Saturday, 28 March 2009

On human-induced climate change

Further to the recent postings on climate change there is a very thought provoking article in the journal Science of the Total Environment by Lillo and Oyarzun.

The authors highlight that we currently face a public debate that at least in part has become bitter and somewhat ideological. On one side stand those who mildly or strongly oppose the mere notion of man-induced climate change. On the other there is a strong faction that in its extreme side freely speaks in terms of a near-future 'doomsday'. In the middle stands a community (which includes myself) that would really want to see a sound discussion and actual proofs going beyond climate modelling.

To geologists, climate change is not the exception but the norm. There is not a 'standard climate' to start with, so change would be the least one could expect, either in the short or long term.

It would be naive to think that modern industrialised societies play no part in climate change but similarly the use of a single (such as CO2) or just a few parameters to understand climate seems over-simplistic. Earth is an extremely complex planet and an often overlooked but critical part of the analysis is to look at the interplay between variables. No variable on its own can fully explain everything, and data should be carefully analysed before grand conclusions are reached.

Most of the attention has focused on greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, a narrow vision that fails to consider other potentially (short-term) disruptive climate scenarios, such as those that could be induced by the oceans' role in climate change, and volcanic eruptions.

The full article can be downloaded from ScienceDirect.

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