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Inhofe’s last stand

Filed under: — gavin @ 7 December 2006

Part of me felt a little nostalgic yesterday watching the last Senate hearing on climate change that will be chaired by Sen. James Inhofe. It all felt very familiar and comforting in some strange way. There was the well-spoken ‘expert’ flown in from Australia (no-one available a little closer to home?), the media ‘expert’ from the think tank (plenty of those about) and a rather out-of-place geologist. There were the same talking points (CO2 leads the warming during the ice ages! the Medieval Warm Period was warm! it’s all a hoax!*) that are always brought up. These easy certainties and predictable responses are so well worn that they feel like a pair of old slippers.

Of course, my bout of nostalgia has nothing to do with whether this was a useful thing for the Senate to be doing (it wasn’t), and whether it just provided distracting political theatre (yup) in lieu of serious discussion about effective policy response, but even we should sometimes admit that it is easier to debunk this kind of schoolyard rhetoric than it is to deal with the complexities that actually matter. The supposed subject of discussion was ‘Climate Change in the Media’ though no-one thought to question why the Senate was so concerned with the media representations (Andy Revkin makes some good points about it though here). Senators have much more effective means of getting relevant information (knowledgable staffers, National Academy of Science reports, the presidential office of Science and Technology etc.) and so this concern was concievably related to their concern with public understanding of science….. or not.

Naomi Oreskes did a good job on the context and provided useful rebuttal to a frankly ridiculous claim that contrarians were not getting any air time on the networks. One point she could have raised was that when Patrick Michaels made the same complaint to CNN – that their climate news stories weren’t ‘balanced’ – a quick scan of their interviewee lists revealed that the scientist most frequently on CNN …. was none other than Michaels himself. A result somewhat at odds with his standing in the community or expertise, but ample evidence for the ‘false balance‘ often decried here.

As for the scientific content, with the sole exception of Dan Schrag’s statements, it was a textbook example of abuse of science. Two exchanges summed it up for me. In the first, Bob Carter insisted that CO2 always follows temperature for the ice age cycles (which are paced by the variations in the Earth’s orbit and for which CO2 is a necessary feedback) and seasonal cycle (related mainly to Northern hemisphere deciduous trees) . Both statements are true as far as they go – but they don’t go very far. Was Carter suggesting that the 30% increase in CO2 decreased after 1940? or that it has stopped increasing in recent years (since he appears to also believe that global warming stopped in 1998?). As an aside by his criteria it also stopped in 1973, 1983 and 1990…. only it didn’t. Of course, if this wasn’t what he meant to imply (because it’s demonstrably false), why did he bring the whole subject up at all? Surely not simply to muddy the waters….

The second great example was Carter making an appeal to authority (using NASA and the Russian Academy of Science) for his contention that world is likely to cool in coming decades. Of course scientists at NASA are at the forefront of studies of anthropogenic climate change so a similar authority would presumably apply to them, and the Russian Academy was one of 11 that called on the G8 to take climate change seriously, but let’s gloss over that inconsistency. The nuggets of science Carter was referring to are predictions for the next couple of solar cycles – a tricky business in fact, and one in which there is a substantial uncertainty. However, regardless of that uncertainty, NASA scientists have definitively not predicted that this will cause an absolute cooling – at best, it might reduce the ongoing global warming slightly (which would be good) (though see here for what they actually said). Two Russians scientists have indeed made such a ‘cooling’ prediction though, but curiously only in a press report rather than in any peer-reviewed paper, and clearly did not speak for the Academy in doing so, but never mind that. Of course, if Carter seriously thought that global cooling was likely, he should be keen to take up some of James Annan’s or Brian Schmidt’s attractive offers – but like the vast majority of ‘global coolers’, his money does not appear to be where his mouth is. It’s all classic contrarian stuff.

With the new Senate coming in January, it seems likely that this kind of disinformational hearing will become less common and more climate policy-related hearings will occur instead. These won’t provide as much fodder for us to debunk, but they might serve the much more useful function of actually helping craft appropriate policy responses.

Ah… truly the end of an age.

* If needed, the easy rebuttals to these talking points are available here, here and here


221 Responses to “Inhofe’s last stand”

  1. 101
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE Al Gore’s INCONVENIENT TRUTH (which is also out for sale now), my main complaint is that it doesn’t include much mention about the positive feedback scenario — in which we warm the world a bit with our human GHG emissions, then nature starts emitting GHGs due to the warming (this is a favorite contrarian point….that GHG increases FOLLOWED the warmings in the past), then that increased warming causes nature to emit still more GHGs, which causes still more warming, and so on. Examples would be the release of methane from melting permafrost (which is a lot greater than scientists had originally estimated) and melting methane clathrates or hydrates in the ocean (the massive methane burb theory).

    And since methane is 23 times more potent than CO2, this could be VERY BAD, esp if the warming is so fast (& I believe it is faster than any warming in the past) that is melts vast quantities within 10 year periods (the time it takes methane to break down into CO2 & other molecules).

    I’m not going to call this the Venus effect or runaway global warming, since the scientists on this website hate those terms, so I’ll just call it VERY VERY BAD for us biota trying to survive on planet earth.

  2. 102
    Lee Morrison says:

    Re #84 : And how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

  3. 103
    mauri pelto says:

    Going back to the comment in 87 “It depends on poorly known ice sheet dynamics”. Having worked with ice sheets models for twenty years, I would disagree with this statement. The biggest problem is not poorly understood glacier dynamics, but is being able to input reliably the boundary and climate conditions that will exist. For example the difference for an ice shelf disintegrating with surface melting versus doing so solely via a calving retreat with no surface melting is much different. Also for an ice shelf what is the sea temperature change at the bottom of the ice shelf going to be? As a modeller the temperatures at the top and bottom of the ice shelf-ice sheet are critical inputs. When these are unknown accurate forecasting is not possible.

  4. 104
    Sashka says:

    Re: 97-98

    I don’t think Gore spent a lot of time talking about science per se. The subject of his talk was scary things that are happening (true) and will become catastrophes in the future (maybe or maybe not).

    The best example of his style is the temp-CO2 chart. He doesn’t bother to mention that it is the temps that drive CO2, not the other way around. He just doesn’t say anything about causality. Then he steps on the elevating platform to show how far off the chart CO2 emissions will take the concentrations by the end of the century. (The chart is skillfully scaled for dramatic effect, of course.) He doesn’t say it but he clearly implies that the temperatures will grow proportionally. No they won’t. Not even at the upper range of the current projections.

    You call it “scientifically sound”? I call it blatant misrepresentation of science.

    Oh, yeah: about those six meters of ocean level rise that will drown a third of Florida … When will this happen?

  5. 105
    Enzyme6 says:

    Some of the plant/food-related comments people make in relation to GW puzzle me. The general concept of “the growing vegetation should reduce CO2 content thus providing a negative feedback” ignores half of the cycle. Plants die, dead plants decay, and when they decay their carbon stores are released. Increased ambient temperature implies increased decomposition rates (unless increased [CO2] somehow retards microbial activity). Unless the plant matter or its carbon load is sequestered, it appears that the overall CO2 balance is unlikely to be affected. Based on what is known now, merely growing more plants does not appear to me to help much to offset the CO2 released by abruptly unsequestering millions of years of organic matter stored as fossil fuels. We probably can’t afford to sequester enough raw plant matter because of the resulting soil nutrient drain and other reasons, so in my view plain sequestration is not very practical. Preserving what plant life we still have is important for a lot of reasons, though.

    “most plants will thrive at the CO2 concentrations projected for the next 100 years, ignoring other factors such as temp. disease, competition, etc.” 4C weeds might fare okay, but that doesn’t help the precarious food production situation much unless we switch from 3C food crops to eating what are now considered weeds. That aside, the quoted phrase is a half-truth perpetuated by ignorance of the growing process. The issue often is framed as ‘semi-mature plants’ reaction to increased CO2,’ but the reality is much more complex. Plants, and especially food crops, don’t magically appear as partially grown, despite the apparent average American’s view of the food production process. Most of what we use for food begins as seeds, and getting seeds to mature plants in the available growing season is the food producer’s bane. GW implies more than increased [CO2]; it also implies disrupted patterns of moisture, temperature, ground-level sunlight, nutrient availability, pathogens, pests, and just about any other factor important to cropping. I can envision an Exxon spokesperson telling a farmer that the corn seeds rotting in persistent mud resulting from increasingly erratic rain patterns ‘will grow great from the higher [CO2] once they reach half-grown.’ Even those ‘grown great’ food crop plants don’t look so good when they’re frozen three weeks too early by unstable weather patterns, flooded then shriveled by disrupted rain patterns, stressed to inedible aflatoxin levels, and attacked by ever-changing pests and pathogens. Place the burden previously satisfied by the since-collapsed marine food chain onto destabilized land-based production and it doesn’t take long to see the potential for food supply disruption and the resulting effects. The ‘plant viability in higher [CO2]‘ angle appears to be too complicated for shop-bought politicians, talkshowistas, and their audience who’ve never tried to produce a food crop. Maybe there’s a buck to be made in McSoylentGreen franchises, though.

  6. 106
    savegaia says:

    China-U.S. Climate Change Forum: What’s at Risk? Climate Model Predictions and Physical and Biological Impacts
    http://video.google.de/videoplay?docid=8194276481116398948&q=climate+change

    China-U.S. Climate Change Forum: What’s at Risk? Economic, Social and Political Impacts and Adaptation Costs
    http://video.google.de/videoplay?docid=3771301087851751087&q=What%27s+at+Risk%3F

    China-U.S. Climate Change Forum: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Energy U
    http://video.google.de/videoplay?docid=-4389577971334679688&q=Reducing+Greenhouse

    China-U.S. Climate Change Forum: What Must Be Done? Emission Limits, Ethics, and the Right to Development
    http://video.google.de/videoplay?docid=-7531984198654118984&q=What+Must+Be+Done%3F+Emission+Limits

    Source
    http://webcast.berkeley.edu/events/details.php?webcastid=15770

    Video Source
    http://video.google.de/videosearch?q=Climate+Change+Forum

    I would like to see other file types than rm from berkeley.

  7. 107
    Dan says:

    “You call it “scientifically sound”? I call it blatant misrepresentation of science.”

    Sigh. Then you clearly ignored the discussion presented at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/05/al-gores-movie/ and references contained within. Peer-reviewed science is key. Gore’s presentation is absolutely consistent with it. It is disingenuous to consider it a “blatant misrepresentation of science”. It is also a direct insult to the many scientists involved, whose work has been peer-reviewed.

  8. 108
    Grant says:

    Re: #104

    He doesn’t bother to mention that it is the temps that drive CO2, not the other way around.

    Bull. It’s temperature that *triggers* CO2, but it’s the CO2 feedback that *drives* temperatures.

    The chart is skillfully scaled for dramatic effect, of course.

    What exactly do you mean? The chart is simply a graph of time vs CO2 concentration. Where’s the “skillfully scaled” part? Don’t duck this question.

  9. 109
    Phillip Shaw says:

    Re: #104

    Sashka, you wrote “He doesn’t bother to mention that it is the temps that drive CO2, not the other way around.”

    Hmmm . . . do you also believe that dusk drives the sun to set? Just curious.

  10. 110
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    I’m also trying to figure out, Pat (#85), why people don’t want to save the earth (or stop harming it), esp since they can save money doing so (at least to cutting down 1/3 of their GHGs). I figure there is something psychological and/or cultural/ideological/religious going on:

    (1) They don’t want to admit they are doing wrong (even if it means greatly harming the earth and their own descendents) — pride is a very strong force. This seems to be an esp American trait. My husband, a criminologist, has developed a theory based on Lemert’s labeling theory of secondary deviance (people who are labeled delinquents or criminals take on that role): he thinks that people who are labeled delinquents or criminals (wrong-doers, in this case of AGW) have an orientation to reject or oppose those who give the negative label and do even worse things. He finds this applies more to criminals in the U.S., than those in Japan, who are more amenable to correction, as exemplified by their much lower recidivism rates.

    (2) They don’t really know what’s happening, because the media have not dealt strongly enough with GW & its solutions (I think that is the most likely case for most people — and germane to this topic here). The science at the molar level is very simple….it’s like a greenhouse situation, or a car with windows up in the hot sun. And our use of electricity (if fossel fuel powered) & natural gas, and vehicle driving are main causes of this “greenhouse effect,” as well as most products, since most require fossil energy to produce, transport, etc. But the science at the micromediational level is very complex, and that’s what the denialists are using to sow doubt. Which is why this RC site is so important. A concomitant to this it that people may know about it and know they are responsible, but the harms are coming in so slowly, and the worst won’t happen for decades or centuries, and people have more immediate problems to commandeer their minds & efforts. There also seems to be disconnect for some between cause & effect, so that I’ve sometimes heard (to my concern that many people may be dying from GW), “People have to die anyway.” Which is true, but people do not have to kill! Another point here is the enormity of the problem…it just seems impossible that humanity could have come to this point, rushing toward the precipice of a really huge problem facing us all. We see it in the movies, alien invasions & such, but that’s stuff for fiction.

    (3) They are accustomed to having the single hero solve the problem, as in the movies — “let the scientists or government do it” syndrome. It took me nearly a conversion experience to go from “why don’t THEY do something about this,” to “I have to do something about this.” There is the “hiding behind the masses” syndrome — people think their actions are insignificant, and that many others should start reducing their GHGs, and then they will join in. Hopefully we can reach some critical mass on this & start a revitalization movement (social movement) to stop GW. But the goverment & our leaders do bear more responsibility to lead on this; the President could have TV chats about what we all can do, etc. Pastors could speak out. Like who’s going to listen to me??

    (4) They have bought into an ideology of ever greater material wealth (this may be linked also to childhood desires not yet tampered by the reality principle). This ideology was enhanced greatly in American (and to some extent in Australian) history by the seemingly never-ending frontier. No one likes limits, but many from ancient civilizations have come to accept them. We have not. Even I like to think there is a never-ending frontier in involution (finding more & more ways to get more with less).

    (5) They long for the world to end, and expect that to happen soon. They think Jesus will come & rapture them up (as if harming creation is going to endear them to the Creator). Maybe they think it doesn’t matter if they do harm that has a long lag time, since the world will end very soon anyway, and the harmful consequences of their GHG emissions will never actualize.

    (6) Same as (5), except they’ve figured from 9/11 that fear is an excellent way to get people to convert (except it should be sustained and ongoing fear — the other lesson from 9/11, when the terror-swollen pews started depleting back to normal in the months and years after 9/11). In this case, they (perhaps even Inhofe) would really know AGW is happening, but they want to push it well past the runaway tipping point of no return, then spring it on people that their only option is to repent…or repent & pray for God to end GW, once it’s impossible for humans to end. Maybe they assume God will step in, solve the problem, and the whole world will become believers. (I think this was one of the temptations put to Jesus, and he resisted it, so this method is definitely not the Christian way.) This last one, though it is as improbable as hysteresis or runaway warming, seems to me somewhat more plausible, after reading all the links off the Wiki article linked above – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Family_%28Christian_political_organization%29

    (And BTW the http://www.marklynas.org blog (or beta.marklynas.org if you can’t get in) is now up & running, & in light of our ever increasing GHG emissions, Mark said he’s coming a bit closer to the Lovelock position & guesses we may have a 50-50 chance of having already gone past the tipping point…and I concur with him.)

    The reason why people do not want to save the earth may be a combination of some or all of these reasons, just as there are many actions that cause AGW, and many many solutions to solving it, and many different people involved in the causes and solutions. This is where the social & behavior scientists need to come up to the plate & investigate (Oops, that means me again).

  11. 111
    Sashka says:

    Re: #107

    I haven’t read Eric’s review before but now that I have I still don’t see your point.

    Peer-reviewed science is key. Gore’s presentation is absolutely consistent with it.

    Let me quote Eric on this one:

    Several of my colleagues complained that a more significant error is Gore’s use of the long ice core records of CO2 and temperature (from oxygen isotope measurements) in Antarctic ice cores to illustrate the correlation between the two. The complaint is that the correlation is somewhat misleading, because a number of other climate forcings besides CO2 contribute to the change in Antarctic temperature between glacial and interglacial climate. Simply extrapolating this correlation forward in time puts the temperature in 2100 A.D. somewhere upwards of 10 C warmer than present — rather at the extreme end of the vast majority of projections

    Even though Eric disagrees with his colleagues, his opinion is clearly not the only one. Moreover, it seems like he is actually in the minority. I would also suspect that in reality Eric’s colleagues used a stronger language but of course there is no way to know. Unlike Eric’s colleagues, I’m not bound by political correctness. Nor am I a member of GW, Inc. So I feel like I can give call things their proper names.

    It is also a direct insult to the many scientists involved, whose work has been peer-reviewed.

    I don’t recall saying anything about peer-reviewed scientific work just yet. What are you talking about?

  12. 112
    Pianoguy says:

    Although several posters have dealt intelligently with the question of deaths due to global warming, it may help to clarify the underlying logical issue.

    The idea that there have been no deaths due to global warming is a classic hierarchy error. Hegel used to illustrate hierarchy errors with a memorable joke, memorable not because it’s funny but because it’s pretty much the only joke in all of Hegel:

    A doctor advises his patient to eat more fruit; later, when the doctor asks the patient whether he’s eating more fruit, the patient says he’s tried, but he can’t find fruit anywhere. All he can find are apples, oranges, bananas, etc.

    Thus is will always be with deaths due to global warming. In the future, there will be more deaths due to floods, droughts, famines, etc., but never due to global warming.

    Justice Scalia seems to have swallowed this hierarchy error whole – during the Supreme Court hearings on global warming, he interrupted one of the speakers to demand to know exactly when the cataclysm was predicted to occur.

  13. 113
    Sashka says:

    Re: #109

    Philip, you might want to start reading a bit on the subject before making snide comments. For example in #19 above Gavin admits (it’s a well known fact but for you it’s the closest reference to make sure that I’m not bluffing) that CO2 lags behind the temperature growth.

    I hope you would agree that in order to drive the temperture CO2 must lead the tems in the record, not lag. Would you not?

  14. 114
    Sashka says:

    Re: #108

    It’s temperature that *triggers* CO2, but it’s the CO2 feedback that *drives* temperatures.

    Read http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=13 and the third comment to it. It might give you a clue.

  15. 115
    SecularAnimist says:

    Sashka wrote in #104: “He doesn’t bother to mention that it is the temps that drive CO2″.

    What is overwhelmingly “driving” the CO2 increase today is human combustion of fossil fuels.

  16. 116
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 95

    Sashka you said:

    [I'm sorry to attract so much attention. No, not really. Lack of dissent is very boring.]

    Well, I for one am becoming bored with your ambiguous views, opinions, etc. about AGW.

    Put your money on the table and let us hear what you know, if you are contributing or just blathering.

    Tell us, for instance, what you know (if anything) about Australian drought and the Antarctic polar vortex. You seem to have opinions about things atmospheric. Be direct. Contribute or watch.

  17. 117
    Pianoguy says:

    Sashka – the correct answer to your seemingly rhetorical question in #113 is “No.” Your assumptions are incorrect. In the past, it is true that CO2 increases have lagged temperature increases. This is not the case with the current situation, because it is anthropogenic, not natural.

    The natural sequence, grossly oversimplified, is (1) change in insolation causes temperature rise; (2) warmer temperatures cause CO2 level to increase; (3) higher CO2 level causes further temperature rise via feedback. Our situation lacks steps 1 and 2 – the higher CO2 level is being caused by us, not by natural processes – but it is illogical to conclude that therefore step 3 will not occur.

  18. 118
    Grant says:

    Re: #114

    Read http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=13 and the third comment to it. It might give you a clue.

    I not only read the third comment, I re-read the post. It clearly supports my contention that “It’s temperature that *triggers* CO2, but it’s the CO2 feedback that *drives* temperatures.”

    More to the point, you stated:

    The chart is skillfully scaled for dramatic effect, of course.

    I replied:

    What exactly do you mean? The chart is simply a graph of time vs CO2 concentration. Where’s the “skillfully scaled” part? Don’t duck this question.

    [edit]

    [Response: To all on this thread, please keep this discussion civil - gavin]

  19. 119
    James says:

    Re #117: “(2) warmer temperatures cause CO2 level to increase;”

    Perhaps I’m oversimplifying, but basically this happens because cold water can hold more dissolved CO2 than warm water. This is supposed to be science, after all, so here’s a simple experiment you can do to see this effect for yourself:

    Take a cold bottle of some carbonated beverage, a clear one for preference.

    Open it and leave it in your refrigerator until it goes flat.

    Take it out of the refrigerator, pour it in a saucepan, and warm it on the stove. You’ll see more bubbles of CO2 come out of solution as it warms.

  20. 120
    Dan says:

    re: 117. “Sashka – the correct answer to your seemingly rhetorical question in #113 is “No.” Your assumptions are incorrect. In the past, it is true that CO2 increases have lagged temperature increases. This is not the case with the current situation, because it is anthropogenic, not natural…”

    Precisely. It is essential that any laymen who audaciously/arrogantly claim to know more than literally thousands of scientists understand this basic, critical and fundamental information. There is simply no scientific basis for assuming (which is all it is) that there has been any “misrepresentation of science”.

  21. 121
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Re #113, I’m so glad someone is paying attention at last to the fact that warming causes increase in CO2 (and, I would add, methane). This is the real scary scenario. (Of course, just bec warming causes GHG increase, does not in any way rule out GHG causing warming — which is the basis for the natural greenhouse effect that makes life on Earth viable).

    So here we have it the total positive feedback picture. Our GHG emissions are causing initial warming (perhaps in the past this was caused by the earth’s wobble or closer orbit, or brighter sun, or perhaps from massive vulcanism). That initial warming, if it reaches a certain point, will cause nature to emit CO2, which will cause greater warming, which will cause greater emissions.

    This means that each molecule we emit is so much more dangerous than any climate scientist is telling us (and remember some of our emissions remain for up to 100,000 years in the atmosphere to compound with others and go on causing harm). The climate models, as far as I know, do not have this positive feedback link up, probably bec there are so many uncertainties and complexities. I think they just feed the CO2 into the models, but don’t have the warming cause CO2 increases (within the models), to cause further warming, to cause further CO2 increases.

    I just read that many ocean methane hydrates are a lot closer to the surface than previously thought, so the methane burp theory is proving stronger than before. See http://www.climateark.org/shared/reader/welcome.aspx?linkid=64986

    Best bet is to assume scientists are underestimating the catastrophes from global warming. Not their fault. They’re working as hard as they can with what evidence they can get. But their reports keep coming in (for the most part) “It’s worse than we expected.”

  22. 122
    Hank Roberts says:

    >111, 107, “let me quote Eric on this point”

    Sashka ended that excerpt halfway through Erik’s point — leaving off the rest, where Eric says that he disagrees with the opinion quoted, and explains why he considers Gore’s presentation is right.

    Sashka, do you understand you made a mistake there?

  23. 123
    Geordie says:

    Re: temp. vs CO2
    I think they both drive each other which is why it is called a feedback mechanism. Think of a mike next to a speaker: which is driving which? Neither, They drive each other, but the trigger is still unknown (to me anyway). Unless it is now accepted that CO2 is the trigger but I was under the impression that even in the current trend CO2 was lagging temp a bit? Is that true?

  24. 124
    Sashka says:

    Re: #116

    The solution to your particular problem is very simple. You don’t have to read what I write, much less respond. If you choose to respond, however, try to keep your emotions outside the discussion. This will help keeping discussion closer to the realm of science.

  25. 125
    Sashka says:

    Re: #117

    My assumptions were not incorrect for a simple reason that I didn’t make any assumptions. My statement was purely in reference to glacial-interglacial transition.

    What happens now is a different story indeed. Which is precisely why Gore’s show was a gross misrepresentation of science. You cannot extrapolate from past to future when the underlying process driving the climate change is different. I sincerely hope that everyone who pays attention will find simple thought incontroversial. Would the esteemed founders care to comment for the benefit of the masses?

    it is illogical to conclude that therefore step 3 will not occur

    I didn’t conclude that. Read back what I said and see for yourself. What I said was that Gore is trying to scare you with projections well outside of what science actually projects.

    The natural sequence, grossly oversimplified, is (1) change in insolation causes temperature rise

    Scientists like to say (and this is true) that they cannot explain the temperature changes without accounting for (lagging) growth in CO2. The problem is that they cannot really explain it even with CO2. Milankovich theory cannot explain 100,000 years cycle. Nor can it explain the onset of glacial cycles 3 million (or so) years ago.

    I am not trying to belittle the science. I’m only saying that understanding of past climates is still work in progress. Which is why they ought to be more humble WRT future projections.

  26. 126
    Sashka says:

    Re: #122

    I didn’t make any mistake. I simply disagree with Eric and agree with his colleagues who (I assume) are no less qualified. Continueing quote from Eric:

    However, I don’t really agree with my colleagues’ criticism on this point. Gore is careful not to state what the temperature/CO2 scaling is. He is making a qualitative point, which is entirely accurate.

    The underlined sentence is for the benefit of another poster who is concrened about scaling. The last statement is actually a point of disagreement.

    The qualitative point is not accurate at all for the reasons explained above in #125. The driving mechanism of glacial-interglacial transition was entirely different which is why this chart is of little relevance to the current situation.

  27. 127
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Re #125, I agree that science doesn’t know the whole thing. So, I think it’s important to keep our sights on the worst that we know can happen (as it has in the past), which (I think) would be the end-Permian extinction, 251 mya, in which 95% of life died (some say due to extreme warming or hysteresis, runaway warming). They say life is more resilient now & there are many other geological differences that would make this time different. And I would add there may be a possibility that we may even be headed for something even worse than that. Who knows?

    I’ve tried to pin the scientists down about the rapidity of our warming & CO2 emissions as perhaps being in itself a factor that may have some impacts. For instance, if the warming happens really fast (in geological terms) and gets to the point of releasing a lot of methane in a shorter period of time than earlier natural warmings of the past, this might have some really dire consequences. But no one is addressing this. I think bec they just don’t know. But the mechanics are known — the methane would last up to 10 years (assuming it or most of it gets into the atmosphere), and during that time (before it decomposes into CO2+) it would have much greater GHG potency.

    I feel like we’re a bunch of brats playing with matches and kerosene. We need to drastically reduce our GHG emissions & quickly. We can’t wait for science to catch up with what’s really happening — by then we might have gotten into much deeper trouble than anyone is now predicting.

  28. 128

    Re #125:

    As for the onset of glacial cycles in the holocene, it is in fact generally attributed to the very slow decline of CO2 in the atmosphere on that time scale. This particular mystery that Sashka promotes doesn’t appear to exist.

    There is a great deal we don’t understand about the 100Ka glacial cycle. Milankovic forcing doesn’t appear to be big enough to do the trick except as a triggering mechanism, sort of like seeding a cloud. The best ideas appear to involve nonlinear response in the ice sheets as the next phase and carbon release as the third. Admittedly this is more complicated than one would hope, but it seems the best we can do. Without carbon sensitivity, there is as far as I know no prospect of a theory at all, though.

    Suggesting that we know very little is not enough to argue against a policy action. It is required to suggest that we know nothing and that someone else knows better, and that the someone else has a best estimate of carbon sensitivity near zero. The evidence takes us inexorably further from the possibility of a coherent argument to that effect.

    That being the case, we are equally likely to be underestimating the dangers as overestimating them. Therefore, the less we know the more rigorous the policy response should be.

    The more humility the science expresses, the more vigorous the policy response should be. If we can constrain the equilibrium CO2 sensitivity to 3C per doubling +/1 1C, the rational risk weighting of greenhouse gas emissions will be smaller than if we can only constrain it to 5C +/- 5C.

    If we were discussing matters rationally, it would be the people who were most in favor of policy action who would be those who would be the most suspicious of the science. The fact that this is precisely the opposite of what we observe has always discouraged me as an indicator of the rationality of policy discussion.

    mt

  29. 129
    Hank Roberts says:

    Don’t take silence by the scientists for agreement here during AGU week.

    You’re persistently misquoting and misstating Erik’s opinion.

    This should embarass you, Sashka.

  30. 130
    Majorowicz says:

    re.13. Does it really matter if someone is a geologist, geophysicist or tree ring specialist ? We should discuss on merit, shouldn’t we?
    BTW, I know of Demming’s work mainly as a geophysicist and his work relevant to recent climate change issue, (Science and JGR papers).
    Here they are:
    “Climatic warming in North America: Analysis of borehole temperatures
    Author Deming, D. [Univ. of Oklahoma, Norman, OK (United States)]
    Publication Date 1995 Jun 16
    Science ; VOL. 268 ; ISSUE: 5217 ; PBD: 16 Jun 1995 ”
    and
    “Deming, D. and R.A. Borel, Evidence for climatic warming in northcentral Oklahoma from analysis of borehole temperatures, J. of Geophys. Res., 100, 22017-22032, 1995. ”
    As far as I know these are geophysical papers one of which published in the leading geophysical journal!

  31. 131
    Dan says:

    re: 129. Indeed. From 125, “What happens now is a different story indeed. Which is precisely why Gore’s show was a gross misrepresentation of science.”

    That statement in itself from a non-scientist reflects a lack of comprehension of how science is done and specifically not understanding how the scientific method is followed.

  32. 132
    Josh Busby says:

    I generally agree with your take on Inhofe, but I would love for this blog to comment on the media reports that livestock, including deforestation, feed production and flatulence, are responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the transport sector. This, coupled with news of the forthcoming IPCC assessment (that has adjusted downwards the predictions of both temperature change and sea level rise) appears to be providing grist for skeptics, Inhofe included.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/12/10/nclimate10.xml

    http://www.virtualcentre.org/en/library/key_pub/longshad/A0701E00.pdf

  33. 133
    Sashka says:

    Re: #129

    If you can show where I misquoted Eric please go ahead and post the correct quote. Otherwise apologize.

  34. 134
    Sashka says:

    Re: #128

    Michael,

    You are confusing two separate points that I am making.

    1. Imperfect understanding of the past and ramifications for the forecast uncertainties.

    I realize that it’s possible to make Milankovich “work” better – by assuming something else. It may be generally attributed to lowering CO2, as you put it, but this is not in any way an established fact. I’m happy that you acknowledge a problem with 100k cycle, though.

    Admittedly this is more complicated than one would hope, but it seems the best we can do. Without carbon sensitivity, there is as far as I know no prospect of a theory at all, though.

    I already said above and I repeat: I agree. However, there are two possible reasons: (1) CO2 feedback is actually very important or (2) the part of the system that we are missing (the one that doesn’t let us understand 100k cycle) is even more important while CO2 doesn’t matter much.

    We don’t know which one is true. All of you will surely vote for (1) and, to be honest, if I had to bet I’d pick (1) as well. However the mere fact that (2) is a non-zero probability adds additional uncertainty which climate modeling community would not recognize.

    2. Policy action.

    Suggesting that we know very little is not enough to argue against a policy action.

    This is not what I’m saying. I’m saying (see above) that the policy action should have the projected impact exceeding the error bar of the model forecast. I’m saying that forecast uncertainty is indeed larger than what climate community says it is while the so far proposed measures have a much smaller effect than even the stated uncertainty. That’s why I against it.

    I agree that large uncertainty must lead to a stronger policy action. Unfortunately stronger policy brings a non-linear price response in economy. If there was an economically viable way to drastically reduce emissions I’d support with my both hands … and feet.

  35. 135
    andrew worth says:

    RE #132 “news of the forthcoming IPCC assessment (that has adjusted downwards the predictions of both temperature change and sea level rise)”

    I’ve now been referred to the Telegraph story a couple of times now, can anyone tell me what substance there is to it?

    [Response: Appears to be twaddle: see http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/12/telegraph_wrong_about_ipcc_rep.php -W]

  36. 136
    Bob Mouissie says:

    I am disappointed about the lag of critical approach concerning the discussion on chance of climatically observation ,therefor I like to suggest you to look at video tapes emitted by Discovery channel and National Geographics in the series “Planet Ocean”and Men made Climatic Chance ? as well emissions on the subject of Dimming Clouds [ BBC/UK ].
    Summerizing: CO2 is not a problem as suggested by many environmentalists.
    Please stop talking like parrots as on all reports on climatic changes ,you will not find a signature, placed by scientific recherches ,conforming CO2 is the root of all evil.
    With respects Bob Mouissie.

  37. 137
    Dan says:

    It is stunning and somewhat sad to read how someone with apparently little or limited scientific credentials beleives they have more understanding, comprehension and knowledge than those who do and who have published extensively and whose publications have been subject to peer review.

  38. 138
    Dan says:

    re: 135. Please read the IPCC reports where the science is presented. Not TV programs where anything goes.

  39. 139
    Hank Roberts says:

    Sashka, you misstated his opinion — quoting only the first half of his paragraph on the question as though it were his opinion — leaving off the second half of what he wrote.

    Understand?

  40. 140
    SecularAnimist says:

    Sashka wrote in #134: “If there was an economically viable way to drastically reduce emissions I’d support with my both hands … and feet.”

    According to the Stern Review on the economics of climate change recently published by the UK government, the economic costs of failing to reduce CO2 emissions enough, quickly enough, to address anthropogenic global warming, will be far greater than the costs of doing so.

    Quoted in The Guardian newspaper, Sir David King, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said: “All of [Stern's] detailed modelling out to the year 2100 is going to indicate first of all that if we don’t take global action we are going to see a massive downturn in global economies … the kind of downturn that has not been seen since the great depression and the two world wars … If you look at sea level rises alone and the impact that will have on global economies where cities are becoming inundated by flooding … this will cause the displacement of … hundreds of millions of people.”

    It’s easy to understand why certain people who have a powerful short term financial interest in maintaining high levels of fossil fuel consumption — e.g. oil company executives — would wish to exaggerate the costs of reducing CO2 emissions while ignoring the costs of failing to do so. It’s not so easy to understand why anyone else would do so.

    With regard to your disparaging comments about the scientific accuracy of Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, which other commenters have already pointed out are completely incorrect, the film is inaccurate in one respect: it is somewhat dated. All of the new science that has been done since the film was produced shows that the present situation with regard to global warming and the prospects for the future are much worse than what Al Gore has to say in the film. It becomes harder every day to justify Gore’s optimism that we can successfully address the problem in time to avert a global catastrophe.

  41. 141
    savegaia says:

    The best i found is the “China-U.S. Climate Change Forum” from may 2006.
    I posted 4 parts of a series allready in comment #106.

    Id like to mentione this one here aswell:
    “Innovation – Promising Technologies”
    Video GoogleSavegaia media collectionChina-U.S. Climate Change Forum – Complete List of all event parts @ Video Google

  42. 142
    Bob Mouissie says:

    I like to draw Your attention on the following subjects and facts:

    1} CO2 has a strong affinity to HO2.As the atmosphere exist 95% of vapor
    and 72 % of the earth surface is water[oceans]

    2} CO2 is 1.5 times heavier than aer and will only move in aer as there are climatic conditions allowing this and only when meteorological conditions as high pressure/low pressure situations exists and will than rice until the inversion level

    3}As the combination CO2 +HO2 forms a Fertilizer for vegetation on land and food for planktone ,this in combination with sunlight ,produces oxygen[ 60% of our need].

    4}Aer polution,due to industrial emissions,as well automotive use ,is fare more a threat for men kind as showed in Dimming clouds article[BBC/UK
    Sincer Bob Mouissie

  43. 143
    Sashka says:

    For the benefit of those who religeously believe that power industry (oil lobby etc.) are all bad guys who are only out to rip short-term profits:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/12/business/worldbusiness/12warm.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print

  44. 144
    Dan says:

    re: 142, specifically point 1. Please see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=142 and read the difference between “feedbacks” and “forcings”. CO2 is a
    forcing, water vapor is a feedback. That is a critical difference. See also http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/01/water-vapor-is-almost-all-of.html.

    re: point 2. Mauna Lea, Hawaii is far above the “inversion level”, yet continues to show the upward trend in CO2 quite strongly.

    re: point 3. Please see http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/03/natural-emissions-dwarf-humans.html, specifically regarding the issue of �balance�.

  45. 145
    James says:

    Re #142: It seems you either don’t understand the science involved at all, or are having problems expressing that understanding in English. Perhaps if you were to re-post in your native language, someone could help deal with the confusion.

    One important point to understand, though, is that newspaper publishers and television producers seldom have much understanding of, or interest in, basic science. They print or publish what they think will attract an audience. I’m not myself at all familiar with television, let alone British programming, but I’m sure one wouldn’t have to look too hard to find programs full of absolute bunk.

  46. 146
    Doug Watts says:

    “If there was an economically viable way to drastically reduce emissions I’d support with my both hands … and feet.”

    This is why economics is a highly skewed and almost useless tool here. By definition, economics fails to account for externalities in its assessment. Economics, for example, cannot factor in the for the extinction of a species because there exists no way to estimate the “value” of a species not becoming extinct. Any assigned “value” is so subjective as to be completely useless.

    The only attempts I am aware of to place quantitative value upon the continued existence of a species is to do a survey and ask respondents to state “how much they would pay” to keep a species from going extinct.

    This methodology is obviously skewed because the species still exists when the survey is done and the respondents might very well place a much higher value on the species after it has become extinct or nearly extinct (ie. the oops factor) than when the species is still here and fairly abundant. If the species is still fairly abundant, the price respondents “would be willing to pay” to keep it abundant is skewed toward the lower range, because the species is still here without the respondents having to pay anything.

    Survey studies of this type are also unable to ask the next generation how much they would be willing to pay to bring a species back that became extinct shortly after they were born. By definition, the loss felt by these people, who will never have the chance to even see the species, could be very high, and therefore the “price they would be willing pay” to see the species might also be very high. Unf. it is impossible to capture these people in a survey type study because by definition those most affected by a future extinction have not been born yet and cannot express an opinion of this impact on them, that they did not cause, and they had no chance to prevent.

    Also, you can’t bring extinct species back, no matter how much people are willing to pay. cf. our now lost and beautiful passenger pigeon.

    Cheers.

  47. 147

    re “I hope you would agree that in order to drive the temperture CO2 must lead the tems in the record, not lag. Would you not?”

    Whatever sets off the CO2 increase, CO2 increase in and of itself will result in higher ground temperatures. That’s basic radiation physics, and it doesn’t depend on statistical correlations. In any case, CO2 having traditionally followed temperatures doesn’t mean it’s doing so now, since we know the present warming is artificial.

  48. 148

    “Summerizing: CO2 is not a problem as suggested by many environmentalists.
    Please stop talking like parrots as on all reports on climatic changes ,you will not find a signature, placed by scientific recherches ,conforming CO2 is the root of all evil.”

    “Summarizing.” I don’t know who your “many environmentalists” refers to. CO2 is a big problem according to 99% or so of climatologists. No one says it’s “the root of all evil,” that’s a straw man argument. But the present global warming is being driven primarily by the artificial increase in CO2.

  49. 149

    Re “1} CO2 has a strong affinity to HO2.As the atmosphere exist 95% of vapor and 72 % of the earth surface is water[oceans]
    2} CO2 is 1.5 times heavier than aer and will only move in aer as there are climatic conditions allowing this and only when meteorological conditions as high pressure/low pressure situations exists and will than rice until the inversion level
    3}As the combination CO2 +HO2 forms a Fertilizer for vegetation on land and food for planktone ,this in combination with sunlight ,produces oxygen[ 60% of our need].
    4}Aer polution,due to industrial emissions,as well automotive use ,is fare more a threat for men kind as showed in Dimming clouds article[BBC/UK”

    1. In what way is “95% of vapor” H2O? I thought that 100% of water vapor was H2O.

    2. Due to convection and turbulence, CO2 is well mixed throughout the troposphere (the lowest 11 km or so of the atmosphere, containing 90% or so of the atmosphere’s mass). You have pretty much the same CO2 mixing ratio at the ground, climbing a mountain, or (usually) in an airplane.

    3. Yes, photosynthesis produces oxygen. Why, exactly, are you mentioning this? How does it bear on global warming?

    4. Air pollution is a serious problem, yes, but how do you justify the statement that it’s “more important” than global warming? More important how? If potential costs in lives and dollars are the criterion, global warming is more important.

  50. 150
    Phillip Shaw says:

    Actually, “Summerizing” might be a good term for AGW. We’ve used the term “winterizing” for ages.

    I can see all sorts of advertising campaigns for the coal industry: “If you like Summer, enjoy it all year! – brought to you by the coal industry. Summerizing the planet for you!”

    (sigh) I wish I were joking.


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