Climate: "Deniers" and "Believers"
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A few days ago when visiting a friend the topic of climate change came up, he thinks that it's all a big fraud. I told him that the speed of increase of CO2 is orders of magnitudes higher than ever before, and that it's beyond doubt that this affects nature in an unprecedented way. I had in mind such graphs as shown on climate.nasa.gov/evidence, portraying atmospheric CO2 concentration over a span of 800'000 years.
The next day I felt uncomfortable that I had -I must confess- simply swallowed that information and conveyed it further without prior verification. Surely NASA can be trusted to post scientific contents? Regretfully, I found that in this NASA can NOT be trusted, for that presentation is simply misleading. The figure is a collation of measurements with temporal resolutions up to centuries or even millennia, glued to modern measurements with a resolution of 1 year. That has the effects of smoothing out eventual strong effects of short duration in the far past. Consequently we cannot know for sure that during those 800'000 years there never was so much CO2 in the atmosphere, or that this is the first time in that period that such a fast big change happens. It's not inherently wrong to construct such a graph, but it is wrong to pretend that all parts of it are of similar quality, and then draw such unwarranted conclusions from that false appearance.
When reading up about this topic I stumbled on websites such as whatsupwiththat and also wottsupwiththat, neatly illustrating the Big Divide. My quick first impression is that the first site is largely inhabited by stubborn "deniers" as well as by true sceptics and that the second site is largely inhabited by "believers". And of course, each side accuses the other side of "junk science", even "disinformation".
Taking a step back, there still emerges quite convincing evidence (in my humble opinion!) that the current increases in CO2 and global temperature are real and unprecedented in human history, and probably mostly "man-made". The predictions and scenarios for preventing harm to current ecosystems are based on improving but still shaky models. Politicians will have to do with "best" scientific guesses, and try to steer their way between Big Oil and New Energy investment lobby groups and related scientists. One important exception is the acidification of the ocean (not exactly "climate", but nevertheless strongly related), I think that that has now been fairly well established. A few days ago a new report has been released in which this ocean acidification is discussed among other things. The worrying effects that are already occurring, such as the destruction of coral reefs and the fish populations that depend on it (with devastating consequences for poor coastal populations that depend on fishery) were also highlighted in a documentary that I saw earlier this year (regretfully I can't find it back). But it's not all doom and gloom, encouraging news can be found here.
If anyone can help with preparing for this site a reasonably well informed and unbiased web page on this topic, that would be great!