Re: [asa] Letters to Sam Harris a "Maladjusted Misotheist"

From: PvM <>
Date: Thu Dec 07 2006 - 02:02:17 EST

I found another interesting resource. In the recent "Commonwealth of
Massachusetts et al vs. US EPA et al" in front of the Supreme Court,
an amicus brief was submitted

------begin quote-------
A. Perspective

As practicing scientists who study the earth's climate system, we and
many in our profession have long understood that continued
human-caused emission of greenhouse gases—primarily carbon dioxide
(CO2), but also methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and
fluorocarbons—would eventually warm the earth's surface. Most were
skeptical that we would see strong signs of human-induced climate
change in our lifetimes. But by the beginning of this decade, we
observed that global temperatures are rising, plant and animal ranges
are shifting, glaciers are in retreat globally, and arctic sea ice is
retreating. Sea levels are rising and the oceans are becoming more
acidic. To the extent that these changes result from human alteration
of the atmosphere, we know
that they are just the first small increment of climate change yet to
come if human societies do not curb emissions of greenhouse gases.
The evidence of these changes, though attended by the uncertainty or
caveats that appropriately accompany scientific knowledge, is
nonetheless so compelling that it has crystallized a remarkable
consensus within the scientific community: climate warming is
happening, and
human activities are very likely a significant causal factor.
The nature of this consensus may be obscured in a public debate that
sometimes equates consensus with unanimity or complete certainty. We
are profoundly troubled by the
misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the current state of
knowledge of climate change evident in the United States Environmental
Protection Agency's ("EPA's") denial of the petition for rulemaking to
regulate emissions of greenhouse gases from mobile sources, Pet. App.
A93, Control of Emissions From New Highway Vehicles and Engines, 68
Fed. Reg. 52,922, (Sept. 8, 2003), and the subsequent court of appeals
review of that action, Pet. App. 1-58, Massachusetts v. EPA, 415 F.3d
50 (D.C. Cir. 2005).
EPA and the appeals court stated that they considered the NAS/NRC
report Climate Change Science to be the scientific authority for the
decision to deny the petition to regulate. We feel an obligation to
inform this Court that they misunderstood or misrepresented the
contained in this report, to correct the public record as to what
Climate Change Science and subsequent NAS reports say about climate
change, and to offer our professional
insight on using scientific evidence to judge whether a particular
standard for regulatory action is met in the matter of climate change.
----------end quote----------

All of us should be able to find something in this statement worth
remembering. For instance, the admission that consensus and compelling
evidence means certainty. Indeed, as with any scientific findings,
these findings are tentative. However the level of uncertainty is
decreasing with every new data point and additional research.
What is scary is how the EPA misunderstood or misrepresented the work
by the NAS/NRC scientists.

The amicus brief continues to provide the scientific case supporting
global warming

-------begin quote------

To aid this Court in understanding the foregoing conclusion, we first
clarify what scientific knowledge informs us about anthropogenic
climate change.

---greenhouse gasses increase surface temperatures------
1. The basic physics underlying the greenhouse effect is firmly
established. Two principles in particular are as certain as any
phenomena in planetary sciences. First, particular atmospheric gases
("greenhouse gases") absorb radiation that otherwise would be lost to
space, and re-radiate it back to the ground. A planet with those
gases in its atmosphere is thus warmer at the surface than it would be
without them. Second, greater atmospheric concentrations of
greenhouse gases, all other things being equal, cause higher
temperatures at the surface. The Earth is habitable for its current
life forms in part because natural levels of greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere warm the surface.

----Human component is significant----
2. Over the last two centuries, it is virtually certain that human
activities have increased amounts of important greenhouse gases
(primarily CO2, CH4, N2O, and fluorocarbons8) in the atmosphere to
levels not seen in all of prior human experience, and likely not seen
for 3 million years.

----its effects are already noticable-----
3. It is likely or very likely9 that human-induced increases in these
greenhouse gases are already causing global climate to warm. Human
activities likely caused most of the approximately 0.6 oC (1.1 oF)
rise over the 20th century. J.A. 151, Climate Change Science at 1.
The mean ocean temperature has risen by 0.05 oC (0.09 oF), global
average sea level has risen by 0.1 to 0.2 meters (1/3 to 2/3 feet)
over the 20th century, and snow cover and Arctic ice have decreased by
about 10% and 10-15%, respectively, since the late 1960s (when data
first became available for
this measurement). Id. at 16. A variety of other climate factors are
changing consistent with warming induced by greenhouse gases. By
contrast, we know of no measures of climate on the global scale that
indicate cooling.

---The effects will increase and last----
4. It is virtually certain that what has been observed so far is only
the beginning, and that continued greenhouse gas emissions along
current trajectories will cause additional warming of the earth system
as a whole. The average time for removal from the atmosphere of added
carbon dioxide is measured in centuries. It is very likely that such
perturbation would cause the rate of surface warming and sea level
rise in the 21st century to be substantially larger and faster than
that experienced in the 20th century, without precedent in the past
10,000 years.

-----Note of caution-----
5. The first sentences of Climate Change Science state: Greenhouse
gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human
activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean
temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes
observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human
activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of
these changes is also a reflection of natural variability.
Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to
continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by
computer model simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include
increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid
regions to
drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on
the magnitude of the
warming and the rate with which it occurs.

--------the system is very complex------
6. Although the general link between increased greenhouse gases in the
atmosphere and increased warming of the earth system is virtually
certain, the complexity of the climate system means that predictions
of specific details that follow from this general link are subject to
varying degrees of certainty. Among the more certain predictions are
the following:

-------effects if CO2 does not further change-----
a. It is likely, based on both models and on data from the ice ages
over the last 400,000 years, that if atmospheric carbon dioxide
doubled from pre-industrial times, and rose no further, the long-term
rise of global average surface temperature (the "climate sensitivity")
would be between 1.5 and 4.5 oC (2.7 - 8.1 oF). J.A. 166, Climate
Change Science at 7.

------effects without emission reductions
b. In the absence of emissions reductions, however, carbon dioxide
concentrations in the atmosphere are very likely to increase to much
more than twice pre-industrial values, and the consequent rise in
global average temperature during the 21st century, projected to be
1.4 to
5.8 oC (2.5 to 10.4 oF), will likely continue to higher values beyond
the year 2100. IPCC, Technical Summary, at 69.

-------effects on ice melting-----
c. This amount of warming in 6.a and 6.b is very likely to drive
melting of arctic ice sheets and further increases in global average
sea level by 2100, with continued sea-level rise in the decades and
centuries following 2100.

d. The anticipated sea level rise, especially when combined with
likely increases in hurricane intensities, would exacerbate storm
surges and have direct, negative impacts on health and welfare in the
United States, and globally. These negative impacts would be
concentrated in
low-lying coastal regions, such as Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the Gulf
coast, and southern Florida.

More on the effects in the report

------------end quote----------------

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Received on Thu Dec 7 02:03:02 2006

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