We are the 99%

February 18, 2012


Scaife's braintrust can be faithfully expected to spew the usual right wing nutty nut job skepticism when it comes to climate science.  But today's editorial is something all together different:
Climate alarmists who blame mankind's "smokestack" emissions betray their unscientific slant by ignoring the effects of pre-industrial clearing of forests, which a new study documents.

Six French researchers report in the journal Science that ancient sediment cores from the Congo River's mouth show a significant human role "in changing the landscapes of Central Africa" about 3,500 years ago, according to Scientific American.

The cores show river sediments increased suddenly, without increased rainfall, at the time when the Bantu people "brought farming into the region."

Clearing forests to plant oil palm, pearl millet and yams -- "crops that need plenty of sunlight" -- they helped create African savannas, previously thought to be the result of "climate change" only.

Scientific American says the paper doesn't settle which came first, savannas or agriculture. But by demonstrating that clearing forests -- a practice that continues today -- can change climate, the paper exposes a glaring blind spot in global-warming alarmists' "reasoning."

It's a reminder that "settled" science about incredibly complex ecosystems is anything but settled -- and that when politics enters scientific debate, such debate becomes anything but serious and scientific.
The argument, I think, is that because humans have been affecting the climate for millenia by cutting down trees, "climate alarmists" get it wrong when they blame "smokestack" emissions for climate change.

I think that's it.  I can't really tell.  Are they saying that global warming isn't occurring because it's always occurred as long as human beings farmed?  Or that it is occurring (what??) but not because of green house gasses.  Let's look at the science anyway to see what we find.

First, here's the Scientific American blog post regarding the Congo river.  And here's the first sentence from that blog post:
Humans may have been causing climate change for much longer than we’ve been burning fossil fuels. In fact, the agrarian revolution may have started human-induced climate changes long before the industrial revolution began to sully the skies. How? Through the clearing of forests, which still remains the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity.
So right there, the braintrust is misquoting the science. Looks like those French researchers are saying that climate change is occuring and it goes further back than they expected - and it's all about land use.  When large swaths of land are used for agriculture, the climate changes around it.  Whether it's now or 2500+ years ago, it doesn't matter.

Guess what?  The much hated IPCC says exactly the same thing:
Changes in the land surface (vegetation, soils, water) resulting from human activities can significantly affect local climate through shifts in radiation, cloudiness, surface roughness and surface temperatures. Changes in vegetation cover can also have a substantial effect on surface energy and water balance at the regional scale.
The impacts of land use change on climate are expected to be locally significant in some regions, but are small at the global scale in comparison with greenhouse gas warming.
So I am not really sure where the braintrust was going with today's editorial.  Perhaps, in a fit of Scaife funded panic, they simply went with whatever slight climate story they could customize (or should the costumize?  Either fits, if you think about it) into your usual right wing nutty nut job climate skepticism.

Barely plausible as that sounds, it's far more logical than this editorial.

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