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Is global warming a scam?

 In the comment area, we discuss the time scale problem. Here is a cartoon that draws the human process and temperature changes in the geological history. Everyone will have a more intuitive understanding. On the geological history scale, the current warming is very alarming:


For the public, most of the key information can be found in the IPCC Working Group I Summary for Policymakers and is currently the most authoritative and objective source of information. However, since this is in the face of governments, it will be more detailed than the information the general public needs, and it will be more difficult to read.


In general, the global climate is warming is true, and this warming is caused by greenhouse gases emitted by humans. But there is a need to emphasize time scales: for example, on the interannual to ten-year scale, it is important that El Niño-Southern Oscillation, these climatic systems, and volcanic eruptions (global temperature reduction) are independent events. However, human greenhouse gas emissions have been above natural fluctuations and will continue to rise in temperature. This is not an economic interest and conspiracy. All the data is open to everyone to see; these two points are not controversial in the scientific community, more is a popular science topic and political crowbar. The questions that scientists deserve to be concerned about are how much warmer in the future, what the consequences of warming will be, and how we should respond. There is no consensus on these specific issues, but a large number of reviews and comparative studies by multinational research groups are underway, trying to integrate intellectual resources and form consensus.


For every research work, he/she is not studying the topic of "global warming", not even "climate change", but the cloud-forming process in the atmosphere, the inversion of atmospheric trace gases, the dynamics of marine plankton, Land Vegetation Remote Sensing, Glacier Dynamic Model, and other specific fields; each person has only a few areas that are good at it, and no one is a “global warming expert”. Fortunately, the understanding of the first two points only requires scientific common sense. Since various disciplines have found a large amount of evidence of warming and its consequences in recent decades, people think that there may be irreversible and catastrophic results, and this topic has gradually attracted attention. In order to better predict and respond, people have organized a communication platform between scientists and governments like IPCC, many new interdisciplinary projects, and professional magazines like Nature Climate Change. Solving this problem requires multi-country negotiations, so this has become a political issue; possible disastrous results and intergovernmental cooperation can spur public imagination and turn this into a media topic (mainly in Europe and America). At the same time, some interest groups attacked and smeared each other, and various conspiracy theories came out naturally. But later this has nothing to do with science; what is the climate gate event is just a public opinion event.


There are too many different aspects of this problem, so I split it into four small problems. The first three are about global warming, and the last one is to explain some popular suspicions and the game of various interest groups. You are welcome to suggest other aspects, and welcome to point out the mistakes or ignorance.


Here are four different aspects of this question:


1. Is global temperature warming?


2. How can humans cause global climate change?


3. Is global warming caused by humans?


4. So why would anyone question global warming? What are the benefits behind the voices that support/against humans' global warming?


1. Is global temperature warming?


In short, yes, there is a lot of evidence, and there is no conclusive evidence. In more detail, it is warming on the 100-year scale, and there are many fluctuations in the 10-year scale. On the centennial scale, the speed of warming itself is also increasing, while the high latitudes in the northern hemisphere increase faster than in low latitudes. .


The figure is taken from the IPCC Fourth Report (2007), showing global temperature changes from the Industrial Revolution in 1850 to 2007. The left picture on the upper column shows the change in ground temperature, and the picture on the right shows the average temperature change in the troposphere, which is in fifteen degrees Celsius; the troposphere is the bottom atmosphere about 10 km above the surface. It is clear that the Northern Hemisphere has a higher latitude change. The lower bar shows the average temperature curve, the black dots represent the annual average temperature, the blue and blue regions represent the smoothed curve and the reliable range; the four straight lines are trends in different stages, and the visible trend itself is increasing. In other words, global temperatures have risen significantly over the past 150 years and the rate of increase has accelerated.


Most of the temperature records since 1850 come from site data, and earlier temperature records require reconstruction using oxygen isotope concentrations, sporopollen, tree rings, and so on. Each of these methods has a corresponding statistical method to adjust the error and reduce the uncertainty, such as the elimination of the urban expansion effect of the site data. In the past 30 years, there have been satellite remote sensing temperature data covering the whole world, with high precision and spatial resolution, which also point to the same conclusion. Many data organizations have detailed data and visualizations that the public can download or view, such as NASA and CRU. NASA is a good source of information, because climate change has a lot of controversy in the US (as mentioned below), NASA needs to clarify to the public, so I have done a lot of popular science articles (such as Climate Change: Consensus) and very cool real-time data. Visualize, put some screenshots and corresponding links here.


This is NASA's Eyes on the Earth program, which allows you to view satellite position, temperature, precipitation, sea level, and CO2 concentration in real time. This is China's temperature data:


This is data on water anomalies in the Americas, another topic that is related to climate change but may be more important.



2. How can humans cause global climate change?


In short, humans emit greenhouse gases, preventing energy from being released from the Earth into space and raising temperatures. It can be said that more solar energy is being pressed within the atmosphere.


Further explanation is a bit more complicated. In general, the Earth is in an energy balance, receiving energy from the short-wave radiation of sunlight, and radiating energy back into space through long-wave radiation (infrared); this is an energy balance and temperature stability. Every gas in the atmosphere has its own preferences for the wavelength of absorption, while greenhouse gases tend to absorb long-wave radiation. The absorption of long-wave radiation increases the temperature of the gas and also increases the energy input (also long-wave radiation) to the surface. After warming up, the atmosphere and the surface will release more energy into space, so eventually the earth will still reach energy balance, but will stay at a higher temperature.


Since these warmings are simple mechanisms of classical physics, scientists have long known about the effects of greenhouse gases and the possible consequences of human carbon dioxide emissions. For example, Svante Arrhenius, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, gave the calculation in 1896. GS Callendar also gave the results in 1938, but there were not enough observations to verify it, so people did not take it seriously in the early twentieth century. . However, the corresponding basic mechanism is a consensus that has already been established. Current observations and evidence will be mentioned later.


The image below is from Wikipedia and shows the absorption of radiation from different bands by different gases. The horizontal axis is the wavelength and the vertical axis is the absorption percentage. In the first column, red is the band that enters the atmosphere, mainly in visible light, and blue is the band that enters space from the atmosphere, mainly in infrared. The second column shows the total absorption ratio of the atmosphere, and the third to last column shows the absorption curves of several gases. Take the third column of carbon dioxide as an example. There is a strong peak in the long-wave region, indicating that after adding carbon dioxide, it will absorb more energy that would otherwise be output into space and increase the surface temperature. The fifth column is the absorption curve of oxygen and ozone, in which the UV (ultraviolet) portion is substantially absorbed by ozone. This is why ozone is called the umbrella of life in the upper atmosphere (stratosphere) because it blocks ultraviolet rays from reaching the ground; in the lower atmosphere, the absorption of long waves by ozone makes it an important greenhouse gas.




At the same time, carbon dioxide is only one of the greenhouse gases (and currently the most important one). Other gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, also have a large impact, and their importance depends on the intensity of the greenhouse effect, human emissions, and the amount of time remaining in the atmosphere. The above figure also shows that water vapor is also an important greenhouse gas. Humans do not directly affect the water vapor concentration, but the temperature rise may cause the concentration of water vapor in the atmosphere to increase, which further leads to temperature rise, so it is a potential positive feedback effect. Other more dangerous positive feedback mechanisms are mentioned below.


Climate warming is a century-old problem, but the current rate of change in greenhouse gas concentrations is staggering at any scale. The picture below shows the changes in carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide over the past 10,000 years. It can be seen that these three kinds of people emit large amounts of gas and rise rapidly after the industrial revolution. Even without considering the greenhouse effect, the acidification effect of carbon dioxide on seawater is a very important issue.



Climate warming is a century-old problem, but the current rate of change in greenhouse gas concentrations is staggering at any scale. The picture below shows the changes in carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide over the past 10,000 years. It can be seen that these three kinds of people emit large amounts of gas and rise rapidly after the industrial revolution. Even without considering the greenhouse effect, the acidification effect of carbon dioxide on seawater is a very important issue.



4. So why would anyone question global warming? What are the benefits behind the voices that support/against humans' global warming?


In general, the opposition has a much greater incentive to profit than the supporter. This is the case at the moment, and this is also the case when similar situations occur in history. This is not the first time humans have faced such a situation, nor will it be the last. The characteristics of this time, the first is that the problem is huge, the scientists need a lot of effort to reach a consensus, and the second is that the possible consequences are more extensive than before.


First clarify a little about the concept of "scientists" written here. The "scientists" in the media reports are actually very different from the scientists you imagine; at least when the US media or politicians use the term "scientists", they often only indicate that the person has a doctorate, and even the science major may And what is being done now is also possible. At the same time, the division of scientific research is extremely detailed. Just as a scientist who does atmospheric power does not understand condensed matter physics, a scientist who does polymer materials cannot understand marine ecology; but they are all called "scientists." The “scientists” I am talking about here refer to researchers who are currently engaged in earth sciences and centuries-scale climate-related research at universities or national research institutes. For readers who do not know the relevant field experts, the easiest way to judge credibility when seeing various “documents” is to see if the published magazine is peer-reviewed and belongs to the Scientific Citation Index (SCI), and whether the author and the team belong the university/scientific institution you know.  There is no discrimination against scientists in private research institutions; only the private research institutions' interest chains are very complex, and the main research and progress are still driven by universities and national research institutes.


a. proponent motivation


Reason one: The scientific community is only interested in new discoveries. "Global warming" has been known to humans for decades. There is no progress at all. Now there are only a few new articles published each year for the latest review. On the contrary, if you can find the opposite evidence, this is a big discovery.


The second reason: globally, there is more money willing to support opponents'research, and the money comes from private sources, with more "grey zones" bringing personal benefits. The reason is mentioned in the "motive of the opposition".


No scientist has jumped out to say that global warming is a fake because it does not find true evidence; it is not that scientists are very disciplined, but they still want to be human beings in the circle. For scientists, being found to be falsified or even mistaken, their careers are basically ruined. The best example is the Xiaobao Fangzi incident in the previous period; it can be seen from the suicide of her tutor that how important this reputation is to scientists.


The public that can be found publicly said that global warming is wrong/false, most of them are scientists raised by independent institutions, or retired physics professors. For example, the Oregon Petition, which has a greater impact on global warming, has a signature of 31,000, a collection of celebrities, and claims that most of the signers are scientists; after the investigation, the signer only needs a bachelor's degree, one-third. There are indeed doctoral degrees, most of which are engineering, and there are basically no researchers in related fields. Slightly mention one of the leader Fred Singer, he is one of the few opponents of global change who can be considered "scientists." It is a relevant point for  making a satellite before he retires. However, his most famous point is that environmental issues are opposed: against the "violet and melanoma relationship" many years ago, against "the ozone hole is caused by Freon emissions", and recently opposed "the public hazard of second-hand smoke", now opposed "Global warming is caused by humans." John Hockenberry of PBS made a documentary Climate of Doubt in 2012. There are a lot of interviews with Singer. You can see it.


The other party that may benefit is the governments, or specifically some politicians. To avoid sensitivity, here is the United States. Whether it is climate change or other smaller-scale environmental problems, the commonality is that the consequences of the problem will not be borne by the manufacturer of the problem. It is similar to a zero-sum game, the market cannot solve it, and can only be coordinated through government regulations and taxes. . So this is a very good means of expanding the control of the federal government. I don't know much about American polity and law, but there are two aspects that may make this tendency (in the US) not very serious: on the one hand, one of the basic starting points of the US legal system is to beware of the expansion of the federal government, so the wind has some rudders. Difficulties; on the other hand, the vested interests of the upper echelons of the government do not have much direct control over research funding. Research funding is layered down. After the last few layers, scientists are already making decisions, and often scientists in the first line take turns to make decisions (such as NSF's decision-making system). But I don't know much about this aspect, and I hope that people who know more can answer it.


b. Motivation of the interests of the opponents


The biggest gainers of opposition are the traditional energy industries and the manufacturing industries that have a huge impact on the environment. In most countries, these consortia of traditional energy industry and manufacturing industry can actually control national decision-making, not to mention the media. At the same time, the energy industry has a large number of scientists, calculating their own environmental impact and optimizing decision-making, so they can research Cause some impact. This interest chain is also the most terrible place for me to think of global warming as a political issue. The reason for this is simple: the solution to the environmental problem is nothing more than who is responsible for the damage, but no consortium is willing to bear the corresponding price; but in fact, these consortia have the largest say. The biggest control over these interest chains is the market itself, which is why people have proposed to use the "carbon emissions trading" to solve this problem.


The more important environmental problems, the more they will touch the larger chain of interests that can control the government, scientists and the media; similar things have happened countless times in the development of human industry. For example, through Silent Spring, people began to know how terrible the bioconcentration of DDT is, the principle is intuitive, and the evidence is conclusive. Now countries have strictly prohibited it; but at that time DDT was already an important source of interest for the chemical industry and agriculture. Rachel Carson, the author of Spring, is a well-known scientist who was subjected to a large number of personal threats during the research and attacks by the media and even the Ministry of Agriculture. On the other hand, this is an advertisement in the 1947 Time Magazine:



Similarly, when epidemiology first discovered the great harm of second-hand smoke, people were particularly worried about the impact on the lungs of infants and young children. But this was the advertisement of Marlboro at the time.



There are many other examples. For example, we now know the relationship between lead and bone pain, and countries have banned the use of leaded gasoline. The great danger of leaded gasoline was discovered by Clair Patterson, who was already a famous scientist. The reaction of the oil company is to try personal threats and buy out first. After Patterson decided to fight this matter with his own efforts, the oil company used its own research team to influence the public and the government, and even used resources to allow the National Science Council to exclude Patterson from participating in the work on atmospheric lead content, even though he was already Recognized as a top expert. Similarly, Sherwood Rowland won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering the chain reaction of Freon to ozone, but he also spent more than a decade alone against threats and pressure from the entire Freon industry. Rowland's efforts led to the Montreal Protocol, a very successful example of intergovernmental cooperation to solve global environmental problems (also semi-marketized).


The previous examples are all interest chains of DDT, leaded gasoline, cigarettes, and Freon; these examples are only a fraction of the carbon emissions (global warming) issues that concern all aspects of the traditional energy industry and manufacturing. The pressures and benefits behind global warming can be imagined. At the same time, the impact of the greenhouse effect is global, and no country automatically needs to be responsible for it. This is the so-called zero-sum game between countries, and it is also difficult to solve. But there are some optimism about carbon emissions. In the previous examples, environmental issues directly affect the people of the country, the state has the responsibility to manage, and the industry fears that the public will directly suppress the research; the national government is not directly responsible for greenhouse gases, nor will it directly produce Pressure, the industry will not directly suppress or distort the facts. Another optimism is that the current information transparency is much higher than at that time, most of the important satellite data is public, it is difficult to carry out black-box manipulation, and there is no longer a need for "heroic" scientists to fight alone. Therefore, some companies in the traditional energy industry have already denied climate change from the beginning to now recognize climate change, help set industry standards, and develop new energy sources. This is not because the companies have the rhythm; but because if the megatrend is so, it can take the lead and form a virtuous circle.


There are other "beneficiaries" of "anti-global warming", mainly in the United States. This is also why the United States is now a great resistance to reaching a consensus on emission reduction; in many ways China and the EU are more active than the United States. The first group is a religious person who believes that these are God's things and denies scientific research. These people have a lot to do with groups that oppose evolution and oppose homosexuality. This reason sounds stupid in China, but the United States is actually a very religious country, and at least every president is nominally a Christian. For example, one member, Jim Inhofe, said "only god can change climate...some people who are so arrogant to think they are so powerful they can change climate." Some time ago, the news reported that this is responsible for environmental and public affairs. Many websites and people on Facebook have researched and ridiculed. The second group is the right-wingers in the United States, which have a lot to do with groups that oppose bans and promote government reduction. Those who can be considered Christian conservatism also coincide with the first group. Their view is that they do not want the government to expand its normative and regulatory powers to support the development of the traditional energy industry (which of course has an interest link). For example, Florida (very right state) governor Rick Scott said there is not enough evidence to show that global warming is caused by humans. This report analyzes some of the reasons, and the video inside shows Florida scientists trying to convince the governor (these Scientists are basically big cattle in their respective fields).


The global warming conspiracy theories circulated on the Internet originated in the United States, and many of them should have been funded by these groups. Of course, America's own media has a lot to reflect on. The documentary Climate of Doubt, mentioned earlier, surveys why conspiracy theories have become increasingly popular from 2008 to 2012 and what consortia are influencing them. People outside the wall can see this here. Then almost all the opponents, including Jim Inhofe, would say, "I'm not a scientist, but I think... And the American media are particularly fond of joking about these stalks, such as Colbert (, sorry not to have found it inside the wall) or Uncle Cheng.


There is another reason that does not directly lead to conspiracy theories or objections, but leads people to think that there has always been opposition. There is a convention in the American talk show that always likes to discuss and debate with people from opposite sides. And climate change is an old thing to say, and always finds opponents, so everyone will always have two people in the fight, it seems that the problem has been controversial. John Oliver has a episode that is a mockery of this.