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Plimer’s homework assignment

Filed under: — gavin @ 24 August 2009

Some of you may be aware of George Monbiot’s so-far-unsuccessful attempt to pin down Ian Plimer on his ridiculous compendium of non-science. In response to Monbiot’s request for explanation and sources for some of Plimer’s more bizarre claims, Plimer has responded with a homework assignment that is clearly beyond even his (claimed) prowess. This is quite transparently a device to avoid dealing with Monbiot’s questions and is designed to lead to an argument along the lines of “Monbiot can’t answer these questions and so knows nothing about the science (and by the way, please don’t notice that I can’t cite any sources for my nonsense or even acknowledge that I can’t answer these questions either)”. (Chris Colose and Greenfyre have made similar points). It’s also worth pointing out as Andrew Dodds has done that each question is actually referencing a very well known contrarian and oft-debunked argument, but dressed up in pseudo-scientific complexity.

However, as a service both to Plimer and Monbiot (as well as anyone else interested), we give a quick scorecard on the relevance, actual scientific content (whether the questions can actually be answered) and sources for discussion for each of the, to be charitable, ‘odd’ questions. For relevance, we grade each question on a scale from 0 to 5, 0 being irrelevant to the issue of detection and attribution of 20th Century climate change, 5 being extremely relevant. For scientific content, we rate the reasonableness of the question posed (i.e. does it make any sense at all), from A to F (A being a very well posed question, F making no sense). For sources, we generally point to a paper or discussion that addresses the real issue.

  1. From the distribution of the vines, olives, citrus and grain crops in Europe, UK and Greenland, calculate the temperature in the Roman and Medieval Warmings and the required atmospheric CO2 content at sea level to drive such warmings. What are the errors in your calculation? Reconcile your calculations with at least five atmospheric CO2 proxies. Show all calculations and justify all assumptions.
    • Relevance: 0 – poor. Basic logical fallacy. The existence of prior warm periods that may have been caused by different effects (such as solar changes, orbital variation, continental configuration etc.) does not imply that the human-caused increase in CO2 is not causing warming now.
    • Scientific Content: D – phenology (the distribution and timing of species) can potentially be useful for tracking climate changes, but it is just one of many different types of proxy information available, and has its own regional, temporal, and seasonal limitations. Even more problematic, it is well known that the patterns of surface temperature variability during the “MWP” – more accurately, the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) – and LIA periods were spatially quite heterogeneous, and a record at one or two locations generally tells us very little if anything about global patterns. Even a cursory examination of the relevant recent literature (for instance, Osborn and Briffa, 2006) reveals that the pattern of warmth during the Medieval era was far regional in nature, and does not approach the truly global scale of warmth evident in recent decades.
    • Sources: Greater extent of vineyards today in England than in medieval times. Ice core records. Incoherence of the Medieval warm period.
  2. Tabulate the CO2 exhalation rates over the last 15,000 years from (i) terrestrial and submarine volcanism (including maars, gas vents, geysers and springs) and calc-silicate mineral formation, and (ii) CH4 oxidation to CO2 derived from CH4 exhalation by terrestrial and submarine volcanism, natural hydrocarbon leakage from sediments and sedimentary rocks, methane hydrates, soils, microbiological decay of plant material, arthropods, ruminants and terrestrial methanogenic bacteria to a depth of 4 km. From these data, what is the C12, C13 and C14 content of atmospheric CO2 each thousand years over the last 15,000 years and what are the resultant atmospheric CO2 residence times? All assumptions need to be documented and justified.
    • Relevance: 0 – pure misdirection.
    • Scientific Content: F – We know what CO2 and CH4 levels have been over the last 15,000 years and they oscillated within about 10 ppmv (CO2) and 100 ppbv (CH4) of their Holocene values since the start of the current era – until the industrial period (around 1750) since when CO2 has increased by 35%, and methane concentrations have more than doubled. In each case the values being measured today are way higher than anything measured in 800,000 years of ice core records, and likely higher than anything since the Pliocene (~3 million years ago). The idea that bacterial methane production at 4km in the Earth’s crust has anything to with this is laughable.
    • Sources: IPCC FAQ is all that is required. Do volcanoes produce more CO2 than human activity? Not even close.
  3. From first principles, calculate the effects on atmospheric temperature at sea level by changes in cloudiness of 0.5%, 1% and 2% at 0%, 20%, 40%, 60% and 80% humidity. What changes in cloudiness would have been necessary to drive the Roman Warming, Dark Ages, Medieval Warming and Little Ice Age? Show all calculations and justify all assumptions.
    • Relevance: 3 – clouds certainly have an effect on climate and understanding their variability is the subject of much research.
    • Scientific Content: F – The question makes no sense. Clouds at 0% humidity? Is humidity supposed to be globally uniform? And where should these cloud changes occur? The change for low-level clouds will be of the opposite sign to changes in high level clouds, and changes in the Arctic will give different answers than changes in the tropics. It should go without saying that Plimer is mistakenly assuming that he has accurate information for global temperatures over 2000 years.
    • Sources: Cloud Feedbacks in the Climate System.
  4. Calculate the changes in atmospheric C12 and C13 content of CO2 and CH4 from crack-seal deformation. What is the influence of this source of gases on atmospheric CO2 residence time since 1850? Validate assumptions and show all calculations.
    • Relevance: 0 – completely irrelevant.
    • Scientific Content: F – for those that don’t know ‘crack-seal deformation’ is a geologic process that causes the veins of crystals/minerals etc. in many rock types. (see here). Its relevance to atmospheric concentrations and isotopic composition is absolutely zero. It has no influence on atmospheric residence time – whether since 1850 or at any time in the past.
    • Sources Discussions of the actual carbon cycle and the real influences upon it.
  5. From CO2 proxies, carbonate rock and mineral volumes and stable isotopes, calculate the CO2 forcing of temperature in the Huronian, Neoproterozoic, Ordovician, Permo-Carboniferous and Jurassic ice ages. Why is the “faint Sun paradox” inapplicable to the Phanerozoic ice ages in the light of your calculations? All assumptions must be validated and calculations and sources of information must be shown.
    • Relevance: 0 – (again). The acknowledged climate changes in the past caused by natural events in no way implies that human effects are negligible today. Does the existence of forest fires caused by lightning imply that arson can never happen?
    • Scientific Content: C – There is a lot of interesting science related to deep time, but any discussion of such changes must be prefaced with the acknowledgment that our knowledge of greenhouse gases, temperatures or any other potential forcing or response is very limited compared to what we know about climate today or even in the last ice age. Given that we don’t know precisely what CO2 levels were (let alone CH4, N2O, ozone, aerosols, ice sheet configurations, vegetation distribution etc.), the attributions of climate change at this distance is speculative at best.
    • Sources: The faint young sun paradox.
  6. From ocean current velocity, palaeotemperature and atmosphere measurements of ice cores and stable and radiogenic isotopes of seawater, atmospheric CO2 and fluid inclusions in ice and using atmospheric CO2 residence times of 4, 12, 50 and 400 years, numerically demonstrate that the modern increase in atmospheric CO2 could not derive from the Medieval Warming.
    • Relevance:1 – There are amplifying feedbacks between climate and CO2 – which are most evident in the long ice cores from Antarctica, but this argument is trivial to dismiss without any recourse to ocean current velocities etc.
    • Scientific Content:D – You can calculate the change in CO2 per deg C global warming over long (multi-centennial) timescales from the ice age data – it’s roughly 100ppmv/5ºC = 20 ppmv/ºC. The increase in atmospheric CO2 in the last 200 years is now about 110ppmv, implying that any natural driver would have need to have been more than 5ºC natural warming in recent centuries. This would have been noticed by someone.
    • Sources: None required.
  7. Calculate the changes in the atmospheric transmissivity of radiant energy over the last 2,000 years derived from a variable ingress of stellar, meteoritic and cometary dust, terrestrial dust, terrestrial volcanic aerosols and industrial aerosols. How can your calculations show whether atmospheric temperature changes are related to aerosols? All assumptions must be justified and calculations and sources of information must be shown.
    • Relevance: 4 – aerosols are an important climate forcing, and their history through time (even in the 20th Century) are quite uncertain.
    • Scientific Content: C – Calculating the impacts of aerosols is quite hard, first because we don’t have great records for their distribution through time and space, and secondly there are uncertainties in how the mix with each other and how they interact with clouds. Forcing estimates for the human-caused changes in aerosols over the 20th Century therefore have quite large uncertainties associated with them and are a principle reason why attempts to constrain climate sensitivity from the recent record along have not been very successful. Volcanic effects are however quite well characterised, and actually provide one of the many lines of evidence for why GCM simulations are reasonable since they get the right magnitude and character of the volcanic effects on climate. However, there is no evidence whatsoever for large changes in interstellar dust changes in recent millennia and trying to pin recent warming on that is really grasping at straws.
    • Sources: Climate sensitivity and aerosol forcings.
  8. Calculate 10 Ma time flitches using W/R ratios of 10, 100 and 500 for the heat addition to the oceans, oceanic pH changes and CO2 additions to bottom waters by alteration of sea floor rocks to greenschist and amphibolite facies assemblages, the cooling of new submarine volcanic rocks (including MORBs) and the heat, CO2 and CH4 additions from springs and gas vents since the opening of the Atlantic Ocean. From your calculations, relate the heat balance to global climate over these 10 Ma flitches. What are the errors in your calculations? Show all calculations and discuss the validity of any assumptions made.
    • Relevance: 0 – again more misdirection. The throwing around of irrelevant geologic terms and undefined jargon is simply done in order to appear more knowledgeable than your interlocutor. The argument appears to that climate is changing due to tectonically slow changes the direct heat input from ocean sea floor spreading. This is absurd.
    • Scientific Content: F.
    • Sources: Definition of ‘flitch’.
  9. Calculate the rate of isostatic sinking of the Pacific Ocean floor resulting from post LGM loading by water, the rate of compensatory land level rise, the rate of gravitationally-induced sea level rise and sea level changes from morphological changes to the ocean floor. Numerically reconcile your answer with the post LGM sea level rise, oceanic thermal expansion and coral atoll drilling in the South Pacific Ocean. What are the relative proportions of sea level change derived from your calculations?
    • Relevance: 2 – pretty much irrelevant.
    • Scientific Content: C – isostatic issues in sea level are important on long time scales, and there is still an effect today from the deglaciation 15000 years ago. It contributes a decrease of about 0.3 mm/yr to the global sea level rise, compared to 3 mm/yr total (i.e. about 10%). If the idea was to imply that current sea level rise is simply the response to the deglaciation, then it was completely misleading.
    • Sources: Reconciliation of the sea level rise, thermal expansion and ice melt.
  10. From atmospheric CO2 measurements, stable isotopes, radiogenic Kr and hemispheric transport of volcanic aerosols, calculate the rate of mixing of CO2 between the hemispheres of planet Earth and reconcile this mixing with CO2 solubility, CO2 chemical kinetic data, CO2 stable and cosmogenic isotopes, the natural sequestration rates of CO2 from the atmosphere into plankton, oceans, carbonate sediments and cements, hydrothermal alteration, soils, bacteria and plants for each continent and ocean. All assumptions must be justified and calculations and sources of information must be shown. Calculations may need to be corrected for differences in 12CO2, 13CO2 and 14CO2 kinetic adsorption and/or molecular variations in oceanic dissolution rates.
    • Relevance: 5 – the carbon cycle is actually a key issue.
    • Scientific Content: A – understanding the carbon cycle given multiple constraints on the carbon fluxes (including some of the issues raised in the question) is important in showing that the ~35% rise in CO2 since ~1750 is in fact anthropogenic. This has been shown numerous times to be consistent with the known human emissions, increases in oceans and terrestrial carbon, the decrease in 14C content of the atmosphere, the decrease in 13C content in the atmosphere, the decrease in O2 in the atmosphere.
    • Sources: Read the FAQ.
  11. Calculate from first principles the variability of climate, the warming and cooling rates and global sea level changes from the Bölling to the present and compare and contrast the variability, maximum warming and maximum sea level change rates over this time period to that from 1850 to the present. Using your calculations, how can natural and human-induced changes be differentiated? All assumptions must be justified and calculations and sources of information must be shown.
    • Relevance: 4 – detection and attribution of climate change is an important issue.
    • Scientific Content: B – First principles calculations of climate variability are most closely approximated by GCMs and multiple modelling groups have done various Holocene simulations. Attribution of any climate changes requires model simulations with and without each particular forcing and for the Holocene, this involves changes in the orbit, greenhouse gases, solar, meltwater regimes, ice sheet change, aerosols etc. and a comparison of the signature of the responses with patterns observed in the real world. However, comparable data to 20th Century sea levels or temperature changes are not available going back to the beginning of the Holocene.
    • Sources: Attribution of mid-Holocene hydrologic changes to orbital forcing. Attribution of patterns of cooling at 8.2 kya to drainage of Lake Agassiz. Attribution of pre-industrial variability over the last millennia to solar and volcanic forcing (IPCC Ch8, p680+).
  12. Calculate the volume of particulate and sulphurous aerosols and CO2 and CH4 coeval with the last three major mass extinctions of life. Use the figures derived from these calculations to numerically demonstrate the effects of terrestrial, deep submarine, hot spot and mid ocean ridge volcanism on planktonic and terrestrial life on Earth. What are the errors in your calculations?
    • Relevance: 1 – irrelevant. Has nothing to do with current causes of species extinction nor sources of CO2.
    • Scientific Content: D – insufficient data exist to infer atmospheric composition, nor the sources of any hypothesised fluxes. We think that it is likely that mass extinctions are probably bad for “planktonic and terrestrial life on Earth” with very little error.
    • Sources: This is a good intro to the P/T extinction event which is fascinating even if mostly irrelevant to today.
  13. From the annual average burning of hydrocarbons, lignite, bituminous coal and natural and coal gas, smelting, production of cement, cropping, irrigation and deforestation, use the 25µm, 7µm and 2.5µm wavelengths to calculate the effect that gaseous, liquid and solid H2O have on atmospheric temperature at sea level and at 5 km altitude at latitudes of 20º, 40º, 60º and 80ºS. How does the effect of H2O compare with the effect of CO2 derived from the same sources? All assumptions must be justified and calculations and sources of information must be shown.
    • Relevance: 3 – radiative transfer is a key issue.
    • Scientific Content: F – the question as it stands makes no sense. How can using fossil fuel emissions of CO2 allow you to calculate the impact of total H2O? And why only three wavelengths? You would need the whole atmosphere distribution of water (in all three phases and which doesn’t exist outside a model) in order to calculate the radiative fluxes, and a full GCM to calculate all the other fluxes that influence the temperature. If Plimer is actually alluding to the impact of the direct injection of water vapour into the atmosphere from the combustion of hydrocarbons, then this makes even less sense since the perturbation time for water vapour is measured in days (rather than decades to centuries for CO2) and the relative importance of anthropogenic fluxes is much much less.
    • Sources: Importance of water vapour and clouds compared to CO2 for the total greenhouse effect (roughly, 50%, 25% and 20% once overlaps are apportioned). Complete irrelevance of anthropogenic addition of H2O. Calculation of radiative forcing for anthropogenic CO2.

In summary, the relevance of these questions is extremely low, and even when the basic question deals with an issue that is relevant, the question itself is usually nonsensical and presupposes many assumptions that are certainly not a given (at least in the real world). In fact, for the couple of cases where the scientific content is high, the answer is in contradiction to Plimer’s unstated assumptions. The most obvious use of these questions to support a ‘we don’t know everything, so we must know nothing’ type of argument, which is a classic contrarian trope, and one that is easily dealt with.

These questions have as much to do with a debate on human caused climate change as tribbles have to do with astrobiology. Both are troubling, but for very different reasons.

285 Responses to “Plimer’s homework assignment”

  1. 151

    #69 Adam Gallon
    re: Pielke

    This is illuminating as I had not read those pages before or his boundary layer argument. So he is taking the line of reasoning of Lomborg and the ‘The Copenhagen Distraction’.

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/the-copenhagen-distraction

    To analogize what this argument boils down to: Nuclear reactors are too complex to understand all probable cases that might cause a catastrophic failure. Due to this complexity we should wait until the nuclear reactor melts down, and then assess how much it will cost to fix.

    I hope Pielke has no intention of coming out of retirement to run a nuclear plant.

    I have updated the OSS Pielke page appropriately Scroll down to bottom beginning at July 14, 2009.

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/roger-pielke-sr

    As always, relevant comments and criticisms are welcome via the site contact link.

  2. 152
    Mark says:

    “And I wonder by what factor will he be shown to be wrong once we’ve understood the behaviour of clouds (which as we know cover more than 60% of the planet).”

    But 50% of them are high clouds and 50% low clouds.

    Which have opposite effects on climate change.

  3. 153
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Craig Allen (133, 136):

    I sometimes share your sentiments regarding the reticence of scientists, ivory tower mentality etc, and to be sure there is more of that than I would like to see, or is optimal. But your comments, esp. end of 133, are over the top. Scientists’ primary responsibility is to do good science; that requires a certain cultural environment, and a focus on getting the story right, which involves lots of messing with the nitty gritty details. It is not their main job to educate the public. Sites like RC and others are bonuses, and I’d like to see many more, but they are not birthrights of society. Another group of society, otherwise known as the media/journalists, is responsible for bridging the gap between primary science and the general public. Scientists should facilitate this, but are not primarily responsible for it. Nor are they responsible for spilling their opinions about various scientific topics to the public, or signing every petition or opinion statement shoved before them.

    As to your characterization of the IPCC, this also is quite way over the top, specifically:
    (1) Those syntheses are attempts to make the science known to a wide range of people, but clearly aimed toward those with some knowledge and interest, notwithstanding the many figures, FAQ boxes, Summaries for Policymakers, and references to more basic information sources, by which the average person can learn one hell of a lot if they make an effort to do so, and
    (2) the deniers castigate the IPCC not because of the material or the way it is presented, but for various non-scientific reasons, e.g. feelings of inferiority in the face of an enormous body of highly advanced (and synthesized) knowledge, feeling excluded from some important process, disdain of the UN (or anything non-American for that matter), etc.

  4. 154
    pete best says:

    Re #152, The only time since Galileo that science threatened humanity has been since the Manhatten Project when politicians and culture decided to keep the peace required merging rocket and nuclear technology and now we still have thousands of nuclear missles and bombs stored around the nuclear nations of the world.

    I have read that some scientists were quite vocal in their concern of nuclear proliferation but little were they listened to. The same happens to day only this time we are dealing with a science and not a technology as the nuclear age was. The scientists are still not being listened to even though we have web sites such as this one with frank and candid exchange of AGW science and its implications.

    All we can truely hope for is that the USA passes its climate bill (however watered down it might seem) and go to Copanhagen in December this year and use it to get China and India on board along with everyone else. However each country will probably have differing targets and flexibilty will be the key.

  5. 155
    Rod B says:

    a comment: I agree that the AGW antagonists have a simpler and more readily grasped argument. That’s usually true for status quo vs new stuff. Ideally it’s unfair and, in a scientific realm, unfortunate. But it is what it is, and for protagonists means more work.

    a rebuttal (of the 2nd class): Lou G., You seem to be putting skeptics and doubters in a worse light (from AGWers perspective) from those who adamantly and totally refute AGW. That’s nonsensical, even from your position.

    an observation: I appreciate many of yourall’s position, but the certainty of economic results in either (any!) scenario simply does not exists — no matter how appealing the thought of zero economic downside with mitigation and absolute economic disaster with doing nothing feels to some. Even with seemingly cogent arguments one way or the other, the results can not be stuck in the back archive and forgotten as a fait accompli with any feeling of self-satisfaction.

    another: as soon as John R gets everybody’s name right, I suppose all will be right with the world… ;-)

  6. 156

    #154 Rod B

    Re: “zero economic downside with mitigation and absolute economic disaster with doing nothing”

    I have looked at the economic scenarios and know at least a little about economics. The studies indicate that doing nothing is a really, really bad idea and doing something will, at least if done early, be economically beneficial. Waiting to do that or those ‘somethings’ will only increase the costs and become exponentially more costly until unaffordability is reached.

    Why this message of benefit does not communicate to those that continually repeat the notion that doing something only destroys the economy is truly absurd as well as bizarre.

    If only people would read, comprehend and then expound; as opposed to regurgitate idiocy, opinion and diatribes without basis in even the relevant economic analysis:

    http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/ccsi/pdf/US_ghg_final_report.pdf

  7. 157
    Craig Allen says:

    Jim Bouldin #152: I think we have reached the stage where scientists can no longer longer claim a right to the luxury of of doing science without doing all they can to communicate their knowledge to the public.

    You are an ecologist. Like me you probably can’t help but notice ecosystems collapsing wherever you go. My background is in wetland ecology and management. A decade ago south east Australia was rich in wetlands. It was a delightful field in which to study and work. Now you see little more than degraded ditches wherever you go. The place where I did my honours was a magical place, a vast wetland rich in flora and wildlife. Now its a wasteland salt scald. Dozens of young ecologists learnt their trade in that place, publishing many dozens of papers. We spent so much time studying a place that no longer exists – and then let drought and mismanagement destroy it and all the other places like it.

    We are all staring into the abyss. It’s time to get real. Scientists collectively need to start applying themselves a lot more effectively in presenting what they know to the public in a convincing manner.

  8. 158
    simon abingdon says:

    #151 Mark

    “But 50% of them are high clouds and 50% low clouds.

    Which have opposite effects on climate change.”

    One might hope that some rather more detailed and in-depth analysis might soon be forthcoming.

  9. 159
    Mark says:

    “I agree that the AGW antagonists have a simpler and more readily grasped argument. That’s usually true for status quo vs new stuff.”

    Which is which?

    “but the certainty of economic results in either (any!) scenario simply does not exists”

    Why then your certainty that mitigation will cost lots?

  10. 160
    Scott Hastings says:

    Thank you, Gavin, for your response and posting my question. I’ll back off on my opinion about RC not posting questions from skeptics.

    We all know words are cheap. Although you expressed that ice core CO2 data matches concentrations from other proxies generally through time, (which I don’t disagree with), you did not directly answer the fundamental burning question: Do we have the ability to DIRECTLY translate ICE CORE CO2 concentration data into a meaninful relationship with the current Mauna Loa ATMOSPHERIC data. Certainly someone has thought of this! And please provide references! (I can’t find any) The only thing I can find is a paper by Zbigniew Jaworowski’s very harsh condemnation of IPCC’s attempt to match the two. I’m NOT saying I believe this guy (he does appear to be on the fringe after reviewing his background), but what other scientific literature exists to show that these two CO2 measurements can be adequately compared? What evidence exists in peer-review to explain that Jaworowski is wrong?

    [Response: See rebuttals of Jaworowski’s claims here. – gavin]

  11. 161
    t_p_hamilton says:

    > Who said anything about “dismantling the worlds economies”?

    The alarmist simon abingdon

    > The imperative based on understanding of the climate system and likely adverse consequences of considerably raised earth surface temperatures is a rational, incremental and progressive move to sustainable energy development.

    Yup.

  12. 162

    #158 Mark

    A truly excellent point!

    Let’s ask simon abingdon the same question.

    Why do you infer through your posts that mitigation will result in “dismantling the world’s economies and starving millions of people…” thus inferring mitigation will be responsible for the destruction of the economy.

    Do you have studies and models (well, I doubt you would use models) to show how this will happen?

  13. 163

    Only slightly OT but certainly germane:

    Antarctic Glacier Thinning at Alarming Rate

    August 14, 2009

    “The Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica, which is around twice the size of Scotland, is losing ice four times as fast as it was a decade years ago.”

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/view.php?id=39916&src=eorss-manews

  14. 164
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Simon #143, the wrongness of Arrhenius’ result was due to the poorly known IR spectra of greenhouse gases at the time (and perhaps the difficulty of doing numerics). He didn’t even try to model clouds.

    And I wonder by what factor will he be shown to be wrong once we’ve understood the behaviour of clouds

    Are you always of such quick wit? The same factor of course. Clouds are not part of the comparison I made.

  15. 165

    Re:155
    Actually doing some things,as you indicate, can be beneficial to economies as the antis seem to fail to understand.
    Here are some of the benefits given by the Union of Concerned Scientists:
    “….. Blueprint policies lower U.S. heat-trapping emissions to meet a cap set at 26 percent below 2005 levels in 2020, and 56 percent below 2005 levels in 2030.

    The nation achieves these deep cuts in carbon emissions while saving consumers and businesses $465 billion annually by 2030. The Blueprint also builds $1.7 trillion in net cumulative savings between 2010 and 2030. Blueprint policies stimulate significant consumer, business, and government investment in new technologies and measures by 2030. The resulting savings on energy bills from reductions in electricity and fuel use more than offset the costs of these additional investments. The result is net annual savings for households, vehicle owners, businesses, and industries of $255 billion by 2030”

    http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/science/global-warming-faq.html

  16. 166
  17. 167
    Aaron Lewis says:

    RE 145: Five percent ethanol may not be enough to “kill all the germs”, but mixing questionable drinking water with wine at 2-1 or even 5-2 ratios does seem to kill enough of the germs to improve the odds of not getting sick. The volume of anecdotal reports from history and even reports from medical officers in Italy and France during WW II is huge. Then there is: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/311/7021/1657, http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/53481/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 , and others suggesting that wine does kill germs and inhibit fungus. It is worth noting heat sterilization processes are not a part of traditional wine making.

  18. 168
    simon abingdon says:

    #160 John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation)

    John Try googling war+poor+global+warming simon

  19. 169

    #166 simon abingdon

    You’re a funny guy. You want me to look at all the miscellaneous stuff on the internet, silly conspiracy theory’s and random opinions generated by media bias, zealots or fanatics? That is supposed to be educational regarding reality?

    Try reading something relevant

    http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/ccsi/pdf/US_ghg_final_report.pdf

    You continue to prove how you choose to ignore relevant work in favor of irrelevant random… stuff.

    You know, Switzerland is fast working fast to move policy and get energy independent by getting off Co2. Maybe you can show me how their country is starving to death, withering away, and destroying their living standards to prove your point.

    C’mon simon, show some fortitude and tell us your real name? I look forward to your answer showing the demise of Switzerland.

  20. 170
    Rod B says:

    John P. Reisman (155), some studies seem better than others, but despite their professionalism, no economic study is result certain; never has been; never will be. If the powerful brilliant feds can’t get a budget deficit within 20% a couple of months before book closing, how can anyone say what the macro global situation will be 5 years from now — let alone a couple of decades or four. And forget about predicting the stock market more than 5 minutes out. This applies to McKinsey, too, even as good as they are. I happen to think mitigation could result in serious large-scale economic disruptions. And there are numerous studies to back me up. But I, like you and everyone else, still might be wrong.

    I agree one might have to make a judgement and go with the best info available, however uncertain. But that necessity does not improve the prognostication.

  21. 171
    MarkB says:

    Re: #166

    Using your method of presenting evidence, one can effectively conclude that 9/11 was a government-orchestrated plot.

    +9/11 +government +cover +up

    The Moon landing was faked

    +moon +landing +faked +government

    and the Earth is flat

    +Earth +flat

    and of course, global warming is a hoax

    +global +warming +hoax

    Lots of junk out there. We need to be a bit discerning.

  22. 172
    David B. Benson says:

    Garry S-J (93) — Yes, about 1/2 of the emissions stay in the atmosphere to raise the CO2 concentration.

    simon abingdon (143) — Clouds are sufficiently well understood by now; overall impact appears to be a small positive feedback. Th emphasis is on “small”, so the estimate of the Charney equilibrium climate sensitivity remains close to 3 K.

  23. 173
    Dan L. says:

    Beautifully done, Gavin.

    If I knew your address, I’d send you a pudding for Christmas.

    Many thanks for the effort you put into RC.

  24. 174
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Hey all, I’ve been working on a little educational game for climate science, called “Global Warming Fix.” It’s a Spore Galactic Adventure, and I’ve uploaded a (low-res) trailer at YouTube.

    I have three familiar characters, named Gavin, Ray, and Mike. The script is here: Global Warming Fix script. I’m targeting about a sixth-grade audience.

    I wanted to run it by you guys before I publish the game. I’m not making any controversial statements, but it would be good to get some professional eyes on it. The game is basically ready to publish, so once we’re satisfied, we can have it out in the Spore Universe in no time.

  25. 175
    simon abingdon says:

    #170 David B Benson

    “Clouds are sufficiently well understood by now”(!)

    Can you refer me to the relevant studies which take into account global-wide parameters such as altitude, latitude and longitude, vertical and horizontal extent, underlying surface temperature, height of the tropopause, seasonal variations, whether oceanic or over land, and the many others which are needed to make such a claim with any confidence?

  26. 176
    Laws of Nature says:

    Hello Gavin et al.,

    Any time I hear that arguments about the C-isotope ratios and Ocean acidification I cannot help but wondering if they are really correct . .

    After all the near-surface sea water acidification only shows, that the near-surface sea water is in near-equilibrium with atmosphere for the CO2-concentration, so the CO2-rise in the near surface water only reflects the fact, that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen.
    The change in the isotopes only reflects that fact, that we are burning fossil fuel.
    While I of course see the reasoning:
    We burn fuel => contentration of CO2 increases, the question was and is if it can be proven, that this is the only and dominating cause for the increase of the atmospheric CO2-levels!
    And for that questions these two facts do not provide suffcients explanation.
    – We burn fuel.
    – The atmospheric CO2-concentration is increasing.
    Nothing more is shown, so don’t use a complicated language in order trying making up evidence which is not there.
    Humans release CO2 in the atmosphere (not only by burning fossil fuel), so it is logical to assume that the atmospheric CO2 rises as a consequence, specifically if no other mechanism to release such amount of CO2 is known.

    Best regards,
    LoN

    [Response: Sorry, but no. The changes in isotope ratios rule out the land biosphere or ocean as sources for the CO2, and the decrease in O2 points very clearly to a concomittant burning of C (to produce CO2). This is the ‘use of complicated words’, this is additional, complementary and convincing evidence that the rise in CO2 is anthropogenic. – gavin]

  27. 177
    llewelly says:

    Who said anything about “dismantling the worlds economies”?

    It should be implicitly obvious that the world’s economies depend on the particulates, mercury, CO2, and other pollutants emitted by coal stacks. Can’t have people living longer, you know.

  28. 178

    Simon sayz

    > Can you refer me to the relevant studies

    Playing from the Plimer script now, are we? Isn’t it time for you to learn to do your own homework? You won’t learn anything if we do it for you; you certainly didn’t last time :-(

  29. 179
    Mark says:

    re 175, for climatological purposes? Yes.

    No matter how many fishies swim against the tide, the tide does NOT turn because of it.

  30. 180
    Mark says:

    Further to 167, grog is rum in water. Long voyages at sea, captains put grog in the water to keep it safe to drink, not to keep the crew drunk.

    And wine was required for Christian communion. Doesn’t matter if it takes like gnats bum, you have to take a sip or burn in hell.

    And what was Europe’s primary religion in the Middle Ages?

  31. 181
    Mark says:

    “One might hope that some rather more detailed and in-depth analysis might soon be forthcoming.”

    Of what, simon?

    Low clouds retain heat from below more than they reflect light from above. Basic science says so. High clouds reflect more light from above than heat they retain from below. Basic science says so.

    Do you have anything to show different?

    Do you have anything to show that the cooling effect overcomes?

  32. 182

    #168 Bod B

    “I agree one might have to make a judgement and go with the best info available, however uncertain.”

    Actually when administrating, one always needs to make a judgment.

    As far as accuracy, on this scale you don’t need to have it tremendously accurate, you just need to know the inter-dynamics of multiple economic systems, monetary, industrial and earth.

    When discussing action with regard to economy there will always be a disruption, or ‘a change’. The primary rule is nothing is free. So to build something you need to get stuff to build it so some area loses minerals, or some forest loses trees. However there are way s to do build more sustainably and even renew-ably to a degree.

    In weighing the economic consequences of climate mitigation, it is clear, when examining the short and long term, that early meaningful action nets more robust economic advantage than later action.

    These things are quite obvious to those that understand the global economics of resource availability and system inter-dynamics in relation to human infrastructure adaptive capacity in relation to monetary economic potentials within the physical constraints.

  33. 183

    Simon Abingdon’s claim: “Boeing would be totally irresponsible if they relied solely on their computer models without the confirmation provided by real-world destructive testing.” has been well responded to in terms of it’s crazy to destroy the planet, but I also can’t say I recall hearing of Boeing testing planes until they disintegrate in the sky.

    The notion that “real” science has exact results you can reproduce in the lab is another denialist meme; even precisely known formulae like Newton’s Laws (under conditions where relativity doesn’t apply) are inexact when subject to real-world constraints like imprecise measurement, and too many data points to apply the formula exactly. I put an example of how real science doesn’t give exact answers on my blog.

    I appeal to those who are not coming at this from a science background to find out a bit about how real science operates before believing denialist propaganda. The likes of Plimer are presenting a distorted view of how science operates that may seem plausible to the nonscientific public but they are doing the general cause of science a great disservice by politicising aspects of science that are not a matter of opinion.

  34. 184

    simon abingdon (from now on I will call you simon monckton).

    Are you intending to answer my inquiry (#167): Can you show me how Switzerland is starving to death, withering away, and destroying their living standards – to prove your point.

  35. 185
    Mark says:

    Watch out John, if that is monkton, he’ll complain and consider any failure to convince proof of a conspiracy to silence him.

  36. 186
  37. 187
  38. 188
    Laws of Nature says:

    Re: Inline #176

    Dear Gavin,

    thank you for your answer to a statement, which might seem very clear and often answered to you! Still let me point out that your statement does not seem complete to me:

    Let’s assume that Aliens continoulsy teleport lots of CO2 from 500 years back into the atmosphere.What would happen to the isotope-ratio?
    It would be falling, because we still burn fuel!
    (DISCLAIMER: This is just a funny example, I do not believe in this kind of alien activity nor I am aware of any scientific facts points towards this theory)

    So, your answer does not seem to explain the question raised by me in post 176, where I stated that the isotope-ratio-changes only tell us that we burn fuel, nothing more or less (It doees give us the chance to follow the trace of that CO2 into various sinks).

    It is complicated wording for a simple fact (same for the oxygene concentration), it really only tells us: Hey we are burning the fuel!
    (Just in case we did not know that already)
    And yes, we burn it to CO2, which was not there before.
    On top of that the isotope ratios and the oxygene concentration tells nothing, most importantly they fail to PROVE anything about the reason of CO2-increase in the atmosphere!

    The facts that if we burn fosil fuel the isotope ratio changes
    and the cocentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing do NOT
    lead to:
    Because we see changes in isotopes and oxygene amount most atmospheric CO2-increase must be due fossil fuel.
    That the assumption of an anthropogenic cause for the increase is a reasonable one is quite independent of the present question.
    (Complicated “wording” for a simple fact)

    You might disagree with that for a good reason (which I would be very curious to hear about), but you did not name that reason in your last answer!

    Still, thank you for your time and have a nice weekend!
    Please believe me, that I am seriously interested in that question and not just trying to pull someone’s leg here!

    LoN

  39. 189

    #185 Mark

    Thanks for the advice,

    Actually, I don’t want to silence him, I want him to get louder. It’s one of those the bigger they are, the harder they fall kinda things.

    Monckton’s great claim to fame is being a policy adviser to Thatcher. If that is true though, it doesn’t look so good on his resume as he might think…

    Thatcher believed global warming was human caused and that we not only can but need to do something about it, but as I recall, she wanted immediate action.

    So Monckton, even as a policy adviser, was not able to get his message of ‘don’t worry about it’ to the very person he was supposed to be advising. Not very impressive in the end.

  40. 190

    simon:

    Ray, I don’t think it’s the AGW dissenters who are calling for destructive testing: dismantling the world’s economies and starving millions of people should do the job.

    That’s what’s going to happen if we DON’T deal with global warming. To fix it, we don’t have to do that–we just have to stop burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests. There are other sources of energy. Don’t be so alarmist.

  41. 191
    Ike Solem says:

    RodB: “The significance of climate change is the degree (amount and timing) of climate change resulting from various levels of input — this derives virtually entirely from GCM models. You not only need the models to assess AGW, they are absolutely critical.”

    Some people have noted that this is nonsense, but let’s be clear why it is nonsense: models are but one of three lines of evidence that point towards fossil fuel-sourced atmospheric CO2 increases having a major impact on global climate.

    The second line of evidence involves paleoclimate studies, which have done a good job of reconstructing past climates on the scale of hundreds to millions of years ago, and which have also demonstrated a close link between CO2 in ice cores and global temperatures. However, the current rate of CO2 increase is around 30X as great as anything seen in any ice core record, and today’s levels have not been seen in over three million years – so there are no geologically recent examples to look at. This should not be reassuring, by the way.

    The third line of evidence involves modern data collection and analysis, essentially the instrumental record over the past 100 years or so. This record has steadily improved as more instruments are put in space and in the oceans, but let’s be honest: political efforts have been made by the fossil fuel lobby to halt data collection, most notably seen in the refusal to launch Triana, the deep space observatory that would have allowed for direct measurements of Earth’s radiation balance. This is the ostrich theory – if you don’t see it, it isn’t happening. (The US Biological Survey suffered a similar fate, although the issue there is not so much global warming as species extinction)

    Even if we didn’t have computers, the basic argument about CO2 warming the atmosphere could indeed be verified – all models allow us to do is make fairly reliable projections about future outcomes in advance.

    The bottom line is that we are conducting a massive uncontrolled experiment with our atmosphere, and all basic physical arguments as well as paleoclimate studies agree that this will result in a very noticeable increase in planetary temperature – you can already see this happening in the observational data, and no, there is no increase in solar radiation that can explain it. If you consider that the amplitude of glacial cycles is largely due to changes in atmospheric IR-absorbing gases, and that we are changing the atmospheric composition by a much larger degree than seen during those cycles – well, it should be pretty obvious that major changes are afoot.

    Models simply allow one to estimate the scale of those changes with some accuracy – but as the Artic sea ice loss shows, there are probably a few surprises in store.

  42. 192
    Ike Solem says:

    Pete Best: “All we can truly hope for is that the USA passes its climate bill (however watered down it might seem) and go to Copanhagen in December this year and use it to get China and India on board along with everyone else”

    China at least is already far ahead of the U.S. in policy matters:

    August 21, 2009
    China Will Have Solar Feed-in Tariff in Place in 2009 – Suntech
    Wuxi, China

    The Chinese government is readying a feed-in tariff (FIT) for utility-scale solar plants that will dwarf the country’s previous solar subsidies, and drive a wave of investment into the sector, according to Suntech.

    This is a topic that few in the U.S. government seem willing to touch. In sharp contrast, what we see instead is large-scale support for Canadian tar sand imports and for increased oil imports from Africa. It’s true that China is also interested in securing such supplies, but at least they have a good domestic renewable energy program, one that greatly surpasses anything seen in the United States.

    Even India is starting to realize that they have a huge problem on their hands – there is little doubt that the delayed and weakened monsoon this year is linked to rising global temperatures. Global warming-linked drought is a phenomenon seen around the world, but so is global warming linked flooding – and India has to realize that with sea level rise, massive relocations are inevitable:

    An exercise last December at the National Defense University, an educational institute that is overseen by the military, explored the potential impact of a destructive flood in Bangladesh that sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into neighboring India, touching off religious conflict, the spread of contagious diseases and vast damage to infrastructure. – NYT

    In contrast to China, the U.S. has shown very little focused support for renewable energy development. For example, the DOE has just selected 19 separate projects aimed at the nonsensical notion of clean coal carbon capture. These projects are spread out at schools and private companies, with about $40 million in funds set aside. Now, let’s ask a few questions about this:

    Is the DOE supporting a similar number of solar or wind or biofuel projects? No.
    Is the DOE banning reporters from its policy meetings? Yes.
    Are DOE-financed clean coal carbon capture and sequestration a valid solution to global warming? No.
    Has clean carbon capture funding been subjected to scientific peer review or any similar process? No.

    However, the real problem with the DOE is this fact:

    “According to a report released just yesterday by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, at least 67 percent of DOE’s budget goes to nuclear weapons and weapons-related programs. This is 14 times what DOE spends on all energy-related research and development, which was the main focus of today’s questions from the Committee.

    That’s the biggest problem, since it means few funds are available for any energy R&D. The second-biggest problem is that the DOE preferentially supports coal and oil projects with that limited 1/14th budget, meaning that wind and solar and biofuels get almost nothing, and this can still be seen clearly in DOE budgetary decisions. DOE relationships with their private contractors also point towards large conflicts-of-interest when it comes to deciding what kinds of projects to fund, as well. Thus, if a U.S. Department ever needed a complete overhaul, then the DOE is that department.

    So, I think it is the U.S. that needs to get onboard – and the entire carbon capture program needs to be reviewed by an independent agency like the National Academy of Sciences, because the fact of the matter is that it is a massive scientific fraud that is only supported as do-nothing window dressing for the coal mining-electric utility industry.

  43. 193
    Mark says:

    Well, John, if you find lots of new people turning up to post annoying crap about you or against your posts all the time, this could be the reason. Monkton doesn’t like to be outed and he has plenty of fans who worship at his Bishopric (genuine word!) to wear you down and become untraceable except by inference.

  44. 194
    Robin Levett says:

    @Mark #181:

    Low clouds retain heat from below more than they reflect light from above. Basic science says so.

    High clouds reflect more light from above than heat they retain from below. Basic science says so.

    You forgot one:

    Both low and high clouds retain heat from below more than they reflect light from above during the night. Basic science says so.

  45. 195
    Robin Levett says:

    @Aaron Lewis #167:

    I agree that wine has antibacterial properties; the issue was whether the alcohol (at such low concentrations)was responsible. It seems that it is the organic acids (http://www.livescience.com/health/070705_wine_mouthwash.html and http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=2122476&blobtype=pdf) that are more active components than alcohol at wine concentrations; which seems to be consistent with the fact that it seemed to be wine (as opposed to diluted ethanol) that demonstrated antibacterial properties in the BMJ study,according to the abstract. Boiling the water is indeed a red herring – I was thinking of beer (which requires boiling as part of the process), which was also healthier to drink in mediaeval times – and you are right that it wouldn’t be done in traditional winemaking.

  46. 196
    simon abingdon says:

    #184 John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation)

    Switzerland is a rich country. Many of the world’s countries are desperately poor. When energy costs more the poor get poorer. When food is swapped for fuel people die. And so on … Why pretend you don’t know this?

  47. 197
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    On clouds, let’s go to the past for help.

    If clouds dampened warming then the Earth would have never warmed enough to have melted the glaciers. The forcing due to GHGs is around an order of magnitude more than the forcing due to orbital and attitudinal changes. So, proponents of cloud mitigation have to account for the fact that clouds didn’t work in the past but would work when there’s 10 times the energy involved.

  48. 198

    #192 Mark

    Geez Mark, you made me use the dictionary ;)

    As to new people showing up here, I could be wrong of course, but I thought they were already here. I expect there will be more though.

    As to annoying crap, let them stand by their stench, I will stand by my words, or stand corrected. They will continue to hide and lob baseless opinions. All I, or we, can do is to try to communicate reason and science. Socrates had the same problem but we shall suffer a different fate.

  49. 199
    Rod B says:

    Wasn’t ~1% near-beer a common drink in mid to late-mid England and Europe specifically to avoid drinking tainted water? [Is this OnT?]

  50. 200
    Rod B says:

    John P. Reisman, Your statements and logic in #182 I agree with. My concern is, once and if a decision is made to go ahead with some major global project, that the uncertainties and potential serious downsides are kept well in mind and monitored extremely closely, and that unrecoverable investment be prudently minimized (which still might be massive). This doesn’t seem to be the modus operandi that is often described by most AGWers, which is usually in the vein of “they’re going to love it; they’ll all be better off; their life will be just wonderful; case closed; don’t worry about it; fuggedabouit” which is just misplaced wishful rah-rah than thoughtful analysis. Projects of this magnitude deserve much more.

    An academic partial quibble. Investing sooner rather than later is sometimes better, sometimes not. It all depends on the individual situation, supply, demand, discount rate, purpose, etc. It looks like climate mitigation investment might be better economically sooner as you indicate. Its very slow growth would normally indicate spread out (later) investment, but AGW mitigation is such that you might find one has to go back and pick up unplanned-for mitigation efforts to catch up, which flips the timing — like it should have been sooner and now costs even more. But it’s still a matter of degree. Plus, something would be better off with sooner early investment only if it’s required at all.

    You say,

    These things are quite obvious to those that understand the global economics of resource availability and system inter-dynamics in relation to human infrastructure adaptive capacity in relation to monetary economic potentials within the physical constraints.

    I agree, as long as one doesn’t forget that “knowledge” is (and will always be) considerably less than complete and certain no matter how erudite it sounds.