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The final proof: global warming is a man-made disaster

by UK Independent (reposted)
Scientists have found the first unequivocal link between man-made greenhouse gases and a dramatic heating of the Earth's oceans. The researchers - many funded by the US government - have seen what they describe as a "stunning" correlation between a rise in ocean temperature over the past 40 years and pollution of the atmosphere.

The study destroys a central argument of global warming sceptics within the Bush administration - that climate change could be a natural phenomenon. It should convince George Bush to drop his objections to the Kyoto treaty on climate change, the scientists say.

Tim Barnett, a marine physicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego and a leading member of the team, said: "We've got a serious problem. The debate is no longer: 'Is there a global warming signal?' The debate now is what are we going to do about it?"

The findings are crucial because much of the evidence of a warmer world has until now been from air temperatures, but it is the oceans that are the driving force behind the Earth's climate. Dr Barnett said: "Over the past 40 years there has been considerable warming of the planetary system and approximately 90 per cent of that warming has gone directly into the oceans."

He told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington: "We defined a 'fingerprint' of ocean warming. Each of the oceans warmed differently at different depths and constitutes a fingerprint which you can look for. We had several computer simulations, for instance one for natural variability: could the climate system just do this on its own? The answer was no.

"We looked at the possibility that solar changes or volcanic effects could have caused the warming - not a chance. What just absolutely nailed it was greenhouse warming."

America produces a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases, yet under President Bush it is one of the few developed nations not to have signed the Kyoto treaty to limit emissions. The President's advisers have argued that the science of global warming is full of uncertainties and change might be a natural phenomenon.

Dr Barnett said that position was untenable because it was now clear from the latest study, which is yet to be published, that man-made greenhouse gases had caused vast amounts of heat to be soaked up by the oceans. "It's a good time for nations that are not part of Kyoto to re-evaluate their positions and see if it would be to their advantage to join," he said.

The study involved scientists from the US Department of Energy, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as the Met Office's Hadley Centre.

They analysed more than 7 million recordings of ocean temperature from around the world, along with about 2 million readings of sea salinity, and compared the rise in temperatures at different depths to predictions made by two computer simulations of global warming.

"Two models, one from here and one from England, got the observed warming almost exactly. In fact we were stunned by the degree of similarity," Dr Barnett said. "The models are right. So when a politician stands up and says 'the uncertainty in all these simulations start to question whether we can believe in these models', that argument is no longer tenable." Typical ocean temperatures have increased since 1960 by between 0.5C and 1C, depending largely on depth. Dr Barnett said: "The real key is the amount of energy that has gone into the oceans. If we could mine the energy that has gone in over the past 40 years we could run the state of California for 200,000 years... It's come from greenhouse warming."

Because the global climate is largely driven by the heat locked up in the oceans, a rise in sea temperatures could have devastating effects for many parts of the world.

Ruth Curry, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said that warming could alter important warm-water currents such as the Gulf Stream, as melting glaciers poured massive volumes of fresh water into the North Atlantic. "These changes are happening and they are expected to amplify. It's a certainty that these changes will put serious strains on the ecosystems of the planet," Dr Curry said.
For the Bush administration, global warming and climate change have so far been the great unmentionables, topics that interfered with the march towards the promised land of the perfect free market.

Many say that the discovery by scientists that there is an unequivocal link between man-made greenhouse gases and a dramatic heating of the Earth's oceans, as reported to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is unlikely to change that. "There's a denial of the science by the upper levels [of the administration]," a spokesman for the Sierra Club said.

For "upper levels" read the President and vice-president. Their links with energy companies are well known and oil, coal and other natural resources companies have been prime contributors to campaign coffers.

In her book It's My Party Too, Christine Whitman, who resigned as head of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2003, wrote of the "obsession" of many in the energy industry and the Republican party "with doing away with environmental regulation". But there is also an ingrained and profoundly American opposition to the notions that climate change is harmful, that humans cause it, and that humans can do much about it.

A typical exponent of that school is Fred Singer, founder of the think-tank the Science and Environmental Policy Project. Since 1979, he says, the global climate has - if anything - cooled slightly, and what warming that exists is primarily an urban heat effect. "Climate keeps changing all the time," he says. "The fact that climate changes is not in itself a threat, because, obviously, in the past human beings have adapted to all kinds of climate changes."

This approach is music to the ears of many American economic and business theorists. To accept that climate control is caused by humans and harmful means that humans must change their ways. That in turn implies more regulation, anathema to Bush's administration.

That philosophy overlaps with another American economic tenet; the free market, left to its devices, can solve every problem. Natural economic forces, of price and supply and demand, will induce humans to change their ways.

But attitudes may be starting to change. While the White House has done next to nothing to tackle emissions, states such as California are taking matters into their own hands. And on Capitol Hill, the Democratic senator Joe Lieberman and his Republican colleague John McCain are pushing to tighten emissions controls. It is likely to fail again but support is growing.

Even at the White House, optimists detect subtle signs of change. Maybe it is the disaster movie The Day after Tomorrow, perhaps it has been irrefutable evidence that change is already happening, in especially sensitive areas such as the shrinking polar icecaps.

"We care about the climate," Mr Bush said this week, on the eve of his trip to Europe where global warming will be a major issue. Stephen Hadley, the White House national security adviser, says the US is already "doing a lot with Europe" on climate change research, to make a contribution "in a positive direction".

Undoubtedly, those are in part sops to Europeans who still regard the 43rd President as "the toxic Texan". Whether US officials will accept the science linking the planet's warming to human activities is quite another matter.


Hubble scientists compared with artists of Old West

Images of stars and galaxies taken by the Hubble space telescope fall into the Romantic landscape tradition that inspired the "America sublime" artists of the 19th century.

An art historian has found similarities in the way American painters depicted the beauty of the Old West with the subjective decisions made by the astronomers to form Hubble pictures.

The Hubble records optical images but the colours have to be processed from black-and-white pictures with filters sensitive to different frequencies of the spectrum. But astronomers trying to depict space as realistically as they can have to make subjective choices on contrast, composition and colour, Elizabeth Kessler, of the University of Chicago, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"The Hubble images are part of the Romantic landscape tradition" she said, pioneered by the likes of Moran and Albert Bierstadt.

David DeVorkin, of the Smithsonian Institution, said: "Just as 19th-century artists accompanied ... exhibitions to persuade of the greatness of the West, the space telescope images are doing that for space."

Saliva test can show whether children will need fillings

A saliva test has been developed to tell parents whether their children are likely to need fillings.

It is one of a number of research projects that tests saliva samples for a range of medical disorders, including cancer and exposure to toxic substances. Scientists believe advances in the technology of medical testing will soon mean saliva will replace blood and urine as the body fluid most likely to be used to diagnose many diseases.

Professor Paul Denny, of the University of Southern California, developed the test. He said: "A simple test can predict whether children will develop cavities, how many they will develop and which teeth are most vulnerable."
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