcelo Gleiser says people would do well to keep in mind the Earth is a finite environment.
.. and any artificial forcing away from its equilibrium may lead, due to nonlinear effects, to undesirable circumstances. A finite system can cope with only so much forcing before changes occur. (For example, the water you boil in a pan.) Surely, it is possible that global warming is not man-made or that a new technology will control it. However, given the possible negative outcomes, why not take a few steps toward improving our relation with the planet, moving from a parasitic to a mutually advantageous one. Earth couldn’t care less about us. But we can’t exist without it.