Very interesting post, Raypierre, and yes, we ARE living in interesting times. In this regard, I recently set up a Climate Clock, to keep track of PPM stats, and feedback welcome: One of the scientists at the Troll Station in Antartica told me privately that the reporter in question was warned that there is a diference between NOAA stats and current stats and the reporter should be careful what he reports.
Assuming an earth without ice sheets: if the planet experienced a long period of time (hundreds of thousands of years) with elevated CO2 levels; would ocean bottom water warm to near surface water temperatures? I’m thinking of a passage I read in an oceanography text discussing how the bottom water of the Gulf of Mexico is currently very cold due to past inflows of glacial melt from the Mississippi and sills that keep it from mixing with the Caribbean. I was left with the question of whether or not a couple of missed ice ages would allow this water to warm to Caribbean levels, as well as wondering to what extent this pool of cold water effects the current climate of the Gulf. What ranges of global temperature sensitivities to increased CO2 result if ocean temps, top to bottom, were assumed to be equal to a global annual average? I.e. If the ocean sink for heat were removed? Isn’t the current ocean heat sink a vestige of the last and previous ice ages? Is the lack of such a sink a factor in past “hot house” climates?
…bumps up tropical temperatures to 35C. In a scenario like that, the strange and unexplained resistance of Antarctica to warming might save some Antarctic ice, but that would be cold comfort, since the rest of the world would be toast.
That does not sound like a very scientific statement. What do you mean by ‘toast’, and what evidence is there to support that condition?
Comment by Steve Reynolds — 23 Jan 2008 @ 11:16 PM
One word – impact.
Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 23 Jan 2008 @ 11:40 PM
Surely Cretaceous and Eocene paleogeography is important here …. in other words the absence of a circum Antarctic current before the Drake Passage opened and also before Australia separated from Antarctica, plus the presence of a circum equatorial current able to travel between the Americas as well as through the remains of the Tethys Ocean north of Africa. Doesn’t this mean we have to frame our thinking about the role of GHG concentrations in terms of a quite different energy distribution system from that of today ?
[Response: Could well be. There’s no good way to figure ocean heat transports in your head, so I wouldn’t hazard a guess. Note that DeConto’s calculations are done with a mixed layer ocean. i don’t know if anybody has yet followed up a similar coupled ice-sheet/GCM calculation using a fully coupled model. I’m edging toward that myself. I’ll note that the ocean was held out as a great savior for lots of other hothouse paleoclimate problems (notably the low gradient problem), but hasn’t proved to be as key a player as had been hoped. The obvious thing to do would be to do a fully coupled CSM run with asynchronously coupled land ice sheets and Turonian geography. Given how long it takes for ocean models to equilibrate, and given that one needs multiple runs to get the glaciers to settle down, this could take a while. –raypierre]
I did e-mail André Bornemann just a few hours after the online version of the journal came out, and I was very interested in it. Dr. Bornemann did say that he was a Cretaceous-ice skeptic, and still was not even convinced after his Science paper, which I found interesting.
As you bring up we do have the paradox of ice, tropical-like SST’s, the paleobiological record, and of course high CO2, and then we have this study and other suggestions that Antarctica ice sheet was hanging around back then. Moreover, sea-level change near this time is on the the scale of tens of meters in a very short time. From our current knowledge there is only one mechanism known that is able explain such rapid fluctuations: glacio-eustasy.
One thing that the Bornemann study did suggest, and I brought it up here before, is getting better understanding of paleoelevation at the time (e.g., how much elevation is necessary to nucleate and ice and glaciers on Antarctica). At this point, I think models will need to tell us a lot more (At least in the near future) than what we might get from Cretaceous rocks at the time.
it wasn’t a scientific fact, it was a scenario…if the globe warms a lot, and antarctica doesn’t change much, that means from basic math that somewhere else must get much warmer. Call it “hot” “toast” “fried chicken” or what have you, but it probably won’t be good
If the cretaceous ice turned out to be true, than I would think that this just means greater resistance from Antarctica, maybe some regional stuff, I don’t know much about ocean circulation to say…
A good post, but your cavalier dismissal of the gradient problem surprises me.
For those who are unfamiliar with the issue, paleoclimate indicators during hothouse times indicate a little warming in the tropics and a lot of warming at the poles. Hence the temperature difference from poles to equator (i.e. the gradient) was much reduced. However GCMs do a poor (some might say dismal) job of replicating that change. For GCMs to get upwards of 20 C of polar warming you generally also need very substantial warming in tropics (way more than the ~5 C observed).
Or at least that is the gist of the problem discussed multiple times at AGU last month and mentioned (very briefly) in the last IPCC report. If you know something different Ray, please share.
From my perspective it seems that the paleoproxy data for low gradient has gotten pretty compelling, but the only GCMs that can “fit” that data that I’ve heard of need to be substantially fudged by building in large poleward heat transports. The only model I’ve seen that started to reproduce that without a simple fudge factor, created somewhat enhanced heat transport through abundant super-hurricanes.
[Response: It’s not a dismissal of the gradient problem. I only said that the new tropical data helps — it’s a far cry when people thought the Eocene tropics was even colder than today. There are two lines of thinking now going on now: (1) High climate sensitivity combined with partly effective thermostatting of the tropics by increase in hurricanes (notably Sriver and Huber, Nature), (2) The upward revisions of tropical T aren’t done yet, and in fact it’s even hotter than currently thought (though one has to be more speculative here and reconcile such high temperatures with the likely die-back of tropical land plants. And yes, the upward revision of Eocene Arctic temperatures puts part of the gradient problem back. –raypierre]
One group say CO2 increases first then temperature increases, another says the opposite, whilst others say that this is a normal cycle just like summer, autumn, winter, spring, and that the temperature was on the increase before man started burning fossil fuels and we can’t reverse it.
Who do we believe and why?
Any change in mankind’s behaviour that improves the quality of our air, water and soil has to be good.
Thanks for the interesting read.
[Response: I think you have misinterpreted the lesson of the CO2 theory of the hothouse. Sure, CO2 has been increased by natural processes at times in the past. However, it is known with 100% certainty that the present rise in CO2 is not part of a natural cycle. Multiple lines of evidence, including isotopic composition of atmospheric CO2, prove that the rise is due to fossil fuel burning and deforestation. It’s not a matter of believing the group of scientists subscribing to the CO2 theory of the Cretaceous vs. the bunch subscribing to the CO2 theory of global warming. Almost without exception, the groups are one and the same. There’s no conflict there. –raypierre]
An excellent popular science essay – up with the best of Gould or Dawkins. It would be nice to think this approach – describing what climate scientists are actually working on and arguing about – could engage the interest and thence loosen the dogmatism of denialists resistant to a frontal assault using evidence and logical argument.
[Response: Thanks so much. Believe me, this sort of thing was much more enjoyable to write than Chevaliers–Part II, even if the latter created more of a stir in the French press. Much nicer to be writing about good science again. The good science is thankfully much more typical of the scientific enterprise, and gives a much better picture of what life is like for scientists. –raypierre]
I searched the article for ‘decade’ as in warming per decade to see if 0.2C was exceeded. Maybe those gators had plenty of time to adjust. Also I doubt there were 6.6 billion of them with high metabolisms requiring permanent nest sites plugged into feeding tubes.
Instead of conjecturing about the distant past I think researchers should concentrate on stark problems like what if there are no viable fossil fuels left after 2040.
Is it possible that the reduced O-16 in the oceans is due to increased O-16 in places other than ice sheets? One thought that comes to mind is that hotter temperatures lead to increased moisture in the air, and that moisture is going to be naturally more concentrated in O-16 (being a lighter isotope). Of course, that doesn’t explain it lasting over only a “brief” interval of 200 thousand years, but it seems that there might be other explanations that don’t involve ice, and that might be either more likely during hotter temperatures, or due to a specific geography/aquagraphy that was present only during that “short” time.
[Response: The atmosphere won’t do it, because the total reservoir of water in the atmosphere is equivalent to something like a 2cm deep ocean. It’s not a big enough repository to affect the ocean isotopic composition. You could do it with massive amounts of cold (but unfrozen) freshwater in lakes or aquifers, but where would you put that much water? With that, you are also fighting the fact that when you rain out liquid you don’t get as much fractionation as when you snow out moisture onto a glacier, because the proportion of moisture lost from an air parcel start to finish is lower when you make rain. It’s less distilled. The only thing I can think of that would conceivably (and I hasten to add only conceivably, since I haven’t worked through the arithmetic) come close is to make the entire Arctic ocean into a freshwater lake, and while that may have happened episodically in the Eocene there’s no support for that in the Turonian. (BTW, I took the liberty of correcting your typo of 200 million for 200 thousand.) –raypierre]
Re #13 “Instead of conjecturing about the distant past I think researchers should concentrate on stark problems like what if there are no viable fossil fuels left after 2040.”
That misunderstands the way applied and fundamental science interact, particularly when you are studying complex structures with many unique features, such as the Earth’s climate and geobiochemical systems. In fact, knowledge of the distant past is crucial to the study of fossil fuel reserves – ask a petroleum geologist.
[Response: Indeed, one of the ironically disconcerting things about the Brinkuis et al Arctic core work is that it revealed massive amounts of organic carbon, in part from blooms of freshwater duckweed when the Arctic ocean went fresh. There was at least one poster at fall AGU modeling petroleum formation in these conditions. These cores just don’t look like normal cores — lots of organics, no forams, not much carbonate. At the same time that they are telling us to be cautious about increasing CO2, they are providing information about possible additional petroleum deposits — in a region that will become more accessible to oil exploration as global warming causes the ice to melt. Some people will make a ton of money out of that, but it’s a pretty vicious cycle. –raypierre]
it wasn’t a scientific fact, it was a scenario…if the globe warms a lot, and antarctica doesn’t change much, that means from basic math that somewhere else must get much warmer. Call it “hot” “toast” “fried chicken” or what have you, but it probably won’t be good
There were two reasons for my question:
1. I am sincerely interested in a knowledgeable answer, especially if these conditions might be a worst case result of unmitigated AGW.
2. If this speculation is just an idle remark, it seems rather unprofessional and irresponsible to come from a climate scientist representing objective climate science in a politically controversial subject.
[Response: Steve, you’re really going over the top here. “unprofessional and irresponsible,” come on now. For the record, since Steve seems overly literal minded, let me emphasize that my statement was not meant to imply that 35C tropical temperatures would turn the planet and its inhabitants into a common heat-treated wheat-based product. Nor do I think the moon is made out of green cheese. Now please why don’t you find something more substantive to argue about. I’m sure a lot of readers can give you an idea of what a 35C tropics would do to marine and terrestrial ecosystems — keeping in mind that if it’s 35C in the ocean, it will get a lot warmer on land. –raypierre]
Comment by Steve Reynolds — 24 Jan 2008 @ 10:36 AM
Could the resistance of Antarctica to warming,at that time, be due to the fact that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere weren’t as “well mixed”, as they are at present, because of temperature, pressure, convection or other anomolies?
“However, if Antarctica glaciates, the deep ocean should be filled with cold Antarctic bottom water, which should produce an additional positive isotopic shift in the uncorrected bottom dwelling forams”
I suppose that cold water is richer in 18O than warm water or is there another explanation?
[Response: Not so much that. What I was alluding to was the fact that forams fractionate oxygen relative to the composition of sea water, and they fractionate more strongly in colder conditions. According to the paleotemperature equation, you could get a 1 permil shift in benthic foram carbonate delta O18 from a 4C cooling of benthic waters. 4C cooling is hard to do for bottom water if you’re starting from a cold Pleistocene type climate, but quite easy if you’re starting from a warm climate. If it weren’t for the planktic data in the paper, I’d say that their isotope shift was just due to a flush of moderately cold deep water, not from ice. We badly need independent benthic temperature proxies for the Cretaceous and Eocene. Mg/Ca is good for the Pliocene and Pleistocene, but I’m not sure how reliable it is when pushed back to the Eocene. –raypierre]
Thanks for an excellent post. It would have been even better if you had resisted the urge to take the obligatory RC cheap shots against “dogmatic denialists”.
Or did I miss the part where the significance of mentioning Avery, Crichton and Singer in this context is explained? If not, please delete the first three paragraphs, and your points are better taken in the dogmatic circles we all love to hate so much.
[Response: Try reading the post, and don’t quote things that aren’t there. Where did you get “dogmatic denialist?” Crichton, Avery and Singer are brought in as real-life examples we have been asked to debate. They are also brought in as examples of people whose ideas are in an area that scientists don’t consider worth debating. Sure it’s a cheap shot, but it’s not worth an expensive shot. These are people with cheap (even worthless) ideas. –raypierre]
But, I feel Jonno was expressing the frustration many feel about the ticking clock giving us less time to tackle massive challenges facing us: food/water availability, liquid fuels, etc. in a warming world of more people.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 24 Jan 2008 @ 10:53 AM
Gavin, could you open a “Friday” thread (top of page) to intercept driveby/naive/elementary questions, so this can stay focused?
The (very brief) interview, 1/4 of the _Science_Podcast_ (found via links in first post by Ray) ends thus:
Interviewee – Richard Kerr:
“…. call for more data, but more data from different parts of the world. There’s concern that maybe there’s something peculiar about this one particular spot in the western tropical Atlantic where they’re reading this global signal.”
— good point. I recall Gavin’s comment after his China trip that paleo folks don’t cross-compare cores much yet. Needed for sure.
Excellent post as usual. The seeming glee that denialists sieze upon any result that could be interpreted as calling model results into question has always amused me. The empirical data are sufficient to establish that warming is occurring. The fact that nobody can construct even a semblance of a scientific model that explains these data without anthropogenic CO2 being the driver establishes convincingly the cause. And the paleoclimate is sufficient to establish that the consequences of rapid, significant warming can be severe indeed. The models are the only tools we have that could LIMIT how much we should be concerned. Right now it is the models that are suggesting scenarios by which we could limit the consequences of climate change without significantly harming our global economy. If the models are wrong, the upside risk of climate change cannot be limited, and arguments for draconiam measures are strengthened rather than weakened. That is why I keep telling responsible skeptics that the models are the best friends they have.
Antarctica without any ice is harder to imagine, for instance the South Pole is at a much higher elevation than the North Pole, there is always cooler air at higher elevations (say 600 mb) anywhere in the world , combine this with a low sun along with a weaker equator to Poles gradient (less advection) and there is room for a giant glacier. How then could some ice not survive in higher terrain? I think people forget about 24 hour a day darkness lasting for 6 months, and how cold it gets when heat radiation escapes to space constantly. Antarctica under permanent clouds would be much warmer, only then I can imagine a temperate climate at the South Pole.
If things are that “settled”, then what is the percentage, plus or minus 5%, of human-caused warming? Because it matters a great deal whether that is 90% or 10% when people are talking about spending trillions of dollars. There is at least some evidence out there to suggest that number is closer to 10%. I’m not saying that evidence is convincing, but it does exist, and ignoring it is not science.
For what it’s worth, many solar scientists are willing to admit that solar science is quite unsettled. That giant super-furnace not too far way might just have a bit of impact on Earth’s climate.
Please don’t hem and haw; if things are that “settled”, a number should be easy to come up with.
[Response: This is just the kind of rhetorical device that comes up in debates all the time. Do you want to play Perry Mason, or do you want to actually try to reflect on and understand the issues? If I said that the proportion of global warming to date due to anthropogenic influences is known to within 20% would that satisfy you? Would you then demand 1% accuracy? .001%? In any event you are asking the wrong question, because the forecast is not based on an extrapolation of the warming to date. Models employing a variety of different physical assumptions, yielding a variety of different equilibrium sensitivities, are equally compatible with the warming observed to date — and give greater or lesser forecasts for the future warming, as expressed by the range in the IPCC report. There will always be continuing developments in the scientific literature, attempting to narrow the sensitivity range by using constraints based on instrumental or paleoclimate data.
The notion of what is “settled” is not tied to some arbitrary precision level of some individual statistic one is trying to reproduce or forecast. The point is that right now the science says that there is a very low chance of low climate sensitivity, and a very real risk of high climate sensitivity. The big damages come from the high end, and politics makes decisions in the face of such uncertainty all the time — even decisions involving trillions of dollars of spending. If you think about it, you’ll surely be able to come up with plenty of examples, most of which have involved considerably greater uncertainties than those involved in the climate forecasts. –raypierre]
Were there any massive volcanic eruptions or large meteorite impacts around the time of this possible glaciation? What we might be seeing in this Cretaceous event is a temporary response to in injection of reflective aerosols into the upper atmosphere. A sudden cooling would be first manifested in Antarctica if the present is the key to this event in the past.
Whatever, happened, it’s an excellent problem for the modelers to address.
I’m not that familiar with the “gradient problem” but I just ran the GISS model with 8x CO2 (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/efficacy/Rc_ij.1.08.html), and even under 4x CO2 there is substnatially more warming over the poles than the rest of the globe (Actually Africa warms up as much as well). Just reading from #10, where is the problem here?
Also, if someone can answer this, but just of curiosity why is it so hard to get that one blotch in southern greenland to warm up?
[Response: The question is whether you can get a 20C Arctic and above-freezing winters without making the tropical ocean warmer than 35C. The extent of the problem is somewhat model-dependent, and somewhat dependent on just which part of the hothouse period you’re looking at, but it is a problem that hasn’t completely gone away. –raypierre]
Re Philip Dolan @ 11: “One group say CO2 increases first then temperature increases, another says the opposite”
And those who are paying attention know that CO2 can both lead temperature as a forcing, or follow temperature as a feedback, depending on the circumstances, and either way increasing CO2 makes it warmer.
It’s not a question of how cold is winter. There is little difference between -5 C and -25 C when it comes to precipitating snow and ice. Rather, the important question is how much of that snow and ice deposited in winter can survive through the 24 hour sunlight of summer in order to allow multi-year accumulation into ice sheets.
If you really believe the 20 C numbers for sea surface temperatures in the Arctic, then you’d need elevations of 3000-4000 m in Antarctica to counter an equivalent amount of warmth. A deglaciated Antarctica does have some terrain at that level, but like most continents the lion’s share of the terrain is below 1000 m. Similarly, keep in mind that those 20 C numbers are being reported in spite of an Arctic that would also suffer from 6 months of darkness.
In other words, the data really has been pointing to a ridiculous amount of warmth at the poles that would be extremely hard to overcome and form ice sheets. As Ray shows in a figure, models give you very little ice at >3 times CO2, and that’s in spite of the fact that models seem to underestimate high latitude warming when compared to proxy data.
The demise of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago was influenced by the impact of the Chicxulub asteroid. Perhaps the Turonian (93.5 to 89.3 million years ago) ice sheets, if they existed, came about due to asteroid impacts temporarily (200 K-yrs) clouding up the stratosphere, cooling the lands with dampened influence on oceans.
In order to match the data for the most severe hothouses you need a equator temperature of order 35C with a polar temperature of perhaps as much as +20 C. In other words, a warming of 10 C at the equator coupled to a polar warming of 30-40 C. The GISS model you point to gives values of like 7 C at the equator with only 12 C at the poles. That effect is in the right direction, but not nearly large enough. The polar amplification still needs to be far larger than in that model in order to reduce the gradient to a level consistent with the current interpretations of the paleoproxy data.
Re 16# (raypierre’s response) “For the record, since Steve seems overly literal minded, let me emphasize that my statement was not meant to imply that 35C tropical temperatures would turn the planet and its inhabitants into a common heat-treated wheat-based product.”
Dang, I’d already bought into butter futures on a huge scale!
Dodo wrote: “It would have been even better if you had resisted the urge to take the obligatory RC cheap shots against ‘dogmatic denialists’ … mentioning Avery, Crichton and Singer in this context …”
The phrase “dogmatic denialists” does not appear in Raypierre’s article and is Dodo’s invention. Raypierre refers to Avery, Crichton, Singer and Senator Inhofe as “skeptics.”
In my opinion, those folks are not “skeptics”. “Dogmatic denialists” is a more accurate characterization. Both Avery and Singer are closely associated with policy advocacy organizations that have received many thousands of dollars from Exxon-Mobil, Senator Inhofe is a well-known ally of the fossil fuel industry, and Crichton is looking to sell his books of fiction.
None of them exhibit actual “skepticism” about anthropogenic global warming; they are simply determined to deny it for reasons of their own. Since they have no interest in the truth, only in disseminating denialist propaganda (usually long-discredited propaganda), Raypierre is correct that it is worse than useless to “debate” with them.
If I may, iirc, Drs Thomas Rich and Patricia Vickers-Rich found evidence of permafrost at least one of their digs in Australia. One of them was their extended Dinosaur Cove site. I think it was about 114 my, but my copy of their book is at home.
I’m a great fan of David Mamet, whose eloquence you invoke:
” scientists are justifiably wary of being drawn into staged debates on such diffuse, ill-defined and largely meaningless topics as whether global warming counts as a “crisis.” In the war of the sound bites, the people who feel free to lie and distort can always win.”
But Mamet’s plays are melodramas ,a medium of catharsis unreal as the waves breaking over The Statue Of Liberty in the most famous extant scene of what climate models are presumed to mean by most people, because most people have never pick up a copy of Nature, and can no more read JGR than cuneiform.
Yet intelligent laymen , witness the fact that Mamet plays make it to the screen, are capable of “recognizing cant when they hear it and cartoons when they see them”, which is why lawyers may strive to dumb down juries by selection in tort cases, lest courtroom rhetoric set off baloney alarms. “Science is not generally thought of in terms of semiotics, which deals with the creation and manipulation of symbols ” but some cases , legal and scientific , are of such immense cultural and political import as to attract the full arsenal of cultural amplification, from TV to the Op-ed pages.
One of the loudest of baloney alarms sounds when those who know that they are right declare their opponents too contemptible to debate, while endorsing the cultural icons that embody their own creations ;if anything is more hazardous than coveting our own theories , it is presuming that those with political agendas will not use them for purposes of their own.
The quotes, by the way, RayPierre , come from the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal. I wrote them in regard to the political abuse of a 1-D optical depth model that having acquired a cartoon life of its own courtesy of a K-Street PR firm , was incorporated into an apocalyptic film called “The Day After.”
I believe you have seen the sequel. I know Al is familiar with both , as he chaired a 1987 debate on nuclear winter between yours truly and the ‘A’in TTAPS. Though Al found for the my side – the title of the event was ” Is Nuclear Winter Real And Relevant ?” as usual,he did not stick around to take questions. Plus ca change, mon vieux- toujours la semiotique!
[Response: I think Nuclear Winter is a good example of science dealing with its own problems on its own terms. The first estimates were made using over-idealized models, and made a big splash. Other scientists jumped on the phenomenon, and it didn’t take long before the estimates of the magnitude were reduced. That hasn’t happened with global warming, despite a much greater amount of research lavished on the subject than ever was expended on Nuclear Winter. It is true that there has been a small revival recently in thinking about Nuclear Winter in the context of regional exchanges. This is largely based on new estimates of soot production in urban fires, and vertical transport processes of soot. These, too, will be examined and cross-checked by others, and time will tell whether the phenomenon will turn out to be something worth additional worry. I don’t think a public debate is a good way to settle issues regarding self-lofting of soot particles by solar absorption. With regard to the original global-war Nuclear Winter scenario, the sort of things that indeed are appropriate for debate in the sense understood by the better sort of politicians are things like whether the additional damages from climate effects of Nuclear Winter are of a sort to significantly change the calculus of global thermonuclear war, in the face of the impacts from hazards like direct blast casualties and radioactive fallout. –raypierre]
It really is time to rise above both basic “who do I trust?” type posts as well as outright denialist provocations.
There are many examples in these threads of legitimate skeptical or educational questions, which the access we have to climate scientists doing science permits.
That access should not be abused. Newcomers need to be pointed to the pages where basic information is posted. All others are free to do their own legwork. Most denialist rhetoric has been well examined and well publicized. If a denialist refuses to believe what they learn from such analysis, or if they refuse to do the analysis, that is not RC’s problem.
We need more frequent posts; regular unthreaded posts or a forum; more editing of comments to keep them semi-focused and to whittle out ad-hom or rhetorical arguments.
RC needs a sort of rededication to its original mission: to provide the lay public access to climate scientists doing climate science.
Where is Gavin’s post about the GISS/Hadley discrepancies? I anxiously await his detailed analysis of two “reasonable” approaches to the data which yield different signs.
[Response: What we need is an extra 48 hours in the day. –raypierre]
Re #21 on intercepting naive, elementary questions, I remember being told in my early school days that there were no foolish questions, just foolish answers. An exaggeration for sure, but it was meant to encourage questioning things that we didn’t fully understand.
My question above about the homogeneity of the distribution of CO2 in the atmosphere during the Paleocene period was thrown out as a possible area to explore to account for the cold Antarctic during an otherwise warm earth. Not all greenhouse gases are evenly distributed throughout the atmosphere. There are physical- chemistry explanations for this,I’m sure,which are not all fully understood.
[Response: Your question might have been naive, but I hope nobody was implying that it was foolish. It is, however, easily answerable as the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere gives it time to become quite well mixed. What I had in mind for the sort of things that could (speculatively) make Antarctica less sensitive to CO2 increase were things like the surface inversion or changes in the lapse rate; a weak lapse rate inhibits the greenhouse effect. I suppose ozone could also be involved, along the lines that have been invoked by Susan Solomon and others as a factor in Antarctic climate change today. –raypierre]
Polar warming is amplified by increasing clouds in the winter season in mid-high latitudes and decreasing clouds in the summer seasons in lower latitudes. That seems to have been happening for many years already. What is NOAA NWS saying about that?
[Response: Pat, would you care to say what studies you are referring to that support the cloud feedback you are invoking? –raypierre ]
Hypabyssal basaltic and andesitic dykes and plugs of the Admiralty Bay Group (Upper Cretaceous and Palaeogene) cut the two stratiform complexes, sometimes also the Wegger Peak Group plutons.
Comment by David B. Benson — 24 Jan 2008 @ 4:47 PM
Here I am going off-topic on my own article, but while I have your attention, I thought this was as good a place as any to note that Andy Revkin’s piece today over at Dot Earth discusses the recently released AGU statement on global warming. Marc Morano (of Inhofe 400 fame) has tried to swift-boat this by claiming the AGU council doesn’t represent the membership as a whole. Andy has responded by asking AGU members to comment on the statement, to see if there is any groundswell of dissent. So, if you are an AGU member, by all means go over there and make your voice heard.
The “studies” are from my observations (what I saw happening) while I was Snow Hydrologist for the North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC NWS NOAA) – responsible for issuing annual Spring Snowmelt Flood outlooks for the Upper Midwest from the late 1970s until I was forced by NWS to retire because I chose to study and speak out on climate and hydrologic change which I observed happening in the Upper Midwest.
as to your response to 34, may I remind you that while Carl Sagan began his Foreign Affairs article on “Nuclear War And Climatic Catastrophe” with the words ;
“Apocalyptic predictions require ,if they are to be taken seriously, higher standards of evidence”
he subsequently refused to debate the matter with any of “the better sort of politicians” to whom you refer. It then,as you point out , took several years for climate modelers like Steve Schneider and Starley Thompson to rescue modelsof the KT impact from being hijacked as a vehicle for the rhetoric of extinction. They were of course accused of being in denial , but we won the cold war anyway.
Which is a Good Thing since it leaves us at liberty to read Bornemann, Sluijs and the rest of this fascinating stuff- thanks for reviving the Snowball Isotope Wars !
[Response: Right, Carl Sagan exaggerated, maybe overplayed the TTAPS study. But this wasn’t settled or sorted out by debates with Carl Sagan. Other scientists got on his case and published stuff. That’s why we know the real dimensions of the risk today. It all got sorted out rather quickly. It will be interesting to see how Toon et al’s attempted revival plays out in the literature. But my point? Sure, it can happen that scientists go public too soon, overplay their hands. But it was regular climate scientists who got in their and cleaned up the mess, even climate scientists whose political disposition would make them want to believe Sagan’s picture.
I wish to emphasize that I still admire Carl Sagan. Scientists are prey to all the same imperfections as anybody else, and Carl Sagan’s provocations served to shake loose some very important ideas. As I said before, a lot of good thinking about the effect of the KT bolide impact came out of the Nuclear Winter work. Sagan was also wrong in detail about the resolution of the Faint Young Sun (he thought it was ammonia that did it), but he still was the one who pointed out the problem and launched the field on the pathway to the solution. It’s good that science is self-correcting, since it allows us to enjoy mavericks like Carl Sagan without any long-term harm.
By the way, your facile claim that the massive over-investment in the US nuclear capability won the cold war is not very well supported. Let’s not get into that here, but since I let your one-liner through on this, you owe me a one-liner as well. –raypierre]
Wow, modeling things that happened about 90 million years ago within a timespan of 200k/years seems to be hugely ambitious. Even our solar system was not spinning at the same speed as today (fractionally faster) which would imply slightly different Milankovitch cycles as well, then count in a nasty fly-by or two … good luck guys !
And yes, there are some people who try to think ahead and offer solutions for the next 40 years as well. We are :-)
[Response: The question is whether you can get a 20C Arctic and above-freezing winters without making the tropical ocean warmer than 35C. The extent of the problem is somewhat model-dependent, and somewhat dependent on just which part of the hothouse period you’re looking at, but it is a problem that hasn’t completely gone away. –raypierre]
I’m assuming the problem is that the warmer the arctic is, the less gradient there is to drive advection, while the more heat is needed at the pole to counter increased radiative cooling.
Assuming this is the problem, I’ve speculated that perhaps the current system of Hadley, Ferrel, and Polar cells doesn’t apply to these scenarios, being replaced, at least during the summer, with something more longitudinal. Would the current models be able to show such a reorganization, or is the current system built-in to them?
“It does, but it has very little impact on recent climate change.”
That is a huge assumption. You are assuming that solar irradiance is the only variable we should be looking at with regards to the sun. Assumptions like this are exactly the problem. There are a large number of solar variables and they should all be taken into account; not dismissed and ignored.
Nice job Ray as ever. Great stuff. In this vein, I got this response from a critic who does not believe in AGW. 0.4% percent of the atmosphere can’t have that kind of influence. When asked to provide an alternat theory this is what he said:
“One of my pet theories is that there is much more coupling between the hot core and the oceans that cover 71% of the earth’s surface (particularly the deep parts of the ocean where the crust is thinnest) than is accounted for in the GCMs. If someone offered me grant money, this is what I’d look into. I read that volcanic activity in Greenland (in areas where, again, the crust is thin) might be partially responsible for its glaciers receding…”
What would your answer be to this Captain Nemo Theory of global warming?
Thanks for a most interesting discussion. It illuminates a significant part of a problem that I blogged about last week – namely, that until we can refine the models so that they can cope with the observed rates of Arctic warming, they can offer little relevant information for policy makers on the climate states that could emerge over coming decades. (Very interesting discussion of the modelling challenge – ”An Ice-Free Arctic? Opportunities for Computational Science” here: PDF – includes Gavin as an author (hat-tip: Steve Bloom in the comments to the post linked above)).
You describe the northwards heat transfer as a “fudge factor” in getting models to generate realistic warm Arctic conditions. That transfer is happening now, and it would be interesting to know what progress is being made in measuring it.
Equally interesting, from a “what’s going to happen” perspective, is what do northern hemisphere climates look like when the Arctic’s ice free year round?
Mark A. York (46) — Suggest he read The Discovery of Global Warming, especially the section on carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The web pages are linked on the sidebar, first in the Science Links section.
Comment by David B. Benson — 24 Jan 2008 @ 6:09 PM
If we are to make this a scientific discourse (it seems to me the word “debate” is the wrong word to use), then it seems to be necessary to go away from language like “believers”, “deniers” or “contrarians”.
If somebody is practicing skepticism on a scientific basis, that is a necessary component of the scientific mechanism, and it doesn’t make them a contrararian simply because they’re poking holes in the established lore on the subject (whatever that subject is).
It is well established that Gore’s presentation of GW contains significant scientific errors, so it seems imminently reasonable for him to address these problems with his presentation. To many people, it appears that he is refusing public discourse on this subject because he doesn’t want to answer to his mistakes.
That doesn’t fill the public with much sense of confidence that he has used this approach rather than update and correct his work. And in the end this type of error makes the sell of the real science more difficult, not easier. I also think that overselling the science doesn’t help. For example, we do need better monitoring of our climate than we have, especially in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. But it makes new funding more difficult if we are as a group trying to claim “it’s a done deal”.
What’s to be researched if we already know the answers?
When I am asked by lay people (I should mention I’m a physicist not a climate scientist) I do come down rather critically on the limits of the theory and experiment. This is how scientists function (if the science is to be healthy). And, after all, if the point is correct, tweaking it to address criticisms only makes it stronger.
I usually have to explain to people that regardless of what is settled, there are some basic policy decisions that don’t depend on the details of the science. That we should moderate our production of CO2, CFCs and other greenhouse gases is just common sense. And, if as I advocate, there is more uncertainty that some people are claiming, doesn’t this uncertainty make it more necessary (not less) that we act in a responsible fashion to stop what could be an unprecedented human disaster?
The fact is a greater uncertainty increases the risk factor, it doesn’t lessen it. And I think that’s a fact too often missed by some close-minded critics.
[Response: Oh come now. A New York Times article by the sloppy William Broad (who also botched reporting of the Phanerozoic CO2 business) hardly constitutes a serious indictment of Gore’s science. Even the article you link, careless as it is with the data and people it quotes, shows a substantial support for the idea that while A.I.T. had some minor flaws, in the big picture it is spot-on. Broad’s article misquotes the National Academy report regarding climate of the past millennium, and came before the substantially stronger backing of the Hockey Stick result that was made in the current IPCC report. I can’t speak for Gore, but while I think there should be some kind of forum for clearing the air about the scientific issues raised by his critics, I’m not sure that subjecting him to the kind of sound-bite sniping you see quoted in Broad’s article is the way to go about it.
I do very much agree with your statement about uncertainty increasing the risk. There are a few economists that have begun to understand this, and are starting to incorporate low probability catastrophic events in their models. If scientists sometimes get backed into a corner and feel obliged to try to minimize uncertainties, it’s because policy makers seem to forget your point about uncertainty when it comes to thinking about global warming. –raypierre]
Cheers — Pete Tillman
Professional geologist – Amateur paleoclimatologist
Comment by Peter D. Tillman — 24 Jan 2008 @ 6:31 PM
Mark, I wish I were making this up, but it is a measure of the bipartisan weirdness of the Climate Wars that the Captain Nemo theory of a toasty abyss has been championed not by the WSJ, but its political nemesis, The Nation magazine:
I was wondering, though. Can you get sulphate aerosols from a Southern Hemisphere source like the Ontong-Java to cool that hemisphere? 200k is not a bad timescale for flood basalt volcanism. Also, if you have East-African style uplift associated with the rifting of India and/or Australia from Antactica, then you only need to glaciate a 2-3km plateau, and not a sea level continent. And a high altitude glacier need not necessarily interfere with the southern ocean circulation.
C. W. Magee (53) — Flood basalts may well have occured in the land masses to be asembled to form West Antarctica. See my earlier post and also the following link to see that Java appears to be too far away for such a (presumably) local effect:
Comment by David B. Benson — 24 Jan 2008 @ 8:17 PM
Thanks! That worked wonderfully for what I was trying to say. These libertarian types will believe anything but scientists who work for NASA! Well I detest people who talk behind others’ backs which is the stuff of cowards where I come from up in Maine so here’s the message hand delivered as sad as it is.
I predict that within a decade we’ll wonder why we paid any attention to the Gores and Hansens and Manns and Schmidts of the world.
Ken C., Jan 24, 2008, 7:58pm EST
Mark, tell “Captain Nemo” that it’s more like 0.04% of the atmosphere not 0.4%. 0.4% which would be 4000 pppm. At least I assume the percentage quoted refers to C02 concentration and not just the level of hot air emitted by AGW skeptics!
Excellent post, raypierre. I’m a long time reader but first time poster.
Mark, Perhaps you might suggest to the good captain that if submerged volcanos were in fact responsible for warming that it would have to be the oceans (and the deep oceans, at that) that warmed up first. It never ceases to amaze me how many guys there are out there who are utterly convinced that on the basis of the one semester of algebra-based physics, the understand everything better than people who study the subject in depth for decades. There is a word for such people: morons.
I think there is a consensus that we won’t be seeing any optical depths of 20 in Toon’s Nuclear Whatever model.
I am prepared to entertain the hypothesis that the Soviets threw in the towel in despair at how far behind they were in GCM’s. Still, it was very bad form of them to liquidate Alexandrov for failing to get with the program.
To paraphrase Goudschmidt on Heisenberg, climatologists should not shoot other climatologists.
[Response: Who’m I shooting? Certainly not Sagan. Regarding your comment on Soviet GCM’s I recall back when I was at GFDL, when all the Russians who could travel were apparatchiks of some sort or another, running into one who had a sense of humor. Sitting in the back of a car on Route 1 he remarked that at his institute they used (what I heard as) a “CDC 100.” I remarked in surprise, a CDC 1000! (at the time a pretty big supercomputer, the thing you’d design TsarBomba with), and he clarified “No, iz CDC one hundredth. Is almost exactly one hundred times slower than CDC.” –raypierre]
The Bornemann paper is fascinating. I reviewed it for Science and agree with most of what you say. But you seem to lack perspective on the development of this idea. The Bornemann paper provides data supporting the Matthews-Stoll-Miller hypothesis. Matthews was scorned. Stoll and Schrag were ignored. And we (Miller et al., 1999, 2003, 2005a, b) finally convinced the community to look.
The hypothesis is that large (>25 m), rapid (
[Response: Ken, use & l t ; (no spaces) for a less-than symbol. Otherwise the software eats the comment… – gavin]
This has just reached me in Boston-it seems that such as wish to discuss Roy Spencer’s views will have a capital opportunity tomorrow evening at the Cosmos Club’s auditorium.
I do hope there is a good turn out for Roy certainly deserves to be heard:
The Philosophical Society of Washington is pleased to announce its 2232nd meeting will feature as guest speaker:
Dr. Roy W. Spencer, University of Alabama in Huntsville
“Manmade Global Warming: A Pending Catastrophe, or False Alarm?”
Friday; January 25, 2008 at 8:15pm
The John Wesley Powell Auditorium; 2170 Florida Avenue NW, Washington DC
(Attached to the Cosmos Club) No reservations required
[Response: Interesting to note that Roy is only the second speaker on climate change that the Philosophical Society has hosted since 1990 — and the one before him was Fred Singer, speaking on “Hot talk, cold science.” Strange, that. –raypierre]
#28 Robert, And then the intriguing evidence presented by Raypierre here shows substantial ice when CO2 levels were much higher than 2 X pre industrial levels. I can conceive +20 C in darkness near or at the North Pole, because it happened before as Axel Heiberg lonely sentinels of the past attest; mummified cedar tree stumps and leaves along with Ellesmere primitive Alligator skull. But there should always be some ice at higher elevations in darkness especially at latitudes 80 to 90 degrees South when a critical sun elevation angle, about 30 degrees, is not reached during summer. I’ve observed many a springs when the sun has no effect on snow until the sun exceeds that threshold. Now a few questions arise from this, since there was potentially Antarctic ice beyond Vostok’s 600,000 years, is there any possibility of finding ice millions of years old (not knowing how many drill sites were done)?
I know this is a bit outside the purview of a discussion on the extent of ice caps during a very hot period, but such a change in Antarctica during a rather limited period of time should have left some evidence in the fossil records of -at the very least- the adjacent areas(quite apart from the foraminifers). I am not thinking about a mass extinction or a sudden blooming of biodiversity, but what about pre- or proto-mammals for instance? Any known confirmation of a sudden change?
Comment by Francois Marchand — 24 Jan 2008 @ 11:13 PM
VV Alexandrov was the GCM jockey who was hustled into Le Machine Bleu a white van actually) outside the Soviet embassy in madrid in 1985, after failing to toe the party line on large optical depths, and the identity X NATO cruise missiles = N Extinctions of H.sapiens; where N is an integer equal to or greater than one.
I’ll spare you the corny particulars, but Alexandrov is still missing,and after 22 years, presumed very dead. Andropov was running things at the time,and the wear and tear on scientific mavericks considerable.
Ray, don’t you see by now that, you spoiled a great piece with the first three paragraphs. Most of the commentators are not talking about the cretaceous at all, but the current warm period instead.
And Crichton for one, has never made any claims to be an expert on the cretaceous. His specialty is the jurassic;-)
[Response: To some extent, the debate on the debate has taken over the discussion, but actually I think that’s important, too. One of the things I was hoping to bring out was the way ideas are churned over by scientists, and how disputes are resolved. There is an important question here, too, about how to bring science to the public. Is a public debate an effective way to communicate the flaws in, say Avery and Singer’s book? Or does the public just come away with the idea that two sides are arguing about this so there must be disagreement? And debates also rely on the real-time facts at the debaters’ disposal. If somebody claims “there’s global warming on Mars” and among the hundreds of skeptics arguments you happen not to know the answer to this one, what do you do? Science as carried out in journals and scientific meetings is an extended deliberation, offering lots of time to think about responses, get new data, and do new calculations. This works fine among scientists, but the general voting public does not read the scientific literature or go to AGU meetings. So what do you do when skeptics take the argument outside the usual scientific venue? What is in fact the best way to get junk science (again, Avery and Singer is a prime example) out of the public discourse? I’m bringing this up because in fact I’m not certain that my persistent refusal to appear on talk shows with Avery actually is the best decision. It’s something that is worth discussing. –raypierre]
So, JB, since you think everything can be explained by the Sun, perhaps you’d care to posit a mechanism. I say this because nobody has yet come close to positing such a mechanism that even gets you in the ballpark. Just to be sure, maybe we ought to be looking at the phase of the moon and wheter it is in the 7th house and all that, too?
[[“It does, but it has very little impact on recent climate change.”
That is a huge assumption. You are assuming that solar irradiance is the only variable we should be looking at with regards to the sun. Assumptions like this are exactly the problem. There are a large number of solar variables and they should all be taken into account; not dismissed and ignored.]]
Nearly all those variables correlate with TSI. They’ve been examined; no connection was found. Your assumption that they are “dismissed and ignored” is ignorant and wrong.
[[“One of my pet theories is that there is much more coupling between the hot core and the oceans that cover 71% of the earth’s surface (particularly the deep parts of the ocean where the crust is thinnest) than is accounted for in the GCMs. If someone offered me grant money, this is what I’d look into. I read that volcanic activity in Greenland (in areas where, again, the crust is thin) might be partially responsible for its glaciers receding…”]]
The core is separated from the surface by the mantle and the crust. The average heat flow at the surface from the Earth’s interior is well known; it’s about 0.087 watts per square meter. Compare that to the 237 watts per square meter of sunlight absorbed by the climate system.
I have to say I find little value in taking public debate of science, precisely because the public are not interested and are mostly ignorant of science. True scientific debate takes place between the pages of refereed science journals and at conferences–that is between experts. It works because the participants share a common culture and have agreed to be bound by the rules of evidence. I think it is naive to expect nonscientists–or those like Lindzen who have given up on science–to play by those same rules. And when you factor in the audience–50% of whom (if they’re Americans) believe in the Biblical account of creation(!), it all smacks a bit too much of trying to teach a pig to sing. Do you really think that Captain Nemo (referred to above by Mark York) is will be persuaded by rational argument?
One additional point that may be worth adding to the discussion regarding the gradient problem are temperature records from a rapid greenhouse warming phase, 55 million years ago, called the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM). This phase occurred superimposed on already warm conditions, with (largely?) ice-free polar regions and low equator-to-pole temperature gradients. Warming during at the onset of the PETM comprised 5 to 8 degrees C in the tropics, mid latitudes, as well as in polar regions and the deep ocean. Hence, the temperature gradient did not increase during global warming during the PETM, in the absence of ice-albedo feedbacks. Whatever mechanism caused the reduced the reduced gradients, it was pretty much saturated during the early Eocene.
[Response: Thanks for stopping by, Appy. Hope to meet you sometime. Indeed the PETM deserves a post of it’s own. Are you guys going back to drill the Arctic again anytime soon or do the Russians have their icebreakers tied up with their territorial claims on the Lomonosov ridge? –raypierre]
`Gavin, could you open a “Friday” thread (top of page) to intercept driveby/naive/elementary questions, so this can stay focused?’
In #34 Walt Bennett said:
`We need more frequent posts; regular unthreaded posts or a forum; more editing of comments to keep them semi-focused and to whittle out ad-hom or rhetorical arguments.’
Now I add that I too hope for a recurring RealClimate feature under which questions and comments that would otherwise be off-topic or miscellaneous can regularly be collected, with responses when appropriate from the climate scientists blogging here. I expect this practice would have much the same benefits that Roberts and Bennett have suggested. Unlike your occasional Friday Roundup, however, the feature need not require any of you to compose a starting post. You could instead merely enter the `Unthreaded’ headline and the date.
Timing is interesting- the last one was on the heels of:
R.W. Spencer and J. R. Christy’s declaration that satellites were not seeing a significant AGW signal “”Precise Monitoring of Global Temperature Trends from Satellites , “Science 247 (March 30, 1990): 1558
re (#51): Russell, I think it is a misstatement to say that the theory is championed by The Nation Magazine. It is championed by one columnist in The Nation magazine. The Nation seems to give their columnists very free reign and Cockburn has some very nutty ideas (such as his ones on global warming) that don’t seem to be shared at all by the editors in their editorials (or by any other contributing writers to the magazine that I know of).
Unfortunately, I do not feel that the scientific community has done a good job at all when it comes to translating the issues to the laymen, and getting quality information out to laymen venus (realclimate being a good exception). Maybe I am the only one who thinks this way, but there is a large disconnect between how scientists and laymen are thinking of the issue, where the actual debates are, and what the implications mean. Al Gore should be commended in this regard, because despite “errors” or the simplicity in his presentation, he is getting people to think about it.
But people still say to me “what is 6 degrees…that is nothing” or “if sea levels rise a half a meter, where is the concern?” or “only 0.8 C, doesn’t sound like a trend to me, and the weather man can’t even get next week right, I’m supposed to accept ‘by 2100′ projections?” In my meteorolgoy class last year, we ended up getting in a debate on anthropogenic global warming, and one fellow remarked that it was a natural cycle, and I asked him which natural cycle, and he said “the natural cycle the earth goes through.” Round and round we go.
The problem is people read too many wingnut sites, and scientists need to be a bit more aware that the average joe decides to watch a youtube video, and check out Inhofe’s blog, when making a decision on “if it is real or not.” The fact is you are not going to stop that. And when average joe sees that raypierre declined a debate on Inhofe’s blog, he isn’t going to think “raypierre knows these people aren’t worth debating,” he is going to think “raypierre cannot defend his ideas.” Unfortunately, you are left with not too many options.
“The hydrostatic paradox of controversy. Don’t you know what that means? Well, I will tell you. You know that, if you had a bent tube, one arm of which was of the size of a pipe-stem, and the other big enough to hold the ocean, water would stand at the same height in one as in the other. Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way. And the fools know it.”– Oliver Wendell Holmes
Re: #66; One problem is that there are very few Cretaceous rocks exposed on the Antarctic continent. The only real exposures occur on James Ross, and Seymour Islands (Antarctic Peninsula) (the Fossil Bluff Group, Albian, and Campanian-Maastrichtian Marambio Group).
From a modern view, the reason that the subject of this post has importance, is that glacio-eustacy is the dominant component of sea level rise, and thus what we may learn in the ancient record may give us some inkling of how tricky it is to forecast how sea level might respond during a very warm global climate.
The idea that there might have been ice sheets on Antarctica during the Cretaceous, challenges recent assumptions, but is not new in the literature. Matthews and Poore (1980) suggested such nearly 30 years ago. There is also more than a little evidence that ice sheets on East Antarctica may have been present during the superhothouse climate of the Middle/Late Eocene. For anyone wanting to gain a better or broader perspective of this evidence, I advise those interested to find these:
Matthews, R. K., and R. Z. Poore, 1980, Tertiary d18O record and glacio-eustatic sea-level fluctuations: Geology, v. 8, p. 501–504.
Barron, E. J., B. Larsen, and J. G. Baldauf, 1991, Evidence for late Eocene to early Oligocene Antarctic glaciation and observations on late Neogene glacial history of Antarctica: results from Leg 119: Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program Scientific Results, v. 119, p. 869–894.
Hambrey, M. J., W. U. Ehrmann, and B. Larsen, 1991, The
Cenozoic glacial record from the Prydz Bay continental shelf,East Antarctica: Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program Scientific Results, v. 119, p. 77–132.
Eittreim, S. L., A. K. Cooper, and J. Wanneson, 1995, Seismic stratigraphic evidence of ice sheet advances on the Wilkes Land margin of Antarctica: Sedimentary Geology, v. 96, p. 131–156.
Birkenmajer, K., 1991, Tertiary glaciation in the South Shetland Islands, West Antarctica: evaluation of data, in M. R. A. Thomson, J. A. Crame, and J. W. Thomson, eds., Geological evolution of Antarctica: Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 629–632.
Ray says: “However you slice it, it starts to look like the Eocene and Cretaceous are tugging at our sleeve, whispering to us “There are things going on with climate you don’t begin to understand. Proceed with caution”. Ray, we actually completely agree on this!
Re;37- Thank you ,Raypierre, for your response. I’m relieved that sincere naive questions aren’t verboten(at least not altogether). I didn’t connect the long lifetime of CO2 to it’s well mixed distribution in the atmosphere. It seems intuitive now that I know, yet a number things that often seem to be intuitive turn out not to be so,e.g. that,if we are moving relative to one another, we all carry our own time and space around with us.
@68, raypierre’s inline response about the debate on the debate:
I just posted on another some thoughts I was having that, upon reflection, fit better on this thread, so I’ll excerpt the relevant part of it here:
“[when trying, as a layman, to evaluate the arguments]…here’s what I do. I think of the hierarchy of evidence I learned in college: true experiment>correlational study>case study>anecdote>expert opinion>personal opinion. Lab experiments verify the properties of CO2 that lead to it functioning as a greenhouse gas, as well as a lot of (all?) the other physics in the models. The balance of experimental and correlational research leads to a pretty coherant picture of what’s going on, summarized by the IPCC. There are margins of error around all the terms, but things are constrained enough to make it seem profoundly unlikely that some new finding will fundamentally disrupt the big picture. People regularly tell stories about being able to grow certain plants in zones where they formerly wouldn’t grow, spring coming earlier, winters being milder, etc. News reports about changes in the Arctic are frequent, I’ll also count that as anecdote. You can find “professional” opinion going either way, but when bodies of scientists have issued official positions, it has AFAIK always been to endorse the IPCC synthesis. The only place where I encounter as much support for the position that the current warming isn’t anthropogenic (or has stopped, or whatever) is at the lowest tier of evidence: personal opinion. However, there are several very vocal “experts” of the non-anthropogenic position, so I’ll grant that there is some debate at the lowest two tiers of evidence.
But my impression is that many if not most people put expert opinion much higher in the hierarchy, and then weight expert opinions differentially according to how closely the various experts match their own preexisting beliefs. So in effect, the determining factor in how many laypeople evaluate the evidence is…how well it accords with what they already believe, or want to.
Here’s where I’m going with all this–the professional and amateur climate scientists here, and at Tamino’s place, and Eli’s, etc. often recommend that we laypersons educate ourselves about climate physics so we can grasp the significance of the evidence. I agree. But given that we know, or at least strongly suspect, that for most people that will never happen, I recommend that the climate folks also educate themselves about another professional field: social psychology, particularly persuasion and attitude change. I think it’s important. And I think those who have set themselves up as your idealogical opponents are ahead of you on this. I’m not suggesting that you use any of the “dirty tricks” of marketing that the other side is already using–going over to the dark side would ruin your credibility with us idealistic people. But I really, really do think you should get more savvy about the social psychology of attitude change.”
In #47 Gareth wrote “until we can refine the models so that they can cope with the observed rates of Arctic warming,” …
Increasing cloudiness in winter in mid-high latitudes, and less cloudiness in summer in low-mid latitudes, are only part of the reason for more rapid thawing happening, than modeled, in the Arctic (#38).
Another factor is latent heat being released from condensation on ice and cool ground as humidity increases with warmer temperatures in the mid-high latitude regions.
Increasing winter humidity (dewpoints in Jan-Mar) at four stations in the Upper Midwest (Fargo ND, Duluth MN, Minneapolis MN, Eau Claire WI) are shown for the 1950s-2003 period at:
Religion or history can be debated; finding a flaw at the root causes the whole thing to fall down.
Science can’t be debated, it grows like kudzu — patches don’t thrive, but new growth happens wherever an idea reaches a place to root.
The thing missing in attempts to debate science is any attempt to teach people how to look things up for themselves.
Who teaches that? Librarians.
Suggestion — if you feel you must respond, challenge a two-column side by side written debate under the supervision of a public library reference desk, where the rule is something like
2 column-inches per day, and cite your sources. A print/audio/video version could provide the links, but the link should be to the reference librarian’s page hosting the _source_ material, and satisfy the reference librarian’s professional judgment.
At the end of the week or month publish it as a series of side-by-side ‘debate’ pages, on each topic raised — with a link to a reference librarian’s help desk to look up new information.
I think scientists are going to have to put on public face and debate not only the crackpots, but the handful of credentialed sceptics like Lindzen and Christy and Spencer. And somehow make the point that only looking at scientific issues through a political filter is a fool’s errand. That was my point in the Gather.com thread.
The sceptic questions are the ones the public sees. I’m hoping my upcoming novel answering Crichton will help spark meaningful discussion and hopefully prominent exposure. We’ll see. I know who I’m gonna call to chime in.
“The thing missing in attempts to debate science is any attempt to teach people how to look things up for themselves.”
This is important, but I think the first step has to be persuading people to be open minded enough to evaluate the evidence fairly and update their beliefs accordingly. I know some people who are quite capable of looking things up, and they use that skill only to find things that support their preexisting beliefs.
[Response: Something to keep in mind is that only a tiny fraction of people will ever get to a live public debate or public lecture. In line with your comment about people seeking out material that consolidates their pre-existing beliefs, one need only think about the fragmentation in audiences of talk radio and TV. There are lots of people who get all their information on global warming from Glen Beck’s Headline News and similar shows. You could also say that there are people who get all their information about global warming from Al Gore and similar expositors. I don’t mean to put these two in the same class — having looked at both sources as a scientist, I am firmly convinced that people who get all their information from Gore (whatever his minor transgressions) are living in something closer to the reality-based community than people who get all their information from Beck. But all that aside, the essential problem in public discourse today is how to get all people to seriously consider a variety of different sources of information. And also, how to teach them ways to decide between conflicting viewpoints, either by learning what constitutes a worthy authority, or by directly understanding the arguments. –raypierre]
“the essential problem in public discourse today is how to get all people to seriously consider a variety of different sources of information. And also, how to teach them ways to decide between conflicting viewpoints, either by learning what constitutes a worthy authority, or by directly understanding the arguments.”
Perhaps more fundamental is to inoculate society with a more healthy skepticism. On all sides of this issue we have a dangerous tendency to search out information that supports our preconceptions, something exacerbated by the sheer volume of information available on the internet (where it is all too easy to see what we want to see).
We need to emphasize a neutral approach to knowledge in our scientific education, where we can cast aside our preconceptions for a moment to objectively evaluate the evidence on any given issue. But as with many things, it is far easier said than done.
…in fact I’m not certain that my persistent refusal to appear on talk
shows with Avery actually is the best decision. It’s something that is
Still I think refusal is right; but we should sell it better. What about the dueling code? “The challenged has the right to choose his own weapon … The challenged chooses his ground”. So there is no refusal to debate, but rather the right to choose the peer reviewed literature as the “ground” and the “weapon” ;-)
[Response: I think this is a very good analogy. My choice of weapons is the peer reviewed literature. Their choice is the oral single-session debate. They can say “raypierre won’t debate,” but I can say “Avery won’t publish ” (in the peer-reviewed literature. But not only does that look like a stalemate, it still leaves us with the problem that anything settled in the peer-reviewed literature needs to be communicated somehow to the larger public. Nonetheless, when cleaning Mark Morano’s clock over at DotEarth, I’ve tried to emphasize that most of the Inhofe 400 can’t be taken seriously, because the ideas that qualify them as skeptics have not been subjected in any way to peer review. –raypierre]
“what constitutes a worthy authority”. This is the part that really dismays me: the unhelpful role played by some scientists and engineers in other disciplines – people who really ought to know better.
There are just enough of them who, after a moment’s reflection or a simple calculation, are sure that they’ve found the key that overturns decades of research in another field. Don’t get me wrong; interdisciplinary work can be very productive, but not in this manner.
Can you blame the laymen for having trouble sorting it out?
For a rather intense look at how “truth” is determined in science, democracy, courts and markets, see the lead article in the American Bar Association’s Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000, Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition for Society’s Benefit. http://www.davidbrin.com/disputationarticle1.html
…it still leaves us with the problem that anything
settled in the peer-reviewed literature needs to be communicated somehow
to the larger public.
Sigh, true. But that’s education, not debate.
I have sometimes responded to ultimative demands that I prove the reality of evolution with “Read the textbooks. This is textbook stuff. I am a teacher; teaching is what I do for a living. Why should I teach for free someone unwilling to learn?”
Which is what RC does, though much of the audience here — the intended audience — is willing to learn. Never forget that the appropriate format for textbook science is teaching, not debating!
Re: 85 “We need to emphasize a neutral approach to knowledge in our scientific education, where we can cast aside our preconceptions for a moment to objectively evaluate the evidence on any given issue.”
Surely, your suggestion is the only way out of our cultural difficulty with the concept of truth. My experience as a goldfish in this American bowl is that your remedy will be almost impossible to administer. It would be hard enough to upgrade from legal to scientific standards of “debate” or discussion, a dichotomy Raypierre points out in his post. But even the word “debate” has been degraded (as have a plethora of other words) to near meaninglessness. Consider the political pageants we refer to as “debates.” Nothing resembling reasonable discussion can get a word in edgewise, aside the soundbytes. One of the candidates may say something incoherent, like “there you go again,” after which all consent manufacturing machinery declares such a statement a master-stroke which “won” the debate.
Raypierre is well-advised to avoid lending any legitimacy to these stupid games we call debates. For the most part, people in our culture have lost the very concept of truth as something non-fungible. The truth is whatever we want it to be. You only need to believe, and to clap, in order for Tinkerbelle to revive.
Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 25 Jan 2008 @ 3:48 PM
This is very interresting subjects, and a good article from you, Raypierre!
I can see there are some questions around how the temperature could be as high as 23C in the Artic. I wonder if we could explain it with some of todays observations?
For us nordic (norwegian) people, we are quite used to experience that our warm (T-shirt and shorts) summer, in average starts in June. On the other end, august is sometimes even the hottest summer month, while may, which give us the same elevation to the sun (and radiation) as august, seldom are. The reason are the vast amounts of snow and ice still covering big areas of the mountains in Scandinavia, cooling the air when the wind flows over this surface.
Ice and snow is giving an tremendous cooling effect, as long it is there. Beside fairly high radiation from the sun in summertime, we are also receiving enormous amount of hot Golf stream water. Especially the latest years, we are experiencing «indian summer» (above 20C for at least 24 hours) more frequently and even further north. Try to imagine the needed energy to melt the amount of disintegrated ice in the Artic during the short summer season? When you know the amount of ice melted, think about a future with all ice melted in the Artic around july/august? The same amount of hot Golf stream water still sweaping north, will fast give such conditions above 20C, when the basic temperature is 35C from the tropical area.
About doing panel discussions aboute Global Warming:
I would love to see the following demonstation from the beginning of such a talk, where you or anyone doing that, starts out with the following setup/actions:
– Two one liter glass-bowls with 0C water, and a termometer attached
– Both of them are added a equal hot warming element.
– After 10 minutes or so, ONE is BOILING (100C), while the other still holds 0C!
– Oh… I forgot to say that this bowl still holding 0C, still has some ice cubes left which has not melted…
– This will REALLY demonstrate the vaste amount of energy needed to simply MELT the same amount of 1 Kg ice (0C), compared to rise the temperature with 100C in 1 Kg water.
So it makes it easier to understand the important refrigiator effect the Artic ice is giving us
Comment by Kjell Arne Rekaa — 25 Jan 2008 @ 9:09 PM
Raypierre good debate. A couple of (possibly naive) geochemical questions, which if they haven’t been asked perhaps should be. Is there any hope of estimating ancient CO2 concentrations via the effect of CO2 on ocean acidity? I.e. could there be missed proxies for ocean PH which might shed light on CO2 concentration?
The second question has to do with plate tectonics, which to my understanding sometimes varies in speed. Speed of the tectonic conveyor belt can effect (I think it’s been a very long while) the distribution of water between the oceans, and the mantle, as water is incorporated into descending slabs, and liberated via vulcanism. Could this process lead to long term changes of Oxygen isotope ratios, independent of surface conditions? Also the speed of tectonic motion effects the average depth of the ocean (faster means younger warner less dense seafloor), and presumably the ratio of land to water as well. I think the time scale of these process changes is larger than the 200Ky glacial-by-proxy interval, but perhaps many proxies could be effected together.
[Response: When it comes to geochemistry, I’m as naive as the best. I have a good handle on O-18, but I’m still feeling my way through the various things that affect carbon isotopes and other isotopes. Dave Archer could answer your question about ocean pH better than I can, but my understanding is that the Boron isotope proxy is basically a pH proxy, turned into CO2 proxy via the chemistry you have in mind. Tectonics has no significant effect on oxygen isotopes on these time scales, and probably not on any other time scales. There’s just too much ocean water relative to the water vapor outgassed from the interior of the Earth. –raypierre]
Thanks for the response. Do the Boron PH proxies provide much of a constraint on the CO2 concentrations? I’m not convinced about the O isotopes. I had the impression that the total amount of water in the mantle is quite large. IIRC downgoing slabs may contain 1-2% water, and the volume is huge. At least that seems consistent with the claims of exobiologists that a planet must have working tectonics to be suitable for life -the theory being that the recycling of certain chemical constituents (and effective buffering of surface concentrations) being critical. I suspect the time spans involved may be hundreds of millions of years.
#77. Chris, you are not alone in your frustration. As a journalist with a degree in science (way back), I have noticed that the public at large is simply not able to move beyond the first round of arguments. They just adopt whatever feels good and right in their own immediate reference group, and then pick what they read in order to get their chosen opinions confirmed – if they read at all.
It is very likely that this will never change. Even among journalists, there is the same unwillingness to have one’s views seriously challenged. So we get the same outlets churning out the same message over and over again, partly because journalists want to prove to themselves and their peers that they were right all along.
In economics there used to be a schism between Keynesians who favor fiscal policy and Friedmannian monetarists who prefer monetary policy. The former was identified with Yale, the latter with Chicago, and a very serious joke was that economics would begin its journey towards being a science when Yale produces a study emphasizing monetary policy or Chicago publishes something pointing to the importance of government spending.
Well, economics has moved somewhat into the right direction – there is less tribal bickering and outcomes of many studies are truly surprising. Let’s hope climate science goes the same way. But for the time being, the results of climate studies are completely predictable: just look at the name of the lead author and you know whether the conclusions are mainstream or heretical.
Sooner or later the layman may begin to question the whole point of research: why all these studies, if you already know everything?
Thomas@93: suppose your number of 1-2% is correct. The lithosphere is ~100km thick, and moves at speeds up to about 5cm per year, and there’s a total subduction front of maybe 10000km. So my back of the envelope suggests that maybe one cubic kilometre of water is subducted every year, compared to some billions of cubic kilometres in the oceans.
RE #4, I know what is meant by “toast.” One might have to live in a place like the Rio Grande Valley of TX during the Canicula (mid-July-August heatwave) to understand. Or (elsewhere) wait around a few decades or a century or two for GW to really kick in.
Of course, no one in the RGV actually gets toasted bec no one is crazy enough to sun bath during the Canicula. We just struggle to make it from our airconditioned cars to the airconditioned stores or workplaces without fainting from the heat…or getting toasted.
Re the Antarctic glaciers during this hothouse period. Maybe some synthetic approach, maybe many different factors converging, each giving a slight nudge toward glacier formation.
Some orbital or wobble thing that gives less solar irradiation to the Antactic. (Or clouds, as suggested.) A big ozone hole over the area caused by something or other. Ocean currents not bringing warmer waters. Etc, etc. And then that large land area of Antarctica gets blanketed with snow one day due to all that WV held up in a GW world and some freak cold snap (weather can fluctuate wildly). Maybe a spring cold snap. Then the albedo effect kicks in, making it colder, and more snowfall on through the summer.
Also (this is stupid, I’m sure) but the land there is not going as fast as the tropical area as the earth makes its 24 hr spin, so less friction, less heat.
Just an observation and a maybe helpful comment of the topic of public debate. I think your assessment is quite accurate (and you should know!), but none-the-less you have an obligation to enter into the public discourse, unless your scientific pursuits are purely academic — which I get no indication that they are. Plus I think the public discourse (debate to be sure sometimes) has to include all topics; no topics are off-limits; you can’t successfully pick and choose what science is completely settled and not up for debate. It has to be viewed as a sales process, assuming you are hoping to get some action done. The aginers, skeptics (like me), politicos, and the general public are your customers. You can never tell a customer that his question or concern is out of bounds and expect to close the sale — even if their questions or assertions are really off the wall and abominably stupid.
The problem is, of course, that typical scientists are usually not highly skilled in salesmanship (with notable exceptions), find it distasteful and foreign to the way they like to operate, and are not very good at spin and sound bites (as many from our side are.) They work much better making strong definitive claims and carrying out the heated scientific debates as you describe with people of the same ilk who understand the rules. This is appropriate, in some sense, IMO, because the mental processes required for public debate and sales are frankly not conducive and tend to diminish scientific skills. But it has to be done if you want societal success. And done on their turf. You almost can’t win for losing, but that’s the way the world turns.
Lets assume that over the relevant time period cycling of Oxygen atoms between the oceans/atmosphere/cryosphere and rock reservoirs is 10%. We are using isotopic differences of a few ppm as significant proxies. If the isotopic compostion of the rock reservoir is significantly different than the ocean reservoir and/or the cycling process has significant isotopic selectivity the rate of drift might be significant on that time scales of a hundred million years. We shouldn’t take the modern values as relevant to the distant past without first asking the experts (I am not one) what rate of drift is possible over these sorts of time spans. Unfortunately, if the result is that such drift could be significant it would make the job of paleclimate reconstruction much more difficult.
And courtesy of the Texas Department of Health, this advice on working outdoors during the heat — adaptation!
Forty-seven workers in the United States died from environmental heat exposure in 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the same year, 2,610 workers missed at least one day of work because of heat-related illness.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not regulate the number of hours people work in the heat, a representative said. A catch-all clause in a 1970 act proscribes “recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm,” according to the OSHA Web site.
Yara Doyle, safety coordinator for a construction company, trains workers on how to stay cool and visits job sites to check for heat exhaustion.
“They’re so used to (the heat),” said Doyle, from Cris Equipment Company Inc. “They just go about it like it’s a normal day.”
Cris employs about 90 workers, who are outside for 10-hour shifts….
People who work outside physically adapt to the heat, said Dr. Brian Smith, regional director of the Texas Department of Health.
“They change the electrolytes that are in their sweat,” Smith said. “It takes about two weeks to get accustomed to not being in air conditioning.”
Isn’t that reassuring? Of course, Mr. Smith is referring to the kind of people he sees working outside at manual labor in the Texas sun. They adapt. I doubt he adapts. Bet he has air conditioning?
Your very first comment points to tracking CO2 levels. Now pegged at either 382ppm or 394ppm depending on the source. But most disturbing is that NOAA data says rate of CO2 rise as about 2 ppm per year for the last few years.
Increases per year NOAA data from ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/trends/co2_gr_mlo.txt
Scientists have already put a public face and debated the “handful of credentialed sceptics like Lindzen …”. For example, in 2002 Ben Santer (LLNL) and Dennis Hartmann (U.W. Seatte) had a debate with Richard Lindzen on global warming at the University of Minnesota. I attended the debate with a co-worker and my NWS NCRFC Hydrologist in Charge (HIC) supervisor. It was overwhelmingly obvious that Lindzen’s points were not substantiated. However, my co-worker and the HIC said they were unconvinced that the topic of global warming warranted any hydrologic study or concern. Their story was already determined by their higher-ups at NWS and NOAA.
Re # 13 Johnno: “…I think researchers should concentrate on stark problems like what if there are no viable fossil fuels left after 2040.”
Do you mean all researchers in all fields of inquiry throughout the world? Or are you suggesting that climatologists whose expertise lies in, say, atmospheric physics, or ice core gas analysis, or physical oceanography and who may know little or nothing about developing alternatives to fossil fuels should switch fields? That would be asking a lot, don’t you think? Or, did you mean those researchers whose expertise in applied science and engineering would enable them to develop alternative fuels, and maybe also those political scientists, urban planners, psychologists, sociologists, etc, whose understanding of the issues could lead to solutions for dealing with the political and social consequences of switching to a non-fossil fuel-based economy?
Re # 68 Dodo: “Crichton for one, has never made any claims to be an expert on the cretaceous. His specialty is the jurassic”
The smiley face meant you were just being facetious, right?
I don’t understand the comments here (and elsewhere – it seems a recurrent theme) about the reluctance of scientists, especially climate scientists, to engage in public debate and discourse, not to mention how inept they are when they do try. Uhhh, isn’t that exactly what they’re doing here at RealClimate? Seems like public debate and discourse to me. The web is thick with scientific reports and papers, and the blogosphere appears to have no lack of scientists willing and eager to talk about them. And talk about them to anybody. Usually in an encouraging, respectful way. Even willing to patiently and politely respond, often in great detail and not infrequently more than once, to people whose questions suggest they are as thick as two planks. My science consists of forty-year-ago freshman university physics, but I can and have learned a lot from RealClimate and other science sites over the past year or so. I may not be able to understand the physics or follow the math, but I have no trouble with the written word, and the accounts and explanations and criticisms are always lucid and frequently thought-provoking if often rather depressing. Anyone who thinks that the future public debate and public discourse around climate change will happen in any significant way other than online is living in the past. Fortunately, scientists seem to be rather good at communicating via the web.
“Deforestation accounts for roughly 20% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, so the U.S. is enhancing its efforts to conserve and expand the world’s forests.” JAMES L. CONNAUGHTON and DANIEL M. PRICE
Is this true? Sounds high to me. My discussion in Nemo’s Locker has been through several full sceptic bingo cards but it boils down to distrust of models. It’s strange, engineering types have trouble with this and they empty the fallacy files trying to prove it. Pity really.
“The problem is the people doing these adjustments. I don’t trust a single one of them to honestly and objectively follow where the data leads and to correctly identify root causes.”
There is no way to correct for this level of personal bias.
re 101. it is not obvious that it would do that, at least in terms of anthropogenic driving elements. one would need to look at the underlying world gdp and its response in order to ascertain the co2 concentration. the structural transformation of the global economy that is beginning, with its attendant shakeout phases across global supply chains, may temporarily give some degree of respite.
Having a healthy dose of skepticism is the only responsible approach to life. While accepting a body of knowledge is a valid approach, not accepting it and saying “we don’t know a thing at this point” is just as valid.
Why the insecurity? If a percentage of the population thinks the IPCC reports are junk, why is that so threatening?
thats awful. i read Hansen’s couple of articles on scientists being intimidated, but it comes home more to me when its first hand like reading the letters on your photo page. what did you observe that they didnt like?
George, it would be nice indeed if there could be some public place debate in which climate scientists could explain the basics and more. The problem with such a debate, as Tamino and others have pointed, is that it will have results that depends almost exclusively on subjective factors, such as how likeable (or even just good looking) the participants are, how funny, etc…
The quality of their insights, information, knowledge, is essentialy irrelevant in a debate like that, although, these factors should be the most important. Science can not be fed to the public through TV and other mass-media, especially when the public is barely able to understand very basic (and that’s not an understatement) maths. If “debates” of that sort start happening on a regular basis, you can bet that the denialists will hire any kind of players (actors, whatever) likely to sway opinion, regardless of qualifications, and it will work. Manipulating minds is not difficult, whether in the US or anywhere else. A mind manipulating contest with the denialist camp not only verses in its (despicable) methods, but also gives legitimacy to an “opposing point of view” without any true scientific underpinnings. It’s a loose/loose proposition.
Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 26 Jan 2008 @ 5:10 PM
Re #107 (Michael) “While accepting a body of knowledge is a valid approach, not accepting it and saying “we don’t know a thing at this point” is just as valid.”
Which of these is valid in a particular context depends on whether it is true in that context that “we don’t know a thing at this point”. Both cannot possibly be valid at once.
“Why the insecurity? If a percentage of the population thinks the IPCC reports are junk, why is that so threatening?”
Because there is an urgent need for action to avoid likely climatic disaster, and such ignorant or foolish people will be used by those obstructing such action because of vested interests.
If I can change gears towards the public debate subject: RC does a good job, under a set of rules which gives the scientists an upper hand (i.e. the moderators can reject comments). In the more public political arena it is a lot easier to win with propaganda and false arguments. A cleverly stated false argument may convince a plurality of the audience even if it is competently refuted. I think we need another class of volunteer between the scientists and the public. I know scientists are working overtime just to maintain currency with their fields, and to add a bit of original research to boot. Few have the time energy inclination oe charisma to succesfully take on the public debate task.
As this debate task requires a different skill set than scientific research it is only natural that specialization should occur. The debater has to have a very strong laymans understanding of the science, and hopefully can call upon the experts when needed. I suspect that many commenters, and lurkers come to RC because they see themselves as having some part in these debates, and want to better arm themselves with knowledge. This sounds like a good model to me.
Re #101. Richard, thanks for the numbers on CO2 increments. Now, compare that to the global mean temperature increments over the same period. (May I recommend HadCRUT3, although GISTEMP seems to be the temperature of choice aroung here.)
Any correlation? If not, and if the divergence persists, why should we worry about a 450 ppm CO2 value an sich? I thought it was the temperature we were afraid of.
[Response: What is it about the phrase ‘8 years is too noisy to discuss trends’ that people find so hard to understand? See the last post ad nauseum for why your question is ill-posed. -gavin]
It all ties together into a pretty clever strategy:
1. say things that are exasperatingly ignorant
2. get real experts with little understanding of polemics to express their exasperation
3. cast that exasperation as arrogance and bullying
Nothing you can say will cause that person to change their opinion, because what they are voicing is not actually an opinion about a matter of fact but rather a tactic in a battle for influence over the casually interested…..
Just reminding myself to reread that whole thread more often.
Dodo (112) — Go to the sidebar. Go down to the section entitled Science Links. The first entry is a link to the Discovery of Global Warming web site. Over there, read at least the section on Carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
Once you understand it, you too will worry…
Comment by David B. Benson — 26 Jan 2008 @ 7:46 PM
I agree. Does anyone know if there is an umbrella organization that collates and communicates the latest AGW research for groups of professional societies? A sort of “Global Warming Research Center” thingy. There are many science-based professional organizations that communicate AGW concerns to their members and could use a hand sifting through the latest research. Here is an example from the Wildlife Society. I know the Society of Wetland Scientists is involved in communicating AGW research to their members but could find nothing on their web page. http://joomla.wildlife.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=175
Accurate, up to date information in their hands would go a long way towards keeping the public informed on the state of AGW research and would help nip the latest conspiracy theories in the bud.
#112, Gavin. Ad nauseam cuts both ways: You seem to be in denial of the simple fact that according to Hadley and the satellite measurements, no significant warmng has taken place since 2001, and even GISTEMP shows that warming has slowed down.
I know that six years it is not a climatologically sufficient time period. I am just curious to know what you guys will do if this “global no warming” persist over the next solar cycle, or just two IPCC review periods.
Over at Tamino’s blog I have committed myself to his challenge: if warming returns by 2015, I will admit that AGW is the most likely cause for most of the warming.
Tamino has also promised to admit he was wrong, if it cools. Alas, we both think the debate will continue nonetheless. Maybe we should come together and make something bigger out of Tamino’s challenge? It would help to divide both camps into those that are willing to correct their beliefs by data from the real world and those who prefer dogma. I think RealClimate should be in the first group.
#114. You didn’t get my point. CO2 is not toxic or harmful at these concentrations. Whether it is 450 or even 4500 ppm is a non-problem compared to the predicted consequences from temperature and sea level rises, whatever weights their many causes might have.
yes, it sounds rather hopeless, doesn’t it. However, I do think there is hope. The people the science should convince are not the population at large, those that wouldn’t know their dry adiabatic lapse rate from their hinterworks. They don’t need to be convinced… they’ll do, and believe, what the loudest, most persuasive sound bites in the public ‘discourse’ will tell them to do and believe.
No, it is the people controlling between themselves the resources that would offset the Exxon et al. contribution.
Think of the millions of American small — or not so small — entrepreneurs. These people have children — and grandchildren. And they must be reasonably smart, and have a functioning relationship with factual reality, to be successful entrepreneurs in the first place. And many of them are decent people too. We’ve got Soros already :-)
They could be motivated to contribute. The work then, should be done by professionals at persuasion. We need an army of algores, well informed, persuasive, and — unusual for the job description — unconditionally honest. And they need the resources, including the best propaganda specia-lists money can buy, to work with and reach a broad audience; like the denialists.
Cynical? Certainly. But that’s how politics with campaign financing and all works: a politician without a moneyed constituency in addition to a voting one, goes nowhere. Until that changes — if ever — you have to play the game by the existing rules.
[Response: I would like to think that it is still possible to reach people with a scientifically sound message — though I certainly agree that communication skills and making the nature of the problem vivid to the audience is essential. I think Gore did this pretty well, though one can quibble about certain aspects of the way he presented the argument, and the messenger himself causes about a third or a half of the intended audience to just tune out. One thing that might help would be to look at how the nation was brought round to addressing major problems in the past, particularly in cases which involved science. The Manhattan Project is one model — a small technically elite core with access to the power structure makes a decision (I’m not arguing whether it’s right or wrong) without consulting or being able to consult the public in general. The Clean Air Act and Clean Water act is another, though in that case the act was addressing harms that were already severe, not severe harms forecast for the future. –raypierre]
Re Gavin’s response to 112, the “problem” surely is that the the kind of changes that are being advocated to mitigate GCM, based on model predictions, are so drastic. It is not surprising that more confidence in the accuracy of GCM model predictions is sought before life-style changes of the scale that are required will be undertaken. This debate is happening with a background where world energy demand is going up inexorably, driven by increasing population, urbanisation, increasing wealth in the third world….. Moreover, future world energy consumption is going to be more carbon intensive as alternatives to oil (coal,oil sands,heavy oil) will come into greater play. Some projections suggest that the use of renewable energy, as a fraction of total world energy consumption, is actually going to decrease in the coming years e.g. as more and more poor people in the third world turn to gas and electricity for their energy needs. It is very difficult to see how any concerted, world-wide action can be taken sufficiently quickly to slow CO2 increases in the coming decades. This might, of course, mean the end of the world as we know it! On the other hand the GCM model predictions which are trying to model such a complex, highly multi-variate, higly non-linear system might not be quite right in their long-term predictions. As Gavin has pointed out before, the “uncertainty” in both the models and the measurements makes it difficult to “test” (or “falsify”) the models at the moment. It is not surprising that when some data start showing that the model predictions (e.g. as used in the IPCC reports) about future temperature rises might be too high, this attracts attention. Inevitably, in this debate “science policy” issues will be as, if not more, important than the science itself.
[Response: You don’t need GCMs to be concerned (see this previous post) – all they do is try and quantify it a little better. I have never said that you can’t test the models – these tests are ongoing continuously. The issue I’ve had with some recent statements is that the tests are not very good, not that they shouldn’t be done. – gavin]
Comment by Gautam Kalghatgi — 27 Jan 2008 @ 8:34 AM
Re #108 (Christina West),
On what I you observed that they (NOAA NWS NCRFC) didnt like:
As a National Weather Service North Central River Forecast Center snow and ice hydrologist from 1980-2000, I had responsibility for preparing the annual Spring Snowmelt Flood Outlooks for the Upper Midwest for the 1980s and 1990s.
In January of 2000 I prepared a table on Red River streamflow above Fargo, ND which showed earlier in the year snowmelt runoff was already occurring in the basin, a trend which I thought indicated climate change due to global warming.
I prepared to display my table the first annual Government Expo at the Mall of America in 2000. NWS supervisors ordered me not to do that and told me I was not to go to the Mall of America that weekend not even as a private citizen or I would risk disciplinary action.
We finally got cable TV and I watched “Forecast Earth” last night. It’s great it’s there!
Only one thing sounded slightly off to me. Heidi Cullen, when talking about reducing our CO2, said “which scientists believe is causing global warming.”
I felt it should have been, “which scientist say is causing global warming.”
It sort of sounded like we live in the scientific relativistic world where we have to respect each other’s scientific BELIEFS.
Or, I do think scientists go thru a skeptical process in which the over- or underwhelming evidence leads them to believe or continue disbelieving some causal relationship. But once they believe that, then when they tell the public or write the text book they state it as a fact, at least as a fact with caveats, at least as a fact until some other scientist comes and disproves it.
We the public just want the condenced version. We want what scientists say in simple, brief language. Just the facts. Many of us have lived long enough to understand the scientific progression of “facts,” that some facts today may be debunked or modified tomorrow. I don’t hold it against scientists who do the best honest job in finding then telling us the facts, which then may be assailed with better, more thorough science later.
So perhaps it is correct for scientists at this point of sufficient evidence for GW to decline “debates,” by saying the issue has been settled, there are no debates at the general level of whether or not it is happening…..though I’d be interested to see any new peer-reviewed studies you have that point in a different direction, and I’d be happy to give you my expert assessment of it.
Let’s face it most scholars only have time to read the abstracts and perhaps the conclusions (where the caveats might be) of peer-reviewed studies (unless it’s in their specific area), certainly not the reams of (dis)information coming from non-scientifc sources. And attending pointless “debates” is even more time-consuming.
I think it’s enough that RC exists to constantly address the disinformation, untruths, and unfounded claims. Whenever I get in an argument about GW, I just tell them go to RC (of course, the ideologues are not going to do so). There is absolutely no way you can talk to these people or debate them. They sort of remind me of a relative I have… Or it’s like the advice I give some young married women I know …. there’s no use arguing with him when he’s drunk. Wait til morning.
[Response: In describing the science as “settled” one must be careful not to give the impression that every conceivable thing having to do with human influence on climate is settled. Though I’ve used the word myself, there’s a good case to be made that it should be avoided, precisely because it is so prone to confusion. There are some things that are indeed so certain that further argument has no bearing on policy options. That would include the basic operation of the greenhouse effect, the fact that the CO2 rise is almost entirely due to fossil fuel burning and deforestation, and I’d argue for pushing the line all the way to the water vapor feedback. Other things are still very much in a state of flux — notably the impacts of global warming, for example on extinction and tropical diseases. These things are unlikely to be satisfactorily nailed down in time to affect the policy actions that need to be sorted out in the near future, so here the question is more a matter of what you consider a credible risk, and how to weigh in uncertain risks that could indeed be catastrophic. That’s what politics is for. That and value judgements, as in how to weigh, for example, polar bear survival vs. the money to be made by easier Arctic oil exploration. -raypierre]
Global warming ranks far down the concerns of the world’s biggest companies, despite world leaders’ hopes that they will pioneer solutions to the impending climate crisis, a startling survey will reveal this week.
Nearly nine in 10 of them do not rate it as a priority, says the study, which canvassed more than 500 big businesses in Britain, the US, Germany, Japan, India and China. Nearly twice as many see climate change as imposing costs on their business as those who believe it presents an opportunity to make money. And the report’s publishers believe that big business will concentrate even less on climate change as the world economy deteriorates.
The survey demolishes George Bush’s insistence that global warming is best addressed through voluntary measures undertaken by business – and does so at the most embarrassing juncture for the embattled President. For this week he is convening a meeting of the world’s largest economies to try to persuade them to agree with him.
The meeting – in Hawaii on Wednesday and Thursday – follows the US’s refusal to accept binding targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the main cause of global warming, in international negotiations in Bali last month, and is seen as an attempt to develop a less rigorous approach to the crisis.
But the new report shows that even business does not support this, with four out of the five companies surveyed wanting governments to take a central role in tackling climate change.
The survey, carried out by the consulting firm Accenture, found that only 5 per cent of the companies questioned – and not one in China – regarded global warming as their top priority. And only 11 per cent put it in second or third place. …
Hank, While I think Michael Tobis’s thought have much to recommend them, it is a mistake to view the business establishment as monolithic in their aversion to climate science. To paraphrase George Washington–people act in accord with their interest. The key is to make sure they perceive those interests clearly. It is mainly the extractive industries (coal, oil, power, etc.) who feel threatened by the need to take action on climate change. Insurance is starting to realize that climate change means uncertain risk, and that is very bad for their business. GE sees significant potential advantages from supplying “green” technologies.
Likewise different nations have different perceptions. The US, with the largest proportion of energy/capital intensive industry feels the most threatened, and oil-rich states like Russia, etc. feel the most threatened by mitigation, while for island states, threats due to rising sea level are already a reality.
We will never get people, corporations and nations to act against their interests, but perhaps we can get them to see their interests more clearly.
Where we fall into the trap of the denialists is in debating the science in a nonscientific forum with nonscientist judges. Rather, we need to stress that the science is not at all controversial. The proper range for debate is what to do about the threats that science has alerted us to.
The Bornemann paper is fascinating. I reviewed it for Science and agree with most of what you say. But you seem to lack perspective on the development of this idea. The Bornemann paper provides data supporting the Matthews-Stoll-Miller hypothesis. Matthews was scorned. Stoll and Schrag were ignored. And we (Miller et al., 1999, 2003, 2005a, b) finally convinced the community to look.
The hypothesis is that large (>25 m), rapid sea-level change can only be explained by changes in continental ice sheets. Exxon Production Research company (EPR) first identified large, rapid sea-level changes in the Mesozoic (Vail et al., 1977; Haq et al., 1987; Hardenbol et al., 1998). These changes were controversial, in part because of problems in methodology and proprietary data (Christie-Blick et al., 1990; Mial et al., 1991). We have worked on the New Jersey margin to independently develop a global sea-level (eustatic) estimate for the last 100 myr (Miller et al., 2005a, Science; go to http://geology.rutgers.edu/miller.shtml for reprints). We show that the timing of the EPR sea-level falls is largely correct but their amplitudes were too high by a factor of 2-3. For example, the mid Oligocene fall was not 400 m (Vail et al.,, 1977) or even 160 m (Haq et al., 1987) but 55 m (i.e., about the same ice in Antartica as today). Ours is not the final answer because it is largely derived from one margin, though it is supported by comparisons with other margins. But to paraphrase Winnie, ours is the worst of sea-level curves except for the others that have been tried.
Our records strongly suggest moderate sized ice sheets (8-12 mkm3) occurred in Antarctica during the Late Cretaceous greenhouse and caused 25-40 m eustatic lowerings. We provided provisional links to oxygen isotopic increases that would be expected for such a relationship. Bornemann slam dunked this with their data.
How to reconcile ice sheets the greenhouse? We have a paper in Marine Geology (2005b) that suggest that the ice sheets were ephemeral (we suggested 100 kyr in a quasi 3 myr period; Bornenmann’s data suggest 200 kyr glacial). These ice sheets did not reach the coast and ocean temperatures near Antartica were still quite warm (see maps in Miller et al., 2005b).
Now as to the relationship with CO2, this is still speculative. Proxy data suggest CO2 could have been 2x of 10 x. Which is it? I would speculate, both. Most of the Late Cretaceous WAS an ice-free greenhouse with very high CO2 (greater than 4x). But there were a dozen or so “cold snaps” (as Dana Royer dubbed our glaciation) in the Late Cretaceous when ice sheets developed.
Remember in discussing Late Cretaceous to Eocene climates, we are talking about over 50 myr of time. The world was not uniform through this greenhouse period.
I see no contradiction in the relationship between CO2 and climate from looking at the greenhouse world of the Late Cretaceous to Eocene.
[Response: Ken — thanks so much for posting this additional information, and thanks also for your patience in dealing with the quirks of the way the comment box treats the less-than symbol. I hope your comment will help redirect some of the discussion back onto the nature of the hothouse climates. I did indeed want to debate the nature of debates, but not to the exclusion of the interesting scientific issues raised by this problem. –raypierre]
Ray, I’m sure MT isn’t suggesting what you think. He’s pointing out how the repeated faux-stupid faux-naive questions are used to try to cause real scientists to get short tempered in public. Different.
The BP Chief Scientist’s video I pointed to elsewhere is an excellent example of a corporation starting to be very serious about climate change. (The tactic attacking _them_ is faux-environmentalists piling into threads saying BP isn’t perfect so must be an enemy.)
Just noting, many endlessly repeated native questions are tactical.
A few are real, new, naive or young questioners. Patience furthers.
Detecting which are tactical requires Google for repetitions.
Re #122: Ken, thank you so much for providing your important perspective on the issue of eustacy. In my comment #78, these are exactly some of the points I was alluding to (I have in fact recently posted several comments on Real Climate citing many of these same papers which you have listed). It seems that the proprietors of this websight have been only slightly amused and somewhat confused by my comments.
Many of us in the geology community who work with a great deal of seismic data have long suspected that Matthews may have been at least partially correct, and that ice sheets may have been present (to a greater extent than most have suspected) even in very warm climates during the Cretaceous and early Cenozoic. How else do you drive rapid eustatic sea-level changes even in the Eocene? Tectonic processes are too slow, and many events are certainly global in scope. Many geologists have found the EPR eustatic sea level curves to be largely correct, but may lack scale concerning the absolute magnitude of various highstands and lowstands (just as you have stated). An excellent paper for those wishing to review the correlation between the d18O proxy and the Haq. et al (1987, Mitchum et al., 1994) curves is Abreu and Anderson (1998). Personally, I am coming to suspect that both the proxy record and sequence strat record are telling us something important about deep time climate: Global climate change does not necessarily equal regional change (should be no real surprise), and the regional changes over the Antarctic have controlled ice sheet mass balance and thus eustatic sea level changes. I am worried however, that so many interested people are so biased against any scientific research that Exxon has developed, that they may reject it without even examining its merrits. For all interested in such a study, be aware that an examination of only the d18O proxy record is incomplete without a simultaneous examination of sea level curves.
Re 113, Why discussing with climate change skeptics may be harmful.
If one wish to debate with hard core CO2 greenhouse skeptics, it is important to remember that predicting their next move involve considering if they could possible doubt something you might have used consider as obviously true. That combined with the endless task of separating false beliefs from cleverly presented facts designed to cause allergic reactions among enviromentalists, and to make things even worse, knowledgable profesionals for some reason acting like they where ideological gullible CO2 skeptics, MAY cause a lethargic dumbed down state of mind.
Guessing the latitude and mechanism of cretaceous deepwater formation does not do that, rather the opposite :-)
> any scientific research that Exxon has developed, that they may
> reject it without even examining its merrits.
Ken, just as a reader, when I see scientists funded by Exxon publish their work, I’m delighted. People at Exxon show up in the citations, perhaps more than those from other companies. It’s good to see.
It’s no secret many very good scientists are doing models — e.g. where the continents and sedimentary basins were in geological time.
I know there are commercial reasons to keep some work secret. But that’s not like what’s surfaced in pharma, where only “successful” trials got published and doctors got misleading effectiveness data.
If models didn’t work to find oil, y’all wouldn’t be paid to make them — right?
Dodo (116) — Then either you did not read it or you did not understand. The consequences of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere take some time to work out. The approximately 500 billion tonnes of carbon added to the active carbon cycle has already increased the temperature enough to affect precipitation patterms: droughts in the Sahel, East Africa, the Mediterranean shores, Australia, the southern portion of the Amazon basin and in the southeast United States; severe flooding in South Asia and south China; other disruptions to agricultural production in eastern Europe. Already the world grows short of food. For example, the price of white wheat obtained by local farmers is more than triple the price one year ago.
Does not appear to be ‘normal variablity’ to me, based on the known increases in CO2 concentrations, which are certainly of human origin.
Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Jan 2008 @ 7:26 PM
Given that there is so much uncertainty in this discussion, it is not plausible for you to expect anyone to know if there was ice on particular mountains or not.
Antarctica would have been the only likely place to have significant ice at the time. The troposphere probably would have been much too hot at lower latitudes, but we don’t have a clue as to Antarctic paleoelevation
Google is productive of much information by using that as the sole search term. Scholar would likely do even better. Picking one from the first page of regular Google results (follow the cites for more)
… TEX86 (TetraEther indeX of tetraethers with 86 carbon atoms), is an index developed by (Schouten et al., 2002) for determining sea surface temperature from marine sediments. The index is based on the composition of tetraether membrane lipids produced by the aquatic microbe, Crenarchaeota. We have found this group of compounds to be preserved in the sediments of many large lakes, and we have determined that the TEX86 index established by Schouten et al. (2002) for SST’s in the marine realm holds up remarkably well when compared to mean annual temperature of the lake surface waters (Powers et al., 2004)and subsequent analytical results).
Application of the TEX86 index to a piston core from Lake Malawi, East Africa, provides a fascinating and credible history of lake surface temperature spanning the past 24,000 years (Powers et al., 2005)…..
Hank (113), I understand your point, but the object of climate scientists entering into such public discourse is not (should not be…) to dissuade the opposing “discoursee” but, like him, sway the audience.
#136 Chris, From the paleo reconstruction maps I’ve seen, the South Pole had ocean at or very near by during the Cretaceous. Making all kinds of climate scenarios possible, especially with Australia
joined with Antarctica, there must have been some strange polar dinosaurs during that era.
Jim (122), I’m not sure what you were expecting, but to cite ole Cal (I think), “the business of business is business.” At least that’s the way business sees it (mostly — they’re not completely monolithic). The most astounding stat to me in your post is that 5% of giant 500 companies have global warming as their #1 priority! Unless they’re in only a business that is exploiting GW (making biofuel, hydrogen-based engines, wind turbines, etc.), they are clearly not watching the store and will shortly be in the bottom 500. Of course they are aware of the potential problem, but it isn’t their yob; that’s why they want the goberment to work on it; then they can go on producing widgets which is what they get paid to do.
Your response to #14 intrigued me. Currently the Antarctic is quite dry and there is little hope for much heat transfer to it from condensation because the water vapor supply is depleted before it reaches the interior. On the other hand, the Arctic gets more precipitation because ocean currents carry heat north and there is evaporation from the warm water. If the heat transfer to the poles can be carried out via condensation of vapor carried in the atmosphere then there would be less energy available to ocean currents and one would not want to think of the poles (or North Pole) as a fresh water lake, but rather as a fresh water lens that occurs owing to a preferred mode of heat transfer made possible by the greater vapor carrying capacity of a warmer atmosphere. Fresh water might also form a lens around the land at the South Pole as well. The induced salinity gradiant, pole to equator could be weakened by ocean currents arising from other factors which would remix the waters, but the possibility of a preference for heat transfer through the atmosphere rather than the oceans when more vapor is available in the atmosphere with higher temeratures seems interesting to me. Is this something models can investigate or are the ocean currents to difficult to manage yet?
Public debates could charitably be public display of grief. The first stage is denial.
Recommend a recent lecture on global warming – by Nobel scientist professor Steven Running at the University of Montana. This is a video lecture with graphics. He does a pretty good job of covering the fundamental science (it seems to me) – it does last an hour, but is not at all complex. Very compelling – I have been forwarding it widely. http://www.forestry.umt.edu/personnel/faculty/swr/Presentation/SupportingFiles/ViewerWM64Lite.html Although he uses maps of the Northwest region, there maybe similar data sets for other regions.
Professor Running closes with just a brief discussion of the emotions that will meet anyone following this topic. It is like grieving any loss. He calls it the 5 Stages of Climate Grief. (After Kubler-Ross ) http://www.ntsg.umt.edu/files/5StagesClimateGrief.htm
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
Perhaps if we see these as natural states of human processing we can move out of the denial and anger states that seem to trap us. Bargaining seems everything from government to personal. Right now it is all I can do not to get depressed. And acceptance does not mean inaction.
One goal is to observe without anxiety, and then act without fear.
… Gore … and the messenger himself causes about a third or a half of the intended audience to just tune out
I don’t think that’s entirely fair. If you analyze this, you realize that it is just anti-intellectualism, plain and simple. People hate Gore because he speaks like an intellectual — and adding insult to injury, is right most of the time. Many folks of little formal training have a big problem with that.
Putting scientists on this job would be just as bad an idea. They are just not equipped for it, while tobacco lawyers, e.g., are. I would guess that it would be easier to house-train a tobacco lawyer for truthfulness then to turn a scientist into a successful persuader.
Note that truthfulness is not a prerequisite for successful persuasion. It’s just that the truth has practical advantages. Like, there is only one of it, whereas untruths come in a broad variety; so you don’t have to keep track of which untruths you told yesterday, or which ones your organization is committed to :-) And, you can use the same base material for “defense in depth”, refuting popular denialist talking points popularly, scientifically, or somewhere in between, depending on what your audience will bear.
We’ll have to see how Gore’s The Climate Project works out. The idea is right.
[[You seem to be in denial of the simple fact that according to Hadley and the satellite measurements, no significant warmng has taken place since 2001, and even GISTEMP shows that warming has slowed down.]]
And you seem to be in denial of the fact that from February 2007 to August 2007 the temperature rose significantly.
Same sort of argument. Fallacy of composition. The part doesn’t necessarily reflect the whole. You have to use all the data, not just a little bit of it that seems to support your argument.
[[How about tackling value judgments that are not so one-sided? Say: how to weigh, polar bear survival vs. maintaining the rapid emergence from poverty of billions of people in China and India.]]
Despite the constant refrain to the contrary from denialists, it is possible to deal with global warming and still have billions emerge from poverty in China and India. The dilemna, reduce poverty or mitigate global warming, is a false one — a fallacy of bifurcation.
At this point, the proxy isotope evidence for these putative Cretaceous glaciers is quite equivocal. As has been noted, Moriya et al (Geol. 35(7), 2007), provide equally strong data that such glaciation did not exist.
But even if the Bornemann ‘event’ is confirmed over time, it is hard for me to see how it will provide a plausible explanation for the Exxon/Haq et al Cretaceous (and other warm period) **relative** sea level cycles. Relative sea level is the **horizontal** component of sea level change: the basinward or landward movement of sea level associated with “transgressions” and “regressions.” This is the raw data observed from seismic sequence stratigraphy.
On average, these cycles clearly have a much longer cycle time usually quoted in the 1-3 Myr range (for the Cretaceous I estimate 1.75 Myrs). They are characterized by a relatively slow million-year ‘onlap’/transgression followed by a relatively abrupt ‘offlap’/regression. If interpreted as a glacier then this implies a slowly melting glacier over a Myr time period followed by a rapidly growing one (i.e. just the opposite of the behavior of the Late Pleistocene ice sheets.)
By comparison the Bornemann event looks well confined to 200 Kyr with short-lived growth and melting. Surely this 200 Kyr event can’t be the model for Myr coastal onlap stratigraphy.
I’ve argued (Gaffin, JGR v96(B4), 1991 p6701; Gaffin, J. Geol., v100, 1992, p. 717), that what we may be dealing with with the Haq et al cycles is something quite different, but just as important as the question of Cretaceous glaciers: internally generated sedimentary cycles that may require little or no eustatic (i.e. vertical) sea level forcing.
It’s interesting to me that people seem to have a hard time with this idea whereas its long been the approach Pleistocene ice sheet modelers have taken (starting with Weertman, 1976 and followed by others too numerous to list) to reconcile the weak vertical forcing of the snowline by Milankovitch cycles, with the large 100 Kyr ice sheet response. Indeed many similarities exist between these two outstanding paleoclimate cycle problems (Gaffin, 2008, submitted to Clim. Change.)
Steve Reynolds, have you been to China or India? Yes, a small elite are emerging from poverty, but at an environmental cost that is utterly unsustainable. And in India, the veneer of wealth is even thinner. Moreover, to state that the only way poverty can be fought is by destroying the environment is an absolute fallacy.
[Response to 73.: Thanks for stopping by, Appy. Hope to meet you sometime. Indeed the PETM deserves a post of it’s own. Are you guys going back to drill the Arctic again anytime soon or do the Russians have their icebreakers tied up with their territorial claims on the Lomonosov ridge? –raypierre]
Territorial claims may actually be a more of a problem than the sea ice for drilling the Lomonosov Ridge again. We can probably use the JOIDES Resolution in a couple years! Proposals to drill some more Arctic core are already in the IODP system.
The larger point that Steve Reynolds makes is: is the emerging world entitled to the same access to energy and productive capacity that the west has enjoyed for a century? Are we prepared to close the door on them, now that we have done so much damage that we can’t afford to let them add to it?
I agree the Reynolds question is not defensible intellectually, but as a provocation, he has a very real point.
One reason I consider emissions reduction DOA as a standalone strategy is that China and India (and we aren’t even discussing Africa yet!) will refuse to be left out of the development arc. Demanding that they find a “cleaner” way to advance than we did is more than a little condescending.
Steve reveals a very important and stubborn issue.
[Response: It’s a red-herring. Energy production in India and China is much less efficient than in the US or Europe – contributing both to excessive waste and air pollution. Matching developed world standards would allow for a doubling (or more) of the energy use, with no change in emissions (and a big decrease in pollution). – gavin]
Thanks for the response. Several things: 1, “developed world standards” would still be an imposition on an emerging economy, I suspect, based on cost, or else why would they not already be doing it that way? 2, a decrease in pollution (for example, this summer in and around Beijing) would allow the AGW signal to emerge even more strongly, yes? 3, “no change in emissions” is the BAU scenario, correct? This means that we will cruise past the tipping point, yes? Getting China/India et cetera to actually reduce emissions would be necessary, circling back to Steve’s point. I suppose you could argue that greater efficiency would allow for overall emissions reduction, but has that been speced out? what are the costs and realistic timetables?
[Response: The idea that there can’t be any efficiency savings because someone would have done it already is a fallacy. Why aren’t all bulbs CFL? However, it does take time and effort. Pollution in India and China is complex – there is a big component of black carbon – mainly related to inefficient coal burning – as well as sulfates and so it might be better climatically than you think. The point being that the issues are not ones of development vs. climate, but on how to manage development in effective ways. You need to talk to more knowledgable people than me on what the details are. – gavin]
Re #152 India and China can newer has access to as much oil as they will need as it simply does not at present exist. Gas is the same and coal is anyones guess. This is the whole idea of why war and famine and world affairs will overtake climate changes importance come 2015 to 2020, well without big new finds in oil fields which is extremely unlikely.
Oil allows us to get at oil and coal and it is the first to peak.
Walt, Let’s look at it another way: Are we going to insist that China and India destroy their environment trying to raise the living standards of 3 billion people with outdated, dirty technology? Refusing to assist them to find a “cleaner” way is more than a little condescending–not to mention foolhardy. Given that China and india are still building infrastructure there is a golden opportunity to make sure that infrastructure is as efficient as possible. That pays dividends down the line for a long while–both for China and India and for the global environment.
We have to start looking at this as something other than a zero-sum game.
Ray Ladbury> Steve Reynolds, have you been to China or India? Yes, a small elite are emerging from poverty, but at an environmental cost that is utterly unsustainable.
Ray, yes, I have visited China 3 times over the last ten years, and have toured various factories making toys, batteries, and high tech LCD displays. The battery factory was literally a very dirty sweatshop, in contrast to the LCD facility containing modern cleanrooms.
My impression from those visits was that your ‘small elite’ emerged from poverty several years ago, and now drive the most expensive BMWs made. A very large number of people have made it to middle class status, and a huge number are working very hard to get there. They are not letting some very disgusting pollution stop them. I think they will clean up the most unhealthy pollution as they become wealthy, just as western people did.
I do not think anything short of war will convince them to stay poor any longer than necessary just to prevent AGW.
Barton> Despite the constant refrain to the contrary from denialists, it is possible to deal with global warming and still have billions emerge from poverty in China and India.
I think that it is possible, only that it will take 20 to 40 years longer. I doubt that the people there will be willing to wait. That is why I favor working on long lead technology now to reduce CO2 drastically later when it will be more affordable.
Hank> You’re not the Steve Reynolds who’s chairman of Pacific Sound Energy, are you?
No, I am not.
Comment by Steve Reynolds — 28 Jan 2008 @ 12:49 PM
A friend of mine was recently in Shanghai. His hotel’s elevator happened to be the external type, with a view. On a day without significant weather, he could no longer see the ground past the 16th floor. He says it does get worse.
Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 28 Jan 2008 @ 1:26 PM
I know I already have a requested post “in the queue” :-)
But to add one more, can we at some point circle back to geo-engineering? This will soon be a necessary component of climate science, because we will be in the position of asking the question: “Can we engineer a way to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels?” This has the potential to circumvent the entire question of emissions reductions, and I consider it at least a coin flip as to whether or not such measures will eventually be necessary under any conceivable scenario.
Thus, before it can become a business question or a social policy question, it must become a science question. Feasibility is certainly an avenue that climate science must explore, because each ‘solution’ to a perceived ‘problem’ might itself impact climate.
I consider climate science to be the proper arena for this area of study, and I would love to see a post which explores the issue further.
Stuart, when I was studying stratigraphy about 20 years ago, it was tenaceously argued by many academic geologists that the Exxon curves were simply local curves, driven by local tectonic conditions, basin subsidence, and sedimentation rates. This argument is still ongoing, but in terms of what has gained wide acceptance in the larger geology community, the glacio-eustatic control of large, relatively rapid sea level changes in really not argued much anymore. There are virtual mountains of seismic data supporting the case for eustacy! As Ken Miller rightly pointed out, the more intense debate centers around the relative magnitude of these eustatic events, not whether the larger events are global in nature. I understand that you may have strong opinions to the contrary, but your side has not won the argument. There are people in the field of sequence stratigraphy (in and out of the petroleum industry) who have spent their careers looking exclusively at this. To geologists who get an opportunity to examine a bunch of this data, the predictive power afforded by sequence stratigraphy has stood the test of time, and yielded remarkably robust results. Virtually no geologist studying passive margins can hold a job in the petroleum industry without a strong working knowledge of sequence stratigraphy.
A video over at youtube entitled “the end of oil” explains anoxic seas and CO2 levels of around 4x pre industrial due to fossilised remains of plants that existed over 200 million year ago and still do today. Examining their stomata gives Co2 levels of the time. Apparantly there was a lot of volcanicity at the two times when Oil was formed by deadly anoxic seas.
wayne davidson (139) — The continental locations at the time depth which is the main trust of this thread appear to show that Antarctica and Australia had already separated, with Antarctica headed for the south pole.
Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Jan 2008 @ 2:08 PM
Or, “maintaining the rapid emergence from poverty of billions of people in China and India” v. “saving Himalayan glaciers from GW-induced melting and billions of lives in China and India”
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 28 Jan 2008 @ 2:14 PM
I’m not a scientist, just an interested amateur, but I think there probably is an abatement of warming in the Southern Ocean and Pacific. And this does manifest itself in CRU/GHCN’s global averages. However as you note Gavin is quite right to point out that it’s weather, not climate.
If you check out GISS http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/maps/
Set it up as follows:
Land: GISS Analysis
Map type: Anomaly
Mean Period: Annual(Jan-Dec)
Time interval: 2000-2007
Base Period: 1951-1980
Smoothing Radius: 1200km
You can see lack of temperature change of the southern oceans and Pacific, and below on that page there is a graph of the lattitudinal distributions of anomaly. Try different periods, you can see that these areas are generally shown as no/little warming (even coolings) but against the current N.H. trend it may now having a greater apparent global impact on global average.
You seem to view sustaining the environment as some sort of expensive luxury. However, the agriculture to sustain those billions, the water they drink and the air they breathe is under threat. If we emphasize development without regard to the environment, we will fail. If we try to suppress development to save the environment, we will fail. It is not Either-Or. It is not a zero-sum game, and if we play it as such, we will all lose.
I am not opposed to the global synchrony of the transgressions and regressions.
However transgressions and regressions can be caused quite easily by internal sedimentary feedbacks alone without strong eustatic sea level changes and synchrony is often a property of weakly coupled oscillating systems.
To say however that “glacio-eustatic control” during the Cretaceous “ … is not really argued much anymore …” is really going too far, as witnessed by the many issues raised in this very real climate discussion.
Let’s find all this ice during the Cretaceous because it’s going to have to be a pretty persistent pheonomena, including over the entire Phanerozoic, judging by the Exxon cycles. If it is shown to be there, fine I’ll yield.
But if it is not then we have to ask what the alternative is and I believe internal cyclicity (or autocyclicity as some refer to it) is the best bet
[Response: This is a very informative exchange on sea level. I have encountered many geologists who found fault with the Exxon/Haack sea level reconstructions, but had been wondering about the extent to which the new isotopic data might cause a reconsideration. The interpretation of the Exxon stuff in terms of sea level is tricky, and I’m not enough of a geologist to know whose side to come down on. As somebody said, the Cretaceous is a very long time interval, and there’s plenty of time for things to happen. So, I’d throw a reconsideration of the sea level reconstructions into the wild rumpus. –raypierre]
[[Barton> Despite the constant refrain to the contrary from denialists, it is possible to deal with global warming and still have billions emerge from poverty in China and India.
I think that it is possible, only that it will take 20 to 40 years longer. I doubt that the people there will be willing to wait. That is why I favor working on long lead technology now to reduce CO2 drastically later when it will be more affordable.]]
And if it turns out that global warming could really make the planet uninhabitable, or will kill, say, one billion people, should we still wait?
It is almost laughable to witness the turn this discussion has taken. In fact, it is a representation of the achilles heel of the AGW “movement” (as separated from the science). That is: “We know what’s best for you” where “you” is defined as “all those who come after us.”
Steve raised a point which deserves more than the high-handed dismissiveness with which it has been so far met. Why would China, India or any other country abide by rules which will slow their growth, rules which did not encumber the west during its growth phase?
Simply, and despite all of your egalitarian intentions, they will not.
The sooner that “solution central” realizes that vast swaths of humanity see the issue through their own lenses, the sooner we can get to discussing solutions which might have a chance to actually succeed.
[Response: Don’t be so patronising. There are plenty of ways to engage India and China – not least because of the environmental degradation in their own countries. Talk about the solutions then, and stop setting up strawman ‘realist’ vs ‘idealist’ dichotomies that take no one any further – gavin]
My comment was directed not at scientists but at those, many in this thread, who have not thought through the implications of the policies being discussed. In my opinion the “talk about solutions” has been incredibly monotonic – “reduce emissions”.
a) I give such a policy between no chance and very slim chance to actually succeed in preventing catastrophic warming;
b) the effort to attempt to achieve that goal will raise the cost of fuel. Many people, myself included, pay more than we can afford for fuel already. Consider the implications for the many millions who are even worse off than I am.
c) “emissions reduction” has begun to resemble a movement, which is fine if not for the first two problems. The very real risk we run is to impoverish millions while solving nothing; in other words, the worst of both worlds.
In a separate post I requested that we do exactly what you suggest – discuss solutions. It’s a strong concern of mine that we are not doing that. I can’t find any climate change forum where alternatives to emissions reduction are discussed at all.
I’m just one man, but I’m trying.
[Response: Fair enough – apologies. However, this site might not be the best place for that since we are not policy people. Have you tried http://www.climatepolicy.org/ ? – gavin]
Walt, I think you could do worse in discussions of human motivation than to follow George Washington’s philosophy–that people act in accord with their interests. Might I suggest that the Chinese and Indians would be sufficiently wise to adopt a view of their interests being favored by long-term sustainable growth rather than a more rapid growth spurt followed by ecological collapse? By all means, realism requires recognizing the laws of economics, but it also involves accepting the laws of physics.
Physics tells us that there are tipping points in the climate–points where positive feedbacks kick in and change becomes irreversible. It also tells us that we don’t know exactly where those kick in. Given these uncertainties adn the potential consequences, I would contend that prudence is strongly favored.
Lynn Vincentnathan> Or, “maintaining the rapid emergence from poverty of billions of people in China and India” v. “saving Himalayan glaciers from GW-induced melting and billions of lives in China and India”
I think China and India are fully capable of building dams to control water flow from snow and glacier melt.
Comment by Steve Reynolds — 29 Jan 2008 @ 10:04 AM
For some reason, a trend line has not been drawn for this data. Maybe it is because it kind of looks like warming stopped in late 2001. (Sorry, Gavin, for the ad nauseam, but I was provoked.)
[Response: No trend lines are drawn in any of the pictures on that page. But for this data the trend is 0.24 degC/dec and 0.19 degC/dec for the two indices. Both highly significant and that is still true even if you start in Jan 1998. Your point? – gavin]
Barton Paul Levenson> And if it turns out that global warming could really make the planet uninhabitable, or will kill, say, one billion people, should we still wait?
Obviously, if that is shown to be a realistic possibility without quick action, we should not wait. Rigorously examining that possibility (both by scientists in general and here at RC) is something I would like to see more of.
As gavin says, this site might not be the best place for policy discussions, but the risk of catastrophic AGW effects is a scientific issue worthy of rational discussion.
Comment by Steve Reynolds — 29 Jan 2008 @ 10:17 AM
Re #156 (Steve Reynolds) #167 (Walt Bennett)
How about bringing some empirical evidence to bear on the question of the views of people in China, India and elsewhere? From http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/btenvironmentra/427.php?lb=bte&pnt=427&nid=&id=
you can retrieve the full results of a large-scale poll (22000 people in 21 countries) on attitudes to climate change and measures to mitigate it. I haven’t studied this in detail yet, but a strong majority in China and substantial numbers in India say they are prepared to make sacrifices (higher fuel costs and/or taxes) to mitigate it. Urban China shows among the highest figures anywhere. Of course, saying you are prepared to make sacrifices is not the same as making them, but the survey does at least call into question your certainty that India and China will never agree to reduce emissions. In any case, we won’t know unless we explore the issue in detail – in the context of international negotiations where rich countries make clear they will make their share of cuts, which need to be very substantial, and transfer efficient technology. Or we could just rely on being saved by your vapourtech for sucking greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.
Re: #165, Stuart, I did not mean to imply that glacio-eustacy (during the Cretaceous**) was not still argued (and it should be), only that many large, fairly rapid (geologically speaking) events are correlative globally between basins. Certainly, many geologists in the petroleum industry have long suspected (maybe partially through indoctrination) that the Matthews hypothesis may have been at least partially correct, and that there was more ice during the Cretaceous than many researchers in academia have suspected. Unfortunately as I mentioned, there are very few Cretaceous rocks exposed on the Antarctic continent, so not much can be said from the available rock record. A potential serious problem with the Matthews et al. hypothesis was their methodology in deriving their conclusions. In looking at the d18O record, they made some questionable assumptions about ocean temperatures (surface and bottomwater) in the tropics. If the ocean temperatures are relatively constant, then much of the d18O variation must be from ice sheet changes, whereas if one lets the tropical temperatures change significantly, most of the proxy changes are due to ocean temperature change. In my opinion, much more can actually be said about ice sheets during the Eocene. There are *substantial* geological (real rocks) data to suggest that ice sheets extended much further back in time than the often quoted 34 million year mark, and closer to the peak of the Eocene warmth. As more people become familiar with the rock record, I predict this date will be moved further back in time.
One of the problems in resolving these issues is that the petroleum industry has a great deal of subsurface data to look at to augment the proxy record, but cannot publish (another problem is that major companies have cut way back or demolished their research divisions, so there are really no people to synthesis all the data and write it up), and in academia, there is much less data, but more publication. It has always seemed to me that there is bound to be a niche for university researchers who wish to make proposals to the big companies to look at a bunch of this data, with the agreement that there may be some type of waiting period to publish (there is a bunch of money potentially available). Many university researchers seem somewhat intimidated by these companies, and lack contacts with the right management personel to make this connection. Maybe if some weren’t so darn politically open with their views, it might help. There is a huge gap in the political persuasion of academic vs industry scientists. Let’s not kid ourselves about that. So if the perception is that one is tainted in academia with money from Exxon, they suddenly become a scourge among fellow faculty.
Re Walt @ 168: “a) I give such a policy between no chance and very slim chance to actually succeed in preventing catastrophic warming”
So, then we’re all toast and just pissing into the wind?
Walt: “b) the effort to attempt to achieve that goal will raise the cost of fuel. Many people, myself included, pay more than we can afford for fuel already.”
Cry us a river. Increasing cost of extraction and peaking world wide production will insure continued increasing oil costs, not to mention future armed conflicts over known and potential reserves. Cheap, plentiful energy with little or no incentive to use it efficiently and without the attached costs of its harmful “external” effects is exactly what got us into our current problem. Add in those costs and it’s clear it never really was “cheap.”
Walt: “c) “emissions reduction” has begun to resemble a movement, which is fine if not for the first two problems. The very real risk we run is to impoverish millions while solving nothing; in other words, the worst of both worlds.”
That, plus massive disruption of the ability to feed those millions, impoverished or not, due to decreased water reserves, decreased or unreliable precipitation, increased soil salinization, inundation of low-lying fertile areas, average temperatures too high to grow rice, collapsed fisheries, and other possible effects of not reducing emissions. Your concern for the world’s impoverished masses is touching, but it rings hollow.
Here’s the thing: I read your post and agree with your general stance; then I try to interpret the specifics, and find myself right where I started.
Example: you say “people act in accord with their interests”. You then go on to surmise that the people of China and India can “adopt a view of their interests being favored by long-term sustainable growth rather than a more rapid growth spurt followed by ecological collapse”…you see those two statements as complementary, and I see tham as in conflict.
The people of China and India have a lot in common with the people of the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe: they want to feed their families, be gainfully employed, and so forth. Their day-to-day concerns almost certainly closely resemble ours.
Have you noticed a growth of conscience in the country you live in, which I assume is among the wealthy nations? Are people volunteering to reduce their carbon footprint at the expense of their economic security? I didn’t think so. Now, why would the people of China and India, who can rightly feel that they desever their turn at growth, choose differently than those who have already received that benefit?
My point is simply that they will not. And if anybody thinks they will, then it’s time to start talking numbers. What will be the impact on individual families? AGW is one huge climate experiment, with the planet as the lab. “AGW Soultions” (at this point: emissions reduction and setting aside forest) is one huge social experiment, with the population of the planet as the guinea pigs. We are a long way, in my view, from any reason to believe that this experiment, as currently constructed, will achieve the intended result.
What this discussion lacks is realism; fatalism, if you will. What is the plan if the plan to alter the behavior of millions and millions of people fails? What is the backup? What is the failsafe?
You write “Given these uncertainties and the potential consequences, I would contend that prudence is strongly favored.”
I could not agree more. I consider the prudent path to avoid reliance on such a shaky “solution” (again, where are the details?) of “emissions reduction.” If we aren’t careful, this conscientious objective could devolve quickly into a vicious scam.
You wrote “However, this site might not be the best place for that since we are not policy people.” Fair enough. However, I wrote in #158 that there are important science questions to be answered before we can discuss social policy. I see no area of science better suited to this analysis than climatology. I see scientists as being in the position of providing the data necessary to inform policy. We can’t assume that this work is done; it has in fact only just begun.
It is my sincere hope that RC will reflect this reality in its postings, and that climate science in general will start seriously asking these questions.
Re Steve Renolds @ 170: “I think China and India are fully capable of building dams to control water flow from snow and glacier melt.”
You’re not getting it, Steve. These dams will do what when the glaciers have melted? Have you seen what has happened to the level of Lake Mead after several years of drought and reduced snowpack in the Rockies? (Hint: there are no glaciers in the Colorado Rockies.)
Re Walt Bennett @ 176: “What this discussion lacks is realism; fatalism, if you will. What is the plan if the plan to alter the behavior of millions and millions of people fails? What is the backup? What is the failsafe?”
That’s just it, there is no backup, there is no failsafe, there is no control group.
We’re living within the experiment no matter what we do, even if we do nothing.
Re: 172 “the risk of catastrophic AGW effects is a scientific issue worthy of rational discussion”
From my lay (albeit extensive) perusal of information available to me, I am struck by the wide range of informed opinions bearing specifically on how large a catastrophe AGW will turn out to be. Also, most popular science articles (i.e. in the corporate media) strike me as way off on this question of scale… as if the real worry here is whether the polar bear will go extinct.
An almost exact analog, in terms of denial of scale, can be seen in most popular discussions of our current economic condition. I don’t seek to broaden the discussion by this comment, only to point out that we are apparently very talented at kidding ourselves, in all kinds of ways. This is the principle problem behind the problem of AGW, in my most humble opinion.
Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 29 Jan 2008 @ 11:16 AM
You missed my point completely. Please re-read all of my posts on this issue, and it will become clearer.
Your stance embodies everything I am concerned about.
I can’t see where you were “provoked” in my #163. ;)
Re the graph you linked to, as it says on the owning page: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/
“Line plot of monthly mean global surface tmperature anomaly.”sic.
Given the noise of intra-annual temperature excursions, I would suggest that’s a good reason not to give a trend line or apply a multi-annual smoothing. For long term trends, surely individual months (whatever that would mean given the opposing hemispheric seasons) or annual average would be a better place to use trend lines or smoothing (e.g. 5 year averages). Not a bad plot for studying something like ENSO impact on Global Average Temperature (GAT) though.
What both the hemispheric averages and the DePreSys data suggests to me is that something else (non-AGW) is afoot in the apparent recent abatement of warming. Given that anthropogenic climate impacts are not the only climatic factor (although they are becoming the predominant factor decadally), this does not surprise me. I posted that link because you seemed to be unaware of this, mea culpa.
2015 – you’ll be seeing how GAT is, I’ll be seeing if the Arctic is ice free in September…
I’ve been asked if there is a debunking to this political hit piece by CBC? Of course everything here debunks the assertions that we are just naturaly coming out of the LIA and Mike’s graph is screwed up. Sigh. They use the ad nauseam fallacy effectivel for their audience because this is what politics does. Legates, Chrisy et al.
RE #168, since reducing emissions (in the U.S. especially) can be done in ways that save money without lowering living standards, at least to a 75% reduction or more, this could only help the economy, not hurt it. My husband and I were able to do so. It just takes a bit of effort.
Hunter Lovins ( http://www.rmi.org ) has even said the poor cannot afford to be inefficient. But they are. I remember reading out one poor woman in a 1 BR apartment in Chicago who had a gas bill of $400 one month (while ours in a 3-BR house in the Chicago suburbs was $100 that month. Our friend in a nearby Chicago burb had a gas bill of less than $20 dollars that same month in his passive solar home.
Lovins said, “The national energy policy comes down to the cracks around your windows.” Also check out http://www.natcap.org , which claims we can reduce 90% cost-effectively, by “tunneling through,” among other measures.
Ben Franklin is the one to follow here — “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Or, it’s not very wise to take your money and burn it out on your front lawn like so many fall leaves. At least think of all those GHGs that would emit.
In economic terms we are operating well within “the production possibilities frontier.” (We are highly inefficient and profligate.)
RE #170, it’s not just the floods in their more immediate future (and if we can’t keep water out of N Orleans or areas here in the U.S. that get flooded, why should we have so much confidence India and China will be able to do so).
It’s the demise of the glacial cycle, where fresh snow pack in winter builds up the glacier, which then slowly releases meltwater during the dry summers that irrigates their crops. When the glaciers are all melted in a GW world, and there’s no snowpack build up, then there will be floods in the winter and no water in the summers — for irrigation or drinking. We are looking at potentially massive famine in India and China.
And that is only one negative aspect of GW and other pollution related to GHG emisions. Add in heat deaths and disease spread, and crops withering in the heat, and many other such effects, and it may amount to a very big disaster.
The potential for avoiding this in cost-effective ways is very good. For instance, villages can collect livestock and human manure, turn it into biogas for generating electricity and cooking. The remainder substance ends up being an even better fertilizer than applying manure directly to crops. There are a few model villages doing this right now. Sure beats burning wood, filthy kerosene, or cow paddies, which are the major current cooking fuels in India. And why shouldn’t Indian villagers have electricity so they can have a tube light so their kids can study and go to college, like our kids? Or a fan to blow off the mosquitos at night. This is a way villages can have these.
You have arrived at the pertinent question? Far be it from me, a simple layman in these matters, to suggest what ought to be done.
However, I have two broad proposals:
1. Realistically assess the feasibility of “emissions reduction” as a viable standalone solution to rising CO2 levels. What, specifically, must happen for this to work? We need real numbers and we need them very soon.
2. Open climate science to all questions with regard to atmospheric composition. Man has ALREADY altered that composition; the solution to AGW requires that we continue to do so. Method 1: let nature take over, may not suit man. The planet does not have a preference for one state over another; conditions determine that. I highly suspect that the planet will happily morph into a warmer state, and the law of inertia says that it will require great force to alter that state once it has been achieved. In other words, letting nature take over may produce a planet we really aren’t well adapted to. And I mean this: even if we achieve our emissions reduction goals, the planet may still shift to a warmer state. So, we need to be scientifically open to engineered alterations of atmospheric composition. We need to dedicate monetary and human resources to this branch of the climate science tree.
OK, so how is opting for policies that ensure that your grandchildren have gainful employment and food on the table idealistic? If anything, the Chinese and Indians have shown greater propensity for this than have Americans. And yes, even in the US, I am seeing more and more people fed up with government inaction and taking actions to reduce their consumption. It is not universal, nor is it sufficient, but it is a start.
Ever read Albert Camus’ The Plague? Excellent book–and it is the most mature statement of Camus’ philosophy. The gist of it is that initially, people react selfishly, but when it becomes clear that the way to survival is to cooperate, they do so, even if the cooperation involves increased hardship or even risk to the the individual.
Walt, there are few who would accuse me of idealism. However, I do know that the only strategy we have that will work right now is to decrease emissions. Geoengineering solutions that involve aerosols, etc. involve unanticipated effects that we don’t know how to model at present. Carbon capture and storage is unproved on a large scale. I also know that we are not far away from various tipping points–loss of arctic sea ice, increased natural sources of CO2 and CH4, depletion of the oceans ability to absorb CO2, ocean acidification. We want to stay away from these.
I think it would be very interesting if RC took a look at worst-case outcomes of climate change in terms of what models and paleoclimate suggest. I think there is quite a disconnect between what the impressions of different posters.
Re B Buckner @185: “I don’t understand your point. The Hoover dam essentially functioned as a glacier would, storing water and getting the southwest through several years of drought without a supply disruption.”
Look at the marked falling level of Lake Mead and tell us that with a straight face. And then tell it to those dependent on over-allocated Colorado River water for municipal drinking and agricultural use.
Walt Bennett asked: “Can we engineer a way to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels?”
Yes, we can draw down atmospheric CO2 levels using natural processes, through (1) large-scale reforestation and (2) organic agriculture techniques that return carbon to the soil.
But there is no hope of “reducing” atmospheric CO2 levels while we continue increasing them with accelerating growth in emissions.
Walt Bennett wrote: “Steve [Reynolds] raised a point which deserves more than the high-handed dismissiveness with which it has been so far met.”
With all due respect, Steve Reynolds raised a scripted talking point — the assertion that taking necessary steps to reduce CO2 emissions will condemn millions of people in the developing world to poverty — that is entirely deserving of “high-handed dismissiveness” because it is demonstrably bogus, and has repeatedly been aired-out and shown to be without merit in discussion threads on this very site.
Every national and international agency that deals with overcoming poverty in the third world has said that the effects of global warming are already hindering and setting back their efforts, and that unmitigated global warming will have particularly catastrophic effects on the world’s poor, and completely overwhelm and destroy any hopes of reducing poverty and human suffering, such as those embodied in the UN Millennium Development Goals. On the other hand, a rapid conversion from fossil fuel energy to clean, renewable, distributed, democratically-owned and controlled energy generation from wind, solar and sustainably-produced biofuels — a “second industrial revolution” could stimulate economic growth worldwide, both in the developing world and the industrialized west.
Mitigating global warming by migrating from fossil fuel energy to clean renewable energy, by large-scale reforestation projects, and by moving to sustainable organic agriculture and a plant-based diet, is not an obstacle to reducing the poverty of the developing world — it is in fact the only way to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into sustainable economic well-being.
Walt Bennett wrote: “Are people volunteering to reduce their carbon footprint at the expense of their economic security? I didn’t think so.”
In fact many people, and indeed corporations, are volunteering to reduce their carbon footprints by implementing efficiency and new energy technologies and thereby improving their economic security. The dependence of the US economy on fossil fuels is a source of economic insecurity, and reducing that reliance through efficiencey and clean renewable energy technologies would enhance the country’s economic security. Your implied assertion that reducing one’s CO2 emissions necessarily requires reducing one’s economic security is baseless.
Walt Bennet asked: “Now, why would the people of China and India, who can rightly feel that they deserve their turn at growth, choose differently than those who have already received that benefit?”
First of all, because they will benefit by choosing differently; second, because there are plenty of available options for choosing differently; and third, because the option to follow the same growth path that this industrialized West did — one based on ample supplies of cheap fossil fuels, and an atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere with the capacity to absorb gigatons of excess carbon and other pollution before all hell breaks loose — simply doesn’t exist. If China and India attempt to follow that path, it will lead to the collapse of their societies and the deaths of hundreds of millions of people in those countries from famine, disease, pestilence and war.
You and I do not fundamentally disagree on the need to avert catastrophic warming. If anything, I believe that current Climate Science orthodoxy is much too conservative. Whether or not global temperatures skyrocket in the next decade (as I believe they will), we are seeing more and more signs that the climate is shifting in permanent ways. The signs could be wrong, or they could be the early warning that we will one day come to recognize as the start of the shift to a warmer planet.
Of course I am in favor of a zero carbon emissions planet. I am in favor of clean energy. I am in favor of social policies which encourage this shift.
I am stuck with this concern: what if it is later than we think? And, what if we completely miss our targets for emissions reduction? And, what if the reduction in soot has a sudden impact on warming? And, what if it turns out to be incredibly difficult to reverse some of the processes which are underway?
What I am struggling to communicate is: we really need a lot more science on the above questions, and on all possible alternatives to avoid the worst consequences. And we simply must do all of this without placing an extra economic burden on those who already cannot afford basic energy.
To whoever it was who scoffed at my concern over energy costs, based on the idea that scarcity will raise the price anyway, my concern is that the Big Plan is to increase that cost even further. This will create a much broader and deeper class of impoverished people, whose only real problem is their inability to afford or access basic energy at a decent cost.
I don’t know how else to say it: we run the risk of ruining millions of lives without actually solving the problem. We really need to expand our ability to question the strategies we have been asked to accept. We need numbers and we need them soon.
I assume we’re all on the same side here. We have one chance to get this right.
#182 Mark, Don’t know if it was a CBC produced documentary per se, judging by the narrator’s accent its either British or Australian… Segment 1/5 shows that it was much warmer for many of the past 10,000 years. How interesting, perhaps Bowhead whales of the Eastern Arctic didn’t like the Bowheads from the Western Arctic, so they kept to themselves in their own migratory courses dictated by a time when it was colder, despite all that wide open water to enjoy… As with Antarctic dinosaurs, one strong rebuttal may be found in biology. But then again past glacial rebound of the last 10,000 years have made it so that you can find
an ancient Bowhead skull or complete skeleton many hundreds of meters above sea level, many can be found even today, rebound means that it was colder then and much warmer now, but I guess that the producer wasn’t interested in these facts.
Walt Bennett wrote: “Do you agree or disagree with the following: ‘Man is now responsible for managing the climate of the planet.'”
The only thing we are responsible for “managing” is ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with “the climate”, and “the climate” is perfectly capable of “managing” itself. What’s wrong is us, the pollution that we are creating, and the impossible demands we are placing on the Earth’s biosphere, atmosphere and oceans. That’s what needs to be “managed”.
Talking about “managing the climate” while the entire Earth’s biosphere is rapidly sickening from the pollution that we have produced, and our degradation of ecosystems, sounds to me like an alcoholic diagnosed with cirrhosis who decides that the solution is not to stop drinking, but to “manage” his liver, since he is obviously much smarter than some dumb old liver, and under his “management” the liver will be able to process all of the alcohol he cares to drink.
The only function a glacier serves in water supply is to provide a buffer during drought years, otherwise you are dependent on that years rainfall or snow melt. Of course lake levels have fallen dramatically in Lake Mead, there has been seven years of drought and withdrawals continue at regular rates. But because of the dam, there has been no supply disruption.
“Man is now capable of managing the climate of the planet.”
I suspect your answer is yes. My answer is no. Hippocrates admonition to physicians comes to mind, “First, do no harm.” I doubt that any of our host climatologists would feel inclined to certify that any particular geoengineering scheme would do no harm, and if I’m wrong I hope they correct me.
The history of engineering is a collection of disasters; exploding boilers, burning buildings, and collapsing bridges. Engineering is very good at perfecting things. It has a much spottier record at being right the (very) first time.
I would much rather that we put our energy into engineering solutions that are in reach, and that show immediate personal savings and global relief: better solar, better wind, better conservation. They may not be perfect. They may not be enough (but then they may). But they are steps in the right direction. The geoengineering grand slam strikes me as just another excuse to not do anything while waiting for some deus-ex-machina salvation.
Walt Bennett wrote: “We must get better at what we are already doing.”
Why “must” we get better at “what we are already doing” when “what we are already doing” is clearly destructive? Why do you rule out, with the use of the word “must”, the alternative of stopping “what we are already doing” and doing something different instead?
Should a tobacco smoker “get better at smoking”, or quit? Perhaps the smoker’s problem is that he needs to learn how to “manage his lungs” so he can continue smoking with impunity. Surely there are “engineering solutions”, perhaps genetic engineering, that could be applied to modify the functioning of his lungs so that he can continue smoking. Perhaps his lungs could be replaced with synthetic organs that would not be vulnerable to carcinogens.
The hubris of imagining that human beings have the knowledge, understanding or ability to “manage” the Earth’s climate is exactly the root cause of the present crisis.
Ray, Walt, et al. Just an opinion and observation regarding getting people to do stuff. In a nutshell, I agree with Rays quote (188) of Camus, “…but when it becomes clear that the way to survival is to cooperate, they do so, even if the cooperation involves increased hardship or even risk to the individual…” The problem is that this is not a realistic expectation until the danger is directly in front of them and they have physically seen its potential. That isn’t about to happen any time soon. I see no reason to expect the people of India, China, any other developing state to jump on the AGW bandwagon and bite off a bunch of serious personal hardships to cooperatively solve it for mankind. It might be really nice if they did, but wishing for it is not going to help. As the movie line said, “you can wish in one hand and crap in the other and see which fills up first.”
SecularAnimist (192): An erudite post, that has some valid assertions but your overall assessment is grossly sanguine. It sounds like you are, in this case, believing and espousing what you like and hope for. It’s odd that nobody, with any degree of agreement or consensus, knows for certain how to get 3rd world states out of poverty — except, it seems, climate scientists.
[Response: Is your argument that you know for certain that any economic/technological change that might reduce emissions must increase that poverty? That would seem similarly ill-posed. – gavin]
Ray Ladbury> I also know that we are not far away from various tipping points–loss of arctic sea ice, increased natural sources of CO2 and CH4, depletion of the oceans ability to absorb CO2, ocean acidification.
How do you ‘know’ these things (both how far away we are and whether they are ‘tipping points’) or not? And whether these effects are worse than the effects of reducing emissions? Even the IPCC does not claim to know.
“… we need to cut roughly 2% of current emission levels a year for the next forty years.”
The other two are people who’ve done the economics and business plan work.
Conservation _is_ conservative — of resources. It’s liberal in letting most people get a little better off, instead of a few get much richer. You know the income distribution trends, I’m sure.
Rod B., Obviously we will have to offer something to China, and I’m thinking that subsidized advanced energy generation technology, energy-efficient technology, etc. might be a reasonable incentive. After all, we were willing to send fuel oil to N. Korea. As I’ve said, we have to stop viewing this as a zero-sum game.
As to development, the biggest challenge is to keep it from being a corporate welfare program and facilitate building of wealth in the target country. We’ve seen takeoff in our lifetimes in India and China, so we know it is possible. The time is particularly good to be contemplating green technology. Much of the world is just now building its infrastructure, and at the same time, we’re nearing and era of increasing fossil fuel prices. If we can get the developing countries to opt for green technologies it will pay dividends for generations to come.
SecularAnimist> With all due respect, Steve Reynolds raised a scripted talking point…
I guess that you don’t think much respect is due. What I say here are my own opinions, not influenced by special interest lobbies or conflicts of interest. You do not win arguments with sincere people by telling them that they are not sincere.
SecularAnimist> …it is demonstrably bogus, and has repeatedly been aired-out and shown to be without merit in discussion threads on this very site.
A standard of scientific evidence must be pretty low if having a majority of commenters here agree is enough to prove a point.
I held the belief, briefly, that all we need to do to “fix” global warming is to stop doing the things that caused it. You evidently still hold that belief.
I believe that we are beyond that point both as a practical matter (it will take 10 to 20 years before we see an actual annual reduction in ghg emissions, and that is a best-case scenario) and from the standpoint of what’s feasible (getting the world to agree on this strategy sounds good until the world has to agree on how to do it).
You and some others seem to have missed my point completely, which is this: we cannot put all our eggs in the “stop being bad” basket, because the very real possibility is that we’ve already been too bad, or will reach that point before we can stop it. Therefore we must – and I mean, must – get better at engineering the climate system, in particular the atmosphere.
As Hank and Ray acknowledge, we are already doing it (engineering climate). We have to move from doing it unconsciously to doing it consciously.
Although perhaps you cannot envision it, it is clear to me: we must, and we will engineer our way forward.
I am approaching this from the standpoint of realistic optimism (or, if you prefer, optimistic realism).
You are correct that “we’ve already been too bad” and the only hope is geoengineering. But that seems as unlikely as us cutting back on our CO2 emissions :-(
You claim to be a realistic optimist but that term is is an oxymoron. Optimists are not realistic and a realistic person is not an optimist. What we need is realism not optimism. We have spent too long behaving like Mr Micawber believing something would turn up to save us. Unless we panic, and take action immediately then we are all doomed!
Steve Reynolds, Published research has shown that oceans are becoming more acidic and are less able to absorb CO2. Other research has shown that we are starting to see outgassing of CO2 and CH4 from thawing permafrost. And to know the precarious state of Arctic Sea Ice, opening up a newspaper ought to do just fine (OK, well maybe not the Wall Street Urinal, but a real paper.).
That these are potential tipping points–well we can surmise those from the paleoclimatological record. At some point in past warming trends, natural sources of CO2 kicked in–presumably the oceans and permafrost, etc.. Moreover, I would contend that the fact that we do not know how close we had perhaps better not take comfort in our ignorance of how close we are to various tipping points. An undefined risk is a more serious risk than a high risk.
Ray Ladbury> Published research has shown that oceans are becoming more acidic and are less able to absorb CO2. Other research has shown that we are starting to see outgassing of CO2 and CH4 from thawing permafrost. And to know the precarious state of Arctic Sea Ice, opening up a newspaper…
Yes, research has shown that these effects exist, which I did not dispute. What I dispute is that anyone ‘knows’ we are getting close to tipping points.
Comment by Steve Reynolds — 29 Jan 2008 @ 10:13 PM
I am pleased to invite all contributors, readers and posters at RC to review the brilliant presentation by Louis M. Michaud, P. Eng. on the qualities of the Atmospheric Vortex Engine at the Wayne State University Nuclear Physics Forum on Jan. 28, 2008.
In summary, Mr. Michaud (The Wizard of On) states:
“The energy production potential of the atmospheric vortex engine is far greater than that to other solar energy technologies because the solar collector is the earth’s surface in its unaltered state; there is no need for a huge solar collector. A vortex engine increases the efficiency of thermal power plants by reducing cold source (sink) temperature. The AVE could alleviate global warming by reducing the quantity of fuel required to meet energy needs. The AVE could remediate global warming by lifting heat above greenhouse gases so that the heat can more easily radiate back to space.”
I will be looking forward to reading any comments you might have on the presentation.
Given the implications of Mr. Michaud’s statement, isn’t it about time everyone gets past the “first they ignore you” (Gandhi) stage?
Off topic, but I’m wondering if something unusual is going on in the Bering and Chuckchi Sea right now. Cryosphere Today’s image for January 29, 2008 shows a large open area in those two seas. I read an article earlier this month about larger than normal leads in the sea ice in the Beaufort Sea and how the new thin ice was easily blown about by the winds. Is this happening in the Bering Sea too?
Gavin (per 207), No, I definitely am not saying that I “….know for certain that any economic/technological change that might reduce emissions must increase that poverty…” If I were to guess (thoroughly uneducated) I might say it is likely — which is probably worth nothing. My criticism was the “certainty” part. I absolutely do not know “for certain” that reducing emissions will increase that poverty. My point was that the folks who claim “for certain” that reducing emissions will increase everybody’s standard of living have no justification for their belief or assertions.
re Hank, et al — same topic: I don’t doubt that isolated individuals can point to cases, maybe their own, where they have seen or effected significant emission reductions at no “noticeable” degradation of their living standards. Some here have claimed such (though they didn’t claim significant improvement). Nor do I dispute that scholars with PhDs and experience in economics can create erudite studies that show, with some of credibility, cutting emissions, and maintaining status quo or even getting economic improvements is possible (though the scope of those studies, as a rule, is limited.) Nor do I dispute some enterprises have made economic improvements in their business through selective conservation (though those sometimes count money that is a little funny, like carbon credits.)
I’m just simply saying that probably nothing can be projected as a slam dunk, the least of which, by far, are economic projections. Those climate folks and AGW proponents who claim otherwise ought to knock it off.
Ray (213) I generally agree with your thought here. But “…have to offer something to China, and I’m thinking that subsidized advanced energy generation technology, energy-efficient technology, etc. might be a reasonable incentive….” is not exactly people in developing states clamoring all over themselves to get hardships so they can cooperatively help save us all from the throes of AGW — which was my original point.
I’ve been through all this. Twice. The tobacco isn’t bad for you war and in, South Africa, the HIV doesn’t cause AIDS war. It does seem that you can’t win but the thing is, it’s trench warfare, not a matter of flicking a switch. The sorry thing is that the denialists are willing to risk killing millions of people to satisfy their egos (or their desire for profit) — as happened with the delays they caused in stopping the tobacco epidemic.
Thanks for the hothouse stuff. I’ve been looking up paleoclimatic evidence to support what’s going on now and in my opinion it’s an underdeveloped field, even if there are significant difficulties e.g. in accuracy of long-range proxy-based measurement, and changes in continental configurations.
My experience is that rather than high-profile debates where someone is meant to land a killer blow, grass-roots work (for which realclimate is a great resource) like letters to the press and responding on blogs and forums is the way to go.
It’s depressing that even engineers seem to be incapable of scientific reasoning as e.g. in the comments on a recent article on greenhouse gas trends (IEEE Spectrum Jan 2008 http://spectrum.ieee.org/jan08/5826).
If everyone who is concerned about the faux debate pitches in with little contributions like this, we will win in the end. Even the French have banned smoking to a greater extent than you could have imagined a few years ago, and a recent survey in Australia reported something like 80% of business leaders thought they should be doing more about climate change (but didn’t know what to do).
[[I see no reason to expect the people of India, China, any other developing state to jump on the AGW bandwagon and bite off a bunch of serious personal hardships to cooperatively solve it for mankind.]]
I see no reason that they would need to embrace “serious personal hardships” in order to stop AGW. The solve-poverty/solve-global-warming dichotomy is a false one.
Well, at least I think we can agree that there will arise no hero(ine) on a white horse to lead us out of our discussion ( or dithering, if you will) until we settle on a feasible action which promises an extension of our species’ life. The extreme snows of China may fruitfully extend the conversation. Many will dismiss the supposition that nearly seven billion of us will chatter like Iroquois in the long house to reach consensus, so irritating to the 18th Century developers in Philadelphia that they broke the frontier’s peace which Friends had established for two generations. But we have the advantage of the internet and, I hope, patience and experience.
Comment by Juola (Joe) A. Haga — 30 Jan 2008 @ 6:21 AM
Re #215 (Walt Bennett) “As Hank and Ray acknowledge, we are already doing it (engineering climate). We have to move from doing it unconsciously to doing it consciously.
Although perhaps you cannot envision it, it is clear to me: we must, and we will engineer our way forward.”
Who is this “we”, Walt? If geoengineering is undertaken, who decides what is to be done? Who decides what the goal is? A climatic regime that suits China might not suit the USA and vice versa. So, if we are to avoid some self-selected group deciding on the goal for everyone, or more likely “climate wars” between rival geoengineers, we will need global or near-global agreement. It is also likely that much geoengineering research would have direct military applications – suppose you could block out the sun over a “rogue state” using giant mirrors for example? So unless it is preceded by a very high degree of international agreement and performed under UN or similar auspices, research on geoengineering could trigger a new arms race; and if we can achieve that degree of international agreement, why not use it to cut emissions?
The peoples of India and China are actually more likely to embrace mitigation. That is how they have lived for centuries. They know how to ride bicycles to work. They aren’t horrified by living in close quarters. They don’t mind taking the train. What Americans cannot apparently get, is that just like we had a high standard of living in the 19th century, when we walked most of the places to which we wanted to go.
Long commutes and huge houses in the suburbs with four cars in the garage are not your standard of living. The standard of living is defined mostly by hope for the future. I don’t care if my kids have to live in efficient skyscrapers and that they might have to walk to work. That’s how I live now. It’s great. With the money I don;t waste on that stupid lifestyle in the burbs, I have a great time.
[[I see no reason to expect the people of India, China, any other developing state to jump on the AGW bandwagon and bite off a bunch of serious personal hardships to cooperatively solve it for mankind.]]
They are a lot smarter than that. They can make responsible decisions; given their familiarity with living on a low energy budget, they could easily make far more responsible decisions than us.
Three cars in the garage and a huge house in the suburbs and overseas vacations are not necessary to have a high standard of living.
NOTE – RANDOM HYPHENATION WILL BE ATTEMPTED TO AVOID THE HYPERACTIVE SPAM FILTER
Yup. Walt, rhetoric is in use there when you claim the unintended and widely denied consequences of our over-draft of fossil carbon count as “engineering.”
By that argument I’m an engineer any time I eat the seed corn, paint myself into a corner, flood the basement while trying to fix the plumbing, or build a fire in the fireplace with the damper closed.
Causing a problem isn’t “engineering” — solving one might be.
Being able to cause a problem — in a culture widely in denial — isn’t engineering.
Sure, I read about the HAARP ionosphere heating experiments and can mumble to myself that maybe there’s a way to beam up microwaves and nudge CO2 molecules to emit photons, up there where the odds are good they’ll leave, tickling the ones that haven’t quite absorbed enough energy from the rare bump and grind event to do it on their own. I’d love to see an engineering answer. Heck, I’d love to find out the ‘red dwarf’ stars cluttering the galaxy are all outer shells of Dyson spheres methodically getting rid of vast amounts of excess heat while containing huge albeit inward-turning civilizations.
But the Ringworld _is_ unstable.
Not getting there _is_ often the best idea to cross one’s mind, when contemplating the journey.
Reread _Overshoot_. ISBN 0252009886. Read it in the illumination provided by today’s financial news.
To see where we are now headed, when our destiny has departed so radically from our aspirations, we must examine some historic indices that point to the conclusion that even the concept of succession (as explored in previous chapters) understates the ultimate consequences of our own exuberance. We can begin by taking a fresh look at the Great Depression of the 1930s, an episode people saw largely in the shallower terms of eco-nom-ics and politics when they were living through it.  From an ecologically informed perspective, what else can we now see in it?
The Great Depression, looked at ecologically, was a preview of the fate toward which mankind has been drawn by the kinds of progress that have depended on consuming exhaustible resources. We need to see why it was not recognized for the preview it was; this will help us to grasp at last the meaning missed earlier.
We did not know we were watching a preview because, when the world economy fell apart in 1929-32, it was not from exhaustion of essential fuels or materials. From the very definition of carrying capacity—the maximum indefinitely supportable ecological load—we can now see that non-renewable resources provide no real carrying capacity; they provide only phantom carrying capacity. If coming to depend on phantom carrying capacity is a Faustian bargain that mort-ga-ges the future of Homo colossus as the price of an exuberant present, that mort-gage was not yet being fore-closed in the Great Depression. Even so, much of the suffering that befell so much of mankind in the 1930s does need to be seen as the result of a carrying capacity de-fi-cit. The fact that the de-fi-cit did not stem from res-ource exhaustion in that instance makes it no less indicative of the kinds of grief entailed by resource depletion. Accordingly, we need to understand what did bring on a carrying capacity def-i-cit in the 1930s…..
RE #210 & “How do you ‘know’ these things (both how far away we are and whether they are ‘tipping points’) or not?”
This is the wrong question for laypersons living in the world (tho it might be the right one for scientists from Mars studying Earth).
The Q should be, “How do you know we are NOT approaching tipping points, or that there are none?”
People concerned with survival on earth want to avoid the false negative; they’re not so interested in avoiding the false positive.
And as mentioned, reducing GHGs through energy/resource conservation/efficiency and alt energy would be a terrific economic boon to all countries rich and poor alike, so econ v. enviro is a total red herring here, and not even a consideration in the debate. (Hint: it’s a fallacy the fossil fuel industry perpetuates, and they are doomed to die out like the very dinosaurs from which they get their product.)
Walt Bennett wrote: “I held the belief, briefly, that all we need to do to “fix” global warming is to stop doing the things that caused it. You evidently still hold that belief …”
No, in fact I agree with Australian scientist Tim Flannery that the excess CO2 we have put into the atmosphere over the last century or so has already created dangerous levels of CO2, and is already causing dangerous warming, and will continue to cause even more dangerous warming for decades or centuries due to its longevity in the atmosphere, and that we must therefore not only stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere, but also find ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere to reduce CO2 concentrations to safe (eg. pre-industrial) levels.
I also agree with Flannery’s proposals that this can best be accomplished through large-scale reforestation projects as well as through organic agricultural techniques that capture carbon in the soil — both of which have numerous other benefits, and none of the risks of “geoengineering” schemes that involve tinkering with the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans by adding huge amounts of additional pollutants to try to counteract the pollutants that we have already added and continue to add.
Walt Bennet wrote: “I believe that we are beyond that point both as a practical matter (it will take 10 to 20 years before we see an actual annual reduction in ghg emissions, and that is a best-case scenario) and from the standpoint of what’s feasible (getting the world to agree on this strategy sounds good until the world has to agree on how to do it).”
And yet you appear to believe that complex, potentially dangerous “geoengineering” schemes, using technology that doesn’t exist and relying on scientific understanding that we don’t have, can be implemented more quickly than reductions in CO2 emissions (which we know very well how to achieve) and are more feasible because it will be easier to get “the world” to agree on such risky schemes than it will to get agreement on reducing emissions (agreement which, with the exception of the fossil fuel corporations and a couple of national governments, we already have). That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Walt Bennett wrote: “Therefore we must – and I mean, must – get better at engineering the climate system, in particular the atmosphere […] we are already doing it (engineering climate). We have to move from doing it unconsciously to doing it consciously.”
We are not “engineering climate”. We are wrecking the climate. Saying that we are already engineering the climate and must get better at it is like saying that someone who has just smashed up a computer with a sledgehammer is “engineering computers” and just needs to get better at it in order to produce a better computer.
Walt Bennett: “Although perhaps you cannot envision it, it is clear to me: we must, and we will engineer our way forward.”
I have no doubt that engineering clean, renewable energy and efficiency technologies that will provide ample energy for a prosperous and sustainable human civilization able to thrive while living within the carrying capacity of the Earth’s biosphere will play a major role in our way forward. And we already know how to accomplish that. The barriers are political, not technical or economic barriers.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Jan 2008 @ 11:35 AM
Now, getting back to the Cretaceous…
From time to time on this thread, people have expressed an interest in seeing more about what the geography looked like at various times in Earth’s past. I think many have already found their way to Scotese’s wonderful sight, which has some spectacular animations:
You cannot talk about paleoclimate without taking into account paleogeography.
For example, 150 million years ago, there were NO continental landmasses near the poles. So there were no continental glaciers and all there would have been was polar seaice during the winters (when there would have been 24 hours of darkness just like today.)
I think it’s a shame this has turned into yet another debate on AGW, emissions, skeptics etc. The original topic is a very interesting one, but sadly it has drowned in the torrent of AGW-quarrels.
I think it was Hank Roberts who (early on) suggested a seperate thread for that kind of discussion – an idea I think should have been taken further.
[Response: Well, it’s largely my own fault for coupling the two issues in my article, but I knew there was that risk. I went ahead and did it anyway, because some discussion on how scientific issues are thrashed out (and how different that is from a “debate”) is needed. At the same time, I thought it would be more productive to discuss those issues with a concrete example of an ongoing scientific controversy before us. Carrying out the discussion in a vacuum would be more likely to lead up a garden path. It’s a variant on the legal principle that “bad cases make bad law” (and conversely good cases at least have a chance to make good law). –raypierre]
All is well, all problems solved–no need for further debate regarding the best way forward with respect to energy/AGW issues.
Read Mr. Louis M. Michaud’s presentation (slides and notes) to the Wayne State University Nuclear Physics Forum on Jan. 28. Go to http://www.vortexengine.ca and click on Presentations/AVE, and report back as to whether you are in agreement, or not.
[Response: OK, it’s an interesting device, and it’s not manifestly a perpetuum mobile. This is a very analyzable device and makes an interesting GFD problem. You ought to get hooked up with a decent GFD rotating fluids person and actually do some calculations. Then go out and build and test. If it only takes 30m, it’s not a huge investment of venture capital, but enough that the calculations have to be done first. Let us know when there’s either been a field test or some numerical simulations. Meanwhile, this isn’t really the right place to be discussing the AVE. Thanks for noting its existence, though. –raypierre]
What are your thoughts regarding hedging our bets with regard to
emissions reduction and other “stop being bad” policies?
The problem of pulling down CO2 from the atmosphere consists of two sub-problems: a big one and a small one. The big one is, that pulling a unit of CO2 down costs the same amount of energy as what was generated when it was released: both useful energy and waste heat that was disposed of. That’s a lot of energy.
If you have a realistic recipe for CO2 pull-down on a large scale, you must have access to a source of (relatively) inexpensive, C-neutral energy. You know what I would do if I had that? I would start substituting existing GHG-emitting generating capacity with it. There is a long way to go before you run out of capacity to substitute.
Only after that does the issue of CO2 pull-down come up, if substitution turns out — or is foreseen — not to be sufficient. Which I personally expect to happen; full disclosure. Only then do we need to address the smaller sub-problem. In that order. It will not be cheap, but it will be straightforward, once you have that energy source.
(BTW if you are thinking about using biological processes to do it, consider that we will also have some 9B mouths to feed within an ecosystem under severe environmental and climatic stress. You don’t want to compete with that.)
Same for stratospheric aerosol engineering. Again, two sub-problems, the big one and the small one. The small one is doing it: we did it accidentally from 1945-1970, and the Chinese are working on doing it again. The big problem is understanding it before even considering doing it. And that requires no special effort, just what the climate science community is already doing generally, year in, year out: understanding the workings of the climate system. As for doing it, we’ll cross that bridge when, and if, we get to it.
What about doing something on the critical path, rather?
I have an open question for those who claim that reducing carbon emissions will doom millions to poverty:
How is it that a full century of BAU failed to eliminate poverty? In fact one can make a good case that BAU exacerbated the gulf between the haves and have-nots. The technology level of agrarian America in 1908, say in per-capita carbon emissions or however you care to define it, was a lot closer to that of India in 1908 than 2008 America is to 2008 India.
It is completely hypocritical to claim that we have to keep wasting vast amounts of energy in order to ease poverty in the undeveloped world. BAU didn’t ease poverty yesterday, it’s not helping today, and our wasting limited resources certainly won’t help tomorrow.
Philip Machanick (225): hmmmm… do I dare jump back into the tobacco pool?? Nah! Everyone just goes bonkers; and it would hijack this good thread even more.
But to point out one discrepency with your comparison. Tobacco, right or wrong, generated a tremendous oder of big big big bucks for government. That’s why the attack was sucessful. So far AGW does not have that potential, so your comparison falls apart.
None-the-less, I would agree that your post offers some credible advice.
Re JCH @ 231: “The peoples of India and China are actually more likely to embrace mitigation. That is how they have lived for centuries. They know how to ride bicycles to work. They aren’t horrified by living in close quarters. They don’t mind taking the train.”
Moreover, having only recently reached their current state of development, they have not yet forgotten, either individually or collectively, how to live without the trappings that we ourselves now deem to be so utterly necessary, meaning they are in a much better position to adapt and thrive under conditions without those trappings than we are.
This concept has been studied in another form:
Hurricane Tower Desalination System
Client: National Science Foundation
Project: Computational & Physical Modeling of the Hurricane Tower Desalination System
Oceanit built a device and states, “The cost of water produced by the Hurricane Tower was comparable to that produced by existing condensation systems and reverse osmosis systems, but used only a small fraction of fossil fuel energy.”
Barton (227), I was simply addressing Camus’ position as Ray provided in 188.
JCH (231), Good. Now I see how we can do massive mitigation yet continue to support people’s standard of living. The climate guys simply do the defining of what is the satisfactory standard of living for them other guys. Neat and clean and no problem…..
Also the Chinese et al, you say, (and concurred in by Jim Eager (249)) will gladly accept the hardships of mitigation because they’ve always lived with similar hardships and don’t know any better (which you attribute to “smarter”). ‘Nother nice neat plan. BTW, I would suggest that you not go on the stump for AGW and mitigation; your assertions are what would cause the aginers to drool all over the place because they could say convincingly to the public, “See! What did I tell you those guys really wanted??!!”
Then Lynn says (233), “….would be a terrific economic boon to all countries rich and poor alike, so econ v. enviro is a total red herring here, and not even a consideration in the debate.”
[sigh!] Lynn, would you tell me with guaranteed (by you) certainty which of the alt. energy enterprises will be a colossal success five years from now? I’ll make it easy: just guarantee me one of the current companies a five-fold increase in their stock price. But I still admire your zeal.
Phillip Shaw (244): I’m assuming you are defining BAU in terms of trying or not trying to control carbon emissions. A novel definition going back to 1900, but I’ll go with it. You say “BAU” hasn’t gotten the 3rd world out of poverty [as an aside I think it actually is relative and not that bad, but I’ll go with this, too.] so not BAU is certain to do the trick. That logic flow is giving me a headache.
Finally, raypierre says (235), “Now, getting back to the Cretaceous…”
Thank you for the reference as well as your interest, Jon.
Hawaii (Kona Coast, I assume) is a great place to desalinate sea water because it has warm surface water, plenty of direct sunshine to augment its temperature, and a cold undersea current that can be tapped to efficiently condense the fresh water that is evaporated in any device.
The device you provide reference to is, at first blush, an interesting variation to standard mechanical methods of desalinating seawater such as what would be achieved by using a spray tower, in which pumps are used to provide brine to the nozzles, followed by recovery of the fresh water eaporated into the air by passing the humidified air stream through a condenser. In this case a “stirring device” seems to induce both air flow and water contact as well as to enhace heat and mass transfer coefficients, which represents an interesting variation on the standard theme.
However, it is not an atmospheric vortex engine, which provides motive power through establishment of a tall (3-5 mile) buoyant vortex. This creates a “vacuum” at the surface below which induces air to converge (and be deflected tangentially) as it enters the base of the vortex. The humidity and enthalpy of the incoming air is enhanced by “warming towers” through which the air traverses (mostly) horizontally while being contacted with warmed water introduced by a spray or allowed to trickle down extended surfaces. A large one would normally be designed to export electricity as well as to produce desalinated water.
In contrast to the Oceanit device (“hurricane tower” seems a bit O/T) the AVE would require no external source of power, since electricity to power the pumps could easily be generated internally.
In my opinion, developing the AVE to accomplish these sorts of tasks weakens GW skeptics because it devalues the assets of their patrons, whether that be the technological “know how” of the nuclear industry or the fossil reserves of YKW. This low-tech form of power can be produced in a distributed fashion and owned by local municipalities. It is especially useful when combined with geothermal resources, which I understand to be plentiful in Hawaii, as well as most of the northwestern US.
Re Rod B @ 252: “Also the Chinese et al, you say, (and concurred in by Jim Eager (249)) will gladly accept the hardships of mitigation because they’ve always lived with similar hardships and don’t know any better (which you attribute to “smarter”).”
Nice mischaracterization of what Ray and I wrote, Rod.
I’ll let Ray clarify his own words, but I was merely pointing out that if push comes to shove, whether it be due to environmental collapse or peak oil, the Chinese and Indians will be in a much better position to adapt than Americans will be.
Preserving, or emulating, our current profligate, wasteful lifestyle is the antithesis of adaptation.
Re #250 Where Steve wrote “I agree, but before you can seriously address that question with people, they have to admit that they do not already ‘know’ all the answers.”
I admit that I do not already ‘know’ all the answers.
Howver I do ‘know’ how the rapid warming that ended the Younger Dryas stadial happened. The sea ice which had spread out of the Arctic as far as Ireland suddenly melted. This case warming by changing the summer albedo, but it also allowed the water which had been below the ice to evaporate. Water vapour is the main greenhouse gas, and this intensified the warming causing more water vapour to be produced. What happened was a runaway warming when temperature rose by 10C within three years.
Now the remaining ice in the Arctic is also about to disappear, and that will also cause a runaway warming. I don’t know how temperatures will rise. I don’t have all the answers. But it has the potential to seriously disrupt agriculture which will result in famine.
Lynn Vincentnathan wrote: “The Q should be, ‘How do you know we are NOT approaching tipping points, or that there are none?'”
Steve Reynolds replied: “I agree, but before you can seriously address that question with people, they have to admit that they do not already ‘know’ all the answers.”
What we do already know is that the observed anthropogenic increase in atmospheric concentrations of CO2, principally from the burning of fossil fuels aggravated by deforestation, is causing the observed heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans as well as observed acidification of the oceans; that the anthropogenic heating is already causing the large-scale observed changes in the Earth’s climate, hydrosphere and biosphere; that these observed effects are far more rapid and extreme than predicted by our models; that the accumulated excess CO2 in the atmosphere will continue to cause such effects for many decades at least; and that our emissions are not only growing but accelerating; and that if we continue on this path the resulting unmitigated warming will have catastrophic effects for both human beings and the Earth’s biosphere itself.
In short we know everything we need to know to understand that we must move quickly and aggressively to reduce carbon emissions by phasing out fossil fuels and replacing them with clean, renewable sources of energy, while simultaneously using large-scale reforestation and organic agriculture techniques to draw down the already excessive and dangerous CO2 levels by capturing carbon in soils and biomass.
It is just because we know this, and because the public is at last awakening to the fact that we know this, that proponents of doing nothing are moving away from disputing the indisputable reality of anthropogenic warming and dangerous climate change, and offering instead spurious arguments that action will be “too expensive” or will “perpetuate poverty”.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 31 Jan 2008 @ 11:18 AM
I find yoru information very interesting and informative. Could you answer a couple of questions I can’t get anyone else to answer on this topic though?
1. What caused the last several Ice ages to end and the warming of the earth during those periods, before man was around?
2. Has the Sun been getting warmer over the last few decades, in relation to the earths warming?
These are questions I see some using as arguements against the Man made global wrming discussion and no one answers them. I would like to be able to do so with factual data, can you help?
[[1. What caused the last several Ice ages to end and the warming of the earth during those periods, before man was around?]]
The Ice Ages are triggered by “Milankovic Cycles,” which are regular changes in the Earth’s orbit shape (“eccentricity”), axial tilt (“obliquity”), and precession. These alter the distribution of sunlight over the Earth’s surface on scales of tens of thousands of years. The temperature swings are amplified by greenhouse gases. In a natural glaciation, or deglaciation, temperature leads CO2, but that isn’t what is happening now. The fact that warming can take place naturally doesn’t mean it can’t happen artificially as well.
[[2. Has the Sun been getting warmer over the last few decades, in relation to the earths warming?]]
No. Solar output has been flat, on average, for about fifty years.
[[These are questions I see some using as arguements against the Man made global wrming discussion and no one answers them. I would like to be able to do so with factual data, can you help?]]
SecularAnimist> In short we know everything we need to know…
I doubt most scientists will agree with you. The IPCC does not.
Comment by Steve Reynolds — 31 Jan 2008 @ 11:05 PM
Steve Reynolds takes Secular’s quote out of context–It is certainly false to say that we know everything we need to know about climate. It is, however, quite true that whatever we learn is unlikely to overturn the knowledge that increased CO2 will cause temperatures to rise dramatically and probably dangerously over the next century. While we know pi is a transcendental number, this does not mean we can never work with circles. For most applications, pi~3.14 works just fine.
Re #230 [Walt Bennett] “What are your thoughts regarding hedging our bets with regard to emissions reduction and other “stop being bad” policies?”
In principle it makes sense, in practice I fear the prospect of geoengineering solutions being used to delay action on emissions reduction. Since action of either kind requires an international agreement between at least the major emitters to have a good chance of success, I’d make the goal of reaching such an agreement top priority. Such an agreement could include an internationally-funded geoengineering research component, which I would welcome as long as I was confident it would not detract from emission reduction efforts, although I’m not sure exactly how this could be ensured.
One more point: I’d be more willing to consider smaller-scale projects which could be tried out without excessive cost or risk. For example, New Scientist this week has an article on traditional methods of “growing glaciers” in the Hindu Kush and Karakorum areas. There is uncertainty about whether these really work, but it seems plausible there could be ways to encourage the growth/discourage shrinkage of glaciers, thus reducing AGW impacts at least temporarily.
and then going on to the full report linked there.
Bottom line, we (USA) should start massive de-oiling our economy 20 years before Peak Oil … which turns out to be 2010 +/-4 years by most accounts, and we didn’t start in 1990. The Hirsch Report models the consequences. Kharecha & Hansen tell us that Peak Oil doesn’t come fast enough to stop AGW effects [i.e., we’re going to burn it all, the key issue is to transition so that we don’t end up burning a lot more unsequestered coal, tar sands, shale oil… of course, the coal companies really want oil&gas to burn up before renewables get widespread, because then there will be terrific pressure to burn more coal. All of this is quite straightforward short-term economic behavior and unsurprising.]
1) Anyone who’s future prosperity is proportional to oil/gas profits knows that under no circumstances should there be any efforts to tax carbon noticeably, replace oil, or use it more efficiently, because that would cut into future profits. More efficient transformers should be inhibited [CA’s Jerry Brown has been suing the DOE on that one, less visible than the EPA suit.] We know we’ll use all the oil we can get, but if electrification/biofuels/conservation come faster, that will keep oil prices less high. This allows oil companies to obtain a higher percentage of GDP, because people with vehicle fleets and infrastructure will be desperate enough to pay. Fuel costs get embedded in other products, not just at the pump. ExxonMobil understands this well, which is why they made $40B profit in 2007.
2) Anyone wealthy enough can take whatever position they want, without being much affected.
3) Anyone else should be fighting very hard for rapid transition, and better hope they live in one of the areas that is trying very hard to de-oil, since it is going to take decades, and it will be bad enough in places (like CA) that actually try hard on efficiency.
A lot of average wage-earners elsewhere in the US are going to be well-clobbered, and any such person arguing for delay has been effectively conned into arguing against their own (or their kids’) self-interest, for the benefit of a small set of people who will laugh all the way to the bank.
Steve, ocean pH. Regardless of temperature (atmospheric physics), the CO2 is going into the ocean at a rate calculable using simple physical chemistry, far better understood and much simpler science. No matter whether the sun quits spotting, the planet goes into a baby ice age, or the planet warms up — no matter, doesn’t make any difference in the chemistry. The chemistry will go along as predicted and the ocean food chain will change very greatly. Already overfished, with jellyfish becoming the top predator, and then we lose the commonest and most prolific organisms because the ocean starts dissolving their calcite and aragonite shells.
Steve Reyonolds–Phasing out fossil fuels quickly–hell, I’d settle for even reasonable movement in that direction! They are actually cutting back on research. There has been no effort to facilitate availability of energy-efficient technologies either domestically or in developing countries.
Hank Roberts > ocean pH. Regardless of temperature (atmospheric physics), the CO2 is going into the ocean at a rate calculable using simple physical chemistry, far better understood and much simpler science.
OK, but we know that there were times in the past when CO2 levels were likely much >1000ppm. There must be some info about what that did to ocean life. What does that data show?
Steve Reynolds (266) — During PETM many marine organisms went extinct. Even Wikipedia has a little about it.
Comment by David B. Benson — 3 Feb 2008 @ 12:45 PM
Steve, do you believe in evolution? I can find that answer for you. What sort of answer will you believe?
Will you believe seabed fossils that show what was alive in the ocean during one of those times?
Seriously — I’m sure I’ve answered this before, and I”m sure you can look it up. Since you don’t understand why it’s a problem, something about the easily available answers isn’t credible to you.
How about you pick a time period from the past when you believe CO2 in the atmosphere was over 1,000ppm — name it — and then we look together at a geological record that you consider believable?
I will say straight out that I do believe in evolution, and do rely on seabed drilling and other work in the scientific record to tell me what past CO2 levels were, and what was alive on Earth at the time.
Further for Steve Reynolds, if you don’t have a preferred source of information you trust to suggest, start here, the ‘Supplementary Information’ PDF is downloadable as is the Abstract, and the various links to cites and references will get a good overview. Nature’s main article full text is paywalled of course.
But they leave the edges accessible.
Hank Roberts> start here, the ‘Supplementary Information’ PDF is downloadable as is the Abstract…
Hank, I did look there, but did not find any direct links to useful data. I really did ask my question to see if anyone knew exactly where data was on what sea life survived the high CO2 levels of the past. Searching does take time.
[[Yes, Steve is right. Raypierre wrote “For example, estimates for the Eocene range from values similar to modern CO2 concentrations all the way up to 15 times pre-industrial CO2.”
How was it that corals survived then, when the ocean must have been far more acid than today, or even tomorrow?]]
There’s no reason to think corals then didn’t suffer when CO2 started going up, but that the few survivors were able to adapt to the changed environment. Natural selection in action. But in the Eocene we didn’t have a fishing industry feeding a sixth of the world and dependent on a healthy ocean ecosystem.
Steve, pick a geological time period, please, when you believe CO2 was at 1,000ppm. Then, assuming you believe in evolution, let’s look at what was living at the time and how things went during and after that time.
Seriously — you pick. Let’s look. I can only talk about this if you do believe in evolution; if you don’t, I can point you to some sites with alternate explanations for everything.
You might also have a look at Peter Ward’s recent book “Under a Green Sky” for more.
“Marking the start of the Eocene, the planet heated up in one of the most rapid (in geologic terms) and extreme global warming events recorded in geologic history, called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum or Initial Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM or IETM). This was an episode of rapid and intense warming (up to 7°C at high latitudes) that lasted less than 100,000 years . The Thermal Maximum provoked a sharp extinction event that distinguishes Eocene fauna from the ecosystems of the Paleocene.”
7C? at high latitudes? in 100,000 years? Mother Nature is a wimp. We can do that in a few hundred years, no problem.
I think it is a tactical mistake to talk about ‘belief’ of scientific matters. [edit – no theology please]
I think using the word ‘convinced’ is better in that it does not immediately bring false gods to mind. I think it is also better if, like me, you are convinced that the evidence to date supports a story that points in one direction, but would be willing to throw it all away given convincing evidence and an explanation that points in a different direction.
CO2 may have been higher in the past, but the bottom line is that over the period current ecosystems have developed, CO2 has not been as high as 1000ppm. And given the speed of emissions it’s hard to see how such ecosystems will have time to adapt.
As with the global warming caused by our CO2 emissions, it matters not whether life has prospered under the current likely “end result” conditions in the past. What matters is that we’ll be going through the transitional period!
What arises from the explosive radiation that will follow the Anthropocene extinction event will arise too late to help us.
Steve Reynolds said, “According to the link I gave you, the Royer Compilation data show CO2>1000ppm for more than half of the last 250 million years. Did you look at it?”
Our restoration of Jurassic CO2 levels must come as a tremendous relief to any dinosaurs hiding away on remote islands.
As a novice I wonder what the sources of greenhouse levels exceeding those presently driven by human activity were back in the Eocene and Cretaceous eras and what factors are thought to have ultimately led to lower greenhouse gas levels and lower temperatures at the end of those eras.
If this is the state of science that we cannot debate non-experts (or autodidactic experts) than science truly is no better than religion. I am not saying you should engage in a radio or TV debate, but what about one in a more eloquent form: Essays, written dialogue?
I am sorry, but if you don’t even want to engage into a debate (if it not drops to a level of first class smears), then perhaps you shouldn’t also call you an expert and scientist on this matter.
Most sceptics are not concerned about the science (although they don’t believe the “6°C” claim of so many environmentalists) but more about the economic possibilities and a risk and damage assessment, which incidentially is not any of climate scientists specific subjects…
[Response: Where do you see us not engaging? What is this website? What are our public talks? I’ve even done multiple head-to-head ‘debates’. It is only through experience that one realises what is an effective use of ones time, and what isn’t. The important thing is too concentrate discussions on things that actually are debatable, and not on ‘faux’ debates which owe nothing to the scientific method, but everything to political rhetoric. Science is interesting to talk about, and you’ll not find any of us reticent on discussing that. – gavin]
So, Max, exactly how would the sort of dog-and-pony show the skeptics are proposing advance anyone’s understanding of the science? It certainly has not done any good in the debate between creationism and evolution.
Scientific debate is taking place exactly where it should be–in refereed journals and at conferences–where the opinions of experts are not drowned out by those of ignorant food tubes. And skeptics of course would be free to join in that debate…if they had anything scientific to add. Debate has moved beyond the science to the question of remediation and mitigation, and there the opinions of all are not only welcome, but essential. Scientists can further the debate too, by assessing credibility of the various threats climate change may pose. But all so-called skeptics accomplish by rejecting good science is ensure that their chairs will be empty at the negotiating table.
This is a little off topic, but I hope you’ll indulge me. In the high school Physics course that I teach, my students use the Stefan Boltzmann equation to calculate the equilibrium temperature of the Earth using a simple box model. We then look at small perturbations in albedo, solar forcing, Milankovitch forcing and radiative forcings due to greenhouse gas emissions to calculate new equilibrium temperatures. I realize that some of these factors are related, but it is instructive for students to look at the temperature change due to each isolated variable. I have looked for an estimate of Earth’s albedo during past glaciations, but I can find no such estimate. Do GCMs calculate an overall albedo for the Earth, or do they use specific values for each type of terrain? Does anyone have an estimate for Earth’s albedo during the Pleistocene glaciation? I have read that the albedo was around 0.6 during the “Snowball Earth” hypothesis if you buy into this, but I have seen no other estimates.
[[As a novice I wonder what the sources of greenhouse levels exceeding those presently driven by human activity were back in the Eocene and Cretaceous eras and what factors are thought to have ultimately led to lower greenhouse gas levels and lower temperatures at the end of those eras.]]
Excursions in volcanism are probably one source. CO2 from volcanoes and metamorphism are a very slow source on a human time scale, but over 100,000 years or so they can make large changes.
Here’s a quick and dirty model of the Earth’s albedo. A stands for albedo, f for fraction covered. I distinguish the albedo of the Earth’s surface (Asurf) from that of the planet (A) because of cloud cover, clouds being much brighter than ocean or land:
Ai = 0.60 ‘ ice
An = 0.04 ‘ non-ice surface
Ac = 0.45 ‘ cloud
‘ Fractional coverage:
fi = 0.05 ‘ ice
fc = 0.62 ‘ cloud
fn = 1 – fi
fsurf = 1 – fc
Asurf = fi * Ai + fn * An
A = fc * Ac + fsurf * Asurf
I wind up with Asurf = 0.068 and A = 0.305 for the present Earth.
Now, double the ice cap coverage from 5% to 10%, and I get 0.096 for the surface albedo and 0.315 for the planetary albedo.
It would take some good research to narrow down realistic figures for these parameters both for the present Earth and for the Earth during, say, glacial maximum 18,000 years ago. But I’m guessing the albedo was different by about 0.01 or 0.02 from its present value — enough to make a difference in the mean global annual surface temperature.
On geological time-scales vulcanism alone would pump CO2 into the biosphere/atmosphere/ocean sinks. So given time this would increase CO2. CO2 is removed from those sinks by reaction with rocks in the ocean and on land, also by living organisms (sedimentary rocks). Since the development of life, CO2 has gradually been pumped out of the atmosphere and fixed in rock – that’s on a very long term trend.
James Lovelock and others have proposed that the removal of CO2 and it’s long term reducing trend may have prevented increasing solar radiance causing a long term (billions of years) warming trend.
Enhanced CO2 greenhouse to compensate for reduced solar luminosity on early Earth, Nature 1979.
“We discuss here whether CO2−H2O in a weakly reducing atmosphere could have caused this change in the early Earth’s temperature by the so-called greenhouse effect.”
Sorry I can’t find any albedo figures, although given the extent of the ice sheets and the angle of incidence I’d be surprised if it’s as low as 1-2% (But as I don’t know I ain’t arguin’ the point).
Modern models will use localised albedo to be able to reflect land-use changes. NASA’s model E calculates albedo changes due to snow and vegetation… http://www.giss.nasa.gov/tools/modelii/
“The albedo of snow is a function of both depth and age. Fresh snow has an albedo of 0.85 and ages within 50 days to a lower limit of 0.5…
The albedo of sea ice (snow-free) is independent of thickness and is assigned a value of 0.55 in the visible and 0.3 in the near infrared, for a spectrally weighted value of 0.45…
Vegetation in the model plays a role in determining several surface and ground hydrology characteristics. Probably the most important of these is the surface albedo, which is divided into visible and near infrared components and is seasonally adjusted based on vegetation types.”
Debates as a method of actually proving things is some kind of myth, I think. About 20 years ago a high school debate teacher assigned students to take a position on controversial topics. This is a common exercise. Two students were assigned to take the anti-abortion position. They did their research. They were convinced that it was the truth. The real deal. So they went out and fire-bombed a Planned Parenthood clinic that had nothing to do with abortions except that it was part of Planned Parenthood. True story. Ah, yes. Debate. That fount of logic.
I was glad to see a RealClimate post on the Antarctic ice in the cretaceous. I saw a summary of the paper and it seemed very interesting, but I was not able to read it. I understand the issue better now. The first half of the post on how issues are resolved in the scientific community is enlightening. I think explaining to lay people how scientists come to conclusions can be just as helpful as explaining the technical details of the science.
CobblyWorlds, Hank Roberts, Steve Reynolds et al on the question about corals in the warmer climates of earlier geological eras, this question came up before on RC and Thibault gave this informative reply:
[Response – Good question. Basically the loss of the symbionts by the corals (=bleaching) does not leave any track behind, although maybe altering the geochemistry of the corals (through the loss of photosynthetic activity). The other problem is that during the last 50 million years, both symbionts and scleractinians evolved. Because the long term trend of the last 50 or so million years was toward a cooling, the modern corals and symbionts seem to be better adapted to cool temperatures than warm ones – see for example the paper by Tchernov et al.in PNAS . So even if we had some good ideas of how did the corals were reacting to warmer early Cenozoic temperatures, the difference of coral and symbiotic communities would make it tricky to apply to modern changes. (Browsing the references databases, I did not find anything on the coral reefs during the Paleocene thermal maximum, which could be useful.) -thibault]
There have been two recent papers on the ecological effects of climate change on the oceans.
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 7 Feb 2008 @ 6:21 PM
It’s a no win situation. If you accept you give the appearance that these skeptics have something to say that’s actually worth debating about — and give their bogus ideas more publicity. If you decline there are all sorts of squawks that “X won’t debate!” or implications that scientists have declared “the debate” (whatever that is supposed to mean) prematurely closed …
No, the dilemma and the first half is false. The second half is definitely what you reap if you avoid. Not debating just makes the opponent look stronger and you look cowardly, unless they are so markedly horrible (Nazis, cannibals, whatever) that the normal psychology doesn’t work. Kerry thought he shouldn’t “dignify” the Swift Boaters with replies at first, and he paid the price. It is primal human psychology, don’t avoid the challenge. Debate them, and win if you can – that is the only viable response, please believe me.
Neil B., Scientific debate is continual–but it has to be conducted by the rules of science. If the denialists want to debate all they have to do is do some actual science–get a paper accepted at a conference and go. Debates over evolution were the medium where Thomas Huxley earned the epithet “Darwin’s Bulldog”. Still, 49% of Americans believe in the biblical theory of creation. I don’t call that progress.
There is no point in debating the ignorant. Or as Mark Twain said:
“Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes time and annoys the pig.”
Re: #293 Neil B: It’s not about debating or not, but about the choice of arena. Alllowing the enemy to choose the battlefield is an elementary tactical error.
As Ray L points out, a proper arena for scientific debate is the science literature; another one is this forum. The current article is widely read and linked to. Why do you think RC was created in the first place?
Walking into enemy fire is just stupid.
You gotta take advantage of the mainstream media.
Science publications; Discover, Science, even periodicals like Mother Earth News might be wooed into sharing fascinating science such as this with their readers. Summarize the findings in layperson’s jargon without over simplification of the methodology.
I totally agree that debating individuals that have had their brain chemistry altered by greed and/or fundamentalist enemas is a total waste of time. Even solidifying hard, fast, data that unequivocally substaniates that environmentally threatening industrialization and non-renewable energy sources are the root cause doesn’t change the zealot mantra.
Healthy debate is a continual feature of science. It takes place at (real) scientific conferences and in peer-reviewed journals. If the Heartland Institute wants to take part, all it would have to do is produce some real science. Of course, since there is no coherent theory that explains what is happening that doesn’t point the finger at anthropogenic CO2.
Dog and pony shows accomplish nothing. You won’t convince ignorant ideologically blindered food tubes regardless of the facts. The best you can do is marginalize them.
The data for this Cretaceous ice-sheet hypothesis can be explained another way. Oxygen isotopes become enriched in O-18 not only when ice sheets grow, but also when restricted seas in highly evaporative regions become partially cut off from the rest of the ocean. This is what happened to the Red Sea during the last glacial period, when it was nearly cut off from the Arabian Sea. By mass conservation, the strongly-restricted sea becomes one fractionation factor heavier than the open ocean, because evaporation is the only route by which water leaves. This would be 8 per mil. In less intensely restricted situations, such as where tidal flushing allows 16 times as much loss from the basin as net evaporation causes, then the isotopic enrichment would be 0.5 per mil, as seen in the Bornemann paper. There are in fact a number of independent lines of evidence suggesting that the tropical Atlantic at this time was highly restricted. Oxygen concentrations in bottom water were much lower than in the rest of the oceans, and the plate-tectonic opening of the south Atlantic was just beginning. So one hypothesis is that the 200,000 year long d18O anomaly represents a time when tectonics constricted the tidal/current flushing sufficiently that the basin became isotopically enriched. This would obviate the need for a large Cretaceous ice sheet, which doesn’t make physical sense.
Another weakness in the data is that the inferred sea level low stands from Siberian platform data last much longer than the 200,000 year O-18 anomaly – several million years if I interpret their graph correctly. So this is a basic inconsistency in their argument – the sea level low stand and O-18 anomaly should last the same length of time.
To distinguish between the ice sheet hypothesis from the Science article by Bornemann et.al. and the ‘partially cut off’-hypothesis of Jeff Severinghaus it would be helpful to have delta O-18 data from the Pacific for the time 91 to 91.5 million years BP.
Uli, I’m pure amateur, I’ve poked around and found nothing exactly on point. Gavin commented on returning from China a while back that cross-correlation between different paleo drilling histories isn’t yet done nearly enough. I don’t even know a reference librarian at a paleo library (there must be one!). But it’s a good question. Care to spell out how having that exact chunk of data might distinguish clearly between the two hypotheses? Anything else to look for?
in the case of the ice sheet hypothesis the delta O-18 excursion toward positive values would also occur in the Pacific at the same time. In the case of the partially cut off of parts of the Atlantic the light O-16 would mainly transfered to the Pacific so theoretically a small negative delta O-18 excursion in the Pacific would be expected. But the Pacific is so much larger, that this is not measurable. So there would be no delta O-18 excursion toward positive values in the Pacific in this case.
If we had a large chunk of data, clearly overlaping this time, without such a positive delta O-18 excursion from the Pacific the ice sheet hypothesis would disproved, maybe even without precise dating.
You were hoping to get more on climate modeling from a fellow scientist who works in the petroleum industry. I’ve cited that posting (and the one before it in the same thread) a few times just for what you’ve said.
And I’m wondering if you can add anything to it — it’d be pertinent in this topic, if so.
You posted (the item before the one linked)
“… one of Paul Valdes’ industry-funded Cretaceous simulations was more or less embargoed from publication for five years because of its potential value to exploration. I hasten to add that Paul is one of the most respected climate modellers in the business….”
and inline, responding in the next topic, you added:
[… I have sent Paul some email to see if there is any work in the petroleum exploration literature which explains how this is done — for all I know, the details may be proprietary. I am also checking up on the publication status of the specific Cretaceous simulations I referred to, and will post the references once I hear from Paul. –raypierrre]
I have come to this fascinating discussion a bit late and so have have not read all the comments, so forgive me if this has been covered. My question relates to the stability of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS).
What struck me is that at least 2.8 times the pre-industrial CO2 was required to produce an EAIS equivalent to 40-50 metres of sea level.
Is it a reasonable corollary that a GHG equivalent of 2.8*280=784 or about 800 ppm CO2 would be needed to destabilise the EAIS? Is there more recent evidence (modelling) on this that would change this conclusion? Does that put the EAIS in a different class of stability compared to the WAIS and Greenland Ice Sheets (GIS), which are probably unstable at current CO2 levels – the only question being how long they’ll take to disintegrate. If the finding of a stable EAIS is robust, it does seem to place an upper limit on sea level rise, unless positive feedbacks got truly out of hand (methane hydrates etc.).
I would love a response from Raypierre if you’re still reading posts on this thread. Thanks!