Among climate researchers, the consensus is growing that global warming may be close to a tipping point beyond which runaway feedbacks could take hold, creating what George W. Bush's top climate modeler this week calls "a different planet". Yet the political discourse that should be helping us find ways to respond to such warnings remains a mess.
Last month, the Royal Society in London one of the world's oldest scientific institutions, sent a measured complaint to the oil company ExxonMobil, asking it to end its long-standing and extensive funding of lobby groups that attempt to debunk warnings of climate change. The society told ExxonMobil directly that they are "misinforming the public" on climate change.
ExxonMobil and its lobbyists did not respond to the complaint suggesting contempt for the scientific institution along with its science surrounding the threat of global warming.
During the Bush administrations second term, NASA has eliminated the promise "to understand and protect our home planet" from its mission statement.
NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who said he was being threatened by political appointees for speaking about the dangers posed by greenhouse gas emissions repeatedly cited that statement last winter.
But NASA officials told The New York Times the elimination of the phrase that was used by Hansen was "pure coincidence." The statement now proclaims the agency's mission is "to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research."
A NASA spokesman said the change brings the agency into line with U.S. President George W. Bush's goal of pursuing human spaceflight to the moon and Mars.
One observer noted results from NASA's increasing involvement in monitoring the Earth's environment have sparked political disputes concerning the Bush administration's environmental policies.
Hansen said the elimination of the phrase involving protecting the planet might reflect a White House desire to shift the spotlight away from global warming.
He told The Times: "They're making it clear that they ... prefer that NASA work on something that's not causing them a problem."
James Hansen is NASA's chief climate scientist and has said in the past that the space agency's backlash is part of a Bush administration effort aimed at those trying to sound the alarm on climate change.
He says the administration tried to silence him after he gave a speech last month with this warning: "We're getting very close to a tipping point in the climate system. If we don't get off our 'business as usual' scenario and begin to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we're going to get big climate changes."
Dr. James E. Hansen has been a long-time outspoken critic of policy as the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Science. His primary interests are radiative transfer and climate modeling. As early as 1988, as director of the NASA Institute for Space Studies, Hansen testified before the House of Representatives that there was a strong "cause and effect relationship" between observed temperatures and human emissions into the atmosphere. At that time his bold statement garnered him a front-page story on the New York Times and national attention.
Some "greenhouse skeptics" subvert the scientific process, ceasing to act as objective scientists, rather presenting only one side, as if they were lawyers hired to defend a particular viewpoint. But some of the topics focused on by the skeptics are recognized as legitimate research questions, and also it is fair to say that the injection of environmental, political and religious perspectives in midstream of the science research has occurred from both sides in the global warming debate.
Hansen has also appeared on CBS 60 Minutes claiming that the White House has been editing climate related press releases reported by federal agencies to make global warming seem less threatening. He is unable to speak "freely", without the backlash of other government officials.
"In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," he says.
He makes claims that the tipping point (also known as the runaway effect) is upon us, and that if in 10 years the human population is unable to reduce greenhouse gases, that the oceans might rise as much as 10 feet by 2100.
In Canada, the situation echoes creeping discontent from unnamed Environment Canada sources uncomfortable with the present Harper administrations proposed Air Quality Bill. Suggestions of bad science and economic patronage are running rampant on parliament hill.
Certainly the 50-year targets outlined in the federal initiative will be too little too late if Hansen's 'tipping point' theory is accurate.
Emissions continue to be a point in question with both the US and Canadian governments wanting to slow the process of emission reduction, the greater question remains are both governments gagging environmental reporting?
The question might be more accurately asked: Are governments simply designing the science they require to move political or personal agendas forward?
When first elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quite clear, as a life-long suffer from asthma, his priority was not Kyoto but air quality. Is this why Canada now has a proposed Clean Air Act?
Regardless of political motivation, arguments related to climate change and harmful emissions, most of the focus continues to be on pollution from automobiles and factories; presently little is being said regarding emissions from aircraft.
As military and domestic flights continue to increase in number, the harmful effects continue to be ignored resulting in an increasingly crowded sky on a changing planet.
By Don Elzer - May 6, 2009
'The media endlessly hypes studies that purportedly show that global warming could increase mosquito populations, malaria, West Nile Virus, heat waves and hurricanes, threaten the oceans, damage coral reefs, boost poison ivy growth, damage vineyards, and global food crops, to name just a few of the global warming linked calamities. Oddly, according to the media reports, warmer temperatures almost never seem to have any positive effects on plant or animal life or food production. Fortunately, the media's addiction to so-called 'climate porn' has failed to seduce many Americans'
- SENATOR JAMES INHOFE CHAIRMAN, SENATE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
Hot & Cold Media Spin: A Challenge To Journalists Who Cover Global Warming From the US Senate Floor September 25, 2006
While certainly northern hemisphere countries like Canada might stand to gain certain advantages as it's