Hey, Don’t Bogart That Climate!

From the New York Times:

Poor Nations to Bear Brunt as World Warms

The world’s richest countries, which have contributed by far the most to the atmospheric changes linked to global warming, are already spending billions of dollars to limit their own risks from its worst consequences, like drought and rising seas.

But despite longstanding treaty commitments to help poor countries deal with warming, these industrial powers are spending just tens of millions of dollars on ways to limit climate and coastal hazards in the world’s most vulnerable regions — most of them close to the equator and overwhelmingly poor.

Next Friday, a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that since 1990 has been assessing global warming, will underline this growing climate divide, according to scientists involved in writing it — with wealthy nations far from the equator not only experiencing fewer effects but also better able to withstand them.

Two-thirds of the atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping greenhouse gas that can persist in the air for centuries, has come in nearly equal proportions from the United States and Western European countries. Those and other wealthy nations are investing in windmill-powered plants that turn seawater to drinking water, in flood barriers and floatable homes, and in grains and soybeans genetically altered to flourish even in a drought.

In contrast, Africa accounts for less than 3 percent of the global emissions of carbon dioxide from fuel burning since 1900, yet its 840 million people face some of the biggest risks from drought and disrupted water supplies, according to new scientific assessments. As the oceans swell with water from melting ice sheets, it is the crowded river deltas in southern Asia and Egypt, along with small island nations, that are most at risk.

“Like the sinking of the Titanic, catastrophes are not democratic,� said Henry I. Miller, a fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. “A much higher fraction of passengers from the cheaper decks were lost. We’ll see the same phenomenon with global warming.� [full text]

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5 thoughts on “Hey, Don’t Bogart That Climate!

  1. One is always amazed how much mileage a bad idea or bad science can get. The climate change debate, seems from the geologic/paleontologic perspective a silly mess confusing weather and climate. Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. For most of that time, the planet has been devoid of any ice, sea levels have been high and land low. Earth has been warming ince the end of the last glacial epoch, ending perhaps 12-15,000 years ago. The continental ice sheets all melted away and sea level, lowered by more than 100 meters, rapidly rose to present levels, and lots of animals went extinct. Now that is global climate change. There have been 12-15 global climatic oscillations from very cold to very warm over the last 1 million years or so, and a similar number of pluvial-dry shifts in the southern hemisphere and thist will likely continue and we only have the barest understanding of why. Human activity has had little or nothing to do with the vast preponderance of climatic shifts on a grand scale and that simple fact, ignored by all the political pundits searcjhing for an issue, and who never seem to have had a course in historical geology or paleontology, has been ignored. True, there is not much hay to be made from a non-issue. Interestingly, for those who care to look, the levels of atmospheric CO2 have varied widely over time. During the Cretaceous, levels may have been 8-10 times what they are now…hmmmm. Of some interest, is the fact that oxygen levels have also varied, from a high of perhaps 35% in the Devonian as I recall, to less than 14% during the Permian and then higher levels again during the Mesozoic, to decline in the Tertiary to now. I think I would be more concerned about oxygen fluctuations than ppm changes in CO2. Another interesting fact, frequently noted, but also igmnored is that most of the up and down of CO2 is not well correlated to temperture fluctuations and not nearly as well as atmospheric water vapor or particulates from volcanic activity, etc.

  2. Mr. Wolberg brings up a point here that might be best attatched to a different article. Whether global warming is being caused by our CO2 emisions or by long-standing environmental cycles, it will nevertheless be poor countries near to the Equator will bear the brunt of its immediate damage. The same humanitarian issues remain, whether we’ve caused them or not. We in the first world possess the resources to help the world at large prepare for climate change. The allocation of those resources will shape the global standard of living in the years to come, for better or for worse. We may or may not have made this mess, but we are the ones with the power to clean it up.

  3. The April 1, 2007 60 Minutes segment on global warning presented some convincing scientific data from core samples taken from the mile thick Antarctic ice cap. The resultant air samples deposited over the last 150 years (since the beginning of the industrial revolution) correlates closely with the rise in atmospheric greenhouse gas. This data seems to shoot holes in the doubts of many skeptics (of which I was one) who failed to see any evidence of a man made cause for global warming.

  4. Interesting. Mr Wolberg’s post is very impressive–at first glance. While he is apparently erudite, and is well-versed in the geological terminology, nothing he says actually addresses the issue. OK, so the earth was much warmer back when, however many millions of years ago, back before the first ice age. But that’s meaningless. The earth was, presumably, still cooling.

    But what does that have to do with now? Nothing, really. And he is mistaken when he says that “…Earth has been warming since the end of the last glacial epoch, ending perhaps 12-15,000 years ago….” The period between roughly 1400 & 1850 is often called “The Little Ice Age.” Notice, as Rasputin points out, that the end began around the time of industrialization. Coincidence? Possibly. But the timing really should give one pause.

    And while he is certainly correct that climatic shifts have occurred without human contribution, that is a generality that does not address the specifics of this situation. So, overall, a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    Sorry, Mr Wolberg, I’ll stick with the consensus.

  5. Given limitations of space and time, generalities are required but do mislead, and I do apologize. Of course there was a “little Ice Age” although the inception of that may well have been in the 1200′s (not at the start of industrialization. And of course the period of 1940-1975 was unusually cold, and indeed, Gribben’s long forgotten book and other popular literature warned of an impending Ice Age, akin to the last Wisconsin glaciation. But, hey, gimme a break. The Altithermal of several thousand years ago was warmer then now as an overprint of the general cooling of Earth from the Miocene on. The las million years have seen numerous rapid shifts from cold to warm to cold to warm and back again and again. The silliness of confusing climate and weather is worthy of a closer look. And yes, Earth is a geological system and continents move about and, yes, for most of our planet’s history, it has been an ice-free warm world with high seas relative to land. Unfortunately, for the last 65 million years the trend has been a cooling one, not a warm one. Much is coincident with varous factors that we can look at and there really is no coincidence with 338 ppm CO2 and 360 ppm CO2 and temperature. CO2 has varied wildly over time and that is just a geologic fact (read Berner’s papers. I would be more concerned with the fluctuations in atmospheric O2 levels (a high of 38% and a low of 14%). It is tough to breath 14% O2 air by the way.

    Finally, there really is a varying set of views in the scientific world regarding these issues and a time perspective is really needed for context and accuracy, not consensus. In 1859, consensus was that “transmutation” ala Darwin and Wallace was wrong-headed. C. 1940-1975, the world was cooling. I believe it was Lord Kelvin who said that the Sun had enough fuel to burn for perhaps 3 million years.

    Finally, and interestingly, I am told by those who should know, the Martian ice caps seem to be diminishing and temperatures rising. Jupiter seeems to be warming as well. Hmmmm.

    I do suggest a peak at any good Historical Geology textbook, perhaps a Pleistocene Geology textbook, and maybe even on on paleoclimatology.

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