Lord Monckton, the world’s most infamous climate skeptic, intervened on UN climate change talks in Doha yesterday, posing as Myanmar at the negotiations and speaking out against the science of climate change.
On a personal note, it was quite symbolic that he did it because I have learnt a lot during my time here at the negotiations, especially relating to the science itself. His action only went to reaffirm in my mind how ignorant climate skeptics are, and how stubborn they’ll be at trying to defend their faulty arguments. One thing that I’ve learnt in particular has impressed me immensely. It came about when I was having dinner with members of other Australian NGOs, when I was talking to a researcher who contributed to the IPCC report (the most independent, comprehensive universal review of climate change). He was asked if there was one argument to dispel a climate skeptic. He answered that there was.
To preface this exposition, I must first outline the arguments used by climate skeptics to deny the research scientific consensus on climate change:
1) Natural variation – the climate goes through cycles and varies naturally, as the earth makes small movements closer to and further away from the sun, or as sun spots temporally increase radiation from the sun. Under this line of thinking, if the climate is changing, it’s not because humans are causing it.
2) Climate change is a conspiracy conjured up by researchers and scientists to make money.
3) The data and research behind anthropogenic (man-made) climate change is inconclusive.
While the second and third arguments are hardly taken seriously anymore (including by Lord Monckton himself), as it is becoming obvious the climate is going through changes and the vast majority of scientific publications lend support to anthropogenic climate change, the first two continue to get traction in the skeptic world. They accept that changes are going on, but reject that they are being caused by humans and that the temperature will continue to rise to a catastrophic level.
The general argument supporting anthropogenic climate change comes from the concept of the greenhouse effect. The idea suggests that as humans have begun to fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, in particular carbon dioxide, the climate has heated up.Since the industrial era, when humans began to emit greenhouse gases at significant levels, the global average temperature has risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius.
But this in itself won’t sway a climate skeptic, who will counter that the same phenomenon can be explained by natural variation (a brief definition of which was given earlier). There is, however, one argument advocating the greenhouse effect which is irrefutable. It is quite simple and goes as follows:
Firstly, we have to understand why the greenhouse effect causes the climate to heat up. It is because the injection of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is thickening it. As the atmosphere is like an outer layer covering the earth, if it thickens it will result in increased insulation. Increased insulation means more heat is trapped inside. Subsequently, this results in global warming.
There is a rationally compelling argument to prove this. It derives from a simple observation of the fluctuations in the climate. The observation is that winters are heating up faster than summers are and nights are heating up faster than days are. While the climate is heating up all the time, winters and nights are heating up at a higher rate than summers and days. This is the premise behind “asymmetrical diurnal change“.
Let’s think about this for a second. If the earth was moving closer to the sun, the world would heat up more during the day, because during nighttime we would become relatively less exposed to the sun’s heat. If the climate was changing due to natural variation, there would either be a general, widespread rise in temperature or an increased rate of heating during the day and summer for the same reason I just mentioned.
But because of the increased insulation caused by the greenhouse effect, the heat that accumulates in the atmosphere during the day from the sun is trapped inside overnight. This trapped heat carries over into the next day, causing it to heat up then as well. The same applies for winter; when regions are less exposed to the sun during winter, the leftover heat from summer is being held within the atmosphere. If the earth were moving slightly closer towards the sun, there would be no reason why winters and nights would be getting hotter quicker without increased insulation causing it. This is why it makes more sense that this phenomenon is explainable by the greenhouse effect.
Accordingly, asymmetrical diurnal change is one simple argument people can use to dispute all of the Lord Moncktons out there; it is quite possibly their Achilles heal. And don’t be fooled by skeptics’ rhetoric – the science truly substantiates anthropogenic global warming. If there’s any conspiracy, it’s coming from the industries and sectors which have everything to lose if the status quo – which they are benefited from – is broken down, such as oil and gas companies. They are the ones spending all the money lobbying governments not to cut back on greenhouse emissions – and money talks.
As for Lord Monckton, anyone who takes him seriously is as deluded as the man himself.