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Source: Joseph Siry's Blog

Debunking Denialist Arguments Against Harm from AGW

In addition to disputing the reality of global warming, the Denialist faction claims it is nothing to worry about, and would even be good for us. Assuring the public that something which doesn't exist need not concern them seems redundant, while calling it beneficial seems absurd. But such is the nature of Denialist arguments.

This is not just some academic exercise. A great deal is at stake. One thing Denialists get right is that staving off the harmful effects of climate change is going to cost a lot of money. But what they overlook, or minimize, is the greater cost of not staving off that harm. Benjamin Franklin's aphorism is still true: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

To me, that assessment seems self-evident. Of course, if you're convinced that global warming is at worst a minor inconvenience, then spending huge sums fighting it looks like a major mistake. It is everyone's right to believe whatever they wish, and to say whatever they believe — so long, of course, as others are not harmed thereby. To arbitrarily prevent others from acting on what a consensus of experts tells them is a problem fits my definition of harm.

Twenty years of denial have not changed the facts: Global warming is real. Twenty years of stubbornly held barricades against government action have not led us to a time when government action has been shown to be unnecessary, either because climate change stopped happening on its own, or because voluntary efforts gave us solutions. That is why the misleading arguments of the Denialists must be debunked. Here I explain why their most commonly heard arguments against AGW's potential for harm don't hold up.

The Arguments

  1. Climate is always changing. Earth has often been much hotter than it is today.
  2. Human activities cannot ever affect the Earth's environment so drastically.
  3. More carbon dioxide means more plant growth, benefiting agriculture.
  4. A warmer world means longer growing seasons.
  5. Species migrations and extinctions are not a major problem.
  6. A warmer climate will be healthier and more enjoyable, with fewer deaths from exposure.
  7. The Gulf Stream doesn't warm Europe, so its loss won't chill the continent.
  8. Global warming doesn't mean stronger or more frequent hurricanes.
  9. Glaciers and icecaps are actually growing.
  10. If sea level rises, we'll just relocate our coastal cities.
  11. Technical advances will take care of the problem in due time.
  12. Attempting to slow or stop global warming would bankrupt the nation that tries it.
  13. Kyoto is a big effort for almost no gain.
1. What they say Climate is always changing. Earth has often been much hotter than it is today, and sometimes colder. Yet life has managed to survive.
What it means This is meant to say that climate change is purely natural, and nothing can be done about it, so we shouldn't even try.
Why it's wrong

It's unquestionably true that natural climate changes have occurred throughout Earth's existence, and some have been greater than anything in human history. It's also true — since we, and many other species, are here — that life did survive those changes.

But this argument is wrong because it denies even the possibility that human activities can affect the world's climate. It's wrong because those earlier climate changes didn't happen to a globe-spanning civilization of billions of people dependent on fragile technological infrastructure. And even if it were right, we would, at some point, try to lessen the impact — just as today we strive to lessen the impact of hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.

2. What they say Human activities cannot ever affect the Earth's environment so drastically.
What it means This draws on the conventional wisdom, which holds that nature is always mightier than man.
Why it's wrong

The conventional wisdom is still true in many ways — but not in every way. With respect to resource depletion, or to pollution generally, it is mere wishful thinking. If you like seafood, you know that already. The same is true if you live in Beijing, where the air is often smoggy (as it was in many U.S. cities 20 or 30 years ago.)

Never before have so many humans existed. Never before have they consumed so large a share of Earth's resources — fresh water, minerals, coal and oil, cereal grains, leafy vegetables, land animals, marine animals. Never before have the effluents of their civilization risen to such volume, turned up in so many places. It once was possible to treat Earth as an infinite sink for chemical by-products, trashed packaging, discarded electronics, waste of all kinds. No longer. Nor is it possible any longer for carbon dioxide.

Click the large number in each table below to jump to references on its topic.

3. What they say Because CO2 is food for plants, more CO2 in the atmosphere means more plant growth.
What it means The implication is that greater plant growth always occurs, irrespective of other nutrients, and is purely beneficial.
Why it's wrong

This much is true: plants do tend to grow faster and bigger if given more CO2. But more of other nutrients is also required. A shortage of any one of these will negate the benefit of the extra CO2. Water is likely to be the limiting factor for crop yields if traditional sources dry up due to global warming.

Even if other nutrients are plentiful, the case is no slam-dunk. Not all plants respond to extra CO2. Some that do are weeds. Some crops become tastier to insects. Also, temperature can affect pollination or germination, and higher temperature or CO2 level can retard photosynthesis. It is far from clear if more CO2 in the atmosphere is a net win for agriculture.

4. What they say A warmer world means longer growing seasons.
What it means As with more CO2, the assumption is that this would be purely beneficial.
Why it's wrong

Growing seasons will get longer. (Indeed, this is already happening.) But, who gets these longer growing seasons? The general answer is that more northerly nations would gain the most. Canada, for example, could potentially expand agriculture to its Arctic regions. It could also change the mix of crops to include those evolved for warmer temperatures. The same would happen farther south. Coffee and bananas might take over the southern U.S.

But changing crops requires a significant investment: New farming equipment, new techniques, dealing with new pests. There's also the question of water supplies. What today is well-watered land may not be when the world has warmed a few more degrees. Land that becomes well-watered may have salty soil. Much of the land in northern Canada was scraped clean of good soil by glaciers during the last ice age. So, as with CO2, it is far from clear if this is a net win for agriculture.

5. What they say Species migrations and extinctions are not a major problem.
What it means

From the snail darter to the salt marsh harvest mouse, it has long been argued that saving any given species is not cost-effective. It can be hard to demonstrate that preserving any given species has an economic payoff; the benefit is often (but not always) purely esthetic.

Problems due to migration are as easy to dismiss. No foreign species has yet been an intractable problem for us.

Why it's wrong

There's no way to make a general case that every species is worth saving. But since we don't fully understand the web of life, it is folly to discard something whose importance is unknown.

The impacts of migration are clearer: a new invasive species is always a problem. Think rabbits in Australia. Some research will give you a long list of species, and show the cost of controlling them. (One source puts the U.S. cost at $138 billion per year.)

I can show that the northward movement of species due to rising temperatures will be a problem, because it already is. Millions of acres of pine forest in the western parts of Canada and the U.S. have been killed by the pine bark beetle. Winter temperatures in the mountains there used to fall to 30° or 40° below zero Fahrenheit, killing the beetle's larvae; but they no longer get so low. This problem will be solved, but not without considerable cost.

6. What they say A warmer world will mean fewer deaths from cold, and will be generally healthier for humans.
What it means This assumes that climate change will result in more pleasant summery days, fewer wintry days; more sun, less snow.
Why it's wrong

It's correct that fewer people will freeze to death, or die of exposure to cold. But human physiology tolerates a fixed temperature range. What we gain at the cold end, we lose at the hot end. People die from being too warm already; consider the 2003 heat wave in Europe. It may be that the total number of deaths due to extreme temperatures falls — but that remains to be seen. In general, it's easier to keep warmth in your body by bundling up than to keep it out by "bundling down." And there are more subtle effects: high temperatures can affect babies in utero.

Then there is the spread of tropical diseases. This is already occuring: spread by travelers, diseases like dengue fever are appearing in the U.S. and other northerly areas of the world, hitting populations that have no natural immunity. A longer growing season for crops also means a longer growing season for poison ivy and ragweed: A longer allergy season.

And finally, if storms get stronger and more frequent, as expected, they also increase the number of climate-related deaths. Indeed, more snowstorms mean more deaths related to icy roads and whiteout conditions, even if fewer people freeze in their homes.

7. What they say The Gulf Stream doesn't warm Europe, so its loss won't chill the continent.
What it means It has been argued that heat transported by the atmosphere, not by the Gulf Stream, is what gives Europe a milder climate than it otherwise would have. If that is true, the Gulf Stream could shut down without affecting Europe's climate.
Why it's wrong

As I understand the argument (due to Richard Seager of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory), winds carry heat from the south Atlantic over Europe, giving it its mild climate. But even Seager says the winds pick up heat from the Gulf Stream, so it seems he's overstating the case for dramatic effect. I don't think his view is widely accepted.

Whether or not Seager is right, no one thinks the Gulf Stream is close to shutting down. There are indications that it has slowed down, but even this is preliminary. The most accurate summary of current opinion is that losing the Gulf Stream would have some negative effect on Europe.

8. What they say Global warming doesn't mean stronger or more frequent hurricanes.
What it means While the surface waters of the oceans have warmed, the effect of this on hurricanes is swamped by natural variability.
Why it's wrong

Theoretically, this connection is as firm as the connection between carbon dioxide and the warming of the planet. Heat from the surface layers of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea is the engine that drives hurricanes. More heat will drive hurricanes harder. It's noteworthy that when Katrina formed in August 2005, the ocean was 2° warmer than usual.

That said, it is true that there's no statistically valid increase which can be tied to global warming. But, as the last two references for this topic show, it's the one that's farthest from scientific consensus. The latest word has to be that global warming hasn't given us stronger storms yet, but is likely to do so later this century. Also, it's vital to consider all tropical storms, not just Atlantic hurricanes.

9. What they say Glaciers and icecaps are actually growing.
What it means This claim, if true, would remove the worry about sea-level rise.
Why it's wrong

Few claims could be easier to substantiate. Simply taking year-to-year photographs of a set of glaciers for a decade or so would show them growing — if they were growing. It is true that some few are growing. The seven glaciers on California's Mt. Shasta have been growing for some years. They benefit from moist air blowing off the warmer Pacific. But all the other glaciers in the Cascade Range, as well as those in the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains, are not. Alas for Denialists, the data show that 90 to 95 percent of the 67,000 glaciers in the World Glacier Inventory are shrinking.

This loss of mountain glaciers poses problems for local water users. From California's coast to south Asia, snow melt provides local populations with much of the water they use. Finding other sources will be a big problem — with a big price tag.

Changes in ice sheets are harder to document. But the available data show net loss of mass for ice cover in both Greenland and Antarctica. As for the Arctic ice cap, satellite observations reveal it has been shrinking for as long as we've been able to make such observations (since 1978.) The shrinking is not steady, but it is a definite trend.

10. What they say If sea level rises enough to threaten our coastal cities and other facilities, we'll just relocate what's vital and abandon the rest.
What it means It's an expression of pure technological hubris.
Why it's wrong

In fairness, I must admit that this is not a common argument among Denialists. Most, I'm sure, understand its absurdity. But it's merely one extreme of an argument they do commonly make: That whatever harm results from global warming, humanity will handle it without major disruption.

Sea-level rise has been much studied. We know quite well which areas will be drowned by a given amount of rise. We also know, to a first approximation, what it would cost to protect these areas. It's no trifling amount. One study found that protecting a single site in Cornwall, England would cost £6 million (about $8.3 million). This is one of 70 sites at risk in England, and the planned protection would be good for only 25 years.

In California, the Sacramento River Delta would flood in a 3-foot rise, and decades of work on 1,100 miles of Delta levees would be needed to save it. And the U.S. EPA estimates that $100 billion would be needed to protect all coastal areas at risk from a 1-meter sea-level rise.

No one can really know how much the sea will rise, or how fast. But, even today, residents of many low-lying islands are planning for evacuation. And in Bangladesh, the sea continues to encroach on 3 million hectares of arable land, turning previously fresh irrigation water to brine. Some 20 million people are threatened.

The people of the Netherlands can tell us a thing or two about the costs of holding back the sea. In their case, the problem was pushing the sea out of the Polders — land they wished to reclaim. But preventing the sea from inundating your coast needs very similar countermeasures. Clearly, they will not come cheap. Another thing is equally clear: If protecting coastal cities is so costly, relocating them will be vastly more so.

11. What they say Technical advances produced by free markets will take care of the problem in due time.
What it means Private companies have a remarkable ability to produce innovative technology. Despite that, expecting they will solve this sort of problem is more a matter of ideology than history.
Why it's wrong

The history of private enterprise in America does not inspire confidence in its willingness to tackle this sort of long-term problem. The profit motive means companies will minimize overhead costs to the extent possible. In other words, they will avoid paying for problems they cause, if they can.

There's a constant tension between government's obligation to improve the quality of life for all citizens, and corporate obligations to improve the bottom line for the stockholders. Republican governments tend to take the company side, and modern companies have become adept at blocking attempts at regulation by those governments that don't. Detroit automakers, aided by Michigan Congressman John Dingell, blocked stricter fuel-economy standards for 32 years. The Bush administration, relying on voluntary compliance to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, is merely the latest example.

Libertarian proponents of free-market environmentalism hold that the solution to pollution and other environmental degradation is property right lawsuits brought under tort law and enforced by the courts. As explained by some of the references on this topic, it sounds good. However it requires assessing a monetary value for any damages alleged by the plaintiff. When the potential damage may not occur for decades, or cannot even be proven to have occurred, its monetary value is difficult to quantify.

In addition, Republican efforts at tort reform, and the recent revision of the bankruptcy laws, have the effect of making life easier for large corporations and harder for individuals. It therefore seems unlikely that there is any near-term hope of arriving at a workable, purely market-based solution for any sort of environmental problem, let alone the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions necessary to mitigate global warming.

12. What they say Attempting to slow or stop global warming would bankrupt the nation that tries it.
What it means This exaggeration of costs is intended to turn the undecided public away from supporting government action on AGW.
Why it's wrong

The stark contrast between Denialists' confidence in society's ability to deal with any harm due to global warming and their astounding lack of confidence in society's ability to stave off that harm is proof enough. Both are immense tasks; both would rely, in large part, on technology not developed yet. The premise that private enterprise will succeed in developing technology for the former task, but fail utterly with technology for the latter, is far-fetched at best.

History shows that progress against global warming will depend on governments forcing corporations to get with the program. Look back at any mandated effort against pollution, and you will find similar protests by corporate executives about unbearable costs. And yet, their corporations survived. Fighting global warming will certainly be expensive. But history also shows us that waiting until a problem becomes a crisis always costs far more than dealing with it proactively. Economic studies of action against global warming all agree: doing nothing up front will cost us far more in the long run.

13. What they say Complying with Kyoto will accomplish next to nothing except wasting taxpayers' money.
What it means This assumes the goal of the Kyoto Protocol is to completely fix global warming.
Why it's wrong

The first thing wrong with this argument is the implicit assumption that the Kyoto targets are worthless because they cannot end global warming once and for all. The truth is, they're just a first step.

The second thing wrong is the claim that complying with Kyoto would lead to economic disaster. Many nations have taken on that task. Whether or not they met their target, it has not caused their economies to collapse.

The third reason this argument is wrong is that Kyoto has not been totally ineffective. Some nations have met their goals for carbon-dioxide reduction; others have not. All understand the challenge better than they did, making it a net win.

The fourth error is not admitting that Kyoto is just a good start. The goal is to cut CO2 emissions 5% below their 1990 levels by 2010. It gets nations working together on reducing emissions, gives them reasonable first-stage targets to meet, lets them understand the impacts of meeting those targets, and sets up a framework for later talks on more stringent reductions.

All that said, the objection that developing nations aren't required to cut emissions is a valid one. True, they emit less CO2 and would be hit harder by controls on it. But the plain fact is that the U.S. negotiating team (led by Al Gore) first raised this objection. Gore also held out for lower targets and for emissions trading. In doing so, he supported both the national interest and special interests. Balancing these competing interests is never easy. But it is clear that the clout of American corporations helped persuade Clinton & Gore to water down Kyoto — just as they induced Bush & Cheney to denounce it while ignoring any serious alternative measures. These faults are not inherent in the Kyoto Protocol.

The Bottom Line on AGW Impacts

Stern Words

Lord Nicholas Stern's 2006 review of the economic challenges of climate change projected AGW costs as percentages of annual world GDP:

  • Controlling CO2 emissions: 1%
  • Doing nothing about AGW: 5-20%

We already see the effects of global warming in rising sea levels, receding glaciers, advancing springtimes. We know these effects are causing problems today, and we know those problems will grow greater later. No scientist can tell us exactly how much worse the problems will get, or by when. That does not mean it's okay to do nothing about global warming.

Still, we should not rush headlong into battle. Concerns that an immediate crash program to fight global warming might be unnecessary, or even counterproductive, are valid and should be heeded. But we understand the projected effects well enough to justify planning mitigation policies. We don't need a crash program. We do need a program. We — that is, the governments of all the nations on this fragile world, including the United States — need to embark on a series of careful steps toward reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.

The bottom line is the bottom line — that is, costs. Make no mistake, there will be burdensome costs involved in controlling CO2 emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change — costs growing more burdensome the longer we delay.

So let's not delay.

References on Specific Topics

   3. Carbon dioxide and plant growth

Core Stories
  1. Rubisco activase constrains the photosynthetic potential of leaves at high temperature and CO2 (abstract)
    (Steven J. Crafts-Brandner and Michael E. Salvucci, PNAS, 24 Aug 2000)
  2. Carbon Dioxide's Role in Plant Growth (THE ARTEMIS PROJECT)
  3. Climate myths: Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production (David Chandler and Michael Le Page, New Scientist, 16 May 2007)
  4. Crops, Beetles, and Carbon Dioxide (Union of Concerned Scientists, 11 May 2010)
    Describes experiments by UIUC scientists that show plants grown in extra CO2 stop producing natural chemical defenses against insects — and the bugs chow down.
  5. Climate myths: Higher CO2 levels will boost plant growth and food production Long-term decline in grassland productivity driven by increasing dryness
    E. N. J. Brookshire & T. Weaver (7-page PDF)
  6. Nitrate assimilation is inhibited by elevated CO2 in field-grown wheat Arnold J. Bloom, Martin Burger, Bruce Kimball, & Paul J. Pinter, Jr Published online 6 April 2014
  7. Global scale climate-crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming David B Lobell and Christopher B Field, Environmental Research Letters, March 2007 (Abstract)
  8. Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition Samuel S. Myers et. al, Nature Letters, 5 June 2014 (Abstract — fee for full text)
  9. Effect of warming temperatures on US wheat yields Jesse Tack, Andrew Barkley, and Lawton Lanier Nalley, Edited by Maureen L. Cropper and approved April 20, 2015 (Abstract — fee for full text)
  10. The fingerprint of climate trends on European crop yields Frances C. Moore and David B. Lobell Edited by Benjamin D. Santer and approved January 9, 2015 (Abstract — fee for full text)
News Items
2002-12-06 Science Daily Climate Change Surprise: High Carbon Dioxide Levels Can Retard Plant Growth, Study Reveals (Science Daily, 6 Dec 2002)
2002-11-15 Agricultural Research Robust Plants' Secret? Rubisco Activase! (Marcia Wood, Agricultural Research, Nov 2002>
Rubisco is the plant enzyme that converts CO2 into plant tissues. But it comes in two forms: active and inactive. Another enzyme, Rubisco activase, turns the inactive form to active. Studies show Rubisco Activase is impaired by high temperatures and high CO2 concentrations.
2009-02-26 The Guardian Looming water crisis could unravel world economy without radical action, investors told
(by Juliette Jowit, The Guardian, 26 Feb 2009)
"Droughts 'attributable in significant part to climate change' are already causing 'acute water shortages' around the world, and pressure on supplies will increase with further global warming and a growing world population, says the report written by the US-based Pacific Institute."
2009-06-30 Science Daily New Crops Needed For New Climate (ScienceDaily, 30 June 2009)
"Researchers at Monash University in Victoria, Australia have found an increase in toxic compounds, a decrease in protein content and a decreased yield in plants grown under high CO2 and drought conditions."
2010-10-10 Science Daily Environmental Changes to Blame for Drop in Yield of 'Miracle Rice' (ScienceDaily, 10 October 2010)
"Environmental changes are to blame for a 15% drop in the yield of 'miracle rice' — also known as rice variety IR8 — since the 1960s when it was first released and lauded for its superior yields that helped avert famine across Asia at the time."

   4. Longer Growing Seasons

Core Stories
  1. After the Fall: Global Warming and Disappearing Seasons (Michael H. Glantz, Fragile Ecologies, 16 Nov 2007)
  2. Deciduous Forests Exert a Brake on Global Warming as They Lengthen Their Growing Seasons and Sequester More Carbon (CO2 Science)
  3. Global warming could make Canada an agricultural powerhouse while the U.S. becomes a dustbowl (Smart Economy, 12 Jun 2006)
  4. Global warming and its impact on wine (The Wine Anorak)
  5. Predicting Future Temperate and Boreal of Growing Season Start With a Land Surface Model (Abstract) (J. Kaduk, American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2008, abstract #B54C-04)
  6. The Third Horseman: Global Agricultural Collapse From Global Warming (by Stowe Boyd, 11 Jan 2009)
  7. A few degrees more will be really nice — especially for plants! (Sierra Club of Canada)
  8. Myth #17: Global heating will be good for the planet, not bad. (Scholars&Rogues, 23 Jul 2007)
  9. What's Wrong With Warm Weather? (Coby Beck, A Few Things Ill-considered, 27 Feb 2006)
  10. Global warming affects crops, food supply (VOA video, June 2008, 3:53)
News Items
1999-07-07 U. Ariz. News Increased snow is shortening tree-growing season in subarctic Siberia (Lori Stiles, University of Arizona, 7 Jul 1999)
2002-08-17 USA Today Talk of global warming gets chilly reception in N.D. (USA Today, 17 Aug 2002)
2006-08-30 Spiegel Online Global Warming a Boon for Greenland's Farmers (By Gerald Traufetter, Spiegel Online, 30 Aug 2006)
2008-12-16 Chicago Tribune Study: Global warming could boost crop pests (Chicago Tribune, 16 Dec 2008)
2009-01-08 Scientific American Croplands May Wither as Global Warming Worsens (Scientific American, 8 Jan 2009)
2009-01-13 Time Why Global Warming Portends a Food Crisis (Bryan Walsh, Time, 13 Jan 2009)

   5. Species Migration and Extinction

Core Stories
  1. Global Warming Affects Animals at High Altitudes (Earthwatch Institute, Maynard, MA, 11 May 2000)
  2. Never Mind That Boiling Kettle... (Carl Zimmer, Corante, 12 Jan 2004)
  3. The effects of Global Warming on human lives in West Africa (Ernest, Panorama, 12 Aug 2008)
  4. So What's Wrong with a Little Global Warming (Anthony D. Barnosky, Eco-Compass Blog, 25 March 2009)
  5. National Invasive Species Information Center (USDA)
  6. Invasive Species: Economic Impacts (Wikipedia)
  7. Invasive Species Information Node (National Biological Information Infrastructure)
  8. DAISIE (Delivering Alien Invasive Species Inventories for Europe)
  9. Recent Forest Insect Outbreaks and Fire Risk in Colorado Forests: A Brief Synthesis of Relevant Research (36-page PDF)
    W.H. Romme1, J. Clement, J. Hicke, D. Kulakowski, L.H. MacDonald, T.L. Schoennagel, and T.T. Veblen
  10. Mountain Pine Beetle and Provincial Protected Areas: Frequently Asked Questions — Q3
    British Columbia Ministry of Environment
    "The epidemic is largely occurring because of favourable climatic conditions and favourable stands of pine. The west-central portion of British Columbia has not had a severely cold winter for many years. Mild winters result in high survival rates of beetles and therefore population increases occur."
  11. Moving beyond the pine beetle

    "British Columbia is currently experiencing a Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) outbreak beyond any bark beetle epidemic recorded in North American history. This eco-system altering epidemic is causing widespread mortality of the lodgepole pine forests, the province's most abundant commercial tree species. At the current rate of spread, 50 per cent of the mature pine will be dead by 2008 and 80 per cent by 2013. The consequences of the epidemic will be felt for decades in British Columbia. The beetle is also posing a real threat to Alberta's lodgepole pine forests and the Jackpine stands of Canada's northern boreal forest."
    The Canadian government committed $400 million to fighting the infestation. And this was in the budget passed on 2 May 2006.
News Items
2008-11-17 New York Times Bark Beetles Kill Millions of Acres of Trees in West (by Jim Robbins, The New York Times, 17 Nov 2008)
2009-08-19 Newsday Beetles, wildfire: Double threat in warming world (CHARLES J. HANLEY (AP Special Correspondent), Newsday, 19 Aug 2009)
2010-09-17 BBC News Urgent call on EU to stop billion-euro 'alien invasion' (Pamela Rutherford, BBC News, 17 Sep 2010)

   6. Health

Core Stories
  1. Climate Change and Birth Weight
    Peer-reviewed January 2009 conference paper showing correlation between low birth weight in babies and higher than normal temperatures during second and third trimesters. (13-page PDF)
  2. Confronting health issues of climate change (AMA editorial, American Medical News, 4 April 2011)
    "If physicians want evidence of climate change, they may well find it in their own offices. Patients are presenting with illnesses that once happened only in warmer areas. Chronic conditions are becoming aggravated by more frequent and extended heat waves. Allergy and asthma seasons are getting longer. Spates of injuries are resulting from more intense ice storms and snowstorms."
News Items
2006-06-07 CBS News Global Warming May Compound Allergies (by Melissa McNamara, CBS News, 7 Jun 2006)

   7. The Gulf Stream

Core Stories
  1. Satellites Record Weakening North Atlantic Current (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, 15 Apr 2004)
  2. Could the Atlantic Current Switch Off? (National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, 30 Nov 2005)
  3. The Source of Europe's Mild Climate (Richard Seager, American Scientist, July 2006)
    "The notion that the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping Europe anomalously warm turns out to be a myth."

   8. Stronger Storms

Core Stories
  1. Increased hurricane intensities with CO2-induced warming as simulated using the GFDL hurricane prediction system (Thomas R. Knutson & Robert E. Tuleya, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/NOAA, 24 Dec 1998) (17-page PDF)
  2. Global Warming and Hurricanes (Thomas R. Knutson, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/NOAA, Nov. 2005)
  3. Has Global Warming Affected Atlantic Hurricane Activity? (Thomas R. Knutson, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/NOAA, Oct. 2008)
  4. Large-Scale Climate Projections and Hurricanes (Brian Soden, Univ. of Miami and Gabriel Vecchi, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/NOAA, 31 Jul 2009)
  5. Hurricanes and Global Warming FAQs (Pew Center on Global Climate Change)
  6. Study supports global warming/hurricane link (EarthSky podcasts: Program #5322 of the Earth & Sky Radio Series)
  7. The Next Big Storm (By Matthew C. Nisbet and Chris Mooney, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, 3 Aug 2006)
  8. Hurricanes and Climate Change (Brenda Ekwurzel, Union of Concerned Scientists, 18 Sep 2006)
  9. NOAA: Global Warming Not Causing More Destructive Hurricanes (By Noel Sheppard, 21 Feb 2008)
  10. Newest Estimate of Global Warming & Hurricanes (zFacts, 22 Apr 2008)
News Items
2005-07-23 BBC News Hurricanes and global warming — a link? (By Richard Black, BBC News Environment Correspondent, 23 Sep 2005)
2008-04-12 Houston Chronicle Hurricane expert reconsiders global warming's impact (By ERIC BERGER, Houston Chronicle, 12 Apr 2008)
2008-04-14 Christian Science Monitor Revisiting the global warming-hurricane link (By Peter N. Spotts, Christian Science Monitor, 14 Apr 2008)
2008-05-19 CBS News Global Warming-Hurricane Link Questioned (CBS News, 19 May 2008)
2008-09-08 Time Is Global Warming Worsening Hurricanes? (Bryan Walsh, Time, 8 Sep 2008)

   9. Glaciers and Icecaps

Core Stories
  1. Are glaciers growing or shrinking? (Skeptical Science)
  2. But the glaciers are not melting (Coby Beck, A Few Things Ill-Considered, 25 Apr 2006)
  3. Dr. Waleed Abdalati explains how Greenland is melting (Cassandra Moderna, Climate Change: The Next Generation, 1 Mar 2009)
  4. Glacier mass balance data 2006-2007 (World Glacier Monitoring Service)
  5. North American Glacier Mass Balance 1984-2006 (North Cascade Glacier Climate Project)
  6. Tropical Glacier Retreat (Raymond Pierrehumbert, RealClimate, 23 May 2005)
  7. Worldwide Glacier Retreat (Eric, RealClimate, 18 Mar 2005)
    "A 1°C increase in temperature, applied uniformly across a glacier, is enough to melt a vertical meter of ice each year." Take that, Dr. Lindzen.
News Items
2004-12-03 Science Daily Fastest Glacier In Greenland Doubles Speed (ScienceDaily, 3 December 2004)
"Jakobshavn Isbrae is Greenland's largest outlet glacier, draining 6.5 percent of Greenland's ice sheet area. The ice stream's speed-up and near-doubling of ice flow from land into the ocean has increased the rate of sea level rise by about .06 millimeters (about .002 inches) per year, or roughly 4 percent of the 20th century rate of sea level increase."
2007-03-10 Geology News Monitoring Glaciers for Climate Change (Geology News, 10 Mar 2007 & etc.)
2007-06-06 Science Daily Hundreds Of Antarctic Peninsula Glaciers Accelerating As Climate Warms (ScienceDaily, 6 June 2007)
"Hundreds of glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula are flowing faster, further adding to sea level rise according to new research published this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Climate warming, that is already causing Antarctic Peninsula increased summer snow melt and ice shelf retreat, is the most likely cause. * * * Lead author Dr Hamish Pritchard says, 'The Antarctic Peninsula has experienced some of the fastest warming on Earth, nearly 3°C over the last half-century. Eighty-seven percent of its glaciers have been retreating during this period and now we see these glaciers are also speeding up.' "
2008-03-16 The Observer Glaciers melt 'at fastest rate in past 5,000 years' (Juliette Jowit and Robin McKie, The Observer, 16 Mar 2008)
"The world's glaciers are melting faster than at any time since records began, threatening catastrophe for hundreds of millions of people and their eco-systems."
2008-07-08 USA Today Glaciers on California's Mt. Shasta keep growing (USA Today, 8 Jul 2008)
2008-08-28 Christian Science Monitor Alaska: Climate-change frontier
Melting glaciers, drier wetlands, warmer winters in Alaska, where global warming is felt most keenly

(By Moises Velasquez-Manoff, Christian Science Monitor, 28 Aug 2008)
2009-07-09 Science Daily Ice Volume Of Switzerland's Glaciers Calculated
(ScienceDaily, July 9, 2009)
"Over the last decade — the warmest for 150 years — Switzerland's glaciers have lost 9 km3 of ice (12%), including 2.6 km3 (3.5%) in the record-breaking summer of 2003 alone."
2009-08-05 Bloomberg News Vanishing Bolivian Glacier Ends Highest Ski Run (Update1)
(By Jonathan J. Levin and Jose Orozco, Bloomberg News, 5 Aug 2009)
2009-08-10 Science Daily Spectacular Melting Of The Largest French Glacier (ScienceDaily, 10 August 2009)
"Over the last 40 years, the Cook ice cap has thinned by around 1.5 meters per year, its area has decreased by 20%, and retreat has been twice as rapid since 1991. Their work has been just published in the Journal of Geophysical Research."

   10. Moving the Maldives

Core Stories
  1. Climate Refugees: The Human Toll of Global Warming (By Teresita Perez, Center for American Progress, 7 Dec 2006)
  2. Climate Change Refugees (Terry J. Allen, In These Times, 4 Sep 2007)
  3. Climate Refugees: A 21st Century Challenge (Masimba Biriwasha, EcoWorldly, 15 Sep 2008)
  4. Future Architecture: Floating Ecopolis for Climate Refugees (Michael, 11 Jun 2008)
  5. Climate Change: Adapt or Bust (17-page PDF) (Lloyds of London)
  6. Control, Adapt, or Flee: How to Face Environmental Migration? (48-page PDF)
    (Fabrice Renaud, Janos J. Bogardi, Olivia Dun, Koko Warner, Institute for Environment and Human Security, 2007)
  7. THE COST OF HOLDING BACK THE SEA (Titus et. al., Coastal Management)
    The standard way of citing this article is: Titus, J.G., R.A. Park, S.P. Leatherman, J.R. Weggel, M.S. Greene, P.W. Mausel, S. Brown, C. Gaunt. M. Trehan, and G. Yohe. 1991. Greenhouse Effect and Sea Level Rise: The Cost of Holding Back the Sea." Coastal Management 19:171-210
  8. Climate Change and Sea Level: Maps of Susceptible Areas (Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona)
  9. Why sea levels will rise and the implications of rising sea levels (Robert Kyriakides, 6 Sep 2008)
  10. The Truth about Rising Seas (by James John, Dissident Voice, 1 Nov 2008)
  11. A better plot of sea level (Jan. 1993-Apr. 2008) (JPEG only)
News Items
2007-11-01 IRIN BANGLADESH: Rising sea levels threaten agriculture (IRIN, 1 Nov 2007)
2007-11-27 Recordnet Rising sea could threaten region (By Alex Breitler, Record, 27 Nov 2007)
2008-03-13 Reuters / Alertnet Climate refugees in political pass-the-parcel (By Megan Rowling, Reuters / AlertNet, 13 Mar 2008)
2008-08-25 Thaindian News Rising seas may devour Britain's famous coastal landmarks (Thaindian News, August 25th, 2008)
2008-09-04 dailycamera CU study: Estimates of rising sea levels due to climate change exaggerated (By Brittany Anas, Daily Camera, 4 Sep 2008)
2008-11-12 findingDulcinea Maldives May Relocate Due to Global Warming (Finding Dulcinea, 12 Nov 2008)
2009-01-29 Medill Reports Sea levels rising at nearly double previous estimates due to global warming (by Maya Linson, Medill Reports, Northwestern University, 29 Jan 2009)
2009-02-14 AP/Tacoma News Tribune Experts worry about influx of 'climate refugees' here (Tacoma News Tribune (AP), 14 Feb 2009)
2010-11-09 Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel South Florida water managers weigh costly consequences of sea level rise (Andy Reid, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 9 Nov 2010)
"South Florida's coastal flood-control structures, counted on to protect low-lying communities from getting swamped, already are at risk from sea level rise due to climate change, according to scientists for the South Florida Water Management District.

"In the coming months, the district's governing board will be asked to endorse more scientific studies and potentially costly flood-control construction projects aimed at preparing for the rising sea levels expected to come."

  11. Free-market solutions

Core Stories
  1. The U.S. is a net CO2 sink. (Coby Beck, A Few Things Ill-Considered, 27 Apr 2007)
    "So, at least for 1992, that leaves 83% of fossil fuel burning emissions that are left in the atmosphere to spread throughout the globe or to be absorbed into the oceans. In the 2003 report, this has increased to 88.1% that is not sequestered on American lands."
    I don't know who claimed a net reduction in CO2 by this means. But the data came from government, not from the free market.
  2. Republicans propose new round of market-based solutions (A modest proposal from Irregular Times)
  3. Free Market Environmentalism Revised (PERC--the Property and Environment Research Center, Dec. 2000)
  4. Governments Work for Special Interests, Markets Work for Ordinary People (by Roderick Long, "The Conversation", Cato Unbound, 24 Nov 2008)
    I present this as a flawed argument against government intervention. Its crux is the statement that: "...the market is the sphere of voluntary transactions, and so every law that either mandates or prohibits some transaction (for what else do government programs generally do?) shrinks the market." The flaw is that the proposed means of compelling responsible corporate behavior, civil suits, requires judicial intervention — hence government intervention. And getting to where that would be effective means restructuring society, hence even more government intervention.
    The same impracticality is true for sources 3 & 5. Their arguments all would work in theory; but we none of us live there.
  5. About Free-Market Environmentalism (Jonathon H. Alder, The Capital Research Center, 1995)

  12. Fighting AGW will break us!

Core Stories
  1. Action on global warming is suicide (Coby Beck, A Few Things Ill-Considered, 27 Feb 2006)
  2. Climate Myths: We can't do anything about climate change (Fred Pearce, New Scientist, 16 May 2007)
  3. How Much Would You Pay to Save the Planet? (PDF, 31 pages)
    (Eric Pooley, Joan Shorenstein Center, Harvard, Fall 2008)
    "One of the country's leading journalists has written a searing critique of the media's coverage of global warming, especially climate economics."
  4. Climate Math: How the "Chicken Littles" Cook the Numbers (Pete Altman, NRDC Switchboard blog, 19 May 2009)
  5. Don't Believe the Doomsayers (Mindy S. Lubber, The Huffington Post, 28 May 2009)
    "Do we need more proof of the consequences of the failure of diligent oversight than our current economic morass? The old cry that regulations are bad for business has helped sink our stock market, erase $11 trillion in wealth, ground our economy to a virtual halt, and left 14 million Americans out of work."

    "When we realized that sulfur dioxide pollution creates acid rain and was turning our lakes and streams into chemical cauldrons, the industries howled that limiting emissions would kill their business. Instead, the emissions cap-and-trade system set up by the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments is now hailed — by environmentalists and business alike — as a resounding success story."

    This is the story Mindy Lubber cites:
  6. The Cap and Trade Success Story (Environmental Defense Fund, 26 May 2009)
    " 'Cap and trade' harnesses the forces of markets to achieve cost-effective environmental protection. Markets can achieve superior environmental protection by giving businesses both flexibility and a direct financial incentive to find faster, cheaper and more innovative ways to reduce pollution.

    "Cap and trade was designed, tested and proven here in the United States, as a program within the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. The success of this program led The Economist magazine to crown it 'probably the greatest green success story of the past decade.' (July 6, 2002)."

  13. Kyoto is a big waste.

Core Stories
  1. 'Kyoto is a big effort for almost nothing.' (Coby Beck, A Few Things Ill-Considered, 28 Jan 2007)
  2. Should the United States Ratify the Kyoto Protocol? (Larry West, About-dot-com)
  3. Kyoto Protocol and the United States (Peter Saundry (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Earth, 8 Feb 2007)
  4. S. Res 98 (the Byrd-Hagel Resolution)
    (United States Senate, 25 Jul 1997)
  5. What Does the Kyoto Protocol Mean to U.S. Energy Markets and the U.S. Economy?
    (U.S. Energy Information Administration, Oct. 1998)
  6. Kyoto Protocol (Wikipedia)
  7. The United States and the Kyoto Treaty (Nicole Natoli, 23 Apr 2003)
  8. How the Kyoto Protocol was (Al) Gored (By Joshua Frank, Dissident Voice, 18 Jul 2006)
  9. Al Gore and the Kyoto Protocol (High Desert Wanderer, 6 Jun 2005)
  10. Climate Change, Clinton and Kyoto (J. W. Anderson, Resources for the Future, Nov. 1997 (PDF, 18 pages)
  11. The Kyoto Protocol and the United States (Michael MacCracken, Climate Institute in Washington DC, YouTube video, 5:30)
  12. The Truth of the Kyoto Protocol (Glenn Beck / NewsBusters, 21 Sep 2007, YouTube video, 3:05)
News Items
2001-07-24 Time When it Comes to Kyoto, the U.S. is the "Rogue Nation" (By Tony Karon, Time, 24 Jul 2001)
2004-09-22 NewsMax Al Gore's Kyoto Hypocrisy (Edward I. Koch, NewsMax, 22 Sep 2004)
2007-02-14 CBC News Kyoto Protocol FAQs (CBC News, 14 Feb 2007)
2007-12-17 The Guardian Hurray! We're going backwards! (George Monbiot, The Guardian, 17 Dec 2007)
2009-01-29 NPR Gore Urges Senate To Avoid Kyoto-Type Failure (by Richard Harris, NPR, 29 Jan 2009 (story and 3:55 video))

General References

  1. NOAA Web site on Climate Change Impacts in U.S.
    US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (published June 2009)
  2. Potential Effects of Global Warming (NASA Earth Observatory)
  3. Possible Consequences of Global Warming (Environmental Literacy Council, 8 Apr 2008)
  4. The impact of global warming in regions of the world (ClimateHotMap)
  5. Part 1 of 4: How Warm is Too Warm? (Bill Chameides, Environmental Defense Fund, 7 Mar 2007)
  6. Not So Sure About Global Warming? Some Thoughts On Scientific Uncertainty (by ClimateLurker, 26 Jul 2007)
  7. Climate and Capitalism — Review of Hot Air: Meeting Canada's Climate Change Challenge (by Ian Angus, 6 Mar 2008)
  8. Australia on Health Alert Amid Worst Heat Wave in a Century (By Phil Mercer, Sydney, 28 Jan 2009
  9. Human Impact Report (Global Humanitarian Forum, 29 May 2009)
    "A comprehensive report documenting the global impact of climate change on human society today"
  10. Nature's Edge (ABC News)
    Has some good video segments about AGW.

Books and Reports

  1. Synthesis Report, Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges, and Decisions (39-page PDF)
    University of Copenhagen, Denmark, March 2009
  2. Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (196-page PDF — 70MB)
    NOAA Global Change Research Program, June 2009
  3. UCS national and regional assessments (PDFs, various lengths)
    Union of Concerned Scientists, June 2009
  4. Global Warming: Implications for Freshwater and Marine Fish
    By Chris M. Wood, D. Gordon McDonald
    Cambridge University Press, 1997
    ISBN 0521495326, 9780521495325
    at Google Books: "Global warming and climate change are growing environmental concerns. The potential impact on freshwater and marine fish is immense, because most fish have no physiological ability to regulate their body temperature. This volume focuses on the effects of temperature at all levels of organization in fish, with particular emphasis on physiological function: cells, epithelia, organ systems, the whole organism, reproduction, behavior, pollutant interactions, ecology and population dynamics. Written by experts in the field, many chapters also speculate on the long-term physiological and ecological implications to fish of a 2-4°C global warming scenario over the next half century."
  5. Global Warming and Agriculture
    By William R. Cline
    Published by Peterson Institute, 2007
    ISBN 0881324035, 9780881324037
    at Google Books: "In this detailed study, Cline asserts that developing countries have more at risk than industrial countries as global warming worsens. Using general circulation and agricultural impact models, Cline boldly examines the years 2070-2099 to forecast the effects of global warming and its economic impact."
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