To refresh memories, I agree that humans are a significant cause of global warming via greenhouse gas emissions. This has been an evolving position, but my belief is grounded largely in the opinions of those I have come to trust. Two new developments reinforce my convictions.
Bjorn Lomborg, whose weighty tome, The Skeptical Environmentalist, I almost made it through, offers his take on what we should be doing rather than debating:
RAY SUAREZ: But you do accept the proposition that human activity is changing the climate of the planet?Meanwhile, science writer Carl Zimmer, points out the shortfalls in climate-change news coverage. Months ago a report came out suggesting plants were contributing enormous amounts of methane and thus greenhouse gases were a natural, not anthropogenic, problem. It later proved to be erroneous.
BJORN LOMBORG: Absolutely. I think, as you also mentioned, we've seen huge U.N. climate panel reports come out, and they've been ever more certain that climate is changing. We do have an impact. And, therefore, it's also important that we address the question, what should we do?
But we've also got to remember, just like we know that it's CO-2 that causes a part, at least, of climate change, we also know that HIV causes AIDS. We also know that mosquitoes cause malaria. We know that lack of food causes malnutrition.
Now, we know a lot of these things. We don't fix all problems in the world right now. And so I urge people to start thinking, not just to go for the most fashionable problem, but to actually ask the very fundamental question of saying, if you can't do it all -- and clearly we don't -- where can you do the most good first? [More]
Some pundits didn't heed the scientists, though. At Foxnews.com, columnist Steven Milloy declared that deforestation ought to reduce global warming. "Our understanding of global climate system is woefully insufficient to support the rush-to-judgment advocated by celebrity-backed global warming alarmists," he claimed. The folks from the Wall Street Journal editorial page declared that "this is causing big problems for the tree-huggers." Rush Limbaugh sarcastically said, "Well, hot damn. God is to blame for global warming."The intense politicization of climate change has hardened positions on both sides. Meanwhile the real debate seems to be: how can we make a buck out of this?
Fast-forward eighteen months. A group of Dutch researchers put the Max Planck team's conclusions to the test by tracing radioactive carbon isotopes through plants. Their conclusion: "There is no evidence for substantial aerobic methane emission by terrestrial plants."
The paper went online today, published in the journal New Phytologist. (It's free here.) The publisher sent out a press release, but my search has turned up almost no news coverage. There were three stories that were nothing more than cut-and-paste copies of the press release. I found just one piece of original reporting, at a site called Chemistry World, which I now intend to read regularly. The article casts the new paper as the first in a series of new publications that support both sides of this methane vs no-methane debate.
I do not expect that Rush Limbaugh will bother mentioning this paper. The world of punditry leaves me generally baffled. But as a science writer, I'm disappointed that this paper is not getting reported more in the press. If the original paper was so important that it should go on newswires and appear in newspapers and magazines, then what makes this new one less so? [More]