Climate Science?

There were several news releases on June 26th that warrant comment. Jeremy Lovell of Reuters wrote an article entitled “US has duty to lead on global warming”. The news release contained the text,

“Addressing a meeting of international climate scientists and policymakers, John Houghton, a former senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said urgent action was imperative.

‘If only the U.S. administration could flip from denial to acceptance it could save the world,’ he said. ‘If the Americans continue to do nothing then we have a big problem — therefore they must do something.'”

What could the U.S. administration do to “save the world”? Where is the climate science in this quote?

A second article, released by MSNBC, was entitled “Justices to hear global warming case 12 states want Bush administration to regulate carbon dioxide emissions” which included the text,

“The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider whether the Bush administration must regulate carbon dioxide to combat global warming, setting up what could be one of the court’s most important decisions on the environment.

The dozen states, a number of cities and various environmental groups asked the court to take up the case after a divided lower court ruled against them.

They argue that the Environmental Protection Agency is obligated to limit carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles under the federal Clean Air Act because as the primary ‘greenhouse’ gas causing a warming of the earth, carbon dioxide is a pollutant.”

If the legal claim actually states that CO2 is the “primary ‘greenhouse’ gas causing a warming of the earth”, this claim is in error. An increase in water vapor, concurrent with the increase in CO2 and other warming climate forcings (these other climate forcings are summarized on the Climate Science weblog; see), is the primary greenhouse gas!

These two articles have flaws in their representation of climate science.

A third article in the June 24th-June 30th Economist entitled “Bolton v Gore” (subscription required) is a valuable report on climate, and environmental, science. The article includes the text,

“…….over the weekend, Mr Bolton sat down with UN diplomats from seven other countries, including China and India but no Europeans, to rank 40 ways of tackling ten global crises. The problems addressed were climate change, communicable diseases, war, education, financial instability, governance, malnutrition, migration, clean water and trade barriers.

Given a notional $50 billion, how would the ambassadors spend it to make the world a better place? Their conclusions were strikingly similar to the Copenhagen Consensus. After hearing presentations from experts on each problem, they drew up a list of priorities. The top four were basic health care, better water and sanitation, more schools and better nutrition for children. Averting climate change came last.

The ambassadors thought it wiser to spend money on things they knew would work. Promoting breast-feeding, for example, costs very little and is proven to save lives. It also helps infants grow up stronger and more intelligent, which means they will earn more as adults. Vitamin A supplements cost as little as $1, save lives and stop people from going blind. And so on. ”

This report parallels the “vulnerability” concept which has been emphasized on this weblog (see). I also asked a similar question on how funds should be spent in environmental issues in one of my powerpoint presentations (see slide 49 ). It is this type of question that needs to be posed if we are to move forward in effective environmental (including climate response) policy.

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