By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Why Climategate doesn’t matter (VII)

Click on photo for GlobalPost slideshow

The series explained.

Ashar Chor, an island that’s part of the desperately poor nation of Bangladesh, is literally drowning, as rising seas eat away at the shore. Within 25 to 30 years, according to GlobalPost, the island could be gone.

“Ten years ago we lived three kilometers farther out to what is now sea, but now we have to move our houses back once or twice a year as the sea takes more of the island,” according to Deb Mondol, described in the GlobalPost report as someone who has worked on the island for 15 years.

The GlobalPost report consists mainly of a photo essay by Khaled Hasan, who provides graphic evidence of Ashar Chor’s watery fate. But the island is far from being the only part of Bangladesh being affected by global warming. Earlier this year, Anuj Chopra wrote in U.S. News & World Report that Bangladesh’s fresh water is being contaminated by sea water, ruining drinking-water supplies and rice paddies.

Bangladesh has been identified by the Global Climate Risk Index as the country most threatened by climate change. But unlike rising industrial powerhouses like China and India, whose output of carbon dioxide rivals that of the United States, Bangladesh contributes very little to global warming. In 2008 Fakhruddin Ahmed, the then-head of Bangladesh’s interim government, was quoted in the Guardian:

There is every reason to feel angry and upset. The least developed are suffering the most. It is unfair. We are suffering the most from climate change, but we did not contribute [to it] at all. We are prepared to do our part, but we require, and demand, access to a large amount of investment, resources and technologies that will be needed to adapt.

According to GlobalPost, Bangladesh has asked that the industrialized countries reduce their CO2 emissions by as much as 40 percent over the next 15 years — a goal that is almost certainly unattainable. Yet if the reduction is not achieved, Ashar Chor may disappear. And the suffering of Bangladesh will grow.

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  1. MarkB

    Of course I wouldn’t expect you to know the facts – fact-averse as you are in this matter – but the land area of Bangladesh is growing, not shrinking. That is an indisputable fact, argued by no one. Even your precious BBC has noted it:

    The fact is the opposite of the spin attempted by the poor lead author of the IPPC advocacy piece: the loss of a particular island is local – the gain in land area is totaled over the entire country. Bangladesh wants a handout? What a surprise. If free money was in the air, I’d be lined up for it too. The IPPC reports are political documents, written by a small cadre of advocates and signed off by bureaucrats. Climategate reveals the same men in action – seeking to block publication of papers that differ from theirs and to actually overthrow the management of journals! Caught red-handed, but it doesn’t matter. If republican politicians were caught in white hoods burning crosses in their spare time, would it matter?

    Whatever happens in the future we’ll know when we get their. The point you attempt to make in your post is bogus. The facts on the ground certainly are inconvenient, but true nontheless.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @MarkB: Amazing. In the article you cite, no one disagrees that global warming is causing sea levels to rise. The only disagreement is whether sediment from rivers will create more land than what is lost to rising sea levels. I’m surprised you had the chutzpah to link to it.

      At MIT, the folks at Technology Review have a good piece on Bangladesh and global warming, complete with an interactive map on the effect of climate change-related drought. Recommended.

  2. Ben

    It doesn’t sound like this particular island can be saved. Such dramatic CO2 reductions are impossible with current technology and attempting them would destroy our economy. It baffles me that this is the approach advocated by Obama and the Dems. We could actually help countries like Bangladesh rather than just fighting a losing battle against global warming. Our government has done a lot of dumb things in recent years, but a War on Carbon Dioxide would beat them all.

  3. Isn’t it time for somebody to bring up Al Gore’s house? Whenever these discussions start, somebody always brings up Al Gore’s house, bristling with righteous indignation; for some reason they say it means we can ignore climate change.

  4. O-FISH-L

    Dan, a tip o’ the cap to you for having the courage to update this series just as each new snow storm paralyzes the locality.

    Any truth to the rumor that Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, aka “Baghdad Bob” has also been hired to teach at Northeastern?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Fish: So, if the overwhelming scientific consensus in favor of global warming is correct, it should have stopped snowing by now. Got it. Thanks for the comic relief.

  5. The focus on CO2 simply isn’t justified, even assuming AGW is real.

    I understand that the CRU analyses are going to be redone from the raw data (e.g. see). If this is correct, and I hope it is, than each step for every site must be clearly documented and traceable. Photographs of the quality of each location must be a requirement (with all historical photographs sought out also). It is only with this information that a truly open scientific assessment can be achieved.

    There is also the issue of attribution of actual climate forcings with respect to reported surface temperature trends. The diagnosis of an average land surface temperature anomaly is motivated by the IPCC focus on the global average surface temperature trend as the primary metric to assess the global average radiative forcing. However, there are other effects besides changes in radiative forcing that can alter the long-term surface temperature, of which land use change, concurrent trends in surface air water vapor content, and aerosols have been shown exert a major influences.

    A NASA study says soot and dust contributes as much or more to snow and glacier melting in the Himalayas than does CO2.

    “Over areas of the Himalayas, the rate of warming is more than five times faster than warming globally,” said William Lau, head of atmospheric sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Based on the differences it’s not difficult to conclude that greenhouse gases are not the sole agents of change in this region. There’s a localized phenomenon at play.”

    And Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers concluded that a dangerous degree climate change can be forestalled for 40 years, without reducing atmospheric CO2 levels.

    “Cutting HFCs, black carbon, tropospheric ozone, and methane can buy us about 40 years before we approach the dangerous threshold of 2˚C warming,” said co-author Professor Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a Distinguished Professor of Climate and Atmospheric Sciences at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

    You might also want to rethink the whole premise of your series:

    In the same vein, I don’t have to defend scientists who may have been mucking with the data to boost the case for global warming if I can show that the earth is actually warming. So today I present the first of 10 stories, some of which you’ve probably seen before, that are grounded not in data or computer simulations, but in the reality of global warming.

    The earth has been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age. AGW says the current warming is caused by man, especially by releasing CO2. Slurring over that difference is disingenuous, and not in keeping with your usual forthrightness.

  6. Harrybosch

    “Of course I wouldn’t expect you to know the facts – fact-averse as you are in this matter – but the land area of Bangladesh is growing, not shrinking.”

    Think that’s called a “straw man.” Dan made no reference in his post to the relative growing or shrinking of the entire nation. He merely pointed out that this one island is disappearing.

    But, it did provide you with a platform for the rest of your rant.

    So, there’s that.

  7. Harrybosch

    “So, if the overwhelming scientific consensus in favor of global warming is correct, it should have stopped snowing by now. Got it.”

    It snows on Venus as well.

    Pretty, pretty, heavy metal snow.

  8. Steve Stein

    I’d like to point out the confluence of two recent topics here:
    “[Whole Food’s CEO] Mackey told me that he agrees with the book’s (“Heaven and Earth: Global Warming—the Missing Science”) assertion that, as he put it, ‘no scientific consensus exists’ regarding the causes of climate change”

    As reported by Nick Paumgarten in The New Yorker

  9. Dunque

    Why Climategate does matter…

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