Editor’s Note: EarthTechling, always looking to forward the cleantech revolution discussion, is proud to bring you this column via a cross post from partner Colorado Energy News. Author credit goes to David Gold.
Go ahead — call me a hypocrite. I claim to be a cleantech venture capitalist yet I tell you here and now that I am not convinced of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change (aka global warming). And I will audaciously tell you that my convictions on climate change in no way run contrary to my strong belief in the need for a cleantech revolution.
Many supporters of clean technologies make it seem as though anthropogenic climate change is an absolute fact. To some of them anthropogenic climate change is almost like a religion where any debate or doubt is not tolerated. Some of them may call me a heretic just for writing this post.
At the same time, those on the other end of the spectrum are equally religious in their fervor and certainty that anthropogenic global warming is a fraud. They are certain that human emissions of carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse” gases could never impact our climate. And they may twist this post to use it as yet another data point against claims of global warming and added rationale to do nothing except increase fossil fuel exploration.
In both groups, it is my perception that most have read little about the topic other than the popular press. And I find both groups equally sad in their myopic viewpoints. If both of these camps would open their eyes, I suspect there would be much greater agreement on the need for action on clean technologies rather than the divisiveness that their polarizing views create.
There are solid scientific theories and extensive data, anchored by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, that indicate the possibility that over time man-made emissions of greenhouse gases could impact the global climate and may have already begun to do so. To dismiss them out of hand because there is some reasonable doubt is irrational.
Similarly, to speak about anthropogenic climate change as a certainty or to claim that there is no disagreement among scientist is simply incorrect. There are large numbers of reputable climate scientists who remain unconvinced. The reality is that all predictions of global warming are based on very complex climate models. We can forecast the weather a few days out with reasonable accuracy but if you try predicting next year’s summer temperature — let alone long-term global climate conditions — things fall apart quickly. Long-term climate models are anything but accurate.
We know with certainty that past natural occurrences have caused significant changes to the atmosphere, resulting in climate changes. So, there is little question about whether changes in the atmosphere can cause climate changes. Rather, the question is whether man-made emissions are significant enough to cause a change on their own and to overcome the large natural forces on our climate that include sun spots, variations in the earth’s orbit, and volcanoes all of which have not been taken into account in forecasts of global warming.
Often there is a focus in the media on recent variations in climate as a source of evidence for anthropogenic climate change. Variations in climate over short periods of time are highly suspect as evidence. While most scientists seem to agree that there have been increased temperatures and other climate changes over the past century or so, what cannot be said with certainty is that the increased CO2 levels caused this as opposed natural climate change events that have and continue to happen regularly to our planet. Even the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which is the backbone of support for anthropogenic climate change, found that its confidence in human contribution to such measured weather events (e.g., temperature, severe storms, sea level, etc.) could be as low as 50% for most of the events and 66% for the others (pages 23 and 52 of the Technical Summary).