Friday, September 04, 2009

Climate change...after all is only weather (?)

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The appropriately named Bob Bull, thinks climate change is just 'hype' (‘Don’t believe all that climate change hype’, Post, September 2). But something that has been repeatedly subject to rigorous scientific investigation in ever more sophisticated ways, scrutinised and debated by all manner of people over decades, surely has to be much, much more than the promotion, advertisement and exaggerated claims that Bob says it is! I guess this is the same Bob Bull that is Bristol spokeman of the Association of British Drivers and that his interest is unduly colouring his ‘interpretation’ of the facts – he refers to ‘political zealots’ taking over but through his own words shows that there are such zealots on all sides of the climate debate!

It could be that Bob does not bother with science and the facts at all. How else could he come up with the phrase ‘…climate change, which after all is only weather.’ ? If he bothered to look it up he’d find that weather is the state of our atmosphere short term whereas climate is a long term view of weather patterns. This is a distinction that is crucially important to understanding climate change. The fact that Bob does not understand this fully explains why he feels able to give the statement ‘temperatures have not risen since 2002’ as good evidence against global warming. If what he said was true it would not be relevant because it’s the long term pattern that we should be concerned with. In any case both the NASA and Met Office websites agree that the ten warmest years since modern records began have all occurred since 1997!!

Not only is Bob wrong in thinking that climate and weather are the same, he is also obviously wrong to say its ‘only weather’ and ‘weather is weather’. The weather and how it changes is crucial to: water supplies, including flooding and droughts; crop yields, including food and timber supplies & food availability to raise animals; health and disease, including aspects like rate of spread and heat stress; energy consumption eg for air conditioning; tourism levels; rates of coastal erosion; occurrence and severity of impact of air pollution such as photochemical smog; and more!!

Finally Bob’s view is that ‘green’ and ‘climate change’ campaigns impoverish the world. However, I’d point out that there few if any governments around the world are genuinely green and tackling climate change – and its very much our persistence with the current greed-based, un-green economic system that has brought both economic booms and busts and serious environmental degradation requiring urgent action!