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Man-made climate change is a reality
The following is the text of a submission from Dr Alex Gardner offering a critical response to Peter Finlayson's 'sceptical' article on man-made global warming (March AD2000) as well as this journal's editorial support for it.
Peter Finlayson has accepted our invitation to respond to Dr Gardner's criticisms (see opposite page).
Dr Alex Gardner is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at The University of Western Australia, Perth.
I have seen the coverage of 'Global Warming: Myth or Reality?' in the March issue of AD2000 (See http://www.ad2000.com.au/articles/2008/mar2008p6_2741.html). I am very disappointed that the editor has taken such a negative attitude to dealing with this very serious issue, challenging scientific orthodoxy as a 'new fundamentalist religion' without a basis in facts or social or economic realities.
The editor's approach is disappointing because he has rejected the opportunity to address the very serious moral issues that confront the global community as it searches for a just solution to what is now overwhelmingly accepted as a problem largely caused by human induced greenhouse gas emissions.
Although there are still many uncertainties about the details of the science, by January 2008 177 countries and the European Union had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, pledging to act on human-induced climate change. The only significant country not yet to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the USA, will surely move in that direction after the presidential election in November of this year because all of the candidates are supporters of doing so.
Further, in 2007, the Fourth Technical Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ('IPCC') expressed 'very high confidence that the global average net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming'. In the face of this overwhelming global community opinion, the debate has rightly moved on to how to deal with the problem, not to question its existence.
Yet, the editor expresses his support for the article by Peter Finlayson, 'Man-made climate change: another great hoax?' at pages 6-7. Mr Finlayson argues, mostly on the basis of a single book by Singer and Avery, Unstoppable Global Warming - every 1500 years, which was published (apparently in 2006) before the IPCC's Fourth Technical Assessment Report in 2007.
The Singer and Avery thesis is that global warming is a natural phenomenon caused not by human induced greenhouse gas emissions but rather by 'sun-spot activity'. I have not had access to this book, but a book review by Steve Johnson on the Amazon.com website (30 December 2006) explains their thesis as global warming being caused by 'fluctuations in solar radiance'.
Mr Finlayson's article rejects the work of the IPCC as deliberate and fraudulent manipulation. He points to various arguments from Singer and Avery that suggest there is no correlation between recent major increases in carbon-dioxide levels and global warming. The above-mentioned Mr Johnson's principal criticism of the Singer and Avery book is that they fail to deal convincingly with the orthodox scientific view that increased emissions of carbon dioxide are a major cause of global warming.
For me, it is a major omission from Mr Finlayson's article that he does not even note the IPCC's attention to the argument that fluctuations in solar 'irradiance' are causing changes in global temperature. The IPCC, writing in 2007, says that it is very likely that the temperature fluctuations of the seven centuries prior to 1950 were caused by changes in 'solar irradiance' and the effects of volcanic eruptions (the latter causing cooling).
However, the IPCC concludes that the effects of solar irradiance have a very small 'radiative forcing' (or warming) effect compared with the human induced or 'anthropengic' greenhouse gas emissions. Further, the IPCC's 2007 Fourth Assessment revised its estimates of this effect downwards to less than half that in its 2001 Third Assessment Report. Even a non-scientist like me can see that Mr Finlayson's article is based on poor science.
To express editorial support for this sceptical view of the very highly respected work of the IPCC, for which they won a Nobel peace prize, is unwise. It is also very disappointing. The editor could, at least, seek an orthodox scientific explanation of the IPCC's work in response to Mr Finlayson's article.
More than that, he could seek contributions that inquire about the very difficult moral issues our world faces in seeking a just solution to the problems of climate change. The Christian Churches have a long history of seeking justice, and I hope they will contribute actively to defining the solutions to climate change. To neglect this inquiry will relegate AD2000 to the margins of irrelevance on the climate change debates.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 21 No 5 (June 2008), p. 12
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