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Scientists Weigh In On The Politics Of Climate Change


Aired 11/30/09

When climate scientists talked recently about their latest research on global warming, they also responded to questions about the politics surrounding climate change. Here's a glimpse into the scientists' "take" on the role politics plays in the climate change debate.

When climate scientists talked recently about their latest research on global warming, they also responded to questions about the politics surrounding climate change. Here's a glimpse into the scientists' take on the role politics plays in the climate change debate.

A panel discussion is held as U.S. governors and international leaders conven...
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Above: A panel discussion is held as U.S. governors and international leaders convene at the Governors' Global Climate Summit 2 on September 30, 2009 in Century City, California.

The Copenhagen Diagnosis is a 60-page synthesis of recent research compiled and issued by 26 leading international climate scientists including Richard Somerville, a distinguished professor of meteorology at UC San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

It's designed to inform delegates at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit which begins next week.

Somerville said the new study shows carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in 2008 are about 40 percent higher than those in 1990.

He says there's no time to "dither and procrastinate" in taking action to reverse greenhouse gas emissions.

"So the world is moving in the wrong direction," said Somerville. "And that's another reason why concerted action has to begin very soon. There's an urgency to this that isn't at all political or ideology-driven, it's simply scientific. There's a limit to how much greenhouse gases you can put in the atmosphere and we are, as has been said, we are now on track to exceed that limit in only 20 more years with business as usual emissions. So, we're running out of time."

Somerville says the scientists are not trying to dictate what policies should be agreed upon in Copenhagen.

But some tough decisions need to be made.

"As we've repeatedly said, we're climate scientists, not policy experts," said Somerville. "We're trying to simply say what is scientifically-necessary rather than talking about what type of accord should be reached in Copenhagen. And I think, having said that, a great deal of the growth in emissions has come in developing countries. China opening coal-fired power plants for example. So that ultimately it will be necessary for the emissions reduction to involve developing as well as developed countries. Mother Nature doesn't care where the CO2 comes from."

He says without action, the most severe consequences of climate change will become reality by the end of this century.

"There was a famous Saudi oil minister at one point who said "the stone age didn't end because we ran out of stones,"' said Somerville. "And I think if you want to put this in homey terms, the oil age must not last until we run out of oil, it has to end sooner."

Penn State University scientist Michael Mann says climate researchers face two challenges that come after they finish their research: A lack of scientific literacy among the public and an active effort by some groups to confuse people.

"When we try to educate the public about the science we are facing a very stiff headwind," Mann said. "And that's the headwind of efforts to confuse the public about the reality of the problem by some special interests who see it as a threat and the attempt to confront this challenge."

UCSD's Somerville says those special interests are divided along political lines in the United States.

"Polling data clearly show that liberal/democratic people are more inclined to accept the scientific view and conservative republicans are less acceptable to," said Somerville. "And as we all know, we had a narrow presidential election eight years ago, and if you tell me how somebody voted in Bush versus Gore, I can tell you with high confidence what they think about "An Inconvenient Truth."'

Somerville says Mother Nature doesn't care about politics.

"People can disagree about policy and economics and ideology," said Somerville. "But there's no such thing as liberal or conservative ocean circulation theory or republican or democratic cloud physics. And the science itself is non-partisan."

And, as another researcher put it, the ice has no agenda.

Meantime, President Barack Obama plans to attend the Copenhagen Climate Conference and is expected to make a commitment to cut U.S. emissions by 17 percent over the next decade.

Administration officials say they don't want to repeat what happened when the U.S. agreed to emission reductions at Kyoto, but never implemented them because of strong political opposition at home.

The U.S. never ratified the Kyoto agreement.

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Avatar for user 'aubreymeyer'

aubreymeyer | November 30, 2009 at 8:01 a.m. ― 7 years, 3 months ago

Being 'apolitical' - this is a difficult situation for scientists.

However, the US Senate voted for a climate treaty treaty. This 'Byrd-Hagel Resolution' was a 'sense of the Senate', it said the US should sign the Kyoto Protocol passed and it was passed 95-0 in July 1997.

It called for differentiation in international emissions control putting 'reductions' in parallel with 'limitations'. Knowing that GCI had been advocating precisely this global construct as the Contraction and Convergence formula [C&C], the US State Department asked us in June 1997 to try and ascertain whether India China and others would entertain a climate-treaty constructed this way.

We spent the rest of that year exploring that and fronted by China, India and the Africa Group, C&C was tabled at COP-3. In the negotiations the US response was to say, "It does seem to us that the proposals by for example India and perhaps by others who speak to Contraction and Convegence are elements for the future, elements perhaps for a next agreement that we may ultimately all seek to engage in." Al Gore had gone home. The UK was there but just sat on its hands.

Broadly scientists were behind the 50% emissions cut globally by 2050 with the 80% cut by the UK and the Developed Countries by that date, which are now enshrined in the UK Climate Act. The basis of this, according to Adair Turner [Chair of the Climate Change Committee], is C&C saying equal per capita globally is the only basis that is doable and fair.

Politically this is a cause for hope because it is rational. However, C&C is the right principle but in these figures, at rates that are too slow to avoid two degrees.

Perhaps at COP-15, this time the UK will stand stand up for the right principle and we'll get a chance of the right rates as a result and scientists can help them to do that 'apolitically' as C&C is simply a rational proposition. The ideological reactions to that are political but should focus only on the rate of caonvergence.

Failing to do that is cause for despair for all of us.

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Avatar for user 'madoc'

madoc | November 30, 2009 at 4:38 p.m. ― 7 years, 3 months ago

Ed Joyce's segment was one of the most grossly biased, incomplete and factually incorrect pieces of propaganda that KPBS has run in a long while.

It featured comment from only two individuals about this issue and both of them are highly partisan on it. It did not even make an attempt at allowing a dissenting view nor even acknowledging that such a thing exists about “global warming” other than to have one of the individuals, Richard Somerville, declare that only conservatives and Republicans are in opposition to the global warming movement.

As a registered Democrat I take great exception to such blatant lies such as this. I also find it absolutely amazing that KPBS would allow such a criminal as Michael Mann to make comment on global warming. Mr. Mann created the infamous “Hockey Stick Graph” which purported to show a global warming trend. Upon further examination it was revealed that Mann deliberately configured his data to show only global warming and then went further by deliberately configuring his climate model to also only show global warming.

At first this was dismissed as simple ineptitude on his part. Since the revelation of all those emails and files from the Climate Research Unit in England however, it is now apparent that Mann was willful, deliberate and malicious in his forcing a global warming trend where none actually exists. Mann’s actions are not just incorrect, they are fraudulent and criminal.

Joyce's having him comment on the “science and politics” of global warming is like handing Bernie Madoff your life’s savings and expecting him to do anything other than steal it from you. At least Madoff only ripped his investors off, Mann and his AGW gang are trying to rip off the entire world with their global warming scam.

And you folks are KPBS are aiding and abetting it.

Ed Joyce’s piece was full of lies, half truths, distortions, and baseless “science.” You made no attempt at accurately portraying the complexities of this issue nor the factual history of it. Instead, you produced a propaganda piece pushing the global warming lie.

I’d hoped for better from KPBS.

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Avatar for user 'Btok'

Btok | November 30, 2009 at 6:35 p.m. ― 7 years, 3 months ago

We Need Legal Representation To Get the Copenhagen Summit Cancelled and Save Our Country!
I believe the Copenhagen Treaty Summit should be cancelled! How in God's name can this be considered a legal agreement when a "Huge Amount" of the basis for the "Climate Change Data" has been found to be "Fraudulently Sabotaged" and absolutely "Inaccurate"? This is signing a contract or agreement Document that has "No Legal Foundation" of Realistic conditions or elements due to "Inaccurate and Manipulated Data" as described and therefore, anything stated on this "Copenhagen Treaty Document" should be considered "Null and Void"! Why create a Pandora's Box, subject to "Lawsuits and Misgivings" due to total inaccuracy of "Scientific Measurements"? Which "Now" is proving to be the case! This Treaty has no Legal ground to stand on and is and will be a "False Document" from day one!

Any International lawyers Canadian or American, that want to help keep our Sovereignty and Freedom should Pres. Obama or PM Harper sign this Copenhagen treaty?

There are four reasons the UN and IMF, Global Elitist Members Re: Ban Kai Moon ( Who has openly expressed his stong desire for Global Governance ), PM Gordon Brown, Bilderberg Member Henry Kissinger, Senior Bilderberg Member David Rockerfeller as well as an unprecedented number of Dictators that run various countries who are members of the United Nations as this Copenhagen Treaty was designed to acquire four goals, the least of them being climate improvment or protection as Lord Moncton has stated!

(1.) To de-industrialize Sovereign Countries ( No Jobs keep you dependant on State ) ( 2.) Take your money and assets - Hence, Fraudulent Carbon Emmissions and Carbon Gases for Carbon Credits and Carbon Taxes! (3.) Take away your property (4.) Take away your Sovereignty and Freedom!

Find out what Governments are doing behind your back, go to:

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Avatar for user 'EnviroEd'

EnviroEd | December 3, 2009 at 7:58 a.m. ― 7 years, 3 months ago

The latest on the e-mail controversy regarding global warming research in December 3 LA Times. Link here:

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