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New study makes human involvement in climate change even harder to deny

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 7:10am
AllVoices

Commentary

If you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that made-man emissions from burning fossil fuels were directly related to severe, disruptive and persistent global weather patterns – often referred to as global warming or climate change – would you change the way you conduct your life?

A new study by a physics professor at Montreal"s McGill University can"t give you the 100 percent certainly you might want before making changes, but it comes close. If you accept the premise that analyzing historical data since 1500 can provide valuable information about the current state of the global climate, then you should, at the very least, familiarize yourself with “Scaling fluctuation analysis and statistical hypothesis testing of anthropogenic warming,” by McGill’s Dr. Shaun Lovejoy.

In the study, published April 6 in the journal Climate Dynamics, Lovejoy concludes that “the natural variability hypothesis’ can be ruled out “with confidence levels greater than 99 percent and with the most likely values at levels greater than 99.9 percent.”

Lovejoy analyzed temperature data compiled over the past 500 years to assess the hypothesis that warming over the past century is due to natural long-term variations in temperature, the McGill news release said.

The natural variability hypothesis rests on the premise that our planetary climate change is part of a naturally occurring weather cycle, a popular belief among those who deny that human activity related to carbon dioxide emission could have any significant bearing on the global climate.

“This study will be a blow to any remaining climate-change deniers,” Lovejoy said. “Their two most convincing arguments – that the warming is natural in origin, and that the computer models are wrong – are either directly contradicted by this analysis, or simply do not apply to it.”

Lovejoy, co-author of the 2013 Cambridge Press book “The Weather and Climate: Emergent Laws and Multifractal Cascades,” was able to link changing climate patterns to the beginning of the industrial era.

“We’ve had a fluctuation in average temperature that’s just huge since 1880 – on the order of about 0.9 degrees Celsius,” Lovejoy said in the McGill release. “This study shows that the odds of that being caused by natural fluctuations are less than one in a hundred and are likely to be less than one in a thousand.”

Will this study be referenced enough to at least get the climate change deniers to take an honest look?

“While the statistical rejection of a hypothesis can’t generally be used to conclude the truth of any specific alternative, in many cases – including this one – the rejection of one greatly enhances the credibility of the other,” Lovejoy said.

What if Lovejoy is right? What if, instead of having humanity’s best interests at heart as they seem to believe, former half-term Alaska Gov. and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and others are actually making matters worse by refusing to acknowledge human activity affects the global climate?

Elected officials and media personalities who deny human involvement in climate change have their reasons for doing so, from personal economic gain to tragically warped interpretations of religious texts, to mere stubbornness.

But when it becomes obvious that the basis of those denials rests on an unwillingness to examine the available data, voters must educate themselves and vote accordingly. If enough people agree with Lovejoy, the International Panel on Climate Change, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others, then natural-variability proponents" political clout will begin to dwindle.

If you change how you vote based on what you learn when you approach climate change research with an open mind, then perhaps complete catastrophe can still be averted.

If not, the definitive proof may arrive too late for humanity to do anything but suffer the consequences in painfully disastrous ways with repercussions too ghastly to even begin to imagine.

Additional sources and resources:

“Inhofe: Climate change is "laughable,’” The Hill, Jan. 8, 2014

“Group wants hurricanes named after politicians who “deny climate change,” Washington Post, Aug. 26, 2013

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