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This Week

Filed under: — mike @ 4 May 2007 - (Türkçe)

There are a few minor items this week worthy of mention:

1. The CO2 rise. Who dunnit?

Here at RealClimate, we have been (naively, apparently) operating under the assumption that climate change contrarians had long ago moved on from the untenable position that humans are not even responsible for the observed increase in CO2 concentrations over the past two centuries. The dubious paper by Ernst Beck we commented on the other day indicates that there is indeed still a rear guard attack being waged. As if to drive the point home further, pundit Alexander Cockburn, known generally for his progressive views, has perplexingly disputed the existence of any link between CO2 emissions and rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere in a screed he penned this week for the online journal “Counterpunch” (also printed in The Nation). It’s hard to know where to start, since his piece is so over the top and gets just about everything so thoroughly wrong, it’s almost comical. So we’ll just hit the low points: (a) Cockburn claims that there is zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable contribution to the world’s present warming trend, despite the fact that not even such strident climate change contrarians as Pat Michaels dispute that there is a measurable influence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases on global temperature. Plus there’s all the empirical evidence of course (see the new IPCC report). (b) Going further, Cockburn brazenly opines that ‘it is impossible to assert that the increase in atmospheric CO2 stems from human burning of fossil fuels’ despite the fact that there is an isotopic smoking gun for this connection. He then (c) fails to understand that water vapor is a feedback not a forcing, and citing ‘expert’ Dr. Martin Hertzberg, quite remarkably states that ‘It is the warming of the earth that is causing the increase of carbon dioxide and not the reverse.’ Never mind that isotopic evidence proves otherwise. Upon what evidence does he base this assertion?

Since no anti-global warming op-ed these days is complete without it, Cockburn (d) resorts to the usual misrepresentation of lag/lead relationships between CO2 and temperatures during glacial/interglacial cycles as if they disprove the causal relationship between greenhouse gas concentrations and surface temperatures (see our most recent debunking of this favorite contrarian talking point here). Oh dear.

2. The other (Glenn) Beck–Even Worse!

CNN gave their resident shock-jock Glenn Beck a forum for spreading more disinformation on global warming in an hour-long segment entitled Exposed: The Climate of Fear (see also this discussion by “Media Matters”). We could pick apart his (rather thin) arguments, which constitute the usual cocktail of long debunked contrarian talking points. Suffice it to say, however, that the moment a rhetorician invokes Hitler, Nazi Germany, and Eugenics, it is the moment they are no longer worthy of being listened to (cf Godwin’s Law of usenet debates). We don’t seem to be alone in our opinion here. Beck’s performance earned him the dubious title of “worst person in the world” from analyst Keith Olbermann.

However, there was one amusing moment: Beck asked Christopher ‘Incorrect’ Horner what the key thing to google was that would show that Al Gore was wrong. Horner suggested the lag between CO2 and temperature in the ice cores. Of course, if you do Google that, the first hit is the RealClimate debunking of the issue. Thanks!

3. Nature’s new blog

Nature has started a new blog called “Climate Feedback”, which says of itself ‘Climate Feedback is a blog hosted by Nature Reports: Climate Change to facilitate lively and informative discussion on the science and wider implications of global warming. The blog aims to be an informal forum for debate and commentary on climate science in our journals and others, in the news, and in the world at large.’

We wish it well, remembering their welcome for RealClimate, though early reviews based on the first few posts are decidedly mixed.


280 Responses to “This Week”

  1. 151
    Timothy Chase says:

    Re: John McCormick (#148) – Making tables

    The following works…

    Top Left Top Right
    Bottom Left Bottom Right

    http://www.w3schools.com/html/tryit.asp?filename=tryhtml_tables

    However, if you want Excel, here is another possibility…

  2. 152
    Zeke Hausfather says:

    This is rather off-topic, but I recently bumped into what might be the most important “hockey stick” of them all:

    http://www.google.com/trends?q=global+warming&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all

  3. 153
    Timothy Chase says:

    PS (to #151 – regarding spreadsheets on the web)

    Some of the formatting showed up in the preview, but not in the post. The spreadsheet was actually embedded. Glad to see that the embedding doesn’t work – people might have been pasting in spreadsheets all over the place. But it shows up if you click the link.

    You can upload Excel with formulas, the owner can change the values on the fly with the formulas automatically updating, and there is the possibility of chat all part of “Edit Grid” for free. But there is extra if an org is willing to pay $5/mo. Most of you seem to be in the same timezone, and a “roundtable” chat could be posted here after some formatting.

    Possibilities….

  4. 154
    Chris says:

    re #146 John McCormick

    MMBPD?

    Million Miles ????? Per Day?

    I can’t think of an appropriate “B”…

    …”Bicycled” ???

  5. 155
    Marlowe Johnson says:

    Re #112
    “The point is, that the solutions to PO and GCC are the same – reduction of use in fossil fuels, increase of carbon neutral, sustainable alternatives.”

    While this can be true in theory, in practise the opposite seems to be true . One need only look to the massive ramp up in oil sands production (which is only economically viable now that the price of oil is above $40/barrel) to see how PO and GCC become competing rather than complementary policy drivers. CTL is further down the list in terms of viability but not by much.

    Whether or not the two drivers can be complementary depends in large part on whether or not low-GHG energy sources can compete with dirtier alternatives such as tar-sands derived gasoline or CTL. What I’d like to know what magnitude of carbon levy is needed to ensure that clean renewables will always be more attractive.

  6. 156
    Zeke Hausfather says:

    Chris,
    MMBPD is million barrels per day (sort of like MMBTU is million btu).

  7. 157
    Andrew Sipocz says:

    Re: 121 My view of civilization changed forever the week I had to try and evacuate my family from Houston before H. Rita’s landfall. I experienced the modern world being brought to its knees for want of nothing more than a gasoline (petrol) station attendent, a grocery store clerk, the ability to travel, air conditioning, temporary shelter, etc. My view of our civilization is no longer burdened with naievity on that account. Much of our civilization is not at all resilient and is getting less so every year. Take out one piece and it unravels quickly. It wouldn’t take much disruption to drop life expectencies 15 years or greatly increase the death rates of children. Total collapse? No, but it won’t be a walk in the park.

  8. 158
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 154

    Chris, the units in that graph should be MBPD, (thousands of barrels per day). So, the Mar. 5, 2004 amount was 8,968,000 barrels of gasoline. But, I like your interpretation better–nearly 9 million new bicylces per day.

  9. 159
    SCM says:

    Re Coal-to-liquids projects (#136).
    A CTL pilot project incorporating carbon sequestration is going ahead in the Latrobe valley here in Victoria, Australia. The rational is that the higher value of liquid fuels make carbon sequestration more economically feasible that it would be for say a coal fired power station. The risk for the folks involved was their concern that the price of oil might drop in the short term (I think prices> $40-50 a barrel makes CTL competitive) which worries potential investors in CTL. The company in question secured a govt grant to reduce their risk.

  10. 160
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Re #147:

    The attached prediction for Solar Cycle 24 is of interest. Solar cycle 23 is dragging out and is not following normal solar cycle behavior. As noted in the attached news bulletin, the predictions for Solar cycle 24 are split between a weak and strong solar cycle.

    A weak or very weak solar cycle should provide data to resolve the question how much of the 20th century warming was due to increased solar activity.

    I don’t fully understand the physics behind sunspot generation, but my understanding is that the position of the sun relative to the center of mass of the solar system has something to do with it — the further the sun is from the center of mass of the solar system the more sunspot activity there is. The end of the 20th century was really interesting in that most of the bigger planets were all in one tiny wedge more than once.

    On the other hand, the sunspot cycle has a “hockey stick” of its own and it’ll be interesting to see what cycle 24 has to offer and how the climate responds.

    (And here’s a report — http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/solanki2004/solanki2004.html )

  11. 161
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Perhaps scientists need to stick to a false positive avoiding science conservatism, but laypersons do need to keep in mind the worst case scenarios & be fasle negative avoiders.

    We buy insurance against catastrophic total fire & storm damage that most likely will never happen to our homes….Well, now with GW there’s a higher probability of that, I guess. And the insurance companies are certainly concerned about the worse case scenarios, since they could go out of business if they happen.

    I agree with Mark (#128), the term “climate change” seems to me a term deniers might prefer. But frankly there is no term that really does justice to what’s underway. Words fail us.

  12. 162
    pat n says:

    Re 131, 133, 139, 143

    Increases in humidity result cause additional heat transfer from the latent heat of condensation as water vapor condenses on a snowpack. Climate station data indicates that winter and spring dewpoints have been increasing in Alaska and the Upper Midwest.

    If water from moist air condenses on a snowpack, 590 calories of heat are released by each gram of condensate. This is enough energy to melt approximately 7.5 gm of ice, which when added to the condensate yields a total of 8.5 gm of potential runoff. Dunne, T. Leopold (1978)

    http://www.mnforsustain.org/climate_snowmelt_dewpoints_minnesota_neuman.htm

    Global warming and cryosphere thaw in the 21st century are being driven by greenhouse gas emissions. What drove the Pleistocene deglaciations?

  13. 163
    Timothy Chase says:

    That “Solar Hockey stick”…

    FurryCatHerder (#160) wrote:

    On the other hand, the sunspot cycle has a “hockey stick” of its own and it’ll be interesting to see what cycle 24 has to offer and how the climate responds.

    (And here’s a report — http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/solanki2004/solanki2004.html )

    Beautiful!

    Just what I was looking for…

    Check this out:

    Although the rarity of the current episode of high average sunspot number may be taken as an indication that the Sun has contributed to the unusual degree of climate change during the twentieth century, we stress that solar variability is unlikely to be the prime cause of the strong warming during the last three decades3. In ref. 3, reconstructions of solar total and spectral irradiance as well as of cosmic ray flux were compared with surface temperature records covering approximately 150 years. It was shown that even under the extreme assumption that the Sun was responsible for all the global warming prior to 1970, at the most 30% of the strong warming since then can be of solar origin.

    pp.1086-7

    Unusual activity of the Sun during recent decades compared to the previous 11,000 years
    Solanski, et al.
    Nature, Vol. 431, No. 7012, pp. 1084 – 1087, 28 October 2004.

    (emphasis added)

    The paper this passage is refering to is:

    Solanki, S. K. & Krivova, N.
    Can solar variability explain global warming since 1970?
    J. Geophys. Res. 108, doi: 10.1029/2002JA009753 (2003).

  14. 164
    Timothy Chase says:

    Re: Solar variability…

    Contrarians who seek to deny the role of CO2 in temperature trends (when they aren’t denying that such trends exist, or that such CO2 is anthropogenic, or that rapidly rising temperatures and sea levels are bad things, etc.) will often try to point at the sun as the cause of current trends – and argue that if we can’t see the correlations, it must be because the earth’s climate system behaves chaotically, and are assuming that somehow this is almost impossible to argue against.

    But the earlier paper by Solanski and Krivova does just that:

    For each of these potential sources it is possible to compute the influence on the Earthâ??s climate [e.g., Wilson, 2000; Cubasch and Voss, 2000; Haigh, 1996; Shindell et al., 2001]. Given the complexity of the climate system, however, such modeling perforce is based on simplifying assumptions, which implies a significant uncertainty in the results. Here we take a complementary approach. We assume that the Sun has been responsible for climate change prior to 1970. Specifically, we consider the period 1856â??1970. Then, using reconstructions and measured records of relevant solar quantities as well as of the cosmic-ray flux, we estimate which fraction of the dramatic temperature rise after that date could be due to the influence of the Sun. Since our original assumption cannot underestimate the solar contribution to global warming prior to 1970, through the present analysis we should obtain an upper limit on the fraction of the warming due to the Sun also after 1970. The two other simplifying assumptions that enter our analysis are (1) the connection between the relevant solar and terrestrial quantities is linear, and (2) this connection remains unchanged with time (and in particular it is the same prior to and post 1970).

    Solanki, S. K. & Krivova, N.
    Can solar variability explain global warming since 1970?
    J. Geophys. Res. 108, doi: 10.1029/2002JA009753 (2003).

    In essence, it is a reductio ad absurdum against the contrarian “solar variability” argument. I guess the “solar variability” contrarians were operating on the assumption that “you can’t prove a negative,” and hadn’t realized that sometimes you can.

  15. 165
    Ike Solem says:

    RE#162, there is also the large scale circulation – how much of the heat transport to the Arctic goes via the atmospheric route, as sensible and latent heat? How much of the heat transport is via the oceanic route (and then there’s atmospheric-oceanic exchanges along the way, I suppose)? Is there a certain threshold point where the Arctic melting becomes irreversible, and if so, are we at or past that point? If so, that means irreversible declines in sea ice, rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet, warming of the Arctic surface layer, a decrease in deep water formation, and potential irreversible melting of Arctic permafrost, leading to increased fluxes of CO2 to the atmosphere… I’m not even sure if this is a high- or a low-probability outcome.

    As far as the energy discussion goes, a very good site I recently found is http://www.greencarcongress.com

  16. 166
    Marion Delgado says:

    “Global warming and cryosphere thaw in the 21st century are being driven by greenhouse gas emissions. What drove the Pleistocene deglaciations?”

    pat n: the picture with the most support is that it was partly some of the milankovic cycles coming around (if memory serves there’s a 100000 year eccentricity cycle, a 40000 year angle cycle, and a 23000 year wobble cycle) causing especially the northern hemisphere to heat up a little. That in turn increased the albedo of the earth slightly, and also caused the oceans to absorb slightly less C02. Over the course of a long time, thousands of years, there was a positive feedback cycle reinforced by additional solar heating. Hence, you had more sunlight, more dark ground and ocean to absorb it, more C02 in the air, more water vapor on average, etc. and a lot of that feeds on itself.

    Put another way, you can account for some of the early warming without additional GHGs being involved, but you don’t get the warming we got without some sort of additional GHGs being released – net – including most probably carbon dioxide increasing net after absorption, due mainly to the ocean solubiility of C02 changing.

  17. 167

    [[A weak or very weak solar cycle should provide data to resolve the question how much of the 20th century warming was due to increased solar activity.]]

    It’s pretty much already resolved. Solar warming accounts for much of the 1900-1940 increase and not much of the 1970-2000 increase.

  18. 168

    [[............................................Retail
    ............................................Av. Reg.
    ............................MMBPD ......$/gal.
    Mar 05, 2004 ... 8,968 ... $1.74
    Aug 13, 2004 ... 9,521 ... $1.88
    ]]

    etc.

    Shouldn’t you be using the deflated or real price rather than the retail price? We’ve had inflation of about 2% over that whole period, varying quite a bit up and down.

  19. 169

    [[Global warming and cryosphere thaw in the 21st century are being ]]

    Changes in the global distribution of sunlight due to changes in the Earth’s orbit and axial tilt. Google “Milankovic cycles.”

  20. 170
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Re #164:

    In essence, it is a reductio ad absurdum against the contrarian “solar variability” argument. I guess the “solar variability” contrarians were operating on the assumption that “you can’t prove a negative,” and hadn’t realized that sometimes you can.

    Knowing the answer to the question “how much does the sun’s increased activity affect climate?” is needed to know the answer to “how much do the other things affecting climate have to change?”

    If the sun is responsible for 49% of the current warming, and anthropogenic carbon is reponsible for 51%, the amount of change in carbon emissions is greater than if it’s all anthropogenic carbon. Hopefully everyone here can agree with that statement.

  21. 171
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 162, Ike,

    I will add another risk to the list though, as you said:

    [I'm not even sure if this is a high- or a low-probability outcome.]

    It is safe to assume that a longer arctic ocean open water phase vs. ice phase and continuing deforestation of the Amazon will have an impact on temp and precip patterns in the Western North American grain basket.

    That assumed, I ask the question: are we building the US ethanol industry in a box canyon?

    And,

    RE # 168, Barton, the range of dates in the chart at # 146 span from Mar. 04 to Apr. 07. The inflation rate impact is insignificant to the point I was trying to make. But, you can do the numbers and comment.

  22. 172
    Timothy Chase says:

    FurryCatHerder (#164) wrote:

    Knowing the answer to the question “how much does the sun’s increased activity affect climate?” is needed to know the answer to “how much do the other things affecting climate have to change?”

    Knowing that the sun can’t be responsible for more than 30% of current forcing is sufficient to show that the other part of the forcing must be coming from somewhere else. Gremlins, perhaps, but I think humans are much more likely. The rest is feedback. Don’t forget – the IPCC itself claims that natural forces were the dominant cause of the forcing in the earlier half of the 20th century, but they claim that the dominant cause of the forcing in the latter half of the 20th century.

    As for what happens after the forcing, we call it feedback. Principally the rise of temperature due to carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide resulting in the evaporation of water, with water vapor further raising the temperature, resulting in more evaporation. Water vapour is responsible for perhaps 80% of the heating. But water vapor stays in the atmosphere only so long – without forcing. A few months, and with forcing. Starting with no water vapor at all, it would take only ten years for the same amount of forcing to raise it back up to nearly a hundred percent of its equilibrium level. Methane stays in the atmosphere for a few decades – prior to decaying into carbon dioxide. But carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for centuries.

    If the sun is responsible for 49% of the current warming, and anthropogenic carbon is reponsible for 51%, the amount of change in carbon emissions is greater than if it’s all anthropogenic carbon. Hopefully everyone here can agree with that statement.

    Being generous, if the sun were responsible for the 100% of the forcing in the earlier half of the 20th century, then it was responsible for the slower rate of temperature increase in the earlier half of the twentieth century. After that, human forcing became the dominant cause of the increase in temperature.

    I do have some good news for you, though. While we have been the major source of greenhouse gases, nature has been the sink – principally in terms of the ocean, absorbing most of what we have been putting out. However, as the temperatures increase, the natural sinks will become emitters. Within the matter of a few decades you will be able to claim that nature is the major polluter responsible for the increasing levels of methane and carbon dioxide. In truth, we will have caused that – with our forcing. But there will undoubtedly be some people who won’t be able to connect the dots and recognize that this is feedback. Oh, but I did call this “good news,” didn’t I? It won’t be for the vast majority of humanity – but I suppose it may be for the contrarians who still wish to deny what actually took place.

  23. 173
    scott roland says:

    I highly doubt I will get a reasonable answer to my question but here it goes, Why are there thousands of highly accredited scientists who agree that the earth is warming but do not think humans are having the effect you say they are and certainly don’t blame humans for the increase completley. Also, why just 30 years ago were scientist arguing for another ice age, global cooling and “No end in site to the earths cooling”. I am a doubter of the 100% human aspect of global warming and I would LOVE to have an educated conversation about this. All I get are misinformed global warming fanatics who couldn’t tell you why they believe what they believe except that it was on the cover of Time or on CNN.

    [Response: If I were you, I would not believe the everything I saw on Time or CNN either - whether it was in the 1970s or today. Instead, I would read what the National Academies are saying in their assessments of the science. Compare NAS (1975) with NAS (2001). No fanatics there. - gavin]

  24. 174
    Steven Soleri says:

    Another great article out in Germany’s Der Spiegel castigating the narrow segment of scientists declaring “we are going to burn for our sins”—One excerpt:

    One member of the levelheaded camp is Hans von Storch, 57, a prominent climate researcher who is director of the Institute for Coastal Research at the GKSS Research Center in Geesthacht in northern Germany. “We have to take away people’s fear of climate change,” Storch told DER SPIEGEL in a recent interview. “Unfortunately many scientists see themselves too much as priests whose job it is to preach moralistic sermons to people.”

    See more and be educated at: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,481684,00.html

    [Response: It is a very familiar tactic to claim the middle ground by pushing everyone else to the extremes: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/01/consensus-as-the-new-heresy/ . The differences in actually what is said is usually very small. If you can, please point out the moralistic sermons on this site.- gavin]

  25. 175
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Scott,
    I am a highly accredited scientist. I have a PhD and dozens of publications in radiation physics. That does not make me an expert in climate or cellular biology or seismology. I have a broader background than most scientists, so I can kind of follow the arguments in these other fields, but it would also be easy for me to make mistakes. So the basic answer is you can’t listen to someone just because he is a scientist. You have to listen to the experts–the people who publish in peer-reviewed journals on the subject. You can also check out what independent review bodies like the National Academy of sciences, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, etc. have to say. Among experts, the nearly unanimous consensus is that humans are responsible for much of the warming in the 20th century. The paper by Solanki cited above even took the extreme position that ALL the warming prior to 1970 (not to advocate this position, but just as an upper limit for solar contribution) was due to solar activity and then looked at how much since 1970 could possibly be due to solar activity. Answer: No more than 30%. And this is an absolute upper bound. The rest pretty much has to be due to human release of greenhouse gases.
    As to the cooling prior to 1975–all of it actually occurred in just 5-6 years just after WW II and then temperatures remained flat for 20 years, probably due to particulate emissions from burning fossil fuels.

    You say there are thousands of scientists who don’t believe humans are causing climate change. Why aren’t they publishing? Because they know they have nothing real to say to scientists.

  26. 176
    nicolas L. says:

    re: 173

    Scott, do you know the articles on this blog are written by climate scientists? If you don’t have educated conversation here, you won’t have it anywhere… :)

    Plus I recommend you an excellent report written and reviewed by hundreds of highly accredited scientists who all agree to say the present global warming is due for most of it to human activities: the IPCC 2007 report. It’s very instructive and it’s a good base to start learning about GW causes and issues.

    Last but not least, about the cooling predicted in the 70′s, it has been treated here many times so if you spend some time on this blog you’ll discover there has never been any scientific consensus about a near global cooling.

  27. 177
    Timothy Chase says:

    Steven Soleri (#174) wrote:

    Another great article out in Germany’s Der Spiegel castigating the narrow segment of scientists declaring “we are going to burn for our sins”—One excerpt: …

    None of the climatologists at RealClimate (nor the vast majority of climatologists elsewhere who generally agree with them, recognizing climate change and the problems which it will result in for humanity) are predicting the end of the world. In fact, the climatologists at RealClimate go out of their way to argue that we aren’t confronted with end-of-the-world scenarios.

    As two examples which I know of right on hand, I would suggest the following essays:

    Runaway tipping points of no return
    5 Jul 2006
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/07/runaway-tipping-points-of-no-return/

    Methane hydrates and global warming
    12 Dec 2005
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/12/methane-hydrates-and-global-warming/

    However, they do acknowledge that there will be problems – severe problems. Heatwaves, drought, rising sea levels, water shortages, greatly reduced agricultural harvests and greatly reduced fish harvests. Famines. Probably hurricanes of increased intensity. Things we might want to avoid.

    PS

    Soleri? Any relation to the architect? Just curious.

  28. 178
    tamino says:

    Re: #175 (Ray Ladbury)

    Amen! I’m similarly qualified to opine on mathematics, particularly time series analysis, but likewise I’m not expert in climate, cellular biology or seismology. I have a good background in physics, so I can generally follow the reasoning, and read (and understand) the peer-reviewed literature on climate science. But I don’t have nearly enough knowledge or experience to claim I’m an expert, so nobody should “take my word for it” on climate physics just because I’m a scientist. I trust the opinions of genuine climate scientists far more than I trust my own opinions on the subject.

    And if I ever do come to the opinion that climate scientists are wrong about some topic, while I’m right — I’ll submit my theory for peer review.

  29. 179
    jay moses says:

    it may be of interest that cockburn is also a proponent of the abiotic theory of oil formation. essentially, he is a cornucopian who believes that every person on earth could live as they do in the developed world if capitalism were not creating artificial scarcity.

  30. 180

    #175 there is a general sense out there that scientists are not infallible, and that even accredited experts have to prove themselves in simple language and especially demonstrate their skills, for instance medical doctors do this by performing extraordinary surgeries or cures, people in general are not overwelmed by New England Journal of Medicine publications, but they are mighty impressed by doctors who read this journal. In the case of Climate science the only way in showing prowess is by predicting what will happen based on their total understanding of the climate system, many use models, perhaps with too much faith in them, they are far from being accurate in the long range. Hansen did not “stick his neck out” as said previously, but rather he practiced his profession. I find many climatologists not doing the same as Hansen as being irrelevant in the AGW debate, many are contrarians that are rather silly arm chair commentators, without demonstrating their skills in understanding of climate either through analyzing models or by placing their own theories to the test, to say something simple like what the world wide temperature will trend for next year, or in 6 months let alone one. Easy for them to bash Hansen even if he turned out to be right, astonishing for other scientists not to praise, let alone not even defend this significant accomplishment. But Hansen is not alone, many IPCC scientists have had their say in details about temperature projections, the future will tell if they are right. Lately, I was much impressed with meteorologists predicting extremely active Tornado activity, cudos to them. But, I am not amused by those who criticize out of the comfort of their none existent predictive record.

  31. 181
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Re #172

    Tim, I guess I’m surprised by the tone of your response.

    If we can agree that global warming, whatever the cause, is a bad thing, and we can only change one part of the cause (I’ve suggested we send janitors to the sun at night to clean up sunspots, but no one has taken me up on that …), knowing the amount each contributes is critical.

    If the sun is responsible for 100% of the change, there’s nothing we can do — reducing carbon emissions will accomplish nothing, the ice caps will melt, and we’ll be flooded, broiled, and starved to death.

    If the sun is responsible for 0% of the change, the only thing that needs to be done is reduce carbon emissions by whatever amount is required to combat the effects of CO2 because the sun contributes nothing additional.

    BUT, if the sun is responsible for anything greater than 0%, not only must CO2 emissions be reduced by X amount (to, say, 300ppm), they must also be reduced by some additional amount to compensate for what the sun is contributing. Yes? No?

    While some might find any sort of news that it’s not man-made to be some kind of good news, I don’t think it’s good news, sarcastically or not.

    I’ll also restate something that someone else wrote upthread — the solution to the problems I see as being a major threat, and the solution to the problems you see as being a major threat, are the same solutions. My sense of urgency on the subject of ending fossil fuel consumption is probably about the same as yours.

    I don’t reject the IPCC scenarios because I think they are wrong about the science, I reject them because I think they are wrong about the economics. The A1A scenario, if society as a whole were to try and act it out, would very likely (in my opinion) result in global economic collapse, well before 2100. And that’s ignoring any environmental impacts. I think that even the least environmentally destructive IPCC scenarios will cause significant economic harm.

  32. 182
    William Astley says:

    Comment: #175 Ray

    Note Solanki’s paper, concerning the sun’s affect on climate, does not discuss the reduction in cloud cover post 1994 and does not discuss, cloud modulation, by the mechanism ‘electroscavenging’.

    Solanki’s paper:

    http://www.mps.mpg.de/homes/natalie/PAPERS/warming.pdf

    See Palle’s earthshine paper for the data and mechanism. I thought that as some did not trust satellite data that a different observation technique would add support for the mechanism. If all data and mechanisms are considered, the jury is still out concerning the relative contribution of GHG and solar, in the 20th century.

    http://solar.njit.edu/preprints/palle1266.pdf

    The conclusion of Earthshine analysis is that from 1993/1994 to 2001 planetary cloud cover decreased by 5% +/-1.7%, which would result in an increase in planetary temperature. This finding is consistent with Palle’s other paper that shows satellite data supports the same conclusion. Palle converts the earthshine observation to a forcing of 7.5 W/m2 +/- 2.4.

    The areas where the cloud decrease was observed to decrease is consistent with the mechanism “electroscavenging” where an increase in the global electric current, removes ions from the atmosphere and hence reduces cloud cover. The electroscavenging mechanism is driven by high speed solar winds, which occurred post 1994 due to coronal holes.

  33. 183
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Re #179:

    it may be of interest that cockburn is also a proponent of the abiotic theory of oil formation. essentially, he is a cornucopian who believes that every person on earth could live as they do in the developed world if capitalism were not creating artificial scarcity.

    Cockburn needs to spend some time out in the oil patch learning how hard it is to suck oil out of really deep hole in the ground. A lot could probably be done to rework many of the old fields, but I’m not sure refracturing every well in the world is feasible or cheap.

  34. 184
    Ike Solem says:

    RE#175, #178, #180 – perhaps the most important thing for the general public to understand about science is that it works best in an atmosphere that is free of external control by political, religious or business interests. This has been understood by the scientists who worked hard to set up scientific bodies like the National Science Foundation – which has funded the majority of climate science over the past 50 yrs. As a result, climate scientists have been very productive – climate models, isotope studies, satellite and remote sensing technologies, ice cores and ocean sediment cores – it’s a remarkable record. Climate scientists have also gone to great lengths to educate the public about their work, via books and now blogs – and they’ve clearly demonstrated that climate science is of critical importance to everyone on the planet.

    However, there are other areas of science that are unfortunately under tight control by various political and business interests, and which have not been allowed to grow and expand. The area that’s releveant to this discussion is renewable energy science. There is no independent scientific body that oversees energy science, and the funding for the small number of programs that do exist in the US (NREL, for example) has been repeatedly curtailed. If you consider that both the computer microprocessor and the solar photovoltaic cell are based on the same discovery (semiconductor p-n junctions), but that PV cells have gone through only three generations, while billions have been poured into multiple generations of microprocessors, it really becomes clear that PV cell science has not been allowed to develop. The same is true for all other areas of renewable energy science. What is really needed, in terms of the development of renewable energy (as just one component of the necessary response to anthropogenic global warming) is to develop an independent scientific body, of similar stature to both the NSF and the NIH, which is dedicated to expanding energy research – and which is not controlled by business or political groups with vested interests in fossil fuels.

    There are a great many physicists and engineers at institutions all across the United States who would love to work full-time on a wide variety of renewable energy studies – but the absolute lack of institutional support leaves them scrambling for funds that just don’t exist. I have some personal experience with this (algal photosynthesis and biochemistry is the area I hoped to go into, based on work done at NREL in the 90′s – but I was told that I’d never get funding for this, and should drop it).

    For a discussion of algal energy science, see http://www.unh.edu/p2/biodiesel/article_alge.html – but if you scroll down to the bottom of that page, you get the punchline:

    “Due to the lack of government funding for this field of work, UNH and its collaborators are seeking private partners to finance the continued development of the technology”.

    Note that there is no guarantee that any technology owned by private interests will ever be put into production…it’s far more likely to be bought up by an established fossil fuel business that doesn’t want to see it developed.

    What’s worrisome, and what should be widely noted, is that a similar assault on climate science funding seems to be underway. The way that climate satellites have been routinely defunded over the past few years, plus the public statements about silencing discussion and suppression of research by government scientists at NOAA, should be taken very seriously by the scientific community, as well as by the general public.

  35. 185
    Timothy Chase says:

    FurryCatHerder (#181) wrote:

    I’ll also restate something that someone else wrote upthread — the solution to the problems I see as being a major threat, and the solution to the problems you see as being a major threat, are the same solutions. My sense of urgency on the subject of ending fossil fuel consumption is probably about the same as yours.

    I don’t reject the IPCC scenarios because I think they are wrong about the science, I reject them because I think they are wrong about the economics. The A1A scenario, if society as a whole were to try and act it out, would very likely (in my opinion) result in global economic collapse, well before 2100. And that’s ignoring any environmental impacts. I think that even the least environmentally destructive IPCC scenarios will cause significant economic harm.

    I most certainly worry about the economics as well.

    Personally, I think that the IPCC muffled the science a bit due to political considerations – to make it acceptable to the representatives of all of the governments involved. However, that is my personal opinion, and I would prefer to hear what climatologists have to say – which is part of the reason why I am looking forward to the structured discussion of the IPCC AR4.

    However, the economic recommendations looked poorly thought-out. But I should probably give you a little of my background first. I am fairly close to libertarian. Limited government, pro-capitalist. I read Ludwig Von Mises’ “Human Action” from cover-to-cover but was perhaps a little less thorough on “The Theory of Money and Credit.” I have read “Knowledge and Decisions” by Thomas Sowell. I know how badly price controls can distort the coordination of economic activity, and I know how hyperinflation can destroy entire economies. And on a more personal note, both Ludwig von Mises and Alan Greenspan are personal heroes of mine.

    But before we can start discussing possible economic or political solutions, we need to have an understanding of the science involved, and we have to understand the magnitude of the problem that we are facing. Contrarians aren’t helping in that regard by attempting to fog the scientific issues. The longer we wait, the more likely that draconian measures will be taken. The longer we are delayed, the more likely that the political “solution” will be something that I would rather see avoided, something which ultimately will not work because it relies upon highly centralized and perhaps dictatorial solutions.

    If we can recognize the science, then we can start examining the economic and political solutions more thoughtfully. Is ethanol really a solution, or will it result in deforestation and starvation in the third world? Are carbon credits the solution – or as they are currently practiced, will they simply push off carbon production to the third world? What about carbon caps? What about biochar – which third world countries could impliment at low costs without deforestation and which would improve the productivity of agricultural land?

    I am not of the view that any sort of transition will involve no net costs. We need to examine those costs and identify optimal approaches. However, the longer we wait, the more likely we will try to compress any solution into a much narrower timeframe – and when this is done, the costs tend to be much greater. I think we should be open to discussing all solutions – centralized or decentralized – becaue in such an environment, we are more likely to identify the problems with each. But this is a luxury we can afford only so long as we have some time in which to do so and while more reasonable voices prevail.

  36. 186

    [[Also, why just 30 years ago were scientist arguing for another ice age, global cooling and "No end in site to the earths cooling".]]

    In brief, they weren’t. Nothing like the present scientific consensus for global warming ever existed for global cooling. A few scientists in the ’70s said the Earth might be in a long-term cooling trend, Newsweek ran a sensational article saying a new ice age was imminent, and about a dozen similar articles followed. But that was the media, not the scientific community.

  37. 187

    [[ If all data and mechanisms are considered, the jury is still out concerning the relative contribution of GHG and solar, in the 20th century.]]

    Not really.

  38. 188
    Rod B says:

    Ike, nice treatise (184). As I’m sure you are aware, neither NSF or NIH are free of political controls as they are both government entities dependent on Congress for funds and under Executive control. Until someone finds the golden egg-laying hen, that’s the way it will be. In part this is good (well, appropriate) because no entity, no matter how noble, should be given unfettered unending funding. In part it also has its drawbacks as you point out. And history is rife with politicians or businesses dictating the result of scientific inquiry — politics being the most pernicious of the pair. NSF and NIH have somehow managed to operate quite well, however, under those constraints.

  39. 189
    Justin says:

    In regards to the lag/lead “conundrum”, often I have found it useful to massage it with an analogical question: if I claim that fire causes a rise in the amount of heat and a rise in temperature because they come after the fire, can I then refute that claim by showing that on some occations a rise in heat and temp. has come before the fire?

  40. 190
    pat n says:

    Re: 184.

    Ike,
    It is absolutely true what you said about NOAA silencing discussion and suppression of research by government scientists.

    In my experience, I received an e-mail (February, 2005) from the Hydrologist in Charge at the North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC) which said:

    The bottom line is you were told many times to stop working in this area and that still holds true and will continue to hold true until you are directed otherwise.

    NCRFC is part of NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS). My removal (July 2005 from federal service by NWS officials was a direct result of trying to discuss and research climate and hydrologic change from 2000-2005 as part of my position as a NOAA NWS NCRFC Senior Hydrologist. I served 29 years in hydrologic modeling and prediction.

  41. 191
    John Mashey says:

    re: #184
    “If you consider that both the computer microprocessor and the solar photovoltaic cell are based on the same discovery (semiconductor p-n junctions), but that PV cells have gone through only three generations, while billions have been poured into multiple generations of microprocessors, it really becomes clear that PV cell science has not been allowed to develop.”

    I think this is misleading, in some sense. a) There certainly hasn’t been as much investment, but b) PV is “harder”, because “Moore’s Law” doesn’t help much, like it has for micros, of which I’ve helped design about a dozen. I also used to work at Bell Labs, where modern PV cells started, and our people were certainly motivated to improve them, but it was hard work.

    I was lucky to attend a fine lecture a few weeks ago at SLAC by Charles Gay, VP&GM of the Solar Business Group at Applied Materials (AMAT), a 40-year-old company that is the world’s leader building equipment for manufacturing semiconductors, i.e., *very* serious people. Gay was also Director of NREL 1994-1997.

    4) Gay gave a very nice presentation, “Gigawatt Scale Solar manufacturing for Grid Power Parity”, showing trendlines, machinery (amazing stuff), and expected cost curves over time. PV isn’t coming down as fast as CMOS has done, but he did have very straightforward predictions. That it’s taking longer isn’t because it hasn’t been allowed, it’s because a) It’s harder, and b) There hasn’t been as been as much investment, but now a) It’s still hard, but b) The investment is going up, and c) As the volumes go up, the unit costs go down, and as the market grows d) People get serious about more technology exploration.

    http://www.appliedmaterials.com/news/solar_strategy.html is useful, and the 8-page whitepaper http://www.appliedmaterials.com/news/assets/solar_whitepaper.pdf has some of the charts Gay used. [I wish the whole talk were online, but I haven't found it anywhere.]

    One key chart shows cost/watt for finished modules, including history from 1980 ($21.83/Watt), through:
    2005 $2.70/W
    2010 $1.82/W
    2013 $1.44/W

    An NREL chart shows the (slow) improvements in efficiencies over the years, which unfortunately bear no resemblance to Moore’s Law explosions.

    Anyway, it was encouraging…. and it was straightforward, serious engineering/business from a highly credible source. I don’t think PV is the panacea, but it certainly helps …

    [Disclaimer: I don't own any AMAT these days, so this is not a commercial :-)]

  42. 192
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Wow, Pat, this is worse than I thought could happen. It is very concerning. Disregarding reality because it’s unpleasant has never changed reality and certainly does not make one more able to deal with it. Unfortunately that kind of attitude is widespread. I find it enraging that denialists have managed to make it a widely held belief that anti-AGW positions are liable to get retaliation by the scientific community while in reality, the retaliation has come from the other end. Give me even less patience for denialists than I had.

  43. 193
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Re #185.

    My concern with worshipping at the altar of Science is that Science answers How and Why and What real well, but it doesn’t answer “Can we get there from here? And at what cost?” If the question is “Would burning every single last ounce of carbon-based fuel left in the ground trash the planet by 2100?”, I think the science is pretty solid — the answer, for me, is an unequivocal “Yes”.

    But at what point on the road to a global population peak somewhere in this century do fossil fuels, at the A1A scenario rate of consumption, begin to compete for food dollars? It’s already happening in this country with corn-for-ethanol. Corn prices are rising, and that’s hurting ranchers, which will create upward pressure on food prices. The current price of corn, at $3.75 or so a bushel, is towards the upper end of historical corn prices. Gasoline is within pennies of its inflation-adjusted historical high, and this isn’t some kind of geopolitical-crisis-that-can-end-tomorrow sort of spike.

    What all of this means is that the choices that are being made are simply the wrong choices — liquifying coal will lock-in minimum fuel prices at significantly higher rates than 5 years ago and do little or nothing to lower prices. Rising demand for coal will raise coal-fired electric rates. Carbon-based fuel prices are on an upward spiral and will outpace CO2 concentrations from now until we either run out or boil the oceans. And guess what? “Energy” shows up in everything we buy.

    Superficially, oil looks “cheap” because a barrel is some 5.9*10^6 BTU, or 1.7*10^6 watt-hours, and producing that sort of capacity from solar ($4M) is dramatically higher than producing it with oil ($10K), and wind is only slightly better ($1.7M). But two have long term potential, and the third will be depleted after 20 years or so, and there’s not a lot that can be done about that. That’s where free market economics, and its focus on short term profits will definitely bite us where we don’t much want to get bit.

    What’s keeping renewables, such as wind (and solar), from being produced isn’t that $1.7M cost per barrel-energy-equivalent-per-day, it’s that wind is marginally more expensive than natural gas or coal. Not prohibitively expensive, like, we’d go broke buying wind, or Sterling engine solar, power but it would cost pennies per kilo-watt hour more. That’s what free market economics does — it focuses attention where peoples attention span lives. About every three months.

    The moral of my little story is simple — we might have 8 or 10 or 12 years to curb CO2 emissions, but if the rise in energy costs the last few years are any indication, we don’t have 8 or 10 or 12 years to curb energy costs. The only declining cost per unit energy technologies out there happen to also be renewable technologies.

  44. 194
    pat n says:

    Dear Philippe,

    Thank you for expressing your concern in #192. I’ve felt that the problems I had with my employer (NOAA NWS), in trying to research climate change impacts to hydrology, were personal problems not appropriate for discussion at realclimate or anywhere else.

    I think the way I was treated at NOAA NWS partly explains what is described in a recent posting at Climate Science Watch (title and link below).

    IPCC North America climate change impacts chapter shows evasiveness of U.S. Climate Action Report

    http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/index.php/csw/details/ipcc_car/

  45. 195
    Harry Haymuss says:

    Is it not true that a 1% change in global precipitation is worth about 1 w/m^2, and we are nowhere near that good in terms of accuracy of global precipitation? Also is it not true that destruction of arable land leading to lessened evapotranspiration which leads to reduced precipitation (what goes up must come down) will bias temperatures upward? With that in mind, how do we know the relative effects of land use vs. ghg’s, especially when ghg’s modify the vertical lapse rate which affects convection?

    [Response: What precipitation gives, evaporation takes away, and so there is no net change in energy flux. Additionally, internal changes in energy fluxe don't give a radiative forcing in the same sense as additional GHGs or aerosols or albedo changes from land use. We can calculate the effects of land use change and GHGs, and all such comparisons show that GHGs give a bigger impact, especially globally - see here for instance: http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2005/Hansen_etal_2.html - gavin]

  46. 196
    David B. Benson says:

    The 2007 May 7 issue of Spiegel Online has an article by a Herr Stempf claiming global warming won’t be all that bad. I noticed several errors, based on what I have learned here on RealClimate, but am not (yet) qualified to offer a critical review of the piece…

  47. 197
    Timothy Chase says:

    Regarding the new Spiegel article

    One member of the levelheaded camp is Hans von Storch, 57, a prominent climate researcher who is director of the Institute for Coastal Research at the GKSS Research Center in Geesthacht in northern Germany. “We have to take away people’s fear of climate change,” Storch told DER SPIEGEL in a recent interview. “Unfortunately many scientists see themselves too much as priests whose job it is to preach moralistic sermons to people.”

    Not the End of the World as We Know It
    May 07, 2007
    By Olaf Stampf
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,481684-2,00.html

    How odd – one of the few climatologists interviewed for the Spiegel article (von Storch) was responsible for the paper critiquing the hockey stick – where the paper was so flawed that Science had to issue a retraction…

    von Storch et al. (Reports, 22 October 2004, p. 679) criticized the ability of the “hockey stick” climate field reconstruction method to yield realistic estimates of past variation in Northern Hemisphere temperature. However, their conclusion was based on incorrect implementation of the reconstruction procedure. Calibration was performed using detrended data, thus artificially removing a large fraction of the physical response to radiative forcing.

    Technical Comments
    Comment on “Reconstructing Past Climate from Noisy Data”
    Eugene R. Wahl, David M. Ritson, Caspar M. Ammann
    Science 28 April 2006:
    Vol. 312. no. 5773, p. 529
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1120866
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/312/5773/529b

    What a coincidence!

  48. 198
    David B. Benson says:

    Re #197: Timothy Chase — Thank you!

  49. 199
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re 197 [Science had to issue a retraction]

    Tim,
    That is not correct. What you cited was a technial comment by Wahl et al. criticizing the 2004 paper by von Storch et al. Immediately following the Wahl et al. comments, von Storch and his co-authors defended their original analysis:
    Response to Comment on “Reconstructing Past Climate from Noisy Data”
    Hans von Storch, Eduardo Zorita, Julie M. Jones, Fidel Gonzalez-Rouco, and Simon F. B. Tett (28 April 2006) Science 312 (5773), 529c.

    There was no retraction of the original von Storch et al. article by Science or by the authors.

  50. 200
    Hank Roberts says:

    That’s how it looks to me too. Better ask the real scientists to check that opinion.

    [Response: The study was not retracted, though that possibility was considered by Science. And it is certainly true that Von Storch et al attempted to save face in their response to the Wahl et al comment. However, that was only by dramatically changing the ground rules of the game in an, at best , disingenuous manner. See what we've had to say about all of this previously in our post "A Mistake with Repercussions" and more importantly with respect to the latter point about "ground rules", "How Red are my Proxies?". -mike]


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