Sun, Apr 14, 2013 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Climate change for dummies

Since the publication of my previous letter, (Letters, March 30, page 8), I have predictably been called a fraud, and worse, on several Web sites dedicated to conspiracy-theory climate denial.

The “evidence” floating around on these blogs like a pestilent vapor is a graph showing that, despite the continuing exponential increase in greenhouse gases, temperatures have not continued to rise over the past decade.

Ergo, global warming is an environmental conspiracy dreamt up by eco-fascists.

While it is a waste of time to try to reason with denialists, the recent “halt” in global temperatures may confuse the public and should therefore be explained.

First, it should be emphasized that temperatures have not gone down, but have remained at a historic high, higher than for many centuries.

Second, as I have argued previously (Letters, Sept. 18, 2012, page 8), the problem is not the increase in temperature, but the increase in greenhouse gases.

Their exponential rise is a cause for alarm because they trap heat (unless you want to rewrite the laws of physics). Temperatures will eventually follow this rise, but given the non-linear complexity of the Earth’s ecosystem, no serious scientist expected temperatures to follow suit in a straight, linear fashion.

Several reasons have been proposed for the recent “halt”: We are in the midst of a period of La Nina climatic events, and once the climate system changes back to El Nino events, temperatures will probably increase dramatically. Rising sulphate emissions in Asia may have a cooling effect. Solar activity has also decreased during the past decade, but is now increasing again, but still does not explain the abnormally high temperatures.

Finally, what should really concern people is the warming of the oceans.

It is another basic fact that water holds about four times as much heat as the same mass of air, and there is a lot more ocean than atmosphere.

Once the oceans have heated up, global warming will be with us for centuries to come.

It is therefore certainly possible that some of the “missing” energy was taken up by the melting of ice as well as the oceans, which have continued to get warmer and warmer.

This is the same physical principle why most of the energy in heating or cooling a room does not go into the air, but into the walls and furniture, and why badly insulated rooms require more heating or cooling.

Being surrounded by oceans, which determine weather patterns and give work to fishing fleets, the increasing temperature and acidity of the oceans — the evil twin of global warming — will undoubtedly have a widespread negative impact on Taiwan’s economy, maybe not in the next 10 years, but certainly in the next 50 years.

All these facts are basic high-school science, but the objective of climate denial is not science, but ultimately to further the profits of the fossil-fuel industry.

Now, there you have a valid global conspiracy theory.

Flora Faun

Taipei

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