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Your Views: Is the climate change scare just hot air?

James Hansen, the Nasa scientist who first warned the US Government about global warming, yesterday delivered a withering critique of the way the White House has interfered with climate scientists working for the space agency.

But leading climate-change experts have warned of the "Hollywoodisation" of global warming and criticised American scientists for exaggerating the message of climate change.

Professors Paul Hardaker and Chris Collier of Britain's Royal Meteorological Society said scientists, campaign groups, politicians and the media were making out that catastrophic events were more likely to happen when this could not be proved by scientists.

They also criticised the tendency to say that individual extreme events - such as a typhoon or floods - were certain evidence of climate change.

This forum debate has now closed. Here is a selection of your views on the topic.

Dave
Impending doom is real, we have X amount of space, fresh water etc in the world, and as human population grows the strain only gets worse. People should stop saying "I am ashamed to gift this world to my children".

Think of all the waste your children will create in their lifetimes. No matter how much you recycle, by having children your net effect on the world is far far worse than that person who drives an SUV. Population control is the only answer. Someone needs to do something, particularly in developing countries responsible for 90% of the growth.

Grant
What I would really like to see is anyone who says they believe in man made climate change to do just one thing that backs up their stated belief. Get out of their car and walk or telecommute instead of driving to work. If the government was really convinced about the causes of climate change then they would not be supportive of biofuels which emit more CO2 per kilojoule output than their fossil fuel alternatives. There is so much hypocrisy from those who claim they believe the media hype and often based on very poor scientific analysis. Most of the rhetoric claiming anthropogenic climate change is merely speculation. It plays into the hands of governments who want to rule by fear. Y2k, SARS, bird flu have all been hyped out of proportion, presumably be a media in collusion with governments or vice versa. The supposed believers do not do anything personally to minimise their impact on the planet. They all want society or the government or big business to solve the "'problem". This just plays into the hands of power hungry politicians. Cullen will find a way to tax global warming or global cooling; which ever eventuates first.

Paul S
Yawn.....

Peter G. Smith
Here is the opening statement of Darrell Issa, one of the committee members, shedding some light on James Hansen. His perspective was "overlooked" by many in the media. "You are known for embracing alarmist viewpoints, and you have embraced the idea that exaggeration is okay to get the public's attention. But two climate researchers from the Royal Meteorological Society from the UK just this week said that this catastrophism and Hollywoodization of weather and climate create the real confusion in the public's mind. You seem to forget that when you speak, regardless of your disclaimers, you are speaking for NASA, and you have also not shied away from the political realm.
"You publicly endorsed Senator Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. Three years earlier you received a quarter-million-dollar unrestricted cash prize from Teresa Heinz Kerry on behalf of the Heinz Foundation. You have spent the better part of this decade consistently and publicly criticizing the Bush administration's climate change policies. But at the same time, you are an advocate for campaign finance reform. You make a point of condemning other scientists affiliation with special interests while you are taking a quarter million dollars from Teresa Heinz Kerry. I guess I am a little confused. Are you a scientist or are you a politician? Because when I put together your political advocacy, and I hate to say it, but the partisanship of that advocacy, I am inclined to think that you, Mr. Hansen, are the one who is politicizing science."

JS
There's a difference of pollution and climate vhange. Ought not pollute our air, water and soil. Climate change will always happen. Global warming has been happening for 100m yrs. We have had many Ice Ages and warmings. The Earth lost all animals vegetation etc, due to warming/ Icing. Industry,humans,etc eliminated. The severe climate changes will continue. Global warming/ icing will continue, at an increasing pace, as it has been occurring over the last 100s millions of years. Read, Read, History and Evolution of the planet

RW
The views printed so far appalls me, in that most of your correspondents reveal themselves as totally ignorant of the facts. There is a vast body of scientific opinion that has contributed to the latest IPCC report - and it is the case that some of its more drastic conclusions on positive feedbacks were left out of the latest draft - so it is actually a fairly conservative document. You readers appeared to have taken the "anti" bait hook,line and sinker - a ugly compound of pseudo-science, downright lies, "edited" data and half-truths pumped out by rightwing think tanks, large corporations, biblical fundamentalists and others who would find it far too much of a nuisance to modify their lifestyles in any way. Perhaps some readers can recall the mountain of drivel created by tobacco companies in an attempt to confuse matters... It would seem that we have a very serious problem - take off the blinkers before it is too late!

Brad Arnold
It is unlikely that mankind will significantly cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the short term. A growing and developing population is likely to increase their GHG emissions (expected to double by mid-century), not so severely cut them so fast as to avoid runaway global warming. Nature now soaks up about half of mankinds CO2 emissions, but that is expected to reduce 30% by 2030. Furthermore, as the world heats up, carbon sinks will become carbon emitters. In other words, whatever reasonable cuts we can expect mankind to make in their GHG emissions, they will be overwhelmed by nature. In particular is melting methane hydrate. Incredibly, hydrate contains twice the carbon of all fossil fuel, and whereas fossil fuel needs to be burned to emit GHG, hydrate needs only to melt. Briefly, carbon in the soil is "eaten" by microbes, and in the absence of oxygen the microbes emit methane (CH4). Some of that methane gets trapped in ice called hydrate. There is about 400 billion tons of methane trapped in permafrost hydrate (20% of the land on earth is permafrost). 50% of the surface permafrost is expected to melt by 2050, and over 90% by 2100. A release of less than 30 billion tons of methane would be like doubling the CO2 in the air. Worse, there is an estimated 10,000 billion tons of methane hydrate under the ocean. Substantial quantities of this has melted before with catastrophic results (55 million years ago-the PETM ushered in the Age of Mammals, and 250 million years ago-the "Great Dying" killed most life on earth). In other words, the carbon cycle has been upset before (possibly by volcanic eruptions), causing a chain reaction. Mankinds GHG emissions are over 30 times stronger a trigger than past severe runaway global warming events. This means the chain reaction will happen sooner, unfold faster, and therefore be much, much more severe. And some suggest adaptation? To summarize, the mitigation strategy of human GHG emission cuts is implausible, because soon runaway global warming makes them too little, too late. Furthermore, past runaway global warming events make adaptation implausible, because the climate change is too severe.

Robert Wiener
I think there is a climate of hysteria about Climate Change, which stifles rational debate. In the 70s there were scare stories about a coming ice age. I have no doubt that global warming is happening - temperatures can be measured. But, I am very far from convinced that the global warming is man-made. Until someone presents a plausible method for separating the natural ice age / warm period cycle from anthropogenic effects, I will not take the threat of anthropogenic global warming very seriously. Just like the ice age forecast in the 70s, or Orson Welles Martian invasion, or the SARS and bird flu pandemics which never materialised, scaremongering sells newspapers!

Dave
Your poll "is the climate change scare just hot air?" is a poor question to hang off the Collier/Hardaker story, because its not what they were saying. They were not denying the reality of the problem, they were saying that some environmentalist voices get carried away in their claims. That is not the same thing at all as claiming the problem doesnt exist.

Arjen Foster
Take the facts, Huge amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere every day as a result of fossil fuel burning. For oil alone, about a cubic mile of oil every day is burnt up. To think that this wont have an effect on the planet is stupidity. For something as complex as climate, anyone can "say where is the evidence" and anyone in the oil industry will almost certainly say that. The fact that the weather is changing cant be denied, seems unlikely to be a coincidence that it would be happening in time with claims of global warming . We need immediate action, but not just by New Zealand. All countries need to be involved, including developing countries (or carbon generating activities will just move there) and especially US and China.

Christopher
As an ignorant and wasteful American, or so I am portrayed by many, I believe that climate change and global warming theory remain important areas of future research. Undoubtedly human activity appears to have caused a slight increase in the earths average temperature over the past decade. However, the issue does seem to have been blown a bit out of proportion by many, including Al Gore and the Hollywood establishment. The fact that Mr. Gore exaggerated the science in his film falls on deaf ears to the most zealous believers of the movement, leaving me with the impression that this issue is more about politics rather than science. If only the former Vice President would practice what he preaches, than his movement would gain more credibility? His carbon footprint in one private jet plane ride is more than what I expel into the atmosphere in a year of activity. How pretentious and condescending of he and his fellow Hollywood elites to lecture the commoners about conse rvation, while he leisurely sits back in the lap of luxury in his twenty rooms with eight bathrooms mansion. The hypocrisy is appalling

Rhea
Lucky for you old people who wont live another 50 years to see the consequences of climate change. But I will still be alive, and my children will inherit a world from me that I would be ashamed to bestow on them. Although climate change is a natural cycle of the earth, it cannot be denied that our free-for-all use of carbon fuels, pollution and destruction of forests that have existed for eons have contributed to this process occurring much more rapidly than it should.

Andy
Climate Change is this generation's "Y2K", Greenhouse Gas is this decades "Killer Bees" and the Kyoto Protocol is the latest over-the-top over-reaction to "Sputnik". Humanity has the need, it would seem, to be in a constant state of belief that the sky is falling and that disaster lurks at every corner...Call it the Chicken-Little Syndrome, if you like. Or "Apocalypse now pretty-pretty-please. And like all of the above social fads, earnest and well-intentioned misguided apostles, hermits, and prophets will preach the new Doom, an elite few will get rich from the hype, and most of us will end up paying for it.And Governments will, doubtless, find new ways to raise taxes as a result.Life will go on: yet Mankind has never gotten over being afraid of the dark.

John Robb
I am sure the media are playing climate change up for all they're worth. Nothing like a little sensationalism (look at the lahar coverage, you would think aliens had landed), but anyone who thinks climate change is not real and a threat also probably thinks the earth is flat.

Nick
Are they not splitting hairs? Isnt it like saying that not every smoker who dies of lung cancer can be said to have died of smoking?

Joseph Francis
There are some opinions (mentioned in National Geographic etc), that Mars and other planets in the Solar System are also heating up as well. This says that its the Sun could be causing the heating generally. (see http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070228-mars-warming.html).

Dan
After reading all the different views I am left wondering. When did President Bush become the supreme leader of the world?. All you bleeding heart liberals blame him for everything under the sun. Your friend Al Gore is the scaremonger of global warming. President Bush sees it for what is, nature doing what it always does.

Beverlie
Climate Change goes way beyond melting ice. Another part of climate change is increased occurrences of Red Tides around the world. The pollution bleeding into the oceans from the rivers of the world is causing more algae blooms. These events cause beaches to be closed, people to get sick, and marine life to die. When the algae die and decompose dead spots, which do not support life due to lack of oxygen, form in the water. Many more issues are involved in all areas of life.

Ed Harding
Climate change is a fact, however, our being the leading cause is utter bull. The world for eons has been going through constant change from warm to cold and visa versa. Our being responsible for it is political nonsense and is being driven by those who have monetary gains in their sights. Perhaps a bit like the Y2K hysteria. The major cause is the sun; it will always be the sun that determines our weather.

Nick Robinson
I cannot help feeling slightly disappointed at the lack of concern about climate change by the commentators on this article. Sure, there are those scientists, politicians and business people who are alarmist and want to use climate change to further their agenda, but I they are far out-weighed by thousands of others who have a genuine concern for the fate of future generations. The person who stated that plants can absorb the excess CO2, yes they can, but have you seen the statistics on deforestation. Why do you think countries like India and Australia are suffering such terrible droughts and pathetic monsoons? Luckily the oceans can only absorb so much CO2, which some say they are at saturation point already, before they become too acidic to sustain most forms of life. Go diving on the coral reefs that dot the world and observe the bleaching and decay of these ecosystems to see the impacts of acidification of the oceans and growing temperatures. Also, to the chap who wants more electric cars, but less oil and coal power stations. Umm, where does the electricity come from? NZ can only generate so much hydroelectric electricity. And moving houses, sure, let's get everyone to move their beach houses back by 100 metres or so. The cost would be enormous. Then think about numerous islands where whole populations may have to be moved. Costs of insurance because of flooding and extreme temperatures is rising substantially, are people ok with paying more insurance? What about stopping all imports of fruit for fear of malarial mosquitoes bedding into NZ, a real issue facing parts of Italy at the moment. It is not a case of denying that climate change is not a natural cycle, that is not being debated. However, since the industrialisation in the 1900s, the rate of climate change has accelerated at degree that we have not seen before. If this was to speed up, which could be likely if polar ice caps release the CO2 and methane that they have trapped inside them and the oceans and forests can no longer absorb any more carbon, then we may not have time nor the resources to adapt without widespread suffering. Climate change should be seen as a rallying point for societies to rekindle our imaginations and institutions to reduce our impacts on the planet on which we survive. Without sounding rude, I think the New Zealanders commenting on this site should stop having an island mentality, and start seeing that they are connected to a much larger world and set of societies that extends beyond the waters of Aotearoa.

Scott Zimmerman
Ya think? Maybe if the White House weren't a bunch of pro-oil Texans, they would be headed in a different direction. I think whenever the Al Gore-e-ans do take over, they will be playing catch up ball, but it may be a little late for those who live in coastal towns and the hotter parts of the world. Maybe we need to raise the taxes on oil like cigarettes to seriously discourage usage. Those revenues could be used to fund development and deployment of alternative sources of energy for mass transit, industrial, and residential purposes. In the meantime, we will keep driving our SUVs lemminglike towards our own oblivion. Have a nice day. :)

Harold Merriman
I remember as a student in the early 1970s reading in student newspapers like Salient (Victoria University) about the Greenhouse effect, and the huge amount of carbon dioxide being dumped into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. The warning signs have been with us for over thirty years. There are well over six billion human beings on this planet, a huge proportion of whom burn carbon -monoxide and -dioxide producing fuels for energy. Global warming, the melting of the polar ice caps, and huge environmental change are virtually inevitable, so despair rather than hysteria might be the more appropriate emotional response. Who is going to stop the Brazilian logging companies and farmers from deforesting the Amazon? Who is going to try and control CO2 emissions in China? Or India? Or anywhere else where people might naturally feel that their place in the sun is more important than our place on the moral high ground? We are living through an ecological period equivalent to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Our primitive mammalian ancestors survived it because they could adapt. Let's hope we can. PS dont buy beach front property - in twenty years' time it will probably be under water.

Nobilangelo
The naysayers should look at the evidence, such as the data coming off the satellites every month, published by the US Government. The latest data is at http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2007/feb/global.html It shows that we have been in the red since about 1980.Then there is the fact that predictions based on computer models take the mid-line through the data. They do no predict the best scenario, or the worst. But the actual readings are tracking along the top, heading for the worst.
There are also countless pieces of hard science, such as the two million data-points measured by the Scripps Oceanographic Institute, which showed human fingerprints all over the "warming" (it is actually global overheating--we are gaining 0.8watts per square metre on average). The weather is an activity that takes place in the atmosphere, the sky. We have changed the mix. Never in the history of the planet has it had the mix it has now. If the high levels of CO2 had not been taken out of the sky and buried in the form of black stuff (coal and oil) millions of years ago, humans would not exist. In pumping it out of the ground back into the sky we have been winding the clock back to a time when humanity would have been impossible. For 10,000 years, which happens to be the stretch of human history, the temperature has not varied more than a degree. Now we have gone outside that, a change that has taken only an eyeblink of geological time, and we are headed for at least 2 degrees, possible 10-14 (the worst models show that). That will irrevocably change the only planet that we can live on in the entire universe (if there is another one it is unreachable). Anyone who does not see that is not looking at the numbers.

Kevin O'Brien
Take away their computers for misuse. With grants for "research" into global warming exceeding US$2billion yearly in the USA who wants to get off that gravy train or ruin their colleagues livelihoods? Water vapour is about 200 times greater than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Also bacteria and decaying plant matter emit more CO2 annually than volcanos, and the oceans top that again. Most of the warming took place by 1940 and we were predicted to freeze to death in 1975 after 4 decades of falling temperatures. In the 1300s vineyards were plentiful in London and centuries later they were skating on the Thames. The "inconvenient truth" is that CO2 levels follow temperature with a lag of about 800 years with the sea providing a reservoir. The solar activity controls the cosmic rays which control cloud formation which controls temperature. The climate change business is about control. The environemntal movement has been captured by extreme socialists. Also follow the money: Al Gore uses more energy a month in his home than most others do in a year; he runs a business buying and selling carbon credits. We run the risk, if not prudent, of speculators buying up these credits cheaply and us having to re-purchase them to fullfil self imposed obligations. That woould be consistent with our foolishness to date in this matter.

Aaron
I recommend reading the debate and research presented on realclimate.org for those interested in the validity of the science. In particular the discussion on the "Great Climate Change Swindle" program that aired in England appears to debunk a lot of myths.Personally for me:There is no doubt that climate change occurs (always has, always will),
There is no doubt that human impacts on the earth are now major (e.g. 80 per cent of NZ used to be forested),There is strong evidence to suggest we are modifying the atmosphere and we will feel the effects The questions for me are how soon and how quickly will the effects occur, and if they are relatively fast in geological or human social terms terms (i.e. a century)is it better for us to mitigate them so that they occur slower (or less extreme) so that adaptation can be slower and for less extremes - or put all our resources into adaption. Tricky topic - it would be easy to say "won't affect me - dont care" but thats why humans have flourished - we do look beyond our own life cycle, we can act collectively for the good of the whole when necessary, and we adapt very rapidly compared to other species. I like this saying: We have not inherited the earth from our ancestors - we have borrowed it from our children.

Andrew Asher
Well I have done my share of study on this - if you have the time to look at some interesting points introduced in a BBC documentary have a look at this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XttV2C6B8pU
Some key points introduced by some Nasa people (clever) and one of the founders of Greenpeace - and he doesnt say what you would expect. And by the way -when I went to school CO2 and Methane both went down when released in the lab - and not racing skyward hmmmm how odd. Now that is an inconvenient truth if ever there was.

Michael A. Heinemann
It is unlikely that too much is being made of human origin of climate change. Here's a fun exercise based on elementary physics. (1) Calculate the mass of CO2 in the atmosphere based on the measured concentration. (2) Calculate the rate of CO2 emission into the atmosphere based on oil and coal consumption. (3) From these, estimate how it will take to double the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. (4) Using the known absorption properties of CO2, estimate the atmospheric temperature increase by the end of the century. (5) Correct the answer by a factor of two to account for increase of water vapor in part four. Try it! Any number can play! The answer is surprisingly close to IPCC 2007. While it doesnt have all the physics in it, it is enough to give one pause and to do what it takes to make sure it does not happen.

Russell
Is it not interesting that the present hype is global warming We are supposedly contributing to this What a load of rubbish Weather patterns will change because this is the law of nature which has been going on since time began This present change has been seen as something for certain people to make a lot of money out of Just as with Y K 2 look how most of the population got deceived and some people made a lot of money As we live in a world that is driven by the mighty dollar any thing that can be hyped up is good for some back pockets .

Nickolas Solomey
A fact no one yet mentions in the global warming debate is the earth's polar precession. It is the cause of why the earth goes through a natural process of cold and warm spells that are about 20,000 years apart. Today the earth's axis of rotation points towards the north-star, but during the time of the ancient Egyptians this was not the case. When you add to this the fact that the earth has a different distance from the sun at different parts of its path around the sun, then the planet reaches the warmest time in the cycle for the northern hemisphere when the polar precession is such that the northern hemisphere points the most towards the sun when we are closest to the sun, this was the situation about 2000 years ago. Similarly we reach the coldest part of the cycle (at least for the northern hemisphere) when the southern hemisphere points the most towards the sun when we are closest to the sun, which was the situation about 3000 years before the time of Moses. So the fact that man starting burning a lot of fuel to keep warm, farming and eventually to power our industry has actually stopped the planet from cooling off in the current cycle or we should be talking about how much snow Chicago would be getting in July right now. However, the problem is that although the industrial emissions have saved us from the current cooling off, we actually can see a very-small trend of the temperature going upwards in the northern hemisphere, but this might actually be beneficial in the long term because as we are only just 2000 years past the hottest part of this 20,000 year cycle, the earth will start to cool as the polar precession continues it natural cyclic influence slowly getting less and less light to keep the earth's temperature warm. So there is no reason to rush and buy beach front property along the Arctic ocean yet. Current measurements do indicate that the southern hemisphere is heating up, but unfortunately it will continue to do so for at!

Terry
Here Here! Someone else, besides me, remembers that the last generation of junk "scientists" had us all freezing to death in the coming global cooling. It would all be worth the hysteria if after they are proven just as wrong this time as they were last they would just shut upP. Predicting global events based on random fluctuations is plain stupid or possibly the height of narcissism. Sadly I fear this is not an either or proposition for the self important fools predicting global catastrophe. I know they need panic to get money, lest they have to actually get a real job, but wouldn't it be more honorable to do something productive with their lives? One has to wonder what is next. The ice age didn't happen, global warming is a complete hoax, what is next? No telling, but I am sure it will be man's fault, and we are destroying the planet. I like the one where everything east of California falls into the Atlantic Ocean. After all that's just as likely. Fortunately the planet is not as gullible as the public. It spins happily along impervious to the purveyors of gloom and doom. Maybe we should learn from "mother nature" and tune out these bumpkins once and for all. Who is more foolish, the man who is wrong 1000 times in a row, or the one who is sure the odds say this time he must be right; no one can be wrong all the time, can he?

Mohan Sivaswamy
I cant help but wonder about the double or even multiple standards adopted by the world leaders to the question of development and how it affects living standards and global warming. The developed world has enjoyed the fruits of development and innovation and has reached a stage of richness and prosperity by exploiting the resources of the earth and the world. They are now however talking about the ill-effects of development taking place in China, India, Brazil etc which are aspiring to improve their economies and raise the living standards of their people. But these efforts are being perceived as contributing more to the gloable warming. The environmentalists and naturalists are now worried about the consequences of continued growth of these countries and the effect it may have on depletion of resources and increase in pollution and warming due to more industrialisation. Though it is true, is it justified to ask these countries to go slow on their development so that the already developed world can continue to enjoy their prosperity.
The other question is if these countries put a brake on their growth, what effect it will have on the economies of the developed world like USA, UK, Australia and the OECD nations which see these countries as the market for their goods and depend on them to increase their exports. Not to forget the Big Oil Companies which take their raw material from much of the developing world and whose final products contribute to the pollution and global warming to a great extent. Will they or their stakeholders be ready to accept a big fall in their income/profits for the sake of improving the atmosphere and lessening the harmful emissions? This is a classic catch-22 situation where the speeding train cannot be stopped without a break-up, but continuing to speed ahead may take the train to disaster.
The only solution may be managed slowing down of the world economy, which requires consent and co-operation by all the major players. A system of compensation for the developing and undeveloped nations from the already developed nations may be required for this managed slow-down to take place. This requires sacrifice by every one. How this will be agreed to and implemented and who will supervise the same? Will the United Nations grab the leadership on this critical issue? Already USA is proving to be difficult to realise its role in bringing the world to the present desperate state, and is refusing to contribute in any meaningful way. Who is strong enough to bring USA to the realisation that it has a big responsibility in leading the world out of this crisis. Will it be its friends like UK, Australia or its critics like France, New Zealand and other OECD countries which are part of the developed world as of today? Or will it be the new giants like India, China and Brazil etc which themselves are dependent on continued growth in their export markets in the developed world.
This is a very complicated situation and just more and more talk will only create more hot air and hard feelings. The time has come to think of radical solutions like massive transfer of wealth and aid to feed and clothe and maintain the undeveloped nations like those in Africa. A mechanism will have to worked out to tax the developed nations and use the funds to slow-down and manage the economic growth in other countries. Time is running out fast and the train is hurtling towards an unknown land and uncertain future. Who will grab the throttle to manage a safe ride and arrival for the passengers?

Craig W. Campbell
Seventy years ago when I was growing up in northern Minnesota there was an article in the newspaper stating that northern Minnesota would some day have a climate like Florida. It hasn't happened yet and is not likely to happen in the next thousand years. Perhaps if Al. Gore would curtail some of his hot air, the problem would disappear. Throughout history, there have been warming cycles and cooling cycles and there is little we can do about it.

Atholl Robertson
The inconvenient truth is that climate is a cyclic phenomenon, positive and negative temperature excursions from the global mean are caused by solar variations and temperature excursions fro

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