Sunday, December 6, 2009

An interesting take on 'climategate' from the Economist

Climate change is a polarizing issue. Scientists and politicians on both sides of the debate have strong views. The consequences of being wrong could result in havoc for the environment, or for the world economy - Some radical changes being called for to prevent climate change would dramatically change the way we live.

Leaked emails from Britain's University of East Anglia are a boon to climate change sceptics. There quite clearly seems to be some bad science and misleading messaging going on. The Economists take is that this doesn't matter - It is completely convinced climate change is happening, and the leaked emails are a distraction.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It warms the surface and increases the amount of water vapour that the atmosphere can hold, which in turn warms things further. How much warming you get for a given amount of carbon dioxide is hard to say, because there are feedback processes involved, such as the making of clouds, and also other factors at work. It may be that this century's warming will be moderate, staying below 2ºC. It is quite possible, though, that unless something is done the warming will be greater, and there is a real risk that it could be a lot greater, perhaps 4ºC or more.

The inquiries into the “climategate” e-mails and files may find that some of the researchers fell short of the standards of their calling, or that some of the science in question does not stand up as well as its authors would wish. To think that all action on climate change should cease pending such inquiries, though, is foolish, cynical or both.

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