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Some reading for the “anti-warmalists” and “climate-change deniers”


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Author Topic: Some reading for the “anti-warmalists” and “climate-change deniers”  (Read 17736 times)
Kiwithrottlejockey
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Having fun in the hills!


« Reply #1275 on: September 23, 2019, 05:34:45 pm »


The smoking gun…



from The Dominion Post…

Dave Lowe found measurable proof of climate change
50 years ago — he's watched in horror ever since


Dave Lowe established the Baring Head air monitoring station, helped prove
human-driven climate change and won a Nobel Peace Prize. Along the way
were countless arguments with climate change deniers, a lost marriage,
and one significant regret. Joel MacManus met him.


By JOEL MacMANUS | 5:00AM — Saturday, 21 September 2019

Dave Lowe has been involved in collecting atmospheric data in Wellington since before the term ‘climate change’ even existed.<br /> — Photograph: Ross Giblin.
Dave Lowe has been involved in collecting atmospheric data in Wellington since before the term ‘climate change’ even existed.
 — Photograph: Ross Giblin.


THERE'S a certificate on the wall of Dave Lowe's small cottage in Petone, Wellington.

It's tucked away in the back office, an A3 piece of paper in an ordinary wooden frame.

It could easily be missed by a passing guest. But if they cared to take a second glance, three words would immediately jump out: Nobel Peace Prize.

It's the 2007 Prize, awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Lowe was a lead author on their largest-ever report.

It was by far the greatest honour of his career. He resigned almost immediately afterward, walking away on top of the scientific world.

 The Prize is a testament to all that he has achieved in his career, but at the same time, to him, it's a haunting reminder of all the things he didn't, or couldn't, change.

Sitting at his kitchen table, reflecting on the prize, he goes a little glassy-eyed. He stares intently at nothing in particular. His voice drops an octave.

“I've lived this horror for 50 years,” he says. “There's so little time left and we've just been so bloody stupid.”

Dave Lowe was one of the first people on earth to find measurable proof that human activities were changing the atmosphere and warming the planet.

For the past 50 years, he has watched on, helpless and frustrated, as the situation around him has got worse, and worse, and worse.


A VOLCANO ABOVE THE CLOUDS

The world's largest volcano dominates the skyline of Hawaii's Big Island. The huge, sloping sides and gigantic crater of Mauna Loa cast an imposing shadow and send a constant warning across the Pacific paradise.

The Ancient Hawaiians believed Mauna Loa was created by the volcano goddess Pele, who formed it at such an immense height so she could escape the wrath of her sister Nāmaka, the sea goddess.

According to one legend, Pele is accompanied by a phantom white dog. When an eruption was soon to occur, she would send her dog down the mountain to warn the people of the impending disaster.

In 1958, an American scientist named Charles David Keeling climbed Mauna Loa, and changed the world's understanding of our climate forever.


The long, sloping sides of Mauna Loa, seen from the summit of its sister mountain, Mauna Kea.
The long, sloping sides of Mauna Loa, seen from the summit of its sister mountain, Mauna Kea.

Keeling had spent the better part of the 1950s perfecting a system of measuring exactly how much of which gases make up the Earth's atmosphere.

By adapting gas analysers used in coal mines, he was able to take the first ever reliable reading of the amount of carbon dioxide in the air.

The barren mountainside on the edge of the Mauna Loa crater, high above the cloud layer and away from any interference, proved the perfect location to capture the swirling air currents.

It was here, in two simple grey buildings set against a desolate, otherworldly landscape, that Keeling established the world's first permanent station to measure CO² levels.

The gas analyser splits a sample of air into one million parts, and counts how many of those are CO².


A lava channel flows down the sides of Mauna Loa after the 1984 eruption.
A lava channel flows down the sides of Mauna Loa after the 1984 eruption.

Geologists escape Manua Loa aboard a rescue helicopter during the 1984 eruption.
Geologists escape Manua Loa aboard a rescue helicopter during the 1984 eruption.

The Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory, where Keeling set up his first continuous measurement.
The Mauna Loa Baseline Atmospheric Observatory, where Keeling set up his first continuous measurement.

The first measurement Keeling took read 313 parts per million.

Then, as he continued to take regular readings, he saw something no-one had ever seen before. The planet was breathing.

In autumn, as the leaves died off the trees, the amount of CO² in the air would rise. Then in spring, as the plants grew again,the number would fall again. In and out, like lungs exhaling.

Then, when a full year had gone by and the cycle was complete, he checked the number again. It never returned to 313.

Now, it sat at 314 ppm. He had just uncovered the first piece of evidence that the total amount of CO² in the air was increasing.

That matters because CO² has an insulating effect in the atmosphere. It traps heat, which is why it's called a greenhouse gas. More CO² means more heat.

Every year without fail, for the last 61 years, the number has continued to climb at an ever-increasing rate.

The chart which tracks the rising CO², that drumbeat on the march to climate breakdown, is called the Keeling Curve.


Charles David Keeling received the National Medal of Science from then-US President George W Bush in 2002.
Charles David Keeling received the National Medal of Science from then-US President George W Bush in 2002.

Some would say that the legends of Mauna Loa are true. Pele's white dog has become Keeling's gas analyzer, high in the mountains among the ancient volcanic rock, sending out a warning signal to tell the people of the coming disaster.

A WORLDWIDE SEARCH

While Keeling was tracking the first evidence of climate change on a Hawaiian volcano, Dave Lowe was a teenage high school dropout in Taranaki, with only one thing on this mind: surfing.

The sport was in its infancy in New Zealand, primitive wooden longboards were the only equipment available. But Lowe was hooked.

“There was just a small bunch of us, really weird characters, and I was just fascinated with it,” he says.

“You go out there and man, do you get a feeling for the environment. I saw the atmosphere directly, going down into the ocean, mixing the sounds, the smells.”


Dave Lowe, left, as a teenage surfboarder in Taranaki in the mid-1960s.
Dave Lowe, left, as a teenage surfboarder in Taranaki in the mid-1960s.

Sitting on his board, staring out at the mist and the ocean spray dancing against the pink hues of the setting sun, he decided he needed to understand more about the world around him. He went back to school and earned a Physics honours degree from Victoria University of Wellington.

Lowe and Keeling's paths would cross for the first time in 1970.

By this time, Keeling was a giant in his field. But he wasn't satisfied with his research station at Mauna Loa. One measurement at one specific location wasn't enough evidence. He wanted a global record, in both hemispheres, so he could confirm what he was seeing, and track it for future decades.

Lowe was a 23-year-old graduate at the former Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, recruited to join Keeling's team as they set up the world's second continuous record of atmospheric CO².

They found a spot about 30 minutes out of Wellington city, near Makara Beach, at the World War II-era gun emplacements of Fort Opau.


The first failed attempts to record atmospheric CO² in New Zealand were made at Fort Opau, a gun emplacement built in 1941 to protect the Wellington harbour.
The first failed attempts to record atmospheric CO² in New Zealand were made at Fort Opau, a gun emplacement
built in 1941 to protect the Wellington harbour.


After six months training in California, Lowe returned to join the small American team of one scientist and two technicians.

But pretty soon he found himself with far more responsibility than he expected.

“The scientist would constantly just bugger off back to San Diego for six months at a time. And the technicians, well … They were being paid to have the holiday of their lives, they were always off hunting and fishing, not to speak of the marijuana.”

“I was thrown in the deep end trying to run hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear on a really important project which is being funded millions by the National Science Foundation.”

But that work was for nothing. The readings at Makara were erratic, showing wild swings and no discernable pattern. They were useless.

There was about a kilometre of paddocks between the sea and the analyzer, which was sucking up too much CO² and throwing off the readings.

Keeling told him he needed to develop a new portable gas analyzer and find a new location, undisturbed by vegetation or outside sources.

After some searching, Lowe found the spot he was looking for at Baring Head, a peninsula an hour out of Wellington in the opposite direction, at the base of the Remutaka Forest Park.

It was perfect. At the right time, Baring Head gets air currents directly from Antarctica, an incredible undisturbed run through hundreds of kilometres of the Southern Ocean.

“What we got was incredible. Right from the outset you could see that we had struck gold.”


The Baring Head lighthouse and research station in 1972. Air samples were taken at the top of the flagpole and atmospheric CO² concentration was measured by an infra red analyser in the building. — Photograph: Dave Lowe.
The Baring Head lighthouse and research station in 1972. Air samples were taken at the top of the flagpole and
atmospheric CO² concentration was measured by an infra red analyser in the building. — Photograph: Dave Lowe.


Dave Lowe taking an air flask sample at the edge of the Baring Head cliff in 1972.
Dave Lowe taking an air flask sample at the edge of the Baring Head cliff in 1972.

The first they learned was that Baring Head always measured a few ppm behind Mauna Loa. The majority of emissions are produced in the northern hemisphere, this showed that it took time for those gases to spread to the south.

They also found that Baring Head didn't show the same huge seasonal swings as the Mauna Loa readings. The huge continents of vegetation in the northern hemisphere were impacting the Hawaiian readings, but the measurements in the South Pacific, surrounded by ocean, were far more stable.

But the most important thing was that the measurements at Baring Head proved that Mauna Loa wasn't an anomaly. In both the south and the north, the carbon in the atmosphere was slowly rising.

James Renwick is a professor of geology at Victoria University, who was also a contributor to the 2007 Nobel Prize and received last year's Prime Minister's Science Prize.

He says Lowe is “a bit of a legend in NZ atmospheric science”, and his contributions to the global record of climate change were invaluable.

“At the time I suspect it wasn't appreciated just how important the Baring Head Station was, but now the climate science community really values the long time series from Baring Head.”

“That's very significant," he says. "They are a part of a global network of observing sites that have taught us many things. Dave Lowe has been a real pioneer in atmospheric science in NZ, especially around measurement of greenhouse gases and in understanding the chemistry of the atmosphere and how that's changing.”


__________________________________________________________________________

The first ever CO² reading at Baring Head was 326 Parts Per Million.
The most recent reading was 409 Parts Per Million.
__________________________________________________________________________

THE GRIND

Finding himself in charge of a groundbreaking research with barely any experience, Lowe put everything on his own shoulders.

Together with his friend and colleague Peter Gunther, they were basically running the entire southern arm of the operation alone, and they were fully aware of how important their work was.

That meant constant flights between Wellington and California, reading every background paper that had ever been written on the subject, developing all the computer programs to drive the calculations.

The DSIR lab, where he was working, had one computer, an IBM 650 with paper tape inputs and magnetic tape.

“We worked our butts off,” he says. “I knew that I just had to do this. I threw everything I had into it.”


Dave Lowe in 1973 at the DSIR Institute of Nuclear Sciences laboratories in Gracefield, Lower Hutt.
Dave Lowe in 1973 at the DSIR Institute of Nuclear Sciences laboratories in Gracefield, Lower Hutt.

American scientist Peter Gunther, who worked with Lowe at Baring Head throughout the 70s.
American scientist Peter Gunther, who worked with Lowe at Baring Head throughout the 70s.

But that intensity had its consequences. Eventually, something had to give.

The single-minded drive Lowe had dedicated to his pursuit of science cost him his marriage.

“I just kept on going as my marriage crashed. I was a real mess. A hell of a mess. I was working too hard, and completely blown apart emotionally.”

“The guy I was working for took a look at me and said ‘Dave, you're no good to me at all in your condition’.”


PROOF OR PERSUASION

In 1975, Lowe took a sabbatical to recover from his professional and personal blowout. He attended the first ever scientific conference of greenhouse gas experts. He reckons he's probably the only person at the meeting who is still alive.

The small group knew what was coming before anyone else in the world.

They had proven that mankind was changing the chemical makeup of the air, and they knew the inevitable outcome of that.

The terms ‘Global Warming’ and ‘Climate Change’ hadn't been invented yet, but that's exactly what they were seeing.

In the following years, Lowe moved to Germany to study further, and met his now-wife Irena. They've been married for 40 years.

He specialised in isotopic techniques, which he describes as like DNA tracing for gas particles.

Not all the CO² in the atmosphere is from the burning of fossil fuels. For most of human history, the CO² level has naturally fluctuated between 200 and 300 parts per million, which we know thanks to air samples trapped in glacier ice cores.

Those natural fluctuations are often cited by climate deniers to suggest that climate change is not man-made.

Naturally occurring carbon is made up of different isotopes. The most common types are called Carbon-12 and Carbon-13.

Carbon-12 is by far the most common type found in nature. Carbon-13 makes up about 1 per cent of the total.

But the exact amount can differ. There is slightly less Carbon-13 in fossil fuels like coal and oil compared to in atmospheric carbon.

Lowe and other international researchers found that while total CO² in the air was increasing, the percentage of Carbon-13 isotopes compared to Carbon-12 was decreasing.

That proved that the additional CO² in the atmosphere was coming from the burning of fossil fuels by humans, not anything else.

“That's the smoking gun. You can get every sceptic blue in the face but that's just open and shut evidence that this extra CO² came from humans,” he says.

“Unequivocal, no doubt.”

That was proof, settled science. But the battle to convince the public of his findings was only just beginning.

Part of the problem was that the predicted temperature rise didn't show up for several years.

While CO² was rising, the mercury was jumping up and down, with no consistency. But eventually, the signal separated from the noise and the heat started to climb. Once it did, it basically never stopped.


The sun setting behind the Baring Head. Atmospheric carbon measurements are still taken there to this day. — Photograph: Nicholas Boyack.
The sun setting behind the Baring Head. Atmospheric carbon measurements are still taken there to this day.
 — Photograph: Nicholas Boyack.


In hindsight, the conservative approach of the scientific community probably held progress pack for a number of years, he says.

“As a scientists, we thought, ‘No, you don't jump up and down and scream, we're not activists’. Losing our credibility was the big issue.”

“It was a totally different time. If only I knew then what I know now … Now it's different, many of us are out there doing stuff. We have to, this is an emergency.”

Full-blown arguments with climate change deniers have been a common occurrence in Lowe's life. His voice bristles with frustration when the topic comes up.

“It's better now, but it was hard yards. I'd be yelled at by people. It used to be constant shouting matches with sceptics.”

“[Scientists] deal in data and facts and graphs and numbers, it's really hard to get through with that. In my lifetime I've given hundreds of climate change talks and you're always up against it with this distrust.”

Nothing grinds his gears more than scientists in the 1980s and 1990s who deliberately spread mistruths about climate change while on the payrolls of oil companies, like Fred Singer and others profiled in the 2010 book Merchants of Doubt.

“I just think … the bastard, how dare he not look at the facts. That makes me angry, people who deliberately go out and falsify what's going on.”

After resigning, Lowe started his own small family business, consulting and doing climate change education.


Dave Lowe has retired and now lives in Petone. He's still active in the climate science community and lives a low-emissions lifestyle. — Photograph: Ross Giblin.
Dave Lowe has retired and now lives in Petone. He's still active in the climate science community and lives
a low-emissions lifestyle. — Photograph: Ross Giblin.


After his children left home, he and Irena moved into their small cottage, which they meticulously designed to have the smallest possible carbon footprint.

He's still actively involved in climate science, making submissions on bills and helping with various research work. He's working on a book about his life work.

Every day as he sits down to write, that Nobel Peace Prize certificate hangs behind him.

“I just wish … all of us wish, that we could have changed minds,” he says.

“But how do you fight an oil company?”


__________________________________________________________________________

Related to this topic:

 • New Zealand in 2050: The scenario if temperatures keep rising

 • Higher sea-level calculations push more of Wellington under water

 • It was 28.9 degrees Celsius near the Arctic Ocean this weekend as carbon dioxide hit its highest level in human history

 • Earth's carbon dioxide levels continue to soar, at highest point in 800,000 years


https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/115040931/kiwi-dave-lowe-found-measurable-proof-of-climate-change-50-years-ago--hes-watched-in-horror-ever-since
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