Global Warming, Rising CO2 and Invasive Plants. Dr. Lewis Ziska, Plant Physiologist, USDA
Crop Systems and Global Change Lab
“… current levels of atmospheric CO2 are less than optimal for plant growth, ….
“…. we have compared the potential response to recent and projected changes in carbon
dioxide between invasive, noxious species and other plant groups, and assessed whether CO2
preferentially selects for such species within ecosystems. A synthesis of literature results
indicates that invasive, noxious weeds on the whole have a larger than expected growth increase
to both recent and projected increases in atmospheric CO2 relative to other plant species. There
is also evidence from a majority of studies, than rising CO2 can, in fact, preferentially select for
invasive, noxious species within plant communities …”
[Response: See my response after #3, below –eric ]
Thanks very much not only for presenting this posting, but for the spirit in which it’s presented. Nature’s editors were right in 2004 to predict, in effect, that RealClimate.org would be a breakthrough in the relationship between science and society. Maybe Vice President Gore represents something along those lines too.
I hope James Taranto and his editorial colleagues at the Wall Street Journal — a publication vital to advancing America’s climate discussion — are reading this new posting. Mr. Taranto falls below the standards of his fine intellect with his constant mere sarcasm about climate science, and his colleagues fall below the standards of their fine editorial page by failing, continually, to have that page present science’s actual climate views to the WSJ’s readers. Elsewhere, similar things can be said concerning George F. Will.
Let’s hope that Mr. Gore’s reportedly serious effort inspires some corresponding seriousness on the political right, and among people who claim to think seriously about the word _conserve_ underlying the word _conservative_.
Comment by Steven T. Corneliussen — 10 May 2006 @ 4:03 PM
I’m not sure that the sprawl of “invasive” plants should be attributed exclusively to land use. I see at least some reason to anticipate that many plant species will be regarded as “invasive” as warming forces them into upslope/poleward migratory response.
My hunch is that land use and warming will interact, and that the future distribution of plant species will be an expression of that interaction.
[Response: Regarding this and the first comment: I’m in no way saying that there is no connection, nor even that the connection is trivial, between greenhouse gases and invasive species. But I think it is important not to put all environmental issues under the “climate change” banner. Even if we were to get the climate “back to normal” (whatever that means), city gardeners in Central Park, NY, would have no less work to do keeping back the kudzu and the British ivy. For the record, I didn’t even notice this apparent conflation in the film; several of my colleagues did though. You’ll have to see the film to assess for yourself how big a deal this is. Since I didn’t even notice it — and I was looking for errors — it is evidently not an important part of the film! — eric]
“And it is interspersed with personal reflections from Gore that add a very nice human element.” Um, sure they do. He is so known for his, you know, humanlike qualities.
Also, when was Gore born? 1948? He was sitting in a class listening to an imminent geochemist in 1958, at age 10?
[Response: Oops. I thought that they said 1958 in the movie, and so I wrote “Gore in the classroom, in 1958 …” But as you point out that can’t be right. I’ll try to figure out the correct date, but for now I’ve deleted it to avoid confusion. –eric]
[OK, I’ve updated this to 1968, which is probably right since according to the NY Times Gore graduated from Harvard in 1969. -eric]
Thanks for the review. I haven’t seen the movie. One reaction to your review — I am a bit puzzled by your comments on Gore’s use of the Katrina disaster to suggest that climate change will have significant impacts. Even if we postulate that global warming will increase hurricane intensity on average by XX% (fill in the blank), disasters will continue to be driven overwhelmingly by societal vulnerability, which was exactly what occurred with Katrina. And as you know direct attribution of Katrina or its intensity to greenhouse gas emissions remains a scientific topic of study and even the hurricane experts are not yet in consensus on this subject.
Unless Gore was using Katrina to highlight the importance of adaptation, which would be appropriate in my view, using Katrina to set the stage for arguing for emissions reductions is simply scientifically indefensible. Of course, if Al Gore is advocating adaptation it would represent a huge shift from Earth in the Balance in which he excoriated those who advocate strategies of adaptation.
[Response: Ah, Roger, you are so right! I don’t know how I could have overlooked this elementary point. You should have mentioned it to us before. It really is scandalous how the vast sums spent by the present Administration on fighting Global Warming have starved the government coffers to such an extent that they couldn’t afford to buy a decent levee system for New Orleans. I’m shocked, I really am. –raypierre]
[Response: On a slightly more constructive note, I recall from the slide show (not the movie, which I haven’t yet seen), that Katrina is used as an example of a) how vulnerable society is weather events, and b) how preparedness, even for something as widely and correctly predicted as a hurricane hitting New Orleans, was woefully inadequate. I’m not sure that gives anyone confidence in society’s ability to adapt to the changes climate change will bring about. -gavin]
[Response: Yes, what Gavin said. But you’ll have to judge for yourself, Roger, exactly what Gore does with this example, and whether you agree with him. My point was simply that he did not, in my judgement, overstate, the global warming/hurricance connection. Regardless of what the best societal response is, the strength of that connection is purely a scientific question. -eric]
Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr. — 10 May 2006 @ 4:57 PM
I greatly enjoyed the trailer for this movie. And look forward to the whole show. A student of mine gave me a tape of last weeks Too Hot Not to Handle on HBO, this was another in a long of accurate, basic and uninspiring documentaries. The title of Gore’s piece is great and will surely swamp the readership of George Will in terms of interest. Trailer link
Scientific issue, moral issue — regarding climate change, I do not think that these are strong motivating factors for the US public.
What we need are issues of competition and economics. “Climate change is a business opportunity! Get rich and save the world! etc…” Mainstream American consumers need issues that tie in to “the American dream.”
[Response:Gore makes this point very strongly in the film. Since RealClimate is a science website, I wanted to comment on the science. I will note here, as an example, though, that he makes a rather nice case that it is the lack of environmental controls on the U.S. auto industry that has led to its declining competitiveness in the world. In other words, yes, get rich and save the world at the same time — eric]
Comment by Rob Davis, Minneapolis — 10 May 2006 @ 5:55 PM
RE 3 and 6 and response:
The FACE labs doing this research find interesting results. The argument in Hank’s abstract means the type of plant that can access and utilize extra CO2 are generally those that are adapted to disturbed areas or adapted to rapidly changing conditions.
Now, whether we as a society can adapt to using these kinds of plants if this turns out to be the case – as some seem to think we should do – is an open question. I, personally, see no evidence of this since our societies became agrarian. Nonetheless, the work being done now indicates that many plants are adapted to a lower CO2 environment and higher atm CO2 will be problematic for many members of the Plantae, rather than the blanket ‘boon’ argument that is currently being recycled.
“Um, sure they do. He is so known for his, you know, humanlike qualities.”
To the best of my knowledge, this is more a matter of his treatment at the hands of the press rather than an actual character flaw. It’s also why I’m worried that this movie actually won’t have the impact we’re all hoping it to have–Gore has been villified (with little or no evidence) as a “robot,” “liar,” etc. by the press in the past. His approval ratings are lower than those of George Bush right now. For more, check out the voluminous archives at the Daily Howler (www.dailyhowler.com).
I just hope people don’t take the South Park angle and write this movie off as just being a big ego-trip for the “Gore the Exaggerator” stereotype that the press has constructed.
[Response: Roger, see my additional note after comment #5, above. -eric]
Comment by Roger Pielke Jr. — 10 May 2006 @ 8:32 PM
I agree that “scientific issue” is not a strong motivator for the American public. But I think “moral issue” is. “Economic issue” is also a strong motivator, and “national security issue” (a phrase adopted by Wesley Clark) may be the strongest of all.
I didn’t see any attack on the movie in Mr. Fortner’s comment. And since it hasn’t been released yet, the only attacks on the movie are from the prejudiced.
I’ve seen the trailer, and it’s very impressive; I intend to see the movie on opening day (how may regulars here plan the same?). I have a feeling that first, Gore will come off as far less “wooden” than his reputation, and second, reaction will be dominated by the movie itself, not Gore’s reputation.
It also seems to me that in terms of press coverage, the tide may be turning. Witness Time magazine’s cover story, the good coverage of the reconciliation of ground-based and tropospheric temperatures, and many more. The press seems finally to get the point: global warming is real and the cause is us. The consequences are likely to be dire.
[Response: One of the things Gore emphasized in the question and answer session after the movie is that Time magazine’s “Be Very Worried” cover was not constructive. Gore’s point is that the U.S. has risen to challenges before, and exceeded all expectations. His major point is, “come on guys, lets show the world what we in the U.S. can do.” So the popular press is only just now catching up with the science. It seems a ways back in catching up with Gore.–eric]
Let the yahoos attack; maybe it will just add to the publicity for the film. It sounds like the science (& morality) will carry the day for Big Al. I love the fact that his father shut down the family tobacco business. It’s time to evolve…
“At one point Gore claims that you can see the aerosol concentrations in Antarctic ice cores change “in just two years”, due to the U.S. Clean Air Act. You can’t see dust and aerosols at all in Antarctic cores — not with the naked eye.”
Chemical signals embedded in ice cores are believed to contain a record of past climate-altering events (volcanic eruptions, El Nino episodes), as well as anthropogenic influences. Both the atmospheric and ice core records at the South Pole contain a seasonal signal associated with winter sea salt peaks and summer sulfate peaks. Summertime peaks in the ice core sulfate to sodium mass concentration ratio correspond to peaks in the aerosol Angstrom exponent (Fig. 2). This suggests that ice cores at the South Pole record aerosol chemical composition information on a seasonal basis.
Why do you think Gore meant that you can see it “with the naked eye”?
[Response: I don’t think Gore actually said “with the naked eye”, but that is how I took it. In any case, yes, one can subsample ice cores at very fine resolution — as short as a couple of weeks at South Pole. In fact, this is what my lab at the University of Washington does every day! But the question is whether there is any measureable impact in Antarctica from changes in aerosol emissions from the U.S. The answer is, no, there is not. Indeed, we’ve barely begun to see the impact of increased sulfate and nitrogen oxides (very important globally, and very clear in Greenland) in Antarctica. This is because Antarctica remains very much isolated from the rest of the globe, when it comes to soluble things (i.e. stuff that can get washed out of the air by precipitation), because precipitation rates are so high in the subpolar latitudes. So.. to be very clear: Gore’s mistake was very minor; his overall point (that ice cores are a great source of information) was entirely correct. But the specific statement he made was wrong on two counts: 1) you can’t “see” these changes (and “see” is the word he used); 2) you can’t even detect them in Antarctica, though you may be able to elsewhere. –eric]
Exactly what do you call “humanlike qualities”? The last time I checked Gore was not a Martian. Whatever he does therefore is humanlike — even if he is not like you. Your behavior is not the standard, anyway.
In 1990, I was a TA for an Earth science class when Al Gore visited to give his “stump speech” on climate to the class. He had just been running for Prez in 1988 and I was very impressed with how much he knew and how polished the talk was. But one error really stood out: it was the same correlation-causality problem described above. He said “look at how CO2 and temperature have tracked each other over the past few hundred thousand years … this proves that increasing CO2 will lead to increased temperatures.” Even though I was a lowly grad student, I knew that logic was wrong, and I’m sorry to hear that he has not corrected that in the intervening 16 years. I view this as a pretty serious logical error, so I hope he (eventually) gets around to correcting this.
[Response: But this is a case where there is a great deal of causality, and not just correlation. The Vostok T and CO2 data alone cannot be used to conclude that CO2 affects temperature, but together with other things we know about climate it is a real showstopper. You simply cannot get anything like this without a very significant effect of Co2 on climate. –raypierre]
[Response: Yes, I agree with Ray on this. The simple CO2-T correlation = causation argument is overly simplistic, but it is not wrong. What is clearly going on in the glaciological record of climate change on long timescales is a positive feedback system — temperature goes up, leading to more CO2, leading to increased T. Please see our post on this (one of the very first posts on RealClimate), here –eric]
“using Katrina to set the stage for arguing for emissions reductions is simply scientifically indefensible.”
Strong words, which do not match reality. Current and recent weather facts suggest a strong NH warming signal, undeniable by any scientific standard, precluding GW as a contributing factor for Katrina’s intensity isn’t anymore credible than saying GW caused Katrina.
About the use of Pacala & Socolow.
I think their pragmatic view of what is feasible is very useful. What I am concerned with is that Pacala & Socolow mention stabilisation of GHG emissions between 2000 and 2050, while a decrease of emissions is needed to limit global warming. Assuming for example the 2°C european objective, a reduction of 30% to 55% of worldwide emissions between 1990 et 2050 seems necessary.
For details, see for example: den Elzen Michel, 2006, How to achieve the 2°C target: the costs and risks of overshooting, presented at the Low stabilisation scenarios conference in Potsdam, 16-17 March 2006, March 2006, http://www.feem-web.it/potsdam/index.html
Looking at all of the articles posted here and from other sites the scientific community has a consensus that CO2 (and other emissions) are causing the average temperature to rise across the entire globe. Now whether Al Gore is correctly understanding the scientific data and analysis to put forward a case for reducing emissions is the issue here. I agree with RC on this one,it is accurate enough to my mind. after all the USA/UK went to war in Iraq on a lot of false premises.
They set out all the different technologies and measures which would achieve this, and I imagine that a scenario for stabilising CO2 at lower levels would still very much build on those ideas.
Comment by Almuth Ernsting — 11 May 2006 @ 5:53 AM
I’m very pleased to learn of your positive review of Gore’s movie. I look forward to seeing it. Locally, I’ve done a little trying to help folks understand the scientific underpinings to the conclusions about paleoclimates drawn from the data found in ice cores and marine sediments. I understand the relationship between the oxygen isoptope (18-O) content of carbonate shells and the temperature at which the shell originally crystallized but I would like info on the apparently more important relationship between 18-O of (what?) in marine sediments and the total ice volume (extent of glaciation)at the time of formation. Can anyone refer me to a source for this? Thanks
C. W. Dingman
[Response: The 18-O of carbonate shells reflects both the 18-O of the ocean water in which the shells grew, and the temperature at which they grew. Isotopically light water (H2-16O) is preferentially evaporated from the ocean, so precipitation is isotopically light compared with ocean water. As ice sheets build up on land, the ocean gets progressively enriched in 18-O. What is observed in the ocean sediment records is that the 18-O of the shells of benthic (deep ocean-dwelling) organisms varies up and down by about 1 per mil through glacial cycles. That’s almost entirely due to changes in ice volume (or, if you like, in ocean volume). The 18-O in planktonic (surface dwelling) organisms varies much more because both the ice volume effect and temperature are involved. If you assume that the deep ocean temperatures don’t change at all (this is not true, but is a pretty good approximation), then you have two equations and two unknowns, and so you get ice volume AND temperature. A good basic reference on this is Ray Bradley’s book, Quaternary Paleoclimatology. –eric]
While a little off-topic, I have two questions inspired by comments above:
i) Are there any sites similar to RealClimate about possible substitutes for Petroleum based energy? I would love to see a science-based discussion of possible non carbon-emitting sources of energy. For example, thee has been a lot of talk about ethanol, and biodiesel, but little effort to explain these fuels in their entirety (changes in land use, use of petroleum-based fertilizers, Energy Returned On Energy Invested [EROIE] et cetera).
ii) Any sites for discussion on investing with an eye toward green energy? (OK that isn’t really a sentence). Since seeing that Mr. Gore was involved in Generation Investment Management, but I’m thinking about the average investor’s IRA.
It is more complicated than whether or not GHGs have affected hurrricanes. In my statement that you cite I assumed a GHG influence. The question is not whether or not GHGs affect hurricanes, but rather, what role can emissions reductions have as part of future disaster mitigation strategies. Have a look at these:
I accept Eric’s point about the science (#5), however, Gore’s movie and my point are about the relationship of science and action — specifically, policy advocacy and the justifications used to sell certain policies to policy makers and the public. From what I have seen thus far Gore on hurricanes is overselling his policy claims by misusing hurricanes and Katrina. For some people, including one of the commenters here who responded to me, the politics of climate change and anger at the Bush Administration apparently justify overlooking such flawed policy arguments. This is disappointing because in the case of hurricanes the policy research conclusions are peer reviewed, robust, and unchallenged. Thanks.
Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr. — 11 May 2006 @ 8:35 AM
Thanks for the review of the movie I look forward to seeing it.
I hope this is the first step to an endorsement of it by Real climate and other climate scientists. The public may not be motivated by a scientific argument but it sure is willing to be unmotivated by a sense that scientists disagree on the basic tenets of global warming. So I hope you will support Mr. Gore in his goal of motivating the public to action because I still believe you have an essential role here. Obviously there is disagreement among scientist about specifics. Raypierre’s response to Dr Pielke jr. (#5) is a good example. I just hope you can keep it civil.
I took Roger jrs. point to be: that adaptation will have to be part of the strategy for survival, which is clearly true, isnt it? Adaptation has always been humans strong point.
I have also read Dr Pielke Srs thoughts on these issues (see: http://climatesci.atmos.colostate.edu/2006/05/ ), and I feel that he has something of value to add to the discussion also. His notion of assessing vulnerabilities and local contributors to planetary warming seems to me to be a good idea, except it would take a lot of political will and time, and we are very short on both at the moment, so it may be a diversion from the main show, which is adaptation is it not? (I have asked Dr Pielke Sr several times about what he feels the risks are of taking a slow approach and frankly he seemed unwilling to directly answer me).
Doesn’t adaptation mean we have to consume less energy in every way possible? Streamline and maximize our efforts and resources into developing some of the technologies that have been somewhat starved in their infancy such as, solar, biomass, methanol, offshore wind, tidal, and yes even cold fusion which shows a lot more scientific promise then the mainstream press ever lets on post the Ponds and Flieshman debacle. (I believe excess heat is produced 70 to 80 percent of the time.)
As far as Pacala and Socolow are concerned. http://www.theclimategroup.org/index.php?pid=549
Do they mean by carbon sequestering pumping it down into caves and just sort of hope it stays there? From a non-scientists point of view this looks boneheaded at best. However if they mean converting it into limestone which I understand is technically possible this would be an excellent solution. Maybe it is unrealistic of me but if we could avoid the temptation to continue our landfill-based economy and move into a no waste economy everyone would benefit. That is why I feel that their goal of adding double the current global capacity is dangerous. Yucca Mountain as a nuclear landfill sight is apparently not a great choice in itself, but also clearly has a limited capacity so will fill up and I guess the assumption is that by then we will know what to do with our waste by then. I feel this is irresponsible. Most of there suggestions are good ones however.
We may have to face that we cannot live as large in the short term as we are used to. That will be a tough sell to the burgers and television feed right-to-live-easy-and-sacrifice nothing-empire, but I believe it could create a more stable prosperity in the long run. We need to support the politicians like Mr. Gore who are willing to stick their necks out and call to the side of us that still recognizes that humans have always survivied by working together.
[Response: Some good points here, but you should not forget another aspect of adaption: smart organisation. The thought springs to mind every time I visit London and see the rush-hour traffic there. Sitting in a car – one person in each – for hours commuting back and forth to work does not seem to me to be a very smart way of organising a society. It’s very inefficient. Imagine if you could put four people into each car, and cut down on the amount of metal on the roads by 50-75%. I would imagine that such a reduction could really unclog the system – but I have not done any research on this. This is just one example to point out how re-structuring some behvavioural pattern may/could have some impact (the society would even save energy overall!). Think about how much Internet and mobile phones have transformed our lives. I hope that our generation, with the benefit of our modern technology and advanced kno how, should aim at being the smartest generation ever, and be able to meet new challlenges better prepared than previous ones. But, at this point, this is just a vision. -rasmus]
Isn’t the real point that Sea level rise will make coastal regions far more vulnerable? Katrina turns out to be a valid example of possible effect even if GW doesn’t result in stronger or more frequent storms. It also connects with people far more than some abstract consequence that our kids might have to deal with – all too often dismissed by a skeptical public.
Eric, as a nonscientist, I think when a scientists says he can “see” something in the data he can be allowed instrumentation and inference; that’s how I would have heard Gore’s words — that there’s a signal someone has found and published.
More generally — this would seem the time to get the footnotes and citations together for that movie, and for the presumably live and changing slide-speech outline.
Assuming someone from Mr. Gore’s program is reading — please, the citations, the footnotes.
The signal Eric says can’t be seen in his ice cores is an example, but you’ll be wanting to give documentation for every statement made.
That’s the teaching moment in this — teach science, citations, and how to look things up instead of trust what’s said in the movie.
Even if it was wrong — show us the source from which the claim went into the slide show and movie; then amend the slide show and add the new citation to the documentation.
To give a little more substance to my attitude toward Gore that obviously underlies my original comments above:
First, a little background. I am not a scientist. Before you scoff at my take on this based on that, remember this: most people are not scientists. In order to make the policy and practical changes that most of you here seek in order to fight the man-made climate change you perceive, you need to convince other than just scientists that there is such a thing, and that it is something to worry about. This is so because it is going to take the political and practical participation of at least a majority of the US population in order to effectuate the kinds of large scale changes that are sought.
I assume that Gore here means to attempt just that with his movie – that is, to reach out beyond the scientific community and to educate and convince the population at large on the importance of this topic, and to spur them to action. Fine. I have no problem with that. [ad hom edited]
Whatever his fans may think of him, there are a lot of people out there that just don’t like him. They think he comes across as self-important and haughty in his manner, beyond the standard criticism that he is a bit “wooden”. It seems to many that he thinks he is entitled to be listened to – that he is the smartest guy in any given room. He also is perceived as patronizing and insincere. [ad hom edited]
Now, you may agree or disagree with that take on Mr. Gore, but the fact remains that he evokes these reactions in a large percentage of the US population. This is not a secret. Gore himself jokes about it. Knowing this, Gore should also know that the message he wants to convey with his movie is going to be overshadowed in the minds of many by this preconceived notion they have about him.
Given all this, I, and I assure you many people like me, are left to wonder this: What is more important to Mr. Gore here? Is he most concerned that this message get out, or that he be the one to get it out? It seems to me that if he really wanted to do something that would reach and convince a lot of people to come over to his point of view on this matter, then he would have done it in a way that did not put himself front and center. Again, I know that he knows that a lot of people are turned off by him. Surely the other people involved in this project know that as well. Why hamstring your own effort?
Here is the real crux of the matter on this point: We all know that, as for the political and philosophical side of this discussion over man-made climate change, it is liberals/progressives/Democrats that largely “get it” and are on board with the view on this issue that Gore espouses, and it is conservatives/Republicans that are largely on the other side. Why that is true is complicated, and a discussion for another time. What matters here is that Gore does not need to convince his political fellow travelers – he needs to convince the other side. He should know, that his presence, his voice, his personality, etc. grates on that other side.
All that to say that, the merits of this issue aside, it seems to me that if Gore wants to advance this issue, as opposed to advancing himself, then he would get off the screen and let some one else do the talking.
[Response: First, this isn’t a partisan issue – even if it is sometimes portrayed that way – there are many senior people on both sides that ‘get it’. Secondly, everyone in the public realm comes with ‘baggage’ and I assume that they try and do their best regardless. It seems doubtful this movie would have been made and released were it not for it’s main speaker and so it seems difficult to criticise someone for using the interest there is in them personally, to push for ideas they think are important. I suggest you see the movie and then come back and see whether Gore’s presence adds or detracts from the theme. – gavin]
Re #24: One site is the Alternative Energy Action Network, http://www.altenergyaction.org/mambo/ (One of the founders of that, Arthur Smith has occasionally posted in the comments section of Real Climate.)
The Union of Concerned Scientists ( http://ucsusa.org/ ) also has a lot of info on alternative energy.
I’m not sure what these sites have in regards to the particular questions you raised…but they are certainly worth a look.
Alternative energies to Fossil Fuels that can mitigate AGW are available, however we can only mitigate fossil fuel use and not replace entirely with any means currently available to us. If we combine, solar, geothermal, windmicrowind, wave, tidal, nuclear fission, biomass – ethenol based fuels then we could probably mitigate fossil fuel use by around 50% maybe.
A political/economic take on this — one answer would be for governments to buy the fossil fuel reserves (especially coal) from the private owners, or buy back the rights to mine them from public land. That gives the owners some ‘value’ for their ‘property rights’ — which might get us out of the monkey-trap of being unable to let go of the ‘investment in fossil fuels’ to be able to switch to developing sources of energy that don’t increase CO2.
This independent, peer-reviewed synthesis for American business and military leaders charts a roadmap for getting the United States completely, attractively, and profitably off oil. Our strategy integrates four technological ways to displace oil: using oil twice as efficiently, then substituting biofuels, saved natural gas, and, optionally, hydrogen. Fully applying today’s best efficiency technologies in a doubled-GDP 2025 economy would save half the projected U.S. oil use at half its forecast cost per barrel. Non-oil substitutes for the remaining consumption would also cost less than oil. These comparisons conservatively assign zero value to avoiding oil’s many “externalized” costs, including the costs incurred by military insecurity, rivalry with developing countries, pollution, and depletion. The vehicle improvements and other savings required needn’t be as fast as those achieved after the 1979 oil shock.
The route we suggest for the transition beyond oil will expand customer choice and wealth, and will be led by business for profit. We propose novel public policies to accelerate this transition that are market-oriented without taxes and innovation-driven without mandates. A $180-billion investment over the next decade will yield $130-billion annual savings by 2025; revitalize the automotive, truck, aviation, and hydrocarbon industries; create a million jobs in both industrial and rural areas; rebalance trade; make the United States more secure, prosperous, equitable, and environmentally healthy; encourage other countries to get off oil too; and make the world more developed, fair, and peaceful.
Roger (#25) – Even taking your result as a given (eg, that increases in hurricane damage over the next 50 years will be due much more to development patterns than to increases in climate-change induced frequency or intensity changes), I think I reach different conclusions than you do.
First: For policy relevance, you are comparing the wrong numbers. You should be comparing (dollars hurricane damage avoided ‘dhda’) per (dollar invested in adaptation ‘diia’) to (dhda) per (dollar invested in climate change reductions ‘diiccr’) to decide the more efficient approach. But let’s assume that dhda/diia is still larger than dhda/diiccr (and also that dhda/diiccr is less than one):
The second, more important point: I don’t think many (any?) emissions reduction advocates say we should be reducing emissions solely for the cause of hurricane reduction. There are a laundry list of standard reasons (saving ecosystems, agricultural impacts due to precipitation changes, permafrost thawing, heat waves, sea level rise, reduced snowpack impacts on water supplies, etc. etc. etc.) to reduce emissions. It is possible that for any individual item on this laundry list, adaptation is a preferable solution to mitigation. However, if you take the _sum_ of the laundry list, I would argue that the scales begin to tip towards mitigation as being a cost effective approach. And to properly understand the magnitude of this sum, you need to have some idea about the relationship of each individual item on the list to climate change…
(In fact, I think adaptation will still be necessary, both because there is some “committed” changes in the pipeline, but also because any good economist will tell you that this is a marginal cost problem: cost per ton GHG reduced will increase as low-hanging fruit is taken, and one presumes some adaptation measures are low cost and should be implemented regardless)
So I think that “honest policy assessment” _should_ take into account the links between climate mitigation and future disasters, and it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.
The suggestion seems to be that Al Gore is more interested in putting himself front and center than he is in the issue itself. But Gore has been pushing the issue of climate change for quite a while, and during most of this time, it was not politically beneficial for him to do so. Certainly, there are a lot of people who dislike him for a variety of reasons, but remember that in the election of 2000, he did receive a plurality of the votes. It is probably not true that the great majority of those who voted for him then did so because of his position on global warming. So, if he just manages to convince those who voted for him then and are now feeling even more sorry he wasn’t elected, that they should take global warming more seriously, he will have accomplished something.
As to conservatives who feel they can’t believe anything that man may say because of their dislike of him, I think they seriously have to ask whether the dislike is based on the relatively minor personality features they describe or if it is what he stands for. I’ve always found George W. Bush personally annoying for a variety of reasons, but if he had followed through on his 2000 campaign promise to do something about controlling greenhouse gas emissions, I would have swallowed my dislike and supported him on that issue. But he reneged on that promise. Unfortunately, conservatives in the US can find very few political figures they might respect who can lead them to sensible energy and climate policies. John McCain is the only one that comes immediately to mind. The situation seems quite different in Great Britain, where Margaret Thatcher took the issue quite seriously. That by itself shows that this need not be a partisan issue.
I think we must all learn to question some of our dearly held beliefs if we are going to make progress in this area. For example, many “environmentalists” are not ready to consider nuclear reactors as one part of the solution, but I think they will have to get to that. It is not the job of liberals to convince conservatives to pay attention. It is all our jobs to understand the science as best we can and to put pressure on our leaders to adopt solutions that will work.
What would be extremely interesting to add to the dataset of just dollars per hurricane damage (since there are sensitivities to both raw geography and how insane we decide to be with development practices) would be a chart of how the 100-year flood (or hurricane damage equivalent) regions would change in an era of higher and warmer seas. Inside this country would be a start, but worldwide would eventually be needed.
So, if you were to take the changes of coastlines due to AGW, and then also look at the changes of predicted disaster zones due to AGW, you would likely get a very worrying picture indeed. Especially if you look at densely populated, previously safe areas that suddenly become regular disaster zones.
To Eric’s response to number 13: One of the things Gore emphasized in the question and answer session after the movie is that Time magazine’s “Be Very Worried” cover was not constructive. Gore’s point is that the U.S. has risen to challenges before, and exceeded all expectations. His major point is, “come on guys, lets show the world what we in the U.S. can do.” So the popular press is only just now catching up with the science. It seems a ways back in catching up with Gore.
Given the tenor of the tenor of the trailer for An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s take on the Time cover seems a little hypocritical. Both are sensational, in the worst sense of the term. But then, as Gore himself explains in an interview over at Grist, it’s a trailer, it’s supposed to grab your attention quickly. Ditto magazine covers.
Regarding #30 and #36 Appropriateness of Gore the messenger
I would tend to agree that a paradigm shift is in order–so a RANDOM thought shared out loud–perhaps if the likes of Milton Friedman, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and Silvio Berlusconi, et al, were converted, and then presented the Global Climate Change message to the world’s population, rather than the esteemed Al Gore, the message would fall in the right place(s). Business folks all surely have progeny.
For the reasons mentioned earlier, while I am sure to see the film, I wonder if the effort amounts to preaching to the choir, and polarizes receptivity for non-Gore fan base.
[Response: In person, Gore made it pretty clear that he thought it was invetiable that the U.S. “catches up” with the rest of the world. I think he is actually less concerned with trying to “convert” conservatives. He may be preaching to the choir, but the choir is not doing very much. He is trying to get serious people do not only recognize the problem, but to take up the challenge to do something about it. This is the part of the movie that resonated with me, at least. Gore is certainly trying to avoid polarizatoin. Whether he succeeds depends on how the movie fares in “mainstream” reviews I suppose. –eric]
I think not catching up with the science is due to a failure by all governments in meeting their responsibilities. For evidence of that, please see the absence of federal, state and local officials at the planned TOWN MEETING ON GLOBAL WARMING this Saturday (May 13th) in Minneapolis, link below. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ClimateArchive/message/3193
Re #5, we don’t really need Katrina to argue for GHG reductions — we have maybe 50 other reasons to reduce (incl measures that not only reduce GHGs, but reduce other pollutants, as well).
It almost seems as if you are using scientists’ lack of ability to attribute Katrina (in part at least) to GW, as an excuse NOT to reduce any GHGs whatsoever, even if it means reducing them could save us money & strengthen the economy (even without consideration of reducing environmental harm). I know you are not…but it almost seems you are.
Anywho, Katrina is water under the bridge (or over the levee), so we should be focused on averting future catastrophes (both by reducing GHGs & smart adaptation), bec the science is getting stronger that GW is causing & will cause hurricanes to intensify–the physics & theory have always suggested such a possibility, and now evidence is indicating that is correct. Maybe great cost-effective GHG reductions won’t reduce hurricane intensity a whole lot, esp in the short run (I guess that’s your point), but any little bit of reduction in intensity might help. It’s often that that last umph of intensity or inch of water that causes the most damage.
So if you can prove at .05 significance that GW did not intensity Katrina, then we only have much worse to expect in the future, when GW really kicks in. So we really need to reduce GHGs mucho mucho, starting yesterday.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 11 May 2006 @ 11:52 PM
Roger, you seem to have made a value-judgment that counts hurricane damage in dollars, not human lives and livelihoods, and rates an expensive hotel on the Gulf Coast far above poor villages or towns in Cuba or Grenada.
I have lost enough sleep thinking of the suffering we are causing through our greenhouse gas emissions to worry about property values (as opposed to lives and livelihoods lost) along the coast lines of the rich world.
How should the society of Grenada adapt to perhaps another hurricane like Ivan in the next few years? Or, in future perhaps one every year, or maybe more every year? None of the Caribbean islands might be safe for people later this century. The US could, at an enormous cost, abandon the Gulf Coast, but where do the millions of people living on islands in the hurricane path go?
What is the societal or economic adaptation you suggest for the people along the Bay of Bengal? Just up and move if ever more destructive cyclones slam the coastline? Storm shelters may have reduced deaths, but cannot save fields and homes. Whilst people from northern India may have to flee the mega drought that beckons when the glaciers vanish.
Hurricanes kill people, destroy fields, homes and livelihoods. By heating the oceans we are fuelling the hurricanes of the future. Never mind the property values – is that not a good enough reason to reduce our emissions? I surely think so!
Comment by Almuth Ernsting — 12 May 2006 @ 3:40 AM
Rasmus said in post 26:
“Some good points here, but you should not forget another aspect of adaption: smart organisation. The thought springs to mind every time I visit London and see the rush-hour traffic there. Sitting in a car – one person in each – for hours commuting back and forth to work does not seem to me to be a very smart way of organising a society.”
Whilst there is certainly a case to be made for car sharing and various schemes, the fundamental problem we have in London is that fact that the roads are pretty much all roman-medieval. The city simply wasn’t built for the car. There were plans in the ’30s to totally revamp the city for this mode of transport but it never happened. We aren’t like other European cities that knock things down and build grand projects; we simply add a bit here and there, onto existing structures.
To truly reduce congestion would take something so radical as to be unpalatable to the politicians. The congestion charge is a payment made by people driving into central London and it stands at Â£5 per journey. Our evening paper yesterday reported in outraged tones that the mayor is thinking of increasing it to Â£10. I support this but I doubt many other people will. Still, if you think congestion is bad now, you should have seen it before charging was introduced.
Jim Redden, your RANDOM thought may be the Holy Grail. Not only would the message fall in the right place(s). It would fall upon the essential vested interests; all of whom have an ox in the changing climate ring that is likely to get gored..and that was not a pun.
Elected politicians punch a 2, 4 and 6 year time clock. Having lobbied US Congress members for three decades, I can attest to their ADD. How to keep legislators and Executive Branch operators focused on a concern that plays out over decades, with upfront pain of uncertain magnitude and uncertain gain, in their lifetimes and certainly careers, is the near-hopeless task environmental activists have set out to accomplish.
Then, there are the day traders and CEOs who have everything to lose if climate scientists have it right and -worse- underestimated timing and magnitude of the change. Archer Daniels Midland is betting the farm on expanding ethanol production – investing hundreds of billions in new capacity – without knowing if an ice-free Arctic will doom production of the grain feedstock.
The insurance industry is getting it and fast. Other industry types will — eventually. It is the greater challenge to identify the eventual corporate deer-in-the-headlights and begin a dialogue about their survival and adaptation. But, envirornmental groups are antagonistic to capitalists and the religious community may not have the tools nor focus to step up to the corporate world with a message that does not reek of justice and social responsibility (maybe I am wrong there).
Jim, keep working that RANDOM thought on this page if you can. It is as valuable as cracking the THC mystery.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 12 May 2006 @ 6:45 AM
The sister problem to global warming is peak oil. While the debate still rages, had anybody listed to Deffeyes, she would be long on oil and driving a Prius. Anybody taking Yergin’s side would have a sorry portfolio of airlines and GM and be driving a Hummer. We may pretend the debate is still relevant but we all know who we would have been better off heeding. To bad our government didn’t listen.
If bark beetles are as smart as humans they must be congratulating themselves on their success. There has never been more of them populating the Kenai. I can imagine a Roger Pielke Beetle advising his fellow beetles that we don’t need to stop killing the spruce, all we have to do is adapt. Obviously a circular argument belonging in the circular file. When the last spruce is dead so are the bark beetles.
David Iles (#26) is spot on and vastly more polite than I am. Adaptation means to stop engaging in the behaviors which are killing us and our biosphere. If we can’t do that then I submit that we are not adapting by definition. Adapting requires that we reduce emissions, stop cutting down the Amazonia, cease blowing up the mountains in the Appalachia, stop over fishing the oceans, stop destroying our soils with GM crops and factory farming and control our population. Using Katrina to set the stage for arguing for emissions reductions seems to me as scientifically rational as using melting glaciers and the rapid extinction of species. Anyway, my family members sold their home in Pensacola and moved North. Let the great hurricane debate rage on, but my money is on Emanuel. To bad our government isn’t listening.
Adaptation can save us but being proud of adaptation skills which we are not exhibiting is going to kill us. Humans are not that adaptable. We are a very large mammal on top of an ever increasingly fragile food chain.
To succinctly state the problem, there are 6.5 billion of us and the Earth’s carrying capacity may be 4 billion, but that number must be falling along with the tenuous state of our environment.
Roger, some more investment advise: Bush’s supply side economic ideology and his war against nobody to control the world’s oil supply seems to have already bankrupted us and looks poised to destroy our economy. I’ve been long gold for years now. I could be completely wrong but there is money to be made believing in peak oil, global warming and that Bush is an idiot. Understand, I am not saying our president is an idiot. I’m only suggesting that you can make money investing on that premise. I’m not saying you and Yergin and Bush are wrong, far from it. I’m just saying you all make excellent contrarian indicators. Peace.
Re: 22 (Re 20)
The concepts proposed by Pacala and Socolow could indeed be very useful.
My point is about the emissions profile. P&S propose a stabilisation of GHG emissions between 2000 and 2050 (I checked in your reference) and then a fall to zero net emissions in 2100. They claim it should stabilise GHG concentrations at 500 ppm.
I fail to see how this is consistent with claims by others (see my ref in 20) than strong reductions are needed by 2050 to achieve that kind of concentration level. They assume non zero emissions by 2100, I agree, but would that explain the difference in needed 2050 emissions levels ?
… THE world will warm by 3C, even under the most optimistic emissions projections for 2050, according to the UN group that studies global warming. …
… experts think it probable that pre-industrial carbon dioxide levels will double by 2050, even given successful efforts to contain greenhouse gas emissions. … http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19030955-2703,00.html
What would a global rise in temperatures of 3C mean for the inhabitants of the world? – by 2050? by 2100? What about if the rate of increase in CO2 and global temperatures is even more rapid?
Are we insane? Both mitigation and adaptation are crucial.
Those who argue that mitigation won’t reduce the severity of tropical cyclones, etc. are using a factually correct argument to support a fundamentally flawed concept. Sure, reducing GHG emissions won’t eliminate the problems that already exist, but they will head off even worse problems. Yes, it’s going to get worse, but it will be far more so without mitigation than with.
We’re probably already seeing increases in the severity of hurricanes, so that one like Katrina might be a one-in-five-years threat rather than a one-per-century threat. But without mitigation, it could become a one-per-annum threat, or even worse.
And there *are* critical points in the climate system: collapse of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, wholescale melting of permafrost, etc. Adaptation does nothing to reduce the likelihood of crossing these critical points, triggerring disaster.
In my opinion, arguments against mitigation are just the latest form of short-sighted contrarianism.
I don’t want to divert attention from the RC focus on the broader themes of Gore’s movie, so won’t comment further on this thread. If you’d like to follow up on the questions of adapatation or hurricanes, there are plenty of opportunities on our site.
Thanks to the RC folks for entertaining my infrequent rabble rousing here!
Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr. — 12 May 2006 @ 11:02 AM
Re: Pacala and Socolow
The Pacala and Socolow wedges approach does aim for stabilization at 500 ppm. The idea is that the technology exists today to keep emissions, not GHG concentrations, at today’s level for the next 50 years. That would be a big improvement from the IPCC “business-as-usual” estimates but would not be stabilizing GHG concentrations. They assume by making this initial effort, the world will then be driven to develop the breakthrough technologies necessary to substantially reduce emissions beyond 2050 and achieve stablization of concentrations at 500 ppm.
Whether or not one agrees with those assumptions, it is an interesting and pragmatic take on what they call the “carbon problem”.
Whether Al Gore is the right messenger for Global warming or not, there seems to be no one else on his level of political popularity with the courage to raise his or her heads above the surface on the issue.
As far as the public is concerned according to the polls (as I have posted a number of times. see http://www.pollingreport.com/enviro.htm ), the public recognizes the importance of a healthy environment and the need for a much larger governmental response to global climate change. I have no doubt that Mr. Gore is fully aware of this.
I know four people who have met Mr. Gore and all of these, intelligent and discriminating people, were completely impressed by him and remarked on what a sincere person he was. He did, after all win the popular vote in 2001 even after a disastrously stupid (sorry Al) campaign in which he contorted himself into a bizarre political puppet, when what the public clearly was looking for was someone who was sincere. I think if he is willing to leave his handlers in the closet and show the people the person my friends met he has good chance of advancing this preeminently important issue.
Thank you Tony for your directness. I think evolution is pretty clear on the issue, species that do not show the correct adaptations to a changing environment die, regardless of the eloquence of their last words.
Re: 45 and Jim Reddons random thought.
Any leader in any sector that is willing to advocate intelligent adaptation to changing conditions would be a welcome change. However our current business leaders appear to have their heads firmly wedged into next quarters profits and apparently the view of the future is not to clear from that particular position.
Due to sickness and chance I happened to be watching PBS on Sunday an interview with the head of Southwest airlines and the founder of Valero Inc a major oil refinery. These are two business leaders that are know for their for far-sightedness and compassion towards their employees. They seemed to vigorously endorse the notion of more of the same along with a heaping helping of denial. Naturally peak oil, green house gases and changing climate never came up. Both were hard hit by Katrina but seemed to have no plans to adapt to changing times or even a willingness to recognize that we are in them.
I suppose I am one of those progressives that don’t have a particularly warm feeling about the corporate culture. My wariness is generated from reading history and an observation of current times. The corporate world has actively tried to promote their profit margins at the expense of the environment and the population’s health and welfare -often including their own workers – since the start of the industrial revolution. From the eight hour day and five day work week to seatbelts and safe handling of toxins, corporate structure has been violently opposed to even the most basic of precautions and they have tended to hold onto their positions until the last possible moment. I suppose appealing to their greed is a winning strategy, but I fear it will just keep us lurching from one crisis to another. I do agree any kind of forward motion is better then none.
I think the questions of post 48 are important ones for the contributors to Real Climate to answer. As the proponderance of evidence against the ideas of the naysayers becomes more publically available and well known, I suspect the naysayers will switch their tactics from denying anthropogenic global warming, to claiming that global warming isn’t a big deal, or that there is too much uncertainty in predicting the dangerous effects of global warming to justify action.
I think the contributors to Real Climate will do much to advance their mission if they take the initiative to begin addressing this line of argument before it gains too much momentum in the mainstream debate.
I found that Australian link at RC’s thread on ipcc-draft-no-comment.
My previous comment (48) was in reply to points made by Alain (47) of this thread dealing with emissions and GHG concentrations, therefore, your comment (52) that … We have a topic for not discussing that draft, here; let’s use it. seems inappropriate to me.
Another comment you made in 52, about agreeing to not quote or distribute info from the draft until the final version is released, does not apply to all of us.
As the proponderance of evidence against the ideas of the naysayers becomes more publically available and well known, I suspect the naysayers will switch their tactics from denying anthropogenic global warming, to claiming that global warming isn’t a big deal, or that there is too much uncertainty in predicting the dangerous effects of global warming to justify action.
I am reminded of something that electrical engineer and parapsychologist Dean Radin wrote in his book The Conscious Universe. He was writing about attitudes towards laboratory research on parapsychology but I think his comment has some resonance with “skeptical” attitudes towards antrhopogenic global warming and climate change:
In science, the acceptance of new ideas follows a predictable, four-stage sequence. In Stage 1, skeptics confidently proclaim that the idea is impossible because it violates the Laws of Science. This stage can last from years to centuries, depending on how much the idea challenges conventional wisdom. In Stage 2, skeptics reluctantly concede that the idea is possible, but it is not very interesting and the claimed effects are extremely weak. Stage 3 begins when the mainstream realizes that the idea is not only important, but its effects are much stronger and more pervasive than previously imagined. Stage 4 is achieved when the same critics who used to disavow any interest in the idea begin to proclaim that they thought of it first. Eventually, no one remembers that the idea was once considered a dangerous heresy.
Here’s hoping that AGW is beginning to reach Stage 4 now.
I can spot a little cherrypicking, strawman erecting and obvious omission of relevant facts in it, but it would be great to read a one-off article on realclimate that thoroughly reviewed one such skeptical website piece to demonstrate the wide difference between armchair science and the actual science.
It’s bafflegab, stuff like “… emission … at lower energy [longer wavelength] radiation than the energy previously absorbed … since the absorbed energy has been transformed it cannot be said to be “reradiated”
They’re aiming to confuse the part of the voting population that doesn’t understand physics.
Remarkably, (considering the history of the editorial page), this Wall Street Journal article explains the science of climate change without the phony “balance” provided by professional global warming skeptics, faking science with discredited think-tank talking points and advocacy-driven cherry picking. No Fred Singer claiming “satellites show no warming”, no Richard Lindzen complaining about alarmist scientists competing for research funds by spinning scary scenarios, nothing but credible, accomplished scientists clearly and dispassionately explaining the results of hard won research. I hope Gore’s movie will help the public understand the credibility of this approach.
Comments (#30) that Gore is “patronizing and insincere” reflect the success of an agenda-driven smear campaign against the man, rather than character of the man himself. I think Gore’s sincerity and his integrity are self-evident. Given his long commitment to global warming issues, and his apparent concern for getting the science right, he should be commended for his honesty and his passion, not condemned as “wooden” and self-serving.
“Assuming someone from Mr. Gore’s program is reading — please, the citations, the footnotes.”
He already has them out; *Earth in the Balance* has a somewhat dated collection of them. But for the best cites and footnotes you can (I’m a broken record) do no better than to look in the IPCC report, which has more, probably, than even experts in the field can read in their lives.
I wouldn’t read too much into the Wall Street Journal article: they have a well-deserved reputation for keeping a firewall between their (generally accurate) reporting and their (generally nonsensical) editorial page.
And a belated pile-on to the post at #30: I agree that unpopular people shouldn’t go around publicizing their beliefs, but the rule should apply to people I don’t like, not people A. Fortner doesn’t like. (And, by the way, it isn’t Al Gore’s movie.)
Randolph, I’m aware of the book and the IPCC reports. But for purposes of supporting, and responding to questions and misrepresentations point by point when people are reacting to the movie of the slide show Mr. Gore is presenting — the references _for_each_point_in_each_slide_ could be presented.
We tell people who come in with grab-bag denial and disinformation talking points to please tell us where they got those ideas, specifically. “Scientists say” or “many would argue” isn’t sufficient reference to defend ideas, true or not.
Take the point raised above as just one example — if there’s a reference for invasive plants and warming _on_which_Mr._Gore’s_slide_is_based_ (not just “if there’s one somewhere anyone can find by hunting” for the topic) — it’d be helpful to know the cite, the exact one.
A slide show is a very boiled-down presentation. Just saying look in the old book or the IPCC for support is not effective argument.
Yes, I’m sure I can find support — but I’m not sure what I find is what his slide is based on, so I can’t argue in support of his point as effectively.
Have I been any clearer here? I’m asking for cites for the actual points in the actual slides because it’s actually educational and good practice when arguing a scientific issue to provide them, and be willing to adjust the discussion as research goes on.
This is off thread but, i could not find a email address for Realclimate so i am writting here with asuggestion for an article.i would really like to know more on the implications of these findings http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2004/s2261.htm
It is somewhat dated (2004) but this has got to be very significant to our climate. I tried a search of your site to find past articles and found nothing.
Thanks for all of your efforts to inform us on what is probally the most important topic to humanity and all the other critters stuck with us as the current dominant species.
Re #61 (and #63): We can indeed be thankful for the “firewall” that exists between the WSJ editorial page and news reporting. Nonetheless, I think it is important to encourage such good reporting so I sent an e-mail to the author of that article, Sharon Begley, thanking her for it and noting that it is a refreshing change from the sort of junk-science editorials and op-eds that we see on the editorial page of the WSJ.
[Response: I also think Begley’s article was excellent — very accurate and to the point. It was on the front page of the Marketplace section, and so should have have attracted a lot of readership. Though the reporting sections of the WSJ are not as biased as the editorial pages, they are by no means uniformly good either — recall the front page “Global Warming is a Myth” article they carried a few years back. One can hope that Begley’s article will set a new standard, but time will tell. I toyed with the idea of doing a “job well done” article on Begley (like the piece on Kristof a little while back), but decided there wasn’t enough to comment on. Nevertheless, I am very happy to declare here that it is indeed a job well done. As for that famous firewall between the editorial page and the reporting pages, in this instance one could wish it were just a little more leaky — at least in one direction (guess which one). –raypierre]
See the movie. Stop confusing the presenter with the message. Nit pick at the movie, if you will. But address the message.
Why do we always have to tangle with those who look at fluff, who want a warm fuzzy feeling? Even responding to this makes me queasy. And queasy I was when I watched the editors here respond to it. Stooping.
The long and short of it: I suspect you do not think much of the science and less of Gore because he ran against your guy Bushâ?¦.and prefer to snip away at the messenger.
I, like you, am a novice in climatology. How hard it is to have an open mind. And it is hard, for all of us. Take politics elsewhere, please, where the media is the message.
Re #64: The Junk Science take on Greenhouse Warming.
There is a lot of good information here, and it starts off well. The explanation of the greenhouse effect leaves out the Stefan-Boltzmann law, which is rather fundamental to it. If found the following statement interesting, and I think it is valid:
Theoretically, if the planet’s surface cooled by radiation alone, then the greenhouse-induced surface temperature would be much warmer, about 350 degrees K (77 Â°degrees C), but atmospheric motion (convective towers carrying latent and sensible heat upwards and large scale circulation carrying it both upwards and polewards) significantly increase the “escape” of energy to space, leaving Earth’s surface more than 60 degrees C cooler than a static atmosphere would do.
[Response: Actually, even this statement is garbage. It takes the atmosphere as observed, which is already influenced by the redistribution of surface heating by convection, keeps it fixed, and then computes what the surface temperature would be if convection and surface turbulent heat fluxes were turned off. This is not a possible equilibrium state of the atmosphere. If you were to completely turn off the turbulent heat flux out of the surface and suppress convection, the atmosphere would be much colder than it is, and the vertical temperature gradient would be considerably weaker. It’s simply not correct to say that the convection increases the escape of energy to space. Another inconsistency is that if you shut off convection and surface turbulent fluxes, the atmosphere would be dry, which would make the planet still colder. All in all, the above is a pointless and misleading statement — unless the point is to mislead. –raypierre]
The trouble begins a little later:
Water accounts for about 90% of the Earth’s greenhouse effect — perhaps 70% is due to water vapor and about 20% due to clouds (mostly water droplets), some estimates put water as high as 95% of Earth’s total greenhouse effect. The remaining portion comes from carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, ozone and miscellaneous other “minor greenhouse gases.” As an example of the relative importance of water it should be noted that changes in the relative humidity on the order of 1.3-4% are equivalent to the effect of doubling CO2.
The usual figure is 65% water vapor compared to other greenhouse gases. Adding in clouds at this point is not valid, because they also reflect incoming radiation and should be handled separately. The implication (not explicitly stated) is that only 10% of the greenhouse effect is from gases other than water vapor, which is false, it is 35%. This is dishonest accounting. Adding that some [invalid] “estimates” claim 95% water vapor is even more dishonest.
As for the statement about water vapor, it is ambiguous. If it means 4% relative to present levels (as it implies) it is false. If it means an absolute value of 4%, compared to the 1% level it is today, then it is true, but exactly what is going to make water vapor rise? Water vapor levels correspond to atmospheric temperature, so water vapor is a feedback to other climate forcings.
It gets worse. This is a very sleazy statement:
If we consider the warming effect of the pre-Industrial Revolution atmospheric carbon dioxide (about 280 parts per million by volume or ppmv) as 1, then the first half of that heating was delivered by about 20ppmv (0.002% of atmosphere) while the second half required an additional 260ppmv (0.026%). To double the pre-Industrial Revolution warming from CO2 alone would require about 90,000ppmv.
He is talking about the total effect of carbon dioxide, starting from zero. Doubling pre-Industrial Revolution warming means doubling from 33 degrees, which might well take 90,000 ppmv. This is deliberately intended to be confused with doubling carbon dioxide from pre-Industrial levels, which gives about 1.2 degress C in direct forcing, and about 3 degrees after feedbacks.
Maybe some other readers here can add to these observations.
Readers should be aware that the temperature effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide is logarithmic (that means there is a diminishing response as you keep adding more, like the additional window shade example, above). If we consider the warming effect of the pre-Industrial Revolution atmospheric carbon dioxide (about 280 parts per million by volume or ppmv) as 1, then the first half of that heating was delivered by about 20ppmv (0.002% of atmosphere) while the second half required an additional 260ppmv (0.026%). To double the pre-Industrial Revolution warming from CO2 alone would require about 90,000ppmv (9%) but we’d never see it – CO2 becomes toxic at around 6,000ppmv (0.6%, although humans have absolutely no prospect of achieving such concentrations).
[Response: The only part of this statement that’s true is the first sentence, the statement of toxicity, and the statement that humans have no prospect of increasing CO2 to 90000ppmv. The radiative forcing is indeed logarithmic, this is incorporated in the standard radiation physics used in every model, and it has been taken into account in every mainstream estimate of global warming going back to Arrhenius. The rest is a deception wrapped in pseudoscientific gobbledegook. Blair explained it well in his comment above. I actually do work on very high CO2 atmospheres, for dealing with the Early Earth and Snowball Earth problems, and based on the radiation codes I use, here are some numbers: Keeping the temperature and water vapor fixed at typical modern values, increasing CO2 from 280 ppm to 90000ppm would give you about 50 W/m**2 of additional radiative forcing. That’s actually a lot larger than the 30 W/m**2 CO2 radiative forcing you get going from none to 280 ppm with water vapor fixed. Evidently, the junk science writer didn’t take into account the fact that the radiative forcing becomes somewhat steeper than logarithmic at large CO2 values, when formerly weak bands start to become important. That 30 W/m**2, added to about 80 W/m**2 from water vapor, warms the Earth from about 255K (no greenhouse effect) to about 285K. Now, the 50 W/m**2 additional CO2 radiative forcing going to 90000ppmv would warm the Earth by an additional 25K, if we applied the same water vapor feedback coefficient from the present climate. In reality, the warming would be considerably greater, since water vapor feedback becomes more effective at high temperatures. –raypierre]
[Response: I’ve been thinking some more about what kind of deception the JunkScience.com writer was trying to pull off here. My reading is that he is setting up the false premise that people are concerned about doubling CO2 because they think that doubling CO2 would double the total radiative forcing — then he debunks that hypothetical belief, leaving the reader with the feeling that doubling CO2 is no big deal so far as radiative forcing goes. That’s a false impression to leave the reader with, because in fact doubling the radiative forcing of CO2 would be a huge deal. If the radiative forcing of CO2 were actually linear in concentration, then when contemplating doubling CO2 we’d be talking not just about the risk of exterminating polar bears, but about extinguishing everything less hardy than a thermophilic bacterium. Because the climate change from a doubling of total CO2 radiative forcing is so incredibly massive, it doesn’t provide an appropriate frame of reference for thinking about the radiative forcing that would actually be caused by a doubling of CO2. It’s a darn good thing that radiative forcing is only logarithmic in CO2 — otherwise, climate would have undergone such massive fluctuations in the past that it’s unlikely that any multicellular life would be around today to think about things like radiative transfer. ]
For the record, Mr. Gore does not claim to have been sitting in Dr. Revelle’s class in 1958. He simply says that Revelle began his C02 studies about that time. Mr. Gore merely states that Revelle was one of his most admired professors. When exactly he studied with him remains unclear, at least to the rest of us.
I also sent an email to the WSJ for the article by Sharon Begley. I said … Comment 41. at RC (below) shows part of why I think the public needs help to understand how scientists attribute climate-change data. Your article will help. I have done work that shows other signatures of global warming, including some related to polar (and mod-high latitude) amplification, and some on increasing overnight low temperatures and winter-spring temperature averages in the Upper Midwest. … ref to TOWN MEETING: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ClimateArchive/message/3193
… Thanks for doing your article.
There was some positive discussion on the al gore movie at the TOWN MEETING. Presentations included Explorer Will Steger on Anarctica-Arctic (great discussion of Will’s experience crossing two mile thick Greenland ice sheet), State Representative Keith Ellison (on global warming concerns and alternative energy), Lynn Hinkle, UAW 879 (â??Ford Green Proposalâ?? to stay in St. Paul… reasons for failure), Chad Kister (author of Arctic Melting: How Climate Change Is Destroying One of the Worldâ??s Largest Wilderness Areas), Phyllis Walker, President AFSCME Local 3800 & Former New Orleans resident (failure of federal government to help out New Orleans), Professor Mark Davis, Macalester College Biology Department (told the group not to exaggerate global warming consequences (his perspective) and Christine Franks (planned the meeting and arranged for reading of letters from a few of the mayors in the Twin Cities area. I gave my power point presentation on Climate Change in the Red River Valley (full page op-ed in the Grand Forks Herald, May 4, 2006). My power point presentation for the TOWN MEETING is now at my photos link, …
… (click Mighty Mouse). http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/patneuman2000/my_photos
Milloy is just setting up a classic straw man fallacy Ray if I read your comments correctly. I’m just a biologist and the context of these numbers and elements is critical. I have to work my butt off just to keep track of all the shellgaming going on with the sceptic mercenaries. To the regular scientifically illiterate citizenery Milloy can be convincing. He’s a political tool. That’s a crime in my view. Get yur snake oil here, step right up!
[Response: It’s easy for somebody like Milloy to make the effect of CO2 look small to the naive reader. A 4 watt/m**2 change in the radiation budget is only something like 1% of the Earth’s energy budget, right? So maybe we get a 1% change in temperature, sort of, right? But what the naive reader, used to degrees C or degrees F (measured relative to freezing) doesn’t realize is that in all the physics, what counts is degrees KELVIN — i.e. measured relative to absolute zero. Life occupies a small operating range of temperature, measured relative to absolute zero, and multicellular life a still smaller range. Hence, a 1% change of temperature is in fact a big deal to us. 1% of a 285K temperature is 2.85K. –raypierre]
The bioshpere and co2 levels would have evolved together, cooperatively, to get the temperature just right for maximum work. Even geologicaly, over time, evolution would have naturally buried enough excess carbon to get it right, in a sense all those mass extinctions served a long term goal.
Reading real climate, wikopedia and google scholar gives me the willies. Evolution seems intelligent, effecting global change to maximize biological output.
I wonder, how many extinctions evolution normally poduces at this stage of recent glacial cycles. I wonder if the evolution of mammals over time tended to increase their effect on noticable co2 levels.
Fox’ “Journal Editorial Report” had this report Saturday. The link doesn’t have the complete transcript [yet? I don’t know what their policy is] so, you don’t get to read the comments by the panel, but maybe one can get the video (I have a dial-up connection, and can’t be bothered to spend that much effort to see something that agrivating for a second time). One comment that sticks inmy mind, and my craw, was something like ‘Even if GW is a fact, the best responce is business as usual, stay rich and adapt.’ Wow.
The following is from Milloy’s explanation of the greenhouse effect. I realize it fails to deal with the importance of the temperature at which a greenhouse gas radiates into space. But I am still having trouble understanding how it works at a basic molecular level, so I am not sure which parts of this are correct. In particular, it is true that a greenhouse gas must “re-radiate” (to use the forbidden term) at a longer wavelength? If so, I would think very little energy with the right wavelength would ever reach the top of the troposphere.
Greenhouse gases, therefore, do not “trap heat,” but could be fairly described as delaying the energy transfer from Earth to space. “Trapping heat” implies that the energy is stuck in the system forever — this is a false notion. Greenhouse gases do not emit energy in the same bandwidth that they absorb energy, and thus emissions from carbon dioxide are not absorbed by carbon dioxide. While energy may be delayed on its inevitable journey back to space, it will eventually be emitted regardless of the number of intervening stages.
Do greenhouse gases ‘reradiate’ the infrared radiation they absorb?
This is an unfortunate expression that is all too common. Absorbed radiation is transformed to either kinetic or potential energy and, as such, no longer exists in its original form — hence, it cannot be “reradiated.” When molecules absorb infrared radiation they are said to become excited (“hot”). Such molecules can release energy usually in one of three ways: by chemical reaction (uncommon, since greenhouse gases are pretty stable and non-reactive); quenching (transferring energy to cooler molecules, increasing their temperature) and; emission (usually at lower energy [longer wavelength] radiation than the energy previously absorbed). Once more, since the absorbed energy has been transformed it cannot be said to be “reradiated”.
[Response: Some of this is incorrect, and other bits are technically correct but basically just nitpicking about terminology. There are many levels at which the greenhouse effect can be understood, and a rather basic notion of energy balance suffices for most purposes. The point of statements like the one above is to persuade people that the whole thing is so complicated that they can’t possibly understand it, and by implication that people like Gore are clueless when they talk about the system. In fact, the basics are very, very simple and should be readily comprehensible to anybody who has ever spent a night under a down comforter or in a sleeping bag. There is only one way a planet loses heat, and that’s by infrared radiation to space. Greenhouse gases insulate the planet against this energy loss,thus allowing the planet to say warmer with the same energy input. In this sense, they work in just the same way as a blanket or sleeping bag — not generating heat, but “keeping heat in” so that you can maintain the same temperature difference between your body and the great outdoors while expending less energy. Would you say that “trapping heat” is a fundamentally flawed explanation of how a blanket works? Does anybody think a blanket traps heat forever, so that you’d be burned to crisp by morning? Lots of the rest of the discussion of absorption and reradiation is also just a matter of semantics, and some is just plain wrong. It’s true that you can’t tag and trace an individual photon after it’s been absorbed, but no physicist thinks of it this way, and I doubt that the lay audience thinks at that microscopic level when thinking about a statement like “absorption and reradiation.” Though energy is transformed, it is never lost, and if you simply think in terms of energy fluxes, you won’t go too far wrong. Greenhouse gases high up absorb a great deal of the infrared flux coming from below. The net energy balance (which includes absorption,emission and convective heat transport) keeps the upper levels colder than the lower levels. Since colder levels radiate infrared more feebly than warmer levels, the cold levels have essentially intercepted the infrared from below, and replaced it with new infrared radiated at a colder temperature. It’s not so terribly bad a description of this to simply say that these levels absorb infrared and reradiate it at a lower temperature — it’s just a matter of what you mean by “it,” and I doubt that anybody but radiation physicists thinks too much about that. By the way, about the business of emission and absorption being at different wavelengths: Lot’s of the JunkScience.com description is wrong. The upward infrared into the upper troposphere is compounded of emission from the surface and emission from clouds and greenhouse gases. This emission is indeed partly or largely absorbed by the same greenhouse gases that contribute to the emission from below. The re-radiation (or “replacement radiation,” if you will) from the colder upper layer does indeed have a different spectrum from the incident radiation, but the shift in wavelength with temperature is a relatively small contribution to this. The main contribution comes from the fact that the upward infrared is already “depleted” in those wavelengths which greenhouse gases absorb well. However, by Kirchoff’s law, the emission is strongest in those bands where the greenhouse gas is the best absorber. That means that the CO2 in the cold upper troposphere is radiating mainly around the 15 micron band, whereas the absorption is more or less occurring in the complement of this band, or at least on its fringes. This is what allows the tropopause temperature to be substantially below the skin temperature. From the standpoint of the way the greenhouse effect works, the spectral niceties are more or less irrelevant — the net effect is still that the GHG reduces the rate at which infrared is lost to space, for any given surface temperature. Oh, and of course, all this physics, including the spectral niceties, is fully incorporated in climate models. It’s just a matter of how much of it the informed public needs to understand in order to make informed decision about carbon emissions and energy policy. For that, the blanket analogy works perfectly well. What’s much more consequential from the policy perspective are things like the nature of cloud uncertainties, the geographic distribution of climate change, the way precipitation might change in critical areas, and the chemical oceanographic stuff that determines the lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere. –raypierre]
thanks to all above for the comments on the “junk” science article. The name is fitting huh? These often appear in fox news(go figure!!!) and for those not involved in heavy duty climate modelling, it is hard to really understand what is going on. Their arguments muddy up the waters of understanding these highly complex radiative non-linear processes. i have learned a lot. thanks all!
one more comment….has anyone noticed the continuing anomalously low arctic sea ice extent? It has been running very low since last fall’s record minimum….except for a brief period in November. In fact I believe it has been near or at record low levels (since 1979) almost every month. check out…. http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.365.jpg
This is scary because it seems that each year it is getting lower and lower faster(feedbacks kicking in now?). I hope this pace of ice loss is just a natural trend that will reverse to some extent soon…but overall in the long run it will probably continue to drop. Also the satellite MSU temp records are really showing some warming of which I believe are fairly accurate. If we continue to warm at the pace of the last few years (which hopefully will slow down or temporarily reverse), 10 years from now the climate will be noticeably different for many more people than just those that live in the arctic… any comments or thoughts would be appreciated?? thanks
#72, Blair Dowden — you start off by saying you thought the junkscience page as having ‘good’ information.
Raypierre responds debunking what you quoted from junkscience, point by point.
Your posting started by saying you thought the junkscience page
“…. leaves out the Stefan-Boltzmann law, … If [I?] found the following statement interesting, and I think it is valid …” and quoted something without a source.
Ray pointed out that too was wrong.
Where did find that statement you quoted? Why did you trust that source, and does it have any cites or footnotes? (I can’t find what you quoted searching online.)
[Response: I don’t think this is entirely fair to Blair. I read his comment as, for the most part, saying that key parts of the junkscience article (those which invite the reader to draw a conclusion) are deceptive. Blair happened to think the first passage he quoted was reasonable, and indeed it sounds reasonable unless you have worked a lot on the climate system and know how it works. I know many professional climate researchers who still are somewhat confused about the different roles of the surface and top-of-atmosphere energy budgets. The junkscience statement on this was an especially egregious blunder, but still not one I’d expect a non-professional to spot the problems with. That’s just the problem with junkscience — they manage to sound like the high-minded sober professionals, whereas a lot of what you find there is a pseudoscientific equivalent of the ink a squid jets out to confuse its enemies –raypierre]
Thanks Ray, I didn’t mean to criticize Blair — I didn’t see the holes in that statement either.
Blair, I was asking what your source was for that first statement — you said it wasn’t from junkscience, and can’t find it anywhere. Was it from a book or other offline source? I wanted to understand where it came from.
RealClimate Reviews the Science of An Inconvenient Truth
The climate scientists are RealClimate.org have posted a short review of the science in the upcoming Al Gore movie about global warming: An Inconvenient Truth. The verdict? “For the most part, I think Gore gets the science right, just as he did in Eart…
#80, the underlying reason for sea ice change may be sea surface salinity (sss), there should be significantly more of it during winter. The overlying reason is of course warmer tropospheric temperatures, that we know is happening. This said it is hard to confirm because there are very few (if any) permanent sss websites dedicated for
displaying salinity concentrations.
At the Town Meeting in Minneapolis yesterday (75), Will Steger showed a sequence of slides on areal ice loss within the Arctic. Will Steger was very serious in his concern about slippage of the ice fields on Greenland into the sea, which could happen suddenly and produce a 20-30 ft rise in sea level. I think there is great uncertainty about when that might happen. On May 19th, Will Steger will be receiving the Lindberg Award for his explorations and “his deep understanding of the environment and his efforts to raise awareness of current environmental threats, especially climate change.” http://www.willsteger.com/
Re #72 and Ray’s comment, “[Response: Actually, even this statement is garbage. It takes the atmosphere as observed, which is already influenced by the redistribution of surface heating by convection, keeps it fixed, and then computes what the surface temperature would be if convection and surface turbulent heat fluxes were turned off. This is not a possible equilibrium state of the atmosphere. If you were to completely turn off the turbulent heat flux out of the surface and suppress convection, the atmosphere would be much colder than it is, and the vertical temperature gradient would be considerably weaker. It’s simply not correct to say that the convection increases the escape of energy to space. Another inconsistency is that if you shut off convection and surface turbulent fluxes, the atmosphere would be dry, which would make the planet still colder. All in all, the above is a pointless and misleading statement — unless the point is to mislead. –raypierre]”
I think the contrast called for is that between an atmosphere in pure radiative equilibrium, which really does produce a surface temperature of 330-350 K, and the same atmosphere with a convective adjustment, which brings down Ts to c. 290 K. Check chapters 2 and 4 of Houghton’s “The Physics of Atmospheres,” or Goody and Yung on the use of the convective adjustment. Yes, the atmosphere in pure radiative equilibrium is unrealistic; but it’s often used anyway to start off examining heating of a planet’s surface and atmosphere by Solar radiation.
I don’t know if it would help things or not, but I’m thinking about writing a short paper which would use a gray approximation to explain the greenhouse effect. I am not, repeat not, a professional scientist, so maybe I don’t have the standing to post an article on RealClimate. Could y’all let me know if 1) such a post would be a good idea, and 2) if I would be allowed to do it? Thanks.
Re #91: I would welcome a consise (and accurate) explanation of the greenhouse effect, even if I do not know what a gray approximation is. It seems most information is at one of two levels – a simplistic explanation for people with little knowledge, or scientists in the field communicating with each other. It is hard to find anything aimed at levels in between.
Ray suggested that the blanket analogy is sufficient for most people. The problem is when they find out there is about 30 times more water vapor than carbon dioxide, and water vapor absorbs over a wider spectrum, then carbon dioxide must be a trivial component of the system, so why worry about it? While I think I now understand why this is not the case (thanks mainly to Ray), I have not seen any single place where it is explained properly at a level I can understand. When trying to explain this to others, I can’t give a reference so I am essentially asking them to take my word for it.
[Response: You might check our post on water vapor, here]
Re #89: After doing my part to debunk the skeptics, I am now going to be one. The statement that “slippage of the ice fields on Greenland into the sea, which could happen suddenly and produce a 20-30 ft rise in sea level” is at least as misleading and irresponsible as anything Milloy the Junkman has said. The complete melting of the Greenland ice cap would cause sea levels to rise 6.6 meters, or about 21 feet. That is not going to happen “suddenly”. Greenland is not a table with a hunk of ice on it. It is mostly surrounded by mountains along both coasts, so it is better thought of as an overflowing bowl. It will take many hundreds (some say thousands) of years to melt that under any climate scenario.
There is no question that rising temperatures will cause melting in Greenland and elsewhere. But let us be realistic about the timescale this will happen in.
“But the question is whether there is any measureable impact in Antarctica from changes in aerosol emissions from the U.S. The answer is, no, there is not”
While not Co2, the Clean Air Act has had a definite impact on other pollutants. Check out this page from USGS:
“Significant decreases in total mercury observed in the last 15-20 years of the ice-core record indicate reductions in emissions that correspond to the time period when the Clean Air Act and other emission reduction strategies became prominent“.
On another note, anecdotal evidence, I am a hiker, have been for many years. The last five years or so I have noticed an aggravating change here in California. Ticks, long the bane of summer hiking, are now infesting our woodlands year round, even in wintertime when we have some hot days.
Lastly a proposition (if simplistic) to reduce Co2 in the atmosphere. I’m picturing tall, narrow air filters (solar powered) along the lines of Seattle’s Space Needle near all of our large cities continuously filtering the air.
Comment by Wonderin' aimlessly — 15 May 2006 @ 3:10 AM
To reply to a question of post 48:
What would a global rise in temperatures of 3C mean for the inhabitants of the world? – by 2050? by 2100? What about if the rate of increase in CO2 and global temperatures is even more rapid?
– Impacts of level/rate of temperature change on ecosystems (PDF, 117 kb)
– Impacts on human systems due to temperature rise, precipitation change, increases in extreme events and sea level rise (PDF, 136 kb)
– Major impacts of climate change on the earth system (PDF, 93 kb)
I believe that you are correct; if you want something more realistic to worry about, I’d investigate the West Antartic Ice sheet. This is not enclosed by mountains, and is additionally grounded below sea level. Off the top of my head, that’s a 5-6 meter sea level rise which has happened during some previous interglacials.
Will Steger has led teams of scientists across Antarctic, the Arctic and Greenland (by dogsled) for the last few decades. Will has presented his findings for many years to groups of students and scientists. At other times, he lives in a back woods cabin in northern Minnesota, an area which has been smoothed over by moving ice many times during interglacial periods. http://www.willsteger.com/
I believe Will Steger, an explorer and scientist, understands the way ice and water moves, and that once a large ice sheet begin to slip, the weight of ice and water and their forces cannot be stopped by anything.
May 15, 2006, The Guardian, excerpts:
Walt Meier, a researcher at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre
in Colorado, …
… Experts at the US Naval Postgraduate School in California think the
situation could be even worse. They are about to publish the results
of computer simulations that show the current rate of melting,
combined with increased access for warmer Pacific water, could make
the summertime Arctic ice-free within a decade. Dr Meier said: “For
800,000 to a million years, at least some of the Arctic has been
covered by ice throughout the year. That’s an indication that, if we
are heading for an ice-free Arctic, it’s a really dramatic change and
something that is unprecedented almost within the entire record of
human species.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,329480158-117780,00.html http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ClimateArchive/message/3207
As an American in the UK, I often feel like I’m looking at an alternative universe when I get news & opinions from the states. But here in Britain, the Conservative candidate is touting “Go Green, Vote Blue [Conservative].” I couldn’t imagine a Republican in the US, esp a leading candidate advocating anything like that!
I anxiously await the “reviews” of this film from the likes of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Cato Institute, Myron Ebell, etc! I imagine it will be more of the “gee, Al Gore is so stiff & wooden & scientific, you don’t want to just hang out with him at TGIF like you would with George Bush!”
At the very best, there will be making big things out of the motes missed or slightly wrong in the film (as some here are pointing out), whilst ignoring the “beams” that the right-wingers conveniently miss!
Al Gore is looking awfully good right now. Josh Marshall thinks he has a shot at the presidency; Blog of the Moderate Left has an interesting ranking of potential candidates, and while he puts Gore at #5, but says…
Based on the 1868-2006 elevation of Devils Lake in northeastern ND, shown at the link below, the discussion by RPSr on drought variablility while not discussing excessive runoff seems like an oversight.
Pat- Regarding your comments in #103, the issue is that today (May 15, 2006) there are large regions with negative ocean temperature anomalies, both at the surface and at depth. These regional cool anomalies need an explanation. They also illustrate why we need to move beyond a global average trend (or an ocean-wide average trend) to a regional perspective with respect to human- and natural climate change.
On your second comment about drought, I am unclear on your point. I just presented two examples in my weblog of historical-and paleo-studies to show that the 20th century was not excepetional in terms of dry periods. What is new is the apparent greater vulnerability of society to weather extremes of all types, as we saw in Katrina, and, with respect to drought, to the 2002 drought in Colorado.
[Response: Roger, it’s important to state the base-line for the anomalies in the link you point to – it’s 1984 to 1993. Whereas most claims for ocean warming use a much longer time series – for instance with respect to 1951-1980, the anomalies for 2005 were almost uniformly positive.
The claims made in the Begley piece about the possible role of long term natural variability causing the 20th Century trends in global mean temperature are a statement about the multi-decadal time scales – not a few years of interannual variability. – gavin]
I posted a comment that was filtered.
All I said is that the Antarctic Ice sheets are experiencing a net gain, not a loss as poster 97 is stating, and his post was not true. What is wrong with that?
[Response: Please keep your comments polite. But you are not correct in your assessment – the net mass balance for the whole continent appears slightly negative (according to the preliminary GRACE measurements), but given the uncertainties and shortness of that record, a clear statement either way is not justified. – gavin]
“the 20th century was not excepetional in terms of dry periods.” While I don’t know this for sure, I can say that land alteration has left us more susceptible to disastrous results that magnify this effect. It seems to me increasing the global mean temperature can do nothing if not exacerbate natural variabilities of local climates.
PhysicsWeb this month has an article on the Antarctic mass balance measurements here, both historical and new, written by Andrew Shepherd (School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, co-ordinator of the European Space Agency’s VECTRA SAR interferometry consortium).
It’s a quick read, a review, with footnotes; it may clarify what we know now.
In your rebuttal of the WSJ article by Sharon Begley, of a statement by Michael Oppenheimer (“We have never seen natural variability on a global scale like we’ve had in the last 100 years” says atmospheric physicist Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University), you gave examples of dry but not wet.
I brought up Devils Lake as an example of wet, that records show the elevation of Devils Lake, which was a closed basin from 1830- early 2006, is at a level not experienced for at least 177 years.
Also, I think it’s important to add that her article began with “For laypeople, …” . I think the article is a good one for laypeople to grasp some of the important elements regarding the global warming crisis we’re heading into.
Regarding Barton Paul Levenson’s comment #90,on what convection does to temperatures:
I assumed that the JunkScience.com article was referring to a surface budget calculation with the surface non-radiative heat fluxes turned off, because that calculation does give you about 350K and my own pure radiative equilibrium calculations suggested to me that the comment regarding the role of convection didn’t make sense if the author had pure radiative equilibrium (i.e. no convection) in mind. However, in looking at the references Barton mentioned, I think I know where the JunkScience author might have picked up some misconceptions about pure radiative equilibrium. The relevant material is at the end of Chapter 9.3 of Goody and Yung — there isn’t anything in Chapter 2 or 4 of Houghton that points to a 360K surface temperature in pure radiative equilibrium.
Goody and Yung reproduce a figure from a 40 year old paper (Moller and Manabe, 1961) which does have a 350K surface temperature in pure radiative equilibrium. However, that curve includes the radiative effect of clouds, and it is meaningless to hold the cloud forcing fixed if one is eliminating convection, since most of the clouds are due to convection or other moisture transporting motions. Even given that, the cloud results in Moller and Manabe are questionable, since nobody knew the net radiative effects of clouds in 1961. In fact, I’m at a complete loss to account for their result (and couldn’t lay hands on a copy of their paper today to see what they did), given that we know now that clouds have a modest net cooling effect in the midlatitudes, whereas in Moller and Manabe the clouds produce a 50K net warming. That’s about what you’d get if you kept the cloud greenhouse effect, but ignored the cloud albedo effect, but I’m not sure that’s what’s going on.
Now, sticking with Moller and Manabe, if you ignore the dubious cloud calculation, the pure radiative equilibrium surface temperature in the clear sky case is a more modest 310K. Even that is an unrealistic estimate of what you’d get in the absence of convection, since convection is what redistributes water in the vertical. Without surface fluxes and convection, the atmosphere would be dry. When I run the NCAR radiation model without convection, then in the dry case the equilibrium surface temperature in pure radiative equilibrium with global mean solar radiation (assuming an albedo of .2, to account roughly for removal of clouds) is a chilly 273K. There is a jump in temperature between the ground and the overlying air, whose temperature is 266K. This jump is a familiar phenomenon from grey gas models; when the air is not too optically thick, it arises because the low layer air is heated by absorption of upwelling infrared from the surface, but radiates from both sides — yielding a temperature smaller than the surface temperature by a factor of 1 over the fourth root of 2. The jump is smaller than the thin limit, because there is enough CO2 in the atmosphere to make the layer moderately optically thick. I used 300ppm of CO2.
Actually, even with water vapor I can’t reproduce a surface temperature quite as warm as Moller and Manabe. To be specific, if I assume the boundary layer relative humidity is 70% and that the free troposphere relative humidity is 50%, then the low layers of the atmosphere cool to where they are not so terribly optically thick. In this case, my equilibrium surface temperature rises to about 284K, and the air temperature at 995mb (relative to surface pressure 1000mb) is 255K. Perhaps the 40 years of improvement in radiative transfer in the NCAR model since Moller and Manabe has resulted in a better estimate of the optical thickness due to water vapor. It’s rather tricky to do the pure radiative equilibrium right, since you need a lot of low level resolution, owing to the optical thickness of warm, moist air; the radiative equilibrium temperature gradient in the lowest few mb of the atmosphere is huge, as noted already by Goody and Yung. When I add more resolution at low levels, I don’t increase the surface temperature significantly, but I do resolve the gradient better, and the temperature jump between the lowest model level and the surface temperature goes down. It’s all rather academic, since the pure radiative equilibrium is irrelevant to anything going on in Earth’s actual atmosphere, except perhaps in the Antarctic night. That’s probably why everybody seems to still use the figure from Moller and Manabe (1961).
The upshot is that, however you slice it, there is no sound basis for the statement that the surface temperature would be over 350K in the absence of convection. I suppose there is one sense in which you could say that convection “helps” heat escape to space. The upper tropospheric temperature is warmer than it would be in pure radiative equilibrium: there’s a balance between convective heating and infrared cooling there. Since that warming helps to increase the outgoing longwave radiation relative to what it would be in pure radiative equilibrium, it could be said that the convection is helping the heat to escape. I don’t know what it adds to the understanding of the system to put it this way, but there is some grain of truth in it.
Rather a long and technical diversion, but it was something I needed to sort out anyway, for other reasons. Thanks to Barton for raising the issue.
Re #104: Roger you seem to have a tree focus instead of a forest focus on the SST issue. The Hoerling article in EOS last week looked at the SST warmth of 2004, but of course 2005 would have been even more substantially yellow-red hued on the ocean anomaly maps. The same observation cannot be missed for 2005 that they noted for 2004 “Every ocean witnessed warm sea surface conidtions in 2004, with only the middle latitudes of the Southern Ocean epxeriencing below average values”. The actual magnitude of the temperatues anomalies are not large in terms of degrees for the year, thus, any given day as you mention above has plenty of cool spots. I liked a conclusion in the aforementioned paper, ..”the simulations indicate that much of the global mean land warmth is (at least currently) arising from a feedback processes involving air-sea interactions.” If the ocean adjacent to a coastal region has a dominantly positive temperature anomaly, it does not matter if it does everyday, your land temperature will be positively influenced. The regional changes are important as you note, but the temporal changes cannot be looked at too narrowly. The PDO has been dominantly positive since 1977 off the Pacific Northwest coast, but has many variations in its signal, yet the overall impact is three decades now of warmer conditions than otherwise.
I know I promised I would stick to the topics discussed (sorry Hank), but I didn’t know where else to ask…
Has there been a comprehensive RealClimate discussion related to the current volcanic activity of the Merupi and Bezymianny volcanoes? If I understood correctly, the Bezymianny volcano has generated gas plumes of up to 23,000 ft., and the Merupi volcano is still extremely volatile. Is it known what (if any) climatic impact these eruptions will have? Is it known how much gas and ash is needed before a climate change occurs?
“Response: Roger, it’s important to state the base-line for the anomalies in the link you point to – it’s 1984 to 1993. Whereas most claims for ocean warming use a much longer time series – for instance with respect to 1951-1980, the anomalies for 2005 were almost uniformly positive.
The claims made in the Begley piece about the possible role of long term natural variability causing the 20th Century trends in global mean temperature are a statement about the multi-decadal time scales – not a few years of interannual variability. – gavin]’
Roger Sr. Reply: The use of sea surface temperature data prior to global satellite coverage is not appropriate. Data periods that are as homogeneous as possible are required. Moreover, with the claims that recent years have been so warm, the assessment of the current SST record should show this as a dominance of warm anomalies even usung the period of 1951-1980 as the baseline. The current SST data does not show this.
I agree that we also need to examine the surface heat storage changes below the surface, but the heat is not being stored near the surface (as represented by the SST anomaly plots). Thus where are the excess Joules of heat being stored?
[Response: Roger, I think you’ll find yourself a little out on a limb if you are claiming that no SST data before 1979 are valid. While I would agree that global estimates back to the 19th Century are a little problematic (we’ve found discrepencies in the SST estimated changes after Krakatoa in 1883 for instance), SST estimates certainly from the end of WWII are good over large parts of the ocean. Merging of data from different sources needs to be done carefully of course but I am not aware of any evidence that this has not been done reasonably (see Rayner et al for instance). Indeed, there is substantial high resolution ocean proxy data (from corals, anoxic basins etc.) that confirm exceptional late 20th Century SST. The best estimates of ocean heat content from the 1950’s indicate widespread increases in storage despite the poor coverage in southern oceans, and recent more accurate estimates (Willis et al, 2004; Gille 2002) show very similar trends. There is substantial interannual and interdecadal variability in the ocean and I don’t want to diminsh the importance of that for many aspects of climate, but in the long term records, there is no doubt that the oceans are warming, and this is inconsistent with a big role for natural variability in late 20th Century trends in SAT. – gavin]
“Last month was the warmest April on record for the United States, offering many Americans a pleasant spring month.
For the 48 contiguous states the average temperature was 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit above normal for the month, the National Climatic Data Center reported Tuesday.
That made it the nation’s warmest April since record keeping began in 1895.
Worldwide it was also an above-normal month, but not a record breaker, finishing as the seventh warmest April worldwide, according to the Data Center, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…”
“…playin with matches in a pool of gasoline…” – Swamp Mama Johnson
In 104 you said you were unclear on the second point I made in 103, on variability. I hope my additional explanation in 108 cleared that up. I also hope that you, and some others, will soon publicly acknowledge that earth is in a global warming crisis due to our use of fossil fuels. I think that would help.
I haven’t seen the movie but I’ve already seen the attacks on it.
Someone over there at DailyKos claims this:
I’ve seen the film and he tells at least two easilly debunkable lies. the first concerns the so-called “Little Ice Age” an anomolous cold period that caused much damage to civilization in the form of famine, desease and other such stuff.
He denies that it even took place.
Not that he mentions it by name, of course, he shows a graph of average temperatures from the last eight hundred years (he calls it a thousand) and claims that this is normal for the Holocene, which simply isn’t true. Then he derides “skeptics” who say that the previous centuries were actually WARMER than it is today.
If you see the film please notice this segment.
The other easilly debunkable lie is that he uses false information to deny any “anti-global warming” scientific studies exist. They do. I’ve seen some.
Is it true that Gore denies Little Ice Age in the movie? I would find it fairly strange as Gore was writing about Little Ice Age in his book.
And does any peer-reviewed scientific study exist today which denies that global warming has been taking place over the last 100 years?
And which century in the Holocene was warmer than the 20th? And what kind of data supports that conclusion?
[Response: The LIA stuff will be ref to the “hockey stick” stuff – you’ll find that in our index easily enough. Previous centuries weren’t warmer than today, as far as we can tell. But neither of those two points has much to do with whether people are causing GW today – see our what-if post. That the globe has warmed over the past century is accepted by all but the wacko fringe – William]
Which of those people denies anthropogenic climate change?
I doubt any of them, in public, would.
There are just some things you can’t say in public. You know what I mean. Without committing professional suicide.
But, they are all publishing stuff about the affect of variable solar output on Earth climate. That is to say, many of them think their research shows that variations in solar output have had great influence on Earth’s climate, and still does.
Does Mr. Gore’s movie mention their work?
If not, how can you say that Mr. Gore’s movie “gets the science right” when he is leaving out a lot of the science?
[Response: Ah! the climate mafia at work maybe? Look, the problem is that you appear to see solar versus anthropogenic as opposing thoughts. That is just not so. Many of us (myself, Stefan, Mike, Eric at least) have worked on issues related to solar forcing (modelling, historical records of solar forcing, potential impacts of solar in the paleo record) and yet none of us have a problem with the radiative effect of greenhouse gases. I can assure you I’m not being forced to say this! – gavin]
Someday, this movie will come to Victoria, BC, Canada. :-) Until then, may I suggest that Gore is focusing on the moral aspect because this is the key to the problem: Americans see themselves as somehow separate from other people, from the environment, and from the consequences of their actions. (Canadians are not much better.) Until this changes, Americans will continue to exploit other nations, weaker people, the environment.
What is the root cause of our environmental and social problems? Gore would seem to be saying a lack of morality, or twisted morality. I would agree.
I just picked up a copy yesterday. I found it a very good read. I plan to pass it along to some skeptics I know. In fact, it might be worthwhile to buy several copies, and distribute them to acquaintances with an appeal to “pass it along” when you’re done.
RE: #88. Consider the impact of the massive diversions of Asian rivers by the USSR. These used to flow into the Artic undammed. But now, they water the Central Asian deserts to grow cotton and food crops. The Arctic, as a semi enclosed, somewhat shallow ocean, is a key place to consider the impacts of human induced changes in salinity.
The WSJ published an editorial on the movie, which trots out the usual claptrap (CO2 saves us from impending ice age) as well as a new 4th level of skepticism: “we’re all dead in the long run”:
May 31, 2006; Page A13
By HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.
…a valid service is performed in satisfying the eternal human appetite for gloom and doom (and no virgins were sacrificed), distracting people from the reality of life, which is that we all are doomed, while the universe, the earth and all that environmentalists hold dear will go remorselessly on and on without us.
In a million years, the time it takes the earth to sneeze, the planet will likely be shorn of any conspicuous sign we were ever here, let alone careless with our CO2, dioxins, etc. Talk about an inconvenient truth.
How much more securing, in a way, to believe we are ruining the planet than the planet just does not care about us, and will run rampant with life long after we are dust. And how pleasant to be able to transmute our fury over our fate into incoherent feelings of self-heroism against our present “enemies.” …
[Response: The WSJ isn’t even right that our impact on the planet will be erased after a million years. The climate might have returned to normal (or maybe not, if we manage to mess up the weathering cycle somehow), but regardless of that, evolution generates species very slowly. The biodiversity we eliminate now, whether through climate change or other means, will take many millions of years to replace, and there is no doubt that it will take a different course than it would have. Disasters are not necessarily a bad thing for the planet (look at the role of the asteroid impact at the KT boundary in helping to give mammals a shot at the future; some people think that the Snowball Earth catastrophe played some role in the evolution of multicellular life and the Cambrian explosion of biodiversity). They usually are a rather bad thing for current inhabitants. –raypierre]
This is slightly off topic; but in this article, Eric writes:
“Another complaint is the juxtaposition of an image relating to CO2 emissions and an image illustrating invasive plant species. This is misleading; the problem of invasive species is predominantly due to land use change and importation, not to “global warming”.”
Importation and land use change may have been the leading cause of here’s more, but to me that’s a very striking example of how global warming is already effecting massive growth and die-off of different specieinvasive species in the past; but that is not to say that global warming won’t take first place in the very near future. Just to quote on example of a huge problem caused by global warming in Canada, I’d like to quote from a article recently published in the Washington Post:
” Millions of acres of Canada’s lush green forests are turning red in spasms of death. A voracious beetle, whose population has exploded with the warming climate, is killing more trees than wildfires or logging.
The mountain pine beetle has infested an area three times the size of Maryland, devastating swaths of lodgepole pines and reshaping the future of the forest and the communities in it.”
(Rapid Warming’ Spreads Havoc in Canada’s Forests: Tiny Beetles Destroying Pines By Doug Struck
Washington Post Foreign Service Wednesday, March 1, 2006)
The article goes on to explain that the killing cold temperatures that used to control the beetle no longer exist, and that the problem has been growing for twenty years.
One could argue that the pine beetle doesn’t really count as an invasive species, since it was there before global warming..but I think you’d be splitting hairs if you did.
Othere examples spring to mind: West Nile Virus, malaria, and cholera are other organisms that are already expanding their geographical spread.
“The National Hurricane Center released a summary report on Katrina this week that downgraded the storm’s intensity at landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 29 from Category 4 to Category 3. The winds in New Orleans, which lay to the west of the storm’s center, were probably even weaker than that, at Category 1 or 2 speeds, the report said.” — Joby Warrick and Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post, Dec. 22, 2005
[Response: Could you clarify what you mean by this statement, and what’s supposed to be “inconvenient” about it? However Katrina is classified, you have to admit that no previous hurricane that hit New Orleans did what Katrina did. If I had to hazard a guess, what’s really inconvenient about this truth is that the Corps of Engineers (by their own admission) was not providing protection at the level they claimed; a good thing that a real Cat 5 hurricane hasn’t hit. By the way, the difficulty of predicting the enormous damage done by Katrina and the particular failure mode that led to the damage, makes me very skeptical indeed of the estimates of AGW contribution to hurricane damage in Pielke’s and Landsea’s attempts. –raypierre]
Ray — Your last sentence ably answers your first question. The “inconvenient truth” is that the producers should have chosen anything but tying Katrina so intimately visually into GW (poster, website, interview background, etc.). Gore has a history of hyperbole (much of it of little import), and using Katrina as a GW ‘prop’ was foolish; particularly when juxtaposed, as Eric pointed out, against the context of what he actually says in the movie.
Why is this important? Because it acts to the contrary of so many earnest posts above, who want the ‘right’ people to see this movie. An average moviegoer makes decisions based on first impressions; and given the recent spate of polls which reaffirmed Americans Still Not Highly Concerned About Global Warming, it is a given that the average 25-50 moviegoer who can’t get into a sold-out “M:I:III” will take one glance at that Katrina poster and tune completely out, based on the prevailing CW about Gore — rightly or wrongly so.
Could more have been done to overcome the ‘hard sell’ nature of any documentary in the US? Maybe not. Will it play entirely to the choir while in the theaters, without the hope of the crossover appeal of F911? Probably. One hopes that Gore does not eventually tape-loop it on CurrentTV but rather rapidly offers it to mainstream cable where I believe it has a better chance of being viewed by the ‘right’ people.
As for “However Katrina is classified, you have to admit that no previous hurricane that hit New Orleans did what Katrina did.”, quite the contrary. Betsy also hit NO as a strong Cat 3 on Sept. 9, 1965, pushing Lake Ponchartrain into NO, submerging the 9th Ward and other parts of the city. The River Gulf outlet & Industrial Canal levees were also topped.
However, your last two statements are irrefutable.
Mr. Gore had little tolerance for an editorial in The Wall Street Journal that took the position that there’s no certainty that carbon emissions are causing global warming. “Gravity may repel us from the earth’s surface. It’s an open question,” he says with dripping sarcasm. It’s only propagandists – “immoral and unethical,” he calls them ” that fight the reality of global warming.”
I tend to agree that Katrina as advertising for the film is more Hollywood than science, but the fact that Katrina happened to weaken just before landfall is both well-known and irrelevant. It was a huge category 5 hurricane just before landfall (with a category 5 storm surge when it hit) in a season of many and huge hurricanes. A visual of shrinking glaciers or late-arriving monsoons or healthy mountain pine beetles might appeal to the choir, but I suspect hurricanes are more likely to pull in the masses. However, I like the claim about people not bothering to see the film because it’s sold out – it reminds me of Yogi Berra’s line about a popular restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”.
[Response: On the poster the hurricane graphic coming out of the smokestack does have the form of a question mark, albeit reversed; that does imply that we’re talking about risks not certainty to some extent. The poster I like best though is the one that’s up in the local cafe where I live: A line of penguins trying to march over desert sand dunes. It does make one think about what’s going to happen to the Emperors once southern hemisphere warming catches up to the radiative forcing. –raypierre]
Whoops, I just realized that munge’s “M:I:III” reference is to a Hollywood movie, and not to a multiplex numbering scheme; my apologies for the misunderstanding. I guess that casts some doubt on my qualifications as an expert on popular culture (although I gather the Gore movie is pretty much selling out so far).
Just saw An Inconvenient Truth on opening night in Chicago. I wasn’t alone, but it was a small room (one of four in the city) and far from sold out.
My main complaint was that the word “nuclear” was never utterred during the movie. Whether or not it provides the way out of our quandary, it certainly is an option worth considering. Failure to mention it leaves me seeing Mr. Gore (for whom I nevertheless have great admiration in many ways) as still not entirely
forthright, still somewhat in the grips of short-run political calculation.
The best part of the movie for me was the “earth in the balance” cartoon, which he handled with panache. (I guess he’s had a lot of practice with that one, as it insired the title of his previous book.) It is a fine example of the delusional way of looking at the world that is all too common among commercial and economic circles, and Gore does a fine job with it.
Something of a missed opportunity, I think, was the Haitian-Dominican border image. Its lesson might have been missed by some because that astonishing image went by too quickly.
Hello. I am a non-scientist who has been following the Global Warming/Climate Change debate for about 8 years. One thing that occurs to me is that with or without humans, the Earth’s climate has always changed and will always change. It seems that much of Gore’s presentation is geared towards human impact on those natural cycles. Whether or not we are making the climate warmer, I don’t think it is a valid policy to effectively say “Stop!”. It is not enough to say that we will reduce human impact and just let whatever happens “naturally” happen. A policy should have more of the form that a certain global temperature is desirable, and we should act to reach that temperature. Whether or not it is CO2 or other factors, our policy should be to reach or maintain a certain temperature.
If the climate were “too cold”, Global Warming would be a good thing. So, what is the climate right now: Too cold, too warm, or just right? Without an opinion on where we are and where we want to be, I don’t see how one can criticize or be ambivalent about change. Al Gore seems to want us to take action, but that action shouldn’t just be to reduce or eliminate human impact on the climate – it should be to reach or maintain the “correct” climate.
That’s my non-scientific view, and I would love for someone to explain what I am missing about this controversy.
[Response: The simple answer to your question is that the climate we had up until around 1900 was the climate we had for the past 10,000 years during which agricultural civilization arose. The climate we had in the past 2 million years, with its glacial-interglacial cycles is the climate that our species and most of the species we rely on now, and many of the species we now share the Earth with evolved. A doubled CO2 climate goes through the roof of anything experienced during that time. You want to gamble with that being a good climate for us and the agricultural and natural ecosystems we share the Earth with? –raypierre]
I’m just another reader here. To answer that, it’d help to have an idea where you starting from, Damien Do you have any sources of information you are relying on now? (if so, will you tell us what they are?)
Have you had a physics or general science class or need background in that?
Basic info — look at the right hand column of the home page here and click those links.
After that, this is worth reading through and will answer many questions:
Discovery of Global Warming (Weart)
The history of scientific research on climate change from the 19th century to the present, told in a set of hyperlinked essays. http://www.aip.org/history/climate/
Also, what is your time horizon for wanting to know? How far in the future do you want to think about?
Damien, it’s not that a different climate is a threat, it’s that climate *change* is dangerous. The more rapid the change, the more danger.
For example, if sea level had always (for the last several thousand years at least) been 20 feet higher, that would be no problem for people living in south Florida or Bangladesh. People wouldn’t be living there! But if sea level *rises* 20 feet, much of south Florida and Bangladesh will be underwater. With millions living in the greater Miami area, and tens of millions in Bangladesh, that’s a recipe for human misery. Another example: if the glaciers in the Himalayan mountains disappear, there’ll be no more flow into the major rivers supplying fresh water to Asia. If there had never been glaciers in the Himalayan plateau, that wouldn’t be a problem for asians; they’d have adapted long ago. But if the glaciers disappear in a matter of decades, billions of human beings will be threatened with the loss of their primary water supply.
There’s nothing “magical” about a particular global average temperature. But there is astounding danger in rapid global temperature change.
I just saw the movie and like the reviewer here on RealClimate I take a generally positive view of the film. Note: I’m a lay person with no specialized scientific training but am someone who has tried to understand global warming from both the consensus and skeptic views (and in the end sided with the consensus).
One question about some of the facts in the film: towards the end, Gore points out that we already have the technology to reduce CO2 levels, and points out that all the technologies added up together will lower the CO2 levels below current levels. Is the information Gore uses here taking into consideration that just because technology A might reduce CO2 X% and technology B might reduce CO2 Y% that the two technologies used together might not reduce CO2 X+Y%? Or is it true that you can add them all up like that and their cummulative impact is a simple sum of their individual impacts? I would think that some CO2 is easier to reduce than others, and that after a while each successive technology will not have the same marginal impact that it would have if it was the only one used.
I just saw the movie. Speaking as a skeptic, I thought it did little to counter Gore’s “patronizing and insincere” reputation mentioned in #61 and others. The arguments and presentation favored rhetorical force over strict truth or defensibility, so if I were already inclined to trust Gore’s judgment, I’d likely find the film powerful. As it was, I kept noticing selective presentation of data designed to imply a stronger case than was actually present. Plus the occasional big whopper.
Take the story that a frog in slowly-heated water won’t jump out until it dies or is rescued. This is a great metaphor for Gore and he uses it well with cute computer graphics and a twist ending, but it’s an urban legend. Gore doesn’t say “there is a story that…” but presents it as a solid fact that frogs act this way, leaving the audience a little dumber than before – a little more certain of a false fact.
Take the claim that US gas mileage standards are pathetic by comparison to China’s. Al Gore makes fun of our automakers for claiming they can’t meet tougher standards if even China can do better. Left out is the fact that China’s cars don’t yet meet their own announced standards and that their cars really aren’t of comparable quality to ours.
Take the claim – both direct and implied – that Katrina in particular is evidence of global warming and a portent of things to come.
At one point the film shows a chunk of ice falling off the outside edge of a glacier into the water while the voice-over says that people who come to see glaciers witness this. Strongly implied: crumbling isn’t normal behavior for a glacier’s edge that meets the water (and there aren’t any places one might witness glaciersgrowing).
And so on. Gore is wearing a filter that only admits bad news. Warming is undoubtedly good for many species, including a few endangered animals, but he manages to dwell on the negative – “invasive species”, mosquitoes, and diseases will do better too! When he brought up the example of baby birds that eat caterpillars but now the caterpillars are born earlier due to warming so the birds have less food, my thought was: “Hey, this must be GOOD for the caterpillars, right? And for some other predator that is getting the caterpillars that before would have been eaten by birds?” Why, exactly, am I supposed to sympathize with this bird more than the caterpillar or whatever else eats it?
At the end of the movie they direct viewers to the site “climatecrisis.net”. There’s a page on “The Science” here but it’s pretty sketchy. Looks like we’ll need to look at the book to see where Gore’s numbers and charts come from.
[Response: The ‘frog in boiling water story’ is a metaphor not a fact, and metaphors can only be appropriate or not – in this case it is regardless of what would actually happen if (unethically) tried to boil frogs yourself. Katrina was specifically not given as evidence of global warming. Glaciers do of course calve at the edge regardless of whether the mass balance is postive or negative, but the overall point that mountain glaciers almost everywhere are melting (Norway is a regional exception) is absolutely true. And finally the point of the caterpillar/bird story is that ecosystem patterns that have existed for a long time are being disrupted – and given the complexity of ecosystems – and with consequences that are very hard to predict. -gavin]
[Response: It’s funny (maybe tragic) how often I see comments prefaced by things like “speaking as a skeptic,” or “being a skeptic, … ” and the like, as if it were a club one were enrolled in or a religion one subscribed to. To me, those words are beginning to take on the tinge “Speaking as someone whose opinions are set in stone, who will filter all new information through my own preconceptions, and who is unlikely to let any new information change my mind …” It’s a strange evolution of the meaningof the word “skeptic” (but see Gavin’s post How to be a Real Sceptic). Still, it’s interesting to see how somebody with this mindset reacts to Gore’s movie, so thank you for sharing your reaction with us. By the way, I agree with you that warming is good for some species. Tree-eating pine bark beetles and oporinia larvae, potato blight, and insect vectors for malaria and West Nile are a few that come to mind. –raypierre]
This article has been trumpeted by lay pundits and certain segments of the political blogosphere as a “full debunk of the misleading scientific arguments.” Even a cursory glance reveals that it is anything but a “full debunk,” but it would be useful to know, point by point, what is the scientific consensus on the issues Balling raises.
The experimenter “heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute” and the frog had the opportunity to jump out” — and it did.
Doesn’t of course prove the folk tale couldn’t have happened. I don’t doubt it did sometime. I think the folk tale probably refers to a pot heated more slowly, and most likely a pot with sides too steep to jump out of.
Outdoor laundry tubs for boiling large amounts of water — for laundry — over wood fires, for example, were used for millenia. I’ve seen that sort of tank left open with water and catch frogs.
People’s containers of all sorts sometimes catch frogs when left with water in them overnight. Not all of them get noticed.
Casual bykill happens in all sorts of human interactions.
There’s also the folk tale about the fortunate frog that fell into a churn left full of milk in the barn — who doesn’t drown because in splashing around trying to jump out of the tall container he churns butter, which floats, and she sits on the lump of butter til the milkmaid comes in and throws her out.
We should be so lucky, I guess.
Later lecturers may make an example of Homo “sapiens”:
staying on its planet, while heating it past survivability:
— as experimenter, they could have reduced the rate of heating;
— as frog they could have thrashed in useful ways, long enough that they could make themselves able to jump out.
It’ll be more about lack of science than lack of sensation. Same basic point, you can’t notice everything.
There are other better examples. I recall reading a few years ago about Central American civilizations that disappeared after having severely degraded their environments, but at maybe 3 percent per year, far too little for a nonscientific culture to remark on. Old irrigation systems showed up from satellites, that they’d used to eventually salt their own fields, I think it may have been.
[Response:Camping near Iso Molossjänkka once, I accidentally scooped up a small frog in my Trangia coffee pot, along with water for coffee. I didn’t notice this and stuck the lid back on and set the kettle down on a rock near my stove. Big surprise when the kettle lid starts banging wildly. Spontaneous boiling? Kettle haunted by ancient Sami spectres? No, just poor froggy trying to get out, before the water is even warming up.
What do I conclude from all this? That some frogs have more sense than most politicians. –raypierre]
just gotta throw this out there: warmer surface temps do increase the severity of a hurricane. Mr. bush has done his best to block the prevention of global warming. he is directly responsible for some tiny fraction of a degree of warming, and therefore: Mr. bush helped make katrina a (slightly) stronger storm. its logically follows.
OK, here’s the first “inconvenient truth” trumpeted by Dr. Robert Balling, Jr.:
“Near the beginning of the film, Gore pays respects to his Harvard mentor and inspiration, Dr. Roger Revelle. Gore praises Revelle for his discovery that atmospheric CO2 levels were rising and could potentially contribute to higher temperatures at a global scale. There is no mention of Revelle’s article published in the early 1990s concluding that the science is “too uncertain to justify drastic action.”
So a paper published by Revelle (who died FIFTEEN YEARS AGO), in which he says the science is too uncertain to justify drastic action is relevant today … how, exactly?
Apparently Balling thinks that sixteen additional years worth of extensive research by researchers around the world can safely be ignored because of a paper written by someone who died in 1991.
I don’t think there’s much reason for me to read Balling’s five additional “inconvenient truths”.
[Response: On top of that, I wouldn’t immediately assume that Balling is even quoting Revelle correctly. Just remember Pat Michael’s systematic fabrications on what Hansen said in congressional testimony. The article Balling cites is (S.F. Singer, C. Starr, and R. Revelle, “What to do about Greenhouse Warming: Look Before You Leap. Cosmos 1 (1993) 28-33.). Revelle is the last author and signed on to this at a rather advanced age; one doesn’t know what part of the article he actually supported. For that matter, what is the journal “Cosmos?” I haven’t been able to locate it or find a copy of the article to see what it actually said. Has anybody tracked it down? –raypierre]
Thanks for your response. I completely agree with your statement about Balling’s first criticism. I easily reached the same conclusion regarding this first point. Unfortunately, the fact that his first criticism is incredibly inane does not a priori disqualify the remaining five, which because they deal with technical aspects of climate research, are much harder to address.
I was hoping with a scientific background in climatology could give refutations (or confirmations, if they exist) to Balling’s “scientific” criticisms. (see Post #139).
On “speaking as a skeptic”: Gore preaches within the church of environmentalism. If you don’t happen to subscribe to the tenets of that faith it’s much harder to take his fire and brimstone prophecies seriously. He has more work to do. He has to either convince you to convert or convince you that you should agree with his conclusions based on the few axioms you share in common with the churchgoers. Skepticism with regard to environmentalism is much like skepticism with regard to catholicism – it’s based on the rejection of one or more underlying religious principles.
This doesn’t mean skeptics can’t be convinced, merely that the arguments to do so have to rely on areas of commonality rather than areas of dispute.
I thought the movie was suprisingly well done given the constraints of the medium and the messenger, but still in places had a “preaching to the choir” feel. As with the book _Earth in the Balance_, I believe Gore honestly believes what he is saying and is making an effort to speak my language as well as that of his own faith, but he’s not very good at it. He’s better at tending to his own flock than reaching us heathens.
[Response: The arguments Gore uses are almost without exception scientifically respectable arguments that would be recognized as such by virtually any scientist working in the field. I really don’t understand what you could be complaining about, or what it would take to convince you, if you’re not willing to accept those kinds of arguments. Are you saying that there was something in the nature of the messenger that prevented you from listening to them? It would be valuable to know whether there’s some different way that the same material could have been presented that would get through to people like you, without compromising the basic science. Of course, Gore has to present the material in a vivid and stark way: this is after all a movie that has to engage the attention of the moviegoer. As for your turtles, I’m sure that with all the species out there one can find a few cases where warmer conditions can help. However, it’s a stretch to think that’s going to happen in many cases. Arctic and Antarctic and alpine species have no cooler climate zones to migrate to. The Tropics is a hotbed of biodiversity, and tropical species can’t just migrate to the temperature zones as the tropics warms — even if there were space for them there. A hotter temperate zone is not like the tropics, because the temperate zones have a strong seasonal cycle and a very different precipitation distribution. Evolution works slowly, and you’re hitting an ecosystem that has evolved over the past ten million years to be adapted to the present kind of climate with having to adapt in a century to a wildly different one. Even for your turtles, I don’t think the ABC news report is the last word: you’ve got to wonder what is going to happen to fungal diseases, ocean productivity, distribution of nutrients, etc. as the ocean acidifies, the wind patterns shift, and the major deep water formation zones change. –raypierre]
Here are two other Balling things that can be easily disposed of:
“(2) Gore discusses glacial and snowpack retreats atop Mt. Kilimanjaro, implying that human induced global warming is to blame. But Gore fails to mention that the snows of Kilimanjaro have been retreating for more than 100 years, largely due to declining atmospheric moisture, not global warming. Gore does not acknowledge the two major articles on the subject published in 2004 in the International Journal of Climatology and the Journal of Geophysical Research showing that modern glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro was initiated by a reduction in precipitation at the end of the nineteenth century and not by local or global warming.”
Response: The IJC paper is widely misinterpreted, and the precipitation claim is based on an incomplete reading of the record of past climates. There is considerable evidence (e.g, from Lonnie Thompson’s work) that Kilimanjaro melting really is due to warming, and even if you don’t buy that it’s undeniable that tropical mountain glaciers worldwide are in retreat — that’s incompatible with a precipitation interpretation, and even if Kilimanjaro has contributions from precip, some of those may be associated with tropical circulation shifts associated with global warming. See my post “Tropical Glacier Retreat” (linked in the sidebar).
“(3) Many of Gore’s conclusions are based on the “Hockey Stick” that shows near constant global temperatures for 1,000 years with a sharp increase in temperature from 1900 onward. The record Gore chooses in the film completely wipes out the Medieval Warm Period of 1,000 years ago and Little Ice Age that started 500 years ago and ended just over 100 years ago. There is evidence from throughout the world that these climate episodes existed, but on Gore’s Hockey Stick, they become nothing more than insignificant fluctuations (Gore even jokes at one point about the Medieval Warm period).”
Actually, very few of Gore’s conclusions rely on the hockey stick; in any event, as discussed on RC in a half dozen posts or more, the Hockey Stick conclusions have been reproduced by other research groups, and the criticisms of Mann’s original work have not proved scientifically valid.
Balling isn’t even trying hard. He’s recycling last year’s fish. As the Russians say, “There is no fish of the second freshness.”
That leaves only Balling’s “inconvenient truth” about Katrina. I’ll leave that one for somebody else.
Regarding Endangered Sea Turtles (#146): Glen, I just read the article quickly but even ignoring caveats that Ray mentions, I am far from convinced that this is a good news story. What in that article suggests good news? A green sea turtle laid her eggs further north than they usually do, so people collected the eggs to protect them and are considering releasing the offspring in Florida because they’re worried that Virginia is an inappropriate place for them. Seems like this is more likely a bad news story. In addition, does the fact that a green sea turtle laid eggs further north indicate that the historical sites are becoming inappropriate? More time/work/data would be required to conclude that this is a real range expansion with a positive consequence like increased population size.
Just saw the movie. Wish it could be recut as the science changes (he said Arctic sea ice gone in 30-50 years, I think; now we have the recent Navy study saying ten years and it’ll be gone in the summertime.
If any of the moviemakers are reading, I found the times Mr. Gore was a small figure standing in front of a huge screen far more interesting and human-scale than the frequent presentation of closeups of his full face filling the whole screen with a bit of blurred moving scenery outside. I realize those were interview shots. Just personal reaction, he seems more human when he’s not Mt. Rushmore sized.
I’m glad he makes it clear he as VP was the one who got the Arctic sea ice info declassified from the Naval submarine records (what the Navy grad school thesis mentioned elsewhere here calls the ‘Gore Box’ area on the map; someone in the Navy declassification program wanted him to have the blame or credit for revealing that info back then, I guess. Credit, in hindsight.
I am a career submarine Captain in the US Navy with a reasonably solid engineering and scientific foundation. I have spent a great deal of time recently trying to wade through bias and predetermined notions to get at the scientific data of Global Warming theories. This website and particularly the exchange on VP Gore’s movie have been very useful.
Much to my chagrin, however, I have been unable to find the scientific body of evidence that the current global warming trend is due to anthropogenic GHGs vice natural causes/mechanisms as alluded to throughput this thread of emails (and other sites). Although there is clear correlation to global temperature changes and CO2 levels in all the data I have reviewed, I do not see the “vast body of evidence” for cause-and-effect despite hours of online research trying to find it.
Please assist a concerned citizen-sailor to arrive at a balanced opinion cased on fact. Any references (preferably online) that reflect hard, peer-reviewed scientific linkage on the cause-effect relationship of the current global warming trend (which is well-documented scientifically in my lay opinion) to anthropogenic GHGs would be appreciated.
[Response: There are several thousand papers out there that support the linkage, from the standpoint of fundamental physics, observations, and comprehensive modelling. You’ll find a pointer to some of the basic results in my post “Happy Birthday Charles Darwin.” For basic physics, take a look at Dave Archer’s textbook (available for now online, at his web site), or George Philander’s book. Take a look also at some of the books reviewed in Gavin’s post “MY review of books.” For a good overall pointer into the literature, dive into the IPCC Third Assessment Report (WG I) available online: http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/ . The update will be out soon. Gore’s book that goes along with the movie actually provides a very respectable introduction to the basic scientific arguments. After you do a bit of reading, I’d be interested to hear which (if any) parts of the evidence for human-caused warming seem lacking to you. –raypierre]
Capt. Hale, have you read this from the Navy Postgraduate School, or asked the reference librarian there for the work the Navy’s doing about warming? It’s the Navy and submarine info that’s been most interesting in the last few months. Your folks have known more about what’s going on for longer than almost anyone else.
Note the map showing the “Gore Box” in this thesis; that’s the area the then Vice President mentions in the movie, that he got declassified for researchers to have access to; this is the latest research from that area. Possibly you know some of the people, you may have provided some of the data used.
That’s as good a question, perhaps, as I’ve yet seen on this site. I’m far from expert in this field, but I’ll give you the reasons that convinced me.
1. Basic physics. CO2 does absorb infrared radiation. Placing an IR absorber around a warm object does inhibit cooling. Inhibiting cooling does raise the equilibrium temperature. It’s as basic as it gets.
I would also mention that based on theory, global warming was predicted to be a consequence of increasing CO2 before it was observed. This is, in a way, fundamental in science. Explaining an observation ex post facto with a theory is persuasive, but predicting an observation before it is made is the classic test of a scientific theory.
2. CO2 and global temperature are strongly correlated throughout paleohistory. It’s true that correlation is not causation, and that throughout the glacial cycles, temperature increase seems to precede CO2 increase. But the factors which “trigger” a glacial cycle (probably changes of earth’s orbit, the “Milankovitch cycles”) don’t cause nearly enough change in the energy budget to account for the temperature swing in a glacial cycle (about 5-6 deg.C). Therefore the large temperature changes must be due to feedback mechanisms in earth’s climate system. Since it’s well documented that a) CO2 begins to rise when a glaciation begins; b) theory demands that CO2 is a feedback in the climate system; c) CO2 and temperature track each other with remarkable similarity, this is very strong evidence that the principal feedback mechanism is CO2.
3. There’s no other explanation of recent global warming. This is best illustrated by computer model simulations which include numerous climate forcings (solar variability, volcanic eruptions, etc.). Computer models which don’t include the greenhouse effect do a fine job matching observed global temperature until about 1975. Since then, no other known cause can explain the dramatic global temperature rise.
Some time ago I requested resources regarding the attribution of global warming to man-made greenhouse gases. The response was something like, “check out what’s on RC in the past … maybe we’ll do a post about that sometime soon.”
The time is now. That earth is warming is no longer in dispute, even among rational contrarians (?). So come on, RC guys, give us a good post, with references, on attribution. This is, after all, the current bread-and-butter of contrarians.
Thanks so much – I have reviewed IPCC 3rd WG I which states in the technical summary . . .”As noted in the SAR, the unequivocal attribution of climate change to anthropogenic causes (i.e., the isolation of cause and effect) would require controlled experimentation with the climate system in which the hypothesised agents of change are systematically varied in order to determine the climateâ??s sensitivity to these agents. Such an approach to attribution is clearly not possible. Thus, from a practical perspective, attribution of observed climate change to a given combination of human activity and natural influences requires another approach. This involves statistical analysis and the careful assessment of multiple lines of evidence to demonstrate, within a pre-specified margin of error, that the observed changes are:
1. unlikely to be due entirely to internal variability:
2. consistent with the estimated responses to the given combination of anthropogenic and natural forcing; and
3. not consistent with alternative, physically plausible explanations of recent climate change that exclude important elements of the given combination of forcings.”
I interpret this to mean that the detection & attribution in the body of evidence for anthropogenic climate change is the result of deductive reasoning after isolation of natural forcing functions by complex statistical analyses & models that cannot account for observed variations. Further, models & simulations incorporating postulated anthropogenic forcing functions (eg GHGs) show close correlation to very recent climate changes observed.
It appears to me that the leap of faith to be made surrounds one’s confidence in our knowledge of known non-anthropogenic (natural) radiative forcing functions and our ability to model them. The IPCC-3 WG I report portrays this as a reasonably high confidence. This is the hurdle I am still trying to jump over intellectually.
I will continue to read your suggested references (great way to spend ones leave period, no :)).
My journey of global warming discovery has required a substantial investment of personal time. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt the rest of the “joe six-pack” community of which I am the vanguard will be willing to do the same.
Thanks again for your indulgence and truly appreciate the lack of a condescening attitude anywhere on your website for the unitiated and uniformed!
I saw the movie last Friday – not much news for me except the Navy record, but a lot of new details for my companion, she was generally aware of the problem but not really of the scientific backgrounds, so for her the movie was well-gauged. At http://movies.go.com/boxoffice I’m glad to see that even though the movie was shown in only 2% of the theaters compared to ‘MI-III’ or ‘The breakup’, it still came in 9th place last weekend in the box-offices. Now let’s hope at least some of the multiplexes pick it up (because it may well generate some money – highest per-theatre revenue!) so that stripmall-America can also see it, despite more upcoming summer-blockbusters and already-made commitments.
One thing that strikes me is that the polar bear has really made it into the new poster child for global warming (see the review mentioned above, and indeed in the theatre there were many aaahs for the ANIMATED polar bear that can’t find solid ice anymore). Maybe time for Ice Age III: the final meltdown (with a last minute save because humankind rights it’s way)? Would that take the subject to grounds not serious enough or an animation to a too serious one for mass appeal. Are any means to bring the message under attention appropiate (what was the effect of “The day after tomorrow”, in the end of the day)? At some point, people need (and want, from what I see) the facts, from sources they trust. Hopefully that trusted source is still called ‘science’ and leads them for instance to this page. Brings back the ‘messenger’ – Politicians? – They know how to convince people but are therefore also treated with distrust. The science part of the movie’s webpage doesn’t provide links to further reading, unfortunately. I’ve asked them.
Comment by Rienk Smittenberg — 5 Jun 2006 @ 2:08 PM
Good points! As Gore says in the movie, when the water around the metaphorical cartoon frog starts to heat up toward boiling “… someone reaches in and saves the frog. It’s important to save the frog.”
>The science part of the movie’s webpage doesn’t provide links to further reading, unfortunately.
> I’ve asked them.
Me too. That’s very important.
I’ve also asked them for a non-Flash interface, like NASA and most corporations provide for people who want to read instead of watch a movie.
EXCERPTS — there are more researchers mentioned than I’m excerpting here:
Polar bears drown as ice shelf melts
SCIENTISTS have for the first time found evidence that polar bears are drowning because climate change is melting the Arctic ice shelf.
The researchers were startled to find bears having to swim up to 60 miles across open sea to find food. They are being forced into the long voyages because the ice floes from which they feed are melting, becoming smaller and drifting farther apart.
Although polar bears are strong swimmers, they are adapted for swimming close to the shore. Their sea journeys leave them them vulnerable to exhaustion, hypothermia or being swamped by waves.
According to the new research, four bear carcases were found floating in one month in a single patch of sea off the north coast of Alaska, where average summer temperatures have increased by 2-3C degrees since 1950s.
The scientists believe such drownings are becoming widespread across the Arctic, an inevitable consequence of the doubling in the past 20 years of the proportion of polar bears having to swim in open seas.
“Mortalities due to offshore swimming may be a relatively important and unaccounted source of natural mortality given the energetic demands placed on individual bears engaged in long-distance swimming,” says the research led by Dr Charles Monnett, marine ecologist at the American government’s Minerals Management Service. “Drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice continues.” ….
The new study, carried out in part of the Beaufort Sea, shows that between 1986 and 2005 just 4% of the bears spotted off the north coast of Alaska were swimming in open waters. Not a single drowning had been documented in the area.
However, last September, when the ice cap had retreated a record 160 miles north of Alaska, 51 bears were spotted, of which 20% were seen in the open sea, swimming as far as 60 miles off shore.
The researchers returned to the vicinity a few days later after a fierce storm and found four dead bears floating in the water. “We estimate that of the order of 40 bears may have been swimming and that many of those probably drowned as a result of rough seas caused by high winds,” said the report.
Re Andy’s #156: okay, I agree (and to some extent so do the climatologists who ask for more money to investigate how to model clouds, etc) that a lot of non-anthropogenic factors are not well understood. But let’s go back to the first sentence you quote from WG1: we can’t do controlled experimentation on real climate systems. Let’s say that someone with a really great (and BIG) lab had done controlled experimentation on climate systems. I mean, pretend multiple Earths were replicated and some had atmospheres injected with CO2 and some not, and then 300 years later the experimenter took the temperature of each and rejected the null hypothesis of no difference. Someone could still come and say, “But you didn’t test x or y or z, and those control Earths aren’t in exactly the same condition our Earth is in — therefore you still can’t convince me that OUR Earth has warmed due to the CO2.”
I think the problem still comes down to the fact that natural sciences can disprove but not prove. Whether or not a person is convinced will likely be up to his/her own biases and predispositions. For that reason, I think it’s reasonable for people to reject absolutist dichotomous beliefs, remain skeptical of all theories, and instead ask “What’s the most likely explanation for a given phenomenon,” and then act on that.
Re #156: Another point to remember is that, at this stage, even if we were to come up with some alternative cause to explain the warming, we would still be left with the question of why the earth is so insensitive to greenhouse gases, given that all the theoretical considerations suggest at least a moderate degree of sensitivity.
As far as I know, only a few scientists, Richard Lindzen being the most prominent, have attempted to do this. However, so far Lindzen’s proposals seem to be failing experimental tests and, furthermore, I have never heard of Lindzen having any sort of compelling explanation of how he can reconcile his stabilizing negative feedbacks with the paleoclimate evidence that the earth’s climate system is in fact quite unstable. (That would certainly be the #1 question that I would like to ask him if I got to speak with him.) I.e., he either has to explain how his stabilizing effects do not apply when other kinds of forcings are considered or he has to show how these other forcings (such as those due to orbital oscillations), which I believe scientists think they have are pretty good estimate of, are really much greater than they believe.
As Steve L. noted, the truth about science is that there is generally not a “smoking gun”. Science is inductive by nature, rather than deductive, so unlike in mathematics noone can ever prove anything. It is just a matter of the evidence accumulating to the point where it is more and more difficult to explain the observations any other way…and, indeed, when other attempts to explain them have failed to be able to do so.
I’d like to know why people don’t follow their own retoric to conclude that the damage of global warming is inevitable and that we are doomed.
I believe the movie claimed that in 10 years we would reach a tipping point from which would would not be able to recover. Is there any science / data to this claim? Do people really believe this?
From my 50 year observation of people and politics, no 10 year period produces any dramatic change. If we have 10 years to change then to me it means that we won’t change and whatever global warming will do will happen.
Is there any good reason to believe that any of the measures proposed by the movie will help? For example one suggestion in the credits was to use less foriegn oil. How’s that going to help? Does burning domestic oil produce less CO2 than foriegn oil?
I was skeptical about our understanding of what is causing global warming. Now I’m less so. That’s a real tribute to the movie. But I am still skeptical about our collective ablility to do anything about it.
> I’d like to know why people don’t follow their own retoric….
Once you have understood some bits of science, rhetoric is less seductive.
That’s what Gore’s slideshow does, impressively — pulls out the science and holds it up and says, you, too, can understand enough about this to make informed decisions, here are places to start.
When people have pointers to sites that aren’t fonts of rhetoric, people learn.
When Hansen says we aren’t yet committed to a disaster, and explains why, the chicken (“sky is falling”) and the ostrich (“head buried in sand, I see nothing”) are boring. Why follow boring rhetoricians?
Science is exciting, it’s alive, it’s rare and new — just the last few centuries out of tens of thousands of years of human cultures. Rhetoric is old and boring, no matter whose it is.
I disagree that “no 10 year period produces any dramatic change.”
When John F. Kennedy became president, he announced in a now-famous speech that we should aim to put a man on the moon before this decade is out. It happened.
It’s true that there’s more global warming already “in the pipeline,” and we can’t avoid future change. But how much change depends critically on what we do in the next few years. It may not be very inspiring to work hard and make sacrifices just to have “very bad” rather than “totally disastrous.” But it’s worth it.
I share your pessimism, but not your fatalism. After all, as Jimmy Stewart said, lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for. But seriously, I don’t think Hansen means to suggest that if we fail to take appropriate action in the next 10 years all is lost. Things will be very bad, but our species will not be doomed to extinction (although I can’t make the same claim for polar bears). The benchmark of a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide is somewhat arbitrary – the best guess is that every doubling costs about 3 degrees C, and we all want to avoid the doubling of the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm to 560 ppm, but if we miss that we can still strive to avoid going from the current 380 ppm to 760 ppm, or any other benchmark you choose. It’s discouraging how few people will act in their own self-interest, but we are morally obliged to do our best.
From what I’ve read, Gore’s movie begins with the assertion that “debate no longer exists regarding the causes and effects of global warming”. There is a claim that “no reasonable climate scientist” disputes the reality of global warming. Yet.. today, I read that William Gray directly disputes the notion of anthropogenic global warming. Let me see… who do I trust more, William Gray? or Al Gore. Sorry… I don’t need to see or hear ANYTHING further from this film.
[Response: If you really think Bill Gray is a more reliable authority on global warming than Al Gore, I don’t think we need to hear the rest of your comment (which has therefore been deleted). Al Gore’s understanding of the basic physics underlying global warming is far more reliable than Bill Gray’s. Sad to say, Gray hasn’t even achieved a decent undergraduate level understanding of the science, and has made a number of very elementary blunders. For a sampler, take a look at our post, “Gray and Muddy Thinking on Global Warming.” –raypierre]
After watching the movie yesterday I went to the movie website expecting to find a list of references, but there are none. If this isn’t made available on the official movie site, will it be done here as a labor of love?
I’m curious about his glib presentation showing the number of journal articles in a survey of journal articles on global warming disagreeing with global warming compared to a survey in the popular press. That was amusing and clever, but I would like to see the article he got the information from.
[Response: The study he is citing is by Naomi Oreskes, “Beyond the ivory tower: The scientific concensus on climate change.” Science 306, 3 December, 2004. A number of skeptics have tried to do their own count, and claim to have found skeptical papers Oreskes missed, but this is achieved only by an extremely fanciful interpretation of what counts as skeptical. –raypierre]
I’m going to buy the book, but I’ll be offline a few weeks reading it (on a native plant restoration, a 200-year project begun in my copious spare time) Maybe someone who has it will comment on references.
We can guess about the sources, but that’s not the best way. And I’d imagine the actual slide show is different each time it’s given as the information changes.
It should be widespread knowledge that certain sectors of the fossil fuel industry have continually been looking for ‘skeptical scientists’ whose views they can widely promote – it used to be people like Richard Lindzen and S. Fred Singer, but they’ve been discredited to the point where new ‘voices’ are being sought. A quick list of the new ‘PR team’ includes William Gray, Chris Landsea, Roger Pielke, etc. In most media reports you see their names repeated ad nasueum as the ‘climate skeptics’ but their views rest on very shaky ground – they seem to hang everything on the ‘Atlantic Multidecadal Oscialltion’ and they repeatedly state that increases in hurricane frequency/intensity are simply part of a ‘natural cycle’ and have nothing to do with global warming. Their logic even seems to extend to ‘human-induced global warming isn’t happening because hurricanes are increasing due to a natural cycle’ – none of which appears true. The link between increased sea surface temperatures, warming ocean currents, and hurricane intensity is ironclad – and the warming SSTs and warming ocean currents are due to human-induced increases in heat trapping atmospheric gases. You also see warming in desert regions, which are more isolated from oceanic influences, as well as in mountainous glacial regions, as well as in the polar regions. There is absolutley no scientific basis for denying the reality of human-induced climate change.
The BBC has a 40 minute film on the US government efforts to censor government scientists – it can be found at Panorama on US government censorship of science, (To watch the film, click on the video link to the right when you open this page). This film also contains an account of some of the world’s first climate change refugees from a melting Arctic island- a trend that can be expected to grow and grow.
It is also worth noting that the primary step in limiting carbon emissions is to stop burning coal, which has the lowest energy:carbon ratio of any of the fossil fuels (natural gas has the highest energy:carbon ratio). Coal plays a major role in electricity generation in the US, so that means that a replacement source is needed – namely, wind and solar generated electricity in combination with a load balancing (energy storage) system. Producing such a system will generate many jobs and will stimulate the economy. Claims about an ‘economic collapse’ due to restriction of carbon emissions are patently false.
NOAA, global warming, and hurricanes: CSW director interview
Posted on June 04, 2006
Text from a May 30 live interview with Climate Science Watch director Rick Piltz on the â??Earthbeatâ?? public affairs show on WPFW-FM radio in Washington, DC, as part of a program on hurricanes and global warming. Also interviewed was Dr. Judith Curry of Georgia Tech University, who met the following day with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to discuss the potential implications for Florida of research showing a global increase in hurricane intensity (AP: â??Scientists say warming threatening Florida”).
I don’t understand how any scientist can say “it’s not too late” with confidence. (But I would be grateful if someone could explain to me why we do still have time.)
1. Even if net carbon output to the atmosphere became zero tomorrow, look at all the changes that have occurred with the current levels. Surely Arctic sea ice disappearing very soon is a tipping point that will have much wider impact?
2. What is the ‘lag’ or momentum of the climate system? That is, are the changes we’re seeing the result of GHGs from 50 years ago? If so….
This article has been trumpeted by lay pundits and certain segments of the political blogosphere as a “full debunk of the misleading scientific arguments.” Below is my response to his points. Any additional comments, corrects, additions? Thanks -CM
1) BALLING: “Near the beginning of the film, Gore pays respects to his Harvard mentor and inspiration, Dr. Roger Revelle. Gore praises Revelle for his discovery that atmospheric CO2 levels were rising and could potentially contribute to higher temperatures at a global scale. There is no mention of Revelle’s article published in the early 1990s concluding that the science is “too uncertain to justify drastic action.” ”
THE FACTS: Gore spoke in the movie about the facts of Revelle’s scientific discoveries. Indeed, Revelle’s early 90’s article does state his opinion at the time that the data being presented was “too uncertain to justify drastic action.” First, a semantic point: Revelle wrote that in his estimation, the data did not justify “drastic” action at the time; this, however, is not a statement against any action. More importantly, however, is the fact that the article was published 16 years ago! Climate research exploded as a field of science thoughout the ’90s, and an extensive amount of research has been done in the last 16 years. Revelle died in 1991 and therefore cannot comment on his statement in light of much more significant and conclusive data. Balling’s first critique, a cherry-picked a 16 year old quote, is not a substantive criticism of the current data presented by Gore in the movie. Many people would read this first criticism and discount the remaining article; however, because Balling’s first point is incredibly inane does not a priori disqualify the remaining five. So let’s continue.
2) BALLING: “Gore discusses glacial and snowpack retreats atop Kenya’s Mt. Kilimanjaro, implying that human induced global warming is to blame. But Gore fails to mention that the snows of Kilimanjaro have been retreating for more than 100 years, largely due to declining atmospheric moisture, not global warming.”
THE FACTS: Dr. Balling is distorting the scientific data here. The IJC paper that Balling uses as support for this criticism is willfully misinterpreted. The claim of declining atmospheric moisture is based on an incomplete reading of the record of past climates. There is considerable evidence (e.g, from Lonnie Thompson’s work) that Kilimanjaro melting is due to warming. It is undeniable that tropical mountain glaciers worldwide are in retreat- and that fact is incompatible with a localized precipitation interpretation. Even if Kilimanjaro melting has contributions from precipitation, changes in precipitation are predicted to be linked with tropical circulation shifts associated with global warming. The climate scientists at Realclimate.org, the go-to source for scientific information on climate change, explain that the studies of Kilimanjaro “only support the role of precipitation in the initial stages of the retreat, up to the early 1900”. Moreover, “the Kilimanjaro glacier survived a 300 year African drought which occurred about 4000 years ago.” The most scientifically accepted explanation for why it has almost completely disappeared this time is “anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change.” (see Tropical Glacier Retreat) http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/05/tropical-glacier-retreat/
3) BALLING: “Many of Gore’s conclusions are based on the ‘Hockey Stick’ that shows near constant global temperatures for 1,000 years with a sharp increase in temperature from 1900 onward. The record Gore chooses in the film completely wipes out the Medieval Warm Period of 1,000 years ago and Little Ice Age that started 500 years ago and ended just over 100 years ago.”
THE FACTS: This is a very old criticism among climate change ‘skeptics,’ which has been sufficiently debunked. It is slightly embarrassing that Balling actually uses this as a criticism. Even if Balling’s criticisms of the ‘Hockey Stick’ model were true, very few of Gore’s conclusions in the movie are based on the so-called “Hockey Stick” model. In fact, in the movie Gore discusses the warming periods Dr. Balling mentions. Gore simply illustrates that these changes were fundamentally different than what has occurred at the end of the 20th century. Scientists overwhelming agree on this point and repeated scientific studies have confirmed this model. As Realclimate.org explains, “Nearly a dozen model-based and proxy-based reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere mean temperature by different groups all suggest that late 20th century warmth is anomalous in a long-term (multi-century to millennial) context.”
(see Myth v.s Fact Regarding the “Hockey Stick”) http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=11
4) BALLING: “You will certainly not be surprised to see Katrina, other hurricanes, tornadoes, flash floods, and many types of severe weather events linked by Gore to global warming. However, if one took the time to read the downloadable “Summary for Policymakers” in the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), one would learn that “No systematic changes in the frequency of tornadoes, thunder days, or hail events are evident in the limited areas analysed.”
THE FACTS: First of all, the IPCC report cited by Balling is from 2001, well before Katrina or many of the other extreme weather events cited by Gore. Moreover, Gore is careful not to assert that Katrina or any specific weather event was caused by global warming; however, more warmer surface temperatures do result in stronger weather events. Gore notes that climate models predict that as the concentration of carbon dioxide increases the frequency of extreme weather events increases. This is exactly what we have seen over the past several years – in fact, a scientific study titled “Changes in tropical cyclone number, duration, and intensity in a warming environment” was recently published in the journal Science (Webster et al., 2005). Two other recent scientific articles have also been published (Schwartz, 2006). This being said, there is by no means a scientific conclusion about the severity of storms. Scientists are open and honest about uncertainties in this data. Ideologues have capitalized on this process of scientific inquiry to disingenuously cast an air of uncertainty on the scientific findings. Neverthless, there is research that is beginning to point to increased weather due to global warming – it is possible that Balling is working from old talking points here (as he is with the ‘Hockey Stick’ criticism) and merely has not kept up with the fast-paced research developments in this field.
5) BALLING: “Gore claims that sea level rise could drown the Pacific islands, Florida, major cities the world over, and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. No mention is made of the fact that sea level has been rising at a rate of 1.8 mm per year for the past 8,000 years; the IPCC notes that “No significant acceleration in the rate of sea level rise during the 20th century has been detected.”
THE FACTS: Balling, again, is using conveniently selected information. If you actually read the IPCC chapter on 20th C sea level change, you see that Balling has cut the conclusion short. The quote cited by Dr. Balling actually continues: “This is not inconsistent with model results [predicting accelerating sea levels] due to the possibility of compensating factors and the limited data.” The IPCC study also notes that over the last 3,000 years, sea levels have increased “at an average rate of 0.1 to 0.2 mm/yr – with about one tenth of that occurring during the 20th century.” Even though the overall rate of change 1900-1990 was within historic range limits, human causes account for a discernible portion of 20th C rise. Balling skips over the report’s conclusions on human-caused warming and asserts a blatantly erroneous claim.
6) BALLING: “Near the end of the film, we learn of ways the United States could reduce emissions of greenhouse gases back to the levels of 1970. OK. Assume the United States accomplishes this lofty goal, would we see any impact on climate? The well-known answer is no. China, India and many other countries are significantly increasing their emission levels, and global concentrations of CO2 may double this century no matter what we decide to do in the United States. Even if the Kyoto Protocol could be fully implemented to honor the opening of this movie, the globe would be spared no more than a few hundredths of a degree of warming.”
THE FACTS: This is the latest iteration of the climate skeptic justification for inaction: “ok, global warming is happening, may be human-caused, and may have some consequences, but there’s nothing we can do about it.” We’ve seen this position evolve among the so-called climate skeptics over the last two decades as the data has become more undeniable. As James McCarthy has noted, “In the late ’80s, early ’90s, it was, ‘Nothing is changing.’ And by the mid-’90s, it’s, ‘Well, things are changing, but just a little bit, and by the way, humans aren’t causing it.’ By 2000, it’s ‘Well, things are changing a little bit, humans are causing it, and there may be some impacts, but you know what, it won’t matter.’ – Balling’s own views have evolved on this point as well, even Balling now admits “(1) Global surface temperatures have risen in recent decades. (2) Mid-tropospheric temperatures have warmed little over the same period. (3) This difference is not consistent with predictions from numerical climate models.” ( http://www.marshall.org/pdf/materials/170.pdf ). To his credit Balling even wrote in 2005 that “there is substantial evidence that a non-solar control has become dominant in recent decades. The buildup of greenhouse gases and/or some other global-scale feedback, such as widespread changes in atmospheric water vapor, emerge as potential explanations for the recent residual warming found in all latitudinal bands.” (reference 2005 Sen Roy and Balling).
The argument that “even if we reduce emissions China and India will continue to increase emissions” is not an excuse for inaction on our part. Such faulty logic is inexcusable. We should be leading the world effort on curbing emissions. The fact that other countries are emitting at high rates does not absolve us of our responsibility to curb our emissions and serve as a world leader on the issue. Secondly, Balling ignores the economic factor of rising energy costs – as oil gets more expensive (which it will as resources dwindle), developing nations will be hard-pressed to continue to afford cheap combustion. Currently, China and India are probably better suited to innovating and adapting to carbon-neutral alternatives, which are both cheaper and cleaner. We stand to lose out in this economic sector while countries that genuinely seek to innovate energy alternatives pass us up.
Brian: you wrote: “I don’t understand how any scientist can say “it’s not too late” with confidence. (But I would be grateful if someone could explain to me why we do still have time.)”
Did you watch Al Gore’s movie or read his book by the same title? It helps to know what information you are starting with.
Do you rely on any source of information you can point us to? Possibly you’re reading one of the sites that specializes in FUD (“Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt”) — those are commercial PR sites, industry funded, for the most part.
Give us some idea of where you’re starting from — what you have already read — so we can give you answers appropriate to what you already know.
“The argument that ‘even if we reduce emissions China and India will continue to increase emissions’ is not an excuse for inaction on our part. Such faulty logic is inexcusable.”
It’s not faulty logic. Maybe it was just explained poorly.
If Corporation X is limted to Y CO2 emissions/year in the US but needs to add factories for growth, they will be encouraged to put these factories overseas in nations like China or India where there are no emissions limitations. And if Corporation X is willing to attempt to grow within the US and simply become more efficient to maintain their CO2 emissions limits, Competing Corporation Z in India or China will gladly use their unlimited CO2 emissions to gain a pricing and competitive advantage and get a substantial/complete share of the growth. In the end, the CO2 emissions are simply re-distributed to developing nations. And environmental regs in general in places India and China are much looser than they are in the US, meaning not only do global CO2 emissions likely stay the same, but global pollution overall increases.
There would need to be a global policy absent of huge exemptions like India and China for things to work.
***He said the main reason emissions from China and India are rising so fast compared to the rest of the world, which had a 15 percent rise in carbon dioxide emissions between 1992 and 2002, was older, inefficient coal-fired power plants in both countries.
While cleaner coal-fired plants are possible, India and China cannot afford to make the switch.
“They can’t afford to take (the old, heavily polluting power plants) out of commission to repair them because basically, if you don’t have power for even three months, that has huge economic costs for them,” (World Bank acting vice-president for sustainable development Steen) Jorgensen said.***
Comment by Michael Jankowski — 6 Jun 2006 @ 3:19 PM
Michael, did you ever stop to think that by reducing GHG emissions and becoming more energy efficient, a company would SAVE money? Your argument is flawed.
The BBC article “Climate chaos: Bush’s climate of fear” says that Bush came to power in 2000. That’s incorrect, Bush became president in Jan 2001.
Also, even before Bush became president, the National Weather Service (NWS) discouraged government scientists from doing investigations on climate change in hydrology. NWS is the largest agency within NOAA having responsibility in weather, hydrology and climate.
* Canadian, 45, lived in the US from 1995-2003
* Returned to Canada, started reading the BBC online, discovered apparently there’s a climate problem :-)
* Read the books by Linden, Kolbert, and Flannery
* Have read through realclimate and checked out other sites (junkscience was so blatant in their attempts to distort that I don’t consider them a useful source of climate information)
* Have seen Dr. David Suzuki, and read various other things
* An Inconvenient Truth is not yet showing in Victoria
So, it seems very obvious to me that the climate is changing, largely due to human influence. Further, it seems that the change is happening _faster_ than predicted. Even in the space of a few months, for example, the time it will take the Arctic to be ice-free in the summer has been revised down from 30 years to 10 or less.
The books and Suzuki claim that we must act within 10 years. I don’t see where they’re getting this number; it seems more like wishful thinking. (Don’t get me wrong; I am entirely in favour of immediate and extensive mitigation projects.)
….the environmental picture is not improving, and is, in fact, worsening, and “allows for no optimism,” said Zhu Guangyao, deputy chief of the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), at a news conference to release the white paper.
The damage to the environment is costing the government roughly 10 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, or about US$220 billion, Zhu said in response to a question, adding that it was a rough figure.
Re#180, if reducing GHG emissions and becoming more efficient were that easy and cost-effective for companies, why aren’t they all doing it? Why would Kyoto even exist?
Comment by Michael Jankowski — 6 Jun 2006 @ 4:45 PM
Michael — same reason nobody reduced and eliminated CFCs until governments worldwide acted together, even when the loss of the ozone layer was obviously happening. It’s that “level playing field” argument — more properly, “planar playing field” — as long as all the companies are on the _same_ slippery slope to disaster, none wants to be the first to spend money (short term disadvantage) to take action even though all are going to end up in the same place if none of them change.
Look for Ray’s responses (green or blue) and see the recent paper at Chicago Int’l Law Review — via his link on the main sidebar — for good answers on why ten years matters. Briefly, it’s time in which simple efficiency and conservation can hold off building old style polluting coal plants, for example — long enough to plan and build new type closed combustion coal plants that feed in coal and oxygen, produce no nitrogen oxides, and can capture all the uranium, thorium, mercury and other pollution as well as allowing capture of CO2 for sequestration if that technology matures in, again, a decade.
Look at the graphs for what happens if we act now vs. don’t — many links, sorry I’m rushed.
Re: 185: Why many companies are not doing much about reducing their GHGs:
1. It costs more upfront than what they are doing now.
2. Most company officers believe that the primary purpose of a corporation is to make money (as opposed to provide a product or service, fill a human need, etc).
3. Spending money on anything that is not immediately profitable results in an immediate competitive disadvantage when your competitors are not spending that money.
4. It’s not as easy as doing what you’ve always done.
5. Not many corporations want to admit the full scale of climate change.
6. Every penny spent is a penny less for the CEO. (Enron, Nortel, Worldcom, etc., etc.)
RE#186 – “same reason nobody reduced and eliminated CFCs until governments worldwide acted together”
I believe this is what I had said – it would need to be a global effort including developing nations (at least, those that are significant emitters) and not exempting nations like China and India.
I believe that gov’ts contributed multi-billions of $$$ towards a fund from about 1990-present to provide CFC-free technologies to developing countries. I’m not quite sure how this analogy relates to the cost-effectiveness of reductions.
RE#188 – Reducing GHG emissions is good PR – see the recent comments about BP on another recent thread on this site – which is good for business. I know of many enviro conscious people who try to buy gas from BP whenever possible and boycott Exxon for this very reason.
You reason #1 is incorrect. Companies have absolutely no problem investing capital upfront – if the move is projected to be cost-effective in the long-term. As I said in response to #180, if the move were cost-effective, companies would do it at the drop of a hat. Concern with profits, CEO bonuses, etc, doesn’t really apply to public utilities, and public utilities are constantly investing capital for long-term returns. Some are looking 20, 30, 50, or even further into the future. Once again, if reducing GHG emissions were cost-effective as #180 claimed, you would see much more participation.
[Response: Markets are not completely rational, so some moves that make economic sense don’t happen. With regard to coal, it’s worse. What makes economic sense is to burn coal. Lots of it. That’s because the environmental effects of burning coal — from mountain top removal to mercury pollution to global warming — are not in any way reflected in the price of coal. No market signals, no action. –raypierre]
Comment by Michael Jankowski — 6 Jun 2006 @ 9:23 PM
Re #185 and #190: So, are you saying that BP is lying when they claim that they have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by the amount they said they are and that they are saving a significant amount of money in doing so? Because the world of your naive economic principles this would be impossible.
By similar logic, one also must conclude, for example, that the phenomenon of pet rocks or beanie babies could not have occurred until the exact moment that it happened…because if it could have been profitable before that, someone would have acted on it already.
And, despite what it says on the box, those compact fluorescent light bulbs can’t possibly save consumers money or more of them would have converted over to them already.
In other words, the world is not as simple as the most simplistic market economics religious principles would have you believe. You have to go beyond that and study how markets really work. There are lots of real issues markets face including externalities, the lack of perfect knowledge, inertia, perverse incentives in corporate cultures, …
RE#191, Where did I say it was impossible for GHG reductions to be cost-effective? If BP is saving money and reducing GHG emissions, good for them (although I do find your implication that BP is being completely truthful to be amusing…usually, oil company statements are viewed with a lot of doubt, especially by enviro-conscious people, yet you are daring me to say there are lying). But just because one company can do it doesn’t mean every company can just flip a switch and follow suit. If it were that easy, every PC maker in the world would’ve adopted Dell’s business model and had their high profit margins over the years.
Your reference to beanie babies and pet rocks is absurd. Those were fad products and inventions of sorts. If you want to go with that analogy, then maybe it would be more appropriate to discuss how cost-effective it would’ve been for BP to switch all of its plants to the manufacture of beanie babies or something along those lines.
As for fluorescent bulbs, you’re talking about a personal consumer choice. Consumers don’t necessarily choose the most cost-effective products. If they did, high end automobiles, first-class seating, luxury homes, expensive clothing stores and product lines, etc, would not exist. Those making corportate financial business decisions are not doing so based on their own personal consumer choices. Utility companies are not, either. They are looking at the financial bottom-line, and if it’s cost-effective for them to invest in and implement a new technology, they do so.
RE#192, Is there really a public utility out there that mines coal?
Comment by Michael Jankowski — 7 Jun 2006 @ 9:04 AM
We are rapidly gaining the technology necessary to solve our energy needs sustainably and doing this on a shoestring budget.
here is a quote from an article at New Scientist magazine:
Victor Klimov, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico â�¦has shown that by shrinking the elements of a solar cell down to a few nanometres, or millionths of a millimetre, each captured photon can be made to generate not one, but two or even more charge carriers.
This doubles the current efficiency of solar cells.
I cant link straight to the article because it is a pay site, but here is another article slightly older that talks about the process.
If we combine this power generation with the efficient energy storage of methanol as researched by Nobel Laureate Dr Olah we have an efficient bottom up energy economy. here is an interview with Dr Olah.
As to personal responsibility, our daily lives, and governmental policy, it is hard for me to see much distinction. In order to have any way out of what we are currently creating we must work on both fronts at the same time. Our personal responsibilities to our children are to work to create a government that can address these problems. What we have now is a government that mainly addresses corporate interests and corporations are bound by law to do what is necessary to enhance stockholders dividends. The 1919 case Dodge v. Ford Motor Co., sets the precedent. Here is an excerpt from the supreme court of Michiganâ��s decision;
â��A business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders. The powers of the directors are to be employed for that end. The discretion of directors is to be exercised in the choice of means to attain that end and does not extend to a change in the end itself, to the reduction of profits or to the nondistribution of profits among stockholders in order to devote them to other purposesâ��.
The other case that makes action to reduce global climate change difficult was the 1886 case where the US Supreme Court ruled in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad [[118 U.S. 394], that a private corporation was a “natural person” under the US Constitution, sheltered by the 14th Amendment, which requires due process in the criminal prosecution of “persons.”
We are caught in a sort of catch 22 of climate change and governmental policy. Industry is the single largest contributor to anthropomorphic CO2 (33%) but legally there are very few checks that can be put on this source because it would impede profitability and would impinge on the rights of a corporation as a individual person.
The major problem we are facing with utilizing new sustainable energy sources appears to me to be corporate inertia. The wealthy companies that run our economy are fixated on maintaining their status. A natural position I suppose. But it is one that is selling our children’s future out from under them. From arms manufactures and the pentagon to energy traders and big oil, media companies, to congress, everyone wants to maintain and enhance market share, and over the course of our history as a country have established the legal means to do so, no matter the obvious destructive results of continuing on in the poison rut that has been established. So we can only take personal responsibility by taking activist positions regarding the basically legally mandated short-term view of corporations.
[Response: I don’t see that there’s any constitutional impediment to regulating corporate CO2 emissions, either by command and control or market mechanisms. Corporations are already subject to all sorts of regulations — fuel economy standards, child labor laws, accounting practice laws, toxic pollution laws, and so forth. A carbon tax is even less problematic constitutionally, since it has been clear since the beginning that Congress has the powers to levy taxes of various sorts.
One of the problems with corporate governance in the US is that it has proved hard to get the CEO’s to even pay attention to the short-term needs of providing value to their shareholders (Enron being the most blatant example), let alone the long-term profitability of the company itself (this quarter’s results vs. payoff in 20 years) let alone taking financial risks that might benefit society as a whole or the economy as a whole but have uncertain payoff for the company itself. Corporations, like people, are neither inherently good or bad. Perhaps more so than people, though, they need clearer incentives to good behavior regarding their broader impacts. –raypierre]
Ray, I’d recommend finding someone able to address this from the corporate governance side who’s eager to explain to corporate boards and shareholders how they can, within the rules, address climate change. There’s a brand new Stanford corporate governance program as of this year, for example. I think there’s almost no attention given to these concerns and that the law for Boards of Directors currently does make that limit explicit. It’s a huge subject area.
Finding someone in that field who wants to show his or her peers how their rules allow change would be good.
“… at the UK Serious Games Summit, where game developers met to discuss games that are intended to have positive social outcomes. The pranksters — widely believed to have been the notorious Yes Men — gave an increasingly provocative, funny and weird deadpan PowerPoint presentation [links] on McDonald’s putative interactive strategy. The presentation focused on the way that corporate practices contribute to global climate change.”
It seems most news-papers and magazines are qualifying the movie as over dramatic wich is pathetic. There is many reasons to be dramatic when the fate of billions of peoples is at stakes, including our very own planet lies on a the head of a needle.
Beside the gouvernements propaganda, we now have the medias ignoring the situation and the masses that follows blindly taking their cars when they could simply take public transport. If you beleive in something, then give it justice by YOUR actions. How many people beleive in kyoto but would never dare to take public transport 3 days a week instead of their cars?
Warning about global warming started over 25 years ago, perhaps it would have cost less to do something about it back then? Scientists were simply ignored and shut off qualified as over reacting, making extreme scenario, etc… I dont know about you, but the whole scenario with the mega-corporations controling even wars mixed with global warming scenario is a prety good receipe for the soon to be released real-life movie “appocalyspe 2025”.
I am also skeptical of the estimation of Gore, Hansen and others that we have ten years time in which we can act to avert irreversible runaway warming and catastrophic climate change.
As I look at what is already happening to the Earth as a result of the GHGs we have already pumped into the atmosphere, particularly the self-reinforcing feedbacks such as increased release of carbon and methane from warming soils, the increased absorbtion of heat by ice-free arctic oceans, the warming and acidification of the ocean leading to widespread die-off of phytoplankton which take up CO2, and so on, and then realize that the CO2 we’ve already put into the atmosphere will continue to cause warming for many decades to come, it is very difficult to see how this can all be stopped and reversed, even in the (in my opinion) unlikely event that the human species and its nations and corporations wake up to the danger and immediately begin taking large-scale action to virtually eliminate GHG emissions.
I am extremely pessimistic. I think that we, and the golden goose of the Earth’s biosphere, are cooked. So, like the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard Of Oz”, the only thing I ask is, please talk me out of it.
[Response: I think “10 years” is fair if it’s referring to the time we have to set capital investment in energy systems on the right track. Even then, it should be seen as more of a guideline than an immutable principle. If we do nothing in the next ten years, things may get a lot worse and there will be more pain in doing enough carbon emissions abatement in the subsequent times. Nonetheless, it would still be worth doing things in the subsequent 10 years even if we twiddle our thumbs in the next ten years, since things will get EVEN WORSE if we continue to do nothing. There’s no one unique point at which one gives up hope, because however much damage we do to the climate, we’re always capable of doing a lot more, so there never comes a point where emissions abatement becomes pointless. If the “10 years” is supposed to mean strictly that the likely emissions in the next 10 years themselves will push us past a point of no return, on the other hand, I’d agree that the statement is not supportable scientifically. What’s more, it’s counterproductive, since it gives denialists the idea that if they can just hold off meaningful action for another ten years, then they can rest on their laurels since there will then be no point in doing anything ever again. –raypierre]
CNN is running a sceptic story with world v. William Gray, and then the weatherman chimed in to support Gray as a prelude to the report. We don’t know how much we’re contributing he said. That’s clearly false.
The end of Ray’s response to #195 was rather like the curates egg – good in parts :-)
The bad part was to assert that “Corporations, like people, are neither inherently good or bad.” This is denied in the Bible we find that man is a sinner, and in the Wealth of Nations where it is stated that “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” Wealth of Nations (1776) bk. 1, ch. 10, pt. 2
The good part was when Ray asserted that “Perhaps more so than people though, they [corporations], need clearer incentives to good behavior regarding their broader impacts.” Those incentives: for men through the criminal law, and for corporations through fiscal incentives (subsidies) and penalties (taxes) are the duty of goventrnment to impose. Total freedom and lack of government for both men and corporations leads to total anarchy.
I read the article and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I still haven’t seen any science that says we have X years before it’s too late. This paper, and others, refer to the necessity of stopping the building of coal-fired plants now, before we are locked into 50+ years of CO2 emissions from those plants, thus committing us to higher levels of CO2/warming/change.
Is there a model that projects we have 10 years? Again, with the Arctic Ocean predicted now to be ice-free within 10 years, surely that indicates a tipping point has passed that will likely lead to the permafrost defrosting, releasing methane, etc.
I found this quote from the paper encouraging and disturbing:
“The philosopher Hans Jonas finds in this â��imperative of responsibilityâ�� a need for a fundamentally new formulation of ethicsâ��one that takes greater cognizance of future generations and of the
biosphere at large.”
OT: Encouraging that Hans realizes we must consider future generations and the earth. Depressing that a philosopher would be so unaware of other philosophical traditions that he thinks we need a “new” ethics. The people we wiped out and confined to reservations had just such an ethics, but rather then learn from anyone else, we must learn it ourselves, the hard way.
[Response:It’s the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, combined with the 50-60 year capital life of the large number of coal fired power plants planned for the next decade, that led me to the 10 year rule of thumb. –raypierre]
In the movie poster, the depiction of a cyclone created by the factory smoke may apply in the southern hemisphere, but here in the northern hemisphere (where I believe most of the movie’s audience will be) a cyclone’s circulation runs in a counterclockwise fashion, an honest oversight by some over-educated global warming fanatic.
Mark, was the weatherman a CNN guy? Your comment reminds me of the excerpt below from a Nov. 2004 Minneapolis Star Tribune article titled
“Capricious weather? Get used to it” by Paul Douglas:
… Dan Luna, chief of river forecasting at the National Weather Service
in Chanhassen, said: “It would be hard-pressed for anyone to argue
that we’re not seeing evidence of warming. ‘Why?’ is another
question, but we’re just not getting the really cold winters anymore.” …
Re 204 It must be reassuring to the folk of New Orleans that the cyclone was rotating in the wrong direction. But then they are safe from cyclones anyway. You only get hurricanes in the North Atlantic :-(.
Re #204: It’s not a question of which side of the equator you’re on, but which side of the factory. The northern hemisphere population is clearly on the far side of the factory (all I can see on the near side is what looks to be a few marsupials), so the circulation is correct.
Re 199 I don’t think I can talk you out of it, but can I talk Raypierre out of his 10 years, that is the question.
The Arctic is is melting, and there is a positive feedback from the ice albedo effect. Now it has started to melt, the melting will accelerate. The only way to stop it would be to reduce CO2 levels below those of today. That means we stop burning all fossil fuels now. But it is imposible, so we have passed that tipping point.
It is like a car with no brakes sitting on the top of a hill. So long as it is stationery everything is OK, but once it starts moving down the hill without a driver, there is no way of stopping it.
It is the same with the Greenland ice. When the surface melts, its altitude is reduced and the air temperature is warmer causing more melting the following season. That is happening now, and that car has started rolling too.
When are you scientists going to come down from your dreaming spires and start engineering a solution to “another fine mess” you’ve got us into :-?
There’s no one unique point at which one gives up hope, because however much damage we do to the climate, we’re always capable of doing a lot more, so there never comes a point where emissions abatement becomes pointless. If the “10 years” is supposed to mean strictly that the likely emissions in the next 10 years themselves will push us past a point of no return, on the other hand, I’d agree that the statement is not supportable scientifically.
I think that action to reduce any additional harm beyond what we’ve already done is justified now, and would always be justified.
What I am saying is that I understand Gore, Hansen and others to be saying that we still have ten years in which we can change our behaviors and avert irreversible, runaway warming and truly catastrophic, civilization-ending, mass-extinction-inducing climate change.
But when I look at what is happening to the Earth right now, particularly the unexpectedly rapid and accelerating warming and the effects thereof that are already taking place, the self-reinforcing feedbacks that are already apparently kicking in, and the longevity of the additional CO2 that’s already in the air and will continue to produce the effects we are seeing now for decades to come even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels tomorrow (which we clearly will not do), it certainly appears to me that irreversible, runaway warming has probably already begun, and we are already past the tipping point of no return.
My comment about a Nov. 2004 Minneapolis Star Tribune article where … Dan Luna, chief of river forecasting at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, said: “It would be hard-pressed for anyone to argue that we’re not seeing evidence of warming. ‘Why?’ is another question, but we’re just not getting the really cold winters anymore.” … needs additional explanation.
Mr. Dan Luna, Hydrologist in Charge of NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC) was my supervisor from 2001 to 2005. By his hinting that we don’t know the cause of global warming in the Star Tribune article, Mr. Luna was just following instructions within his chain of command in NWS and NOAA.
Mr. Luna’s supervisor in 2004 was NWS Central Region Director Mr. Dennis H. McCarthy, who was promoted to another position within NOAA in 2004. While Mr. McCarthy was director, I received a call from Mr. McCarthy’s Deputy of NWS Central Region, Mr. Gary Foltz, while I was at home (Oct. 31, 2003). I had just gotten back from presenting my paper on earlier snowmelt runoff in the Upper Midwest, at the NWS Climate Prediction Center meeting in Reno, NV. I was on vacation at the time. Mr. Foltz told me that people in NOAA headquarters were surprised and troubled with a Press Release that I issued, on my own time and with my own money, dated Oct 30, 2003. http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=22702
Later in 2004, after receiving a suspension from Mr. McCarthy, which was supported by NWS Deputy Director John Jones, I received a letter (June 28, 2004) from NWS Director David L. Johnson concerning my Oct 2003 Press Release.
In the letter, the NWS director states:
… “every employee is free to issue statements or publish findings as an individual. However, the record shows your name, position and government organization were used in the article published by U.S. Newswire on October 30, 2003. The usage of your official position and title is contrary to previous written direction by your supervisors,” …
In January, 2004, Mr. Luna told me that the NOAA Deputy Administrator, Mr. James R. Mahoney, wanted me fired for my Press Release but that the lawyers in NOAA had advised him that more would be needed to fire me than just my Press Release.
Also, the link above shows the previous director of NWS, John (Jack) J. Kelly, Jr., Brigadier General (USAF ret.), now a Deputy Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere. Mr. Kelly supported three suspensions that were issued to me in 2000 and 2001 by my previous supervisor at NCRFC, Dean T. Braatz, now retired, which all were related to what I saw was a need to consider climate change in hydrologic modeling and flood prediction in the Upper Midwest and that I felt was part of my at work responsibility in public service.
At the risk of sounding optimistic, let me say that I think one reason climate change seems to be accelerating faster than predicted is that a lot of people are doing very good work measuring changes that are almost undetectable. For example, the net loss of ice in Greenland and Antarctica is very worrying, but can be seen only with high precision instruments and careful surveys. If you think about it, very few of us would be aware of climate change at all if it weren’t for reports from remote regions and good scientific detective work. So if Raypierre tells me it’s (most likely, more or less) three degrees for every doubling of carbon dioxide, and that the current situation is pretty much what the models predict, then I have no reason to doubt him. Yes, three degrees is very bad, but it won’t, by itself, cause the end of civilization (except for polar bear civilization).
Raypierre: I take from your comment that you (or the scientific consensus) don’t believe there is sufficient CO2 in the atmosphere now to push us past a major tipping point, but there is expected to be in 10 years? What is this tipping point that will occur in 10 years?
210 & 211: Thank you for explaining my dilemma further. Yes, I completely agree that we need to do everything we can immediately to stop climate change. Like you, it seems to me that some changes, like the Arctic Sea ice melting, are permanent and show that that region has passed a tipping point. It’s happening so fast that we’ll know in a few years. Worse, it seems a big enough change that it will have a significant global effect far beyond our ability to control.
I haven’t seen any scientific evidence in favour of 10 years. I saw that number in one of the books by Linden, Flannery, or Kolbert, and heard it from Dr. David Suzuki (famous Canadian scientist/environmentalist). I’m hoping there is some science to back it up. But it sure looks to me like reducing CO2 at this point is delaying the inevitable – and I firmly believe we have an obligation to do that, to try our damndest to return the Earth to her former glory. And until you _know_ it’s over, it’s foolish to give up.
It may take you a week of spare time to read carefully (it took me that long and I’m still working on it).
But this is as good as the information gets, from the researchers closest to the work.
A bit of the abstract (and please, please, don’t respond to the bit I’ve nipped from the abstract — the information you’re asking for is in the article). I’m just another reader here, not a researcher, but I think this is the basis you’re asking for.
I’ve added paragraph breaks to break the info into screen-readable chunks here:
“…. scenarios allow study of the level of forcing that yields “dangerous interference” with climate. Identification of “dangerous” effects is partly subjective, but we find evidence that added global warming of more than 1Â°C has effects that may be highly disruptive.
The alternative scenario, with peak added forcing ~1.5 W/m2 in 2100, keeps further global warming under 1Â°C for climate sensitivity ~3Â°C or less for doubled CO2. Regional seasonal warming in the alternative scenario stays within 2Ï� (standard deviations) of 20th century variability, but the other scenarios yield regional changes of 5-10Ï�, i.e., climate changes outside the range of local experience.
We discuss three specific sub-global topics: Arctic climate change, tropical storm intensification, and ice sheet stability. We suggest that Arctic climate change has been driven as much by pollutants (O3, its precursor CH4, and soot) as by CO2, offering hope that dual efforts to reduce pollutants and slow CO2 growth could minimize Arctic change. ….
Increasing GHGs cause significant warming in our model in regions of submarine ice shelves with potential implications for future sea level. Growth of non-CO2 forcings has slowed, but CO2 emissions are now surging well above the alternative scenario.
Prompt actions to slow CO2 emissions and decrease non-CO2 forcings are needed to achieve the low forcing of the alternative scenario.
Bottom line — how to achieve the scenario that keeps the model within the bounds of human experience rather than going entirely off the known map.
“Gore has a history of hyperbole (much of it of little import), and using Katrina as a GW ‘prop’ was foolish; particularly when juxtaposed, as Eric pointed out, against the context of what he actually says in the movie….it is a given that the average 25-50 moviegoer who can’t get into a sold-out “M:I:III” will take one glance at that Katrina poster and tune completely out, based on the prevailing CW about Gore — rightly or wrongly so…As for “However Katrina is classified, you have to admit that no previous hurricane that hit New Orleans did what Katrina did.”, quite the contrary. Betsy also hit NO as a strong Cat 3 on Sept. 9, 1965, pushing Lake Ponchartrain into NO, submerging the 9th Ward and other parts of the city. The River Gulf outlet & Industrial Canal levees were also topped.”
Well, so much for juxtaposition, now that Gore’s name & visage has been scrubbed clean from the movie’s promotional items as it moves into general release. Perhaps the producers thought Gore himself was an inconvenient truth? I find this subterfuge troubling, at best.
[Response: I’m really not sure what your point is about Gore. As far as I can tell, the movie has done nothing but good things for his credibility. Gore haters will find more reasons in the movie to hate Gore and there’s nothing Al Gore could do about that except to lie about global warming and say it’s not going to be serious –something he’s fortunately not interested in doing. Most of the criticism of the movie I’ve seen from the anti-Gore wing basically just says he should have made the movie less effective at communicating the urgency of the problem. Look, this is an advocacy movie, not a journal article, and Gore clearly believes something must be done and is going to present the science in as compelling (while honest) a way as possible in order to make that case. As for Hurricane Betsy, it did about $10 billion in damage (current dollars), and killed only 76 people in Louisiana. It’s true that because of the fast and competent work by the Democratic administration of Lyndon Johnson, there was less suffering than Katrina caused and what there was was set right more quickly. Another thing to take into account is that the busy building that came as a result of Betsy was supposed to make New Orleans more resistant to a similar storm, implying either that the replacement storm defenses were actually worse than in the 1960’s, or that Katrina indeed had a stronger effect that Betsy. –raypierre]
Hank, another reason I’m not going to see Al Gore’s movie is that Gore and the Democratic Party did not try to put global warming up as a major issue in the 2004 elections, despite the urging of many to him and CBS in the final debate.
Question for Eric (re the original article at the top); you said you can’t see dust layers in an ice core, disagreeing with what Mr. Gore said he was shown on one of his trips.
I know one can see layers in some cores — the closest image I found with Google was, I think, a sediment core, here:
Are you in a position to inquire further and find out more about what Mr. Gore says he was shown, and told was a visible annual layer in an ice core?
This is just one “what’s the reference please” question — I hope all the cites can be put somewhere eventually, and hope the moviemakers or someone helping with the slideshow as it evolves are reading and respond with a list of sources.
(This picture is from a school coursework website, and I don’t know where to ask for better info — perhaps you would know how to check the claim either way).
I think you should reconsider both seeing the movie and the democratic party. It’s far from perfect, but the republican party is so great an obstacle to action on this issue, that the democrats are, frankly, our only chance to get something done.
This issue is one of the reasons I’m such a strong supporter of Gen. Wesley Clark. He has made the issue prominent among his supporters, has given it lots of publicity, and has taken an approach which I think might help to motivate public interest: insisting that global warming is a *national security* issue.
There is a huge disconnect somewhere, between science, which brought this Internet, prolongs human life span, reconstructed dinosaurs from 60 million year old bones, some not found as fossils turned to useable oil, making rich the petrol industry largely thanks to chemists and engineers, from the same school of scientists which ironically created television, often used by contrarians to decry that some from these Universities have mere crackpot professors driven to secure their comfortable jobs by scaring the world of an impending doom which may never come to be!
Most people trust their schools and great Universities, but somehow these institutions don’t come out swinging against the real crackpots on TV and Radio, totally incompetent in making any sound conclusion about Climate Change, any more capable than explaining how the Televisions which carry their nonsense works. The silence from these much undeservedly berated institutions does not help put an end with the GW debate. I’ve seen it again and again, luckily some TV producers have taken over the debate, unfortunately comparing it to a football game between two equal teams, one with climate scientists, the other with a science fiction writer as their quarterback.
However its not a game, many in this world, the majority of people in this world, know that GW is happening, no one from Radio or TV can say otherwise, unless they have been living in a cave. The reality of this warming needs very little media, but the Institutions must kick in at a higher level, to help get the science out, to explain the underlying reasons behind this warming, so capable politicians may finally tackle even more this issue at a world wide level.
Re: #139, 143 and 177 — Balling should be ashamed.
The 1991 Cosmos paper, “What to do about Greenhouse Warming: Look Before You Leap,” is not “Revelle’s article.” Roger Revelle did not write the Cosmos article. That is a myth, perpetuated by a small crew of energy-industry agents and a much larger public they have suckered.
The Cosmos article is, in reality, S. Fred Singer’s insidious masterpiece, from start to finish. One can urge that Revelle, technically, was a co-author simply because he allowed his name to be used. But that’s it: he was used. Revelle’s actual, participatory, authorship cannot be demonstrated beyond a single momentary session, an editing review of the galley proof, a lengthy session for Roger at a time when his physical ability to pay attention for more than a very short period was severely eroded.
About the Cosmos article and that editing session, Revelle’s secretary states in a sworn affidavit: “I am sure that Roger and I together never worked on the article […] I know it was not one of Roger’s priorities. […] In late summer 1990, Roger started coming into the office for short periods of time and often would spend much of the time dozing. […] Sometimes he would fall asleep while he was dictating […]. I remember that even as late as November 1990 […] he was too weak to walk very far. […] I do not remember seeing any review by Roger of any text by Dr. Singer before a day in February 1991 when he came to Roger’s office. […] After a series of unsuccessful attempts to get Roger to work on this document, Dr. Singer must have decided that the only way he was going to get this thing done was to come in person. […] Dr. Singer arrived unannounced one day in February 1991. I was unprepared for his visit, thinking that Roger had other plans for that afternoon. […] I remember feeling that Roger was cornered, because I thought I understood from the fact that Roger had procrastinated so long that this enterprise was something he didn’t really want to be involved with. […] Roger had been very reluctant to be involved in this enterprise.”
Changes to the final galley proof owing to the discussion between Singer and Revelle on February 6, 1991 in Revelle’s office comprise less than 1% of the text of the published article. Further, the changes are not completely consistent or representative of Revelle’s known views, most significantly that the expected warming in the 21st century would be 1-3 degrees Celsius, as opposed to “well below normal year-to-year variation.” This variation, in a less-pressured moment, Roger would have realized from his own frequently-used lecture materials to be less than 0.3 degrees Celsius.
My understanding from my conversations with Roger’s secretary was that Roger was pressured and worn down on this single afternoon in February of 1991. Afterwards, Roger said to me, in embarrassment: “S. Fred is a rather persuasive fellow.” As far as it appears, Revelle did not work on the paper prior to the final review session of February 6, 1991 at Scripps. Singer has admitted under oath that he could not recall ever receiving comments from Revelle on any of the three drafts that Singer wrote and distributed leading up to the galley proof version.
Singer has admitted, also under oath, that it is possible that the three successive drafts were distributed to Michaels, Balling, Ellsaesser and Lindzen, and he describes receiving their comments and incorporating their contributions. Why are not these contributors included as co-authors? (Singer argues because they were not Cosmos Club members). But, was Revelle ever aware that such a team was actually writing “Revelle’s article”? No evidence has surfaced that he was.
One might wonder if Roger entered into co-authorship fairly and fully informed? For instance, Singer also has admitted under oath that he cannot recall informing Revelle that he, Singer, during the intervening months that supposedly the Cosmos authors were hard at work together, just happened to publish himself, as sole author, a major chunk of the Cosmos article in another journal, including the title, most of the conclusion and the key, most-used quotes: “Look before you leap” and “The scientific basis for a greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time.” (see Environmental Science & Technology, Vol. 24, No. 8, 1990). Further, Singer has admitted this would make him the sole author of this material. So, in this context, how is one to look at attribution of authorship to Revelle for that same material? Were these co-drafted, co-written, and/or co-authored sections? Where does Revelle’s authorship begin?
My personal conversation with Roger shortly after the publication of the Cosmos article gave me the very strong sense that he was intensely embarrassed that his name was associated. He seemed noticeably relieved when we agreed together that perhaps the readership of the Cosmos Club journal would be small and limited. Little did either of us anticipate what was really going on and what would follow.
One has to ask, given the above circumstances, why is this abomination so widely referenced and so constantly held forth as a Revelle paper? Why, for instance, is not this article referred to as the “Singer article”? After all, Singer really is the guy who wrote it, along with his close-knit group of crowing cronies. And Singer’s the guy who claimed a good chunk of the article as sole author before Revelle put pen to paper.
The ugly truth is that the Cosmos Myth, that this is “Revelle’s article”, has been happily brandished as a political weapon by none other than Singer, Balling and Michaels for more than a decade. It has been used to dig, club, claw and otherwise embarrass one, single former Revelle student, a student who has most admirably refused to cease bestowing upon his mentor much deserved credit for inspiring said student to care deeply about global climate change and to pay close and honest attention to the science.
This article has been used, and continues to be used, exclusively for political purposes. I sincerely believe that this article was created, from start to finish, for just the purpose for which it is being used. This whole affair is most repugnant, a shameful manipulation and exploitation of the life and teaching of a great scientist and humanitarian.
More than ten years ago, I was forced by a SLAPP suit to publish a retraction of my earlier description of the foregoing truth. Regrettably, this was only three years before such lawsuits were made illegal in Massachusetts. My statements were true, this was a clear issue of public concern, and Singer was clearly a public figure. Regrettably, although I knew I could prevail at trial, for multiple reasons I could not afford to travel that path.
I have since repudiated and rescinded that retraction. More than ever, this is an issue of public concern. Evidence for all the above will be available soon on the Web.
S Molnar, what part of this world are you living on? I live in Canberra, Australia, there are plenty of people in this part of the world who do not share your opinion that Global warming is a trifling matter.
[Response: There are several things S Molnar isn’t taking into account. To be sure, it has proved a challenge to unambiguously detect the anthropogenic climate signal so far , but remember that so far we’ve only gone from 280ppm to about 390ppm, and the oceans haven’t even cought up with all the warming from that. Without abatement, we’lll easily hit 700ppm, and if nothing happens to decarbonize the economy it will go a lot higher within the coming two centuries. 3C is a global mean. Land warms more than oceans and the local effects can be substantially greater than this. There are major changes in tropical precipitation, and tropical ecosystems are adapted to a rather narrow range of temperature. I wouldn’t claim that we’re facing the end of civilization, but I don’t think it’s ethically defensible to take “the end of civilization” as a required damage threshold for taking action. –raypierre]
Bear in mind that the 3 degrees Ray is refererring to is, I believe, 3 degrees Celcius. In Fahrenheit, the full possible range predicted by the IPCC in their 2001 report is 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit, primarilly depending on which SRES scenario most closely matches the future socioeconomic trajectory. And while a mere three degrees Celcius may not sound like much, its actually a rather significant increase given the narrow temperature bands in which many species can survive. Also, three degrees is a global mean, and temperature increases should exhibit themselves in more severe maxima and minima. To take an example from my current work, coral reefs can only survive within a rather narrow range of water temperatures for which they are adapted. If temperatures exceed the upper limit of coral thermal tolerance for an extended period of time (i.e. a few weeks), coral expell their symbiotic zooxanthalae, bleach, and die. In a world where the mean surface temperature increased by 3 degrees, virtually all of the worlds coral reefs would be gone. There are many more assessments out there of the relative expected impacts of various warming scenarios, and I would suggest the IPCC report (http://www.ipcc.ch) as a good starting point.
As far as predictions of the acceleration of warming trends being related to improvements in remote regional sensing, these trends are clearly visable in long-running surface and atmosphereic temperature data sets, and certainly not an artifact of new remote stations.
Re #223, the response, and #224:
What I wrote in #214 bears no relation to the responses. “Very bad”, which I did write, is not the same as “a trifling matter”. I said nothing about not taking action. And I said nothing about warming trends not accelerating. I was specifically addressing the issue of whether the warming is unexpectedly rapid (the point raised in #211), i.e., faster than the models predict. As far as I can tell, this is not the case. And I offered an opinion, which you should feel free to attack, on why some may get the false impression that it is the case.
Also (one final point), if you read #211 and then my reply in #214, it should be clear that I’m trying to offer a modicum of hope to someone who despairs for the future. If it isn’t clear, then allow me to clarify it. Geez, this is a tough crowd.
Indeed it is. It was posted on the (disingenous) Drudge Report despite the fact that Gore’s image was never intended to be on the poster. In other words, it was made up for mass distribution by the “sheep”.
Another way to tell is when someone does a “hit and run” post. In other words, someone who has never posted a message before suddenly does but they never reply or post again when the content of the post has been thoroughly disproved. They can not admit they or more likely the source which told them what to regurgitate were wrong in the first place. ;-)
S Molnar, and I guess this applies to all posters, always carefully review your post before actually posting it, ensuring that the point you are making is clear and unambiguous. Also, ensure that the context of each post is clearly defined, meaning, if there are other posts relating to it, that they are referenced by number. Cheers :-)
Researcher alleges climate cover-up
By Jim Erickson, Rocky Mountain News
June 8, 2006
Jordan St. John, a NOAA spokesman, said the allegations against his agency are false.
“NOAA is an open and transparent agency,” he said. “It’s unfair to the people who work at this agency that this kind of characterization keeps being made. Hansen said it once, and it took on a life of its own” …
Here’s more, see link.
… first day of “Climate Change and the Future of the American West,” a three-day conference sponsored by the University of Colorado’s Natural Resources Law Center. …
“And while a mere three degrees Celcius may not sound like much, its actually a rather significant increase given the narrow temperature bands in which many species can survive.”
Seemingly small temperature changes can indeed have significant effects. For example, if our (adult) body temperature were to rise by 3 degrees Celcius, from 37 to 40 degrees (= 104 F), we would quickly become comatose; even a 2 C rise to 39 C (= 102 F) would likely put us in the hospital. Many coral species can tolerate winter temperatures down to about 18-20 degrees C (hence, coral reefs in Bermuda), but most corals on tropical reefs seem to be living very close to their upper thermal limit, and a 2-3 degree C increase above normal summer temperatures can cause bleaching, as Zeke Hausfather has noted, or possibly death.
“To readers who distrust science, knowledge found through experimentation, and the secular truths of reason in favor of simply believing – I ask you – why should affirming belief in something be a virtuous concept if it misleads? Why should demanding proof be soulless and cold if it keeps you from ignorance and victimization? And why do they always want your money?”
Re #234: I am interested if you have any expertise in corals. I have read an article by a skeptical professor in Australia about the likelihood of damage to the Great Barrier Reef. What he seemed to be saying is that it is not the average sea temperature which is the most important factor but rather the absence of wind, currents, etc to mix the top water with lower, colder water. So if warmer seas are accompanied by more mixing then coral death mightn’t happen as quickly as we fear. In other words it is the probability of significant spells of warm still weather that determines the risk factor.
Why Global Warming Matters
By Blair Golson, Truthdig.
Posted June 9, 2006.
Editor’s Note: The following is an edited conversation between Truthdig managing editor Blair Golson and Lawrence Bender, the producer of the Al Gore global warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” which opened in Los Angeles and New York on Wednesday, May 24.
Re #232: Good advice, but that’s exactly what I did, which is why I was stunned by the response. I don’t mind someone politely questioning whether I know the difference between Fahrenheit and Celcius (I do), but I never hinted at an opinion on the behavior of the higher time derivatives of temperature (an interesting question – I have no opinion), or on policy options (my preferred options would widely be viewed as draconian, even by raypierre, I suspect). Anyway, it’s good to see there are people in Canberra who care – if only John Howard were one of them.
I’m surprised by my reaction to the movie and this discussion. I expected the hype to exceed the danger but now believe the opposite. The danger seems to exceed the hype, significantly.
I believe there is no engineering solution to global warming. For two reasons:
1.) What we measure now is due to the accumulation of cause over very long periods of time. The greenhouse gases now warming us have been collecting for a long time (I don’t know the actual time scale)
2.) We only contribute a small part of the greenhouse effect so whatever we do will effect only the small part we contribute.
And we are pretty much enslaved to the greenhouse gasses we produce. I guess that the biggest correlate to CO2 output is population. Each individual requires a certain amount of energy and there is little we can do to reduce their use. Just about all the sources of energy we have available produce CO2. I don’t think there are any ways to release chemical energy from organic sources without releasing CO2. Same can be said for methane.
Back to the movie. A big marketing claim is that the movie is very scientifically sound. On the greenhouse effect OK but on our understanding of what to do about it or what we have done to contribute to it I don’t think the story is very clear.
I believe that what will happen will happen. During the next 10 years humanity will do nothing to intentionally alter the global climate. And each decade after that will be equaly out of our control. Just as the last few million years of human activity have had no intentional impact on the global climate. Were still the same people, I don’t see any magic coming our way.
This is not to say the we shouldn’t burn less oil, build wind mills, or whatever to reduce CO2 emissions. There are other good benefits to be gained by these conservation efforts.
But perhaps developing better ways to enjoy the warm weather while we can might be worthwhile too.
RE: #239 – You are a man after my own heart. The contingency planning approach makes the most sense. Let us assume for the sake of argument that Ovshinsky’s technology had popped back in 1969 when he first started to turn ECD into a real company. Let’s also assume that the 1973 Oil Embargo had continued to the present. Etc. Still, I believe we would, as we learned more about climate history and the oscillatory nature of the Quaterary regime, have come to realize that massive swings are to be expected. As we came to learn exactly where we are on the wave form, and came to better predict the behavior of the wave form, we might come to realize that no matter what, we are heading into something drastically different than has been the case during the 500 year Golden Age that has preceded us. Instead of asking, how can I “fix it” perhaps the more appropriate question is how can I ride it?
Sam, I just recently saw the movie and came to a similar conclusion. At the end Gore had some slides which suggested that mostly everyone except the USA have already implemented ways to limit CO2 production, and even a lot of US states and cities have done so. My question is that with all these groups doing something, minus the United States as a whole, has there been a decrease in global CO2 over the past few years? If not why not?
Seemingly small temperature changes can indeed have significant effects. For example, if our (adult) body temperature were to rise by 3 degrees Celcius, from 37 to 40 degrees (= 104 F), we would quickly become comatose; even a 2 C rise to 39 C (= 102 F) would likely put us in the hospital.
This goes to one of the reasons that I find James Lovelock’s gloomy assessment compelling.
Lovelock conceives of the Earth’s biosphere as a whole system, a holistic biological entity (“Gaia”). From that point of view, what we are doing with our CO2 emissions is poisoning that entity. We are making the entire biosphere, as a living entity, sick. In Lovelock’s phrase, we are giving the living Earth a “morbid fever”. And as Chuck Booth’s comment reminds us, one of the consequences of fever can be death.
Looking beyond the specific effects of global warming that are usually considered separately, and viewing “CO2 poisoning” as a systemic assault on the entire biosphere, one can see the possibility that Gaia herself could “sicken” to the degree that the biosphere will lapse into a prolonged “coma” or even “die”.
Re Ian K.’ comment (#236):
I can’t call myself an expert on coral reefs, but I do teach coral reef ecology (with annual field trips to the Caribbean) and try to keep up on the literature as best I can. The underlying causes of coral bleaching have been vigorously debated recently on the NOAA coral reef listserv: email@example.com
In particular, elevated water temperature and increased UV radiation both cause bleaching, and they often occur together (e.g., on hot, windless days there is less reflection of solar radiation off the flat sea surface, so UV penetration is greater). So, yes, the Australian scientist to whom you refer (I don’t know offhand who that is) may well be correct (one coral reef ecologist suggested on a coral reef listserv thread, somewhat seriously, that old ships sunk to the sea bottom adjacent to certain coral reefs might deflect cool currents toward the surface to reduce the temperature in the shallow waters where the coral reefs are located. I’m not convinced that is a realistic solution). Also, stresses due to pollution, diseases, nutritional state, etc can also be factors in bleaching, and they are much harder to identify, let alone rectify.
As for Doug Percival’s comment (#242) about Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, I find it easier (and more productive) to think of global geochemical and biological processes in terms of physical laws, rather than attribute them to some mystical entity. Life on this planet has managed to survive for 3.5 billion years, or so, because of self-regulating systems based on negative feedback – it didn’t have to happen this way: The feedback control could have failed, oxygen could have been depleted, or temperatures could have warmed to lethal levels, and life would have perished. Fortunately, for us, it did not. But, it may well be that life developed on other planets and didn’t survive because something was out of balance, just a bit (such as atmospheric temperature?).