What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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Some Examples of Climate Change Illiteracy

This entry has been cross posted at Reporting on a Revolution.

Following on the heels of my previous post in which I attempted to put up arguments in favor of human induced global warming, a stark and scary reminder of what I am up against. A couple of example of climate change illiteracy I picked up from the blogosphere.

This one is from Climate Progress and an interview with Barb Davis White a republican who is running for the 5Th Congressional District in Minnesota.

WHITE: My name is Barb Davis White and I’m running for the 5Th Congressional District against Keith Ellison for the United States House of Representatives, which is called Congress.

ROMM: Where are you on global warming?

WHITE: Well, global warming really has not been proven. There are 30,000 scientists, including Al Gore’s professor, from Princeton, who says that we are now in a cooling stage. And ev-every — also every other climate that has been warmed had better grapes.

ROMM: So you don’t believe in global warming and you don’t think that people caused it.

WHITE: No, I think global warming is a scam. I think it’s a scam to put taxes — more taxes on us, and it’s called carbon taxes. Our environment has never been so clean, and if we want to push global warming, let’s push it on China, where the smog is so thick that you almost need a helmet to breathe. Let’s push it on Africa and see how they adapt to it, because they’re not going to.

And from Pharyngula who got it from Diatomaceous Earth. A letter sent to the local paper in Fargo, North Dakota. Is Fargo really this eerie?!!

When God sent the rain on this Earth for 40 days and nights, all this water had to go someplace so the Earth would be dry again.

Remember, God is the Creator and controls the universe.

God tilted the Earth from its original position and caused all the excess water to rush to the poles, and there he instantly froze the water into the ice formations that exist today. Time is ticking down on God’s time clock.

With all the nuclear bombs that are made and stored for the fast-emerging last battle, this Earth would burn up when these nuclear bombs are set off.

We are not creating global warming – God is tipping the Earth back to its original position on its axis and thus getting all this ice to get ready to move and extinguish the nuclear destructive fires man will create.

Is this being taught in church or at home.? Where do people learn this? Unbelievable! I have come across the first type of illiteracy i.e. the Barb Davis White type in India, but so far not the second. We can find humor in this but it is a rather depressing example of how a religious fundamentalist education can warp your world view. Have you experienced such extreme views in India?


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How Should I Convince Friends About Global Warming?

This entry has been cross posted at Reporting on a Revolution

I learned about climate change in geology classes but that was about changes over geological time, about the Pleistocene ice ages and the Eocene -Paleocene Thermal maxima and the Mesozoic warm period and so on. All these had natural causes but I am persuaded by the collective scientific evidence that humans are causing the earth to warm up and will contribute increasingly to global warming over the next few decades. But if someone asks me a very specific question, let’s say “Can you tell me if there have been errors in the measurement of CO2 recovered from air bubbles trapped in ice”, I won’t be able to answer that.

A few days ago a friend emailed me just such an article which accuses scientists of mishandling, misrepresenting and even deceit in measurements and the presentation of climate data. The article is written by a Polish radiologist and well know climate change skeptic Zbigniew Jaworowski. I read through the article realized that a layperson who is not aware of the data favoring human induced climate change might get persuaded that human induced global warming is a fraud. How should I go about making a convincing case that the article misrepresents climate science?

Can I leave aside the specific questions about ice-core CO2 levels, maybe give references that point to original work and then still make broad arguments that show that Jaworowski himself has made very unreasonable assumptions and omitted important facts and that the scientific data is trustworthy. I am going to try doing that. This is a bit like the evolution-creationism debate. I can’t answer very specific biological questions like maybe how a particular protein evolved but over the years I have gathered broad arguments in favor of evolution. I have persuaded some of my friends using these broad level explanations of evolution and I am hoping I can use the same kind of arguments to explain climate change.

Right. So here is what I came up with. Feel free to add your own insights and suggestions on how to improve such arguments. Continue reading


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Sea Level Rise and Your City

This entry was originally made on Reporting on a Revolution on April 16, 2008

From my Geology News Feed a link to a pretty cool application for assessing the impact of sea level rise on coastal areas. The application written by Alex Tingle of Firetree.net uses NASA elevation data and the Google Maps API to create dynamic maps of flooding. I played around a little with Mumbai. It’s tempting to run a disaster scenario. Just choose a sea-level rise of 10-15 meters and watch the city go under water. But the results are not very surprising and not too realistic either. This massive a rise in sea level is at the extreme end of the climate change and sea level rise scenarios possible if the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheet completely melts. May happen but unlikely for the next couple of centuries.

 I wanted to find out whether the elevation data underlying the application was fine enough to depict subtle variations in topography and the effect of a small change in sea-level. I used just a 1 meter rise in sea-level. The resulting map impressed. The flooded areas were restricted to the low-lying mudflats and mangroves along the Panvel, Thane, Mahim, Gorai and Vasai Creeks. The rest of the city was unaffected, which is to be expected since the land surface of Mumbai is hilly in places or has been raised by several meters during land reclamation projects. Climate scientists give scenario based range of values for sea-level rise this century and a sea-level rise of 1 meter by the end of the century is a distinct possibility. This would mean large areas of Mumbai and surrounds will be at risk. Image below shows Mumbai and its suburbs and exurbs. Pink areas are the built up concrete jungle, lighter green is land vegetation, blue is water and dark green-brown areas are tidal mudflats and mangroves.

Mumbai City and Environs

Mumbai City and Environs

A 1 meter sea-level rise will affect these mudflats the most. Yet at places I have marked with arrows near the Panvel and Thane Creeks, pink is intruding upon the dark-green, which means construction is eating up those low-lying areas. All these new constructions are raised a few meters above the original surface and that may protect them against a future sea-level rise. But there are other factors at play and these were demonstrated with terrifying clarity during the flooding by the Mithi river of Bandra-Kurla complex and adjoining low lying areas on July 26-27 2005. As shown by arrows near the Mahim Creek area which trace the Mithi river, mudflats and mangroves were built upon and the river channel reduced to a narrow drain. Since no natural holding areas for the water such as mangroves were left, a combination of high rainfall and high tide led to water level rising up several meters and inundating buildings and even the airport.

But we never seem to understand and learn from history. The same mistakes are being repeated at Panvel and Thane Creeks. When I was growing up, one of the great pleasures of driving to Mumbai from Pune was the gorgeous landscape after Panvel, all those unspoiled tidal channels, creeks and mudflats and mangroves until you crossed the Vasai Bridge. Today that area is an ugly sight. Mud-flats and natural drainages are being filled up and we may soon have constructions coming right up to the banks of the main Panvel tidal channel. The events of July 26 2005 showed how even at present sea-level, bad urban planning can led to severe flooding. The consequences of just one meter rise in sea level can be difficult to predict and may be more damaging than anticipated if you start thinking of its effects on tides and coastal erosion. And add to that are monsoons and storms which may become more powerful as oceans warm up over the century leading to water pileups and storm surges several meters high locally. I really don’t know if the new constructions are being built with future sea-level rise in mind but every time I drive past Panvel all I see is more constructions on those mud-flats. There is no doubt that we are putting the people who will live adjacent to these creeks and channels at a very high risk of flooding and storm damage.