Thursday, February 7, 2013

Top 5 Misconceptions of Climate Change Part 2

By Gabe Mouer

The topic of fervid debate, anthropogenic climate change has yet to gain widespread acceptance from the American public due to an enduring list of misconceptions and myths. As we saw in Part I, scientist overwhelming fall on one side of the argument. Moving forward, we continue to dispel errors in scientific understand in hopes to alleviate some of the confusion.

#4 “If global warming is real, why is it so cold this winter?”
A frequent mistake is to confuse weather, a short term measurement, with climate, which refers to prevailing conditions over a long period of time.1 Deniers often point to the record snow fall seen during winter 2009/10 and 2010/11 as proof that the effects of climate change may be greatly exaggerated. However, record snow fall is actually to be expected, as climate scientist Donald Prothero explains, “Warmer temperatures mean more moisture in the atmosphere, which increases the intensity of normal winter snowstorms.”2 It is important to note that although winter in North America saw increased activity during those years, the world as a whole continued to suffer unusually warm seasons.

#3 “It may be carbon from erupting volcanoes”
It is no secret that CO2 emissions are at fault for the increase in global temperature. Some have argued that Earth's natural carbon cycle may be the culprit. The core of the earth is filled with carbon and releases it as carbon-dioxide through volcanic activity both above and below sea level. Recent studies estimate that this global carbon cycle releases somewhere between 65-319 million metric tons of CO2 per year.3 These emissions have been pointed to as greatly contributing to the rise in global temperatures. Yet again, the data does not ally itself with this hypothesis.
Records do not indicate any significant increase in volcanic activity of the last several hundred years and fail to account for the drastic increase in temperature over the last 30 years. If that wasn't enough to put this idea to rest, consider that while the earth's natural carbon cycle releases up to 319 million metric tons at the most, independent estimates conclude that Fossil Fuel Carbon Emission release closer to 29 billion tons each year.4 As Terry Gerlach writing for Earth Magazine states, To scale up volcanic carbon dioxide output to the current anthropogenic level would require adding thousands of volcanoes to the 50 to 60 normally active volcanoes of the subaerial landscape and more than a hundred additional mid-ocean ridge systems to the seafloor.”5

In the following weeks we will dive into some of the more technical objections to climate change put forward by scientifically learned individuals. Investigating their claims we look to the latest work from climatologists to provide us with answers to these questions.

2How We Know Global Warming is Real and Human Caused, Skeptic Magazine Vol. 17, 2012

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