Friday, June 02, 2006

New York Times is conveniently incomplete in reporting sources of greenhouse gases

Yesterday's New York Times reported that 'Studies Portray Tropical Arctic in Distant Past'. The article refers to three Nature papers that analyze a very warm pre-historic Artic Ocean. (Guess there must have been quite a few SUVs 55 million year ago!)

The following paragraph in the Times' article is worth looking at a bit closer (emphais added):

The new analysis confirms that the Arctic Ocean warmed remarkably 55 million years ago, which is when many scientists say the extraordinary planetwide warm-up called the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum must have been caused by an enormous outburst of heat-trapping, or greenhouse, gases like methane and carbon dioxide. But no one has found a clear cause for the gas discharge. Almost all climate experts agree that the present-day gas buildup is predominantly a result of emissions from smokestacks, tailpipes and burning forests.
Considering that the article was in the Science Times section of the paper, it's not to much for a bit of scientific curiosity from the authors. Porkopolis readers might rememeber that this post showed that water vapor is also a greenhouse gas. Specifically:

'Global Warming: A Chiling Perspective' is a well sourced analysis with a different point of view. The 'Causes of Global Climate Change' section makes the following case for natural occuring water vapor as the major contributor the greenhouse effect:

As illustrated in this chart of the data in Table 3, the combined greenhouse contributions of CO2, methane, N2O, and misc. gases are small compared to water vapor!

Total atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) -- both man-made and natural-- is only about 3.62% of the overall greenhouse effect-- a big difference from the 72.37% figure in Table 2, which ignored water!

Water vapor, the most significant greenhouse gas, comes from natural sources and is responsible for roughly 95% of the greenhouse effect (4). Among climatologists, this is common knowledge, but among special interests, certain governmental groups, and news reporters this fact is under-emphasized or just ignored altogether.

Conceding that it might be "a little misleading" to leave water vapor out, they nonetheless defend the practice by stating that it is "customary" to do so!
Now, if we take into account possible solar activity that is increasing evaporation from our oceans (creating more water vapor greenhouse gas) we have another plausible explanation for the warming we are experiencing this time around.

Guess the 'objective' folks over at the New York Times have yet to stumble on that possibility.

Related: Film review of 'An Inconvenient Truth': Gore's Hot Air: Flaky Flick Suffers from 'Truth' Decay:

...He [Gore] implies that no reputable scientists dispute anything he says - basically, that the ice caps are melting and people on the 50th floor of the Empire State Building had better learn to swim. But there is wide disagreement about whether humans are causing global warming (climate change preceded the invention of the Escalade) and about whether we should be worried about the trends. Look carefully at Gore's charts and you'll see that the worst horrors take place in the future of his imagination...

...Global warming hasn't noticed that we got the lead out of our gasoline or that Stage One smog days in Los Angeles fell from 121 in 1977 to zero in 2004. All regulations and taxes to date have done nothing. Does this hint that pollution isn't the cause?...


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