The Gleaner: An ominous frontal system dropping rain has ushered in this year’s hurricane season. Today is World Environment Day. The weather watchers are predicting up to 16 Atlantic storms this year as a period of more frequent and more powerful hurricanes swirls on.
The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season will be “very active”, with five major hurricanes of Category 3 or stronger, according to the latest forecast from the hurricane scientists at the Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science who have been doing this pretty successfully for 28 years.
Meanwhile, tornadoes ripped through Massachusetts in the northeastern United States, well beyond their usual south-central and Midwestern haunts where they have been wreaking havoc over the last few months on a scale not seen for half a century.
All of this outlandish weather behaviour – and much more – is blamed on climate change. Climate change, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) advises, is now widely recognised as the major environmental problem facing the globe. And addressing climate change is central to the work of the agency.
The UN secretary general says it is the major, overriding environmental issue of our time, and the single greatest challenge facing environmental regulators. It is a growing crisis, with economic, health and safety, food production, security, and other dimensions. Shifting weather patterns, for example, threaten food production through increased unpredictability of precipitation, raise sea levels, contaminate coastal freshwater reserves and increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, and a warming atmosphere aids the pole-ward spread of pests and diseases once limited to the tropics.
And what is driving climate change? Global warming. And what is driving global warming? Human activity releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The Wikipedia article on ‘Global Warming’ categorically declares that “the scientific consensus is that global warming is occurring and is mostly the result of human activity. This finding is recognised by the national science academies of all the major industrialised countries and is not rejected by any scientific body of national or international standing.”
“According to a recent Gallup poll,” the article says, “people in most countries are more likely to attribute global warming to human activities than to natural causes. The major exception is the US, where nearly half the US population attributes global warming to natural causes despite overwhelming scientific opinion to the contrary.”
And all this despite ‘Climategate’, which erupted a couple of years ago when it was discovered that the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in Britain, the world’s leading centre for reconstructing past climate, to save space had dumped the original raw temperature data in hard copy on which their “value-added” calculations predicting global warming were based.
Other scientists, in the normal procedure of science, are now unable to counter-check the data and the conclusion drawn from it of a long-term rise in temperature. The CRU findings are one of the main pieces of evidence which was used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which concluded that anthropogenic global warming is a severe threat to humanity.
Climategate began with the stealing and release, two weeks before the 2009 Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change, of emails sent and received by Professor Phil Jones, the CRU’s director – much like the WikiLeaks disclosures now making waves in the Jamaican media. In the emails, Jones speaks about blocking climate sceptics seeking access to such data.
The CRU was forced by law to reveal the destruction of the data following requests for the information under United Kingdom Freedom of Information legislation.
Science can be as intolerant of dissent to forced consensus as totalitarian religion and politics are. But climate change from anthropogenic global warming is not without its courageous critics. Jason Scott Johnston, professor and director of the programme on law, environment and economy at the University of Pennsylvania, for example, has conducted a critical cross-examination of global warming advocacy science.
Criticising legal scholarship which has come to accept as true the various pronouncements of the IPCC and other scientists who have been active in the movement for greenhouse-gas emission reductions to combat global warming, Johnston said his cross-examination departs from such faith in the climate Establishment by comparing the picture of climate science presented by the IPCC and other global-warming scientist advocates with the peer-edited scientific literature on climate change.
A review of the peer-edited literature, he says, reveals a systematic tendency of the climate Establishment to engage in a variety of stylised rhetorical techniques that seem to oversell what is actually known about climate change, while concealing fundamental uncertainties and open questions regarding many of the key processes involved in climate change.
A major concern Johnston has is the expenditure of trillions of dollars on public-policy action and the inhibition of economic activity on the basis of science, which he thinks questionable.
But if humans are, in fact, the main culprit, the news, to date, is bad and getting worse, according to UNEP. Latest estimates from the International Energy Agency showing that greenhouse-gas emissions from world energy generation reached record levels in 2010 are a stark warning to governments to provide strong new progress this year towards global solutions to climate change, UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres says.
“This is the inconvenient truth of where human-generated greenhouse-gas emissions are projected to go without much stronger international action now and into the future,” says the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. There is a growing number of treaties, conventions and agreements on the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions from a string of conferences, but little real progress.
“And,” says UNEP, “there is alarming evidence that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system, may already have been reached or passed … . Climate feedback systems and environmental cumulative effects are building across Earth systems demonstrating behaviours we cannot anticipate.”
And if climate change does not pose a big enough environmental headache to humankind riding on a warming planet, a deadly Escherichia coli outbreak is now running through Europe, and who knows where it will appear next. The World Health Organisation has described the outbreak as “very large and very severe”.
What is most troubling is that it is apparently a new strain of the E. coli bacterium. Drug-resistant and more virulent strains of disease-causing organisms for both humans and agricultural crops and animals, aided by antibiotics and chemicals, are emerging as well as previously unknown pathogens like HIV and SARS.
In the constant battle between the economy and the environment, the National Environment and Planning Agency, regularly accused by environmentalists of being a sell-out agency, is defending its licensing of the ‘development’ of the Blue Lagoon in Portland while identifying breaches which must be corrected by the developer. From this distance, a sensible and practical compromise. Our ‘environmentalists’, many of them armed with very little or no science, should take a look at somewhere like the England part of the British Isles which is one of the most carefully environmentally managed pieces of the planet with virtually no untouched ‘natural’ environment left.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has moved to address the issue of soil health and productivity although not in a manner that will satisfy Mark Brooks, farmer and lone advocate for sick-soil syndrome.
An MOA news release says:
For many years, Jamaica’s low agricultural productivity has been blamed on the nutrient status of the soil. In moving to address this concern, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Dr Christopher Tufton unveiled four training manuals aimed at providing critical information to farmers on the appropriate management practices to be adopted to ensure high-yielding soil.
“We are attempting to be a lot more science based in terms of assessing our soil and prescribing an approach to our farmers,” the minister explained at the launch.
The minister’s science is not about to take on Mark Brooks’ strongly supported view that soil health and productivity is a lot more than “mineral status” curable with doses of fertilisers, but has a pathological basis affecting root health and plant growth and yield.
We shouldn’t miss, or dismiss, what is an important part of the newspaper screamer story, ‘Abortion madness! Huge demand for anti-ulcer tablets used to terminate pregnancies’. Somewhere in the bowels of the three-pager, which began on the front page, Professor Horace Fletcher, head of gynaecology and obstetrics at the University Hospital, said Jamaican medics were among the first to publish the usefulness of the anti-ulcer drug Cytotec in inducing labour and now it has widespread use worldwide, driving down maternal deaths from high blood pressure and bleeding after pregnancy and decreasing the need for Caesarean section. Reacting to the use of the drug to induce abortion, Professor Fletcher reiterated that abortion is against the law in Jamaica.
Last Thursday, the University of Technology, up and coming as a serious centre of research, held a small but important round-table policy dialogue with representatives of government, industry, academia, and the donor community to explore collaboration for pushing research for national development and nurturing the professional management of research and innovation as a critical part of the process.
The university is participating in an international project for building research and innovation management capacity to guide research from conceptualisation, through funding, to commercialisation and has signed an MOU with the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce and the Scientific Research Council to undertake market-driven research with the ministry’s support.
By-Martin Henry, who is a communication specialist. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org Source>>
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