There are some statements involving climate change on which most individuals can agree.
• The earth is getting warmer. Yep, it has been for 10,000 years. The two kilometers of glaciers covering parts of North America, Europe and Asia have pretty well vanished.
• The sea level is rising. Yep, it has been for 10,000 years. Some scientists estimate the rise at 200 feet. Others say 50 percent more.
• The possible benefits of this warming have been understated. Yep, if the estimates of warming are correct, wheat farmers in Canada and Russia probably will benefit by having more land for agriculture.
• The earth has experienced ice ages and warm periods repeatedly, and it will continue to do so. Yep, this is in the geological record.
• Costa Rica is far behind in making any plans to cope with the inevitable and continuing sea level rise. Yep and double yep.
• Predicting disaster and doom is great for scientists who get grants and the mass media who attract readers and viewers.
• Scientists as a class are generally chicken about reporting findings that go against the conventional wisdom. Thomas Kuhn discussed this in his 1962 work “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” Yep, they go along to get along: promotions, grants and publications.
The key area of dispute is the contribution of humans to the change in the planet’s temperature. Proving causation in science is difficult. Earth scientists generally present findings of an increase in the earth’s temperature and assume that the reason is human activity.
Seldom do most scientists embarrass themselves the way four Central American presidents, including Laura Chinchilla Miranda, did in a joint statement Oct. 25 when they blamed recent storm activity on the industrial revolution and said that First World countries should pay for the recent damage. A.M. Costa Rica cited a report that said the most damaging Caribbean storm was in 1780.
Unfortunately, the Chinchilla administration is so tied up in trying to make the country so-called carbon neutral that logic and facts sometimes are disregarded. The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional has had on its Web site for years a study on sea level rise and its effect on Puntarenas Centro. Or should we say Puntarenas Island? The report no longer is accessible on the institute’s Web site, but a news story is available.
Some who are suspicious of the current global warming orthodoxy also see a giant scam that involves the transfer of wealth from the First World to developing nations. Certainly the four Central American presidents would back that scheme.
Being behind the curve is standard procedure for Costa Rica. The country’s leadership rejects reasonable actions in the name of environment. Because some trees will have to be cut, an open pit gold mine has been wrapped up for years in legal tangles.
Also tangled is a U.S. firm that wants to explore for petroleum in northern Costa Rica. A plan for offshore exploration in the Caribbean is a dead duck. Ms. Chinchilla says she would support drilling for natural gas but not petroleum. Presumably, when the oil bubbles up, the company will have to find a way to force it back down into the rock.
The current administration would prefer to enact a ruinous tax plan instead of accepting the payments from producing gold and oil companies.
Meanwhile, some really serious environmental problems go unattended. The Central Valley’s raw sewage continues to flow into the Río Grand de Tárcoles and into the gulf of Nicoya while a $130 million pledge from Japan to support a modern sewer system and treatment plant is on hold.
In the Pacific sharks are killed by the thousands for their fins, and Costa Rica has done little to halt this outrageous trade.
At the end of the day, politicians find it convenient to speak in abstract terms about global warming instead of taking concrete action on a clearly defined problem.
Editor’s Note: Jo Stuart is taking the week off.