Where’s Credible Climate Information?

Saturday, March 30, 2013
12:59 A.M.

Finding Waldo took me about 15 seconds. I guess I just got lucky. But finding truthful, scientifically-accurate sites about global warming and climate change? Yikes. I’m still looking.

Thankfully, there are quite a few sites out there that have pretty darn good information and are scientifically sound. For me, a ‘scientifically sound’ site is one that is backed up my multiple, peer-reviewed resources and draws its information from a variety of sources. I am wary of sites that continuously cite one author or one group on either side of the ‘debate.’ I put ‘debate’ in quotations because despite what the public may hear, there is nearly unilateral consensus among scientists that the Earth is warming because of human emissions of carbon dioxide. Scientists differ on many other aspects, such as how strong the warming signal will be and how quickly the arctic will become ice-free. However, one must take into account that there are different projections of fossil fuel emissions for the future, and the responses in the Earth’s climatological system will vary based on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.

Here are some sites I believe are good, scientifically-sound resources for information regarding climate change.

http://www.climate.org/ – Climate Institute

Well, this site easily wins the award for the best domain name. Almost as good as http://www.climate.gov/ (which is part of NOAA and is another great website).

The Climate Institute is a non-profit organization and their site is one of the best sites out there for essentially everything climate-related. Not only do they give a brief overview of what climate change is and discuss its affects, they help policymakers, scientists, institutions, and the general public create programs that address the climate change problem. They also make an effort to catalyze research on climate change and help communicate the scientific findings of current research to the general populace in a more approachable format. This site is great for people who want to know what is actually being done about climate change. Additionally, since climate change is such a multi-faceted issue, there are a lot of opportunities for people of various backgrounds to make a positive impact by providing information on possible places to travel to, seek employment at, or study at. They even have internship opportunities in Washington D.C.

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/index.html – EPA Global Warming Page

What more can you say… it’s the EPA. This page awesome for so many reasons. It provides a very approachable yet thorough discussion on why the climate is changing, what we can do about it, and what the effects are. One of the coolest things about this site is that you can look at the specific effects in different United States region. You hear stuff like “Global warming will make droughts worse” and other broad, overreaching, unhelpful statements like that. For the Northwest region, they specifically talk about the impacts of climate change upon water resources, forests, agriculture, food supply, and coastal resources and they give specific examples of how climate change will impact these things. They also talk about adaptation strategies, which is very important because climate change cannot be stopped; it can only be mitigated. A fantastic website in every sense of the word.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/ – Skeptical Science

The home page of this website reads “Scientific skepticism is healthy.” Let me make this very clear: some scientific skepticism is healthy. I don’t think James Dobson’s attempt complete rejection of evolution is very healthy, but he’s not a scientist and complete denial is different than skepticism. Anyway, there are a LOT of misconceptions in the public about global warming, and this site attempts to specifically address these misconceptions. Although I’m against ‘biased’ websites (and this could be interpreted as one), this one does it right. Their sources are good and their facts are right on. They even have a page that has climate change deniers to watch out for. Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, and Rick Santorum are all there. Richard Lindzen, a professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT notorious for his contrarian views on global warming and tobacco smoking, is also shown. The one thing I worry about is that this site can act to fuel a debate between those who believe in global warming and those who don’t, and as I’ve personally experienced, being in these debates can be very frustrating.

http://www.realclimate.org/ – Real Climate

This site is similar to Skeptical Science in that it is not funded by any organization and is primarily an information resource composed by a variety of scientists who are passionate about global warming education. Many of the scientists who both support and oppose the global warming hypothesis have plenty of credentials, but the trick is to look at the sources they cite and the data they use. Go to their ‘data sources’ page and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The cool thing about both Skeptical Science and Real Climate is that they are largely discussion-based and you can always count on a fair number of comments to be at the bottom of each post. These comments can be very enlightening and many of them also link to other interesting sources. You don’t get as much ‘trolling’ on these sites as you might think.

Alright, now on to the sites to watch out for.

Believe it or not, The Heartland Institute actually used this billboard. They took it down 24 hours after it was put up.

http://climateconference.heartland.org/ – The Heartland Institute – International Conference on Climate Change

If you search for The Heartland Institute online, the description for the site reads “Database of published research, primarily against environmental regulation.” In 2012, The Economist called them “The world’s most prominent think tank promoting skepticism about man-made climate change.” The worst part though is the name of the event they sponsor to help spread their ideology: the International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC).” The ICCC is a conference that solely features speakers who oppose the mainstream scientific view of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions being responsible for global warming. It is completely different from the IPCC, which stands for the “International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).” The IPCC was founded first.

The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which was presented in 2007, was produced by thousands of authors and editors from various countries and cited over 6,000 peer-reviewed articles. The Fifth Assessment Report is set to take place in 2014. The ICCC has had eight conferences so far, and most of them just involve some keynote speakers who deny global warming without much specific peer-reviewed literature at the events. They did produce an 880-page rebuttal to the 2007 IPCC report in 2009, and you can find it here. I should read it at some point.

http://wattsupwiththat.com – Watts Up With That

This website is ran by Anthony Watts, which is a fitting name for a scientist. (Cliff Mass, Anthony Watts… what’s next? Charles Coulombs?). It advertises itself as “The world’s most viewed site on global warming and climate change,” a quote ascribed to it by another global warming skeptic who wrote about Climategate (I’ll go into that whole thing in another blog… I’ve already spent 2 and a half hours researching stuff for this one!). I sincerely like his “Reference Pages” section of the site because it has a lot of useful data. Other than that, I dislike the site. Much of it seems more like a blog than an actual site. When somebody is posting videos of Al Gore and Bill Nye failing at doing a simple CO2 experiment (I kid you not, this is on the website) alongside their views on why there is no such thing as anthropogenic global warming, one has to worry about the credibility of the site.

http://climateaudit.org/ – Climate Audit

This site is pretty similar to that of Anthony Watts in many ways. It is chiefly run by one person – Steve McIntyre – and it is written in more of a blog style than a logically laid out website. Like Watts’ site, this site has some great links to other sites, but I am unimpressed with McIntyre’s blogging. The blogging style allows somebody to take a look at a specific piece of evidence and devote a whole post on how it does not support global warming, and that is what this site does. There are plenty of things that would seemingly contradict global warming; the growth of Antarctic sea ice is one example. The principle reason for the increase in sea ice is because there has been a general shift in the winds that drive the ice drift to a regime that is more effective for enhancing sea ice cover. In the limited space of a blog post, it is easy to provide a seemingly scientific reason for such a change to occur when in reality the reasons behind this change are incredibly complex.

There is very little debate in the scientific community about CO2 and other greenhouse gases driving the increase in temperatures we have seen over the last 50 years. There is more debate about what the effects will be. But there are a few high profile scientists (and a lot of high-profile politicians) who deny global warming altogether. Organizations like NOAA and the EPA need to do a better job of communicating reliable climate information to the public.

Thanks for reading. Three hours! But I learned a lot in writing this post, and I hope you learned a lot in reading it. Spreading accurate global warming knowledge is one of my main goals of this blog and is one of my main goals in life.

Charlie

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