The American Geophysical Union (AGU) recently released its new and improved “position statement” on global warming. Andy Revkin of the New York Times featured the AGU’s release on this DotEarth blog site and asked AGU members to chime in on their opinions of the statement that was developed by the AGU’s ruling Council. While there were definitely members who expressed dismay at the position statement, a majority of commentors gave it their hearty endorsement. Apparently, most of the endorsers have not given a very in depth consideration of all that is contained in the AGU’s statement, for otherwise, (we would hope anyway) that they would have been a bit more reserved.
For instance, the AGU’s position statement includes the following sentence: “If this 2 degrees Celsius warming [above 19th century levels] is to be avoided, then our net annual emissions of carbon dioxide must be reduced by more than 50 percent within this century.” This is akin to stating “If pigs had wings, they could fly.” Sure, you could endorse the statement, but to do so would seem a bit foolish. First off, pigs don’t have wings, and it would take nothing short of a miracle for them to acquire them, and secondly, even if they had wings, it is not guaranteed that they could fly. The most pig-shaped bird we can think of—the penguin which is large and rotund and flopping around on its belly a lot of the time—has wings, but can’t fly. Thus even if the impossibility of pigs sporting wings was overcome, it wouldn’t insure a successful flight.
The same is true of the AGU’s statement about a 50% CO2 reduction this century and its impacts on global temperature. First off, it will take nothing short of a miracle for the 50% reduction to take place, and secondly, it probably wouldn’t stop the temperature from rising 2ºC above “natural” levels. Endorse it if you want, but it doesn’t reflect well on your scientific reasoning skills.