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Do we all have a stake in climate change?

Adam FivensonTremble, mere humans! Stare slack-jawed in awe as the clash of the titans begins! Or rather, clash of the two socially well-adjusted, politically-engaged academics. Close enough.

Two articles from recent days by bloggers on ForeignPolicy.com, by far the best Web site on the Internet for international news analysis (yes, I checked the entire thing), have caught my attention.


Walt vs. Rothkopf

These two articles are by American scholars/bloggers on the subject of whether climate change is a issue of consequence for American national security. The articles themselves are focused on the U.S.; however, the debate is a global one: is climate change an issue that all people, no matter their nationality, social status or financial situation, should be concerned about? That is the question at hand: do we ALL have a stake in climate change —   not just those in New Orleans, Florida, Bangladesh, Greenland, and beyond?

Stephen Walt, a Harvard Professor of Political Science says no, in response to a U.S. Department of Defense-funded study highlighting the importance of preventing climate change for U.S. national defense. Read his analysis here »

David Rothkopf, a former NYT journalist, fires back saying yes, we should all be concerned and here's why. You can read his response here »

Given the fact that they're posting on the same site, it would be difficult for Walt to miss Rothkopf’s shot across the bow. He should respond in kind. My assumption would be that his response will focus on the fact that while climate change is important to everyone, it may not be for the reasons the report he disputes cites.

I would tend to agree with Mr. Rothkopf, but we’ve got to give Mr. Walt a chance to respond, as he could yet open up a whole new perspective on the debate. These are the debates that, when they reach a mass audience, can really shape public opinion, which affect elections, which affect policy. It will be fun to see where this one goes…

Enjoy!

  • troykeith

    Anything that affects the basic necessities of life (air, water, food, shelter etc.) would clearly have an impact on national security and global stability – I’m not sure where the debate is here. For me, the only question that remains unanswered is whether humanity has any role whatsoever in the earth’s climate. I tend to think the answer may be just slightly more than we do in regards to the climate of Mars.

  • troykeith

    Anything that affects the basic necessities of life (air, water, food, shelter etc.) would clearly have an impact on national security and global stability – I’m not sure where the debate is here. For me, the only question that remains unanswered is whether humanity has any role whatsoever in the earth’s climate. I tend to think the answer may be just slightly more than we do in regards to the climate of Mars.

  • Anonymous

    any role? I’m still plunking my guess at the human role in global warming somewhere less than 50% – I’ll say maybe 30-40%?? The problem is, we’ll never really know. So, wouldnt it be safer just to cut those darn greenhouse gases and move on? Wind, water, solar are clean, getting cheaper and COULD help the planet – why not take the chance and be helpful!!?? Next year I’m installing my own windmill, still attached to the grid to get a return on my investment when the meter goes backwards, doubling my insulation to cut my natural gas usage, and bought a cash for clunkers electric ford focus hybrid – going from 11mpg in my ford E350 van (circa 1993) to 45mpg should save thousands of gallons of gas per year and $$ in my pocket. Do your part people, it COULD save the earth, and if it doesnt it will save you $$ anyway and give you a good feeling about doing your part to help just a bit in our big wonderful world.

    • troykeith

      Not sure we can make such radical changes (that would clearly have significant impacts) based upon a guess Jeff. The science is far from settled on this issue despite Mr. Gore’s claim and I’ll wait for something more tangible to be produced before advocating major changes across the board.

      Glad to hear you may be going off the grid soon though – we should all continue to make our own individual contributions to protect/preserve the environment.

      • Tony

        The term climate change has been used for decades but the term global warming gained popularity in the media because the climate change most of concern to the average person was about temperature. Climate change refers to all changes – temperature, precipitation amounts and intensities, snowfall amounts, average heating/cooling degree days, etc…
        It is not a hoax, it is not a democratic assult on your freedoms, it is not a waste to continue to try to predict the consequences of continuing to put greenhouse gases into the environment.
        First of all, weather is weather and the day to day variations in temperature and precipitation are large. The long term signal is buried deep in those day to day changes. Climate is the long term averaging of these day to day changes. I liken it to a river flowing. If you notice the flow of the river, at an instant a given volume of water may not be flowing straight downstream…it may be flowing slightly cross stream, it may flow upstream in an eddy, etc… This is weather. But I darn well know the water is going downstream on average. If I do something that by simple processes will warm the earth, I know on a long term average, it will cause a warming signal.
        The NWS does track day to day weather and although there has been some cooling in the summer in July in west Michigan for example. But it is more than offset by winter time warming. Glaciers are shrinking and Al Gore didn’t discover that, scientists did. Permafrost is melting all over the northern hemisphere, most of the warmest years on record included proxy records (use one measurement that is proportional to temperature such as oxygen isotope in ice cores, tree rings measurement, etc..) has occurred in recent decades. We have records now going back hundreds of thousands of years and we know we are in a pretty warm period and although we should be getting cooler on average, we are not. Globally, we are getting warmer. There is no doubt of that. If you really want to deny it, get educated in climate science, produce something worthy of publication in peer reviewed journals, and then you will convince me that you are smarter than the highly educated, data producing, scientists that are working in this field every day.
        A homework problem in geophysical fluids courses or undergrad weather courses is to compute the surface temperature of the earth using a simple 1D radiative heat transfer model and this homework problem can be done by hand. Depending on which model (one layer, two layer, or n-layer model) you can get a good approximation. Computer models help determine the overall changes to temperature and precipitation for a 3D world with uneven land and oceans. Increase the concentration of CO2 and you get a warmer Earth. It really isn’t that hard to understand the basic concept. CO2 is on the rise due to man’s changes in land use and burning fossil fuels. CO2 doesn’t transmit infrared radiation very well hence the more of it, the less IR is send into space and the warmer earth’s surface temperature becomes.
        Excess CO2 that doesn’t go into the atmosphere can go into the ocean causing the observed increases in acidity that is going to be an issue in the coming decades.
        What is the problem folks with attempting to mitigate this? Don’t want to spend money now, fine. Spend more later. Afterall, it is just the money and life style changes of those living in the late 21st century and 22nd centuries that are going to be greatly impacted. Screw our kids and grandkids right? Our parents and grandparents and great grandparents caused our current problem with climate change. The difference is that they had no idea until recently that this was the fault of the modern industrial lifestyle. Now we know and we are irresponsible if we don’t take action. Sorry gang, it might actually take money to fix. God knows those in denial aren’t going to make the changes themselves and those with a vested interested in seeing this legislation fail certainly aren’t going to change their ways.

        • troykeith

          I don’t think it’s a question of denial – I tend to believe the earth may indeed be experiencing an overall warming trend (although temps have stabilized or even fallen slightly in recent years). There are a great deal of inconsistencies in the data collection and many cases of outright negligence in regards to the location and oversight of the monitoring equipment (on hot roofs, within industrial areas etc.).

          Your entire premise is based upon the act of demonstrating that the earth is warming, but where is the definitive proof that any of the minor warming we may be experiencing is the result of human activity? How do those making such claims explain the cyclic temperature variations of the planet throughout history? After all, Greenland was green at one time. Temperatures have been shown to have been much warmer in the past than they are today and this was long before the industrial revolution. Even the great Gore himself refuses to debate his questionable science in any sort of credible format.

          Before we turn our lives upside down and implement a number of unreasonable laws and restrictions that will do nothing except stifle our economy and inhibit our freedom, I’d like to see something more definitive from the warming camp.

          Given your interest in the topic, I’d refer you to some older pieces I did on the issue:

          http://blogs.record-eagle.com/?p=1049
          http://blogs.record-eagle.com/?p=1050
          http://blogs.record-eagle.com/?p=1051
          http://blogs.record-eagle.com/?p=1052

  • jeff4

    any role? I'm still plunking my guess at the human role in global warming somewhere less than 50% – I'll say maybe 30-40%?? The problem is, we'll never really know. So, wouldnt it be safer just to cut those darn greenhouse gases and move on? Wind, water, solar are clean, getting cheaper and COULD help the planet – why not take the chance and be helpful!!?? Next year I'm installing my own windmill, still attached to the grid to get a return on my investment when the meter goes backwards, doubling my insulation to cut my natural gas usage, and bought a cash for clunkers electric ford focus hybrid – going from 11mpg in my ford E350 van (circa 1993) to 45mpg should save thousands of gallons of gas per year and $$ in my pocket. Do your part people, it COULD save the earth, and if it doesnt it will save you $$ anyway and give you a good feeling about doing your part to help just a bit in our big wonderful world.

  • troykeith

    Not sure we can make such radical changes (that would clearly have significant impacts) based upon a guess Jeff. The science is far from settled on this issue despite Mr. Gore's claim and I'll wait for something more tangible to be produced before advocating major changes across the board.

    Glad to hear you may be going off the grid soon though – we should all continue to make our own individual contributions to protect/preserve the environment.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comments!

    The post was made with regard to whether climate change (be it real or imagined) would be a real threat to America’s national security. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the droughts, floods, and massive geographic and topographical changes that would come as a result of climate change would affect our national security, both by drawing us into foreign conflicts and by affecting our own national defenses by weakening our infrastructure.

    I suppose all of this does depend on a belief in the veracity of the threat posed by climate change, and our own agency in its onset. I can’t make the case any better than Al Gore/Thomas Friedman/T Boone Pickens, and it seems to me that if you aren’t convinced by the information that’s out there already, you don’t want to be convinced :)

    The difficulty is that the issue is so vehemently split between political dogmas that no one is really willing to listen to the other side. Liberals tend to exaggerate the current dangers/effects of climate change (“It’s too late!”) and conservatives tend to downplay it (“It’s all a lie!”).

  • afivenson

    Thanks for the comments!

    The post was made with regard to whether climate change (be it real or imagined) would be a real threat to America's national security. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that the droughts, floods, and massive geographic and topographical changes that would come as a result of climate change would affect our national security, both by drawing us into foreign conflicts and by affecting our own national defenses by weakening our infrastructure.

    I suppose all of this does depend on a belief in the veracity of the threat posed by climate change, and our own agency in its onset. I can't make the case any better than Al Gore/Thomas Friedman/T Boone Pickens, and it seems to me that if you aren't convinced by the information that's out there already, you don't want to be convinced :)

    The difficulty is that the issue is so vehemently split between political dogmas that no one is really willing to listen to the other side. Liberals tend to exaggerate the current dangers/effects of climate change (“It's too late!”) and conservatives tend to downplay it (“It's all a lie!”).

  • Tony

    The term climate change has been used for decades but the term global warming gained popularity in the media because the climate change most of concern to the average person was about temperature. Climate change refers to all changes – temperature, precipitation amounts and intensities, snowfall amounts, average heating/cooling degree days, etc…
    It is not a hoax, it is not a democratic assult on your freedoms, it is not a waste to continue to try to predict the consequences of continuing to put greenhouse gases into the environment.
    First of all, weather is weather and the day to day variations in temperature and precipitation are large. The long term signal is buried deep in those day to day changes. Climate is the long term averaging of these day to day changes. I liken it to a river flowing. If you notice the flow of the river, at an instant a given volume of water may not be flowing straight downstream…it may be flowing slightly cross stream, it may flow upstream in an eddy, etc… This is weather. But I darn well know the water is going downstream on average. If I do something that by simple processes will warm the earth, I know on a long term average, it will cause a warming signal.
    The NWS does track day to day weather and although there has been some cooling in the summer in July in west Michigan for example. But it is more than offset by winter time warming. Glaciers are shrinking and Al Gore didn't discover that, scientists did. Permafrost is melting all over the northern hemisphere, most of the warmest years on record included proxy records (use one measurement that is proportional to temperature such as oxygen isotope in ice cores, tree rings measurement, etc..) has occurred in recent decades. We have records now going back hundreds of thousands of years and we know we are in a pretty warm period and although we should be getting cooler on average, we are not. Globally, we are getting warmer. There is no doubt of that. If you really want to deny it, get educated in climate science, produce something worthy of publication in peer reviewed journals, and then you will convince me that you are smarter than the highly educated, data producing, scientists that are working in this field every day.
    A homework problem in geophysical fluids courses or undergrad weather courses is to compute the surface temperature of the earth using a simple 1D radiative heat transfer model and this homework problem can be done by hand. Depending on which model (one layer, two layer, or n-layer model) you can get a good approximation. Computer models help determine the overall changes to temperature and precipitation for a 3D world with uneven land and oceans. Increase the concentration of CO2 and you get a warmer Earth. It really isn't that hard to understand the basic concept. CO2 is on the rise due to man's changes in land use and burning fossil fuels. CO2 doesn't transmit infrared radiation very well hence the more of it, the less IR is send into space and the warmer earth's surface temperature becomes.
    Excess CO2 that doesn't go into the atmosphere can go into the ocean causing the observed increases in acidity that is going to be an issue in the coming decades.
    What is the problem folks with attempting to mitigate this? Don't want to spend money now, fine. Spend more later. Afterall, it is just the money and life style changes of those living in the late 21st century and 22nd centuries that are going to be greatly impacted. Screw our kids and grandkids right? Our parents and grandparents and great grandparents caused our current problem with climate change. The difference is that they had no idea until recently that this was the fault of the modern industrial lifestyle. Now we know and we are irresponsible if we don't take action. Sorry gang, it might actually take money to fix. God knows those in denial aren't going to make the changes themselves and those with a vested interested in seeing this legislation fail certainly aren't going to change their ways.

  • troykeith

    I don’t think it’s a question of denial – I tend to believe the earth may indeed be experiencing an overall warming trend (although temps have stabilized or even fallen slightly in recent years). There are a great deal of inconsistencies in the data collection and many cases of outright negligence in regards to the location and oversight of the monitoring equipment (on hot roofs, within industrial areas etc.).

    Where is the definitive proof that any of the minor warming we’re experiencing is the result of human activity? How do those making such claims explain the cyclic temperature variations of the planet throughout history? After all, Greenland was green at one time. Temperatures have been shown to have warmer in the past than they are today and this was long before the industrial revolution. Even the great Gore himself refuses to debate his questionable science in any sort of credible format.

    Before we turn our lives upside down and implement a number of unreasonable laws and restrictions that will do nothing except stifle our economy and inhibit our freedom, I’d like to see something more definitive from the warming camp.

    Given your interest in the topic, I’d refer you to some older pieces I did on the issue:

    http://blogs.record-eagle.com/?p=1049
    http://blogs.record-eagle.com/?p=1050
    http://blogs.record-eagle.com/?p=1051
    http://blogs.record-eagle.com/?p=1052

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