Global Warming: Evidence ‘Pros’ and ‘Cons’

Introduction

There are different views and understandings of the problem of global warming, its significance, and its threat to the population. Global warming in turn is causing climate change, which is manifested in rising sea levels, droughts and floods, damage to agriculture, and harm to natural ecosystems and species. The efforts of governments and, increasingly, non-governmental actors to mitigate and adapt to these consequences have increased. Bjorn Lomborg is one of the most well-known economists who created a unique vision of the problem of global warming and its potential impact on the earth and the global economy. The main advantage of Lomborg’s vision is that he uses a complex approach to the problem, thus it has many limitations and weaknesses in its analysis.

Thesis The strength of Lomborg’s arguments is that he accepts global warming as one of the main problems that affected the world and its economy, but he provides too pessimistic an approach that lacks scientific background and supportive facts.

According to Lomborg, global warming exists and threatens the future of the planet. Lomborg shares the opinion that global warming affects all areas of life: politics, economics, and the social sphere. Lomborg claims that:

The trouble is that the climate models show we can do very little about the warming. Even if everyone (including the United States) did Kyoto and stuck to it throughout the century, the change would be almost immeasurable, postponing warming by just six years in 2100” (Lomborg 2004).

Main body

Lomborg states that the world has yet to face a more important environmental policy decision than that to be made about controlling greenhouse-gas emissions. Striking a balance between the implied threat and those immense costs is an imposing challenge (Lomborg (a) 2001). The relationship between pollution and global warming is a complex one. Sometimes climatic conditions will influence the nature and extent of a pollution episode, while at other times the linkages are reversed, allowing the pollutants to instigate or magnify variations in climate. Scientists prove that global warming exists and has a great impact on climate and the environment. (Lomborg (b) 34).

The advantage of Lomborg’s viewpoint is that he recognizes multiple factors which influence temperature rise and warming. “It is important to mention that not only greenhouse gases, but also solar energy impacts global warming. The debate on global warming has had the tendency to only focus on one out of two factors” (Enzler n.d.). Global warming exists and is caused by increased emissions, drilling, and extensive agriculture. Changes in greenhouse gas levels in the past were brought about by natural processes, but, since the middle of the nineteenth century, human activities have had a major role in increasing the intensity of the greenhouse effect through the production of higher volumes of carbon dioxide, methane and a number of other greenhouse gases. Concern over the impact of such changes has promoted the intensification of the greenhouse effect to its present position as a significant environmental issue. Increasing industrial activity, and the continued reliance on fossil fuels as energy sources, have caused a gradual, but steady, growth in the proportion of sulfur and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere over the past 2-3 decades (Bailey 48).

It is scientifically proved that there is the enhancement of the greenhouse effect, brought on by rising levels of greenhouse gases (Lomborg (b) 27; Bailey 23). Levels of greenhouse gases, including CH4, N2 O, and CFCs have also been rising (Bailey 23). Since all of these gases have the ability to retain terrestrial radiation in the atmosphere, the net result should be a gradual increase in global temperatures. The link between recent warming and the enhancement of the greenhouse effect seems obvious. For instance, “sulfur aerosols reflecting solar energy may counter the impact of greenhouse gases, causing a smaller impact on temperature. The IPCC has admitted this and it is now included in model simulations (Enzler n.d.). Most of the media, and many of those involved in the investigation and analysis of global climate change, seem to have accepted the relationship as not clear. A survey of environmental scientists involved in the study of the earth’s changing climate, conducted in 1989, revealed that many still had doubts about the extent of the warming. Assessments of the impacts of global climate change are frequently based on estimates of biophysical changes, particularly potential changes in agricultural yields and water resources. The direct approach traces the impact of a specific change in a physical input variable (such as temperature) on yields or biomass, and then, through a series of steps, to impacts on economy and society. This type of assessment relies on (and is often limited to) physical models of the climate, water balance, and vegetation growth (Lomborg (a), 2001),

The strength of Lomborg’s argument is that he pays attention to economic changes and threats caused by global warming. “The economic models tell us that the cost is substantial. The cost of Kyoto compliance is at least $150billion a year. For comparison, the UN estimates that half that amount could permanently solve the most pressing humanitarian problems in the world” (Lomborg (a) 2004). Lomborg claims that the drought in Africa has been intensifying as a result of climatic change. Similar positions are expressed by other scientists (Bailey 6), who state that changes in atmospheric circulation patterns could intensify and prolong droughts. There is, however, no conclusive evidence that the current droughts are anything other than a further indication of the inherent unreliability of precipitation in the area. The presence of these three types of drought is indicated by physical changes in the soil and vegetation in the areas affected, but there is also a fourth type which is less obvious. This is the so-called invisible drought, which often can be identified only by sophisticated instrumentation and statistical techniques (Jordan, p. 23). Critics suppose (Jordan, p. 23) that global warming exists because since the greenhouse effect depends upon carbon dioxide and the other gases in the atmosphere, it follows that any change in these gases, including their relative concentration, will have an effect on the intensity of the greenhouse effect.

The main ‘cons’ of Lomborg’s arguments include the lack of scientific data on economic and social changes caused by global warming and the limit of the role of the Kyoto Protocol. The main limitation of the pessimistic scenario created by Lomborg is that there is evidence that global warming is a natural process that affected the Earth millions of years ago. In the past, the main pollutants were natural in origin, and sources such as the oceans, volcanoes, plants, and decaying organic material continue to provide about 90 percent of the total global aerosol content (Enzler n.d.). During the last thirty years, human activities provide pollutants in such amounts, and with such continuity, that the atmospheric cleansing processes have been all but overwhelmed, and a full recovery may not be possible, even after large-scale attempts to reduce emission levels. It is possible to agree with Lomborg that the world became warmer as a result of greenhouse gases and environmental pollution. During the last thirty years, the temperature has increased greatly (Bailey, p. 24).

Until the 1990s, scientists had believed that climatic changes from ice ages to more moderate climatic periods occurred slowly and relatively evenly over hundreds of thousands of years. Researchers from the Woods Hole Research Center who examined deep-ocean sediment and ice-core samples found that temperature changes of up to seven degrees C. have occurred within 30 to 40 years. A growing number of scientists are coming to believe that the Earth may have entered one of its many quick-changes in climate, with a difference: this one is being initiated, at least in part, by humankind’s accelerating consumption of fossil fuels, not solely because of variations in natural phenomena (Bailey, p. 123). The research is important because it will help to predict possible disasters and save millions of dollars spent on insurance and disaster management.

The weakness of Lomborg’s arguments is that he rejects computer-estimated models and scientific analyses taking into account theoretical and hypothetical data. He states: “current computer models are already relatively complex but do not even represent all important factors and processes yet. Scenarios (projections of future events) may not always be based on reasonable assumptions and some data may still be missing” (Enzler n.d.). The limitation of this position is that Lomborg does not believe in scientific analysis but bases his arguments on his own hypothetical ideas and scenarios created. For instance,

“The winter has warmed at over twice the rate of the summer, and that three-quarters of the winter warming is in the most frigid air masses. Greenhouse models all predict that once differentials like this are established, they persist for the duration of the “experiment” (Michaels, p. 24).

A computer climate model attempts, where possible, to correct for that fact by dynamically changing climate and vegetation. In other words, increased rainfall in some areas, coupled with longer growing seasons, may lead to increased greening, while decreased rainfall in others may lead to browning. That all seems well and good on the surface, but in fact, a computer model is only as good as its understanding of the dynamic process that it must simulate. As an example, we really don’t have a very good understanding of the basic flow of carbon dioxide through the atmosphere (Baile, pp.y 14-15). After a molecule of fossil carbon is burned, how long does it take before it is ultimately sequestered back in the earth? That depends on assumptions about the rate of uptake by plants, which means their response to weather and climate. It also depends on the rate of decay of dead plant matter littering the world’s forest floors.

Lomborg criticizes the Kyoto Protocol stating that: “Kyoto does not have a significant impact, because all it does is to postpone the consequences of global warming by six years; from 2094 to 2100” (Enzler n.d.). Today. the Kyoto Protocol is an important funding mechanism addressing climate change, which is intended to assist developed countries in achieving compliance with their obligations. The Kyoto Protocol requires environmentally sound technologies and financial assistance for sustainable development. The financial flow to developing countries can be quite substantial, perhaps amounting to billions of dollars, and these countries are poised to benefit from it.

The US is of the opinion that Kyoto will make no difference unless developing countries are included. According to Lomborg, this would be technically possible if Kyoto would give developing countries emissions permits for the business-as-usual scenario, which they could sell to developed countries” (Enzler n.d.).

The main problem is that this policy would deepen economic differences between the countries and worsens the situation in developing countries. Many Lomborg opponents state that although concerns over the ramifications of the flexibility mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol remain, less developed countries have become less skeptical and more receptive as the structure of the mechanisms evolves and as an understanding of the mechanisms and their potential benefits to less developed countries becomes clearer. The principal concern appears to revolve around the possible imposition of emissions targets or other additional obligations on less developed countries. Lomborg states: “If no trading mechanism is implemented for Kyoto, the costs could approach $1 trillion, or almost five times the cost of worldwide water and sanitation coverage” (Lomborg (a) 2001). Meanwhile, less developed countries called for unremitting efforts to combat climate change by adhering to the established principles and goals and implied that less developed countries would welcome an agreement on the implementation of the Kyoto mechanisms. The central piece of the Kyoto Protocol is, of course, its legally binding emission commitments for Annex I Parties which, assuming compliance, will together lead to a reduction in emissions from 1990 levels for that group of parties of around 5.2 percent. Following Schneider: ‘Lomborg finds this very hard on the economy, but Schneider replies that only Kyoto cannot achieve this. Both developing and developed countries will have to fashion cooperative and cost-effective solutions over time” (Enzler n.d.). The worldwide publicity that proposed carbon taxes are drawing merits some special attention. From at least one standpoint, a tax strategy in the climate context is easier to defend than taxes in the more familiar contexts of domestic water or air basin pollution. As we saw, in those situations taxes were complicated by the fact that damage from the same chemical agent can vary considerably, depending on the point of release—whether upwind or upstream of a large population center, for example. By contrast, the risks of ozone-depleting agents and GHGs are roughly cumulative and independent of the source. In fact, as an element in the phasing out of ozone depleting. In many ways, setting the right level of a carbon tax is more difficult—even more than in the case of ODCs, which are on their way out anyway, under the ozone protocols. But when it comes to constraining GHGs, there is even some conceivable net benefit from some degree of warming. This leaves us with an even poorer grasp of what we need to know: the costs and benefits, specifically when all societal actors are behaving at the optimal equilibrium (Goldenberg et al, p. 475).

Also, the limitations and weaknesses of Lomborg’s position are that he does not take into account the role of the state and the government in control of global warming. The sovereignty-environment nexus has attracted a growing volume of scholarship in recent years (Anti-Lomborg.com 2007). Thus, according to the erosion-of-sovereignty thesis, global ecological interdependence has rendered state sovereign claims outmoded, and the demise of the state system will be, or ought to be, replaced by some supranationalism. Conversely, other scholars argue that state sovereignty constitutes the foundation for enhancing state capacity to protect the environment. “The small number of peer-reviewed articles that are cited are only those that support the rosy view of things that Lomborg typically holds. Schneider mentions that the IPCC claims have been reviewed many times, contrary to those of Lomborg” (Enzler n.d.). Lomborg is criticized for a great number of errors and inaccuracies in his reports. Subjectivity and bias are other limitations of his study and theory. For instance, some facts suggest that there is the stabilization of carbon dioxide use per capita since much of the world (Africa and a few nations excepted) has transitioned from undeveloped to developing and developed economies. Statistical data suggest that since the early 1980s, carbon dioxide emissions per capita have become constant or have actually declined. The correspondence between the two, indicating that an actual statistically significant decline in per capita emissions is occurring, is a remarkable 94 percent (Anti-Lomborg.com 2007). One way is to pass a linear trend through the data, and then see whether changing that to an exponential function results in a better “fit” of the data, which means a more accurate analysis of the observed increase. This rise occurred before most of the industrial emissions of so-called “greenhouse” gases, mainly carbon dioxide and methane. As a result, “most scientists think the warming of the early 20th century had mainly to do with changes in the sun, which is not the constant star we were taught it was back in middle school general science” (Michaels, p. 35). Rural production potential of lands and converts that production to calories and hence to the number of people who can be fed in different agro-ecological zones (Anti-Lomborg.com, 2007).

Conclusion

In sum, global warming is caused by many factors resulted from the technological innovations of our time. Today, global warming becomes a major problem of our civilization, caused by severe weather disasters such as hurricanes and tornados. For our civilization, it is important to find appropriate solutions to reduce the global warming effect and safely live on our planet. The information mentioned above shows that an interdisciplinary approach should be the core strategy in the process of global warming studies. Using this framework to assess the risk from global environmental change involves estimating changes in biophysical conditions. Projections of global transformations such as climate warming and vegetation loss indicate an extension of the area of fragile lands and an increase in the frequency and magnitude of natural hazards. The use of such criteria would include among the groups most vulnerable to global environmental change those living in areas likely to experience the sea-level rise, increasing storminess, drier conditions, or heavier flooding. The demographic factor is important in many of the biophysical assessments of vulnerability that examine the capacity of the physical environment to support the population. The facts mentioned above vividly portray that the analysis of global warming should be based on scientific facts and data, current trends, and estimations rather than hypothetical scenarios deprived of theoretical background. This problem typifies an entire school of analysis in the energy and environmental fields and challenges prevailing notions that environmentalist approaches implied reduced living standards and entailed resisting, rather than embracing technological progress.

 Annotated bibliography

Anti-Lomborg.com. 2007. 

This website is a collection of links and resources which reject Lomborg’s positions and prove their inconsistency. The website provides readers with a detailed analysis of the weaknesses and limitations of Lomborg’s theory and numerous errors in his works.

Bailey, R. Global Warming and Other Eco Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death. United States: Prima Lifestyles, 2002.

This book discusses the idea that the problem of global warming does not exist. The author uses statistical facts and figures to prove this position. The main advantage of the book is that it is based on the opinions and views of different scientists and political figures such as John Christy and Norman Borlaug. The author proposes readers objective analysis of all possible facts and problems based on a substantial literature review and historical records.

Enzler, S.M. The discussion between skeptics and climatologists. N.d. Lenntech: Discussions on Global Warming. 2007. Web.

The author provides a detailed and careful analysis of problems and theories concerning global warming and analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of Lomgorg’s positions. The main advantage of this article is that the author includes an analysis of other environmentalists (Schneider, Mann, Maslin). This is objective research based on theoretical literature and up-to-date studies.

Goldenberg, Stanley B., Christopher W. Landsea, Alberto M. Mestas-Nuñez, and William M. Gray. “The recent increase in Atlantic hurricane activity: Causes and implications.” Science 293 (2001): 474-479.

The article discusses the problem of Atlantic hurricane activity and its impact on the region. It analyses the causes of this activity and states that global warming and climate change have a profound impact on the increase in hurricane activity. The author uses statistical data to support his position.

Jordan, Stuart. “The Global Warming Crisis.” The Humanist 65, (2005): 23

The author analyzes the problem of global warming and underlines the impact of gas emissions on global climate change. This research is based on scientific studies and analyzes the impact of global warming on recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. Also, the author evaluates the seriousness of the problem and its potential implications for the population.

Lomborg, Bjorn. (a) Global warming: Are we Doing the Right Thing? 2001. Web. 

In this article, Lomborg explains his position and vision of global warming and its impact on the economic and social development of the world. He claims that less developed countries would be unable to overcome problems caused by climate change.

Lomborg, Bjorn (b). The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

The author proposes a unique approach to global warming and its impact on the future of the Earth. The author proves that global warming is a natural process and its negative results are exaggerated by economists and scientists. The author identifies errors of the environmental movement and claims that media and political leaders just exploit the idea of global warming for personal gains.

Lonborg, Bjorn. (c) Save the world, ignore global warming. 2004. Telegraph.co.uk. 2007. Web. 

This article describes possible economic dangers caused by global warming and criticizes the lack of financial support and inadequate allocation of global resources. Lomborg underlines that global warming is a problem but there are a lot of more important issues the society should deal with.

Mank, Bradford. “Standing and Global Warming: Is Injury to All Injury to None?” Environmental Law 35 (2005): 1-19.

This article is a substantial analysis of the causes and consequences of global warming. The article is based on statistical data and scientific facts which support the author’s position that global warming is caused by human activities and pollution.

Michaels, Patrick.J. Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media. Washington D.C., Cato Institute, 2005.

This book criticizes false messages sent by media and discusses the pros and cons of recent scientific data. The author states that methods and tools used by scientists are inadequate and do not allow them to forecast climate changes and possible threats. This book is based on statistical data and literature reviews.

Pielke, Roger Jr., and Daniel Sarewit. “Breaking the Global-Warming Gridlock.” The Atlantic Monthly, 286, (2000): 55

This article analyses current political actions aimed to reduce global warming and its impact on climate change. The author discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the Kyoto protocol.

Ruddiman, William F. “How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate?” Scientific American, 292, (2005): 48-53.

The author proposes a historical analysis of the problem and proves that mankind was faced with global warming thousands of years ago. He states that agriculture and changing patterns of land use have caused the current problems and climate change.