August 20, 2013, 4:54 PM —
Image credit: Flickr/Mikael Miettinen
Someday the number of scientists -- and I'm using the word loosely here -- who actually believe human activity has had no impact on global warming, and who might even believe that global warming is a myth, will dwindle down to one. And when it does, the professional climate-change deniers and their financial backers will still insist that there is fierce disagreement about global warming.
Except there won't be, and there really isn't now. At least not among rational people. The truth is that the vast majority of qualified climate scientists have concluded that humans have caused the Earth's temperatures to rise.
Drafts of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) due out in September "say it is at least 95 percent likely that human activities - chiefly the burning of fossil fuels - are the main cause of warming since the 1950s," Reuters reports.
Just 12 years ago, the same panel said there was a 66% chance that humans were causing global warming. Back in 1995, when there actually was a debate (but shouldn't have been), the number was 50%.
None of this will matter to the people who are paid to obstruct efforts to counteract climate change, or to the anti-regulation, Prison Planet crowd. But for the real scientists, the question now is not what causes global warming, but how to assess its impact on a local level. And that has the scientists stumped, according to Reuters:
Drew Shindell, a NASA climate scientist, said the relative lack of progress in regional predictions was the main disappointment of climate science since 2007.
"I talk to people in regional power planning. They ask: 'What's the temperature going to be in this region in the next 20-30 years, because that's where our power grid is?'" he said.
"We can't really tell. It's a shame," said Shindell.
Or as Reto Knutti, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, responded when asked how global warming could affect nature, "You can't write an equation for a tree."