Posts tagged with: climate change

…on Mars:

Global warming could be heating Mars four times faster than Earth due to a mutually reinforcing interplay of wind-swept dust and changes in reflected heat from the Sun, according to a study released Wednesday.

Scientists have long observed a correlation on Mars between its fluctuating temperatures — which range from -87 C to – 5 C (-125 F to 23 F) depending on the season and the location — and the darkening or lightening of swathes of the planet’s surface.

The explanation is in the dirt.

Glistening Martian dust lying on the ground reflects the Sun’s light — and its heat — back into space, a phenomenon called albedo.

But when this reddish dust is churned up by violent winds, the storm-ravaged surface loses its reflective qualities and more of the Sun’s heat is absorbed into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise.

The study, published on Thursday by the British journal Nature, shows for the first time that these variations not only result from the storms but help cause them too.

It also suggests that short-term climate change is currently occurring on Mars and at a much faster rate than on Earth.

We’ve got it all – violent storms, rapid temperature change, receding polar ice. All we need is to pinpoint the source of all the martian CO2 emissions and send an emergency mission to start a carbon offset program, and we’re well on the way to saving the Red Planet as well as our own from the horrors of climate change!

Naturally, the article contains this caveat:

For Earth, global warming is mainly associated with human activities — notably the burning of fossil fuels — that release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, trapping more of the Sun’s heat.

Naturally.

I wonder if planets in the solar system have any common trait that might help to explain the variations in their climates… Yep. It’s a headscratcher…

Once again, I’m left with questions about this whole thing. We know that the average global temperature on Earth has been creeping upward over the last little bit. We also know that climate change seems to be occurring on other planetary bodies in the Solar System (Jupiter, Saturn’s moon Triton, Mars, and even Pluto, for example). We also know that average temperatures on Earth have been much higher (there’s a reason that Greenland is called Greenland) and much lower (there’s a reason that Greenland was abandoned by its inhabitants) over the course of recorded history. Given these facts, why is it that Earth seems to be the only planet about which scientists have reached the untouchable conclusion that the climate change process isn’t natural?

It’s global warming media day at the NYT and elsewhere following the SCOTUS decision on Massachusetts v. EPA:

The Supreme Court ruled today (5-4) in the case of Massachusetts v. EPA (05-1120) “that the federal government had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases that may contribute to global warming, and must examine anew the scientific evidence of a link between those gases and climate change.”

Toward the end of last year some were arguing that “this case is not about the science of climate change. There is no dispute that human emissions of greenhouse gases affect the global climate.” As we can see, the Court did find that the science of climate change is at issue.

Now that the Court has found in favor of the state of Massachusetts, affirming the state’s standing in the case, this may end up being a more important case than many, including myself, first thought. The “maze of procedural issues” ended up not preventing the Court from reaching this decision. More on this in coming days.

Update: The Court’s opinion can be read here (PDF).

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
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In a piece for The American Spectator earlier this week, Mark Tooley of IRD evaluates the global warming dust-up at the NAE.

In “Prepare for Biblical Floods and Droughts,” Tooley especially criticizes the reaction of emergent church leader Brian McLaren, who used the examples of Noah and Joseph to argue for the legitimacy of a prophetic voice on climate change.

Tooley writes that we can expect

Global Warming to remain the main obsession of the evangelical left and of NAE leadership. It is, after all the perfect issue for left-leaning evangelicals to show their concern, while also relying upon the habits of their own sub-culture. Global Warming, as a metaphysical movement, warns of a cataclysmic judgment for “bad” behavior. Evangelicals are accustomed to that kind of preaching. Meanwhile, the liberal evangelicals want more government, higher taxes, and increased regulation of the private economy. They feel guilty about capitalism, and want other evangelicals to share in their guilt. Liberal evangelicals prefer not to talk about sexual sins. Carbon sins are a welcome substitute.

Tooley also criticizes an NAE statement on torture, saying that “it could just as easily have come from the National Council of Churches, and was crafted by a special committee dominated by activists and academics from the evangelical left.”

I’m no expert on the subject, having only seen a Fred Friendly seminar that addressed the topic and watching the dramatization of Sayid Jarrah’s character on “Lost”. Neither have I read the torture statement, but it’s not clear to me whether Tooley’s problem with the statement is the subject matter itself or the way in which it was treated. That is, could there have been an appropriately conservative statement on torture, or does any statement addressing that question necessarily mean it is a liberal political tool?

In any case, Tooley’s remarks about the alarmism of many on the evangelical left are well-taken, and should be tempered by a serious biblical perspective. I have it on pretty good authority that rising sea-levels won’t be the end of life on earth. Now an extreme sort of fire-based “global warming” (if that’s what you want to call it), that’s another story.

Blog author: jarmstrong
Friday, March 23, 2007
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I have tried to read everything that I can find the time to digest on the subject of global warming. I saw Al Gore’s award-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" and even had some nice things to say about it. I have always been put off by the use of terms like "environmental whackos" and "earthist nut balls" from the political right. There is, in my humble opinion, little doubt that the earth is getting warmer. What is in great doubt is almost everything else. How warm will the earth become and how soon? Why is it really warming? What can we do about this problem now? How fast should we respond? And will radical responses, the kind that Al Gore argued for this week in the House hearing room on Capitol Hill, make a real difference? Bottom line: Will these alarmist responses help or harm the overall state of things on the earth? I am presently a skeptic when it comes to proving most of the claims being made by the alarmists. Something inside of me wants to agree with the climatologists who have deep concerns, if for no other reason than to avoid association with the right wing craziness and the radical left.

But make no mistake about it, this issue is politicized in every possible way. Anyone who argues otherwise is asleep. Both sides have a horse in this race. And alarmism does sell right now. Just think about the conspiracy theories that run rampant throughout modern life. Al Gore spoke of the planet "having a fever and if your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don’t say, ‘Well, I read a science-fiction novel that tells me it’s not a problem.’ If the crib’s on fire, you don’t speculate that the blanket is flame retardant, you take action." That is about as alarmist as you can get it, so it seems to me. I am not sure if Gore is referring to Michael Crichton’s novel State of Fear, when he refers to a science-fiction novel, but it is a best-seller that has had immense impact on many, including me. Before you blow it off please read it. Be sure to read the forty-plus pages of annotated notes and bibliography of books that Crichton read in order to write this book. It is a fun book, but it makes a serious point that I think Gore and his friends miss. (I actually wonder if the book makes them angry because it is so good.)

The press reports say that Al Gore was at his "most passionate" when describing global warming as a "moral imperative." Dennis Hastert (R.IL) offered agreement with Gore saying that human activity is to blame for the rise in temperature, as did some other Republicans. This crusade has taken on the tones of a moral crusade with many people becoming more and more alarmed. This includes a number of evangelicals who have signed unwise and misleading statements on the climate. I, for one, take the words "moral imperative"  very seriously. I think these words are being pressed into service in troubling ways that border on becoming vacuous if we are not truly careful.

In a column published yesterday by Hoover Institute scholar Thomas Sowell he says that we should not expect a lot of fair and open debate about climate change in the near future. Why? National Public Radio (NPR) recently did a debate in which people were polled before and after the debate. After hearing the debate a good number of people who previously believed global warming was primarily caused by human carbon emissions changed their minds. Sowell suggests that this spells the end of such open debate in the near future. That would be a real shame. If this is really a "moral imperative" then those who are convinced that it is should not fear the debate but rather enter it and show people like me why they are right. I am open to facts and would change my mind if I saw the right reasons to do so. Attacking the motives of the non-alarmists is not convincing at all. In fact, it makes me loathe to accept the Gore thesis more than ever. After all, isn’t this the same politician who invented the Internet?

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, March 22, 2007
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Non-evangelicals and progressive Christians continue to throw their support Rev. Richard Cizik’s way. Now the Institute for Progressive Christianity has released a statement commending “the courage and Christian concern displayed by Rev. Rick Cizik and the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) for recommending preventive action on the issue of global warming.”

Given the care that Cizik has ostensibly taken to distance himself from radical environmentalists, both of the secular and religious variety, and the care with which he has attempted to connect creation care with other evangelical political issues like abortion, I wonder just how welcome these expressions of solidarity really are.

Al Gore’s Assault on Reason
Darn it! I messed up that title again…

Oh, I’m sorry. I messed up that title. Gore’s newest book will be called The Assault on Reason. Here’s the book description from Amazon.com:

A visionary analysis of how the politics of fear, secrecy, cronyism, and blind faith has combined with the degration of the public sphere to create an environment dangerously hostile to reason…

…We live in an age when the thirty-second television spot is the most powerful force shaping the electorate’s thinking, and America is in the hands of an administration less interested than any previous administration in sharing the truth with the citizenry. Related to this and of even greater concern is this administration’s disinterest in the process by which the truth is ascertained, the tenets of fact-based reasoning-first among them an embrace of open inquiry in which unexpected and even inconvenient facts can lead to unexpected conclusions.

How did we get here? How much damage has been done to the functioning of our democracy and its role as steward of our security? Never has there been a worse time for us to lose the capacity to face the reality of our long-term challenges, from national security to the economy, from issues of health and social welfare to the environment. As The Assault on Reason shows us, we have precious little time to waste.

Gore’s larger goal in this book is to explain how the public sphere itself has evolved into a place hospitable to reason’s enemies, to make us more aware of the forces at work on our own minds, and to lead us to an understanding of what we can do, individually and collectively, to restore the rule of reason and safeguard our future. Drawing on a life’s work in politics as well as on the work of experts across a broad range of disciplines, Al Gore has written a farsighted and powerful manifesto for clear thinking.

Heady stuff, to be sure. Al Gore, Defender of Reason! But come now; let’s face facts. On the issue that he is best known for – climate change – Gore has done absolutely nothing to reasonably engage in debate. Quite the contrary – he denies that a legitimate debate exists, and his current popularity depends entirely on his ability frame the issue of climate change as a “crisis,” regardless of what the facts actually say.

(An aside: at the moment, I’m watching C-SPAN 3′s live coverage of the Senate hearing on climate change, and I’m pretty sure that Sen. Barbara Mikulski just credited Gore with “saving drinking water.” WOW; I never knew. And Barbara Boxer just invoked the name of Rosa Parks – they’re hauling out the moral big guns today.)

Far from being a friend to reasoned debate, Gore has a long history of ignoring facts that may be inconvenient to his predictions of global catastrophe. For instance:

…in March 1995, Gore gave his annual Earth Day address at George Washington University. ‘‘Torrential rains have increased in the summer in agricultural regions,’’ he said, referring to a yet-to-be published paper by federal climatologist Tom Karl. In fact, Karl had found no change in the frequency of daily rainfall in excess of three inches. What he did find was a tiny change in the amount of rain coming from summer storms of between two and three inches in 24 hours, but these are hardly ‘‘torrential’’ and are most often welcomed by farmers everywhere, who pray for such rains. America’s breadbasket is usually in great need of moisture come August.

In July 1998, Gore visited northeast Florida, which had experienced a series of substantial range and forest fires. He said the conflagrations ‘‘offer a glimpse of what global warming may mean for families.’’ The reason Florida went up in smoke during this normally hot season was the overabundance of vegetation that resulted from excessive rains in the previous winter. While it might be convenient to finger the 1997–98 El Nin˜o as the cause, statistical studies show El Nin˜o is in fact associated with less-than-average burned acreage in Florida.

These – and a myriad of other – inconvenient facts haven’t stopped Gore over the years, and even though the facts still dog him today, he doesn’t appear to be troubled by them one bit. (Another aside – at the moment, he’s referencing the movie 300 and the crusade against Nazism, presumably to lend the deep moral credibility of previous efforts to save civilization to his climate change efforts. Credit where credit is due: the man has some real… self confidence.) Rather, Gore’s preferred method of “debate” is to simply not acknowledge any other argument. So much for reason.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, even supporters of Gore are admitting that he takes some liberties with the facts in order to advance his argument, and here’s yet another bit of evidence that Gore will ignore in service of his Higher Truth. No doubt Gore’s new book will go over big with certain audiences; as for me, I’d say that Gore is the last person in the world who should be complaining about an assault on reason.

From the “we had to destroy the village to save it” department, check out this item from the Huffington Post by Dave Johnson, “A Global Warming Suggestion: Fewer Babies.”

It’s pretty indefatigable logic: if there are no people to be affected by environmental catastrophe, then the problem has been avoided. Johnson writes, “Yes, hundreds of millions of people will face water shortages and starvation by 2080 — but only if those hundreds of millions of people are alive in the first place.”

He continues, “What am I getting at? One solution to the crisis is for people to stop having so many babies. We’re already using up the fisheries. The cattle being raised to feed so many meat-eaters is as big a problem as the cars we’re all driving.”

Read more background on the connection between global warming activism and population control measures here, which introduces the joint paper, “From Climate Control to Population Control: Troubling Background on the ‘Evangelical Climate Initiative’.”

In this week’s Acton Commentary, I examine recent events surrounding the conflict amongst evangelicals over global warming political activism. In “Evangelical Environmentalism’s Moral Imperative,” I compare the shape of the argument to the debate over the last decade on the topic of poverty.

In the same way that conservatives were accused of not caring for the poor because they opposed an expansive welfare state, critics of climate change politics are being portrayed as not caring for the environment. To the extent that conservative critiques have not made it a point to sharply distinguish between global warming and the broader moral mandate to steward the earth, they deserve blame for this state of affairs.

This fault is exemplified well in the recent letter from James Dobson and others to the National Association of Evangelicals questioning the activities of Rev. Richard Cizik, who is actively promoting federal policy on climate change. The Dobson letter (PDF) challenges global warming but only notes pro-life issues, marriage, and sexuality as “the great moral issues of our time.” While the letter doesn’t explicitly exclude stewardship of the environment as a “great moral issue,” its omission from this list can easily give the impression that the letter’s signatories don’t find environmental stewardship to be a compelling moral imperative.

But it also falls to the responsibility of evangelicals who favor government action to combat climate change to acknowledge “the commitment of their opponents to ‘care’ of the creation, even amidst the sometimes pointed disagreements over the means and institutions responsible for that care.”

Read the entire commentary here.

I also recommend Andy Crouch’s recent review in Books & Culture of Roger Gottlieb’s A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet’s Future, in which Crouch writes that Gottlieb’s book “could not be more calculated to inflame the suspicions of the politically and theologically conservative.” Crouch also outlines some of the recent activities and perspectives of groups like the Evangelical Climate Initiative.

Update: Bob Francis of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, reacting to reader comments, acknowledges that “whether the issue is poverty or the environment, well-meaning Christians differ on solutions.”

Kathryn Joyce at The Revealer writes about “the real point of contention between Dobson, Bauer and Perkins on the one hand, and Cizik, on the other. Not so much that Cizik is drawing energy and outrage to global warming and away from gay marriage and abortion, but that, in the mind of many conservative Christians, choosing between pro-life or environmental activism must be a zero-sum game.”

I suppose that Vince Isner of the National Council of Church’s FaithfulAmerica.org outreach thinks that expressing his support for embattled Rev. Richard Cizik of the NAE will help show that Cizik is really part of the evangelical mainstream, and not only on issues related to stewardship of the earth.

That said, it might better serve Isner’s purpose if in the course of doing so he didn’t blatantly insult traditional Christian belief. Here’s a key paragraph from Isner’s bit, referring to Jerry Falwell:

So let me get this straight: Satan is real and global warming is the myth. What was I thinking? And Jerry – thanks for straightening me out what mattered most to Jesus – I had no idea it was abortion or gay marriage, I guess because he never mentioned it.

From the first part, I guess we are meant to think that it is self-evident that Satan isn’t real and global warming is.

And on the hot-button political issues of today, Isner takes the typical progressive Christian tack, arguing from the silence of Jesus for the foundation for a basic assumption of permissibility. Jesus didn’t say much about nuclear weapons either, but to point that out would just be anachronistic.

I’ll also refrain from saying more about the problematic elements of a hermeneutic that would extract the explicit (red letter!) words of Jesus as the canon within the canon. But what makes Isner’s use of such interpretation so confusing is that it’s simply inconsistent…after all, Jesus does more than just “mention” Satan, right?

So is Isner’s rhetorical strategy successful? According to Barna (2006), the following is how evangelical Christians self-identify. Decide for yourself whether it, along with what you know about the evangelical view of scripture, fits well with the points Isner makes:

67% of evangelicals describe themselves as “mostly conservative” when it comes to political and social issues (compared to 30% of adults nationwide), 26% describe themselves as somewhere in between (compared to 50% of adults nationwide), and none call themselves liberal (compared to 11% of adults nationwide).

More on the evangelical “civil war” here. If Cizik ever was looking for a new job, I’m sure the NCC would welcome him with open arms. Whether or not Cizik would reciprocate is the real issue.