The incoming Democratic chairperson of the Senate Environment Committee, Senator Barbara Boxer of California, has said in an interview with the Associated Press that it will no longer function as the Senate Anti-Environment Committee, that global warming policy will be at the top of her agenda, and that she intends to pursue a national policy of mandatory CO2 reductions based on the recently passed California legislation (which was signed into law by Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger). This is certainly a step in the right direction, and not a moment too soon.
From the current issue of Nature’s story about AGW and political action in the US:
“Senator James Inhofe (Republican, Oklahoma) has been holding forth on his view of climate change as some sort of conspiracy theory”
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 7 Dec 2006 @ 3:53 PM
Inhofe is out. Woohoo!
I hear that CA senator Barbara Boxer is the likely choice to head the environment and public works committee. I happened to hear a webcast with Sen. Boxer and Gen. Wesley Clark, in which they both emphasized the importance of global warming; sen. Boxer referred to it as “climate crisis.”
I’m curious, has Sen. Boxer contacted any of you fellows in the climate science community? Might it be prudent for you to take the first step, contacting her to open a dialogue?
I’ve decided that the best response to Carter’s “Warming stopped in 1998” argument is to agree with him, but point out that it started again in the year 2000 (you could use 1999 if you prefer the GISS analysis).
The good news is that the GW denial rhetoric seems to be winding down or at least is getting drowned out. Even Bill O’Reilly and some religious groups have taken official stances in support of GW action. There was a video in the blogosphere a few months ago showing the audience at a debate laughing at a local Minnesota politician who stated there was no evidence for global warming. And every person I work with at NASA (including those who are hard-over conservative) recognizes that GW is at least partly anthropogenic. There’s the hope of a chance this issue might be finally moving out of the realm of politics so we can get more substantive debate on solutions.
I pop in and out here to get updates and ideas about the best ways to teach climate change and deal with misconceptions that students get from mass media. It is climate change time in the semester now, so you are a great resource, thank you!
But as a geologist (sedimentary / ocean geochemistry) that teaches a college course that includes a lecture on paleoclimate and climate change I wonder at this small, out-of-place statement…
>and a rather out-of-place geologist
can you explain what seems to be a rather snide comment (or do I misinterpret)? I mean, was he out-of-place because he was a geologist?? If snide, then may I add, ‘ill-informed’? My own research in geology has been in paleoclimate, although in an arena rather peripheral to modern problems. I daresay though, that a pretty large segment of the scientific community that is dealing with this (including colleagues) are classically trained geologists. Or did you think geology = rocks?
A little off-topic, I recognize, but don’t diss a large segment of the scientists on such a vitally important subject. Doesn’t serve anyones best interests – and its snotty.
[Response: I think you misinterpret my comment. It certainly wasn't intendend as a slight on geologists in general (some of best friends and all that....). Rather it was a specific comment about David Deming, who throughout the proceedings seemed to be very unsure of why he was there or what he was being asked for. Given that sole claims to relevance on this issue is a single paper and a mysterious email from over a decade ago, I think 'out-of-place' is a valid commentary. I would also note that both Dan Schrag and Bob Carter are paleo people (as am I in some small sense). - gavin]
PeakEngineer wrote in #8: “The good news is that the GW denial rhetoric seems to be winding down or at least is getting drowned out.”
The current “state of the art” in GW denial rhetoric is to acknowledge that some warming may be occurring, but that there is no scientific consenus on how much, if any, of the warming is caused by human activities; that some, most or all of it may be caused by changes in solar output, “natural cycles” or simply unspecified, unknown causes; and that there can be no basis for determining what if anything should be done about it unless or until scientists can specify with certainty exactly how much of the warming is attributable to various causes.
All of this is propaganda paid for by the fossil fuel industry to delay as long as possible any large-scale moves to reduce the use of fossil fuels. Inhofe is their bought-and-paid-for shill; Barbara Boxer is not. That’s an important improvement.
understood! And wasn’t personally offended, just find lots of scientists who still don’t understand the role of geoscientists. I did note that I might have misinterpreted.
Yeah, I noted to myself with what I felt was irony that Schrag is (in my way of thinking) a geologist.
Anyway, remember my intro, I really do appreciate your site and your service – it keeps me updated on fast changing issues in the sort of vein that I need to teach a (non-majors) class on the subject (political and public understanding). And you’ve been a resource for quite some time now. Ciao.
At Inhofe’s last stand, one of them claimed that there have been no deaths due to global warming. Not one person replied. However, many people have died in recent years due to excessive heat, severe weather and flooding. Hurricane season extensions and more severe weather periods have, no doubt in my mind, added to the number of deaths in recent years due to weather. I suppose for some, global warming science will never be completely settled. It is as far as I’m concerned. CO2 emissions are driving rapid global warming – as we speak. Our actions and inaction will lead to a collapse of our civilization, in my view. Even with that view, I believe drastic measures are needed to reduce emissions. If we reduce emissions we might delay the worst of the warming consequences until we might reduce our world population. We might be able to reduce the worst for today’s young people – if they are lucky enough to get old.
Dr. James Hansen’s Global Surface Temperature Anomaly map for 2001-2005 confirms that the warming is global and is greatest in high latitude northern continental regions.
Annual and seasonal temperature data at U.S. climate stations confirms that the warming is greatest during overnight hours in winter in the Upper Midwest and Alaska.
Enhanced warming in land regions of higher latitude during winter and in overnight hours is exactly what scientists expect with greenhouse warming.
Deming has written an interesting, but quantitatively unpersuasive paper arguing that the atmosphere gains as much as a teragram of gases annually from infalling cometesmals and meteors. However , he is primarily a petroleum geologist specializing in the geotherm of the Anandarko basin. Perhaps more germane to his presence yesterday is the importance of Inhofe’s political patronage in his continuing tenure fight at the University of Oklahoma – a neoconservative cause celebre since Deming complained in _Front Page _ in 1998-9 of his political views leading to his academic demotion.
I am sure many, as they are called here “denialist” or “contrarians” are somewhat like me. They found out that a lot of what they were being told was untrue or just skepticisms. Its not that we don’t believe anymore it is just that we will no longer take information without saying “Am I being lied to?”. The problem is that it really isn’t cut and dry. First Polar Bears are drowning and hurricanes are out of control now they are both fine? was there a MWP? Is Antartica getting colder but smaller as predicted? The cause and effect of the hole situation is misunderstood by most people
I like facts, like Gavins link to anthropogenic CO2 isotope ratio’s above is very factual and unarguable as well as why CO2 follows temperature and why it is still dangerous and etc. This site is full of facts, mostly, but good science can always step back and look at the situation again from another point of view, if not just to check itself again and again, which is what mostly what happens here.
I was wondering if maybe one of your upcoming posts or blogs could be a pure unarguable facts summary page or make it so that we could post the facts and you could check them. I get frustrated reading so many different points of view around the net each with there own facts.
Also if your too busy I understand, this website must already take more time then you already have especially along with your research.
Re #14, what you are looking for is the upcoming IPCC Fourth Assessment Reports (informally the “FAR”). Some of our esteemed editors have already seen it but us civilians will have to wait a few more months. Meanwhile, you may look at the Third Assessment Reports (“TAR”), notably the “scientific basis” volume, to your heart’s content.
If you find the whole thing a bit overwhelming, then you may wish to focus on the executive summaries. You may follow whatever points you desire back through the main text and to the primary literature.
If you examine the TAR for yourself, you will likely conclude that it is a fair summary which takes care to assess and discuss uncertainties and caveats.
If you read the so-called “skeptics” summaries you will, however, come away with a different impression. Please consider how economically threatened interests (and a scientifically naive, controversy-loving press) would respond to the evidence presented by IPCC if it were true, before deciding how much credence to give those “skeptics”.
Re: CO2 rises after the warming starts at the end of an ice age.
I think I understand that *something* can result in CO2 release when temperature rises & then the CO2 causes further warming. However, is it known where the CO2 comes from & why warming causes a release of CO2?
I think it is stored in deep ocean ice and the melting causes its release, but that brings up a whole new slew of questions:
When the ice is formed does the CO2 store there because of precipitation or ice forming in the ocean?
I don’t understand why CO2 levels drop at the end of warm period, I know the carbon cycle puts them back in the ocean. But I thought that the carbon cycle acted at a constant level like the drain in a sink always taking out a certain amount of water.
If that is true then the only way for the CO2 levels to go down is to turn off the tap. So then how much stored CO2 is in the glaciers, does it release it all and then very slowly the drain catches up? That seems unlikely because the CO2 levels in the past would maybe have been higher. So again is it some other forcing? Is there models for that sort of thing?
For a [sic]science blog, I see a lot of politics here. “So called ‘sceptics’” indeed. I notice that this thread contains the mandatory reference to “fossil fuel industry propaganda” and, of course, “the science of global warming is settled”. Where is the science in stuff like that?
I’m shocked that you would refer a serious inquirer to the Executive Summary of TARS. The report as a whole is a good read (albeit much less significant than global warming theologians would like us to believe) but the Summary is a political document pure and simple.
I’m pleased to note that the geoscientific community is becoming involved in the debate. As a geologist, I tend to consort with other geoscientists, and I have been somewhat frustrated by their failure to actively engage in the public debate while privately scoffing at anthropogenic climate change as “moonshine” akin to the medieval practice of imputing unexplained phenomena to witchcraft. Only now, with the social and economic ramnifications of Kyoto becoming obvious to even the most non-political scientist, are they beginning to flex their muscles. Hopefully, it’s not yet too late.
This Christian Science Monitor story on the hearing is pretty good, especially the way they roast Deming by actually following up on one of his claims.
Re #4: Grant, Boxer is completely firm as incoming chair.
Speaking of committee roles, Inhofe apparently will not be ranking member next year (per John Warner’s announcement of a couple of weeks ago), which means he won’t have much to say about how the minority party presents its case when the gavel is held by the Dems. I suspect Warner (who has recently disavowed his forner denialism) won’t see it as in the interest of the Republicans to continue putting clowns like Carter and especially Deming up front.
If I might add a naive observation which relates to this thread and the Massachusetts Supreme Court case.
I feel much more comfortable, from a scientific viewpoint, defining the anthropogenic emissions which are causing climate change as pollution, just like we define mercury and lead emissions as pollution. The mechanisms of harm are different, as they must be, but the effect is the same.
The word pollution is defined by its effect — not by its source. First comes harm, then comes source. Both the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act rely upon this language structure. It is a good one, to me, because it is scientifically sound and is parsimonious (ie. respects Occam’s Razor). If a substance or emission or an activity does not cause any harm, then it cannot be called a “pollutant.” If a substance causes demonstrable harm, then it is irrelevant whether it is or is not someone’s “official” list of pollutants. The substance is a pollutant because of its demonstrated effect. I believe human induced CO2 emissions have now entered in this category and should be called and treated as such.
#18 yes, your comment matches my own questions. I think there are some hypothesis : from change in orbital forcing, you probably get a warmer ocean (less efficient sink) and a higher bacterial activity in soil (more release in organic carbon). But vegetation should act on the opposite way (better sink in a warmer world). I’m very interested by references about this solar-CO2 connexion in interglacials.
It’s reported that at the senate hearing Inhofe claimed no-one has died from GW. Of course hurricanes and heat waves etc if stronger because of GW have killed thousands. To that hopefully will not be added the current bush fires raging in the Australian state of Victoria. This weekend a “megafire” is predicted as dozens of fires raging for over a week are predicted to coalesce into one monster with a 100km front fanned by strong winds and 40C weather. Already many thousands of native animals have died as some of south-east Australia’s best forests have gone up in smoke.
The senior fire officer for rural Victoria was interviewed on radio last night and attributed the unprecedented fire (at least for pre-Xmas – these sort of fires come in late summer usually) to “climate change”. He went on to say that “totally new fire behaviour” is being seen. The reason is the current drought and heat has made plant matter dehydrated and drier than ever. Fires used to calm at night due to humidity and lower temperatures and that’s when fire fighters have their best chance of getting on top of them. But no longer he said – there is simply no moisture to create nocturnal humidity and the fires are just as fierce through the night.
Also the world is more than North America – it may have been a quiet hurricane season for Florida, but the Phillipines and Japan have been battered by some record typhoons and cyclones (both terms for hurricanes) – as were we in Australia at the start of the year with Cyclone Larry wiping out 90% of our banana crop and the price for bananas is still sky high. Tell that to your Supreme Court!
What we are witnessing is the “greening of the media”, this year Bush, Murdoch and Howard have all (quitely) endorsed AGW as a “serious threat”. They (Bush/Howard) have also been actively attempting to stich up the economics of the nuclear fuel cycle for a few years now.
To steal a phrase from Rumsfeld, the rapidly fading voices who give the propogandists credence are “dead enders”.
re 20. IPCC reports, existing and upcoming, contain plenty of work on palaeoclimates: the entire Earth System theory revolves around constant fluctuation within limits of coupled systems (hydro, atmo, litho, cryo and biosphere)over time. James Lovelock pointed out that geologists (and biologists) lagged behind climatologists in recognising that the Earth is a self-regulating system where interactions of the biosphere and other systems are critical in maintaining (and now disrupting) a habitable climate (although they have now recognised this e.g. 1000 scientists from the 4 major global Earth Science programmes who put their names to the Amsterdam declaration in 2000). We can see from totally obvious universally accepted landscape history that humans can dramatically affect the landscape (UK forest cover down from 90%+ post-iceage to c.5% now) and inland water systems (remember the US rivers that used to be so polluted they were a fire hazard) and oceans (we can in our wisdom collapse any fishery we choose by overextraction)so how is it ‘moonshine’ that we can affect the climate with emissions of CO2 measured in gigatonnes per year, and projected to increase rapidly in the near future? i’ve gained my understanding of the Earth system by reading all the science I can find (as well as the media debate/global politics/policy responses etc)and taking a BSc degree in Earth Systems Science but absolutely zero time on witchcraft.
Reading the written testimony presented at the hearing, I noticed that Bob Carter referenced a paper by Craig Loehle. Loehle fitted sine curves to two sets of paleo data and concluded that the recent warming is natural and that there will be a cooling trend in the near future. However, as I pointed out in a reply, his technique has several flaws, the least of which is that the two time series do not represent global data. Here’s the reference, if anyone is interested.
R. E. Swanson, (2006), “Comments on ‘Climate change: detection and attribution of trends from long-term geologic data’ by C. Loehle”, Ecological Modelling 192, 314-316.
Carter’s reference is just another “Argument from authority”, similar to that which he later complains about. Pot-kettle-black, anyone?
#20 reads: [As a geologist, I tend to consort with other geoscientists, and I have been somewhat frustrated] …
Similarly, as a hydrologist from 1976-2005, I was frustrated for five years (2000-2005) when I tended to consort with other hydrologists and meteorologists about climate change affecting hydrology in the Upper Midwest. In my 29 year career with the National Weather Service, I made flood predictions for the Red River basin in the U.S., the Middle and Upper Mississippi River basin and the rivers in the U.S. that flow into Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Huron. I was removed from government service in July (2005) for my activities at work in pointing out what I believed was a need to consider climate change in hydrologic modeling and prediction. I was more than just somewhat frustrated, I was very disappointed.
I’ll risk to stick my neck out on this one. I guess there too little CO2 in the glaciers to affect anything. The only source that I can think about at the moment are the volcanoes.
BTW, as the climate is warming for other reasons (Milankovich being the only candidate despite the problems) the growing vegetation should reduce CO2 content thus providing a negative feedback. Nevertheless, CO2 continues to grow lagging the temps. Yeah, good question – why?
[Response: It's mostly oceanic carbon, but it isn't simply the solubility issue (CO2 is less soluble in warmer water). The details have still not been all worked out. - gavin]
As a geologist, I tend to consort with other geoscientists, and I have been somewhat frustrated by their failure to actively engage in the public debate while privately scoffing at anthropogenic climate change as “moonshine” akin to the medieval practice of imputing unexplained phenomena to witchcraft
As to consorting with geoscientists, that is certainly to be commended, and I have been doing likewise of late. Perhaps I might then refer you to the Americal Geophysical Union’s (AGU’s) position on these matters.
I (and I think most of us) welcome genuine skepticism, but there has been plenty of forced post hoc pseudo-skepticism funded by economic interests. Members of the relevant scientific communities have a moral obligation to overcome their fears and hesitancies and call the stuff for what it is.
Finally, regarding whether the executive summaries of the TAR are “political”, that is certainly a vague enough accusation. Certainly some effort at compromise is needed to come up with a summary, which is inevitably in some sense “political” but that is hardly a criticism. The scientific assessment does not take policy positions, despite all the efforts to claim that it does. (As has been pointed out in the past on this site, advocacy of policy shifts is orthogonal or perhaps mildly contrary to the funding self-interest of climate scientists, again quite contrary to the arguments of pseudo-skeptics.)
Inevitably not everyone will agree that every word of the summary effectively captures the body of the report. Much has been made of this in certain circles, but it doesn’t seem to amount to much in the end. Still, somewhat in the light of the controversy about the summary process, I did encourage the reader to refer to the source material to make an independent judgement. So I’m not sure where the astonishment expressed in #20 originates.
I have my own complaint about the media, aside from nearly absolute silence on global warming…BK (before Katrina), and the “balanced” format the 2 or 3 times they did mention GW over the past 17 years, plus a prominent newscaster in 2004 after briefly saying the GW words, adding “which ‘some’ scientists think is happening.” And that is the media’s near total lack of mentioning solutions. [Just to make it clear re Oreskesâ??s statement, the technology that could greatly reduce, maybe end global warming, and could be market driven if anyone wanted to save money, has existed for some time, and can mostly be purchased off-the-shelf. Other technology could be much cheaper (& a lot cheaper to run & maintain), like electric cars, if they'd mass produce them.]
We should have been into solutions 20 years ago, well before science reached 95% confidence on AGW. I mean, why do we need 95%+ confidence on such a serious threat? 50% is more than enough for me…especially when tons of solutions save us money and help us in many other ways.
In fact we should have kept up with solutions after the 70s energy crunch. At least a quarter of us could now be driving EVs powered by wind and sun (saving $$ on fuel & maintenance); the rest would be driving plug-in hybrids. Our refrigerators would use 1/10th the power, with nearly no veggie spoilage (like mine). Most of our homes would be carbon neutral, or close to it from passive and active solar and great insulation; some would be selling excess energy back to the grid. Weâ??d be in better health, saving millions on medical bills from all that lack of local pollution and from cycling and walking more. Weâ??d have a much better economy and life, not to mention time to spend with family and doing hobbies, like growing organic veggies in the back yard, after moving closer to work or telecommuting. And our oil-war spending would be astronomically lower.
Instead we’re now close to the runaway tipping point of no return — the irreversible descent into stupidity, the point at which we can no longer afford to invest some upfront money (or help those hapless poor people to do so, of whom Sen. Bond so affectionately speaks) on this wonderful world I just described, where the pay-off in savings would be greater than any stock market investment, most items paying for themselves in 1 to 5 years. But, alas, more Katrinas, wars, floods, storms, diminished land and sea food production, and health costs from our fossil-fuel based economy will soon be taking such a toll, few will be able to afford compact fluorescent bulbs over incandescents, even though they know they pay for themselves in a year and go on to save $$.
A must see film is: WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? (now available for purchase). They rightly blamed oil, gov, car companies, and consumers, but forgot to blame the well-oiled media.
And lest you think this is off-topic re GW science, it’s obvious to me that everything’s connected — the science, the solutions, the vested special interests, etc. Otherwise this problem, this dangerous experiment would have already been ended, and we wouldn’t have gotten up to 95% confidence on it!
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Dec 2006 @ 12:34 PM
At the beginning of Real Climate it was all too clear that those scientists who were associated in the project had taken on a huge burden of work. Looking back it is amazing to this lay reader that you have all managed to handle it with every sign of competence and ease.
Won the war is it? Alas I suspect that was just the first ridge of a mountain range. Off to the right you can see the first groupings of a new and even more outrageous opponents than the deniers. The economists are coming, and they mean to grab the agenda on the question of what is to be done, costed out by themselves and, in effect bringing us by their choices right back to the stooges for the corporations. First up will be the old boys clubs on sub-topics like those now assaulting the Stern report.
Of course this is not news in the sense environmental economics has been an established area of economist confusion making for quite a while, and you may say all that has nothing to do with the concerns of climate scientists.
Well, take SO2. Will that involve, first of all, reductions of emissions from energy production,transport, and building heating? How important is it, who will do it, what is to be said about those who display a few degrees and start the old song of: nothing needs to be done ever except marginal bits which can be served up by the “market” and anything large or serious will not work and should not be attempted.
My guess is that RC cannot avoid being drawn into this next stage, and perhaps you might consider an associated section or part of RC for dealing with what is to be done now, how can it be done, what are the priorities, what is to be said about the enemies of the human race (the economists) who oppose every real step while muttering about consumer choice in the face of international calamity.Haved you not noticed how many are waiting to see what RC has to say about Stern? But that is an economic report is it not? So why are many waiting for RC? And even the comments of a member of RC, one who is a cautious and original thinker (in theStoat blog) has not been considered to have answered that interest?
Or else may I suggest you give some thought to saying very clearly that you will not be getting into economics, so people will start thinking about setting up an RC in the field of applications to deal with AGW.
Thank you, Gavin. I was almost prepared to be embarrassed for lack of basic knowledge.
So: we don’t really understand CO2 balance (sources and sinks) in the relatively recent past. Yet the scientists seriously discuss pre-industrial antropogenic CO2 changes on the order of a few ppm and, moreover, attempt to forecast the future.
Isn’t it too bold? I believe it is universally recognized that predicting the future must be based on good understanding of the past. Why not in this case?
[Response: You are confusing lack of exact knowledge, with lack of any knowledge. The glacial/interglacial CO2 change is around 100ppm. Current estimates of what can be explained are around 80ppm and with some uncertainty in some of the ocean terms. This indeed plays into uncertainties in the carbon cycle feedback to climate change - which as have been acknolwedged here many times - are large. This is a positive feedback so it just makes the 'normal' scenarios worse. We aren't talking 'a few ppm' though, we are talking 100s. - gavin]
To those who think that increased plant growth will help to reduce atmospheric CO2 in a warmer world: there are several problems with this hypothesis. One is that AGW is not just a matter of changing temperature, there are also major changes in distribution of precipitation. Even if the total annual precipitation in a region remains stable, changes in how it is distributed over the year will have a major effect on local plant growth. Another problem is that studies have found that while some plants thrive on increased CO2, others suffer, and beyond a certain concentration ALL plant growth suffers.
RE # 36, good points, which those SC guys should hear….CO2 in sufficient doses is poison to plants. Also to be mentioned is the increased wildfires from all that GW driven heat, drought, and wind. And when it rains it pours situations (e.g., severe flooding in India in recent years, which studies have now linked to GW) are not good for plants either (unless they happen to be underwater plants).
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Dec 2006 @ 3:22 PM
Ian, you say…
“Another problem is that studies have found that while some plants thrive on increased CO2, others suffer, and beyond a certain concentration ALL plant growth suffers.”
Is there any chance of you providing some of your favourite recent references…there’s someone who continuously bangs the ‘CO2 = food = good’ drum (SH) elsewhere and I’d love to just check over the state of the art in order that I can, mentally, more effectively deflect his comments without wasting too much effort.
Global carbon emissions rose nearly 3 percent in 2005, up more than a quarter from 1990 levels despite many governments’ pledges of cuts to fight global warming, a scientist who provides data for the U.S. Department of Energy said.
“The rate of acceleration is quite phenomenal,” said Gregg Marland, senior staff scientist at the U.S. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC), which supplies emissions data to governments, researchers and NGOs worldwide.
“Half of all emissions have been since 1980. I think people lose track of the rate of acceleration. You tend to think of (this as) something that’s been going on — it’s not,” he told Reuters late on Thursday.
Rising emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are contributing to severe climate change, including rises in sea levels and extreme weather, many scientists say.
They say dramatic cuts in emissions are needed by mid-century to reduce the scale of such changes, and the steep rise in emissions in recent years underscores the size of the task facing governments round the world.
The CDIAC estimates that global carbon emissions rose some 200 million tonnes to 7.9 billion tonnes in 2005, 28 percent above 1990 levels. This followed a rise of nearly 5 percent in 2004, it said.
The 2004 and 2005 estimates were based on energy data published by the oil company BP, while its pre-2004 work used U.N. energy data.
“The last couple of years are always subject to revision but I think they’re pretty sound,” Marland said.
It is difficult to imagine any realistic scenario in which CO2 emissions will be — not “could be” but “will be” — reduced enough, soon enough, to avert a planetary catastrophe.
Gavin, I didn’t say (and didn’t mean) total lack of knowledge. I only noted that there is an important term missing in the equation. This fact alone IMHO makes the prognosis problematic, especially on very long time scale. I’m curious, too, how biological pump feedback could be calculated to any degree of accuracy. Your last sentence I just didn’t understand, sorry.
One thing that may be missed is the calming effect of Congressional immunity on the litigious – here is what can happen in its absence , as illustrated by the response of Viscount Moncton’s House of Lords Clerk to the Wikipedia fisking of his newspaper GW screeds:
(sic) ===NOTE THAT THESE PAGES CONTAIN SUBSTANTIAL SCIENTIFIC INACCURACIES AND LIBELS AGAINST LORD MONCKTON=
- ”’Though attempts have been made to correct the numerous scientific errors and libels against Lord Monckton that appear in this Wikipedia document, the author of the document appears determined to go well beyond fair comment and to persist in the libels. Therefore, readers are advised to regard these pages as unreliable, and to verify the scientific facts independently of any material which may appear here. Lord Monckton’s lawyers are currently attempting to identify the perpetrator of the libels, and may in due course issue proceedings against the perpetrator and against Wikipedia. – James Rowlatt, Clerk to Lord Monckton”’
In a 1000 word Letter to the Editor draft Fred Singer of SEPP is circulating, he also fumes at his critics refusal to apologize when threatened with libel action.
[Response: Please send us a copy! The increasing trend towards litigiousness (Ball, Monckton, Singer, the late Theodore Landscheidt etc.) is a good reflection of their lack of substantive argument. But Singer has used the libel laws before, so we'll see if dares do so again. - gavin]
If the 110th Congress does craft policy to reduce greenhouse gases, hopefully they will concentrate on research into such things as conservation, renewable fuels, and carbon-sequestering technology. At this point in times, carbon taxes will only make people more miserable in the wintertime, and emissions caps could hinder economic growth (emissions credits might ameliorate that some). Furthermore, the budget is so bloated that we wouldn’t even need to raise taxes; simply trimming all pork would give us something like 25 billion dollars a year to play with.
I think this is a good opportunity to illustrate – briefly – the difficulties in decision-making.
Implicit in this commenter’s (and others typical of similar) reply is that we cannot act because, well, we don’t know enough.
That’s one way to look at it. That is: we can wait, Hamlet-like, for a chance to be more certain. Or we can act like everyone else does and make a decision based on limited knowledge.
Eli recently linked to a blog that sometimes explores decision-making in uncertainty. For those who naively argue that we shouldn’t act until we know everything, aside from noting that these folks aren’t in management, we should point them to this blog, where this person explores the difficulty of leading and making decisions.
Before I address a more technical problem of decision-making under uncertainty, I can offer you a different angle. I believe it is quite certain that in the long term (I don’t know whether it will be 100, 300 or 1000 years – doesn’t matter) the human race will burn all fossil fuels that it can economically reach. By that time, the CO2 will reach some very high level and there is nothing that can be done about it (except see the caveat below). All reductionist efforts will only delay the inevitable outcome which will also mean the end of civilization unless we find other energy sources.
It follows that the only real solution (that’s the caveat) is to look for alternative energy sources. Massive nuclear or fusion or beaming solar from the orbit – I don’t know which will work out. But the measures like this lawsuit or Kyoto or anything else of this nature is no more than a feeble attempt to delay the inevitable. A comparison with a terminally ill patient is in order here.
Sashka, you seem to think uncertainty is paralysis, but ‘we call it life’ (grin).
Here are the very words you wrote — turned into a Google search. Uncertainty like this is dealt with, not backed away from. Who’s telling you that this much uncertainty can’t be handled? Researchers deal with this.
Sashka (#47): In a market economy, things like alternative energy sources don’t come into being by magic or fiat. They come into being because it is economically profitable to pursue them. And, it is much more difficult for such technologies to be economically competitive if the current energy sources have large externalized costs that are shared by all of us, as is the case of fossil fuels.
The idea behind Kyoto is essentially to create the market incentives that will lead to the development and commercialization of alternatives (and also conservation and efficiency improvements). The only other alternative is to have massive government investment in alternative energy and, while I think some such investment is good, it seems rather surprising to me that this solution seems to be one sometimes implicitly advocated over more market-oriented solutions by people who claim to dislike government and think markets can do no wrong. As such people generally like to point out, government is not very good at choosing the technological winners…which is why it is better to use government to put the constraints on the market and let the market solve the problem itself (although I think some government investment in basic research on technologies can also be justified).
While I hate to add to the inordinate amount of recent posts responding to just one person, I wanted to quickly respond to the above doomsday predictions:
“1. The human race will burn all fossil fuels that it can economically reach. 2. By that time, the CO2 will reach some very high level and 3. There is nothing that can be done about it.”
1. Not in the realm of global warming science. It’s certainly possible, but is by no means inevitable, and is the result of our political choices which we can change.
2. Rests upon the questionable assumptions in #1, in the total failure of any sort of manmade carbon sequestration, and ignores the rate of CO2 emissions vs ability for natural sinks to absorb it.
3. Even shakier as it rests upon both assumptions 1 and 2
If politics is the aspect of global warming you are interested in and the root of your interest in the science, RealClimate isn’t where you should be spending your time. I’d humbly suggest that like the climate there are lags and suprisingly swift changes in the political system as well, and precedents for dramatic action to solve serious environmental problems.
For a short overview of US environmental politics:
Sale, Kirkpatrick. The Green Revolution: The American Environmental Movement, 1962-1999
For climate politics you might try the recent Yale Americans and Climate Change book (free online) http://environment.yale.edu/climate/americans_and_climate_change.pdf
and also the Ross Gelbspan books “The Heat is On” and “Boiling Point.”
“An Inconvenient Truth,” which has truly influenced more than the “choir” in the US is also worth watching for a glimpse of popularist anti-global warming politics.
If someones like posion ivy, it responds well to increased CO2. See June 13 Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. Researchers at Duke University saw this occur in a pine forest they increased the CO2 into a few years back.
“Perhaps the most dangerous threat to future food security is the rise in temperature. Among crop ecologists there is now a consensus that for each temperature rise of 1 degree Celsius above the historical average during the growing season, we can expect a 10 percent decline in grain yields. When describing weather-reduced harvests, crop analysts often refer to the crop prospect when weather returns to normal. They fail to realize that with the earthâ��s climate now in flux, there is no longer a norm to return to. ”
“The impact of projected global warming on crop yields has been evaluated by indirect methods using simulation models. Direct studies on the effects of observed climate change on crop growth and yield could provide more accurate information for assessing the impact of climate change on crop production. We analyzed weather data at the International Rice Research Institute Farm from 1979 to 2003 to examine temperature trends and the relationship between rice yield and temperature by using data from irrigated field experiments conducted at the International Rice Research Institute Farm from 1992 to 2003. Here we report that annual mean maximum and minimum temperatures have increased by 0.35Â°C and 1.13Â°C, respectively, for the period 1979â��2003 and a close linkage between rice grain yield and mean minimum temperature during the dry cropping season (January to April). Grain yield declined by 10% for each 1Â°C increase in growing-season minimum temperature in the dry season, whereas the effect of maximum temperature on crop yield was insignificant. This report provides a direct evidence of decreased rice yields from increased nighttime temperature associated with global warming.”
He has a publication available which re-states all the denialist claims, containing several media pieces. Unfortunately, this last gasp effort made it onto the DRUDGE REPORT, where many more people will see it than are likely to read the commentary here on Real Climate.
So many strange commments, where to start?
#12 Deaths due to global warming? Give me a break. People have died in heat waves, cold waves, storms, floods, drought, etc. throughout history. No people have died from global warming. Yet.
#34 No media coverage of global warming??? I remember discussing in high school (mid-80s). And for the record, hurricaine Katrina had nothing to do with global warming, unless you belive that CO2 directed a storm toward a sub-sea level city with inadequate levies and an unprepared population. BAD CO2! As for soultions to the problem being currently available and cheaper, do you honestly believe that people would pass on making money while at the same time saving the world? If you believe this, you clearly do not understand the magnitude of the problem.
On to electric cars. I have not seen the documentary yet, I will as soon as I get a chance. But my company has been working on EV battery technologies (and fuel cells) for many years, I have seen prototype vehicles, I have talked with scientists and engineers who are working directly on the problem. If the technology was ready, we would be selling them and making huge profits. Unfortunately (for my profit sharing), this is not the case. Wishing for a solution is easy, creating a solution is difficult. I will offer some common ground, I think plug-in hybrids are a great idea (as soon as the battery technology is ready)
This is getting too long, but #37 most plants will thrive at the CO2 concentrations projected for the next 100 years, ignoring other factors such as temp. disease, competition, etc.
Comment by Wang Dang Sweet — 8 Dec 2006 @ 10:50 PM
Sigh. Our tax dollars at work, talking about “human C02 emissions” — a zero rather than a capital letter O there, quite obvious in the font used on the web page. Does the 64-page color glossy press release make the same error?
Not quite on topic, but I just read the water vapor forcing vs feedback thread and would like to ask: at what relative humidity or absolute water vapor concentration does water vapor become a “feedback” or result of atmospheric temperatures as opposed to a forcer or important cause of atmospheric temperatures?
In conjunction, I have also been unable to understand why “residence” time has anything to do with the forcing or non-forcing effect of atmospheric molecules actually remaining in the atmosphere. But I’ll keep trying.
So, thanks in advance for any help along these lines.
Re earlier comments that it has only recently been fashionable to ascribe bushfire and coastal storm damage to GW. This new blaming fad coupled with postwar property development may tend to inflate damage attributed to GW even if it were not really a factor. The counter argument is that in the last decade or so there has been considerable public awareness of mitigation strategies. Examples are clearing trees near houses or not building on shifting coastline. Some well built levies were put to the test but didn’t figure in the news. Therefore I regard the issue of increasing property damage via GW as unproven one way or the other.
#12 Deaths due to global warming? Give me a break. People have died in heat waves, cold waves, storms, floods, drought, etc. throughout history. No people have died from global warming. Yet.
It’s true, people have died due to heat waves since time immemorial. It’s also true that people have died from naturally-occuring lung cancer. Certainly no individual death can be attributed with certainty to smoking. Therefore no people have died from cigarette smoking. Right?
RE: “predictions for the next couple of solar cycles – a tricky business in fact, and one in which there is a substantial uncertainty”
What goes up must come down?
The sun’s large-scale magnetic field has doubled in the last 100 yrs. As noted in the attached articles, the solar large scale magnetic field reaches out into interplanetary space and helps shield the earth from Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR). Some believe that GCR are linked to cloud formation, higher GCR more cloulds as clouds reflect the sun, less or more clouds would result in warmer or colder temperatures. A doubling of the sun’s large scale field has resulted in less GCR.
Are the warmer temperatures, observed in the later half of the twentieth century at least partially due to reduced GCR? Most Real Climate writers believe no. I do not support that conclusion. I believe the sun is moving to a more sever Maunder type minimum (longer duration), based on my interpretion of the paleoclimatic record. I would expect solar cycle 24 will be significantly lower and the Maunder type minimum will begin in solar cycle 25.
I really think that it is verging on the evidentially unsupported alarmist end of debate to be asserting deaths from AGW at present.
One might be able to use qualifiers like ‘may be’ but not strong assertion. It seems to me to be way too early to begin to consider secondary effects as we simply need much more data. After all we’ve only had 30 years of sustained global warming that is (as far as I can see) very likely due to AGW. In such a short timescale ‘noise’ including unrelated factors masks any correlation.
For me the ‘effects already seen’ argument is as weak and unpersuasive as the ‘future effects may not be so bad’ one. Whilst they council opposing actions both are considering secondary effects of the process that we have a good degree of certainty in. The former against a short time period, the latter against a background of ever-present future uncertainty with regards secondary effects.
What convinced me that this is the most serious long term issue that we face, and have control over (at least in theory), is the possibility of very serious long term impacts that will very likely be further out of our control the further we pursue our current course.
It strikes me as similar to the situation I have faced when I used to do long distance endurance walking. I’m on the fells, I have no mobile phone (they weren’t common at the time) and in my rucksack I have 30kgs of sandbags. I’m pushing on, despite feeling tired and cold, It’s already started raining, I think the weather may worsen, but I don’t know. I do know that the further I go, the further away from safety I have to go.
a) Continue to push forward hoping that the weather will not worsen and that I’ll get a ‘second wind’ and feel better?
b) Decide to turn back now not being willing to risk worse weather, or to trust in my ability to find more strength?
Whilst anyone can suffer the misfortune of injury or unexpectedly incliment weather. Mountain rescue are continually plagued by idiots who take option ‘a’.
Leaving aside the ‘modelling hindcast skill’ issue for the moment.
We’ve had a 0.18degC per decade trend of increasing tempertures over the last 30 years. Can you provide evidence of a concomitant trend in GCR(neutron counts) or TSI* that could reasonably explain the last 30 year trend in temperature?
I’d love to know because I can’t find such data and I’d like to wake up from this AGW bad dream. I was a sceptic until early 2005 and want someone to provide a sound reason for not accepting it’s reality.
*If you’re going to use Willson/Mordinov’s ACRIM dataset could you tell me:
1) Why Frohlich (PMOD dataset) is wrong in attributing ACRIM’s apparent ‘trend’ to an atrefact in their processing.
2) How the increase between solar minmima in ACRIM of 0.68Wm^-2 (IIRC) can account for the recent warming trend in view of the magnitude of preceding changes.
PS I don’t do ‘belief’ these days, I do considered opinion formed by evidence. That was what learning my scepticism was uninfomed did for me.
PPS If you’re going to tell me that the recent warming is a hang on effect from preceding solar induced warming. Can you tell me the mechanism? My kettle stops heating the water when I turn it off, and I can’t figure out a good physical argument why the planet’s thermodynamics should be any different.
While you are cheering our deliverance from climate change by the Democrats, you might visit the link above, and think, not react. For example: What causes these recurring droughts? To say the jet stream moves North, or South, just begs the question: What moves the jet stream?
If you can’t answer this question, why should anyone believe you have the power now to predict climate change?
Of historical interest, the Crow Creek (South Dakota) massacre/cannibalism event occurred about 1325. This event was thought due to severe, prolonged drought.
RE # 55, okay, we don’t have cable & I’ve often been teaching nights, but I’ve been watching the U.S. TV major networks like a hawk for 17 years, and there has been precious little about global warming after a first flush of news in the late 80s, early 90s. So much so, my friend, who has cable, told me she had thought GW was disproven since she had seen nothing on it on TV over the years.
And that NEWSWEEK article on GW back in 1995? That came out, I think, in response to my letter to the editor-in-chief (I wrote “personal” on the envelope); I said I had been a subscriber for 17 years & had just seen a good article at the Drs office in TIME on GW, and NW really should have one or future generations would….etcectect.
And I’ve noticed that there have been more articles and TV stories on GW after the Katrina hurricane…and I presume bec since climate scientists have been predicting that there could be more intense storms with GW, so the media may have thought it’s now time to start reporting on GW as if it’s real and not just a debate (but I’m not exactly sure why there’s been more coverage…which is now slipping into less coverage again).
As for electric cars, I hate to break the news, but many of the original cars were electric, and I know the Fox Valley Electric Vehicle Association has been converting ICE cars to electric — I drove one back in 1992. So the technology has always been with us since the advent of the car. For my average commute (4 miles round trip), a range of, say, 10 miles would be fine. Since we have 2 cars, one could be electric & one could be hybrid. Too bad there’s no EV club in my new area. The FVEV club said that one guy who did a conversion had never even held a screwdriver in his life, and that it’s not all that hard. There’s a book that gives advice, WHY WAIT FOR DETROIT? For an EV club near you, go to http://www.eaaev.org
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 9 Dec 2006 @ 12:28 PM
RE #58 ( and other posts regarding bushfires ).
Fire-fighters over here in Australia use computer models (original application written by a friend and displayed in the Smithsonian institute) to predict the course of the fires and have done so for over a decade. I have lived here for 40+yrs, we have a “fire season” in Victoria and total fire bans are an accepted part of life. Normally the fire season peaks around Jan/Feb this year I doubt there will be anything left to burn by christmas.
The extent of the smoke haze today is the worst I’ve seen since the ash wednesday fires and I don’t ever recall it this bad in early December. The fires are very unusual because of the extended drought and are not confined to fuel rich areas. Lightning is seting scrub burning where it had already burt last year and the fire fighters are worried about mountain ash forests that normally don’t burn.
Using insurance terminology it is estimated that the odds of seeing those particular forests burning is a “once in 500yr event”. The current drought is a “once in 1000yr event” and still going strong.
October was a record heat wave and last month we had snow to low levels and unseasonal frost serverly damaged fruit crops, I’m not sure what the odd of skiing in November are, but it’s happened twice this year, the second time snow was falling on the bushfires!
I also have anecdotal evidence that drunk drivers are dangerous.
RE # 55 again, “As for soultions to the problem being currently available and cheaper, do you honestly believe that people would pass on making money while at the same time saving the world?”
My experience over 17 years with plenty of people & politicians is an emphatic YES! It’s been an extreme lesson for me. People just do not want to save money and they do not want to save the earth. BIG FAT PERIOD!!! So any assumptions about rational, economic man (or woman) are just plain wrong. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s my experience over and over and over again.
Check out http://www.rmi.org & http://www.natcap.org to see what’s possible. Remember water and resource conservation also reduces GHGs re the energy component to pump, mine, manufacture, and heat (water). Our $6 low-flow showehead with off-on soap-up switch is saving us $100 a year in water & energy to heat it (a $2000 saving over its 20 year lifetime). I measured the difference with a bucket & watch, but I can’t tell the difference when taking a shower. You’d be surprised at the 10,000 solutions to GW (& other problems) out there on store shelves.
Though others would much prefer to waste money and harm the environment, at least I’ve been laughing all the way to the bank for over 10 years with all the money my husband and I save from reducing our GHGs (& other killer pollutants) by 33%. And that’s not even counting our much greater GHG reductions from going on 100% wind-powered electricity 4 years ago thru the grid from Green Mountain Energy (avaible in Texas & some other states), for which I’m paying $5 more per month — a mere drop in the bucket from all my GHG reduction savings.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 9 Dec 2006 @ 3:04 PM
Re 42 Gavin
Here as you requested is Singer’s letter as it appears on his site :
S. Fred Singer
22 November 2006 National Post
Global warmers are becoming desperate. As the science evidence turns against them, they increasingly resort to smear campaigns and personal attacks on global warming (GW) skeptics — those of us whom Al Gore labels “climate deniers.” The latest example is the CBC’s The Fifth Estate broadcast of The Denial Machine. Clearly, GW alarmists are using this tactic to distract the public from noticing how the science underpinnings of the GW scare are collapsing.
As the flaws in climate science begin to sink in and affect public opinion, the spin doctors have started to take over. Pre-eminent among these has been the PR firm of James Hoggan of Vancouver. Mr. Hoggan has unleashed press releases and bloggers, and now appears on the CBC in an attempt to discredit scientists –including me — who do not share his or his clients’ views on climate change.
All this may have started with Naomi Oreskes’ review, in Science (October, 2005), of the book The Republican War on Science. Even though the book deals mainly with other topics, she turns her review into a personal attack on four GW skeptics, two of whom are not even mentioned in the book. For example, she manages to misrepresent my scientific work on ozone depletion, complains that I do not publish “regularly” in peer-reviewed journals, and — amazingly — tries to link me to “intelligent design” and the tobacco industry.
Next, someone sends me a screed by Canadian blogger Kevin Grandia, a Hoggan employee, who accuses me of being in the “pay of the tobacco lobby.” Although tobacco has nothing to do with the global warming debate, Mr. Grandia suggests that I sell my science to special interests. And since he cannot show that I am “in the pay of the oil lobby,” tobacco will have to do.
Now, I am a very patient fellow, so I carefully explain to Mr. Grandia that I hate tobacco smoke and sit on the board of the anti-smoking American Council on Science and Health. But I don’t tolerate the misuse of science, even by anti-smokers. So I gladly assented when, more than a decade ago, the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute asked me to serve as a consultant for a couple of months to review and contribute to a report on misuse of science in environmental policies.
I soon discovered that in their anti-smoking zeal the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had cooked the data on second-hand tobacco smoke, claiming 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year. Specifically, I uncovered a report to the US Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS-95-1115) that documents how the EPA had “cherry-picked” the available evidence. My contribution in all of this was simply to use the CRS analysis.
But Mr. Grandia won’t budge. So I am forced to hire a lawyer to get Mr. Grandia to retract his slurs and apologize. After many letters back and forth, between my lawyer and his, I am now faced with a choice: Do I sue for defamation? The costs can be considerable, both financial and in terms of precious time. Mr. Grandia seems especially keen to engage in legal battles with climate scientists. Who pays his lawyers?
Grandia, Hoggan, Oreskes, The Fifth Estate, Fenton Communications, a Washington environmental PR firm of which Mr. Hoggan appears to be a clone — all have the same agenda. They aim to undermine crucial scientific debate on what some have termed the most important problem facing mankind in this century. Certainly, drastic policy actions based on wrong science would waste massive resources and hit the pocketbook of every citizen.
S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus, University of Virginia, and former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service.
HOGGAN ‘MISSPOKE’ HIMSELF; CBC SHOULD ISSUE CORRECTION “
Of course AGW is a hoax It keeps you lot in subsidized jobs.You have written a paper to explain the cooling of the Antarctic which says that the increase in westerly winds has prevented heat from the subtropics from reaching the continent. http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2004/ShindellSchmidt1.html
I was taught that the temperature difference between the subtropics and the Antarctic drives the westerly wind.
[Response: Do you think it might be conceivable that things are a little bit more complicated than was explained to you in class? With respect to that paper, you can see the same thing in the data - Thompson and Solomon (2002) for instance. Remember, learning should be a lifelong endeavour.... - gavin]
Re: Comment 63 CobblyWorlds
“I’d love to know because I can’t find such data and I’d like to wake up from this AGW bad dream. I was a sceptic until early 2005 and want someone to provide a sound reason for not accepting it’s reality.
PPS If you’re going to tell me that the recent warming is a hang on effect from preceding solar induced warming. Can you tell me the mechanism? My kettle stops heating the water when I turn it off, and I can’t figure out a good physical argument why the planet’s thermodynamics should be any different.”
The solar large scale-magnetic field was not turned off. It is more than twice what it was at the beginning of the century and is high regardless of the number of sunspots or the strength of the solar wind. For the large scale solar magnetic field to fall, the sunspot cycle must stop. The large scale-solar magnetic field is a akin to the geomagnetic dipole field. The solar wind varies during the solar cycle and, as it is a plasma, an increase in the solar wind also reduces GCR, by interacting with the geomagnetic field.
Unusual activity of the Sun during recent decades compared to the previous 11,000 years
It is not my opinion that the sun is in its most active stage in 8000 years. That is probably a fact. Note the geomagnetic field is 20% less than it was at the time of the Maunder minimum and is dropping at 5% per century. As the geomagnetic field also shields the earth from GCR, the drop in temperature if the sun spot cycle stops and the sun’s large scale magnetic field drops to Maunder levels will be more sever than the temperature drop that occurred during the Maunder event, as the geomagnetic field is now about 20% less. Does this have the feel of a Heinrich event?
The question is will the sunspot cycle stop in solar cycle 24 or 25 and if it does how quickly will the large scale magnetic field drop and how long before the solar cycle starts up again.
My concern is sudden castrophic global cooling and I believe I can show why that concern is valid, if I can discuss the past.
“Drilling for oil and natural gas in the deepest waters off Florida’s Gulf shores would be allowed for the first time under legislation that is headed for President Bush’s signature.
Early today Congress gave final approval to a measure that allows for energy exploration in a huge swath of the Gulf of Mexico 125 miles south of the Panhandle….
The measure — approved by the Senate, 79-9, shortly before 2 a.m. and earlier passed by the House — marks a victory for industry groups who waged a yearslong battle, and a major setback for environmental groups and some Florida lawmakers who had long fought efforts to explore Florida waters.”
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 9 Dec 2006 @ 9:40 PM
Hello again William,
We may well have been at crossed purposes.
I’d thought you were discounting AGW. Frohlich’s PMOD agrees with the Kitt Peak Magnetograms and when I’d last looked at magnetic data (no refs on me right now), I don’t recall seeing a clear recent trend. Of course, if there is reason to see the Maunder minimum as an analogous event for any future cooling, it would be very pertintnent to address the past in your consideration. I don’t know if there is such reason. What happened before obviously wouldn’t address the recent 30 years of warming. For the record, I accept that the models are reasonably skillful, and that the Sun has not been the exclusive, even major, driver of global average temperatures in the last century, even before the ’70s. Using the Maunder minimum as an analogue of past impacts; Europe (I’m British) has survived the LIA, and that was before we had fossil fuel technology.
Anyway, even if we can accept that most of the warming of the early 20th century was due to the Sun. Surely the fact that it cannot reasonably explain the last global ~0.6 degC of warming means that we can reasonably expect the enhanced greenhouse effect to take the edge off any cooling? I know that much of the high lattitude bias of the warming may be down to ice-albedo effects, but nontheless at lattitudes such as mine a reduction in outgoing longwave could, during most of the year, mitigate solar induced cooling.
What really bothers me about the prospect of a cooling is it’s feedback on AGW. A return to severely cold winters could increase fuel consumption, possibly make coal more economically attractive (which releases more CO2 per joule). So exacerbate CO2 emissions and cause a higher than expected level of CO2 which would have a commensurately higher impact once solar levels return to normal. This would be an interesting thing to model and possibly do scenarios for as the theory of a reduction in solar output becomes more firm, we should see the onset in a few decades.
Although I agree that “learning should be a lifelong thing”, a lesson sorely taught by realising how misinformed my scepticism was. ;) I’m not prepared to spend more time learning enough to do the modelling myself. At least I know wasn’t guilty of relying on ‘truthiness’, I was just not thinking critically about what some wanted me to think. JunkScience(sic).
Re: #12At Inhofe’s last stand, one of them claimed that there have been no deaths due to global warming. Not one person replied. However, many people have died in recent years due to excessive heat, severe weather and flooding.
This is not a scientific statement of fact. You are obviously talking about extreme events, and the climate science research has not made this bold claim. It is a possibility among others for future.
eg. From the third assessment report:10.4.2.2 Climate variability and extreme events. Due to the limited number and length of simulations and a lack of comprehensive analyses, this subject has been almost completely ignored. The only response in variability or extremes that has received any attention is that of tropical cyclones (Box 10.2).
Re #55 and ” No people have died from global warming. Yet.”
If the incidence of heavy storms, heat waves, droughts etc. is up, and if the increase can be tied to global warming, then global warming has caused people to die who would not otherwise have died when they did. You can’t point to a particular individual and say “this man died of global warming” anymore than you can point to one and say “this man died of pollution.” Nonetheless, these things happen. Unless you’re prepared to say pollution has never killed anyone either?
re #80. Likewise, it’s debatable whether or not Katrina was made worse by by global warming.
To all, I haven’t been able to get into the desmogBlog today [ http://www.desmogblog.com/ ]. I posted numerous comments to that blog yesterday. I’d like to know when it comes back up. If anyone will send me a note on that by email I’d appreciate that. My address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Marco Parigi wrote: … You are obviously talking about extreme events, and the climate science research has not made this bold claim. It is a possibility among others for future. … “this subject has been almost completely ignored”.
The subject of extreme events and climate change was not ignored before G.W.Bush became U.S. President in 2001.
I read the article at the NCDC link (in year 2000). It conclude there was increased probability for heavy rains (flood producing) as a result of climate change.
Also, more recently is this article, which states:
[...] “Anecdotal observations are backed by scientists who are recording in Nepal some of the fastest long-term increases in temperatures and
rainfall anywhere in the world.” [...]
[...] “Nepal as a country needs help adapting to climate change, says Mr
Gurung. Its emissions of damaging greenhouse gases are negligible, yet it finds itself on the front line of change.” [...]
Nepal’s farmers on the front line of global climate change
Himalayan communities face catastrophic floods
as weather patterns alter
John Vidal in Kathmandu
Saturday December 2, 2006
The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/christmasappeal2006/story/0,,1962372,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1#article_continuearticle_continue
RE “religion is the problem” & “has GW killed anyone debate.” It was precisely my religious formation and finding in 1990 in the film IS IT HOT ENOUGH FOR YOU? about GW possibly causing the increasing droughts in Africa that launched me from passive to active environmentalist doing all I can to reduce my GHGs (finding that it actually saves me money was secondary & not a consideration). I bring up a mental image of a starving African madonna & child into my mind’s eye everytime I feel like slacking off in this effort. I don’t have to be 95% certain that I’m killing someone to put on the breaks & cease and desist from doing so.
I read about “The Family,” went to the links off Wiki(see post #54), & how these very big power-players worship & submit to power & seek only to do God’s will (not their own). Well, that’s really funny since some of them are Catholic, & Pope John Paul II stated in 1990 “Today the ecological crisis has assumed such proportions as to be the responsibility of everyone…The ‘greenhouse effect’ has now reached crisis proportions…” And the U.S. Bishops in 2001 stated that prudence requires us to mitigate AGW, even if we are not completely sure it is happening. That means, Mr. Skeptic Contrarian Denialist, you too.
So much for obeying our religious superiors & the Bible (Thou shall not kill, etc). (And at least some of those recalcitrant “pro-life??” Supreme Court justices are Catholic!) Other religions have come out with their own statements and programs to address GW, such as the Evangelicals’ What Would Jesus Drive campaign.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 10 Dec 2006 @ 11:23 AM
In reply to Cobblyworlds:
“Of course, if there is a reason to see the Maunder minimum as an analogous event for any future cooling … Using the Maunder minimum as an analogue of past impacts; Europe (I’m British) has survived the LIA, and that was before we had fossil fuel technology.”
The Maunder minimum is perhaps the wrong analogue. Try the observed sudden and sever end to the Eeminian interglacial (i.e. the start of the next glacial cycle) as the analogue. A Heinrich event, that terminates an interglacial, is different than a Maunder event.
From the attached link which dicusses sudden and sever climate change events:
“According to the marine records, the Eemian interglacial ended with a rapid cooling event about 110,000 years ago (e.g., Imbrie et al., 1984; Martinson et al., 1987), which also shows up in ice cores and pollen records from across Eurasia. From a relatively high resolution core in the North Atlantic. Adkins et al. (1997) suggested that the final cooling event took less than 400 years, and it might have been much more rapid.”
As to severity and abruptness of the change, think Younger Dryas temperature change (Greenland Ice Sheet temperature dropped 15C in less than a decade based on the Greenland ice sheet data) as opposed to the Maunder minimum.
As to reliance on models. The classic insolation based climate models do not explain the sudden and sever climate changes and do not explain basic large fundamental changes in the climate record.
A sudden and rapid change, would require a forcing function. As to what could cause a rapid, sever climate change, it is known that large changes in the cosmic ray flux occurred coincidental with the rapid climate change events.
Unfortunately, the discussion in this forum is political, Us vs Them, Good Guys vs Bad Guys, rather than climate change.
On Deaths from global warming – the World Health Organization has estimated that we are now experiencing about 150,000 additional premature deaths per year thanks to human-caused climate change so far. A fact that was even acknowledged, though disputed, by Bjorn Lomborg here:
I think the comment in #70 holds true today – they do not want to save the earth. So how do we change that? I think they do not want to save the earth from global warming because of their state of fear that reducing one’s own greenhouse gas emissions will lead to a loss of popularity with friends, coworkers and management. It has not been popular to reduce even one’s own greenhouse gas emissions. Although I was never popular, I think my walking or biking to work year round from 2000-2005 turned people against me, or worsened some hostility already there. I felt a great deal of descrimination because of my beliefs and actions just in reducing my own greenhouse gas emissions. What’s needed is to make it popular to reduce one’s own greenhouse gas emissions, and popular to help others do the same.
Lomborg said: Perhaps this is most clear when you look at the movie from Al Gore. Everything he says is technically true. He says for instance that if Greenland melts, sea levels will rise about 20 feet. This is technically true. But of course the very evocative imagery of seeing Holland disappear under the waves – or New York, or Shanghai – leaves the impression that this is all going to happen very soon. Where in fact the UN climate panel says that the sea level rise over the next 100 years is going to be 30 cm – about 20 times less than he talks about.
Last Friday in Victoria BC, news media people are all confused by a map put out by the Sierra Club which shows Victoria drowning under sea-level rises of six to 25 metres. No one seemed to know where they got the 25 meter (80 ft) increase, as described at: http://www.desmogblog.com/ in the article:
“Sierra Club Drowns in Own Climate Catastrophe”
I found this:
According to Jim Hansen: “That means that further global warming of 1
degree Celsius defines a critical level. If warming is kept less than
that, effects of global warming may be relatively manageable. During
the warmest interglacial periods the Earth was reasonably similar to
today. But if further global warming reaches 2 or 3 degrees Celsius, we
will likely see changes that make Earth a different planet than the one
we know. The last time it was that warm was in the middle Pliocene,
about three million years ago, when sea level was estimated to have
been about 25 meters (80 feet) higher than today.”
So my question is:
- given that 3 million years ago the average sea level was 25 meters
higher than current
- given that in year 2100 earth’s temperatures will be the same as 3
million years ago
When will average sea level be 25 meters (80 ft) higher than current?
â��We are almost certain to see a six-metre sea level rise if we cannot keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees,â�� said Sierra Club Executive Director Kathryn Molloy. â��This could happen within the lifetime of my grandchildren if we do not take significant global action immediately to curb global carbon emissions.â��
People now living might see six meters, implying that there is little chance of anyone now alive seeing the 25.
Recent information that I hear from some glaciologists is showing the ice sheets to be less stable than previously thought. It will be interesting to see if this information makes it into the FAR; I suspect it won’t. So the IPCC will probably stick with the ten or twenty cm sea level rise this century, which won’t cause anyone to lose any sleep for a while, i.e., until perhaps the fifth report some five or six years out. Anecdotally I can attest that at least some ice sheet experts don’t rule out several meters in this century from a failure of much or most of the West Antarctic ice.
As for the answer to Pat’s very reasonable question, I don’t think anyone knows and I certainly don’t. Centuries, probably. It depends on poorly known ice sheet dynamics. It also definitely depends crucially on the total anthropogenic GHG emission into the environment, and that in turn genuinely is sensitive to the date when we start taking the matter seriously.
The practical question is whether we have the right to commit future generations to a problem of this magnitude.
Reducing everything to a financial calculation based around a discount rate cloaks a dubious moral position in rationalist clothing. Economics does not prove we have no obligation to future descendants, it merely treats that as a useful approximation. In the present question that approximation might not be as applicable as it is in other contexts.
On the other hand, avoiding the issue by making the serious consequences seem more immediate than they actually are may be counterproductive in the long run. Still, I think we should observe that the BC Sierra Club is innocent of this based on the evidence on their website at present. Perhaps they retrofitted the site in the light of the controversy, or perhaps the fault is with the press.
Re #66 Thank you for the electric vehicle link. I learned two things. First, electric vehicles can make an interesting hobby. An expensive, time consuming, technically challenging hobby. Second, I was right, the link confirmed what I said about EVs. The technology is not ready for the general population.
As far as a person with a limited mechanical background converting a car from gas to electric? It would be easy, all you have to do is take the engine out of your car, modify the transmission, connect the electric motor, add a large stack of lead acid batteries, and add an optional heater if you live in a cold climate. Five easy steps (with a few minor technical details).
Comment by Wang Dang Sweet — 11 Dec 2006 @ 1:59 AM
RE:35what is to be said about the enemies of the human race (the economists) who oppose every real step while muttering about consumer choice in the face of international calamity. Or else may I suggest you give some thought to saying very clearly that you will not be getting into economics, so people will start thinking about setting up an RC in the field of applications to deal with AGW.
Comment by garhane
Your disrespect of economists is unacceptable. Surely you believe that any experts in any field should be working for the common goal of safeguarding the planet. If you want to know details and numbers regarding climate change you trust a climate scientist to give an unbiased information that is reliable, even if it doesn’t always match common sense. If you want to know the best value for money in reducing emmissions you trust an economic scientist to give unbiased information that is reliable, even if it doesn’t always match common sense. Sure, science that is reported in sensational journalism or funded by vested interest should always be checked and compared against general scientific consensus. Until there is an RC equivalent for economics, the comments should be open to discourse on economic issues arising from Climate Change threads. Environmental activists do need to become economically literate if they are to make realistic goals and simulations on how humanity will reach those goals. This as opposed to wishful thinking that the blunt instrument of fear is necessary and sufficient to make people do the right thing.
I don’t understand why you jump from the Maunder Minimum (MM) all the way back to the Eemian.
100k years ago lattitudinal forcing levels due to precession may well have been different from now. Whereas due to the speed of precession I’d have though that the MM provides a better analogue because it’s lattitudinal insolation would be very similar. Furthermore you referenced “Evolution of the Sun’s large-scale magnetic field since the Maunder minimum.” Solanki/SchÃ¼ssler/Fligge in your initial post (#61), and whilst I’ve not got a copy of that to hand they do note in the abstract:
“The model indicates that there is a direct connection between the length of the sunspot cycle and the secular variations.”
Now in the MM ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maunder_minimum ) using the sunspot proxy your source suggests is sound, we entered a period of low solar activity, which did not lead to the sort of cooling you point to at the Eemian termination.
So whilst I can at a push generously accept that use of the MM as a worst-case analogue. I really don’t get using a distant period like the Eemian termination, where arguably other factors may not have been similar.
At best I see a slight cooling or tailing off of the ongoing warming trend. But my degree’s in Electronics and I’ve only been learning about climate science for ~2 years, so I am happy to defer to more learned opinion.
SEA LEVEL Hansen’s quote:
“The last time it was that warm was in the middle Pliocene, about three million years ago, when sea level was estimated to have been about 25 meters (80 feet) higher than today.”
That should not be taken too simplistically, because it refers to a sustained period of greater warmth than present, long enough for the ice to melt and the seas to warm to equilibrium. That takes a lot of time. I’ve seen this 25m figure quoted out of context all over in the press, and it really bugs me. 25 metres is a centennial/millenial scale figure
I’m implcitly betting that it’ll be nowhere near that in my lifetime, I’m 38 and my house is only just over 10 metres above sea level. My house is key to retirement, at current houseprice levels I could never afford to buy again in the UK.
RE #88, you really should see WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? You’ll see that there were lots of great EVs out on the road, but the car companies crushed them because, for one, they came to realize they’d lose big on their highly profitable service/maintenance business, since EVs require very little.
As for batteries there are lithium ion ones that can give an EV a 300 mile range, with an 80% charge in one hour (a full charge in 4 hours). But most people wouldn’t need that, since their commute distance is much less, and most families have second cars they could use for long trips. Or they could rent a car (& I think it’d still come out cheaper in most cases).
It’d be wonderful if, perhaps, General Electric made EVs, which logically should be cheaper than ICE cars, if mass produced. Of course, if each individual has to make their own EV, that would be expensive & time consuming (the same’s true re making one’s own ICE car, only worse).
As for power source, it could be from alternative energy. But even if from coal power, the reduction in pollution (incl GHGs) is about half of that of an ICE car, and a single source can be more easily controlled.
We have to think holistically, how EVs would not only reduce GW, but local pollution & acid rain, as well, lowering health costs and giving people more healthy work days — and that money could be used for projects to further reduce GHGs (& save more money).
We need to get off the lose(environ)-lose(money)-lose(health) track and onto a win-win-win track. Even oil companies can diversify, like BP & some others, and consider themselves not oil but energy companies & get into green biz.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 11 Dec 2006 @ 12:25 PM
Re: 73 (Comment)
To me, the interesting part is that we have just started our 100 years journey to 2100 (and all predicted catastrophes) but the events are already unfolding in an unpredicted way. What are the implications for the 100 year projections?
Re #90: “I’m implcitly betting that it’ll be nowhere near that in my lifetime…” and similar comments.
On the other hand, if you read much general science news, you’ll see occasional articles on intriguing developments in anti-aging research. I’m not going to count on being around in 50 or 100 years to see that sea level rise, but neither am I going to entirely rule out the possibility.
On the third hand, since my house is at 4800 ft, any sea level rise is not going to affect me directly :-)
You don’t need international treaties, much less emission limits, to create market incentives. Taxing carbon fuel plus subsidizing alternative sources is one old recipe.
Of course, the looming energy crisis (not GW or terrorism) is the hardest problem that humanity will face in this century. While (I agree with you) the governments are not good at anything, I’m afraid there’s no choice other than to rely on governments, at least to some extent, in deciding which research is worth of funding.
I’m sorry to attract so much attention. No, not really. Lack of dissent is very boring.
1. Not in the realm of global warming science
It has nothing to do with science. It’s simple economics. People will continue burning fossil fuels until something cheaper is available. If cheaper alternative is never found then we’ll burn everything we can grab. Simple as that.
2. Rests upon the questionable assumptions in #1, in the total failure of any sort of manmade carbon sequestration, and ignores the rate of CO2 emissions vs ability for natural sinks to absorb it.
If sequestration is possible why not work on that instead? Natural sinks, unfortunately, cannot keep pace with emissions.
Since you mentioned “An Inconvenient Truth” I happened to watch it over the weekend. Al Gore is a clever guy. Except in one instance, he avoided direct lies (at least as far as I could tell) which makes this film even more misleading.
“As for the answer to Pat’s very reasonable question, I don’t think anyone knows. Centuries, probably. It depends on poorly known ice sheet dynamics. It also definitely depends crucially on the total anthropogenic GHG emission into the environment, and that in turn genuinely is sensitive to the date when we start taking the matter seriously.” by Michael Tobis
“The last time it was that warm was in the middle Pliocene, about three million years ago, when sea level was estimated to have been about 25 meters (80 feet) higher than today.” by Hansen
“That should not be taken too simplistically, because it refers to a sustained period of greater warmth than present, long enough for the ice to melt and the seas to warm to equilibrium. That takes a lot of time. I’ve seen this 25m figure quoted out of context all over in the press, and it really bugs me. 25 metres is a centennial/millenial scale figure. I’m implcitly betting that it’ll be nowhere near that in my lifetime,” by CobblyWorlds
“Since you mentioned “An Inconvenient Truth” I happened to watch it over the weekend. Al Gore is a clever guy. Except in one instance, he avoided direct lies (at least as far as I could tell) which makes this film even more misleading.”
Aside from the outright mistruth to that second statement, it is quite easy to search here on RC and see/learn for yourself that Gore’s statements were essentially quite sound scientifically. Burying one’s head in the sand on the issue as opposed to learning about the science does not make the film misleading one iota.
RE Al Gore’s INCONVENIENT TRUTH (which is also out for sale now), my main complaint is that it doesn’t include much mention about the positive feedback scenario — in which we warm the world a bit with our human GHG emissions, then nature starts emitting GHGs due to the warming (this is a favorite contrarian point….that GHG increases FOLLOWED the warmings in the past), then that increased warming causes nature to emit still more GHGs, which causes still more warming, and so on. Examples would be the release of methane from melting permafrost (which is a lot greater than scientists had originally estimated) and melting methane clathrates or hydrates in the ocean (the massive methane burb theory).
And since methane is 23 times more potent than CO2, this could be VERY BAD, esp if the warming is so fast (& I believe it is faster than any warming in the past) that is melts vast quantities within 10 year periods (the time it takes methane to break down into CO2 & other molecules).
I’m not going to call this the Venus effect or runaway global warming, since the scientists on this website hate those terms, so I’ll just call it VERY VERY BAD for us biota trying to survive on planet earth.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 11 Dec 2006 @ 9:54 PM
Re #84 : And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
Going back to the comment in 87 “It depends on poorly known ice sheet dynamics”. Having worked with ice sheets models for twenty years, I would disagree with this statement. The biggest problem is not poorly understood glacier dynamics, but is being able to input reliably the boundary and climate conditions that will exist. For example the difference for an ice shelf disintegrating with surface melting versus doing so solely via a calving retreat with no surface melting is much different. Also for an ice shelf what is the sea temperature change at the bottom of the ice shelf going to be? As a modeller the temperatures at the top and bottom of the ice shelf-ice sheet are critical inputs. When these are unknown accurate forecasting is not possible.
I don’t think Gore spent a lot of time talking about science per se. The subject of his talk was scary things that are happening (true) and will become catastrophes in the future (maybe or maybe not).
The best example of his style is the temp-CO2 chart. He doesn’t bother to mention that it is the temps that drive CO2, not the other way around. He just doesn’t say anything about causality. Then he steps on the elevating platform to show how far off the chart CO2 emissions will take the concentrations by the end of the century. (The chart is skillfully scaled for dramatic effect, of course.) He doesn’t say it but he clearly implies that the temperatures will grow proportionally. No they won’t. Not even at the upper range of the current projections.
You call it “scientifically sound”? I call it blatant misrepresentation of science.
Oh, yeah: about those six meters of ocean level rise that will drown a third of Florida … When will this happen?
Some of the plant/food-related comments people make in relation to GW puzzle me. The general concept of “the growing vegetation should reduce CO2 content thus providing a negative feedback” ignores half of the cycle. Plants die, dead plants decay, and when they decay their carbon stores are released. Increased ambient temperature implies increased decomposition rates (unless increased [CO2] somehow retards microbial activity). Unless the plant matter or its carbon load is sequestered, it appears that the overall CO2 balance is unlikely to be affected. Based on what is known now, merely growing more plants does not appear to me to help much to offset the CO2 released by abruptly unsequestering millions of years of organic matter stored as fossil fuels. We probably can’t afford to sequester enough raw plant matter because of the resulting soil nutrient drain and other reasons, so in my view plain sequestration is not very practical. Preserving what plant life we still have is important for a lot of reasons, though.
“most plants will thrive at the CO2 concentrations projected for the next 100 years, ignoring other factors such as temp. disease, competition, etc.” 4C weeds might fare okay, but that doesn’t help the precarious food production situation much unless we switch from 3C food crops to eating what are now considered weeds. That aside, the quoted phrase is a half-truth perpetuated by ignorance of the growing process. The issue often is framed as ‘semi-mature plants’ reaction to increased CO2,’ but the reality is much more complex. Plants, and especially food crops, don’t magically appear as partially grown, despite the apparent average American’s view of the food production process. Most of what we use for food begins as seeds, and getting seeds to mature plants in the available growing season is the food producer’s bane. GW implies more than increased [CO2]; it also implies disrupted patterns of moisture, temperature, ground-level sunlight, nutrient availability, pathogens, pests, and just about any other factor important to cropping. I can envision an Exxon spokesperson telling a farmer that the corn seeds rotting in persistent mud resulting from increasingly erratic rain patterns ‘will grow great from the higher [CO2] once they reach half-grown.’ Even those ‘grown great’ food crop plants don’t look so good when they’re frozen three weeks too early by unstable weather patterns, flooded then shriveled by disrupted rain patterns, stressed to inedible aflatoxin levels, and attacked by ever-changing pests and pathogens. Place the burden previously satisfied by the since-collapsed marine food chain onto destabilized land-based production and it doesn’t take long to see the potential for food supply disruption and the resulting effects. The ‘plant viability in higher [CO2]‘ angle appears to be too complicated for shop-bought politicians, talkshowistas, and their audience who’ve never tried to produce a food crop. Maybe there’s a buck to be made in McSoylentGreen franchises, though.
“You call it “scientifically sound”? I call it blatant misrepresentation of science.”
Sigh. Then you clearly ignored the discussion presented at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/05/al-gores-movie/ and references contained within. Peer-reviewed science is key. Gore’s presentation is absolutely consistent with it. It is disingenuous to consider it a “blatant misrepresentation of science”. It is also a direct insult to the many scientists involved, whose work has been peer-reviewed.
I’m also trying to figure out, Pat (#85), why people don’t want to save the earth (or stop harming it), esp since they can save money doing so (at least to cutting down 1/3 of their GHGs). I figure there is something psychological and/or cultural/ideological/religious going on:
(1) They don’t want to admit they are doing wrong (even if it means greatly harming the earth and their own descendents) — pride is a very strong force. This seems to be an esp American trait. My husband, a criminologist, has developed a theory based on Lemert’s labeling theory of secondary deviance (people who are labeled delinquents or criminals take on that role): he thinks that people who are labeled delinquents or criminals (wrong-doers, in this case of AGW) have an orientation to reject or oppose those who give the negative label and do even worse things. He finds this applies more to criminals in the U.S., than those in Japan, who are more amenable to correction, as exemplified by their much lower recidivism rates.
(2) They don’t really know what’s happening, because the media have not dealt strongly enough with GW & its solutions (I think that is the most likely case for most people — and germane to this topic here). The science at the molar level is very simple….it’s like a greenhouse situation, or a car with windows up in the hot sun. And our use of electricity (if fossel fuel powered) & natural gas, and vehicle driving are main causes of this “greenhouse effect,” as well as most products, since most require fossil energy to produce, transport, etc. But the science at the micromediational level is very complex, and that’s what the denialists are using to sow doubt. Which is why this RC site is so important. A concomitant to this it that people may know about it and know they are responsible, but the harms are coming in so slowly, and the worst won’t happen for decades or centuries, and people have more immediate problems to commandeer their minds & efforts. There also seems to be disconnect for some between cause & effect, so that I’ve sometimes heard (to my concern that many people may be dying from GW), “People have to die anyway.” Which is true, but people do not have to kill! Another point here is the enormity of the problem…it just seems impossible that humanity could have come to this point, rushing toward the precipice of a really huge problem facing us all. We see it in the movies, alien invasions & such, but that’s stuff for fiction.
(3) They are accustomed to having the single hero solve the problem, as in the movies — “let the scientists or government do it” syndrome. It took me nearly a conversion experience to go from “why don’t THEY do something about this,” to “I have to do something about this.” There is the “hiding behind the masses” syndrome — people think their actions are insignificant, and that many others should start reducing their GHGs, and then they will join in. Hopefully we can reach some critical mass on this & start a revitalization movement (social movement) to stop GW. But the goverment & our leaders do bear more responsibility to lead on this; the President could have TV chats about what we all can do, etc. Pastors could speak out. Like who’s going to listen to me??
(4) They have bought into an ideology of ever greater material wealth (this may be linked also to childhood desires not yet tampered by the reality principle). This ideology was enhanced greatly in American (and to some extent in Australian) history by the seemingly never-ending frontier. No one likes limits, but many from ancient civilizations have come to accept them. We have not. Even I like to think there is a never-ending frontier in involution (finding more & more ways to get more with less).
(5) They long for the world to end, and expect that to happen soon. They think Jesus will come & rapture them up (as if harming creation is going to endear them to the Creator). Maybe they think it doesn’t matter if they do harm that has a long lag time, since the world will end very soon anyway, and the harmful consequences of their GHG emissions will never actualize.
(6) Same as (5), except they’ve figured from 9/11 that fear is an excellent way to get people to convert (except it should be sustained and ongoing fear — the other lesson from 9/11, when the terror-swollen pews started depleting back to normal in the months and years after 9/11). In this case, they (perhaps even Inhofe) would really know AGW is happening, but they want to push it well past the runaway tipping point of no return, then spring it on people that their only option is to repent…or repent & pray for God to end GW, once it’s impossible for humans to end. Maybe they assume God will step in, solve the problem, and the whole world will become believers. (I think this was one of the temptations put to Jesus, and he resisted it, so this method is definitely not the Christian way.) This last one, though it is as improbable as hysteresis or runaway warming, seems to me somewhat more plausible, after reading all the links off the Wiki article linked above – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Family_%28Christian_political_organization%29
(And BTW the http://www.marklynas.org blog (or beta.marklynas.org if you can’t get in) is now up & running, & in light of our ever increasing GHG emissions, Mark said he’s coming a bit closer to the Lovelock position & guesses we may have a 50-50 chance of having already gone past the tipping point…and I concur with him.)
The reason why people do not want to save the earth may be a combination of some or all of these reasons, just as there are many actions that cause AGW, and many many solutions to solving it, and many different people involved in the causes and solutions. This is where the social & behavior scientists need to come up to the plate & investigate (Oops, that means me again).
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 12 Dec 2006 @ 1:00 PM
I haven’t read Eric’s review before but now that I have I still don’t see your point.
Peer-reviewed science is key. Gore’s presentation is absolutely consistent with it.
Let me quote Eric on this one:
Several of my colleagues complained that a more significant error is Gore’s use of the long ice core records of CO2 and temperature (from oxygen isotope measurements) in Antarctic ice cores to illustrate the correlation between the two. The complaint is that the correlation is somewhat misleading, because a number of other climate forcings besides CO2 contribute to the change in Antarctic temperature between glacial and interglacial climate. Simply extrapolating this correlation forward in time puts the temperature in 2100 A.D. somewhere upwards of 10 C warmer than present — rather at the extreme end of the vast majority of projections
Even though Eric disagrees with his colleagues, his opinion is clearly not the only one. Moreover, it seems like he is actually in the minority. I would also suspect that in reality Eric’s colleagues used a stronger language but of course there is no way to know. Unlike Eric’s colleagues, I’m not bound by political correctness. Nor am I a member of GW, Inc. So I feel like I can give call things their proper names.
It is also a direct insult to the many scientists involved, whose work has been peer-reviewed.
I don’t recall saying anything about peer-reviewed scientific work just yet. What are you talking about?
Although several posters have dealt intelligently with the question of deaths due to global warming, it may help to clarify the underlying logical issue.
The idea that there have been no deaths due to global warming is a classic hierarchy error. Hegel used to illustrate hierarchy errors with a memorable joke, memorable not because it’s funny but because it’s pretty much the only joke in all of Hegel:
A doctor advises his patient to eat more fruit; later, when the doctor asks the patient whether he’s eating more fruit, the patient says he’s tried, but he can’t find fruit anywhere. All he can find are apples, oranges, bananas, etc.
Thus is will always be with deaths due to global warming. In the future, there will be more deaths due to floods, droughts, famines, etc., but never due to global warming.
Justice Scalia seems to have swallowed this hierarchy error whole – during the Supreme Court hearings on global warming, he interrupted one of the speakers to demand to know exactly when the cataclysm was predicted to occur.
Philip, you might want to start reading a bit on the subject before making snide comments. For example in #19 above Gavin admits (it’s a well known fact but for you it’s the closest reference to make sure that I’m not bluffing) that CO2 lags behind the temperature growth.
I hope you would agree that in order to drive the temperture CO2 must lead the tems in the record, not lag. Would you not?
[I'm sorry to attract so much attention. No, not really. Lack of dissent is very boring.]
Well, I for one am becoming bored with your ambiguous views, opinions, etc. about AGW.
Put your money on the table and let us hear what you know, if you are contributing or just blathering.
Tell us, for instance, what you know (if anything) about Australian drought and the Antarctic polar vortex. You seem to have opinions about things atmospheric. Be direct. Contribute or watch.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 12 Dec 2006 @ 6:05 PM
Sashka – the correct answer to your seemingly rhetorical question in #113 is “No.” Your assumptions are incorrect. In the past, it is true that CO2 increases have lagged temperature increases. This is not the case with the current situation, because it is anthropogenic, not natural.
The natural sequence, grossly oversimplified, is (1) change in insolation causes temperature rise; (2) warmer temperatures cause CO2 level to increase; (3) higher CO2 level causes further temperature rise via feedback. Our situation lacks steps 1 and 2 – the higher CO2 level is being caused by us, not by natural processes – but it is illogical to conclude that therefore step 3 will not occur.
Re #117: “(2) warmer temperatures cause CO2 level to increase;”
Perhaps I’m oversimplifying, but basically this happens because cold water can hold more dissolved CO2 than warm water. This is supposed to be science, after all, so here’s a simple experiment you can do to see this effect for yourself:
Take a cold bottle of some carbonated beverage, a clear one for preference.
Open it and leave it in your refrigerator until it goes flat.
Take it out of the refrigerator, pour it in a saucepan, and warm it on the stove. You’ll see more bubbles of CO2 come out of solution as it warms.
re: 117. “Sashka – the correct answer to your seemingly rhetorical question in #113 is “No.” Your assumptions are incorrect. In the past, it is true that CO2 increases have lagged temperature increases. This is not the case with the current situation, because it is anthropogenic, not natural…”
Precisely. It is essential that any laymen who audaciously/arrogantly claim to know more than literally thousands of scientists understand this basic, critical and fundamental information. There is simply no scientific basis for assuming (which is all it is) that there has been any “misrepresentation of science”.
Re #113, I’m so glad someone is paying attention at last to the fact that warming causes increase in CO2 (and, I would add, methane). This is the real scary scenario. (Of course, just bec warming causes GHG increase, does not in any way rule out GHG causing warming — which is the basis for the natural greenhouse effect that makes life on Earth viable).
So here we have it the total positive feedback picture. Our GHG emissions are causing initial warming (perhaps in the past this was caused by the earth’s wobble or closer orbit, or brighter sun, or perhaps from massive vulcanism). That initial warming, if it reaches a certain point, will cause nature to emit CO2, which will cause greater warming, which will cause greater emissions.
This means that each molecule we emit is so much more dangerous than any climate scientist is telling us (and remember some of our emissions remain for up to 100,000 years in the atmosphere to compound with others and go on causing harm). The climate models, as far as I know, do not have this positive feedback link up, probably bec there are so many uncertainties and complexities. I think they just feed the CO2 into the models, but don’t have the warming cause CO2 increases (within the models), to cause further warming, to cause further CO2 increases.
Best bet is to assume scientists are underestimating the catastrophes from global warming. Not their fault. They’re working as hard as they can with what evidence they can get. But their reports keep coming in (for the most part) “It’s worse than we expected.”
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 12 Dec 2006 @ 11:24 PM
>111, 107, “let me quote Eric on this point”
Sashka ended that excerpt halfway through Erik’s point — leaving off the rest, where Eric says that he disagrees with the opinion quoted, and explains why he considers Gore’s presentation is right.
Sashka, do you understand you made a mistake there?
Re: temp. vs CO2
I think they both drive each other which is why it is called a feedback mechanism. Think of a mike next to a speaker: which is driving which? Neither, They drive each other, but the trigger is still unknown (to me anyway). Unless it is now accepted that CO2 is the trigger but I was under the impression that even in the current trend CO2 was lagging temp a bit? Is that true?
The solution to your particular problem is very simple. You don’t have to read what I write, much less respond. If you choose to respond, however, try to keep your emotions outside the discussion. This will help keeping discussion closer to the realm of science.
My assumptions were not incorrect for a simple reason that I didn’t make any assumptions. My statement was purely in reference to glacial-interglacial transition.
What happens now is a different story indeed. Which is precisely why Gore’s show was a gross misrepresentation of science. You cannot extrapolate from past to future when the underlying process driving the climate change is different. I sincerely hope that everyone who pays attention will find simple thought incontroversial. Would the esteemed founders care to comment for the benefit of the masses?
it is illogical to conclude that therefore step 3 will not occur
I didn’t conclude that. Read back what I said and see for yourself. What I said was that Gore is trying to scare you with projections well outside of what science actually projects.
The natural sequence, grossly oversimplified, is (1) change in insolation causes temperature rise
Scientists like to say (and this is true) that they cannot explain the temperature changes without accounting for (lagging) growth in CO2. The problem is that they cannot really explain it even with CO2. Milankovich theory cannot explain 100,000 years cycle. Nor can it explain the onset of glacial cycles 3 million (or so) years ago.
I am not trying to belittle the science. I’m only saying that understanding of past climates is still work in progress. Which is why they ought to be more humble WRT future projections.
I didn’t make any mistake. I simply disagree with Eric and agree with his colleagues who (I assume) are no less qualified. Continueing quote from Eric:
However, I don’t really agree with my colleagues’ criticism on this point. Gore is careful not to state what the temperature/CO2 scaling is. He is making a qualitative point, which is entirely accurate.
The underlined sentence is for the benefit of another poster who is concrened about scaling. The last statement is actually a point of disagreement.
The qualitative point is not accurate at all for the reasons explained above in #125. The driving mechanism of glacial-interglacial transition was entirely different which is why this chart is of little relevance to the current situation.
Re #125, I agree that science doesn’t know the whole thing. So, I think it’s important to keep our sights on the worst that we know can happen (as it has in the past), which (I think) would be the end-Permian extinction, 251 mya, in which 95% of life died (some say due to extreme warming or hysteresis, runaway warming). They say life is more resilient now & there are many other geological differences that would make this time different. And I would add there may be a possibility that we may even be headed for something even worse than that. Who knows?
I’ve tried to pin the scientists down about the rapidity of our warming & CO2 emissions as perhaps being in itself a factor that may have some impacts. For instance, if the warming happens really fast (in geological terms) and gets to the point of releasing a lot of methane in a shorter period of time than earlier natural warmings of the past, this might have some really dire consequences. But no one is addressing this. I think bec they just don’t know. But the mechanics are known — the methane would last up to 10 years (assuming it or most of it gets into the atmosphere), and during that time (before it decomposes into CO2+) it would have much greater GHG potency.
I feel like we’re a bunch of brats playing with matches and kerosene. We need to drastically reduce our GHG emissions & quickly. We can’t wait for science to catch up with what’s really happening — by then we might have gotten into much deeper trouble than anyone is now predicting.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 13 Dec 2006 @ 11:21 AM
As for the onset of glacial cycles in the holocene, it is in fact generally attributed to the very slow decline of CO2 in the atmosphere on that time scale. This particular mystery that Sashka promotes doesn’t appear to exist.
There is a great deal we don’t understand about the 100Ka glacial cycle. Milankovic forcing doesn’t appear to be big enough to do the trick except as a triggering mechanism, sort of like seeding a cloud. The best ideas appear to involve nonlinear response in the ice sheets as the next phase and carbon release as the third. Admittedly this is more complicated than one would hope, but it seems the best we can do. Without carbon sensitivity, there is as far as I know no prospect of a theory at all, though.
Suggesting that we know very little is not enough to argue against a policy action. It is required to suggest that we know nothing and that someone else knows better, and that the someone else has a best estimate of carbon sensitivity near zero. The evidence takes us inexorably further from the possibility of a coherent argument to that effect.
That being the case, we are equally likely to be underestimating the dangers as overestimating them. Therefore, the less we know the more rigorous the policy response should be.
The more humility the science expresses, the more vigorous the policy response should be. If we can constrain the equilibrium CO2 sensitivity to 3C per doubling +/1 1C, the rational risk weighting of greenhouse gas emissions will be smaller than if we can only constrain it to 5C +/- 5C.
If we were discussing matters rationally, it would be the people who were most in favor of policy action who would be those who would be the most suspicious of the science. The fact that this is precisely the opposite of what we observe has always discouraged me as an indicator of the rationality of policy discussion.
re.13. Does it really matter if someone is a geologist, geophysicist or tree ring specialist ? We should discuss on merit, shouldn’t we?
BTW, I know of Demming’s work mainly as a geophysicist and his work relevant to recent climate change issue, (Science and JGR papers).
Here they are:
“Climatic warming in North America: Analysis of borehole temperatures
Author Deming, D. [Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (United States)]
Publication Date 1995 Jun 16
Science ; VOL. 268 ; ISSUE: 5217 ; PBD: 16 Jun 1995 ”
“Deming, D. and R.A. Borel, Evidence for climatic warming in northcentral Oklahoma from analysis of borehole temperatures, J. of Geophys. Res., 100, 22017-22032, 1995. ”
As far as I know these are geophysical papers one of which published in the leading geophysical journal!
I generally agree with your take on Inhofe, but I would love for this blog to comment on the media reports that livestock, including deforestation, feed production and flatulence, are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the transport sector. This, coupled with news of the forthcoming IPCC assessment (that has adjusted downwards the predictions of both temperature change and sea level rise) appears to be providing grist for skeptics, Inhofe included. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/12/10/nclimate10.xml
You are confusing two separate points that I am making.
1. Imperfect understanding of the past and ramifications for the forecast uncertainties.
I realize that it’s possible to make Milankovich “work” better – by assuming something else. It may be generally attributed to lowering CO2, as you put it, but this is not in any way an established fact. I’m happy that you acknowledge a problem with 100k cycle, though.
Admittedly this is more complicated than one would hope, but it seems the best we can do. Without carbon sensitivity, there is as far as I know no prospect of a theory at all, though.
I already said above and I repeat: I agree. However, there are two possible reasons: (1) CO2 feedback is actually very important or (2) the part of the system that we are missing (the one that doesn’t let us understand 100k cycle) is even more important while CO2 doesn’t matter much.
We don’t know which one is true. All of you will surely vote for (1) and, to be honest, if I had to bet I’d pick (1) as well. However the mere fact that (2) is a non-zero probability adds additional uncertainty which climate modeling community would not recognize.
2. Policy action.
Suggesting that we know very little is not enough to argue against a policy action.
This is not what I’m saying. I’m saying (see above) that the policy action should have the projected impact exceeding the error bar of the model forecast. I’m saying that forecast uncertainty is indeed larger than what climate community says it is while the so far proposed measures have a much smaller effect than even the stated uncertainty. That’s why I against it.
I agree that large uncertainty must lead to a stronger policy action. Unfortunately stronger policy brings a non-linear price response in economy. If there was an economically viable way to drastically reduce emissions I’d support with my both hands … and feet.
I am disappointed about the lag of critical approach concerning the discussion on chance of climatically observation ,therefor I like to suggest you to look at video tapes emitted by Discovery channel and National Geographics in the series “Planet Ocean”and Men made Climatic Chance ? as well emissions on the subject of Dimming Clouds [ BBC/UK ].
Summerizing: CO2 is not a problem as suggested by many environmentalists.
Please stop talking like parrots as on all reports on climatic changes ,you will not find a signature, placed by scientific recherches ,conforming CO2 is the root of all evil.
With respects Bob Mouissie.
It is stunning and somewhat sad to read how someone with apparently little or limited scientific credentials beleives they have more understanding, comprehension and knowledge than those who do and who have published extensively and whose publications have been subject to peer review.
Sashka wrote in #134: “If there was an economically viable way to drastically reduce emissions I’d support with my both hands … and feet.”
According to the Stern Review on the economics of climate change recently published by the UK government, the economic costs of failing to reduce CO2 emissions enough, quickly enough, to address anthropogenic global warming, will be far greater than the costs of doing so.
Quoted in The Guardian newspaper, Sir David King, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said: “All of [Stern's] detailed modelling out to the year 2100 is going to indicate first of all that if we don’t take global action we are going to see a massive downturn in global economies … the kind of downturn that has not been seen since the great depression and the two world wars … If you look at sea level rises alone and the impact that will have on global economies where cities are becoming inundated by flooding … this will cause the displacement of … hundreds of millions of people.”
It’s easy to understand why certain people who have a powerful short term financial interest in maintaining high levels of fossil fuel consumption — e.g. oil company executives — would wish to exaggerate the costs of reducing CO2 emissions while ignoring the costs of failing to do so. It’s not so easy to understand why anyone else would do so.
With regard to your disparaging comments about the scientific accuracy of Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, which other commenters have already pointed out are completely incorrect, the film is inaccurate in one respect: it is somewhat dated. All of the new science that has been done since the film was produced shows that the present situation with regard to global warming and the prospects for the future are much worse than what Al Gore has to say in the film. It becomes harder every day to justify Gore’s optimism that we can successfully address the problem in time to avert a global catastrophe.
I like to draw Your attention on the following subjects and facts:
1} CO2 has a strong affinity to HO2.As the atmosphere exist 95% of vapor
and 72 % of the earth surface is water[oceans]
2} CO2 is 1.5 times heavier than aer and will only move in aer as there are climatic conditions allowing this and only when meteorological conditions as high pressure/low pressure situations exists and will than rice until the inversion level
3}As the combination CO2 +HO2 forms a Fertilizer for vegetation on land and food for planktone ,this in combination with sunlight ,produces oxygen[ 60% of our need].
4}Aer polution,due to industrial emissions,as well automotive use ,is fare more a threat for men kind as showed in Dimming clouds article[BBC/UK
Sincer Bob Mouissie
Re #142: It seems you either don’t understand the science involved at all, or are having problems expressing that understanding in English. Perhaps if you were to re-post in your native language, someone could help deal with the confusion.
One important point to understand, though, is that newspaper publishers and television producers seldom have much understanding of, or interest in, basic science. They print or publish what they think will attract an audience. I’m not myself at all familiar with television, let alone British programming, but I’m sure one wouldn’t have to look too hard to find programs full of absolute bunk.
“If there was an economically viable way to drastically reduce emissions I’d support with my both hands … and feet.”
This is why economics is a highly skewed and almost useless tool here. By definition, economics fails to account for externalities in its assessment. Economics, for example, cannot factor in the for the extinction of a species because there exists no way to estimate the “value” of a species not becoming extinct. Any assigned “value” is so subjective as to be completely useless.
The only attempts I am aware of to place quantitative value upon the continued existence of a species is to do a survey and ask respondents to state “how much they would pay” to keep a species from going extinct.
This methodology is obviously skewed because the species still exists when the survey is done and the respondents might very well place a much higher value on the species after it has become extinct or nearly extinct (ie. the oops factor) than when the species is still here and fairly abundant. If the species is still fairly abundant, the price respondents “would be willing to pay” to keep it abundant is skewed toward the lower range, because the species is still here without the respondents having to pay anything.
Survey studies of this type are also unable to ask the next generation how much they would be willing to pay to bring a species back that became extinct shortly after they were born. By definition, the loss felt by these people, who will never have the chance to even see the species, could be very high, and therefore the “price they would be willing pay” to see the species might also be very high. Unf. it is impossible to capture these people in a survey type study because by definition those most affected by a future extinction have not been born yet and cannot express an opinion of this impact on them, that they did not cause, and they had no chance to prevent.
Also, you can’t bring extinct species back, no matter how much people are willing to pay. cf. our now lost and beautiful passenger pigeon.
re “I hope you would agree that in order to drive the temperture CO2 must lead the tems in the record, not lag. Would you not?”
Whatever sets off the CO2 increase, CO2 increase in and of itself will result in higher ground temperatures. That’s basic radiation physics, and it doesn’t depend on statistical correlations. In any case, CO2 having traditionally followed temperatures doesn’t mean it’s doing so now, since we know the present warming is artificial.
“Summerizing: CO2 is not a problem as suggested by many environmentalists.
Please stop talking like parrots as on all reports on climatic changes ,you will not find a signature, placed by scientific recherches ,conforming CO2 is the root of all evil.”
“Summarizing.” I don’t know who your “many environmentalists” refers to. CO2 is a big problem according to 99% or so of climatologists. No one says it’s “the root of all evil,” that’s a straw man argument. But the present global warming is being driven primarily by the artificial increase in CO2.
Re “1} CO2 has a strong affinity to HO2.As the atmosphere exist 95% of vapor and 72 % of the earth surface is water[oceans]
2} CO2 is 1.5 times heavier than aer and will only move in aer as there are climatic conditions allowing this and only when meteorological conditions as high pressure/low pressure situations exists and will than rice until the inversion level
3}As the combination CO2 +HO2 forms a Fertilizer for vegetation on land and food for planktone ,this in combination with sunlight ,produces oxygen[ 60% of our need].
4}Aer polution,due to industrial emissions,as well automotive use ,is fare more a threat for men kind as showed in Dimming clouds article[BBC/UK”
1. In what way is “95% of vapor” H2O? I thought that 100% of water vapor was H2O.
2. Due to convection and turbulence, CO2 is well mixed throughout the troposphere (the lowest 11 km or so of the atmosphere, containing 90% or so of the atmosphere’s mass). You have pretty much the same CO2 mixing ratio at the ground, climbing a mountain, or (usually) in an airplane.
3. Yes, photosynthesis produces oxygen. Why, exactly, are you mentioning this? How does it bear on global warming?
4. Air pollution is a serious problem, yes, but how do you justify the statement that it’s “more important” than global warming? More important how? If potential costs in lives and dollars are the criterion, global warming is more important.
Re #147: “…since we know the present warming is artificial.”
I think that should be rephrased a bit for correctness. What we _know_ is that, in contrast to previous warmings, the measured increase in atmospheric CO2 is artifical. Just add up all the fossil fuels that have been burnt, figure out how much CO2 was made, and see if the numbers match. Isotope ratios and such provide supporting evidence.
That the current warming is artifical is a deduction from the known properties of CO2 and the measured increase in its concentration.
This may not be too far off-topic on a thread about Senator Inhofe … here is an interesting bit about science fiction writer Michael Crichton, a prominent AGW denier who claims that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax perpetrated by “environmentalists”, who has been invited by Senator Inhofe to testify before the Senate Environment Committee, and was invited to the White House to discuss climate change with President Bush:
According to the Stern Review on the economics of climate change recently published by the UK government, the economic costs of failing to reduce CO2 emissions enough, quickly enough, to address anthropogenic global warming, will be far greater than the costs of doing so.
Forgive me but anything coming of the UK government (climate-wise) is of zero interest for me. These people believe that GW is a greater threat than terrorism. This is beyond the scope of intelligent discussion.
For comparison, the chief economist of our company (which is a huge global organization, so he is not just an ordinary Joe but apparently a first rate expert) recently delivered internal presentation on economic effects of climate change. It should be noted that our company doesn’t have a direct stake in the outcome of the GW debate or policy decisions. In 30 minutes he didn’t say anything stupid or misleading (contrary to my expectations) unlike any other non-professional I heard so far. His conclusions (and he was all over himself emphasizing the uncertainties of his analysis) were that moderate emissions controls would be beneficial for economy while drastic measures (downsizing to 90% of current level) would be detrimental.
With regard to your disparaging comments about the scientific accuracy of Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, which other commenters have already pointed out are completely incorrect
Other posters who stood up to defend Al Gore’s film so far didn’t demonstrate any understanding of the issue on which I have criticized him. Notably, Michael Tobis who does understand, chose not to comment on that. Nor did the moderator who approves my posts.
re #132, yes, methane (e.g., from cattle) is a more powerful GHG, tho it’s duration (before it degrades to CO2+) is much shorter — 10 years, compared to CO2′s hundred, thousands, even up to a hundred thousand years.
Nevertheless, in searching for ways to reduce my GHGs I became a vegetarian, because meat production (not to mention flatulant cattle) is highly GHG instensive (including energy for pumping water), I believe perhaps something like (wild guess, I can’t really remember) 10 or 20 times more GHG emission for a lb of beef protein than for an lb of plant protein (like soy beans).
So, yes, for those serious about reducing their GHG emissions, it’s necessary to reduce meat consumption (say, by half, at least) AND driving, etc. This isn’t an “either/or” situation, we have to do ALL we can, whether it is of big or just a little help.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 14 Dec 2006 @ 4:46 PM
RE #132, as for the IPCC adjusting estimates downward, that was covered here on RC earlier. It is the upper end of the climate SENSITIVITY (not the lower end – which I believe was raised up) that was adjusted downward — the sensitivity to a standardized increase in CO2, which I think is 2 times the pre-industrial level. And the reason the high end has been adjusted downward & the low end upward is because they are gaining more certainty & the confidence interval is narrowing (I think).
That, however, says nothing about what the CO2 levels will be in 2100 & hence does not predict the upper limit to the warming — which depends on whether or not we cease & desist from this ghastly earth-warming experiment & whether or not nature starts kicking in its own GHGs as a response to the warming. Both cases are looking very bad — our emissions are increasing a lot, and permafrost is melting faster than anyone expected, and some ocean methane hydrates are at shallower depths than anyone thought (closer to the warming waters). So who knows what the CO2 levels will be in 2100 — not to mention the warming, which will also be impacted by an iceless dark Arctic ocean acting as a big heat absorber.
At any rate, I consider the IPCC reports fairly conservative in their estimates, AND each succeeding report comes back with “it’s worse than we thought” type information on the whole. Just stick your finger to the wind & see which way it’s blowing. You don’t have to be a weather man or rocket scientist.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 14 Dec 2006 @ 5:17 PM
Oh, it’s been authenticated:
In “Jurassic President,” Michael Crowley critiqued Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. Crichton fired back in his latest book, Next, by naming an unsavory character “Mick Crowley.” But before Crichton wrote books, he wrote for TNR; his first published essay was a 1969 piece on sci-fi and Kurt Vonnegut.
10:38 a.m., 12.14.06 http://www.tnr.com/
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 18 Dec 2006 @ 10:48 AM
Sashka wrote in #154:
Forgive me but anything coming of the UK government (climate-wise) is of zero interest for me.
That’s a classical ad hominem fallacy, and also a glib way to avoid dealing with information that challenges your preconceived ideas. Do you understand who Nicholas Stern is? Are you suggesting that his group’s analysis of the economic consequences of global warming is a politically motivated document, or is in some other way not credible? Do you have any actual reason for that, other than that you don’t like his results?
These people believe that GW is a greater threat than terrorism. This is beyond the scope of intelligent discussion.
Anthropogenic global warming is an existential threat to the human species. Terrorism is not — not even nuclear terrorism. About the only threat comparable in magnitude to the effects of AGW would be a global thermomuclear war involving the US, Russia and China firing off thousands of hydrogen-bomb-carrying ICBMs at each other.
According to the World Health Organization, global warming killed 150,000 people in the year 2000 and that number could double in the next 30 years if current trends are not reversed.
The idea that terrorism is a threat to humanity comparable to global warming is beneath intelligent discussion.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 18 Dec 2006 @ 12:00 PM
As for your bet proposals, as I have stated before, mine as an AGW skeptic are paying off like a slot machine. 2006 will again not surpass 1998, so I have now won 7 and had one tie (2005, if you believe Hansen, I gave them a push on it) since I made my bet with the believers in 1999, not one loss.
Your bet is a scam, your argument is a sham. It plays on the statistical naivete of your adversaries, and on the silly notion that greenhouse gases are the only factor affecting global temperature. Ever hear of “el Nino”?
So here’s a bet for you: the 1998 global average temperature will be exceeded, both in HadCRU and GISS data, no later than 2012. What sum do you propose? Be advised: I’m a statistician.
Looking at the average temperature of just the atmosphere (while ignoring the inconvenient fact that the oceans carry far more heat energy than the atmosphere does) is disingenuous cherry picking. A true accounting of the Earth’s “temperature” cannot be made without including the oceans’ contributions. The fact that the 1998 El Nino event “spiked” the atmospheric temperature by dumping some of the Pacific Ocean’s heat energy into the atmosphere does not in any way undermine the scientific case for global warming.
What an extrodinary idea: Having no interest in what Stern (a distinguished economist who has been chief economist of the World Bank)says because his report was commissioned by the UK Government; whilst a 30 minute presentation by the company’s chief economist is the real deal.
re: 161. Wow, talk about an embarassing, gross abuse and misunderstanding of the basic concepts of statistics and significance. Greenhouse gases are not the sole influence on global average temperatures. However, the overall trend is unequivocable.
What does that have to do with the length of the presentation? What matters is how much time did he spend working on it (seems like a lot) and how qualified he is (seems like as good as anybody). The reason why I tend to believe him more is that he wasn’t paid to arrive at any fixed conclusion.
[Response: No-one in the scientific debate is paid to come to a particular conclusion, with the possible exception of Pat Michaels who practises 'advocacy science' whatever that is. And while I'm here, I'll remind you and all other particpants to keep their comments substantive and polite - even about the UK Govt. Everything else gets deleted. - gavin]
re 160 Secular Animist advises us that “Anthropogenic global warming is an existential threat to the human species. Terrorism is not — not even nuclear terrorism. About the only threat comparable in magnitude to the effects of AGW would be a global thermomuclear war involving the US, Russia and China firing off thousands of hydrogen-bomb-carrying ICBMs at each other.
According to the World Health Organization, global warming killed 150,000 people in the year 2000 and that number could double in the next 30 years if current trends are not reversed.”
If he means “an existential threat ” to be a threat to continued human existence this makes no quantitative sense – roughly a hundred times more people presently die of natural causes each year, and a single nuclear device could easily outstrip the present WHO estimate- which may itself be exaggerated.
Thanks for the Lord Monckton link. I liked this one the best:
Of Britain’s Royal Society, a State-funded scientific body which, like the Senators, has publicly leaned on ExxonMobil, Lord Monckton said, “The Society’s long-standing funding by taxpayers does not ensure any greater purity of motive or rigour of thought than industrial funding of scientists who dare to question whether ‘climate change’ will do any harm.”
The Monckton anti-article was under development at a Wikipedia site for some time. Apparently, Monckton got wind of it and apparently made threatening noises to Wikipedia management. The legal counsel for Wikipedia left a note on the page suggesting that this use of Wikipedia might be inappropriate, and might also expose contributors to liability for libel. There was some discussion on this point, but the step was taken to consider the action of deleting the page. After about a week of discussion on that topic, that action was taken. So I don’t think there’s a page to point you to; maybe someone more familiar than I with Wikipedia can still find something.
The material developed has been salvaged, however. Personally, I am not too concerned about the Wiki site: My own feeling was that, although the historical record provided by Wikipedia allows detection of sabotage by hostile editing, it still demands eagle-eyed care. I would much rather develop the article within a closed group and make it available for review when it’s reached a level of stability.
However, that does bring us back to the question of how to make the arrangements. If someone has a website on which access could be controlled to some extent, that would make things easier.
Gavin, you do make an exception for Pat Michaels, and for Michael Crichton and for Senator Inhofe and so forth. You trash whoever you think deserves it and you feel good about it, right? Obviously it’s your blog and you are making whatever rules you want but can’t you just recognize that I didn’t say anything more offensive about UK gov-t that you said about certain individuals? Since when economic estimates of remote events belong to the realm of scientific debate? At best it’s an exercise in creative accounting.
[Response: My concern is mainly to maintain a non-zero signal to noise ratio. When discussion gets to the point where people are being sweepingly rude, it doesn't tend to suddenly become serious again. Economics is not our principle focus here, but efforts to prevent it have proved futile, so I'll go with the flow. Economics does have a tendency to bring out more entrenched positions and therefore a quicker descent to pure noise, thus I pay more attention to the level. With respect to my own comments, I'll clearly admit that I don't have much respect for Inhofe's, Michaels' and Crichton's scientific reasoning (for which there is much supporting evidence), but I have no opinion or interest in their overall mental state, competence or worth. I'd wager you feel similarly. All we ask is that people keep the level up. If you want no-holds barred back and forth there are plenty of places on the web for that and I'd wish you the best of luck. Just don't do it here. -gavin]
The trashing Michaels, Crichton and Inhofe may have received here is wholly deserved. They grossly misrepresent science to fit their agenda. I’m surprised that you should complain about trashing the above individuals. Besides, RealClimate has presented valid arguments as to why their message should be dismissed.
Btw, did you hear that Crichton named a character in his next book titled “Next”, after a political writer in DC, a real person, who criticized Crichton’s previous book, “State of Fear” ?
“On Page 227 Mr. Crichton writes: “Alex Burnet was in the middle of the most difficult trial of her career, a rape case involving the sexual assault of a two-year-old boy in Malibu. The defendant, thirty-year-old Mick Crowley, was a Washington-based political columnist who was visiting his sister-in-law when he experienced an overwhelming urge to have anal sex with her young son, still in diapers.”
The real person’s name is Michael Crowley, he’s a Washington based political reporter… Would you also complain that Crichton creates a character that resembles a real person by name and is a sex offender in the book ?
Nexus 6 writes :
“Michael Crichton is perhaps the greatest writer alive today. His character development surpasses that of Shakespeare. His plots out-rollick Tolkien. His masterful endings put Memento and The Usual Suspects to shame. With State of Fear he exposed global warming for the fraud it is. His latest novel, Next, will be remembered throughout history as one of humanity’s finest.
Well, maybe not. But I’m too scared to say otherwise, – cause I don’t want to appear as a character in his next novel…”
Advocacy science is not science. Its representing fact (sometimes misrepresenting facts) in a way that advances someone’s objectives that are outside what science can show us. Its usually political.
I have no problem in giving the facts to advance a political agenda, but make sure you are true to the facts. Schneider’s website has a good explanation of this. RPK Jr also makes a good point about this, just be sure to read his papers on this before you dismiss him as a skeptic.
Comment by Joeph O'Sullivan — 19 Dec 2006 @ 1:04 AM
It is the idea that a substantial review can be discounted just because it was commissioned by a government that I find extraordinary
The Stern review was announced in July 2005 and was produced by a core team of 23 people. It invited submissions from all interested parties and involved visits to countries outside UK. In other words it is a serious piece of work.
In a similar way I imagine all large comapnies are trying to forecast the impact of climate change on their business. But I would not automatically think that the company guy was going to have a better handle on the truth or a wider outlook.
Governments sponsor huge amounts of valuable information and then put it in the public domain. You cannot dismiss all of it with a wave of the hand as if it is inevitablly tainted.
What politicians do with the information is another matter
So Grant as a statistician, would you also bet that before 2012 there is a year that is the coolest of the last 15? I don’t see how your bet proves AGW, the true believers think only of CO2 and reject scientists like myself “obfuscating” the issue by pointing to the numerous other factors that effect climate and the possibility that CO2 is not the majority cause of climate change. I merely offered my true believer scientist friends a place to put their money where their mouths were, and thus since CO2 is rising and has been for over 100 years, then temps should follow most of the time at least if CO2 is the majority cause of the warming. But again, since I made that bet, egged on by my friends who believed 1998 was not an anomaly but the true trend (as reported by the press and breathlessly panicked NASA scientists at the time) I have won almost every year. So do you have a better bet than a random walk one time payout?
Sashka wrote in #179: “It is just this particular government because it’s already proven its – I’m trying to be polite – inadequate attitude.”
And that remains an ad hominem fallacy just as it was when you first stated it, regardless of whatever in the world you mean be asserting that the UK government has an “inadequate attitude” regarding anthropogenic global warming. Do you have any substantive criticism of the Stern report?
Comment by SecularAnimist — 19 Dec 2006 @ 11:45 AM
Russell Seitz responded in #169 to my comments in #160:
If he means “an existential threat” to be a threat to continued human existence this makes no quantitative sense – roughly a hundred times more people presently die of natural causes each year, and a single nuclear device could easily outstrip the present WHO estimate- which may itself be exaggerated.
I was making two separate points in contrasting global warming with terrorism in my comment.
1. By “existential threat” I do indeed mean that anthropogenic global warming is a threat to the continued existence of the human species — and indeed to all life on Earth, in the extreme worst case. Among other things, AGW threatens to wipe out agriculture, eliminate fresh water supplies for billions of humans, and destroy the oceanic food web from the phytoplankton on up. If all of the various GW-reinforcing feedbacks kick in — increased absorption of solar energy by ice-free Arctic waters, release of massive amounts of carbon and methane from thawing permafrost, decreased absorption of CO2 due to global die-off of phytoplankton, etc — then the Earth could be in for an epochal mass extinction of most of its life. Terrorism — even nuclear terrorism — is not remotely a threat of this magnitude.
2. Contrast the (probably conservative) WHO estimate of 150,000 deaths per year from AGW with the number of deaths per year attributable to terrorism. AGW is already killing more people than terrorism.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 19 Dec 2006 @ 11:57 AM
So Grant as a statistician, would you also bet that before 2012 there is a year that is the coolest of the last 15?
No. I’ll bet there isn’t.
I don’t see how your bet proves AGW, …
Duh! That was my point: that your bet is meaningless. You’re the one who brought the subject up.
… the true believers think only of CO2 and reject scientists like myself “obfuscating” the issue by pointing to the numerous other factors that effect climate …
Now you’re being disingenuous. I (and several others) pointed out the folly that takers of your bet are probably under the false impression that CO2 is the “only game in town.” The climate scientists who run this site are constantly posting about the “numerous other factors” that affect climate. To paint AGW believers in the climate science community as ignoring other factors is a classic “straw man” argument.
As to whether we’ll go above 1998 or below 2000 (the lowest global average T in the as-yet-incomplete 15-year interval 1998 to 2012 according to HadCRU), it depends more on those “other factors” than on the long-term trend. If we get a big el Nino, we’ll top 1998 (in fact we’re likely to even without), but if we have a massive volcanic eruption we’ll go below 2000.
If you want to dispute AGW, you should find arguments other than a statistically-stacked deck.
“As for your bet proposals, as I have stated before, mine as an AGW skeptic are paying off like a slot machine. 2006 will again not surpass 1998, so I have now won 7 and had one tie since I made my bet with the believers in 1999″
There must be plenty of gullible fools around. How much have you won?
I’ll second that, anyone accepting such a year-on-year bet is in danger of seeming foolish.
“… the true believers think only of CO2 and reject scientists like myself “obfuscating” the issue by pointing to the numerous other factors that effect climate … ”
As far as I can see the only ‘belief’ based show in town is the contrarist “It must be anything, but it cannot be CO2″ belief set.
And betting year to year on a process that is decadal in scale is about all the contararists have left (aside from extensive deployment of straw-men). We can play the ‘when is the end of the trend’ game for virtually any year-to-year period from ’76 onwards. But each time the blips turn out to be blips and the temperature keeps going onwards and upwards. http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A_lrg.gif
1983 – oh look the trend has ended!
1990 – oh look itâ??s ended again!
1998 â?? lets compare every subsequent year to that (lets not â?? lets use at least a 5 year windowed average on the data before we look at it, then we can avoid wasting everyone’s time with a plethora of nonsense.)
Global Average Temperature (NASA GISS) will keep on going upwards on a decadal basis, at least until atmospheric CO2 levels cease to increase. Why do I think that? Because the theory of AGW by enhanced greenhouse gasses suggests that, and I cannot sustain a reasonable argument against that theory.
The INTERNET is the ultimate existential medium, you are who you claim you are, you do what you claim to have done, and you can say you won a hundred bets. Woofing on the internet is kind of like punching marshmellows, at best silly. Having seen Dr. J in action at Andrew Dessler’s blog (I hate Gristmill btw, bad move Andrew and Coby) he is a fine practicioner of the art.
That being said, how about a bet that goes there will be no year between 2006 and 2012 that is globally colder than any year between 1975 and 1990 using the GISS surface record data set for both.
I have not won enough money (approx. $100/year) to help in my retirement from this bet, merely enough to cause my friends to consider that CO2 is but a minor contributor to GW. I said consider, they all still firmly believe that CO2 is the major factor (above 60%). I know that Mr. Rabett and of course others, can arrange bets that provide them extremely high odds of winning, or that push the payouts into decades rather than real time. I will not take those bets, I too know something of statistics and probabilities and trends and random walks. The real issue could be that when another global cooling trend starts, like happened from 1945-1975, then where will all of you be? I suspect that will happen soon, but of course have no idea when. That bet could be one I would consider, since that would certainly put the stake in the heart of this AGW Dracula that wants to suck the economic blood out of the world for political gain.
Still, let us look at the offer again: “would you also bet that before 2012 there is a year that is the coolest of the last 15″. As formulated there is ambiguity whether the years between 2006 and 2012 are included in the evaluation period. The problem is with the language, not statistical. I would take a bet that says that between now and 2012, inclusive, the annual global temperature will NOT be lower than in any year between 1993 and 2006 as judged by the NASA/GISS surface temperature record. I would even reformulate it to agree that if there was no large volcanic eruption (El Chichon or larger) between 2006 and 2012, then the baseline would start in 1994. In the case of a significant nuclear exchange we would all have other things to worry about.
Nordhaus feeds into the Stern model a climate impact in 2200 that causes damage equal to 0.01 per cent of output in 2200 and continues at that rate.
He then asks how large an economic impact would be justified today to avoid this damage starting after two centuries. His answer is that a payment of 15 per cent of current world consumption (about $US7 trillion) would pass Stern’s cost-benefit test.
“This seems completely absurd,” Nordhaus says, as indeed it is. “The bizarre result arises because the value of the future consumption stream is so high, with near-zero discounting, that we would trade off a large fraction of today’s income to increase a far-future income stream by a very tiny fraction.”
I’m rather proud of the UK government (for once!), actually. The Stern Report helps to shoot down the myth that ‘we can’t afford to address AGW’, in a language the markets can understand.
Stern suggests that the reality is that ‘we can’t afford NOT to address climate change.’ Even our esteemed climatologists would struggle to make that statement, with confidence.
This is a step forward for the debate, and also for RC, where climatological arguments are often easily rebutted, but economic ones have frequently been a bit of a stumbling block.
Of course, it is one thing publishing reports, and another acting on them. In the field of ‘talking the talk’, but not ‘walking the walk’, the UK really does lead the world! Hopefully the next Prime Minister will be better than the present incumbent, in this regard.
None the less, the Stern Report is easily the most comprehensive and exhaustive attempt to frame the issues, in terms of the economics, that we have yet seen.
Name me one other country that has contributed as much as UK, to the AGW debate. We may not be doing a tremendous amount on a practical level (sadly, its mainly window dressing for now), but boy, are we talking about it!
I’ve just ‘bigged-up’ my own government over AGW, which is weird, because i seem to spend most of my days ‘dissing’ their behaviour. Strange days!
It must be the effect of England’s hottest year since at least 1659 (thats 348 years!). Not just a little bit warmer, either. A full half of one degree of ‘clear water’ between this year, and the next hottest!
regards, Mark S
Comment by mark schneeweiss — 20 Dec 2006 @ 10:13 PM
RE: 156 “yes, methane (e.g., from cattle) is a more powerful GHG, although it’s duration (before it degrades to CO2+) …(is less)
Nevertheless, in searching for ways to reduce my GHGs I became a vegetarian, because meat production (not to mention flatulent cattle) is highly GHG insensitive (including energy for pumping water) …
Good news, one less worry. Methane levels have stopped rising in the atmosphere.
American Scientist, 2006 November-December issue.
“The concentrations of methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have both risen dramatically since the start of the industrial revolution, but unlike it more familiar green-house gas cousin, atmospheric methane has recently stopped increasing in abundance. … wasn’t entirely unanticipated, given that the rate of increase has been slowing for at least a quarter of century. …Yet the IPCC has predicted many of its conclusions on scenarios in which methane concentrations would continue to grow. Thus the recent stablization of methane levels is something that some scientists are trying very hard to explain.”
The American Scientist article includes a number of unproven hypotheses as to why CH4 levels have stabilized: Reduced rice farming in China; An increase in tropical storms that creates NOx components high in the atmosphere (NOx components react with CH4 and destroy CH4.); As well as the old standby, an increase in pollution (again NOx)
Comment by William Astley — 20 Dec 2006 @ 10:53 PM
Re “the true believers think only of CO2 and reject scientists like myself “obfuscating” the issue by pointing to the numerous other factors that effect climate and the possibility that CO2 is not the majority cause of climate change.”
Probably because the chance of that being true, in the light of what we know now, is so miniscule that it can be safely ignored. Perhaps the “majority” cause of global warming is heating pads under the surface of the Earth left there by aliens? That’s possible too, but most scientists will spend very little time on it.
“I have not won enough money (approx. $100/year) to help in my retirement from this bet,”
Unfortunately their aren’t enough gullible fools around to make a lot of money. Considering that the record virtually only ever gets broken by El-Nino years or thereabouts and El-Ninos only happen every 4 years or so, taking a 50:50 bet on something with at least a 75% chance of happening is a great way to make money. Global warming makes little difference to the odds of winning until the average warming rate becomes much higher than it is now. Global warming presents a great opportunity to make money off people who don’t know the basics of climatology.
” merely enough to cause my friends to consider that CO2 is but a minor contributor to GW.”
Re 189 //…that would certainly put the stake in the heart of this AGW Dracula that wants to suck the economic blood out of the world for political gain.//
I find this statement puzzling. Recognition of the AGW problem has been brought about by the work of climate scientists, with the vast majority in agreement. So what possible political goal commonly held by virtually all climate scientists could be driving, indeed, determining the outcome of their work?
Under the program, businesses in wealthier nations of Europe and in Japan help pay to reduce pollution in poorer ones as a way of staying within government limits for emitting climate-changing gases like carbon dioxide, as part of the Kyoto Protocol. Among their targets is a large rusting chemical factory here in southeastern China. Its emissions of just one waste gas contribute as much to global warming each year as the emissions from a million American cars, each driven 12,000 miles.
As pointed out in the article, Stern sets a near-zero discount on future costs. This is opposite to what Lomborg does: he discounts future costs according to more usual financial calculations.
It is not at all clear to me that Lomborg is right and Stern is wrong, on this matter. The problem with discounting is that ANY result, however bad, can be discounted into insignificance over enough time. That doesn’t mean that it’s no longer a disaster, it just means that it’s a disaster for your great-grandchildren instead of for you.
A rationale for using discounting in financial calculations is that, instead of spending to prevent an expense now, you could put the money in the bank and collect interest on it; and then you could have all the money ready to pay off the future expense, in the future.
As long as all the consequences are purely financial, this would not seem to be an unreasonable rationale. But if there are true environmental disasters (“end of the world” scenarios), this wouldn’t make much sense.
I just read a press release from the Center for Economic and Policy Research about a new study they’ve released titled “Are Shorter Work Hours Good for the Environment? A Comparison of U.S. and European Energy Consumption.”
The study breaks down GDP versus hours worked developed nations, with a specific focus on the differences between the U.S. and EU-15 (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom). There is pressure in Europe to adopt more of an American-style business model, but that would result in a 25% increase in energy used, making it much more difficult for those nations which have ratified the Kyoto Protocol to meet their goals.
On the flip side, if the U.S. followed the EU-15 in terms of work hours, employed workers would have seven additional weeks off per year (some of this in longer weekends) and the United States would consume 20% less energy.
Who knows, maybe Barabara Boxer will see this as the answer!
First of all, Professor Nordhaus’s paper is available on his website at Yale, and I would recommend interested readers to that, rather than the article in The Australian that Steve Reynolds linked to, which is entitled “Warming fears do not add up”, and gives most of its space to the usual AGW denialist tactics of railing against “global warming hysteria” and claiming that “the science is unsettled”, that the IPCC is dominated by politically-motivated individuals who “suppress dissenting voices” and so on.
Second of all, if you actually read Professor Nordhaus’s critique, it does not disagree with the Stern report’s finding that the long term economic costs of failing to address global warming will be greater than the costs of addressing it. Rather, Nordhaus disagrees with Stern’s choice of social discount rates — basically, the value that is assigned to the well-being of future generations relative to the well-being of the present generation.
The Stern report uses a near-zero discount rate — it assigns the same value to the well-being of all future generations as to the well-being of the present generation. Nordhaus prefers to “substitute more conventional discount rates used in other global-warming analyses, by governments, by consumers, or by businesses.” Using the social discount rates preferred by Nordhaus underlies “one of the major findings in the economics of climate change … that ‘optimal’ economic policies to slow climate change involve modest rates of emissions reductions in the near term, followed by sharp reductions in the medium and long term. We might call this the climate-policy ramp, in which policies to slow global warming increasingly tighten or ramp up over time.”
In contrast, the near-zero social discount rate used in the Stern report’s economic cost-benefit analysis supports a policy of near term, rapid, major reductions in GHG emissions. Nordhaus asserts that “central questions” about the economically optimal approach to reducing GHG emissions — “how much, how fast, and how costly” are “informed” by, but not answered by the Stern report, and “remain open”.
Regardless of whether Stern or Nordhaus is “right” about the “correct” discount rates to be used in an economic cost-benefit analysis — and this may be a fundamental philosophical disagreement about how much to value the well-being of future generations compared to our own — Nordhaus does NOT disagree that GHG emissions need to be reduced, or that the ultimate cost of failing to do so will be greater than the cost of doing so. Thus the use of Nordhaus’s critique by climate-change deniers who argue against taking any action at all to reduce fossil fuel combustion and its CO2 emissions is dishonest.
>Nordhaus does NOT disagree that GHG emissions need to be reduced, or that the ultimate cost of failing to do so will be greater than the cost of doing so…
… that ‘optimal’ economic policies to slow climate change involve modest rates of emissions reductions in the near term, followed by sharp reductions in the medium and long term. We might call this the climate-policy ramp, in which policies to slow global warming increasingly tighten or ramp up over time.”
That makes sense to me. Drasticly reducing CO2 emissions with technology available in 30 years will be much cheaper than now.
Long term capital investments (such as power plants, but not cars) should be addressed immediately though. A relatively small carbon tax (about equivalent to current gasoline taxes) would stear market investment away from coal and toward nuclear, renewables, and conservation.
It’s not like there are two equally valid ways to discount. There’s one that is used by everyone and there is another used by Stern to get the conclusions that he needed to get. He cheated and his results have no validity, period.
The idea of the climate policy ramp strikes me as a bit strange at first glance. To me, it’s like this: either you do it or not.
Gavin, I’m not sure why you assume a Democrat-led Senate would be “right” about climate change policy and a Republican-led Senate would not. Are Democrats genetically more intelligent than Republicans? Or by “more climate policy-related hearings will occur instead” in the new Senate, did you mean that a Democrat-led Senate would AGREE with you more than a Republican-led Senate? Frankly, I’m not sure a Democrat-led Senate would craft “appropriate policy responses.” Any response that throws money at a seemingly intractable problem is not appropriate. Reducing CO2 production to pre-Industrial Revolution levels to stop or reverse warming is an intractable problem. No one’s going to do it; yet that is the only thing (according to predicted correlations of CO2 to temperature) that will stop the warming. (Unless we start planting trees like crazy, which is cheap and simple–so of course no one will propose it.) If anyone attempted such a policy, do you have any idea what that would cost or what the impact would be on human beings? Much more than global warming, I assure you.
[Response: Not sure what you are trying to read into my comments. I was merely making an observation that Barbara Boxer is unlikely to be having hearings to showcase contrarian talking points. When the new senate has climate change hearings, they are much more likely to focus on policy responses. Personally, I think that's sensible. Whether any action results and what form that would take is uncertain, but I think most people would agree that talking about policy directly rather than hiding policy differences under a cloak of 'scientific' uncertainty is a step forward. -gavin]
Comment by Lauren Anderson — 21 Dec 2006 @ 6:31 PM
Lauren, nothing will “stop” the warming, it’s built in already.
Re #206: Seems like this place needs a RealPolitics section, as well as a RealEconomics one :-) Obviously, a Democratic-controlled Congress is going to at least make some noise about global warming for the next couple of years, simply as a way of getting at Bush. Beyond that, who knows? I find it interesting to note that among a list of those who have introduced climate-related bills is McCain-Lieberman, while some other Republicans are hurriedly distancing themselves from Bush on the issue. We can only hope that more of them will wake up and realize that global warming isn’t a partisan issue.
RE: ” …Two Russians scientists have indeed made such a ‘cooling’ prediction though, but curiously only in a press report rather than in any peer-reviewed paper, … ”
Is it possible that a significant cooling event is imminent? Have there been rapid cooling events in the past? What is different now as compared to past conditions?
The detailed paleoclimatic record does not support the orbitally driven insolation macroclimate model. (There are a number of papers that support this statement.) What are the implications of the competing galactic cosmic ray (GCR) modulated (modulated by the solar large scale magnetic field, solar wind, and the geomagnetic field) macroclimatic model?
It is known that deglaciation occurs when obliquity is at a maximum. It is not insolation, but rather periodic abrupt changes in the geomagnetic field that triggers the deglaciation. (It is hypothesized that periodic changes in the sun maintains the geomagnetic dipole field that has a decay time, if it is not recharged, of about 10 kyr.) There is an observed 41 kyr periodic change in the magnitude of the geomagnetic dipole field. The geomagnetic field is maximum when the earth’s tilt is maximum.
This hypothesis explains why the deglaciation event can skip obliquity cycles. The solar event is periodic on a roughly 8000 year cycle. The periodic recharge of the geomagnetic field is less strong if the solar event does not coincide with the peak of the 41 kyr obliquity cycle (maximum tilt).
How rapid is the change from interglacial to glacial climates, based on the paleoclimatic record?
Steve, Waiting, as Nordhaus advocates also means absorbing the costs of the CO2 emitted between now and then. Those costs are not zero, moreover if informed speculations about outside the box nasties are even partially valid, those costs could be enormous. Further, delaying action means that capital replacement will still favor large emitting systems (coal generation, etc) without amelioration technologies.
What Nordhaus actually advocates is a gradual introduction of controls. The question, of course, is how gradual is advisable.
“Are Democrats genetically more intelligent than Republicans?”
As a biologist I would say yes. It seems to have a genetic basis for reasoning ability. In this vein I think the likelihood for belief in the supernatural is passed on in a similar fashion. The Belief Gene if you will.
As an aside, I wish policy makers and economists would seriously and sincerely adopt the Hippocratic Oath and the Precautionary Principle in their work. First, do no harm. Decisions made today that affect the next generation should leave the biota at least as healthy as the condition it exists in today, and more importantly, should not remove or restrict options available to the next generation to repair or improve upon the biota as they in their own wisdom see fit. The Precautionary Principle, to my mind is a morph of Murphy’s Law (if it can go wrong it will) and Hofstadter’s Law (everything takes longer than you expect, even when you factor in Hofstadter’s Law). In the face of scientific or probabilistic uncertainty, err on the side of the path which offers the best chance to protect the biota because the consequences of some paths cannot be reversed. ie. species extinction.
Doug, I think most of the European Community has adopted the precautionary principle, at least in principle; it remains to be seen if it’s done in practice. The US, no. If the EU goes with business as usual under the pretense of carbon trades, that’d be the appearance without the behavior.
Seems to me the US has created a system that sporadically collapses, allowing the rich to re-emerge from the wreckage and start over without the burden of the average citizen’s ever-increasing expectations and claims and entitlements.
Fredric Brown’s short story “Letter to a Phoenix” (1949) is still the best description I’ve seen of that approach — if you haven’t read his short stories, look for it, it’s often reprinted.
Because we (humans) thrive in a small ecological range. There are now +6 billion of us. Easy portable energy is diminishing. Changes in our agriculture, changes in sea levels, and the advancement of pests and diseases into new environments where they don’t have known restraints — these things could lead to misery unparalleled in human history.
“Once upon a time, Axel Heilberg Island was a very strange place.
“… a full 8/9ths of the way from the equator to the North Pole, … thereâ��s not much to it beyond miles of rocks, ice, a few mosses, and many fossils.
“The fossils tell of a different era, though, an odd time about 45 million years ago when Axel Heilberg, still as close to the North Pole as it is now, was covered in a forest of redwood-like trees known as metasequoias.
“… Axel Heilbergâ��s forests probably received equatorial water and warmth from a prehistoric weather pattern unlike anything in existence today.
” … Because of its closeness to the North Pole both now and in the time of the redwoods, Axel Heilberg spends four months of each year in continuous sunlight and four months of each year in continuous darkness.”
I’m not sure if this is off-topic but the thread is about a politician, so here goes.
US universities are said to have a majority of democrat voters, at least among the faculty, which indicates that education fosters liberal inclinations. This could be balanced with the concept that teaching is a social good to begin with. Genetic influences certainly are a factor in learning and reasoning ability. Also consider the genetic factors at play here:
“Children who at age 4 were described by their teachers as “self- reliant, energetic, somewhat dominating, relatively under- controlled and resilient” identified as politically liberal 20 years later.
Conversely, children described as “feeling easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited and relatively over-controlled and vulnerable” favored conservative politics when they grew up.”