It’s a tale of two conferences in two cities that are both on the science of climate change. One we should take seriously, the other one we should not.
One is stacked full of thousands of reputable climate scientists, the other the same old, predominantly right-wing corporate funded climate sceptics with a discredited and out-dated message.
First the serious one in Copenhagen. Today is the start of a three-day conference which aims to update the science on climate change before the crucial UN conference in December.
“The purpose of the conference is to give the best ever information to the politicians,” said Katherine Richardson, a scientist at the University of Copenhagen, which is hosting the conference.
Some 1,600 abstracts have been submitted from nearly 80 countries to the conference, which will be attended 2000 climate scientists including IPCC chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri as well as economist Nicholas Stern, the author of a British government report on the cost of climate change.
Most scientists are saying the conference will be full of bad news. “Certainly the message from the natural science side, the part of science that looks at how the climate system really works, isn’t very good,” argues RIchardson. “There isn’t any good news to be found there.”
For example, one scientific study to be presented today argues that climate change is turning the seas into acid so quickly that the chemical change is placing “unprecedented” pressure on marine life such as shellfish and lobsters and could cause widespread extinctions.
A summary of the study, by scientists at Bristol University, predicts “dangerous” levels of ocean acidification and severe consequences for organisms called marine calcifiers, which form chalky shells. It says: “We find the future rate of surface ocean acidification and environmental pressure on marine calcifiers very likely unprecedented in the past 65 million years.” The scientists add that the situation in the deep sea is of even “greater concern”.
Another scientific study will warn that rising sea levels pose a far greater danger to the planet than previously estimated. Low-lying areas including Bangladesh, Florida, the Maldives and the Netherlands face catastrophic flooding.
“It is now clear that there are going to be massive flooding disasters around the globe,” said Dr David Vaughan, of the British Antarctic Survey. “Populations are shifting to the coast, which means that more and more people are going to be threatened by sea-level rises.”
“It is becoming increasingly apparent from our studies of Greenland and Antarctica that changes to sea ice are being transmitted into the hearts of the land-ice sheets in a remarkably short time,” added Vaughan. As a result, those land sheets are breaking up faster and far more melt water is being added to the oceans than was previously expected.
Meanwhile, with timing that is beyond irony, holed up in a hotel near New York’s Times Square are hundreds of leading climate sceptics, attending right-wing think tank, the Heartland Institute’s conference called “Global warming: Was it ever really a crisis?” So just as the real scientists in Cophenhagen tell us that the science is more scary than ever, the sceptics with their heads preverbally stuck in the sand are discussing the non-existence of climate change.
Most of the leading sceptics are there including Richard Lindzen, Willie Soon, Patrick Michaels, Craid Idso, Lord Monckton, Fred Singer and Don Easterbrook, a professor of geology at Western Washington University in Bellingham, who will present new data showing “the Earth has entered a new phase of global cooling.”
Also attending is arch climate sceptic Czech premier Václav Klaus. “It is evident that the climate change debate has not made any detectable progress,” argues Klaus.
Easterbrook and Klaus’s comments are so disingenuous they nearly beggar belief. How much of the Arctic or Antarctic has to melt before they admit they were wrong?