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Monbiot -v- Bellamy

George Monbiot published a great article in The Guardian yesterday. It was a pretty devastating salvo aimed at anybody who is still trying to ignore Climate Change, anybody who refuses to trust the environmental scientists who overwhelmingly point to anthropogenic sources of Global Warming and, more personally, aimed squarely at David Bellamy.

A few weeks ago Bellamy had published a letter in New Scientist which claimed that an often quoted symptom of global warming, glacier recession, was in fact a fallacy. In fact, the truth according to Bellamy was that glaciers “are not shrinking but in fact are growing. ... 555 of all the 625 glaciers under observation by the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich, Switzerland, have been growing since 1980.”

Such a well-known figure as Bellamy stating quite the opposite position worried Monbiot enough for him to want to get to the bottom of things and work out where Bellamy's numbers came from.

So last week I telephoned the World Glacier Monitoring Service and read out Bellamy’s letter. I don’t think the response would have been published in Nature, but it had the scientific virtue of clarity. “This is complete bullshit.”

Having tracked the source of the "555 increasing" data to a single person citing a report published in a 1989 edition of Science, that didn't actually exist, Monbiot was ready to publish and ready to come on live tv and battle it out with Bellamy on last night's Channel4 News.

It was a fun encounter, not least because that quote from the Glacier Monitoring Service gave them an excuse to say "bullshit" four or five times in various tones and with varying emphasis. "Bwuuuuuuul-shit" from Bellamy for instance.

Jon Snow barely had to say anything at all, Bellamy just kept digging, refusing to admit that he was negligent in failing to check his facts with more than a quick Google search.

But the thing is, Monbiot didn't really win the battle. The thing that sticks in the back of your head is that Monbiot couldn't answer the question "where is the evidence that shows its us that's responsible?"

It annoys me that I can't answer it either. As a scientist there's no way, that I know of, to say "this 0.5 degree rise in North Atlantic sea temperature is directly caused by the massive increase in carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere following Industrialisation". I can't because it could just be a natural oscillation. I can look at the "radiative transfer equation" and at the carbon-oxygen bond energies and say that "yes, carbon dioxide does let solar radiation through but traps the heat that would otherwise be lost - the 'Greenhouse Effect'" but you could still say that its volcanoes. Or farts or whatever.

Maybe we need to stop wasting energy trying to persuade people that it is us and start shouting at everybody who doesn't want to listen, "its now or never. Either we make dramatic changes to our environmental policy, our energy usage, our attitude to recycling, or the Earth is just going to give up on us."


Blogger Rowan said...

I find this very interesting. As I am not a scientist, I can't very well look at it from that perspective, but I do notice that every summer seems to be a little later coming, snow doesn't realistically come until late December and our winters which are classic for being devastating, are anything but. I remember as a child being sent home wading through waist high snow. I haven't seen a sight like this in a ages. I also agree with you that we shouldn't point fingers, but instead do something about it. If everyone felt some personal liability to the Earth, then the discussion would be non-existant as to "whodunnit".

Thanks again for commenting to my blog as well!

Wed May 11, 03:01:00 PM GMT  
Blogger A Blogger said...

I find this subject fascinating too. Mr. Green the Recyling King, a friend of mine, was very keen on saving the world. And we all should be.

What is Bellamy trying to do, murder us in our beds as we sleep-- thinking everything is going swimmingly?

Well, maybe it is, in your case, but as you know, not so with me. So, I could do with a few more people trying to save the world, instead of destroying it.

Loved this:
"It was a fun encounter, not least because that quote from the Glacier Monitoring Service gave them an excuse to say "bullshit" four or five times in various tones and with varying emphasis. "Bwuuuuuuul-shit" from Bellamy for instance".


Wed May 11, 04:13:00 PM GMT  
Blogger chris said...

thanks you two, you've made me smile. :)

I'm glad you like my special Bellamy quote. I figured I was owed a bit of comedic relief after so much typing. I was getting sick of typing "Bellamy" and contemplated replacing it with "that fat, bearded botonist guy, no, not the ornithologist, that's Bill Odie"

The odd things is that my Dad was taught by "the bearded one" at uni. Funny world...

Wed May 11, 04:29:00 PM GMT  

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