One part of a recent survey caught my attention:
The strongest correlate of opinion on climate change is partisan affiliation. Two-thirds of Republicans (67%) say either that the Earth is getting warmer mostly because of natural changes in the atmosphere (43%) or that there is no solid evidence the Earth is getting warmer (24%). By contrast, most Democrats (64%) say the Earth is getting warmer mostly because of human activity. … The divide is even larger when party and ideology are both taken into consideration. Just 21% of conservative Republicans say the Earth is warming due to human activity, compared with nearly three-quarters (74%) of liberal Democrats. [Pew Research Center] (Skip to videos, data, index.)
In other words, most of the general public appears to believe that the existence of abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. (formerly known as anthropogenic ‘Human-caused’ global warming) is a question of politics rather than science. They’re not looking at evidence published in peer-reviewed science journals before adopting a position. Instead, they seem to decide that their political party’s position on climate change is “X,” so they believe “X.” Finally, this explains why some people who watch a documentary that exaggerates the science end up imitating that smug politician’s You have to realize that I view ‘politician’ as a VERY dirty word in order to get the full effect of this sentence. alarmism. I run into hordes of them on campus, and I always rebuff their attempts to guilt me out of driving by saying “Why worry about the Earth when we’ve got 7 planets R.I.P. Pluto, 1930-2006 to spare?!”
Keep in mind that I’m only saying the existence of abrupt climate change is a purely scientific question. I realize that our response to climate change is a legitimate political question. But let’s set that question aside to contemplate the existence of abrupt climate change. Instead of lining up behind politicians, let’s take the road less traveled by examining some evidence given to us by modern science.
To begin with, it’s indisputable that the Earth’s climate has varied wildly in the past. Vostok ice core data confirm that for nearly half a million years, the climate has changed cyclically. In all that time, the maximum CO2 concentration never went above 300 ppm parts per million . It’s hit higher levels millions of years ago, but usually Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events (among other examples of natural abrupt climate change) show that the natural climate is only fairly stable in the long run. These events show that the climate can quickly move from one stable “attractor” to another. I should stress, however, that results like Meehl 2004 show that today’s changes aren’t natural. in gradual ways. Plus, the Earth was essentially a different planet back then, with a different biosphere basking under the light of a very slightly The Sun was only barely fainter tens of millions of years ago, but high CO2 concentrations hundreds of millions of years ago or more were partially compensated for by the lower solar luminosity. Also, the continents shift on these timescales which affects the climate too. dimmer Sun so comparisons across that much time are tricky at best.
Natural variations are evident in the data, of course. The most prominent cycles over geological time are governed by (among other effects) Milankovitch cycles which are caused by periodic variations in the Earth’s orbit.
Bizarrely, the CO2 concentration is at 380 ppm parts per million today. That’s ~26% higher than it’s been in the last half million years. Notice that the current CO2 concentration is off the scale of the Vostok data graph. If this is due to natural variability alone, it’s quite a coincidence that it’s happening right after we started burning enough oil to fuel ~800 million cars, and burning coal by the gigaton to supply ~50% of our electricity.
Furthermore, it seems like the CO2 at Vostok typically increased centuries after the temperature started to increase. (Ice core data are difficult to analyze in this manner, though.) At least, that’s the way it used to work. Right now, the CO2 concentration is at an unprecedented level but the temperature is barely above normal. Again, this implies that we’re not experiencing natural climate variability because what’s happening today doesn’t match the behavior of the ancient climate.
According to physics that was firmly established decades before I was born, CO2 warms the planet by absorbing infrared radiation from the ground better than it absorbs visible radiation from the Sun. So this rapidly increasing CO2 should cause a rapid temperature increase:
The above graphs are quite busy, so here’s an overview of each one:
- The top graph shows temperatures over the last 300 years, as recorded by instruments. Notice that several independent instruments are telling us that the temperature has increased dramatically in recent decades.
- The middle graph shows temperatures over the last 1000 years as reconstructed from various proxies such as ice cores, tree rings, boreholes, glacier retreat, etc. The different curves are based on different data and algorithms, and were derived by scientists from all over the world. Note that all of them show an abrupt temperature increase in the last few decades. See Table 6.1 for more details.
- The bottom graph shows a “most likely” temperature reconstruction over the last 1000 years. This estimate uses all the previous curves, weighted according to their statistical uncertainties. The shading represents the combined uncertainty; darker areas are more confidently known.
Perhaps this is a coincidence? All the evidence I’ve described so far just shows that CO2 and temperatures have both risen in an apparently artificial manner in the last few decades. But Meehl 2004 tested whether or not recent temperature observations could be explained by natural variations alone:
The black curve represents observations. The blue curve represents the result of a computer simulation that accounts for natural variations like volcanic eruptions and changes in the brightness of the Sun. The shaded blue area represents the uncertainty of that simulation. The red curve includes all the natural variations in the blue curve, but adds human emissions like CO2 and sulfate aerosols. Notice that after ~1970 the observed temperatures aren’t consistent with natural variations, but they are within the error bars of the prediction made by accounting for human emissions.
The Earth is so massive and ancient that we tend to instinctively believe ‘Don’t treat C02 as a pollutant’ in the Christian Science Monitor by Mark W. Hendrickson on June 23, 2009 wrongly says “And how do you propose to regulate Earth’s temperature when as much as three-quarters of the variability is due to variations in solar activity, with the remaining one-quarter due to changes in Earth’s orbit, axis, and albedo (reflectivity)? This truly is ‘mission impossible.’ Mankind can no more regulate Earth’s temperature than it can the tides. … 1. Human activity accounts for less than 4 percent of global CO2 emissions. 2. CO2 itself accounts for only 10 or 20 percent of the greenhouse effect. This discloses the capricious nature of the EPA’s decision to classify CO2 as a pollutant, for if CO2 is a pollutant because it is a greenhouse gas, then the most common greenhouse gas of all – water vapor, which accounts for more than three-quarters of the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect – should be regulated, too. The EPA isn’t going after water vapor, of course, because then everyone would realize how absurd climate-control regulation really is.” that humans aren’t powerful enough to affect the climate on this scale. For example, those awe-inspiring volcanic eruptions simply must dwarf anything we do, right? Surprisingly, humans emit ~100x more CO2 than volcanoes.
Even still, the Earth is a stable system, right? Won’t our changes to the atmosphere just provoke a natural response that cancels them out, preventing us from significantly altering the climate? Well… maybe. The natural climate certainly did appear fairly Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events (among other examples of natural abrupt climate change) show that the natural climate is only fairly stable in the long run. These events show that the climate can quickly move from one stable “attractor” to another. I should stress, however, that results like Meehl 2004 show that today’s changes aren’t natural. stable in our absence. However, a number of positive feedback effects present the disturbing possibility that the climate is only metastable:
- Melting Arctic sea ice uncovers darker ocean water, so more heat is absorbed after the ice starts to melt, which speeds up the remaining melting…
- Warmer oceans will evaporate more water vapor into the atmosphere, which is a more effective greenhouse gas than CO2.
- Warmer deep ocean temperatures may destabilize methane hydrate deposits, releasing another more potent greenhouse gas.
- Melting permafrost releases CO2 and methane.
- Melting glaciers help to lubricate the slide of the glacier into the ocean, speeding up the loss of glaciers once the process starts.
- Higher temperatures increase the risk of forest fires, which release CO2.
- The dust caused by vegetation loss due to shifting precipitation patterns, fires and even other pollutants darkens snow, causing it to melt earlier.
There are also negative feedback effects, such as the fact that trees grow faster in higher CO2 and thus store carbon in their wood faster. [Update Thanks to Dr. Geoffrey A. Landis for his additions and corrections to this section and the faint young Sun caveat. by Dr. Landis: Also, the Stefan-Boltzmann equation says that hotter objects radiate more, and higher temperatures = more evaporation = more clouds = higher albedo.] But I worry that the abrupt spike in CO2 levels might cause positive feedback effects to dominate– at least temporarily. In other words, it seems likely that a little bit of warming will lead to more warming.
Bottom line: As far as I can tell there’s a mountain of scientific evidence showing that abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. is a matter of serious concern.
On a completely different note, as an ordinary American I think we should do something about this matter. We’re still the most To my foreign colleagues and friends: You wanna fight about it? :) technologically advanced nation in the world, with one of the largest, best educated workforces in history. Our economy is very capitalistic, which makes us highly adaptable compared to more socialist countries that are mired in bureaucracy. If any country can solve this problem, it’s us.
The legislation currently in the Senate needs to be passed. This bill has already been weakened in the House and it’s only the first step, but it’s the least we can do to convince the world that the United States is ready to lead once again.
Update: Here are some related videos:
- The GRACE satellites observe ice mass loss in Greenland and West Antarctica, and observe global water storage.
- Here’s a brief history of CO2, and a NOAA animation of daily CO2 concentrations during 2008.
- This interactive graph and this short video compare emissions from different countries over the last few centuries.
- This animation shows the importance of looking at long-term climate trends rather than short-term weather noise.
- Dr. Marshall Shepherd promotes climate literacy and slays zombie theories.
- David Attenborough has a short conversation with Peter Cox about how scientists attribute the recent global temperature rise to human activities.
- National Geographic asks “Could just 1°C change the world?” What about 2°C, 3°C, 4°C, 5°C, or 6°C?
- Greg Craven made a short video about risk management.
- A 10 minute video summarizes the end-Permian extinction; a longer version goes into more detail.
- A 5 minute video introduces ocean acidification.
- Earth: The Operators’ Manual tells the story of Earth’s climate history and our relationship with fossil fuels. Here are short clips of Richard Alley discussing ice core climate records, and explaining that clean energy costs about as much as modern plumbing.
- The UK forum on “Climate Change: Values, National Security, and Free Enterprise” featured Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Steve Anderson and Republican Bob Inglis.
- David Archer made a series of video lectures called Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast.
- Naomi Oreskes talks briefly about the implications of climate change, and gives a longer presentation based on Merchants of Doubt.
- A series of short videos examines claims made by Anthony Watts regarding his surfacestations.org project, and the Oregon “Petition Project”.
- An episode of Horizon called “Science Under Attack” discusses “climategate” and climate change contrarians.
- A BBC special called “Meet the Climate Sceptics” examines some of Lord Christopher Monckton’s many claims. Peter Sinclair also did this, as well as John Abraham and Peter Hadfield (followup).
- Barry Bickmore gives a talk about his own former skepticism.
- Stephen Schneider faced 52 “climate sceptics” in an episode of Insight called The Sceptics (also available at YouTube). He also gave a more technical lecture and discussed the boundary between politics and science.
- Richard Alley gave a technical 2009 presentation called “The Biggest Control Knob: Carbon Dioxide in Earth’s Climate History.”
- Jerry Mitrovica gave a technical 2011 presentation regarding accelerating sea level rise.
- Here are videos from the 2012 AGU and other AGU videos.
- Bob Watson gave a technical 2012 presentation summarizing climate change.
- Ray Pierrehumbert gave a technical 2012 presentation summarizing successful predictions in climate science.
- Richard Alley gave a technical 2013 presentation called “Slip Slidin’ Away – Ice sheets and sea level in a warming world.”
- Jennifer Francis gave a technical 2013 presentation called “Climate Change and Extreme Weather.” Here’s a related 2 minute video.
- Andrew Dickson gave a technical 2009 presentation called “Acidic Oceans: Why Should We Care?”
- A series of panels at the 2011 AGU discussed declining reef health and tipping points.
- Ken Caldeira gave a technical 2012 presentation called “Ocean Acidification: Adaptive Challenge or Extinction Threat?”
- Global climate models have made many successful predictions.
- In 2005, 11 national science academies urged world leaders to “acknowledge that the threat of climate change is clear and increasing.”
- In 2009, 13 national science academies told world leaders that “the need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable.”
- Climate change statements from world religions and Young Evangelicals.
- NASA tracks vital signs of the planet at JPL’s Global Climate Change website. Don’t miss interactives like Eyes on the Earth.
- Skeptical Science has a wide variety of informative articles with versions ranging from “basic” to “advanced”.
- Real Climate is climate science from climate scientists. It’s an excellent resource for readers who understand Skeptical Science’s “advanced” articles and want more.
- Tamino is a professional statistician whose blog Open Mind tirelessly debunks contrarian arguments. Some old articles can be found here.
- Science of Doom evaluates and explains climate science in a lucid but very technical manner.
- The equilibrium climate sensitivity to doubled CO2 can be determined in many different ways. For instance, here’s a figure from Royer et al. 2007 (PDF) which concludes that “a climate sensitivity greater than 1.5°C has probably been a robust feature of the Earth’s climate system over the past 420 million years”.
- Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States (2009) summarizes the science and the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. This NAS report (2012) examines sea level rise off the U.S. west coast. Sea level rise varies regionally due to factors like the gravity of thinning ice sheets.
- The American Institute of Physics describes the discovery of global warming, including the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect.
- The IPCC’s 2007 report (PDFs) on the physical science basis of climate change reviews the scientific literature and provides a summary for policymakers (PDF). Previous reports: 1990, 1995, and 2001.
- The Copenhagen Diagnosis summarizes some of the science published since the IPCC’s 2007 report. Here’s their list of figures.
Links to climate data and source code:
- NOAA’s climate indicators and climate at a glance calculates trends for many different climate variables, as does WoodForTrees. The Skeptical Science trend calculator also estimates statistical significance.
- Here are maps of global temperature from NASA and New Scientist, and U.S. temperature trends in each state.
- Here are sea level rise data, NOAA’s coastal flooding impacts viewer, and informal interactive maps of global (caveats) and American coastlines.
- These interactive models explore the spectrum of CO2, the carbon cycle, climate models, and much more.
- Here’s an interactive simple climate model.
- caerbannog666′s global temperature virtual machine runs in VirtualBox; here’s the documentation.
- JPL archives NASA’s climate and ocean data at PO.DAAC, which features the State of the Ocean.
- Temperature proxy data and various instrumental temperature records can be downloaded here.
- The code for past temperature reconstructions can be downloaded here.
- The Ice Sheet System Model is open-source software from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.
- Climate models from the IPCC 2007 report can be downloaded here and here. Newer RCP scenario data are here. The model outputs are available here.
I’ve been discussing abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. on the internet for several years, mostly at Slashdot under the pseudonym khayman80. The interesting bits of these conversations have been copied here, but please note that my statements have been edited Each comment is linked back to the original location in the Slashdot archives so you can compare the current version to the original. Those links look like: [Dumb Scientist] or [Jane Q. Public] and expanded since I first wrote them. Here’s an index with links to each conversation:
People wonder why “climate change” replaced “global warming.”
Rrvau asks if scientists predicted an ice age in the 1970s.
People inquire about the scale and impact of human CO2 emissions.
An Onerous Coward asks about nuclear and solar power.
Stormcrow309 asks about potential flaws in the Vostok ice core analysis.
M4cph1sto doubts that temperatures are increasing.
- The importance of peer review.
- “Cosmic rays are responsible for global warming.”
- “Water vapor is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2.”
- The accuracy of the “hockeystick” graph.
- What does the IPCC say about hurricanes?
- “CO2 increases after temperature, so it doesn’t warm the planet.”
- “CO2 is already saturated, so adding more CO2 isn’t going to warm the planet any more.”
- “It’s not that simple.”
- We agree that the media over-hypes disaster scenarios.
- The Salem Hypothesis and the application of a modified version to this debate.
- “The troposphere isn’t warming enough, so greenhouse warming theories are fundamentally flawed.”
- Jane says her comments have been taken out of context and deliberately portrayed in a negative light. So please compare her statements to the originals at Slashdot, which can be accessed through links that look like [Jane Q. Public]
Update: Jane’s index continues here.
Jim P.E. asks if the President is receiving sound advice.
Bopeth asks about our population growth, and economic issues associated with climate change.
Anonymous says that my “comments exhibit the most profound and disturbing kind of scientific elitism,” along with:
- “How do you wager on whether climate change is anthropogenic or not?”
- I criticize peer review.
- “What I want to see next is the contrary case from a well-versed expert who has reached conclusions that conflict with yours.”
- Why shouldn’t we look to politicians for scientific answers?
- “What, exactly, would you like to see from the general public in terms of reasoning about this subject?”
- Marbs asks “What opinion do you currently hold that contradicts the mainstream scientific community?”
- Why do high tides happen on opposite sides of the Earth at the same time?
- “… we can’t do ‘parallel earth’ experiments to test various parameters … and nobody has a track record of ‘getting it right’ long term because there hasn’t been a long term yet.”
- Marbs asks about the graph on Steven Fielding’s website and the “due diligence report.”
Spector asks how climatologists attribute the recent warming to human activity.
Reivan asks about thermodynamic equilibrium.
Gkai says “… newest global data are not so supportive of the idea that man-produced CO2 is responsible for the bulk of global warming” then claims that no climate model takes clouds or changes in the Earth’s albedo into account, and says my article is not convincing because of model validations.
Thethibbs doesn’t want to quarrel with my “religion” so he rebuts the evidence I’ve presented with a link to an article by Marc Morano.
Elkto doesn’t believe CO2 is causing any problems because “Earth cooled a degree last year, satellite images show arctic ice cap growing the last three years, lack of sunspots is pointing to a scary minimum, the CO2 increase contributes to less than 1/2 of a percent increase in greenhouse gases (do not exclude the largest greenhouse gas, water vapor.)”
Shivetya says “natural CO2 production is 20x man’s … but it damn well won’t stop the “consensus” train.”
Techno-vampire says I’m leaving out significant information about the Little Ice Age, and the Medieval Warm Period, which he implies was a global event.
Someone implies that I’m a semi-honest “scientist” because I’m referring to ice core records that “only” extend 650,000 years into the past. Also:
- “Tacking high resolution data from modern thermometers on to data taken from ice cores seems dubious.”
- “Be careful about weeding out data just because it doesn’t support your hypothesis. … You seem quite certain that there is only one way to explain things. You’ve already assumed your hypothesis is true. It’s not good science, and I think you should be more skeptical.”
Avysk claims that I’m a lying idiot who perverts things deliberately because I pointed out that the current CO2 concentration of 380ppm is ~26% above the 650,000 year maximum of 300ppm.
Fluffy99 says that scientists assume that the Earth’s temperature is supposed to be constant, leading them to ignore solar variations which Fluffy99 claims are responsible for global warming. He claims human emissions aren’t the dominant climate forcing, and it’s possible we’re having no effect at all. Later, he implies that scientists reach conclusions that are motivated by funding.
Someone says “How come global-warmists never mention water vapor, which is by far the biggest greenhouse gas. I guess there isn’t any money in selling “steam credits”.”
Flyingrobots says “The main problem I have with your position is the incessant manipulation of temperature data by those who really believe in global warming.”
- Flyingrobots uses the Galileo Gambit, cites Claude Allegre as a creditable person who argues against my point of view, and says “I’m not claiming giant conspiracies amongst scientists, however, I think the author [Stephen Goddard] raises some valid points that require further explanation.”
- Flyingrobots repeats: “Folks like Monsieur Allegre raise valid points that should be addressed and not swept under the carpet.”
Jmerlin claims that “man-made climate problems (even if they are true – though largely unproven)” haven’t caused anything “bad” to happen, and won’t cause anything “bad” to happen until our children’s great great grandchildren are dead, and possibly not for hundreds of thousands of years. So if politicians want to use a “destructive” tax to “punish” him for using coal and oil, he thinks they should be worried about angering citizens like him, because “it’ll be the French Revolution all over again, and I’ll bring my guillotine with me.”
Ivan256 claims that the Vostok ice core graph I included is horrendously misleading because, apparently, I was fooled into thinking the data suggest that increased atmospheric CO2 leads to higher temperatures.
Disco inferno criticizes nuclear power.
Tmosley claims to be a scientist who wonders how any temperature increase can be proven to be anthropogenic when we don’t have a control [Earth], seems to think heat capacities of water vapor and CO2 are the basis of the greenhouse effect, then implies that environmental legislation would murder people and “cut off the arms and legs of our civilization with an environmentally friendly electric chainsaw”.
SmilingSalmon thinks that McIntyre and McKitrick have uncovered a weakness in the scientific process when they tried to publish a comment implying that the “hockey stick” algorithm of MBH98 was tuned to produce a hockey stick from any input, even “red noise”.
Budenny claims that the climate could exhibit negative feedback, wonders if the climate is warming faster or differently than ever before, and accuses the climate science community of refusing to release their data.
The AGU Fall Meeting is the largest geophysics conference in the world. Most attendees are mainstream scientists, but occasionally one runs into a climate change contrarian:
- At the 2008 AGU Fall Meeting, I found a poster by Maruyama et al. which claimed that most of the warming over the last 50 years is caused by natural oscillations, and that we should expect 0.5K of global cooling by 2020.
- I met Norman Rogers at the 2009 AGU Fall Meeting next to his poster called “Inconsistencies and Fallacies: IPCC 20th Century Simulations, Multi-Model Ensembles and Climate Sensitivity”.
- At the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting, I saw Norman Rogers again at his poster titled “Why do anthropogenic global warming skeptics have poorer scientific credentials than their opponents?”
- I met D.C. Smith at the 2010 AGU Fall Meeting in front of his poster titled “Line by Line Analysis of Carbon Dioxide Absorption for Predicting Global Warming” which claimed that doubling CO2 would only result in 0.26C warming (at most).
- Norman Rogers of the Heartland Institute (H.I.) and David Smith present contrarian posters at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting.
- Norman Rogers (H.I.) et al. praise Lomborg, imply scientists want to kill off most of humanity.
Radtea says “Global atmospheric heat content is meaningful. Global mean temperature is not.”
- Radtea says “I don’t agree with your characterization of heat as strictly a type of energy transfer. … I still don’t understand what anyone thinks they are doing with global average temperature, but whatever it is, it isn’t physics.”
- Radtea says “… you’re not a computational physicist, or you would have noticed the lack of energy conservation in some models (it is added by hand as a correction on each time step) or unphysical boundary conditions in others (ocean surface in particular).”
- Radtea asks “… what data would make you change your beliefs regarding global warming/climate change?”
- Radtea says “isn’t it curious that there’s no evidence of warming in the past 15 years but we keep on hearing about how Arctic ice is melting at record rates.”
- Radtea says “your claim that most of the models used in climate research are true to first principles is false. I am a computational physicist, and every GCM I have looked at has non-physical aspects that violate well-established physical principles, most worriesomely conservation of energy.”
Beryllium Sphere correctly notes that “Qualitatively, what you’d expect from climate change is more precipitation (because there’s more evaporation) and therefore thickening at high elevations where the snow stays cold, while lower warmer regions flow faster or even melt”, then someone who tends towards quantum physics briefly challenges that idea.
Hadlock helpfully corrects my terminology regarding glacier melt/flow/thinning.
- Jbengt and HiThere make genuinely helpful comments about glacier thinning.
- At the 2009 AGU fall meeting, I met a glaciologist next to her poster about glacier feedback effects.
- At the 2010 UNAVCO conference, Meredith Nettles showed that glacial earthquakes in Greenland have dramatically increased in frequency recently, Steve Nerem showed that Helheim glacier in Greenland is accelerating based on GPS, imaging and InSAR, and Tim Dixon showed correlations with independent estimates that subtract calving/meltwater flux from snowfall accumulation.
In response to a study showing “surprising, extensive thinning in Antarctica, affecting the ice sheet far inland,” Jarek asks “Does it? The increased temperatures of west Antarctica are more than compensated by decreased temperatures elsewhere in Antarctica.”
- Jarek says “We are literally being served half truths. Or is less than half truths. Most of Antarctica gets colder, some of it gets warmer. By reporting on the parts that get warmer, media tries to sell disasters just because it sells better than the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
- Troed claims that “Antarctica as a whole isn’t warming unless you deal in dubious statistical models.”
Whatanut wonders if it will be cheaper to adapt to climate change rather than trying to avoid it by reducing CO2 emissions.
Msevior says “One of the catastrophic outcomes of climate change are large sea level rises due to ice melt in the polar regions. Presumably there are models that predict how this could occur with global warming. So the question is, do these data agree with these models?”
Smoker2 says “… there is actually more minimum ice cover than last year, and last year had more cover than the year before. Why do they [NASA] not mention this at all ? Maybe the point is to mislead?”
After repeating several common contrarian talking points, Tontoman links to a speech by Michael Crichton where “he criticises the papers done by IPCC and debunks other global warning myths.”
- JLF65 suggests that I’m discounting Crichton merely because he’s a science fiction author whose opinion goes against mine.
- Tontoman says “If you think we should discount Crichton, then perhaps we should debunk the ‘global warming’ movement because one of its leaders, Al Gore, also is a politician whose highest degree is Bachelor of Arts in Government.”
Research into the effects of cosmic ray intensity on tree growth rates sparks an interesting discussion.
A friend brings up the “climategate” hacking story.
- I mention that working group 2 of the IPCC made some embarrassing mistakes, and I find some errors in the IPCC AR4 WG1 report.
Jerry McGowan claims that “it’s right that CO2 is already saturated and more CO2 won’t warm the planet anymore.”
- Joshua claims “add CO2 and the humidity is reduced. Net change to greenhouse effect = 0 = saturation.”
DTJohnson claims “There are no mountains of research that show why any climate change is happening or even IF climate change is happening.”
- DTJohnson lectures me about seasons, and is “struck by how little I seem to understand about the basic physics of gases… which is, after all, what we’re talking about.”
Phantomfive claims that “there is no really good scientific evidence of a threat from CO2 …”
- Omb criticizes a paper I linked, saying things like “This paper is evidence of one thing only, that the mesh used in the (DOE) PCM is far too course”.
- I agree with phantomfive that sea level rise during the 21st century will be less than 20 meters, but point out that even a ~1.2 meter sea level rise by 2100 will bring substantial hardships, along with problems caused by changes in precipitation patterns.
- Phantomfive tells me not to go insane over “scenarios like this that have no scientific backing.”
- Phantomfive claims that “temperatures have not continued to rise as those models predicted would happen.”
- Phantomfive says that my argument is “about the weakest line of logic ever.”
- Regarding projected climate changes, phantomfive asks “In the worst case, will it be worse than the dustbowl?”
- Phantomfive claims that “the warming seen over the last few decades is entirely attributable to the reduction in aerosols in recent years. This is mentioned in WGI chapter 2 of the IPCC report.”
- Phantomfive notes that President Bush did eventually listen to climate scientists.
I lament the fact that NASA’s mission is no longer to “understand and protect our home planet”.
“Yes, sounds like someone didn’t read What Every Computer Scientist Should Know About Floating-Point Arithmetic.”
“I’m finishing a program that inverts GRACE data to reveal fluctuations in gravity such as those caused by melting/thinning glaciers.”
- I’d previously compared GRACE to GOCE.
Khallow says “there’s a pile of articles from Dr. McIntyre. Many of these criticize HadCRUT3 or its components. So yes, the data itself has been called into question repeatedly.”
Thirdeye asks “do you know how much pollution is discharged into the atmosphere when a single volcanic eruption occurs? Wondering how it compares to the anthropogenic discharge?”
JordanL says “One of the things that REALLY bugs me about climate research is seeing LEGITIMATE scientists use the word “SKEPTIC” as a SMEAR.”
- Daniel Dvorkin points out that “when you have a bunch of people spouting pseudoscientific garbage who are handed the ‘skeptic’ label as a gift, it’s inevitable that those who point out the garbage will appear to be ‘smearing skeptics.’”
I say “I’ve never heard of Lomborg before today, but your summary makes him sound like someone I could agree with. That’s mainly because I think most of the ‘green’ movement is irrational, and one manifestation is that they’ve blocked the advancement of nuclear power for decades.”
I say “Cool, that’s an awesome website! I especially liked the graphic here. I think the ‘Phil current’ curve describes me well. I agree with Phil that the IPCC’s error bars seem a little narrow, but not by much.”
Timmarhy says “I’ve never seen any overlap between creationists and AGW skeptics. I demand you show me some evidence of this.”
BonquiquiShiquavius says to climate scientists: “publishing a single report that wildly contradict previous findings makes it practically impossible to defend you.”
Amouth claims that extracting tidal power would slow/stop/reverse the Moon’s ascent from Earth.
- Prof. Pete Bender adds some insights regarding tidal dissipation.
I’ve been toying with the idea that loggers can fix the CO2 problem. Send them out to harvest pine trees at the end of their fast-growing (and thus fast-CO2-absorbing) phase.”
Arc86 and I discuss various surveys of the scientific community regarding climate change.
The Hatchet has “been debating global warming for a damn long time, and NOBODY has ever had a damn thing to say about the real global heat content (including oceans) …”
Reythia ran across a new, more accurate term: ‘climate destabilization’.
Stella says “Unless we stop procreating mindlessly and start to deindustrialise the society there’s no solution to this world. However clean the technology may be, it will always produce harmful waste.
And not everyone should have the license to have children.”
- Stella asks “Isn’t the current dramatic overpopulation the scientists’ fault? We’ve eliminated natural selection…”
- Stella says “The general consensus among scientists was that asbestos, mad cows, DDT, fossil fuel consumption, food stuffed with hormones and antibiotics, etc. were beneficial, too. We should be guided by our common sense, rather than majorities or minorities.”
- Stella says “Lighting a branch isn’t technology, much less invention, it’s reproducing naturally occurring phenomenon. And most importantly, you don’t need energy sources to make it work.”
- Stella asks “When did I say I was against any technology? I always liked science, but without deifying it.”
I try to explain the difference between relative and absolute humidity to Steven Goddard.
- Steve Goddard et al. deny that increasing CO2 raises sea level.
The editor-in-chief of Remote Sensing resigns over the publication of Spencer and Braswell 2011.
Mike Haseler calls climate science a scam.
- Eric insists that Goddard’s point about GRACE is valid.
- Eric focuses on how long it will take for Greenland’s ice sheet to entirely disappear and says “A reasonable description of the current rate of ice loss is ‘noise’.”
- Eric asks to let him know when the models predict something before it happens.
- Eric calls GRACE junk, cites JPL.
- Eric implies scientists want to force totalitarian dictatorship, lectures me about quantum physics, PCA, etc.
- Eric is trying to keep us from persuading the world to act as one, because he wrongly believes that attempts to reduce CO2 are economically damaging.
- Eric et al. praise Lomborg, imply scientists want to kill off most of humanity.
- Eric asks about climate sensitivity and the carnivorous unicorn outbreak.
- Eric blames me for all the CO2 “fertilizer” and blackmails humanity: “watch our deadlock destroy your world.”
- But, Officer, alcohol is a minor trace! Also, it’s such a powerful intoxicant that the first sip saturated my blood!
- Let’s take the blue sky from future generations. Babies are unemployed, don’t speak English, and will take our jobs!
Tweed asks if increasing CO2 requires lowering concentrations of other gases.
Treeman repeats Goddard’s misinformation about GRACE.
- Treeman claims warming stopped in 1998, wonders if a new Maunder Minimum would lower temperatures, etc.
Mark Imisides claims that increasing CO2 can’t heat the oceans.
At WUWT, Steve Goreham repeats misinformation while accusing the National Academy of Sciences of indoctrinating students with unproven assumptions and ideology.
Bjorn Lomborg, George Will, Fox “news” hide the incline in wildfires and wrongly accuse Obama of fear-mongering.
I won’t declare victory until we have some kind of price on carbon.
Heartland Institute “experts” react to science standards. Does the Dunning-Kruger effect explain the Fermi paradox?
Nova et al. claim Antarctic mass gain of 2100 Gt/yr, which implies ocean mass loss ~4x faster than actual total gain.
- Nova and Motl agree that @PhysicsGirl is “… an astroturf of a sort who has clearly no idea about the climate …”.
Forbes lets Peter Ferrara deny warming, Antarctic ice mass loss, Arctic sea ice loss, imply tampering…
- chrisy spreads misinformation about statistical significance.
- John Williams claims climate “scientists” make it up as they go along, repeats McIntyre’s claims of “egregious errors” in MBH98, etc.
- Economart (Gary Marshall) laments all the ad hominems from AGW nutjobs, spreads misinformation about Arctic sea ice, asks a “question” about lunar temperatures, etc.
- James Taylor denies sea level rise, burns paleoclimate strawmen, notes that he’s nuttier than the Flat Earth Society.
- thephysicsguy accuses physicists of thinking the Earth is flat, etc.
I discuss funding conspiracy theories with jdixon1980.
CNBC anchor Joe Kernen compares climate scientists to “high priests” and tweets misinformation.
Meteorologist Kevin Lawrence calls climate change a “farse”, cites climatedepot, WUWT.
Bill Jamison: “Some uninformed people seem to think that ALL (or at least the vast majority) of warming is due solely to increased atmospheric CO2. The educated know that is not what scientists claim.”
- Bill claims that almost everyone is in the 97% consensus.
“The Denier” says feedbacks are “hypothetical” and says “if you think you’re pariahs now, you ain’t seen nothin” before asking how fast CO2 emissions need to be reduced.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Stan Sholar accuse climate scientists of fraud.
- Rep. Rohrabacher misrepresents the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Josiecki makes claims about ocean acidification, sea level rise, etc.
I visit WUWT and Climate Audit.
Niven and Harrington on grantsuckers.
- “The stratosphere isn’t cooling, so greenhouse warming models are fundamentally flawed.”
- Someone says that “increasing stratospheric ozone could have significant climate effects, and was completely unknown until now.”
- Someone asks “If you’re complaining about a few satellite instruments, why aren’t you complaining about CRU’s temperature proxies based only on a low number of bristlecone pines?”
- Someone says “You’ve criticized every climate change skeptic argument I’ve seen presented.”
- Someone says “The IPCC screwed up 2350 with 2035 and used non-peer-reviewed sources, so their credibility is shot to hell.”
- Someone claims that climate predictions have been mostly wrong, and implies that temperature trends over 8-9 years can be used to evaluate climate predictions.
- I explain that scientists have long understood that increasing stratospheric ozone warms the stratosphere, and compare the heat capacities of the troposphere, oceans, and the stratosphere.
- Someone says that I’ve contradicted myself by saying that UV is strong enough to cause sunburn, but not strong enough to affect surface temperatures.
- Jane Q. Public: “ocean level has actually decreased over the last couple of years.”
- Jane Q. Public insists that she made no threat to sue me, and notes that I’m an insufferably arrogant pompous ass doing a “wonderful job of distorting other people’s statements” and inflating my own ego.
- Jane notes that “if you actually follow the links he provides, you can easily see how grossly he distorts and cherry-picks my own statements in an attempt to make himself look good.”
- Jane observes that the “internet does not constitute safe haven from libel. Other people have been sued in the real world for less, and lost.”
- Jane offers a screenshot called “asshole-pseudo-scientist.png”.
- Jane didn’t answer because I’d “demonstrated bad faith” in our discussions, but that doesn’t mean she did not have answers.
- Jane says “This high-schooler somehow thinks he/she can protect him/her self from libel and copyright … If I were this person, and possessed some intelligence, I would shut this site down. Sadly, it is looking more like he/she is going to end up in Litigation Land.”
- Jane: “you have sunk yourself to blatantly obvious ad hominem … You persist in your implication that I ‘threatened’ to sue you? That is laughable. I stated that I was NOT going to sue you. … you seem to be pretty weak at logic.”
- Jane: “I am NOT a ‘climate change contrarian’. I simply dispute the validity of certain CO2 warming models.”
- Jane: “your further ad hominem, in regard to that article happening to be on a particular website, just makes you look that much more foolish. It is an article about physics. … I don’t think you really CAN refute LaTour’s physics … I really do expect you to run into legal trouble with that blog of yours, if you keep doing it the way you have. I meant that sincerely. But that is a far cry from ever threatening to cause any of it myself… that is something I never stated or even implied.”
- Jane: “You are preparing even further ad hominem arguments. … it is pretty obvious that on that same scale you can’t bring yourself to do better than ‘DH1′.”
- Jane: “What you are saying, in effect, is that anybody who questions CO2 models is a ‘climate change contrarian‘ … just because YOU and a few fellows define ‘climate change contrarian’ to be anybody who disagrees with your viewpoint, that does not make it so.”
- Jane: “I never ‘threatened’ (your word) to sue you anyway. I did the opposite: I specifically stated that I was NOT going to sue you. … YOU link to information about ‘libel’, but you obviously don’t understand the first things about it yourself. You demonstrate as much by somehow equating fair use of recordings of public figures with online libel. … No ‘threat’ intended or implied. I’ll let somebody else nail you for it, as they surely will if you keep it up.”
- Jane: “You know very well that I did not ‘threaten’ (your word) to sue you, so why are you linking to libel laws in association with my name? What is the point of bringing it up again in that fashion, unless it is to give readers a false and misleading impression? Once again, I question your methods and your ethics.”
- Jane: “you have a lot to learn. … Just another example of your foolish argument style. You would have been booted with prejudice from my high-school debate team.”
- Jane: “my honest opinion at the time: your arguments were below the quality of a decent high-school debate, and that if you keep presenting things on your blog in the manner in which you have, then you are likely to get sued (the reference to ‘litigation land’).”
- Jane: “a great many scientists believe that land-use changes has had MORE effect on climate than CO2. So this survey is completely useless in determining how many agree about CO2-based warming.”
- Jane lectures about the Casimir effect and warp drive.
- I debunk Jane’s 2011 lecture on neutrino oscillation.
- I debunk Jane and Lonny Eachus when they say respected scientist Prof. Wibjorn Karlen shows that the IPCC reports are BAD SCIENCE, a travesty and a tragedy of data used improperly and irresponsibly, leading to very severe faults with the data that was cherry-picked for IPCC reports.
- Jane repeats Prof. Judith Curry’s claims of fraud against Richard Muller regarding the BEST project.
- Layzej shows UAH warming since 1980 of 0.16C/decade. Jane accuses him of cherry-picking; suggests starting at 1998 instead.
- Jane et al. praise Lomborg, imply scientists want to kill off most of humanity.
- Jane: “If they were honest, why are they calling it ‘Climate Change’ now, rather than Global Warming?”
- Jane falsely attributes WUWT and Lloyd nonsense to NOAA and IPCC, respectively, denies the last 17 years of warming.
- Jane helpfully points out a genuine error in a Slashdot summary regarding temperature and CO2 in the ocean.
- Lonny Eachus: “Mann’s work has been pretty thoroughly discredited.”
- Here’s #R code showing the (too short!) 1997-2012 trend in Cowtan & Way 2013 is inside HadCRUT4′s error bars.
- Jane isn’t smearing CRU.
- Jane: “… Even creationists have some facts that support their position…”
- Jane cites CFACT about the Spirit of Mawson.
- Lonny complains about rude, aggressive comments.
- Jane muses about ENSO and Antarctic sea ice.
- Jane: “the earth has been trending warmer for over 6,000 years!”
People wonder why “climate change” replaced “global warming.”
When did “Global Warming” become politically incorrect and “Climate Change” became politically correct? [dwiget001]
When they realized they might be wrong. [girlintraining]
I’ve noticed that shift in wording too. I think it was intended to address some misconceptions the general public has regarding “abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. ” (the officially accepted title).
Most people don’t seem to understand the difference between “local weather” and “global climate.” Local weather is a phenomenon that changes very quickly– sometimes in a matter of minutes. For example, “will it rain tomorrow in Denver?” Local weather is very hard to predict because that requires solving vector-valued numerical models of the motion … and many other properties like pressure, temperature, phase changes, wind speed, humidity, ground water, electric charge, pollution density, tidal forcing, turbulence caused by ground structures, albedo of ground structures, the exact position of the Sun in the sky at each moment, etc. of the atmosphere on a very high-resolution grid. The global climate Hereafter referred to simply as ‘climate.’ ignores these fast variations by averaging the weather over a long period of time (years, at least) and a large area (the entire globe in this case.) Ironically, the climate is actually easier to predict because it just requires Obviously this is a ridiculous oversimplification, but the point is that weather modeling (emphasizing conservation of momentum) brings modern supercomputers to their knees, whereas climate models (emphasizing conservation of energy) aren’t nearly as demanding. Weather models can be described as “initial value” problems which lose “skill” as time goes on, whereas climate models are “boundary value” problems that don’t suffer from the same forecasting limitations. summing energy input and subtracting energy output.
One way to distinguishApparently I’m the only one who found my original tire analogy intuitive, so I replaced it with the more popular NOAA analogy. Here’s the original: One analogy is that it’s easy to predict the pressure in a tire based on the amount of air you put in it, but nearly impossible to predict the exact path of all the air molecules bouncing around inside the tire. Predicting the climate is like predicting the tire’s pressure, while predicting tomorrow’s local weather is more like predicting the path of a single air molecule. between weather and climate is that the climate of your hometown will determine how many sweaters you have in your closet. The weather will determine if you should be wearing a sweater right now. Our inability to model weather says very little about our ability to model the climate, and local weather will always vary randomly. Scientists want to emphasize the word “climate” to stress that cold temperatures on [random day] in [Random Town] don’t disprove abrupt climate change.
Also, the term “global warming” is oversimplified. A more accurate description is that our addition of greenhouse gases has reduced the rate at which thermal energy leaves the planet. As a result, the average energy in the atmosphere and ocean is increasing, which allows this system to “explore more of its phase space.” More energy means more chances of extreme weather– even weather that involves colder temperatures! (Again, note that weather is local and temporary.)
The word “abrupt” was added to emphasize that what we’re experiencing is too fast to be a natural process. The ice core from Vostok shows that CO2 hasn’t risen above 300 ppm parts per million in the last half million years. It has varied in the past, but usually Heinrich and Dansgaard-Oeschger events (among other examples of natural abrupt climate change) show that the natural climate is only fairly stable in the long run. These events show that the climate can quickly move from one stable “attractor” to another. I should stress, however, that results like Meehl 2004 show that today’s changes aren’t natural. over a timespan measured in millennia. Atmospheric CO2 is at 380 ppm parts per million now, and this dramatic rise occurred in the span of several decades. As a result, temperatures are rising faster each decade. Changes this rapid haven’t occurred in the hundreds of thousands of years over which we have records. Keep in mind that scientists are primarily concerned about the unprecedented rate of the current changes in our climate.
- Wallace S. Broecker 1975 (PDF): “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?”
- George S. Benton 1970 (PDF): “Carbon Dioxide and its Role in Climate Change”
- Gilbert Plass 1956 (PDF): ”The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climatic Change”
- T.C. Chamberlin 1897: “A Group of Hypotheses Bearing on Climatic Changes”
Rrvau asks if scientists predicted an ice age in the 1970s.
Paraphrased: “Didn’t scientists predict an ice age in the 1970s?” [rrvau]
In a word: no. That myth can be traced back to sensationalist articles in popular media like Newsweek. Genuinely peer-reviewed scientific articles were far more responsible, which is one reason why I highly recommend learning science from them rather than the general media.
Update: Here’s figure 1 from Peterson et al. 2008:
Another update: Dr. Roy Spencer, Jane Q. Public, Eric Worrall, Norman Rogers, Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Steven Goddard, Glenn Beck, Jeff Miller (R-FL) et al. keep riding this hobby horse. Some even use fake magazine covers.
- The term “global warming” was first used in a 1975 Science article by Wally Broecker called “Are we on the brink of a pronounced global warming?”.
- Sawyer 1972 estimated climate sensitivity as 2.4°C, and Schneider 1975 gave a preliminary range of 1.5°C to 3.0°C.
- Manabe and Wetherald, 1975: “The Effects of Doubling the CO2 Concentration on the climate of a General Circulation Model.”
- In 1977, Freeman Dyson wrote that the “prevailing opinion is that the dangers [of the rise in CO2] greatly outweigh the benefits.”
- In 1977, Robert M. White, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wrote a report for National Academy of Sciences that said “We now understand that industrial wastes, such as the carbon dioxide released in the burning of fossil fuels, can have consequences for climate that pose a considerable risk to future society.” (White, 1978) White, Robert, 1978, Oceans and Climate Introduction, Oceanus, 21:2-3
- The 1979 JASON report “The long-term impact of atmospheric carbon dioxide on climate” estimated climate sensitivity as 2.4°C to 2.8°C.
- The National Academy of Science’s 1979 Charney report estimated climate sensitivity as 1.5°C to 4.5°C and said “If carbon dioxide continues to increase, [we] find no reason to doubt that climate changes will result, and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible.”
… I still think that it is the ultimate arrogance that humans think they can alter the planets evolution. Think of continental drift and the accompanying earthquakes, volcanic activity etc. and you’ll understand how insignificant humans are. [rrvau]
Continental drift and earthquakes are completely irrelevant to the climate on the kind of timescale we care about. As for volcanic activity, eruptions only put about a hundredth of the CO2 into the atmosphere that humans do. Massive eruptions in the geologically distant past (such as the Siberian traps which are a suspected cause of the Permian extinction) have likely put more CO2 into the atmosphere, but none of the eruptions in the last 500,000 years pushed the CO2 level above 300 ppm parts per million .
Update: I’ve failedTHe IPCC is a political organisation therefore full of bullsh*t. Blaming CO2 is just a reason to tax the air we breathe. Regards, Royce R. Vines to communicate again and again and again and again and again.
People inquire about the scale and impact of human CO2 emissions.
Global warming is a consequence of climate change. Global cooling is a consequence of climate change. [smoker2]
I think the term global dimming more accurately describes a separate problem that is sometimes referred to as global cooling. Aerosols directly reflect sunlight and indirectly decrease the size of cloud droplets, thus increasing the albedo of the clouds. This reflects more sunlight back into space. Its effects have been seen in long term trends of sunlight brightness, and in long term evaporation rate measurements. Surprisingly, evaporation depends Roderick, et al. 2007 also shows that wind speed is a strong factor. on the rate at which photons hit the water’s surface more than typical changes in temperature or humidity, so it serves as an independent check of the phenomenon.
Update: Consider this table of radiative forcings. Forcings that warm the planet are colored red, while forcings that cool the planet are blue. Each forcing has an error bar associated with it, and a “Level of Scientific Understanding” (LOSU) on the right hand side.
Global dimming isn’t a threat anymore because regulations were effective at curbing emissions of these aerosols. Plus, aerosols don’t stay in the atmosphere for very long, so once we stopped spewing them into the atmosphere the problem went away. CO2, however, stays in the atmosphere for ~100 years, so our children and grandchildren will have to deal with it. Unfortunately, aerosols used to counter the effects of greenhouse gases like CO2. (No, we can’t just start emitting aerosols again and hope they cancel each other out. The biggest reason is that the CO2 will acidify the oceans regardless of whether its temperature effects are cancelled by aerosols.)
… I am not a denier, but I am not about to be told we must halt climate change. This is a phenomenon that is as old as the earth, and to think we can just stop it when we want to is ludicrous. If you want to limit our impact on that change, fair enough. But don’t tell me it has to stop, because you make yourselves look like idiots. The climate has changed in cycles … if you take those same records which are used to promote the current scare tactics, you would see that after it (CO2) goes up, it goes down – way way down. It is cyclic. So even if we completely stop producing CO2 now, the cycle will continue. … So go ahead and do your worst. The only way to stop climate change is to kill the planet.
I think we’re talking about different things. You’re talking about natural variability, and I’m talking about human-caused climate change. Scientists are aware that both phenomena exist, and we can see that our CO2 emissions have recently pushed the climate beyond the range of natural variations.
Update: Smoker2 suggests that NASA is trying to mislead people regarding Arctic sea ice.
The fact is, automobiles account for (at most) 2 percent of CO2 emissions. … We need to convert our major power generation systems to something more reasonable like wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, and (yes) NUCLEAR. [Someone]
Huh? All the data I’ve seen places the “transportation sector” near the top of the list. Here’s a quote: “The transportation sector is the second largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S. Almost all of the energy consumed in the transportation sector is petroleum based, including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Automobiles and light-duty trucks account for almost two-thirds of emissions from the transportation sector and emissions have steadily grown since 1990.”
That said, I do agree that nuclear power is our best course of action.
An Onerous Coward asks about nuclear and solar power.
[An Onerous Coward]
While I’d replace all coal with nuclear in a heartbeat given the chance, I don’t think nuclear power is viable. To me, it seems too expensive, too politically infeasible, too centralized, and too prone to terrorism. Concentrating solar looks very viable at the moment, and I think geothermal could become a major player before 2020 with the right incentives.
But I think energy efficiency is the untapped gold mine. I’ve seen quotes for nuclear running about $6000-$11000 per installed kW of capacity. By my rough calculations, for $3500 you could buy enough CFL bulbs up front* to eliminate the need for that kW of capacity for 30 years.** Even better, CFLs eliminate that demand precisely when the energy is needed. Any generation-based solution has to predict demand and compensate.
* If you assume that the cost of bulbs will go down over time, or that you could invest the money for the bulbs you don’t need immediately, or that another high-efficiency lighting technology will beat CFLs in the future, the strategy works even better.
** $3/bulb, bulbs last an average of 5 years, running for 3 hours a day on average, 17w CFL vs. 60w incandescent.
Nuclear power is expensive, but it’s the only option available right now that we know works on an industrial scale. Update: My dad just told me about an interesting proposal for small, self-contained, tamper-proof nuclear generators which wouldn’t be as centralized or expensive as our sadly obsolete nuclear plants.
Concentrated solar is certainly the most promising renewable, but it requires massive battery banks, or expensive water pumping schemes to provide a base load at night. That said, I like it a lot more than photovoltaics. Geothermal only works in certain places, and corrosion makes them very expensive to maintain. In either case, we’d need a superconducting power grid to avoid losses from moving energy from the deserts (solar) or hotspots (geothermal). All these goals are noble, but we need power now to replace coal and oil.
Incidentally, tide power and osmotic power are also good long term goals.
And you’re right- efficiency is absolutely necessary. But the newer technology has to be better in every way, otherwise people won’t switch. My mom doesn’t use CFLs because she can’t stand the quality of the light (yes, some are better than others, but still no cigar) and the fact that they don’t reach full brightness immediately. I have them nearly everywhere, but my reading light is still an incandescent because the CFLs that can be dimmed are expensive and don’t look as nice.
Update: In 2012 I replaced my remaining incandescents with Philips Ambient LED bulbs. They’re dimmable, quickly produce a nice spectrum, and as of January 2014 all six of my bulbs still work. I just put their newer household dimmable bulbs in my parents’ house. They’re cheaper and look much less bizarre when turned off than the earlier generation.
My understanding of CSP was that, to increase its baseload ability, you just made it bigger (especially the molten salt tank). I don’t remember the source, but I remember someone was quoted as saying that you can store energy as heat 20x cheaper than you could store it in a battery. As the reservoir gets bigger, it loses heat more slowly. Build it big enough, and you can keep it warm all night, even as you’re drawing power from it. [An Onerous Coward]
Yeah, you might be right about that. I think I remember seeing similar studies, and probably spoke too soon. I’ve yet to be convinced that this is a sure bet, but I’m delighted that Obama is putting more research money into these areas.
You also have the option of burning something to keep the fluid warm, for cloudy days or to provide more baseload.
The only thing we can afford to burn in the long run is hydrogen, which requires energy to produce.
Update: No, actually that’s wrong. You were right about concentrated solar allowing for a burner backup. Biofuels won’t cause any net CO2 increase because their combustion only releases the CO2 they’ve recently absorbed to grow. I’m not a big fan of generation 1 biofuels, because they tend to provide an incentive for farmers to grow crops that humans can’t eat. But generation 2 biofuels use the discarded husks of human-edible plants and might be industrially feasible some day. Genetically engineered bacteria also look like they could produce biofuels given enough time. Also, artificial leaves look promising; they might eventually split water into hydrogen and oxygen far more cleanly than any method available now.
I’m not sure there’d be a point to building that kind of backup into the concentrated solar plant, though. The ability to use the molten salt loop with an oil burner might not be worth the added design complexity, materials and labor. Wouldn’t that be exactly like Well, except for the fact that the soot from this burning would likely fall onto the mirrors. building an ordinary oil-powered backup generator, which we already have in abundance? One potential benefit is that we could decommission the old generators and recycle their parts, but that’s probably more trouble than it’s worth right now.
Transmission losses, while not negligible, seem manageable. I’ve seen figures of about 2-3% to move electricity 600mi using HVDC. I mean, it’s on Wikipedia, so it must be right.
Yes, HVDC looks promising, but some population centers are farther away than that from a good spot for solar or geothermal (not all northern countries are as fortunate as Iceland). In the long run this isn’t a serious problem because we’ll eventually build a superconducting grid, but until then it’s a nuisance.
The big problem I see with the “we need power now” argument is that we could probably install several gigawatts of CSP and wind before we could even get the nuclear reactor through the permitting process.
If it works, that’s great. The problem is that no country has ever successfully powered their civilization in that manner, so it’s a bit of a gamble. France gets 80% of their power from nuclear, so we know it works. I’m also inclined to say that the delay in getting new nuclear plants online is more of a problem with lenders being extremely cautious about nuclear energy because of public disapproval, so the permitting process is much more ridiculous than it should be. Nuclear power isn’t nearly as dangerous as it’s commonly made out to be, and we need enrichment for medical isotopes anyway so terrorism will always be a problem.
I think concentrated solar is great, and might be our best bet in the long run. I just don’t want these unproven technologies to be our only bet. It’d be nice to see our civilization put no more than, say, 30% of our power generation into one particular technology so that the loss of any one mode of power generation isn’t catastrophic.
Update: I’m going to write a separate article about nuclear power whenever school gets less crazy, but for now I’ll quote another couple of paragraphs from the same recent survey:
… About half (51%) of Americans favor building more nuclear power plants to generate electricity, while 42% oppose this. … More college graduates (59%) favor building nuclear power plants than do those with a high school education or less (46%). … Seven-in-ten scientists favor building more nuclear power plants to generate electricity, while 27% are opposed. Among scientists, majorities in every specialty favor building more nuclear power plants, but support is particularly widespread among physicists and astronomers (88% favor). … — Pew Research Center
In other words, statistically speaking, the more someone knows about physics, the more they favor nuclear power. I’m just sayin…
Stormcrow309 asks about potential flaws in the Vostok ice core analysis.
Diffusion of isotopes over time leads to large horizontal error bars (i.e. it’s uncertain when particular temperature/CO2 measurements occurred, especially relative to each other). Accumulation rate uncertainty makes these horizontal uncertainties larger at deeper depths (older ages). But vertical uncertainty is smaller (i.e. the absolute maximum of CO2 is less uncertain). Furthermore, the correlation of those values to the global paleoclimate is still a matter of debate, but ice cores from other locations and other independent proxies yield similar reconstructions.
… Petit et al. (1999) takes no effort to describe the methodologies used in handling ice cores, which raises questions on the process used. The line “Ice cores give access to palaeoclimate series that includes local temperature and precipitation rate, moisture source conditions, wind strength and aerosol fluxes of marine, volcanic, terrestrial, cosmogenic and anthropogenic origin” is not attributed, which leads it reading as opinion or possible plagerism (Petit et al., 1999, p. 429). Since it is the bases of the work’s analysis, it would make sense to give that sentence more concrete foothold in established theory. There is no discussion on this approach’s appropriateness or flaws. There is a good discussion on the research team’s reason for limiting the data set but not the impact of that limitation. There is no review of further research questions. It reads as a set of scientists too worried about analysis and not with synthesis. The work is biased to its approach and thusly flawed in its presentation.
… Petit et al. (1999) takes no effort to describe the methodologies used in handling ice cores, which raises questions on the process used. [Stormcrow309]
That’s because they didn’t handle the ice core at all. They simply applied a newer computational algorithm to the data collected from the ice core by other scientists years before they published. In fact, the second to last sentence in the paper says “We thank C. Genthon and J. Jouzel for performing the CO2 spectral analysis…” Their papers are, of course, listed at the end with all the other references.
Just in case you don’t have free access to Nature articles, I’ve found a source (see section II) that provides a rough overview of the way the ice core was handled. It was sliced into 1.5m sections, put into a clean stainless steel tube in Grenoble, France and melted so that various types of spectroscopic and chemical analysis could be performed. Update: Eric Steig points out that handling methods were studied decades ago, so they’re careful to keep the temperature of the ice cores below -10°C.
But it needs to be stressed that a deep understanding of this process is only available from the original peer-reviewed articles. I only linked that website for the benefit of people who don’t have free access to journals through their universities.
The line “Ice cores give access to palaeoclimate series that includes local temperature and precipitation rate, moisture source conditions, wind strength and aerosol fluxes of marine, volcanic, terrestrial, cosmogenic and anthropogenic origin” is not attributed, which leads it reading as opinion or possible plagerism (Petit et al., 1999, p. 429). Since it is the bases of the work’s analysis, it would make sense to give that sentence more concrete foothold in established theory.
It might be a good idea to read at least the next few sentences before making accusations of plagiarism. When you do, notice that you quoted the “topic sentence” of that paragraph. Other sentences in the paragraph serve to expand on individual points in the topic sentence, and they’re all referenced. In fact, there are no less than 14 references you can read (they’re all listed at the end of the article) to catch up on the science contained in that sentence.
There is no discussion on this approach’s appropriateness or flaws.
Really? How about…
- Page 431, paragraph 2, sentence 4. “This approach underestimated deltaTs by a factor of ~2 in Greenland (ref 22) and, possibly, by up to 50% in Antarctica (ref 23).”
- Page 431, paragraph 3. The entire paragraph is devoted to understanding shortcomings in the deuterium-temperature connection.
- Page 431, paragraph 4, sentence 3. “… the Vostok record may differ from coastal (ref 28) sites in E. Antarctica and perhaps from West Antarctica as well.”
- Page 434, paragraph 6, sentence 4: “However, considering the large gas-age/ice-age uncertainty (1000 years, or even more if we consider the accumulation-rate uncertainty), we feel that it is premature to infer the sign of the phase relationship between CO2 and temperature at the start of the terminations.”
There is a good discussion on the research team’s reason for limiting the data set but not the impact of that limitation.
Limiting the data set in what sense? If you’re referring to the fact that they stopped drilling to avoid contaminating Lake Vostok, the impact of that limitation is that the time series stops roughly 500,000 years ago rather than extending slightly farther back in time. If you’re talking about some other data set limitation, you’ll need to be a little more specific so I know precisely what you mean.
There is no review of further research questions.
Really? how about…
- Page 433, paragraph 4, sentence 3: “We suggest that there also may be some link between the Vostok dust record and deep ocean circulation through the extension of sea ice in the South Atlantic Ocean, itself thought to be coeval with a reduced deep ocean circulation34.”
- Page 435, paragraph 1, sentence 1: “We speculate that the same is true for terminations II, III and IV.”
- Page 435, paragraph 1, sentence 6: “We speculate that variability in phasing from one termination to the next reflects differences in insolation curves (ref 41) or patterns of abyssal circulation during glacial maximum.”
Are you talking about: J R Petit, J Jouzel, D Raynaud, N I Barkov, et al. (1999). Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica. Nature, 399(6735), 429-436. Retrieved April 7, 2009, from ProQuest Medical Library database. (Document ID: 42351682)? Because the phrase is not in there. The paper reads like the researchers were involved in the drilling. [Stormcrow309]
Yeah, that’s the paper I originally linked, but you’re right– the phrase isn’t there. I was at work (with access to the journals) when I wrote that, and had 4-5 of the older Vostok papers open at once. That particular phrase is probably in one of those papers, but I don’t have journal access at home (and my cache is empty) so I can’t verify that right now. The phrase you’re looking for in the paper I did link is below the references, in the Acknowledgements section: “We thank the drillers from the St. Petersburg Mining Institute; the Russian, French and US participants for field work and ice sampling…”
Sorry about the confusion; I was juggling too many papers to keep them all straight on my desktop. But you can also verify that J. Jouzel is referenced many times, with reference 6 being published in 1987 (several years after the section from 950-2083m was extracted in 1982-83), and 12,13 published in 1993 and 1996. C. Genthon is reference 14, published in 1987.
I must humbly disagree that the paper “read like the researchers were involved in the drilling.” They’ve certainly tried to describe the drilling process in a brief manner for the benefit of the reader, but acknowledged the hard work of their fellow scientists, thanked them for their contributions, and provided citations to their original work in extracting and sampling the ice core. It all seems perfectly civilized.
They limited the ice core due to volcanic activity without discussing the impact. None of my editors would allow me to get away with that.
That limitation has exactly the same impact as stopping the drilling above Lake Vostok. It merely truncates the time series, preventing the reconstruction of data earlier than 423,000 years ago. You’re probably thinking about studies which fail to sample the population in a uniform or unbiased manner, and thus alter the resulting statistics because they’re using a skewed sample. This is a serious problem in many sociological studies, but it’s not a relevant concern here. An ice core taken from a shallower hole (like the 3310m core in the paper) has precisely one impact: it provides data back to 423,000 years before the present instead of even further back in time.
Update: The Vostok ice core data have now been confirmed by the EPICA ice core data. Not only do they agree with the Vostok data, EPICA extends the time series back to 650,000 years before the present.
m4cph1sto doubts that temperatures are increasing.
I’m a scientist too, and I judge theories based on merit, not popular opinion. [m4cph1sto]
As a rule, scientific theories are not accepted by the scientific community until they have done two things: (1) explained known observations in a more simple or fundamental way than alternative theories, and (2) made a prediction about something that is currently unknown and that other theories don’t predict, which is then confirmed by observation.
Global Warming theory has met neither of those requirements. The main statement of Global Warming is something like this: “small changes in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere cause large changes in global temperature”. Despite this theory, there is absolutely no evidence that a change in CO2 has ever caused the temperature to change, over the entire billions-years history of the planet. So GW theory doesn’t explain past observations.
Abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. is the direct result of an unprecedented excavation of fossil fuels, and the combustion of said fuels which releases CO2 into the atmosphere that’s been trapped for millions of years. It’s not supposed to explain past observations. Update: Remember the ending of Snowball Earth, that little kerfuffle with the Siberian Traps, and the PETM.
It doesn’t explain current observations either: CO2 concentration has steadily increased over the past 100 years, while temperatures have gone up, then down, then up again, then down again (as they are currently). There is no dramatic warming trend as predicted by GW theory.
I’ve never met a scientist who made a claim like the one you’re attributing to me. Most scientists recognize that long term trends are only discernable in the data after accounting for annual variations, multi-year variations, etc. Once those fluctuations are removed by a 5 year averaging procedure, a disturbing upward trend is apparent.
Finally, GW has not made any unique predictions that have later been confirmed as true. It predicted more and bigger hurricanes; that hasn’t happened. It predicted significant temperature increases; that hasn’t happened. In fact, the theory seems totally based on computer models that have failed to make a single correct prediction about the climate ever since I first started following the issue, in 1998.
To summarize, GW theory does not meet the standards of scientific acceptance, not by a long shot.
First, the temperature is increasing. Second, the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report made a very limited claim regarding hurricanes: “It is more likely than not (>50%) that there has been some human contribution to the increases in hurricane intensity.”
Third, Meehl 2004 showed convincing proof that natural forcing can’t account for recent global temperature trends, but including anthropogenic forcing provides a good match for the data.
Look at the data again. There is most assuredly a dramatic warming trend, despite the slight decrease in global mean temperature over the past few years. Run a regression on the data, it’s quite clear. [Red Flayer]
Interestingly, I posted another reply to your parent comment that also included those links. Except, I linked to the main page. I was referring to the figures above the one you directly linked to. Figures A2 and A show the Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature Change, measured using two different data sets. Uncertainty is indicated by the green bars. Notice the trend in both figures.
Instead, look at the temperature trends I linked to above, based only on direct measurements made in the United States since 1880, or “mean global temperature” using modern measurement techniques (since 1996). These datasets are, IMO, the only ones we can believe with any confidence. Is there a dramatic warming trend? The answer is as likely no as yes, or a resounding “we don’t know”.
The graph you’re talking about from 1880 onwards is from this paper, where they specifically state that the warming in the U.S. is known to be smaller than the rest of the world. The reasons for this are not (to my knowledge) completely understood. But the rest of the world have had temperature sensors too, we’ve had satellites up for decades, and we can use proxies to confirm that global temperatures are increasing at an unprecedented rate. Update: More recent studies confirm that the U.S. temperature increase matches those in the rest of the world.
In my opinion, any evidence based on “global temperature” that includes data from more than just recent years should be viewed with scepticism, because our worldwide measurement and calculation techniques have changed dramatically, which likely skews the results in one direction or another. NASA presents data on mean global temperature extending from today back to 1880 as a single line graph with no error bars, which is ridiculous.
Figure A is based on this article, which describes adjusting for inhomogeneities in station records and station history adjustments. Sensibly integrating differing data sets is an irritating task, and it’s an ongoing process. But it doesn’t seem to be a problem climate scientists are ignoring– the techniques for dealing with non-uniform noise characteristics and biases in different data sets are well known.
Furthermore, we don’t just have to rely on mechanical recording devices. Tree rings, coral growth rates, borehole measurements and ice core proxies can be used to independently verify the temperature record. They agree to within the limits of experimental and algorithmic uncertainty.
My point is that arriving at a “mean global temperature” is a very difficult calculation to make.
I wholeheartedly agree. I think scientists should be careful to state the estimated uncertainty in all their statements, and abrupt climate change is no exception. It’s just that the error bars are now small enough to rule out the hypotheses “climate change isn’t happening” and “climate change is largely natural.”
Update: After further thought, I think m4cph1sto was referring to a recent argument circulating around “skeptic” sites claiming that the average temperature has been decreasing since 1998. I’ll let Rei handle this one:
FYI: 1998 was one of the strongest El Nino events in modern history. El Nino raises the atmosphere’s temperature by slowing the upwelling of deep, cold water in the eastern pacific. La Nina cools it by just the opposite. It doesn’t change the long-term picture, of course; the rate at which water cycles in the ocean has no bearing on how much total heat input there is into the system; ocean waters aren’t magically decoupled from the rest of our atmosphere. It’s just a source of white noise on top of the blatantly obvious signal. [Rei]
Another Update: This subject came up again here.
Jane Q. Public asks if sunspot activity causes global warming, among many other topics.
[Jane Q. Public]
…one theory is that lack of sunspots causes Earth to warm up. (There is a very strong negative correlation between sunspot activity and temperature on Earth.)
Maybe now we’ll find out who’s right.
No it doesn’t [youtube.com].
[Jane Q. Public]
I was wrong about the correlation being negative, but I was not wrong about the correlation. But one thing pointed out in your video, that solar activity has not corresponded to temperature in just the last few years, is totally meaningless. Long-term trends are the only ones that matter. And as for long-term predictions, nothing comes close to beating the analysis of sunspots. The science is good. Very good.
Do you have any citable sources? Those are blog postings and new sites (which is even worse than a blog).
[Jane Q. Public]
Sources were referenced in both the videos and the articles. I would think that a few minutes with Google should lead you to them.
Wikipedia is not a citable source, nor does it have the details necessary for me to do a peer review.
None of your links have any actual data to them, they do not have citations which include the data. They do not include the equations used to come to the conclusions either. Without those, there is no way to determine if the theory has merit.
[Jane Q. Public]
I see. So a presentation by a University professor about his research project is not self-citing?
Are you completely inept at Google? You can’t find his name or the research he was demonstrating?
Look, bud. This is not a peer-reviewed journal itself. If you can’t find the data from the information given (I did), then just blow it off and say you don’t believe it. I don’t care one way or another. But I am not going to spend a half hour looking it up again just for you.
I have no interest in believing thing or not believing them, I have an interest in knowing if they are true.
[Jane Q. Public]
Look, guy. I literally just spent 10 seconds on Google and found plenty of information about David Archibald, including a new paper he published just this month.
Do you own damned homework, and stop demanding to be spoon-fed by others. I won’t respond to you again.
And yet you are incapable of providing me with that information.
[Jane Q. Public]
NO, just unwilling, you lazy ass. When I was young (NOT that damned long ago), finding information like this meant spending a day at the library finding out what books contained the information, then arranging for inter-library loans, and waiting a week to a month or even longer for the books to even get there.
I am not Al Gore, to pretend that I “invented the internet”. But I have spent a good part of my life helping to build the infrastructure that brings this information to your fingertips. And if you are too goddamned lazy to lift those fingertips to even bother to look something the fuck up, when you so easily can, then I am NOT going to help you!
Is there anything unclear about that???
You’re suggesting that other people should embark on a wild goose chase to try to find respectable references behind the pseudoscientific sites that you clearly believe are more rigorous than Nature and Science? Curiously, you haven’t even responded to the reasonable and insightful comments by Geoffrey Landis in this very page. I guess it really is true that “you can’t reason someone out of a position that she didn’t reason herself into in the first place.”
Incidentally, I know this won’t sway you, but I study the climate in my day job and all your posts prove is that you’ve never taken graduate-level classes in this area. Every serious climatologist that I’ve met at the conferences agrees with the mountain of evidence showing that sunspots aren’t strongly correlated with climate. Again, see Geoffrey’s posts.
[Jane Q. Public]
No, I was suggesting that ONE particular person was being a lazy ass, and trying to put demands on me as a result. As I have mentioned, one of his questions could have easily been answered had he bothered to spend literally 10 seconds on Google.
Further, I had in fact answered one of Geoffrey’s posts, and I have just answered another one, at length, with a reply that indirectly references about 150 or more peer-reviewed scientific papers. That will have to be good enough, because I am tired of catering to lazy asses who believe what they are told on the 11 o’clock news, and who can’t be bothered to do any real research or even lookups on their own.
Or maybe scientists aren’t the brainwashed idiots you clearly think we are? We’re aware that the Sun exists, and that it impacts the climate. But the overwhelming evidence is that sunspots have a negligible impact on the climate.
People are asking you for serious, peer-reviewed references not because scientists are idiots who “believe what they are told on the 11 o’clock news, and who can’t be bothered to do any real research or even lookups on their own” but because we’ve spent our lives studying these issues and what you’re saying contradicts all the evidence we’ve seen.
Further, I had in fact answered one of Geoffrey’s posts, and I have just answered another one, at length, with a reply that indirectly references about 150 or more peer-reviewed scientific papers. [Jane Q. Public]
Here’s proof that the Moon doesn’t cause the tides, that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, and that the Earth doesn’t move. The website has more than 150 peer-reviewed references, I’m sure!
Not convinced? Why not? Do you see any difference between the post you wrote in response to Geoffrey Landis and the fixedearth.com website? Because I don’t. That’s why we’re asking you to provide us with a direct link to an actual peer-reviewed article supporting your claim that sunspots are responsible for global warming. It’s all too common for pseudoscientists to quote legitimate articles to support their outlandish claims, and then ignore the scientists’ complaints.
Apparently you think *I* am an idiot. Try reading the goddamned thread. … If you really don’t want to be perceived as a “brainwashed idiot”, maybe you could bother to figure out what the argument is about before you put in your irrelevant 2 cents. … As for the rest, you are one of those lazy asses I mentioned. … But you are too damned lazy to look any of them up? … And yes, that to me means “brainwashed idiot”. … get off your lazy ass and LOOK IT UP YOURSELF!!! … since you insist on being spoon-fed … There are many more, very easily found, but I am not going to do your homework for you. Now go away. You disgust me. [Jane Q. Public]
There’s really no need to be so uncivilized. I’m just saying that all your posts on this subject clearly imply that scientists are either so stupid that they overlook trivially obvious “problems” with their own research, or that they’re willing members in a global conspiracy. Based on your (mistaken) assumption that I haven’t read this thread, I don’t have to guess which of these alternatives you’ve chosen in my case. Pity. I bet conspirators get jetpacks!
And I most certainly do not think you’re an idiot. At worst, I think you’re making mistakes while talking about a highly advanced subject that lies far outside of your own professional experience. Everyone does that. It’d be a different story if I were saying that you were pathetically wrong about your own life’s work… the subject that you’ve studied since childhood with the passionate intensity of a monk. I’d never insult you like that; at most I’d simply ask polite questions to try to understand your subject of expertise better.
First, the Petition Project is a legitimate collection of scientists.
I asked for peer-reviewed references, not a list of people with PhDs. There’s a difference. A list of PhDs is an appeal to authority. A peer-reviewed article is evidence of a very specific claim, along with equations and links to data that I could use to verify the claim. It’s given weight by the confrontational nature of the review process in addition to the fact that everyone involved has a PhD in that specific field. Like other people who take your position, you appear to think that science is democratic– that scientific decisions are made by comparing the number of people on each side. It’s not. It’s about evidence.
So, since you insist on being spoon-fed, here is one: Solar Cycles and Predicted Climate Response, which appeared in Energy & Environment (an appropriately peer-reviwed journal) in 2006. You asked for one, you got it.
My apologies. I wasn’t nearly specific enough in my original request. Scientific journals are rather specialized, and we’re discussing a very specialized hard science topic. It wouldn’t be appropriate to reference an article from a social science journal (which is what Energy & Environment is). The reason is that the referees need to be experts in their field in order to properly vet the paper. Journals I’d suggest reading are Science, Nature, Journal of Geophysical Research, Geophysical Research Letters, Physical Review, Physical Review Letters, Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Journal of Climate, Environmental Research Letters, Climatic Change, etc.
I’m sorry for not making that caveat more explicit, but I figured it was an assumption that all scientists would make…
But I’ll make it up to you. Here’s an article by Friis-Christensen and K. Lassen, published in Science in 1991. This would have been a legitimate example of a peer-reviewed journal article supporting your claim.
Of course, it’s incorrect. You can find out how– if you’re interested– by following its citations in google scholar to the present. For nonscientists, read the summary here. The moral of this story is that data smoothing is difficult to do in an objective manner, which is something all computational scientists screw up on occasion. Please don’t mistake this comment as criticism of Friis-Christensen or K. Lassen– I’ve certainly made far bigger mistakes in my own research. The ability to admit a mistake and move on is the mark of a true scientist.
Like other people who take your position, you appear to think that science is democratic… [Dumb Scientist]
THAT is complete bullshit. That is the exactly the point that I made in a preceding post… and you claim to have read this thread??? Go back and read it again. You are in error. [Jane Q. Public]
When asked for a peer-reviewed article, you presented a list of scientists. It doesn’t really matter what you’ve written in any other post– this kind of category error gives the appearance that you think science is democratic because that’s the only scenario in which this wouldn’t be a category error.
… Note that peer review is a necessary but not sufficient condition for establishing a valid scientific claim. Not all peer-reviewed papers are accurate, as I’ve shown. But if you want respect from scientists, you have to first rise above this reliance on pseudo-scientific websites that display approximately the same level of rigor and oversight as this site.
And perhaps that particular article WAS wrong. But I have cited — and pointed you to — much more recent research that contradicts that. [Jane Q. Public]
More recent != This is C++ for “is not equal to.” more credible. If they were both articles in Science, yes, all other things being equal, the more recent article would have more weight (unless it was so new that other scientists hadn’t yet had time to respond to it.) In fact, that article you’re leaning on quotes Friis-Christensen and K. Lassen (1991) several times, without seeming to understand that the reason their conclusions aren’t valid has little to do with the data they used; the real problem is the way they smoothed the data. My other post quotes legitimate, peer-reviewed articles showing this warming is due mainly to anthropogenic CO2.
Journals I’d suggest reading are Science, Nature, Journal of Geophysical Research, Geophysical Research Letters, Physical Review… [Dumb Scientist]
Aha. Exactly those journals that have been experiencing famous failures of the peer-review system in recent years? Of course. Sir, that was only one paper out of a great many. I repeat: why do you want me to do your homework for you? You refuse to look these things up for yourself… [Jane Q. Public]
… I can’t help but point out that you’ve casually dismissed every top-tier hard-science journal, in favor of a social science journal. With all due respect, Science, Nature and all the other journals I mentioned are where science actually happens. The claim that sunspot cycle length correlates well with Earth’s average temperature was made in the mainstream journals in 1991. But it was quickly shown to be a spurious connection based on data smoothing parameters. The fact that Energy & Environment didn’t catch this when the argument was made again 15 years later just shows that they’re not experts in the field. As I’ve said, there’s no shame in that. I’m not an expert in all subjects in the universe, so I don’t fault their lack of highly specialized knowledge in this particular subject any more than my lack of knowledge about synchronized swimming is a black mark on my career as a climate scientist. I’m sure their journal is excellent at analyzing the social science issues associated with energy use, and those issues are important too.
[Jane Q. Public]
As I stated before, I only found that paper after you asked me to find one, and I was not particularly careful in choosing it; you had asked for a peer-reviewed paper, and I just grabbed the first one that was visible. And indeed, some of its claims do appear to be refuted, particularly in a paper by P. Damon, published in Eos in 2004. However, though you apparently knew this (as, I could guess, did Mr. Landis), neither of you bothered to cite any kind of actual data in an attempt to refute the one paper I provided, per your request.
After you mentioned the data smoothing issue, it took me about 2 minutes to find Damon’s paper. If I had been aware of it in advance, I would of course not have offered that paper. But if you really wanted to make a point — and practice what you preach — you should have cited your sources. Instead, you left me to look it up… which makes you are guilty of exactly the same faux pas of which you accuse me. In point of fact, Damon’s paper itself states, “The graphs [from Friis-Christensen and Lassen] are still widely referred to in the literature,and their misleading character has not yet been generally recognized.” Without citing sources, then, how did you expect me to know? …
(Ed note: This post was written in response to Jane’s huge post which she wrote in response to Geoffrey Landis.)
Mon Dieu! Quantity != This is C++ for “is not equal to.” quality. You’d get a lot more respect if you’d simply link to one or two legitimate, peer-reviewed articles instead of dozens of pseudoscientific websites. I don’t have time to relieve you of all your misconceptions, but here are the most glaring errors:
If you had done your homework (or even watched the YouTube videos I posted above), … On the contrary, if you had watched those YouTube videos I linked to… [Jane Q. Public]
We’re scientists, not preteens looking for cat videos. Link to peer-reviewed articles or expect to be ignored.
Anthropogenic CO2 is the cause of a small, but measurable, increase in average global temperature. This temperature increase is a detectable deviation away from the statistical variations due to natural causes, and is now quite well understood. [Geoffrey Landis]
That is the most ridiculous thing I have heard to date. It is NOT known, precisely because it has been impossible to statistically separate it from other influencing factors. (Including sunspots!) While many scientists believe that it probably has some effect, nobody has yet managed to measure it with any real statistical significance. Where did you get this idea, anyway? Do you have any sources that purport to have this measurement? The fact is that such a beast does not exist! [Jane Q. Public]
Geoffrey’s statement is most certainly not ridiculous. I suggest looking at the IPCC 4th report. Download chapter 3, open the PDF to page 15 (which is labeled 249) and look at figure 3.6. These data show a global temperature increase of 0.65 °C plus or minus 0.2 °C over the period from 1901 to 2005. The report notes that this rate is higher than at any other point since the 11th century. Meehl 2004 shows that this warming can’t be explained by natural forcings alone, but including anthropogenic CO2 emissions matches the observations very well. And, yes, those “natural forcings” include variations in solar output, which can be measured by satellites so there’s no need to search for weak correlations in sunspot data.
Furthermore, as I’ve repeatedly argued, Vostok shows that the current CO2 level is higher than it’s been in half a million years. If you don’t think that CO2 can warm the planet, I suggest you remember your sophomore-level physics classes and examine the spectrum of the Sun. Then open a textbook and examine the absorption spectrum of CO2. Notice that the peak of the Sun’s radiation goes through? Now open your thermodynamics textbook and calculate the blackbody radiation of a planet at 286K. Notice that the CO2 absorbs more of this radiation.
That’s why scientists say that CO2 is warming the planet. It’s not exactly cutting-edge science.
Most of the science that is used to support the greenhouse warming model come from the IPCC Assessment reports, and much of that “science” has been shown to be flawed, not to mention that the reports themselves are heavily politicized, and their conclusions do not match the actual science that they reference. [Jane Q. Public]
That’s exactly backwards. The IPCC reports are simply compilations of pre-existing, peer-reviewed science. I’ve read their reports and talked with scientists whose work is referenced in the IPCC reports. No scientist I’ve met (in public or private) thinks your conspiracy theory is valid. In fact, I’ve personally confirmed the mass loss in Greenland’s glaciers with my own research. I’ve seen climate change happening with my own data and my own personal algorithms. Does that mean I’m part of the conspiracy too?
Below I link to a letter from Chris Landsea, who is the one who actually did the research on whether hurricanes and typhoons would increase in number or severity due to global warming. His conclusion was that they would not. BUT… the IPCC didn’t let that stop them.
Yes, science is sometimes contentious (which seems to contradict your opinion that scientists are either brainwashed into accepting global warming, or engaged in a massive conspiracy.) Also, the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report made a very limited claim regarding hurricanes: “It is more likely than not (>50%) that there has been some human contribution to the increases in hurricane intensity.”
The giant red “hockey stick” graph from Al Gore’s movie? (The researches who published that paper have publicly admitted that it was based on faulty procedures and have officially withdrawn it.)
I’m not sure what you’re referring to here, but I see no reason to doubt the overall accuracy of that graph.
Therefore, the statement in AR4 that “It is more likely than not (>50%) that there has been some human contribution to the increases in hurricane intensity.” is likely an exaggeration, not supported by the actual research. [Jane Q. Public]
According to the IPCC guidance note on uncertainty, that’s basically the weakest statement they could make without being utterly silent. (See table 4.) Months ago, I said that hurricane intensity couldn’t be linked to climate change, and I later corrected another poster who was under the impression that the available data contained a clear correlation between hurricanes and climate change.
If the IPCC report had used any other qualifier from table 4, you might have a more convincing point. Furthermore, another paper in Science says “Results show that the increasing trend in number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes for the period 1970-2004 is directly linked to the trend in SST [sea surface temperature].” Dr. Landsea is a legitimate scientist, but he’s not the only one studying hurricanes, and I fail to see how his claims automatically rule out those of other scientists– especially when they’re making such a weak claim given the observed trends.
And, yes, those “natural forcings” include variations in solar output, which can be measured by satellites at L1 so there’s no need to search for weak correlations in sunspot data. [Dumb Scientist]
Please be specific. “Solar output” can mean many things. [Jane Q. Public]
I was quoting Meehl 2004 in that sentence, which itself quotes Meehl 2003 to show that variations in solar luminosity affect the climate. Of course, Meehl 2004 shows that this effect isn’t responsible for the warming in the latter half of the century, which is shown to be due to anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
And by the way, I would like to point out a mistake you have made more than once: there is in fact a clear and valid correlation between sunspot cycles and Earth surface temperature, from the distant past up to at least the mid-20th century. [Jane Q. Public]
Further, while it was implied by Mr. Landis, neither of you bothered to acknowledge that there is in fact a strong correlation, at least up to the mid-20th century. Instead, you gave me the impression that you were disputing any correlation at all, which I knew to be incorrect. [Jane Q. Public]
First of all, Dr. Landis and I were careful to hedge our claims. Here are all the statements I’ve made (unless I’ve missed one?) regarding the correlation between sunspot cycle length and the climate:
- Every serious climatologist that I’ve met at the conferences agrees with the mountain of evidence that show sunspots aren’t strongly correlated with climate. [emphasis added]
- … the overwhelming evidence is that sunspots have a negligible impact on climate. [emphasis added]
- The claim that sunspot cycle length correlates well with Earth’s average temperature was made in the mainstream journals in 1991. [emphasis added]
- … so there’s no need to search for weak correlations in sunspot data. [emphasis added]
Which of these statements gave you the impression that I was “disputing any correlation at all”?
Based on your response to Abcd1234 (who carefully said that the correlation hasn’t been true for the last 50 years), I’d assumed you were talking about the last 50 years. In fact, that’s why I stopped lurking. Did I misunderstand your post?
Secondly, you’ve been emphatically denying that the correlation you’re proposing is between luminosity and climate. But that’s precisely what Meehl 2003,2004 and most other peer-reviewed papers show. A correlation between luminosity variations and Earth’s climate isn’t in dispute. What those papers emphatically don’t show is that variations in luminosity are responsible for recent warming, or that variations in sunspot cycle length have a significant effect on the climate.
Update: A good reference regarding solar variability is section 2.7.1 on pages 188-193 of chapter 2 in the 4th IPCC report.
Previously, you cited luminosity data when I had clearly stated that the correlation was with period length, not luminosity.
That’s because other correlations have been disproven by later research, as you now seem to agree. I was just trying to steer you back towards the only correlation that’s well-established in the peer-reviewed literature.
Another problem with your claim is that some kind of mechanism other than variations in luminosity would be needed to support your hypothesis. For example, in this post you claim “The sunspot activity tends to blow away the solar winds, allowing more radiation to get through to Earth’s surface.”
This is indeed a claim made in a real journal. But it’s far more controversial than you’re implying. The maximum impact of this mechanism has been estimated to be responsible for no more than 23% of the 11-year cyclical variation of cloud cover. Furthermore, there’s no long term trend in Svensmark’s data, which would be necessary to explain the long term warming trend that’s been observed. For more information, see chapter 7.10 of this textbook.
Furthermore, as I’ve repeatedly argued, Vostok shows that the current CO2 level is higher than it’s been in half a million years. [Dumb Scientist]
Once again: correlation alone does not imply causation. You have to show cause, not just correlation. Otherwise you have demonstrated nothing. [Jane Q. Public]
Strong correlation plus a demonstrated causal mechanism does imply causation, though. Many nonscientists seem to get stuck on the fact that the causal mechanism between CO2 and temperature works both ways. In the paleoclimate record, temperature swings induced by (among other things) Milankovitch cycles are amplified by CO2. An astonishing number of “skeptics” appear to think the ~800 year phase lag between CO2 and temperature proves Joe Barton to Al Gore: ‘An article from Science magazine explains a rise in CO2 concentrations actually lagged temperature by 200 to 1000 years. CO2 levels went up after the temperature rose. Temperature appears to drive CO2, not vice versa.’ that CO2 can’t drive temperatures. This sort of bizarre statement seldom (if ever) shows up in peer-reviewed journals, though, because it’s simply not true.
The real point of these ice core analyses is that the natural climate experiences a temperature rise centuries before CO2 rises. That’s not happening now, because the CO2 in the air isn’t part of a natural feedback cycle. Instead, we dug it out of the ground in unprecedented amounts and pumped it straight into the atmosphere. Thus we’re not looking at natural climate change, it’s anthropogenic abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. .
Also, the natural climate exhibits feedback effects wherein higher temperatures release CO2 from natural reservoirs such as the ocean and permafrost. This feedback CO2 is completely different from the anthropogenic CO2 that’s already pushed the concentration 26% above its natural peak, which means that the climate is likely to get even warmer due to natural feedback effects when that natural CO2 is released.
In short, the phase lag has persisted for at least 650,000 years, but it isn’t happening today because we’re not experiencing natural climate change any more.
Then open a textbook and examine the absorption spectrum of CO2. [Dumb Scientist]
I suggest that YOU look at the absorption spectrum of a cloud. See how they compare… it is not as simple as all that. [Jane Q. Public]
I first encountered the absorption spectrum of water in my first thermodynamics class, ~10 years ago when I was a sophomore physics undergrad. My professor, Dr. Glenn Agnolet, was an especially good lecturer, and pointed out that it’s not a coincidence that humans consider 400nm-700nm to be “visible light.” That’s because there’s a very narrow range of low absorption surrounding those values. It’s also not a coincidence that bees and small birds can see UV while we can’t, because our large watery eyes filter it out, but a smaller eye filters less UV so they evolved receptors for it.
Amusingly, this spectrum even has military significance in that the only frequency ranges useful for talking to submerged submarines have wavelengths longer than a kilometer. Not only does the transmitter have to be kilometers across and placed on a site with very low ground conductivity so it’s located in Wisconsin, the low frequency also results in very slow data transfer rates. That’s why subs receive messages in shorthand even to this day. Water’s absorption spectrum has fascinated me ever since.
But presumably you were implying that the existence of a stronger greenhouse gas like H2O (which in our atmosphere accounts for roughly 3x the warming of CO2) means that CO2 is irrelevant. However, the lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere is much longer than water vapor, because oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and therefore H2O reaches equilibrium in a matter of days. In other words, if we pumped gigatons of water vapor into the atmosphere, it would be back in the oceans within a few weeks. On the other hand, CO2 stays in the atmosphere for many decades, which is why it’s so dangerous. Water vapor concentration is also low in the stratosphere, so CO2 is more important there.
I am not citing some “conspiracy theory”, though I will admit that it may seem that way. [Jane Q. Public]
Yes, it definitely does. Ironically, the very next statements in your post tend to reinforce my earlier conclusion.
Most of the science that is used to support the greenhouse warming model come from the IPCC Assessment reports, and much of that “science” has been shown to be flawed, not to mention that the reports themselves are heavily politicized, and their conclusions do not match the actual science that they reference. [Jane Q. Public]
No scientist I’ve met (in public or private) thinks your conspiracy theory is valid. In fact, I’ve personally confirmed the mass loss in Greenland’s glaciers with my own research. I’ve seen climate change happening with my own data and my own personal algorithms. Does that mean I’m part of the conspiracy too? [Dumb Scientist]
But aside from that, your “own research”, even if it does indeed show mass loss in Greenland’s glaciers, does not make your point at all… unless it demonstrates that the mass loss was caused by raised CO2 levels. Remember: nobody here is disputing that the globe is warming! The debate is about the cause! [Jane Q. Public]
Note that I wasn’t attempting to use my research to support any particular cause of climate change. That statement was aimed squarely at your conspiracy theory. You might be able to convince nonscientists that there’s a massive conspiracy (intentional or not) among scientists, and any reference I produce to show that ~84% of scientists oppose your position would probably just solidify your belief in an evil conspiracy. My anecdote was only intended to show you that I’ve personally verified glacier melt through its effect on time-variable gravity above the glaciers in Greenland and Alaska. Because of this first-hand experience, I’m very skeptical that there’s any large-scale incompetence or data manipulation in the scientific community.
I’m also a little confused. You say “nobody here is disputing that the globe is warming!” but at the end of the very same post you present the Wegman Report in an attempt to discredit Figure 5(b) here which shows that the Earth is warming. Doesn’t that mean you are “disputing that the globe is warming”?
Obviously, this is not a peer-reviewed paper… but it IS a clear damning statement by one of the official reviewers, and I don’t see how you can ignore that. Nor is he the only one. Now, please don’t chide me about that last one… it is not a peer-reviewed paper either but it IS an official statement by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and cites over 400 renowned scientists around the world who disagree with the IPCC conclusions. … Now, remember… that was yet another official reviewer of the IPCC reports.
First of all, I’m allergic to politicians so I’m only going to comment on the genuinely peer-reviewed articles you’ve referenced. Secondly, your focus on reviewers seems to assume that I’m worshipping my fellow scientists as high priests. I’m not. I respect peer review precisely because it’s very confrontational, even downright nasty at times. I respect the process of peer review, not necessarily the people involved. Because 16% of scientists disagree with abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. (which seems to confirm my personal assessment based on what I saw at the Fall 2008 AGU conference), I’m not surprised that some people with PhDs (even people holding respectable positions) voice those views in public. If those reviewers ever publish their research in a respectable peer-reviewed journal, I’ll read their articles. This is because I have a limited lifespan– if I were immortal I’d have time to read every last skeptic argument in existence. But I’ve only got a precious few decades of life left, so I don’t waste my time on “science” that hasn’t satisfied the minimum acceptable standard for evidence: peer review.
I’m not sure what you’re referring to here, but I see no reason to doubt the overall accuracy of that graph. [Dumb Scientist]
I am referring here to the particular graph that appeared in Gore’s movie, nothing else. [Jane Q. Public]
I’ve never seen the movie. This is partially because of my fetish for learning science from physics classes at accredited universities, textbooks and peer-reviewed articles rather than YouTube videos and documentaries. But it’s mainly because the thought of that smug, pompous politician accepting a Nobel prize for exaggerating the science makes me want to gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon just to get the image out of my head.
So I’m going to assume that by “hockey stick,” you were referring to Figure 5(b) here.
McIntyre and McKitrick, in about 5 reviewed papers in 2003 and 2005 … thoroughly debunked the statistical methods used to produce this graph. … Further, a review committee, consisting of Edward J. Wegman (Center for Computational Statistics, George Mason University), David W. Scott (Noah Harding Professor of Statistics, Rice University), and Yasmin H. Said (The Johns Hopkins University) recently reviewed and confirmed these findings.
The Wegman report wasn’t peer-reviewed, but it did contain genuinely useful criticisms of Mann’s methodology. However, followup journal articles such as Rutherford 2005 used completely different analysis methods and arrived at the same result. Also, Wahl and Ammann 2007 independently confirmed that conclusion. If you’d like, you can download their code here to confirm for yourself that the PCA centering issues raised by MM03 and MM05 don’t noticeably impact the results. I’m not disputing that better inter-disciplinary communication leads to better science. I’m just disputing the claim that these errors had any significant impact on the graph itself.
Furthermore, even if Mann et al. really did make some kind of fatal error in their calculations, that has practically no impact on the current scientific understanding of “recent” temperature reconstructions. Here’s a compilation of time series produced by a dozen independent studies, using different algorithms, different statistical methods and different data. They vary significantly, but the abrupt temperature increase appears in all of them.
My apologies, but this is the last comment I can write. I’m struggling under the weight of academic deadlines, and I don’t want to fail out of school because of my Slashdot addiction…
Meehl does not actually show that CO2 causes warming, he relies on the research of others to do so. In fact, while this may be a slight exaggeration, about all Meehl did here was to integrate the work of a number of other authors. [Jane Q. Public]
At least you’re aware of the exaggeration, if not the magnitude or (more importantly) the fact that this criticism could be applied to any research that expands on previous results… which includes nearly every paper in the history of science.
(Ed. note: Slashdot adds notes like [iop.org] to all links, which I’ve restored here to demonstrate how the original posts looked.)
This is indeed a claim [ameyamhatre.com] made in a real journal. But it’s far more controversial than you’re implying. The maximum impact of this mechanism has been estimated [iop.org] to be responsible for no more than 23% of the 11-year cyclical variation of cloud cover. [Dumb Scientist]
“This is indeed a claim made in a real journal. But it’s far more controversial than you’re implying. The maximum impact of this mechanism has been estimated to be responsible for no more than 23% of the 11-year cyclical variation of cloud cover.”
Estimated by whom? I have already shown you at least one peer-reviewed paper (although you objected to the journal’s lack of reputation for “hard science”) in which the estimation was far over what you state here. (Which, I admit, appears to be validly refuted for a specific period of time.) But if you are going to make an argument, as you seem to be doing here, then refute my source with one of your own, otherwise you are wasting my time. [Jane Q. Public]
That estimate was by T. Sloan and A.W. Wolfendale in the article I originally linked… that’s the link which was originally followed by “[iop.org]” before you quoted it. Also, the paper you previously found contains similar criticisms of Svensmark 1998 on its second page.
Update: Other relevant papers include Kristjansson 2002 and Laut 2003, followed by Svensmark’s response and Laut’s rebuttal. More recently, Erlykin et al. suggest that the apparent correlation is due to direct solar activity, while Pierce and Adams state: “In our simulations, changes in CCN [cloud condensation nuclei concentrations] from changes in cosmic rays during a solar cycle are two orders of magnitude too small to account for the observed changes in cloud properties; consequently, we conclude that the hypothesized effect is too small to play a significant role in current climate change.”
Another update: Snow-Kropla et al. 2011 makes similar points.
But there are a lot of complex interactions going on here, including the fact that reflection by CO2 tends to be logarithmic… requiring a doubling of CO2 concentration to equal an incremental increase in reflection. … Books could be written about it and probably will be. [Jane Q. Public]
Yes, of course. The fact that CO2 absorption depends logarithmically on concentration has been known since 1900 when Angstrom and Koch Ångström, Knut (1900). ‘Über die Bedeutung des Wasserdampfes und der Kohlensaüres bei der Absorption der Erdatmosphäre.’ Annalen der Physik 4(3): 720-32. published online 308(12): 720-32 (2006) [doi: 10.1002/andp.19003081208] first measured it in a tube filled with CO2. The absorption dropped by less than 1% when Koch lowered the pressure by 33%, which convinced an entire generation of climatologists that CO2 wasn’t dangerous because it was already “saturated.” In other words, they believed that adding more CO2 wouldn’t warm the planet because it was already absorbing almost all it could.
But this research is 109 years old. Books have already been written about it. As early as 1931, Hulburt Hulburt, E.O. (1931). ‘The Temperature of the Lower Atmosphere of the Earth.’ Physical Review 38: 1876-90. used the brand-new theory of quantum mechanics to study absorption in more detail. He concluded that doubling the CO2 concentration would warm the Earth by 4°C. This is still the conventional method of expressing “climate sensitivity” with respect to CO2. (Although it’s important to note that this convention ignores slow The climate sensitivity classically defined is the response of global mean temperature to a forcing once all the ‘fast feedbacks’ have occurred (atmospheric temperatures, clouds, water vapour, winds, snow, sea ice etc.), but before any of the ’slow’ feedbacks have kicked in (ice sheets, vegetation, carbon cycle etc.). feedback effects which may sum to produce a temporary(?) net positive feedback effect, given the unnaturally abrupt nature of the forcing.) His prediction is still within the error bars of modern estimates which assign a maximum likelihood value of 2.9°C, with a 95% confidence that it’s less than 4.9°C but greater than 1.7°C. Sadly, his breakthrough wasn’t recognized at the time.
In the 1950s, the Cold War prompted U.S. scientists to study the atmosphere for military purposes. They mounted spectrometers on planes and sent them high into the atmosphere, where the absorption spectrum changed Kaplan, Lewis D. (1952). ‘On the Pressure Dependence of Radiative Heat Transfer in the Atmosphere.’ J. Meteorology 9: 1-12. . At standard pressure, CO2 absorbs radiation in broad “peaks” in frequency space because of pressure broadening but the lower pressure at altitude narrows these peaks. Thus, CO2 acts as a less effective greenhouse gas at higher altitudes.
Subsequent studies confirmed and expanded on these results. The short version is that the atmosphere needs to be modeled as a series of layers, where the pressure in each layer causes CO2 to absorb differing amounts of radiation at different wavelengths. Each layer insulates all the layers below it, and the outer layer of the atmosphere isn’t saturated until it reaches a higher concentration than would be required to saturate at standard pressure. Furthermore, water vapor concentration falls off rapidly with altitude while CO2 concentration doesn’t, so water vapor doesn’t play a large role in the outer layer of the atmosphere.
If you’re wondering why these references aren’t linked, it’s because this debate is ancient and certainly not news to any climatologist who’s less than 50 years behind the cutting edge. Many of these articles’ abstracts aren’t even available online, so you’ll have to search your local university library to find them. You may find this overview (complete with references) helpful in your search, but nonscientists may prefer this less technical version.
Update: I’ve failed to communicate once again.
Of course, it’s possible that you weren’t “trying to make any earth-shattering observations there,” and were just waxing eloquent about the beauty of science. If that’s true then I apologize for wasting your time, and we agree that science is really frakking cool. This response would then be aimed solely at pseudoscientists like Joanne Nova who claim that “CO2 is already absorbing almost all it can!”
So, I was not trying to make any earth-shattering observations there, just: it’s not so simple.
Virtually no subject in modern physics is simple enough to be described completely in a single Slashdot post, a single textbook, a single semester, or even a single college degree. For example, high school students learn that gravity is described by F=m*g, where “g” is a constant 9.8 m/s2. This is oversimplified because “g” decreases with altitude. Undergrads learn that gravity is described by F=G*m1*m2/r2. This is oversimplified because it can’t account for the precession of Mercury’s orbit or the orbital decay of binary pulsars due to energy loss from gravitational waves. Graduate students learn that gravity is one of several physical manifestations of the curvature of spacetime due to the stress-energy tensor. This is also an oversimplification because it can’t be quantized and produces unphysical predictions at black hole singularities.
In this sense, abrupt climate change A large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems. is no different from general relativity. It’s a hideously complicated subject that requires at least a graduate education in physics to struggle through the many layers of simplification in order to reach the frontiers of knowledge. When talking with the public, physicists need to make simplifications, or the explanations would take years. Be wary of assuming that these simplifications are anything but pedagogical tools.
We already know of the penchant that the media has for sensationalism. Have you not heard the news reports that “sea levels are expected to rise as much as 10 meters in our lifetime”?? I have. Yet even the IPCC says nothing of the sort. … Which made it prime fodder for Mr. Gore’s movie. Which caught the attention of the public. Which caused alarmism out of proportion to the actual problem.
I completely agree with every statement you’ve made here. My advisor is a world-renowned expert [*] in geophysics And a really nice guy! :) Hi! I’m working, I promise! who recently said “I don’t think climate change is going to kill anyone.” (Provided we take decisive action I agree, but worry that the effects will act as a catalyst to worsen existing political conflicts.) That’s why I’ve insisted on restricting this conversation to peer-reviewed papers. The mainstream media is biased towards sensationalism, and the internet is a tarpit of misinformation.
[*] I’m sorry that I can’t provide more details with which to judge this claim, but my career is just starting so I don’t want to commit professional suicide by making my views on, say, gay marriage or gun rights Pro-2nd amendment article coming soon, to be linked in permanent version of this article. available to potential employers. I’ll say this, though: I suspect that the last woman I dated (a fellow geophysicist) was with me at least partly because I promised to introduce her to him. This suspicion is based on her reaction when she found out who my advisor was, which wasn’t unusual Sadly, I only mean that the initial jaw-drop isn’t unusual… at all.
If you had been paying attention, you might have understood that the Wegman, et al. report was “peer review”
Articles published in scientific journals are peer-reviewed. Again, peer review isn’t about worshipping scientists, so it’s not just about the qualifications of the reviewer. It’s about a process. Scientific articles are subjected to a process called peer review, which means the author gets viciously attacked by people who (sometimes) think he’s an moronic asshole. This process is the bedrock of modern science because it results in articles that are better for it after surviving the inferno. But the nasty emails sent by the reviewers to the author haven’t been through peer review themselves. And that’s basically what the Wegman report is, except they “reviewed” it among themselves. It makes some good points, but draws a completely exaggerated conclusion which hopefully wouldn’t have made it through a proper peer review.
… even if Mann et al. really did make some kind of fatal error in their calculations, that has practically no impact on the current scientific understanding of “recent” temperature reconstructions. [Dumb Scientist]
Possibly. But it means you have to find other research to make your point. [Jane Q. Public]
Each time series in the graph I previously linked is referenced in chapter 6 here. Turn to page 469 and examine Table 6.1 (later, if you get bored, consider checking out column 2 of page 466 which reviews the claims of MM03 and MM05.) Every time series is referenced well enough to be found on google scholar– for example here’s one of them. As you’ve seen from the graph, they all support the abrupt temperature increase in Mann’s graph. (I freely admit that all these authors could be drooling morons, sheeple incapable of independent thought, or evil conspirators… any of these scenarios or a linear combination of them would completely discredit my position.)
You might be able to convince nonscientists that there’s a massive conspiracy (intentional or not) [emphasis added] among scientists, and ironically any reference I produce to show that ~84% of scientists oppose your position would probably just solidify your belief in an evil conspiracy. [Dumb Scientist]
… they essentially all complain about the same problem: the fact that those involved in the IPCC reporting and review process who disagreed with a preconceived conclusion were blatantly ignored. … IPCC reports are politicized and unreliable. … the IPCC has had a chronic problem with bias and failure of peer review. … Well, not exactly. It’s because until that point, I was not aware that other possible correlations were ever even taken seriously. … That is almost correct, if you are looking at it in a sort of sideways-logic kind of way. … If these statements, by the both of you, do not imply that there is no correlation, I will eat my hat. But of course some of the very literature you rely on contradicts that. … I could not possibly accept the results of this survey as anything but an exercise in data manipulation — intentional or otherwise. … I cannot accept those reported results as anything. As reported, they are meaningless. The word “valid” is not on the horizon. … Oh, come on. Are you being deliberately obtuse? Or did you just not bother to read the papers? … The fact is that the Mann, et al. graph was out of proportion, and tended to exaggerate the appearance of the recent warming. Which you would know, if you actually read the papers. But I suspect that you were just baiting me. … so far you have not managed to validly refute even one point I have made. … it was more like destroying his methodology, not just criticizing it. … What a COSMIC coincidence. The same three people who did the original paper! And they reached a similar conclusion??? How outrageously surprising! Seriously, how can you be surprised? And the fact that they used a different methodology does not impress me in the least. Wegner, et al. strongly implied that while those people might otherwise be competent researchers, they do not know their statistical asses from a hole in the ground … Further, a textbook is anything but a peer-reviewed paper. Would you like me to do a brief review of how many of my high-school and university textbooks contained errors that seem laughable now? Get real. By the time half of them get to publication, they have significant errors. … If you will not accept Energy and Environment as a source because it may not be “sufficiently hard-science” for your taste, then I am sure as hell not going to accept your textbook. [emphasis added] … This was not apparent to me at first, but as it turns out, Meehl’s climate model has relied upon the data generated in the 1998 Mann study. So, at least until some adjustments are made, I have no choice but to consider the Meehl model to have also been successfully refuted. … When a climate model relies upon past temperature variations that are shown to be inaccurate, to say that the whole model becomes questionable is an understatement. … That sounds like a “conspiracy theory” to you? [Jane Q. Public]
In a word: yes. I’ve encountered the same attitude here and in my discussions with creationists and people who dispute the Big Bang. In each case, they insist Article on Slashdot: ‘EPA Quashed Report Skeptical of Global Warming’ that peer review is broken. Sometimes they merely say this is because of widespread incompetence or “groupthink,” but it’s also common to see them accuse scientists of active conspiracy. They perform “research” by browsing pseudoscience websites rather than pursuing a graduate education in the field they’re obviously interested in. With all due respect to the parties involved, I think they’re making errors that could be avoided by opening graduate-level textbooks (which have little in common with high school or lower-level undergraduate texts) and solving the problems inside.
Curiously, they’re often The Salem hypothesis states ‘in arguments with creationists, if the fellow on the other side claimed to have personal scientific authority, it almost always turned out to be because he had an engineering degree.’ — I think this hypothesis applies to computer scientists too, and is true about pseudoscience in general, not just creationism. computer scientists or engi Here m4cph1sto claims to be a scientist- see link in 2nd half of word for example of the modified Salem hypothesis neers Here m4cph1sto explains that he’s an engineer in an example of the modified Salem hypothesis. . I suspect this is because natural sciences like physics, chemistry and biology appear similar to computer science and engineering. We all use math (in fact, electrical engineers use way more math than biologists) and the first year of college classes are quite similar. Our fields are highly complex and probably equally mysterious to the general public, so we become used to being “the person with the answers.”
However, engineers and computer scientists are, fundamentally, “builders.” Engineers figure out how to use materials like metals and plastic to build amazing technological marvels that enrich our lives. Computer scientists build shining edifices out of pure logic which have bound the human race together and (IMHO) will play a central role in giving our descendants “technology indistinguishable from magic.” In each case, notice that the emphasis lies on creating something that didn’t exist before. They develop preconceptions of the form their algorithm or building will take, then beat raw materials into a shape that conforms to their original vision.
Scientists, on the other hand, are more like detectives. They observe the natural world and try as hard as they possibly can to avoid letting their preconceptions contaminate the results of their experiments. Scientists are supposed to avoid creating something that didn’t exist before!
This isn’t to say engineers don’t have to think critically; for example, they have to recognize why the Tacoma Narrows bridge was badly designed and foresee similar mistakes. But they’re working within known natural laws, and it seems to me that the challenge of deducing those laws without prejudice is completely different. I’m starting to think that computer scientists and engineers are prone to assuming that their skills transfer to the natural sciences better than they actually do, which could explain why rational thought occasionally mutates into rationalizing ‘There Is No Evidence’ by David Evans .
Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not insulting computer scientists or engineers; I’m definitely not saying a significant percentage of them are pseudoscientists. I spent several years as an aerospace engineering major, my dad is a mechanical engineer, and many of my family and friends are in these fields. My physics degrees certainly don’t mean I can design a skyscraper or write a new programming language. I’m just speculating as to why some of them tend to be over-represented in the ranks of pseudoscientists.
Update: Here are some examples of the modified Salem hypothesis:
- Jane Q. Public – web developer/software engineer.
- Lonny Eachus – web developer/software engineer.
- Dr. Pierre R. Latour – retired chemical engineer.
- Eric Worrall – IT consultant.
- Dr. David Evans – electrical engineer.
- Joseph A. Olson – retired engineer.
- Prof. Lucia Liljegren – mechanical engineer.
- Burt RutanAnthony Watts: Recently after some conversations with a former chemical engineer who provided me with some insight, I’ve come to the conclusion that many engineers have difficulty with many of the premises of AGW theory because in their “this has to work or people die” world of exacting standards, the AGW argument doesn’t hold up well by their standards of performance. – aerospace engineer.
- Dr. Edward E. David Jr. – electrical engineer.
- Pete Ridley – retired Chartered Electrical Engineer.
- Royce R. Vines – engineer.
- Tom Harris – mechanical engineer.
- Prof. Pehr Bjornbom – Professor Emeritus, Chemical Engineering.
- Jim Peacock – retired aerospace engineer.
- Steve Goreham – electrical engineer.
- Dr. Charles Battig – retired physician and electrical engineer .
- Prof. Michael Economides – petroleum engineer.
- Prof. Robert Essenhigh – mechanical engineer.
- Dr. David Wojick – civil engineering, philosophy.
- Dr. Richard Saumarez – biomedical engineer.
- Andrew Schlafly – electrical engineer.
- Warren Meyer – mechanical and aerospace engineer.
- Ian L. McQueen – chemical engineer.
- Frank Lemke – electrical engineer.
- Tom Nelson – electrical and electronics engineer.
- Steve Burnett – chemical engineering graduate.
- Monte Hieb – mining safety engineer.
- Ronald D. Voisin – retired engineer.
- Dr. John Brignell – industrial instrumentation.
- Jon Brock – software developer.
- Berthold Klein – civil-environmental engineer.
- Charles S. Opalek, PE – engineer.
- Mike Haseler – engineer.
- Mark Wells – engineer.
- Mark – mechanical engineer.
- “m4cph1sto” – engineer.
- “TinyCO2″ – IT engineer.
- “Lichanos” – engineer.
- “Bobl” – engineer.
- “adb” – engineer.
- “catweazle666″ – engineer.
- “danbert8″ – civil engineer.
- “elkto” – engineer.
- “TallDave” – programmer.
- “paulus” – aerospace system engineer.
- “Big Wave Dave” – professional engineer.
- “phamNewan” – engineer.
… The proponents of “man-made global warming” have seized upon the CO2-based warming model as their poster child. Unfortunately for them in the long run, that model has some serious problems. For example, in order for the CO2-based warming model to work, the upper atmosphere must be warming in proportion to the surface. However, it simply is not. Weather balloon and satellite data just do not find the upper-atmosphere warming that would have to be there if the CO2 warming model were true. You can look that up for yourself. Use actual data, dude, not what you find on the 10:00 news. But enough of the basic background. … [Jane Q. Public, Oct 24, 2007]
… the CO2-based warming theory REQUIRES the upper atmosphere to be warming at a rate proportional to the low-altitude temperature… and it simply has not been. Actual satellite and weather balloon temperature data do not support the CO2 warming theory at all. … ALL greenhouse gas “global warming” theories require the upper atmosphere to warm proportionally to the surface temperature. That is directly involved in the whole mechanism that is supposed to be CAUSING the warming from such gases! Whether CO2 were the “sole” greenhouse gas involved is irrelevant! They all require that the upper atmosphere be warming to a degree that it just has not been. Actual satellite and weather balloon temperature data DIRECTLY CONTRADICT the greenhouse warming theories. And if something that MUST be happening in order for those theories to be true is not happening (and it isn’t), then those theories are fundamentally flawed. [Jane Q. Public, June 22, 2008]
… Once again: the greenhouse gas models, specifically, require that the upper atmosphere be warming to a degree that has SIMPLY NOT BEEN HAPPENING according to the actual temperature data. If you disbelieve that, then try googling NOAA along with a few choice key words and do your own homework for a change. [Jane Q. Public, June 25, 2008]
… And contrary to popular belief, the troposphere has not been warming to the degree it would have to, were the greenhouse models of warming correct. But they are not. They have some very serious flaws. …[Jane Q. Public, July 9, 2009]
- This error was corrected in 2005.
- The troposphere is actually the lowest portion of the Earth’s atmosphere. The upper atmosphere is divided into the stratosphere and the mesosphere.
- Greenhouse warming models predict cooling and contraction of the stratosphere.
Kyle asks about the political and economic implications of climate change.
Interesting. For the record, what’s your view on all this climate change stuff? Personally, regardless of how the data is broken down, I think it’s crazy to build US legislation to tax all of our energy production based on the notion we can control the earth’s climate.
… The scientific case is quite clear: humans have pumped gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere because we burn coal for our electricity and oil for our cars, planes, and ships. This has raised the Earth’s average temperature and will continue to do so unless we stop it.
Of course, science doesn’t imply any particular political response. But fighting climate change is almost exactly the same thing as “energy independence” which we desperately need anyway, if only to stop throwing money at so many corrupt governments for their oil. The only difference is that we need to stop burning coal, which is something we have in abundance here in the U.S. All I can say is that this might be bad in the short term, but absolutely necessary in the long term. It’s not clear to me that these taxes would slow the economy down over the medium to long term. The U.S. is still the world’s leader in science and technology, so we’re most likely to be the ones to invent and sell the new cleaner energy tech which would actually make Americans richer in the end…
To replace coal, I liked McCain’s plan to build 45 new nuclear power stations. (Oh, how I wish Obama would listen to him on that particular subject!) Not the fusion plants many people are saying we should wait for (which don’t exist yet and may never exist), just better versions of the fission nuclear plants we already know work because they supply 80% of France’s electricity.
I have no problem with using technology to develop cleaner energy sources. I do find fault in the idea of punitive tax policy that punishes consumers for being good capitalists – buying the energy that is the most efficient to produce. [Kyle]
But that’s the way regulation has worked for decades. For example, companies can’t simply dump toxic chemicals into the water (even though that’s cheaper than responsible disposal) because they’d get fined by the EPA. That’s basically the only reason our rivers aren’t even more polluted than they already are. Without a clear disincentive to pollute, companies will choose the most “efficient” means of creating their product, regardless of how much pollution they create in the process.
The only difference here is that the effects of CO2 pollution are more subtle than, say, dumping acid into a river. But it’s even more dangerous in the long run because CO2 causes a global problem rather than a local one.
The thing that kills me about the proposed plan is the idea of creating carbon credits, essentially fake money to be bought and sold, and forcing US energy companies to pay new taxes on all the carbon they produce.
Negative externalities represent rare failures of capitalism; they’re situations in which economic transactions can hurt people who aren’t directly involved. Again, the best example is that of a chemical plant dumping waste into a river. The people downstream will be affected regardless of whether they buy that company’s products. That’s why regulation exists: to protect people from situations where it’s cheaper to ruin the environment than to act responsibly.
This new kind of regulation will have the effect of making dirty technology expensive which will then prompt companies to invest in cleaner technologies for the most capitalist reason imaginable: to make a profit. I hope that the environmentalists will eventually relent and let us build nuclear power plants, because they’re the cleanest form of energy we have that can power our civilization. But I seriously doubt they’re rational enough to see that their fears of radiation are due more to Hollywood than actual physics…
America has always had an advantage in the global economy by having the best infrastructure and cheap energy. I can’t believe that any other countries are going to levy similar requirements on their businesses.
That’s a very serious problem indeed. If other countries don’t clean up too, production will simply shift to countries with lax regulation. One goal of the climate legislation that’s about to hit the Senate is to set an example; to show the world that the United States is ready to lead once again. With a firm domestic commitment to fighting climate change, Obama will have a more credible case to present at the Copenhagen Conference this December.
On a side note, have you ever checked out surfacestations.org? They make a pretty compelling case that the US temperature record over the last several decades is showing artificially high readings.
He’s saying that the surface temperature record is contaminated by the “urban heat island” effect– that temperatures are only rising around cities because of economic growth. One example he shows is that exhaust vents have been placed closer and closer to the sensors over the years.
This is a superficially compelling argument, but it’s also one that scientists have considered and rejected. One test is that the urban heat island effect should be less pronounced on windy days than calm days. That’s because if this warming is just caused by local exhaust vents, wind should carry that heat away whereas calm weather won’t. This doesn’t happen: calm and windy days have the same warming trend. This conclusion is from an article published in Nature by Dr. Parker in 2004; here’s a BBC article quoting it. Other studies have confirmed this result using different methods and data in 2003, 2006, and 2008.
NOAA recently published an answer to that specific website. They took the 70 stations that surfacestations.org designated “best” or “good” and created a time series based on them. Then they used all 1218 stations to create another time series. Both of those time series are plotted on page 3. They’re practically identical.
Also, scientists don’t blindly trust these sensors. Land temperature measurements are independently confirmed by sea surface temperatures, satellite data and proxies such as ice cores, boreholes, coral growth, tree rings, stalactites, fossil beds, ocean sediments and glacial deposits.
Update: Another paper casts doubt on the claims of surfacestations.org.
I will say this: The EPA at its core is a political organization. EPA policies have quickly reversed under each new administration and I think this is an area where unfortunately the politics are very intertwined with the science. [Kyle]
Perhaps. But all I’m saying is this: we can agree that some types of pollution are bad, right? Sure, extremists like Earth First and Greenpeace give the whole notion a bad name, but I don’t think any of us want acid rain or smog. CO2 is just a more subtle problem which is more difficult to explain to the public, but ultimately poses a bigger threat to humanity.
That, and they even admit that these policies will cause an immediate and substantial rise in US energy prices, which trickle down to every segment of the economy. I think the plan is guaranteed to do very tangible economic harm to people all over the US in the near term, and that left alone…
Only in the sense that investing in a college fund “harms” one’s monthly budget. Also, it shouldn’t be more substantial than the “harm” that most other countries have experienced already. For quite a while, Europeans have been paying more than twice as much as we do for gasoline. As a result, their cars are smaller, their cities are much better for walking and biking, and their subway systems are better.
Frankly, we’re already far behind the Europeans in this regard. They’re not going to be hit nearly as hard as us when the shit really hits the fan because they’ve already been adapting to the post-oil era.
… companies will eventually develop cleaner technologies without having to be forced to by the government, because consumers want alternatives, and that to me is what it’s all about.
The keyword here is “eventually.” I doubt it would be soon enough, because every ton of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere worsens the problem, and we still get half of our electricity from coal which needs to be changed to nuclear yesterday.Last modified February 28th, 2014