Monday, December 05, 2011

Interest take on climate change

I just heard an interview with a scientist who is a carbon emission-caused climate change skeptic.  But rather than just refuse to believe it on principle (see my previous post on motivated denial), he decided to investigate some alternative hypotheses.  

One thought he had was that the world is getting warmer not because of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but because we are doing more hot stuff.  People are moving to cities, paving streets, cutting down shade trees, building factories, cranking up the heat during the winter, mowing our lawns during the summer etc.  Maybe we are just being hot.  So what he did was look at local measures of temperature change over the past decades instead of global changes.  He investigated the temperature rises in cities versus suburbs versus rural areas.  He looked at industrial cities versus less industrial cities.  He looked at areas that had factories, but not high population density.  Or places that had high population density but no factories. 

What he concluded is that it is true that humans are causing global climate change, but most of it can be explained by these variables rather than greenhouse gas emissions.  So he is still worried about climate change.  He still thinks that the world needs to change its behavior or we are all screwed.  But because he finds different causes, he recommends different changes.  Some of them are the same or similar, but some are different. He agrees with the idea of painting roofs white, but not switching to Priuses if they run just as hot as regular Toyotas.

Who is right?  I don’t know – I heard him on an interview rather than reading his peer reviewed research.  And it is not my area of expertise.  And he is just one person compared to thousands studying greenhouse gases.  And his research is funded by the Koch Foundation, which makes me suspicious that he started out with an agenda.  But, it is definitely important enough to merit consideration and further research. 

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