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Science

UN Report Downgrades Human Impact on Climate 378

Posted by Zonk
from the hot-air dept.
GodInHell writes to mention an article in the Telegraph, stating that man's impact on the environment has been 'downgraded'. A UN report has found that our species has not had as large effect on climate change as was previously thought. The average temperature is still due to rise almost 5 degrees C in the next 100 years, bringing drastic changes in weather patterns. From the article: "The panel, however, has lowered predictions of how much sea levels will rise in comparison with its last report in 2001. Climate change skeptics are expected to seize on the revised figures as evidence that action to combat global warming is less urgent. Scientists insist that the lower estimates for sea levels and the human impact on global warming are simply a refinement due to better data on how climate works rather than a reduction in the risk posed by global warming."
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UN Report Downgrades Human Impact on Climate

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  • I know this is /. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by benhocking (724439) <benjaminhocking@ ... om minus painter> on Sunday December 10, 2006 @05:40PM (#17187650) Homepage Journal
    But please RTFA and not just the summary/headline.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 10, 2006 @06:12PM (#17187892)
    here are many, many other pollution problems--sulfur dioxide / acid rain being one of them. China for instance today has huge sulfur dioxide emissions, roughly comparable to the US 25 years ago before we got good about it.

    Which is fortunate because sulfur dioxide combats global warming sort of the same way a nuclear winter combats global warming, but to a smaller scale. Many scientists are considering increasing sulfur dioxide emissions in certain locations if we can't do anything else to stop global warming.
  • I had assumed that you actually cared about the issue one way or the other. I didn't realize you just had an axe to grind. Carry on. [typepad.com]
  • by charlie (1328) <`gro.epopitna' `ta' `eilrahc'> on Sunday December 10, 2006 @06:37PM (#17188112) Homepage Journal

    Let us imagine that one night you wake up and discover that your house is on fire.

    You dial 999 (or 911, if you're American) and ask for help: the nice despatcher tells you that the police department were watching your house and they're pretty sure there was no arsonist.

    Do you think, "oh, it's not an arson attack," and go back to bed?

    (Or do you evacuate the burning building anyway, and wait for the fire service to get there?)

    Here's the point: the house is on fire. It doesn't matter why it's on fire, in the first instance; the fire is an emergency situation and needs to be dealt with regardless of the cause.

    And by analogy, it doesn't matter whether the observations of climactic change are attributable to anthropogenic warming or to some other cause, or to a mixture of causes -- if we don't take action we're going to be in deep shit.

  • by ronanbear (924575) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @07:05PM (#17188352)
    Recent research has indicated that one of the short term effects of SO2 is to reduce climate forcings but the long term implications are less clear.

    For example SO2 causes acid rain which damages vegatation releasing CO2. It's far to early to tell whether increasing SO2 emissions will help or will just cause a lot more damage. It's an interesting theory but it's still not well understood.

    We've gone from trying to predict whether it will rain this afternoon to trying to predict the climate for 100 years. It's the complicated and difficult modelling challenge in human history and it's no wonder why people find it so hard to understand the issues.

    Sulphur is nasty. Best to wait a few years before doing anything about it.
  • Re:Damn (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oggiejnr (999258) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @07:31PM (#17188540)
    I would be very concerned here in Hull, UK if sea levels rise as the River Humber is tidal and some areas of the city and nearby area are below sea level. London would have similar problems with a rising in the level of the Thames. There loads of other areas around the world which would suffer similar problems.
  • by leandrod (17766) <l&dutras,org> on Sunday December 10, 2006 @07:42PM (#17188636) Homepage Journal
    I was merely considering the predicament of other species who have less of an ability to migrate, and less adabtability that humans have due to technology and information.

    So what? It will be neither the first nor the last mass extinction. Nature has recovered everytime, and the Earth has been shaken quite a few times. If anything, it seems that biological diversity has been increasing except for some minor human-induced damage in the last two or three centuries.

    We can't be sentimental about nature. It isn't a person, and humans are different from animals; we can care for them, and plants too, and even inanimate nature, but not to the point of romanticising anything. I am still for caring for people over nature, if a choice must be made; and in the end it may prove to be the best course, as people suffering from misery aren't likely to care for nature.

    I'll also point out that one of the large issues involved in global warming is that the disease malaria is carried by mosquitos. As the climate warms globally, these mosquitos will span greater distances - spreading malaria to communities that have not had to deal with malarial outbreaks, or have less resistance to malaria due to a lack of any significant anemic populations.

    Why so many environmentalists assume static environments? Malaria is fougth with success anywhere there is a sufficiently dense and resourceful human population. Brazil is an example: it has all but erradicated malaria from most of its more densely inhabitated regions, so that only a small minority of population still has to really care about it.

  • by pnot (96038) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @08:41PM (#17189028)
    We've gone from a 5C raise in average temperature

    Yes, five degrees sounds so innocuous, doesn't it? But a 5-degree rise across the whole earth requires an enormous input of energy, and can have enormous consequences. The temperature difference between now and the last glacial period -- with ice sheets covering much of North America and Eurasia -- is around 8 degrees.

    and say 20' raise in sea levels to the end of civilisation

    A 20-inch sea-level rise isn't so trivial either; in Bangladesh alone, that translates to over ten million displaced persons -- worldwide, far more. Tens of millions of refugees isn't exactly conducive to global stability.

    the extinction of the human race, 99% of the life on the planet

    Now you're misrepresenting me; I wrote "even if we succeed in wiping ourselves and 99% of existing species out...". I was positing a ridiculously over-the-top scenario in order to argue that there's no way we can destroy the planet.

    end of the plant itself.

    I think you've completely missed my point, which was precisely that we are not going to destroy the planet, no matter how hard we try.

    Civilisation will not end.

    I wrote "it's about saving the human race, or at least civilization as we know it", and I stand by that. "Civilization as we know it" has not been around very long at all; how long depends how you define it, but certainly not more than ten thousand years. If we're talking modern, industrialized civilization, perhaps two hundred years. Hell, even as a species we've only been around for 200,000 years (that is, around 0.1% as long as the dinosaurs).

    Peanuts. Small change. I'm sure the Persian empire, the Maya civilization, and imperial China all looked pretty permanent to their citizens too. Just this century we've had one war which could have destroyed civilization as we know it. Are you really so sure we'll manage even another millenium?

    Even without environmental catastrophe, the odds don't look great. Throw in global sea-level rises, increased frequency of natural disasters, desertification, and the breakdown of the gulf stream and it's all looking a little shaky. Sure, it might hold together in our lifetimes, but really, that's a very, very short-term view.

  • by StikyPad (445176) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @09:03PM (#17189238) Homepage
    Actually, they rely on the precipitation caused by the Himalayas; the glaciers are incidendal. The mountains force all of water vapor to condense as the air rises to pass over them, thus it's rainy in India and dry in Tibet. Granted, at some point the mountains will erode, and glacial melting may well facilitate that erosion, however it is unlikely that this will happen at any time in the relevant future, nor that, in 50 million years, anyone will look back and say "Those 20th Century bastards.. if only they'd saved the glaciers, the Himalayas would still be foothills instead of plains."
  • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:01PM (#17190328) Journal
    Well, you gotta give it to the Clinton administration. When they act anti war, they really act anti war.

    Maybe someone should have set them down and explained that sometimes bad people do bad things and the only way to stop them is to do bad things too. Maybe if they understood this concept a little more instead of how to inflate economic numbers or play Mr. Stink finger with a cigar half the bad things in the last 8 years never would have happened. Maybe not.
  • Environment movement (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Sunday December 10, 2006 @11:49PM (#17190642)
    The environmentalism has replaced Christianity as the new religion in the West, Europe in particular. It's to be praised for raising people's awareness and sensitivity on the consequence of our lifestyle, but unfortunately it also smells of dogmatic religious ferocity. It's presented with a certain moral and spiritual angle that, I think, appeals to those of us living in largely secular cultures. Unfortunately, this often hinders the frank, pragmatic discourse the issue deserves. Take global warming for example. There are several aspects to the question:

    1. Is it warming up? (seems like it)
    2. What are the consequences?
    3. Are we largely responsible?
    4. Can we do anything about it?
    5. If yes, then how should we go about it? (depends on 2, 3, & 4)

    But put the question in moral/spiritual tone, and you get FOX News style shout match between two extremist sides. Well, maybe it's also a reaction to the influence of profit-driven corporate agenda that disregard economic externalities like environmental issues. Two wrongs don't make a right, though, eh.
  • by krotkruton (967718) on Monday December 11, 2006 @04:40AM (#17192224)
    Much of the world's ice is already floating on the oceans and is therefore displacing the water.

    Flat out wrong. I couldn't immediately find a reference to contrast your lack of proof, but it becomes a moot point shortly.

    All that floating ice melting would not raise the oceans even a millimeter. All the ice on land melting would not make much of a rise either... The worlds major ice stores are in Antarctica and Greenland. If that all melted the oceans would not rise enough to cause many problems.

    All the ice on Greenland alone would cause a 15 to 20 foot rise in sea level [ucsc.edu] (4th paragraph). Although the article states that it is unlikely for all of it to melt in this century, Greenland isn't "all the ice on land".

    Just get yourself a globe and look how much ice area on land there is compared to the vastness of the oceans.

    Wow; just wow. You do realize that the earth is in 3 dimensions right? Since talk about climate doesn't work and you demonstrated such a colossal knowledge of physics, let's try math. Earth ocean's are a combined total of just under 142,000,000 square miles. An iceberg named B-15 fell of the Ross Shelf and is approximately 4250 square miles with a thickness between 20 and 60 meters [acecrc.org.au], so I'll be conservative and go with 20. 20 * 11,000 / 142,000,000 = .000599 meters or just over half a millimeter. Calculated at 40 meters it turns out to be .001197m and at 60 its .001796m. The West Antarctic ice sheet is "holding an estimated 30 million cubic kilometres" [commondreams.org] which is 30 billion cubic meters, which would raise the oceans levels 30*10^9 / 142,000,000 = 211 meters. Ice doesn't have to look big on a map to take up a lot of space. That last article I cited explains how they expect the Ross Ice Shelf to drop abruptly due to samples taken from the shelf, and that once one glacier disappears, the rest tend to follow more quickly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2006 @08:17AM (#17193260)
    >> The idea that Global Warming will result in more crops is pure conjecture > > At least is a reasonable conjecture, while the opposite idea just flies in the face of logic Only if you're utterly pig-ignorant of the basics of plant biology and climatology. Given your signature and your 180* wrong notions, that's a fair assumption.

    Why do so many clever people persist in assuming that because they're smart, the first thought that crosses their mind about a topic they know nothing about is bound to be correct? I find the self-importance and arrogance displayed in these sorts of comments really depressing; I find it harder and harder to give people the benefit of the doubt. These days I assume everyone's a fuckwitted moron regardless of things like financial success or achievements in a very narrow domain (sport, business, politics, non-scientific academics.) Such celebration and triumphant brandishment of stunning ignorance as a badge of pride just makes me more and more misanthropic. Hurry up H5N1, mutate already and wipe this plague of humans from the face of the planet :(

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