More Blather From the National Post

The National Post is on a roll. After three stunningly stupid articles on climate change by Lorne Gunter and Peter Foster, they have published a fourth.

This latest dispatch by Foster “reporting” from the climate deniers gathering in New York further undermines the Post as a legitimate media outlet. So one-sided and erroneous is their editorial position on climate science that it might best be described as journalistic malpractice.

While the Post felt it important to send Foster to cover the Heartland denier’s conference, they of course neglected to send any reporters to cover the UN climate conference last year in Poland, or the current gathering of 2,000 leading climate scientists in Denmark.

I suppose it is simpler to avoid mixing ideology with any actual information.

Speaking of which, they is plenty of newsworthy material being revealed at the real climate conference in Copenhagen – all of it very topical (and terrifying).

Projected sea level rise by 2100 has doubled in only two years to one meter “or more”. That would put at risk more than 600 million people who currently live in low lying in areas around the globe.

"The seas are undergoing much greater changes than those described in the IPCC report...Two or three years ago, those making this type of statement were seen as extremists," said Eric Rignot of the University of California.

The reason for this huge increase is due to ballooning emissions, the painfully conservative nature of the IPCC process, and our better understanding of melting ice sheets.

For years scientists believed this was merely a matter of rising temperature. Now researchers are realizing that glacial melt water also lubricates the flow of ice sheets towards the ocean – greatly accelerating their demise.

"Ice is slipping into the ocean at a rapid rate, a phenomenon that was not correctly incorporated into previous models," said Rignot.

"In Greenland, we estimate that two-thirds of the cause of the glaciers' disappearance is accelerated ice slide, while the remaining third of the cause is ice melting. In the Antarctic, the cause is 100 percent ice slide, and the speed-up there is exponential."

Such positive feedbacks are the exactly the kinds of nasty surprises that researchers worry may propel the Earth into a radically different climate regime as has happened many times before in the planet’s history.

There are other emerging booby prizes that illustrate the dangers of playing the chemistry of the planet’s atmosphere – something the National Post regularly advises their readership we should feel completely comfortable proceeding apace with.

Researchers are now concerned that natural processes that absorb billions of tonnes of CO2 spewed out by humans every year are beginning to shut down. Since we don’t even fully understand how these processes work, one would think it might be a good idea not to tinker with them.

For instance, recent research has shown that plankton shells are now 30% thinner than prior to the industrial revolution due to rising ocean acidity. The world’s oceans currently absorb about 50% of global carbon emissions but there is a price: they are becoming more acidic – an increase of 32% in only the last 200 years.

So why should we care about plankton? These tiny plants and animals make up the foundation of the ocean food web. If they loose the ability to make their shells due to our impact on ocean chemistry – that is bad news.

"The oceans play a vital role in the earth's climate and other natural systems which are all interconnected. By blindly meddling with one part of this complex mechanism, we run the risk of unwittingly triggering far reaching effects," said Professor Raven, Chair of the Royal Society working group on ocean acidification

There is also new evidence that oceans are losing their ability to mop up our emissions mess. A study in 2007 revealed that marine absorption of carbon in the Atlantic had halved in only ten years. Similar results were reported in Sea of Japan.

“It is a tremendous surprise and very worrying because there were grounds for believing that in time the ocean might become 'saturated' with our emissions - unable to soak up any more, " reported the BBC. If true, that would "leave all our emissions to warm the atmosphere".

But what the hay? I’m sure those folks at the National Post and Heartland Institute have it all figured out. After all, who are you going to believe - a bunch of egghead scientists, or courageous skeptics like Christopher Walter Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley?

As dutifully parroted by Foster and the National Post, the assembled luminaries in New York aren’t worried about climate change at all.

Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute hectored the crowd that climate change is all a bunch of hooey. He believes voters should instead only ask politicians one question: "Why do you want to raise my energy prices?"

Then again, his employer has received more than $2million from ExxonMobil since 1998.

But as I often ask, what does money have to do with anything?

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