Is global warming really happening all over the world? Is global climate change caused by human activities? These are the questions that have been asked by the public since the beginning of the century. The answers to both are definitely the same: Yes.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), human activities are having a major influence on atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, which are rising so fast that current predictions are that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide will double in the next 50 to 100 years. The doubling of carbon dioxide concentration, according to IPCC’s report in 1992, would raise global temperatures anywhere between 1. 4°C and 4. 5°C. 97 percent or more of climate scientists have reached the consensus that the increase in global temperature is true and is extremely likely due to human activities.
The credibility of man-made global warming, nonetheless, is doubted by Jason Taylor, who published his article 'Global warming the greatest scam in history' claims founder of Weather Channel on a British website called Express. In his article, Taylor raises several questions against global warming and claims that it is “the greatest scam in history”. Although the claims made in his article seem feasible at first glance, they are in fact deficient in scientific evidence. Moreover, they also represent interests of the naysayers who disbelieve in global climate change. In the following paragraphs, I would like to list the major claims made by Taylor and to point out their weaknesses.
Statement 1: The global temperature isn’t increasing.
At the beginning of the passage, Taylor states that climate change has been “proved” not to exist and cites words of John Coleman, who co-founded the Weather Channel, “there has been no warming over 18 years. The polar ice is increasing, not melting away.”
Both Taylor and Coleman, however, understand global warming on decadal timescales, rather than on centennial timescales. Decades refer to relatively short-time period, while centuries represent longer historical period. According to the graph below from the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report on Climate Change 2007, global temperature during the last 150 years have increased drastically. In other words, the Earth is becoming warmer on centennial timescales.
On decadal timescales, however, global temperature doesn’t need to be increasing at all time. It could even drop due to natural events. El Niño–Southern Oscillation, for example, could have a huge impart on short-term temperature changes. El Niño events cause short-term (approximately 1 year in length) spikes in global average surface temperature while La Niña events cause short term cooling. Volcano eruption could lead global temperature to plummet as well. Since global temperature could either rise up or drop on decadal timescales, the statement that no warming over 18 years indicates global warming may be incorrect.
Statement 2: Carbon dioxide doesn’t lead to global warming.
Taylor held that CO2, a kind of “natural and essential atmospheric gas”, has been demonized by the government. He backed himself up with William Happer, a climate scientist from Princeton University, who viewed the theory that increasing CO2 would heat the Earth as a pure belief disguised as science. However, his claim turned out to be untenable, given the atmospheric transmission figures based on Spectral Calculator of GATS, Inc. which implements the LINEPAK system of calculating absorption spectra.
About 70 percent of the Sun's energy passes through the atmosphere and strikes Earth's surface. This radiation heats the surface of land and oceans, and these surfaces then reradiate infrared radiation back into space. This allows Earth to avoid heating up too much. However, not all of the infrared radiation makes it into space; some is absorbed by gases in the atmosphere and is reradiated back to Earth's surface. A greenhouse gas is one that absorbs long wave radiation like infrared radiation and then reradiates some of this radiation back to Earth. Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen oxides are greenhouse gases.
The red area in the first third of the above graph shows total radiation sent from space to the Earth’s atmosphere and is mainly composed of shortwaves like UV and visible light. The blue area indicates radiation from the atmosphere back to space and mainly includes infrared light. In other words, the major radiation sent from the Earth back into the space is long wave radiation like infrared light. The second part of the graph demonstrates total absorption and scattering of radiation and the third graph shows the absorption pattern of different gases. From the third part we discover that the peak of carbon dioxide occurs mainly in ranges of long wave radiation, indicating that carbon dioxide takes in the long wave radiation which is sent from Earth to space. With more radiation energy absorbed by carbon dioxide, more heat prevents it to be sent to space and is therefore kept on Earth. This extra heat further leads to increase in global temperatures. So it is an undeniable truth that carbon dioxide is a significant greenhouse gas and causes global climate change.
Statement 3: Global warming is not caused by human activities.
In his article, Taylor denied significant human impact on global warming. John Coleman also believed that “there has been none in the past and there is no reason to fear any in the future.” This claim, however, is flawed and has been attacked by scientific models used by climate scientists. Scientists are actively investigating the feedback mechanism within the physical, chemical, and biological components of Earth's climate system in order to make accurate predictions of the effects the rise in greenhouse gases will have on future global climates. Global circulation models are important tools in this process. These models incorporate current knowledge on atmospheric circulation patterns, ocean currents, the effect of landmasses, and the like to predict climate under changed conditions.
The graphs above show how IPCC applies 23 models from different countries to predict the impact of human activities on global warming. The red area demonstrates the temperature patterns of land surface and ocean surface with human activities, while the blue area refers to the pattern without human discharge of green house gas. From the graphs above it is quite manifest that human behavior drastically raises up global temperature.
So why do naysayers like Taylor reject the unchallengeable truth of the increase in global temperatures even if they are given so much science-based evidence? What are the incentives for spreading their ideas against global warming?
The answer is: funding from fossil energy companies. The magnitude of the fossil energy industry’s contribution to the climate problem is enormous. Researchers have found that just 90 entities – including the world’s largest investor-owned fossil fuel companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell – are responsible for extracting the coal, oil, and gas that have produced about two-thirds of all industrial carbon pollution. For decades, these same companies have sought to obscure the risks of using their products, and sought to deny and delay regulation – increasing the risks society face from a changing climate. Thus it is not surprising that these companies like to spend enormous amounts of money funding so-called scientists and politicians to deny the effects of man-made global climate change.
A prominent academic and climate change denier’s work was funded almost entirely by the energy industry, receiving more than $1.2m from companies, lobby groups and oil billionaires over more than a decade, newly released documents show. Over the last 14 years Willie Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, received a total of $1.25m from Exxon Mobil, Southern Company, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and a foundation run by the ultra-conservative Koch brothers. These companies paid Soon to block action against climate change. Unlike the vast majority of scientists, Soon does not accept that rising greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial age are causing climate changes. He contends climate change is driven by the sun. From 2005, Southern Company gave Soon nearly $410,000. In return, Soon promised to publish research about the sun’s influence on climate change in leading journals, and to deliver lectures about his theories at national and international events, according to the correspondence.
Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who famously called global warming a hoax, also received $10,000 (£6,700) from BP’s Political Action Committee (PAC). Following his re-election, Inhofe became chair of the Senate’s environment and public works committee in January. The first BP PAC contribution to Inhofe’s 2014 campaign was a given on 12 March 2012. This $1,000 donation came just two weeks after the publication of Inhofe’s book The Greatest Hoax, cementing his credentials as the most outspoken denier of climate change in US politics.
Other forces behind the global warming naysayers include religious groups and right-wing politicians. James Inhofe, the new chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, delivered a speech in which he claimed that “only God can change climate...some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate” when he joined 97 of his colleagues in voting that climate change exists. Right-wing politicians also engage in denying global climate change. Among the politicians who refuse to acknowledge climate change is governor Scott. During his first campaign for governor in 2010, Scott told reporters who asked about his views on climate change that he had “not been convinced,” and that he would need “something more convincing than what I’ve read.”
Global warming is a truthful event whose credibility should not be challenged. Through breaking down the major statements made in Taylor’s article, we eventually come to the conclusion that carbon dioxide produced by human beings is the major culprit of the increase in global temperatures and that global warming is not a hoax.