Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Ongoing Fight Over Global Warming: Dueling Republicans

The fracas over global warming took a very public turn when House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.) sent a strongly worded letter to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.) about his inquiry into a 1998 study of climate change. The inquiry began last month when Rep. Barton asked the researchers to justify their work. The inquiry was initiated when two Canadian researchers questioned the findings.


Rep. Boehlert is concerned with the possible negative impact such inquiries could have upon future research. This highlights the divide on this issue.

The unusual public tiff between two powerful GOP lawmakers highlights the sharp divide that drives the nation's climate change debate. Barton, along with President Bush and many other House Republicans, opposes mandatory curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and questions the science underlying such efforts. Boehlert, who backs limits on carbon dioxide pollution, said he fears *such attacks could chill future scientific inquiry*.

Rep. Boehlert does not hold back.

In a sharply worded letter sent last week, Boehlert called Barton's probe into the findings of Michael E. Mann, Raymond S. Bradley and Malcolm K. Hughes a *"misguided and illegitimate investigation."* Mann will direct the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University as of next month, Bradley is a geosciences professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Hughes is a professor at the University of Arizona's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.

The research showed the recent spike in global tempatures, the results became a unique graph. The data was subsequently utilized by the U.N.

Using climate records culled from tree rings, glacial-ice layers and coral-growth layers, the three professors -- whose research was funded in part by the federal government -- determined in 1998 that *temperatures have skyrocketed in the past century compared with the 500 years preceding it*. The three men put the figures in a graph now known as the "hockey stick," and *their work helped prompt the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2001 to declare the 1990s as the warmest decade in the past 1,000 years*.

Rep. Boehlert's letter asserted that his panel has jurisdiction over this issue and that Barton was targeting this study because he disagreed with the results.

"*My primary concern about your investigation is that its purpose seems to be to intimidate scientists* rather than to learn from them, and to *substitute congressional political review for scientific review*," Boehlert wrote.

Substituting congressional review over that of science. Hmm, have we heard this theme before?

A similar letter from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) was dismissed by Rep. Barton. The Science Committee justified the unusual public nature of Rep. Boehlert's comments against another Republican on the basis of the unique nature of the situation.

"It's unusual for a chairman to write this kind of letter, but we feel the situation's unusual," said Science Committee staff director David Goldston, adding that *the fight was about the need for independent scientific research, not climate change*. "We are surprised at the level of sarcasm Mr. Barton's spokesman has used to respond to our serious concerns."

Is there really any reasonable doubt that global warming is fact? Apparently even our fearless leader recognizes the consensus on global climate change.


This latest chapter in a long-running climate science sideshow comes even as the scientific consensus has firmed up that global warming is occurring. *President Bush, for example, acknowledged at a summit this month the consensus that man-made greenhouse gases are increasing global temperatures*.

So why is it that we are continuing to fight about the existance of the problem and not seeking possible solutions?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

George and Karl

On the word of Karl Rove's own attorney, Mr.Rove leaked the identity of a covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame. That this was done as retaliation against Ms.Plame's husband Joseph Wilson is beyond this analysis. It was a treasonous act, plain and simple. It has been claimed that Ms.Plame's covert status was unknown. This strains credibility to its breaking point. Mr.Rove should be relieved of his White House duties in accordance with Mr.Bush's prior statements that he would not tolerate leakers. Mr.Bush's refusal to discuss this matter (along with that of Scott McClellan) demonstrates that he is in fact not interested in "getting to the bottom of this." Mr.Bush, do the right thing and fire Mr.Rove.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Carbon Dioxide Levels Increase Ocean Acidity

According to Britain's leading scientific organization, the Royal Society, carbon dioxide is making the world's oceans increasingly acidic. The Royal Society has released 60 page report to coincide with the Group 8 economic meeting this week. The group's current president, Prime Minister Tony Blair, has called for action to slow climate change.


The effects of the increase can be measured now.

Unlike forecasts of global warming, which are based on complex and incomplete computer models, *the chemistry of carbon dioxide and seawater is simple and straightforward*.

The burning of fossil fuels by cars and power plants releases more than 25 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. *Roughly a third of that is absorbed by the oceans, where the gas undergoes chemical reactions that produce carbonic acid, which is corrosive to shells*.

Substantial change has already taken place in the last two hundred years.

Ocean water today is somewhat alkaline, at 8.1, *about 0.1 lower than at the start of the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago*.

But like the magnitude scale of earthquakes, *one unit on the pH scale reflects a change of a factor of 10. The 0.1 pH change means there are now 30 percent more hydrogen ions in the water*.

Depending on the rate of fossil fuel burning, *the pH of ocean water near the surface is expected to drop to 7.7 to 7.9 by 2100, lower than any time in the last 420,000 years*, the Royal Society report said.

While there have been times in the distant past where carbon dioxide levels have been high, the concern is that the current change is taking place too fast. That is, a slower increase would allow the oceans to dilute the additional carbon dioxide.

Dr. Ken Caldeira, a research scientist at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology in Stanford, Calif., and a member of the Royal Society panel:

"If we put it out over a few hundred thousand years, we'd have nothing to worry about," he said.

Coral reefs, already facing the problem of temperature change, will likely suffer further.

The pH change is likely to slow the rate of growth of coral reefs, which are already suffering from warmer temperatures and pollution, the report said.