Monday, December 20, 2004

Global Warming

Look at a map of Việt Nam. Notice how the low-elevation bits are in two places. At the top, you have the Red River delta around Hà Nội - the home of Vietnamese civilization. In the southern quarter of the country, you have not just Sài Gòn, but also the extremely fertile and extremely well populated Mê Công delta - the breadbasket (ricebasket?) of the country. Now - ask yourselves - what effect would global warming have on this country?

You're probably thinking of rising sea levels. But according to Global Warming and Vietnam:

By the year 2100, global-mean sea level may stand between 32 and 64cm above the present-day level, with a rise of 45cm the most likely estimate. (In considering the regional implications of this change, it is necessary to take account of local tectonic and anthropogenic factors.)

We're not talking tens of metres, or even metres. However, the study was written in 1993. Eleven years is a long time, especially here - Việt Nam gone through a lot of development and industrialization since then. Even if the 45 cm figure stands, that's not a good thing. Not here.

And there are other effects. Temperature will probably increase by 1 or 2 degrees centigrade. Some parts of the country will increase their rainfall; others will decrease. No one's really sure. I see global warming as a risk - but a managable risk - something may happen, and if possible you take steps to prevent. That's why I'm broadly in favour of things like the the Kyoto accord in spirit. I just don't think it goes far enough, especially in penalizing those (such as some European countries) that don't keep their side of the bargain.

Of course, there are people who are certain - certain that global warming does not exist. They generally pass as public relations officers, consultants and lobbyist for various industrial concerns. On other words, they are the literary prostitutes of our ages. Or, to keep it short and simple: liars. Like many of those against evolution, often they use soliphisms like "Global Warming is a theory". (So is gravity, love.) Or they look for the newest and prettiest argument attempting to debunk this Global Warming Hokum.

Tim Lambert has been doing a solitary and heroic job debunking these so-called debunkers, and you can find this on his blog. Like me, he is pretty confident that global warming exists, but I don't think that's his primary motivation. I think he just hates dishonesty as much as he hates methological shoddiness - and those two things often walk hand in hand. Even if you aren't a science buff, I think it's essential that you read about the Worst argument against global warming, ever.:

Lavoisier group member Louis Hissink has a response to my post and John Quiggin’s on the Lavoisier group. A summary cannot do it justice, so I will quote extensively:

As far as the earth is concerned, and from a geological perspective, 99% of the earth’s mass is hotter than 1000 degrees Celsius, and 1% of the earth’s mass cooler than 100 degrees celsius - statistics here. The temperature of space is about 2.7 degrees Kelvin, or expressed in the Celsius scale, approximately -269 degrees Celsius. Therefore the net heat loss from the earth to space is enormous, from which space could be thought as an almost infinite heat sink. And fluctuations of this heat source will overwhelm anything that humanity thinks it could contribute.

This is bullshit.

Scientists have extensively measured the flow of heat from inside the earth—it amounts to 0.075 Watts per square metre, while incoming solar radiation is 342 Watts per square metre, about 5000 times as much. Hissink is correct that heat from the earth is not included in climate models—but that is because it is negligible.

Oh, and there's some bizarre guff from Hissink about Joshua asking God to stop the earth. Very odd, but very entertaining.