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Climate Change: A Subject Being Silenced?

Climate change is an important subject, not something to keep silent about, even if that means that some people may not like what they hear. People in the high artic and on islands in the Pacific and elsewhere are already noticing changes in the weather, including hotter, drier summers, higher tides, glaciers that melt, and shallower currents, not so much to make a dramatic difference, but enough for negative ramifications.

The reality is that we don’t often like it, but that won’t stop it from happening. And if it’s being studied, talked about, brought to everyone’s attention, then people can get an idea of what’s going on, find ways to deal with it, and prevent it. When the Bush administration said no to the Kyoto protocol, there were countries that said, well we do want to do something about it now, demonstrating their commitment to the future.

It makes it all the more troublesome that a NASA climatologist, Mr Jim Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has been told that he should not talk about dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate, because we do not know how much humans are changing the Earth’s climate or how much change is dangerous. To which he replied, in 2004, “Actually, we know quite a lot.”

I wonder if the person who told this to Mr Hansen knows that in the high artic regions, there are people who have to move from where they have lived for generations, because the climate is changing, and that means that the ground doesn’t stay frozen as long as before, and it isn’t as well protected. Water eats away at the coastline, where it couldn’t do that before.

People on small islands in the Pacific start to get woried as well. The water that floods their islands stays longer and the flood levels rise all the time. The islands aren’t very high above the water, so any rise in sea level is a problem for them. They may not know all the science, but surely they can look and see that something is changing. People like them will be the first to find out about the effects of climate change, while most of us will watch and hope it doesn’t happen where we live.

I can’t say I look forward to a possible seven meter rise in global sea level. It would mean that my country would have to double the height of its levees. Seven meters is a lot. The levees are already high, not so high as some in the Netherlands, but we can’t afford to be without them. Most of where I live lies between one and three meters above sea level; other parts of the country lay higher. A rise of seven meters would mean that we might have to fortify some of our cities again, not as protection against war, but against the sea. But other people, like those in Banlgadesh, may have to do that as well but might not have the resources to do so.

A lot of the fertile ground in the world that people depend on for agriculture is rather low-lying. So a car that would use water as a fuel would be a nice thing. It provides transportation, drinking water if wanted, and doesn’t contribute to global warming.

In Greeland the ice melts, and the current that keeps Europe warm has diminished, not so much that consequences would be disastrous, yet enough to be concerned about what would happen if it did. The current that keeps North America warm is, to my knowledge, still intact. There have been more major tropical storms this year than there have been for a ong time. In order to understand why these events are occurring, climate change must be a subject that is discussed.

Animals that previously did not appear in certain regions, because the climate there wasn’t hospitable for them, are living there now. Certain fish species have been found in waters along the French coast, but more to the north than before. Some diseases have been travelling slowy but steadily to the north. These diseases have been in existence for a very long time and are just now beginning to spread to northern climates. Scientists should be able to study whether this is due to climate change or to some other cause.

“Mr Jim Hansen was the person who first got global warming on the world’s front pages in 1988, when he told a senate committee hearing during a sweltering US drought that there was strong evidence for the greenhouse effect and it was time to stop waffling.” It sounds to me as if someone is still waffling.

And for those who say, well we’ve heard about it, but why should we care ? Well isn’t it a government’s job to serve and protect the people? And is global warming, climate change and the effects of that not something that everyone, will soon start to notice? President Bush’s speech about a cleaner future is a good step. It is. He is about the last person I had expected to say that. So I was wrong. I’m glad I was.

Not only will it make the US and other countries working on that less dependent on foreign oil, but it also provides cleaner air, which would be a big benefit, especially in cities. People are already researching new fuels, like hydrogen, fuel cell technology, and bio-fuels. I was also surprised to read that people are researching the use of iron as fuel, a strange but seemingly workable idea.

I remembering at school in English class, reading an article from a newspaper, about the development of smart vehicles, which was a consequence of the high oil prices in Europe. To give an example, a few years ago I was in Tampa, Florida. I noticed that one gallon of fuel there cost about the same as one liter in Europe. That is quite a difference. Supose you fill your tank in the US and it costs you $1.50 per gallon, and you travel to Europe and there it costs you $1.50 per liter. You’ll notice the difference in how much it costs you rather quickly.

So although a smart car is unlikely to appear in the US market, other initiatives like hybrids have appeared, and more fuel efficient cars. Energy efficiency is also practiced in heating technology and power generation.

If a laptop can work on battery for several hours, then what else can be made to work on batteries for a while ? Some lamps can be used for up to six hours without having to be powered by electricity. People will not like giving up thier comfort, so providing convenience and comfort while being energy efficient should be studied, and shouldn’t be impossible.

If the voices discussing climate change would be silenced, then research into such initiatives that would benefit people could be seen as not worth the trouble. Fuel cell powered bikes, due to arrive on the market in the UK end of this year, offer clean transport. You can drink the exhaust, it doesn’t contribute to global warming, it provides people with jobs.

Perhaps you know somebody who is intrested in this, or works on it, or is studying it. If there is bad news, like the possiblity that the melting water from Greenlands glaciers is lubricating them so that they move faster to the sea, then it is better to know about it, because then people can look to see if it’s so, and deal with it. It won’t go away because some people say, well no you shouldn’t talk about it. It will surprise us in ways that nobody will like.

It can be only concluded form this that we should support people like Jim Hansen and others so that they can tell us what they know, what they have discovered, things that can be looked into, dealt with if possible, and people can learn what we need to learn to know what we’re dealing with.

Keeping it silent will do us no good, because it means that the news may be delayed and a consequence of that delay would be a higher cost over a shorter amount of time. I prefer to spread costs and to be ready, rather then pretend nothing is going on, and then suddenly being faced with that which we pretended not to know. We may wish then, if only we had …

(Source: New Scientist)

About Florisv

  • Al Barger

    Floris, I appreciate your efforts as a writer, but this is a lot of nothing. It’s not any kind of explanation of a scientific argument, but just a lot of extremely presumptuous, vague prejudices flying all directions.

    For starters, who’s “silencing” anyone? You can’t turn on a damned tv without some supposed newsperson telling us that the sky is falling.

    In the second place, there’s nothing here to base any conclusions on. You’ve just thrown out a half dozen unverified anecdotal sob stories. Some Eskimos had to move? Sorry about their bad luck, but that doesn’t mean anything.

    For starters, climate is not a constant. Of COURSE bits of climate change here and there constantly. It’s all about energy and movement.

    You’re jumping all the way from a few anecdotes to saying that the sky is falling, and not just that the sky is falling, but that WE’RE causing it. No “quad erat demonstratum” for you.

    Science requires considerably more than getting a couple of guys in lab coats to say something. It takes real proof and logic.

    Plus, this is not a vote or an opinion poll. I’m not the least bit interested in destroying our industry and lifestyles to appease Europeans and third world schmucks looking for a shakedown.

    I’m in favor of clean water and air and such, but most of this global warming crap is obviously a religious faith substituting for Christianity rather than anything vaguely having to do with science. Now global warming serves in this secular religion as the original sin.

    You don’t have to prove any of this global warming stuff with real evidence, with hysterical feelings substituting for reason. I still remember several years ago watching Bill Maher carrying on about global warming on a hot summer day, exasperated with naysayers. “Can’t you just FEEL it?”

    No, no I can’t.

    The Earth rotates, seasons change, oceans rise and fall. Naturally, things are going to shift around a bit over time with all this stuff going on. We used to have glaciers in Indiana. Now it gets hot in the summer. That’s not evidence that mankind is destroying the Earth. It’s just nature doing its thing.

  • Dave Nalle

    Those who believe anything but the party line on climate change are certainly being silenced, even when they have overwhelming evidence supporting their conclusions. There’s a hostile political and academic attitude which is really distorting this issue, and that’s extremely dangerous if it leads to the formation of unsound policy like the Kyoto disaster.


  • Hoggle

    I am in general agreement. There is a sense with climate change that the impact is too gradual and slow to make good TV, so editors struggle to make it interesting. It’s not an earthquake or a famine or a bomb going off.

    Things are improving – even over the last year it has become a regular news item across the world. The number of people denying the scientific evidence is shrinking and increasingly shrill in their objections, urging us to wait until everyone is 100% certain that it is going to be a bad thing, rather than just 99% certain.

    We are boiling the frog and trying to suggest it get out.

  • Al Barger

    Well now Hoggle, YOU may be 99% sure, but that doesn’t make any of it actually true. The actual science isn’t backing you here, even if you can get some people who are supposed to be scientists to agree with you.

    Also, the shrillness is pretty much entirely from the Chicken Littles flopping around hysterically like a bunch of decapitated chickens insisting that the pot is boiling when it just isn’t.

  • Hoggle


    I would rather not engage with your ad hominem attacks (which are against the comment policy), so I’ll limit myself to addressing your logical fallacies.

    99% certain is not a claim that something is true, therefore you are refuting a claim I did not make.

    The science and scientists that are backing me are numerous and widespread. To take just one recent example:

    I can give you thousands more scientific references, but will just hope that you read this one to start with.

  • Mark Saleski

    in fact, there are many reports of administration attempts at suppressing hansen’s message. so this is NOT a whole lot of nothing.

    and of course, al and dave will keep saying “there’s no such thing as global warming” until the day their skin is peeled off by high ultraviolet radiation levels.

  • Dave Nalle

    Mark, I have NEVER said there’s no such thing as global warming. My concern is over the suppression of all the other climate trend data which is either independent of or contradictory to the global warming theory, as well as the spurious claims of human causality as a major factor in global warming.

    At this point the evidence has mounted pretty considerably to support a much more complex model than global warming which very few people seem willing to acknowledge because although it fits the evidence better it doesn’t fit their political agenda. The fact is that we’re looking at a climate zone shift which trumps any minor global warming effects pretty significantly.


  • Hoggle

    As the precise prognosis for the established symptoms is uncertain – the situation may trigger an ice age, although that is considered unlikely – most scientists avoid ‘global warming’ in favour of ‘climate change’ which does not create as many presumptions.

    Climate is changing – I’ve yet to encounter a rational person who would claim that it is permanently static. What remains to be debated is the relative contributions of the different causations and the long-term direction and nature of the changes.

    However, these debates should be left to scientists, not random anonymous people on the internet. We would do better to spread and read information, so we can make informed decisions about what information to spread to others.

  • Al Barger

    Dear Hoggle, re: supposed “ad hominem” attacks: Boo frickin’ hoo. One, those are fairly mild remarks compared to the overall provocations of the climatological Chicken Littles. Two, they’re not necessarily directed at you or the author. File them under “if the shoe fits.”

    But jumping to the ad hominem thing is just exactly in keeping with the kind of grabbing at unearned moral superiority that lies at the heart of much of the supposed global warming hoo-hah. I’m not inclined to treat that respectfully as a reasonable difference of opinion.

    Scientists are welcome to debate the hell out climate change, that’s good. But public policy is not to be set by people wearing lab coats only. The global warming crowd PRESUMES to make HUGE sweeping commands on our money and our freedom. At some point, it’s just another form of authoritarianism. Your invocation of the Blogcritics comment policy is just a petty example of the same presumptuous mindset.

    I reject this out of hand. The US Constitution says nothing about guys in lab coats being in charge of public policy. You want to impose the ridiculous Kyoto crap, you’re going to have to convince voters to support it. And if you want to convince THIS voter, it’s going to take real evidence that the climate is seriously and unusually changing AND that this is caused by specific human activity.

    I am in fact open to scientific evidence and persuasion, but I’m absolutely not seeing anything close to convincing. However, I’m not just looking for some way to talk myself into believing a bunch of stuff that sounds a little unlikely in the first place. Getting haughty with me and acting all superior won’t get you anywhere at all. Feel free to try another approach, though.

  • Floris Vermeir

    I did not include all the scientif evidence that there is, because this text would have become to long, I had some problems in the past with that, thats one, and many of the things refered to here, are just common knowledge for me, but I may have forgotten that that is not the case for everyone. so thanks for the remark, I’ll do my best to take that into account in the future.

    It is true that climate is not static, it changes all the time, but the question is how hard it is changing, and if we influence that. We know we do that in evolution of species, or better there disapearnce. Climate change is different.

    Would dealing with climate change necesseraly do harm to your economies and industries. The z-engine, a finnish new engine, ( is an example where a concern about climate change, has lead to industry. This is not the only example. For years a european engine with an efficieny of 95 % has been tested and under developement. An normal car engine, isn’t that efficient. Its only 35-45% at most.

    A japanese car that was being tested in New York, runs on hydrogen, works even when its below 0 degree celcius, and they are working on a fills station for at home, so you can really say to your wife/partner. Hey darling, do you give the car some water ?

    I’m not saying it is the magical solution it may be seen by some, as in certain places cars running on hydrogen, with water vapour as exhaust may cause changes in the fauna and flora. Still even Russia and Norway work on cars where the water exhaust is reused as fuel. I have done some thinkering with that as well, having the possibility to build my own prototypes, but more for in hospitals and the kind. I just thought after seeing the Huricane Kathrina, that having electricty is good, but if you can’t steralize the gear, and have clean water, it isn’t that much use. One may then remark, that I have personal intrest int this. Yes in that I wouldn’t like to see my own country flooded, and 2000 years of history disapear. Let alone what we call home and the production capability for food, disapear. No in that prototypes cost money.

    As for the inuit having to move. The reason is that the pattern of temperature changes: when it freezes, how long, and how strong has changed. So that it freezes but later. Meaning that at the moment the ground was protected in the past, because it turned into it ice, that is not the case anymore. So the ground gets washed away. Supose you live there, and you say, that used to me my house, my home, and now its gone. You can call that bad luck. True. And one can wonder if that hasn’t happened there before. But if it did or not, its happenig right now, and they have been living there for generations. It should be checked if it happened there in the past as well.

    In the south of england ther is an islnd, not that big, and its getting smaleer e ery year. The sea eats away at hte coastline, and this cna best be seen in a amusmen park, where there are pictures of hwere it used to be, adn where it is now. Or of the remnast of ar oda, houses, that are jsut on the border line. Sometiems several meters disappear into the sea, at other times only a few centimeters. When I was there, Iw as wondering if it had been doing that ever since or before th time of the romans, and how big the island would have been then. Had there been any buildings that had now vanished into the sea. I still can’t answer that question, now, several years later. But it does mark out a point.

    I didn’t mention an example from India, because of that point. Or should I say possible example. It was also a place where the sea always came closer. And that was blamed on global warning climate change. I personnaly think that global warming is part of climate change, not the other way around. But I’ll try to explain that later.

    I had reservations because of three examples, actually 4, they are all historic, some date back 2000 years or more. In 3 place in Europe and one in India, cities, villages, places disapear into the sea. The closest one from where I live is the drownd land of Saeftinge, close to antwerp harbor. But I won’t go into that one.

    The 4 that I want to use to point something out are: An ancient city in Italy, a place called Raversijde, which was a mediveal village on the flemish coast, a place near Denmark which used to be a mine in the pre-Roman time (so before they conquered more then just italy), and an english city on the coast of India. I could add certain caves been recently found, but of which the entrance is now flooded, and circle of wood, like Stonehenge used to be (that is know from arecheological investigations) but found on
    the sea shore, unexpected that is.

    What do these places have in common, they all lay bellow sea level, some like raverside appear whe its low tide, and your lucky, others lay below see level so that divers can dive trough them. Like for example a part of Alexandria. Some of them have in common as well, that the reason of them going below sea level is more geological. Yet for the cave that isn’t true. Its stil there. The only thing that has happend is that the sea level rose, and the entrance was closed off. Its a bit like the island found in the street of Gribraltar, which some may say has to do with Atlantis, but that left a side, if people ever lived there, then they don’t anymore.

    The reason I wanted to use them, is that like the Italian city, it was already in know in ancient times so when they were still a republic, roman times, that there was a legend of a city and that they could see sometimes the light being reflected form a staute of the temple. The colonial english city in India lays for the largest part below sea level now, yet its isn’t very old. Wal Raversijde, lays on an old Island, and currently, form what I know about half of that island, lays under the sea level, and didn’t used to do that.

    I wanted to mention as they could be used to say, look global warming is happening and its human induced, while at the time, it happened to those places, current levels of industry and pollution where not the case. I consider form the scientif evidence I have read over the years, and being able to think that climate change is happening, and that at least part of it is human induced.

    But also that just pointing out things without enough data to say, look your right, might do the cause that affects us all; even if we don’t feel it all, and I don’t think its effects will be spread evenly across the globe; that of climate change and how it treathens our existence no good.

    Earhts climate and events that happened on Earth are rather complex. And island may be eaten up by the sea, and coast lines been extended with sand from somewhere else, as it has done so for many centuries, without any influence by humans on the climate. If we can say, look we know this and this to happen without climate change, just the currents and the like, then those who say not there is no climate change, can be answered. And be said, look this what happens anyhow, yet when we take that away we still see that this is happening.

    This examples comes from history class, and was given as an example of pollution, where it in fact is more, one of the best examples of evolution. In Northern England during the industrial revolution an find for a period of 100 years after, polution was so bad, that treats became darker, and that a certain species of mot (looks like a butterfly but isn’t), that was ligth colored, and some that weren’t. The light colored got eaten and the dark colored trived. Until poluttion was cleared and the process reversed, and the lighter ones trived and the darker ones were eaten. That is an evolutionary force at work. Like gravity is one.

    I find it hard to accept that that would not influence climate in any way. The best proof until now, is that 3 glaciers in greenland are melting, most are, but these are speeding up. That is not good news. Glacier can melt, but if they speed up then something is making them do so. For them to melt it has to get warmer. That means something is getting them to warm up.

    Not doing something now, may harm your economy in the future, but its already harming your image of your country globally. Even if part of that image, is rather unrealistic.

    Although it is scientist job to research things, amateur scientist help as well, and people intrested in it, may look for solutions to stop poluting things. So let them discuss things, but give them information, and correct things clearly, and politly when they are wrong.

    I would appricate that, more then somebody saying, no you can’t look into that. Rather then to say, the scientists will decide it. Because then you act like the creationist do. Acting like that, is giving it them on a plate.

    Scientist may decide, they are the people with most research, and knowledge and information about things, they are people to. But if they would be the only once intrested not much would happen. Often people are intrested, but when they see hwo much it would cost they back off. Thats understandable, so at that shoudl be doen soemthing.

    I recently read that a study said that the benifitis of dealing with climate change, do not outweight the costs. But if the sea level rises with 6 metres, then that means that many people will have to move, many fertile areas will be flooded, flooded city’s and installations would pollute things more. We can better hope it doesn’t happen, because we are ill prepaired for it.

    A simple example, a more energy efficient pc, one that work of the electricity grid for some time, be recharged at night, may be there. But msot peopel jsut buy a pc, or laptop and plug it into the mains when needed, without ever thinking, what if I could recharge battery of devices at night, and then use it at day. Why is there ven in Europe not a low volt network in a house, for the lighting ?

    If I write or talk about such things, then people look at me, like I came from Mars.

    I’ll have a look tommorrow as well, but I don’t want to get the sauce to but, well that would be a first.

  • BrianMarkey

    It’s not a whole lot of nothing. It’s super cereal! The high artic needs us.