Global Warming

Anthropogenic, or not?

Though you wouldn’t know it from the antagonistic nature of public discussions about global warming, a large measure of scientific agreement and shared interpretation exists amongst nearly all scientists who consider the issue. The common ground, much of which was traversed by Dr. Hayhoe in her article, includes:

· that climate has always changed and always will,

· that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and warms the lower atmosphere,

· that human emissions are accumulating in the atmosphere,

· that a global warming of around 0.5OC occurred in the 20th century, but

· that global warming has ceased over the last 15 years.

The scientific argument over DAGW is therefore about none of these things. Rather, it is almost entirely about three other, albeit related, issues. They are:

· the amount of net warming that is, or will be, produced by human-related emissions,

· whether any actual evidence exists for dangerous warming of human causation over the last 50 years, and

· whether the IPCC’s computer models can provide accurate climate predictions 100 years into the future.

Dr. Hayhoe’s answers to those questions would probably be along the line of: substantial, lots and yes. My answers would be: insignificant, none and no.

What can possibly explain such disparate responses to a largely agreed set of factual climate data?

I tend to the latter view. As I’ve noted in the past, I have zero confidence in the predictive power of existing climate models, for very good reason.

47 thoughts on “Global Warming”

  1. The use of Mann’s stick to first “rule out” all other plausible factors precisely because only CO2 lines up in the 90s and thus is the foundation of the models … and then dismissing both the stick and the current CO2 correlation as an irrelevant distraction because you can “fix” the models by just relaxing the error bars is what gets me.

    The elimination of the Little Ice Age is also boggling, but recognizing that at least requires the math to realize that Mann’s method is fundamentally discarding 99.99+% of all “temperature proxies” as inconvenient.

    1. Given the way the global warming people massage the ‘scientific method’, it makes me wonder if their families were involved in Nazi propaganda about the Jews.

      After all, they had scientific proof that Jews were inferior and the Aryans were the top of the human food chain.

      1. Nah, what you’re looking at is straight-up Lysenkoism. There is no truth but Revolutionary Truth, and bourgeois science must be made to take a backseat to Revolutionary Science which discovers Revolutionary Truth.

        The phrase is “Watermelon”- green on the outside, red on the inside.

  2. My son is in a 2 year ASE Course at the Community College.

    For the last 4 Semesters the ‘school’ has been offering a Certificate in Automotive ‘Greenness’. [that’s not the real name, but you get the idea] It started as a 4 night class, but was NOT part of the ASE Associates Degree Program. This semester it was changed to 2 Saturdays.

    This is not a statewide class for our CC’s, so no one in the auto repair industry in our state is recognizing the cert as something needed nor wanted.

    Over the 4 semesters that it’s been offered, not ONE student has taken the class. There are already emission and mileage classes that cover all the global warming nuttiness, I’ve seen the books.

    They are now 4 weeks into the Spring Semester, of the 2nd and final year of the program. The 2nd year students were informed this week that the class is now MANDATORY, and it is to be done on two Saturdays of the Schools choosing.

    Many of the 2nd year students are already working in the industry and Saturday accounts for much of their weekly income. Most of these young men have families who need that income. Many of those students are now placed in the situation of lowering their GPA by skipping the classes and test. Or they could be loosing their jobs because they skipped work for a class that doesn’t appear on the ‘official’ curriculum. The school is not willing, currently, to send out anything to the employers telling them about the change in the scheduling.

    And all this being done because ‘somebody’ at the local county community college decided THEIR pet class wasn’t being ‘peopled’ as it should be, ITHO. And this thing has to be coming from the Administration, because neither the Automotive Department nor the instructors WANT this class.

    I guess even the community colleges are filled with Left Wing kooks now. Too bad.

    Several of the students are appealing this decision to the Dean of Students. When it hit his desk, he wasn’t even aware that the class had been added. Decisions to be made soon, we hope. And here’s hoping the perpetrator of this crap gets a sound @$$ chewing.

    I am not holding my breath.

    1. That could be an interesting class. I’d teach them to replace most of the steel frame with titanium and lithium-aluminum alloy (and bill the customer), and then replace most of the body with carbon-fiber isogrid (and bill the customer). Then replace the engine with a scaled-down maritime turbosupercharged two-stroke diesel with the exhaust heat run through a boiler to drive a set of ammonia-water turbines. With such simple tweaks, an automotive shop should be able to double or triple a customer’s gas mileage for less cost than manufacturing a commuter jet.

      1. That would be cool, I’d take that class too.

        This is much more about why cars are evil, people who drive too much are evil and how AGP is killing the rain forest, which makes mechanics evil because they keep the cars running.

        Doesn’t sound like a class FOR mechanics to me.

    2. “I guess even the community colleges are filled with Left Wing kooks now. Too bad.”

      That might be true. It could also be that the community college gets some funding or tax incentives for offering green automotive courses, and in order to qualify for them the courses must be ‘peopled’. I’ll wager there is some financial incentive somewhere in this scenario. Gotta be.

      1. If that was the case, the Community Colleges in all the counties would have this. But it’s ONLY at this one and in NC the schools don’t get funding directly.

        What little the Instructors will say, is that they are not getting any more pay, they aren’t happy about it being shoved at them and thy hate being in the middle between the students and the Administrators Office.

        1. Wow, I can see how you arrive at the conclusion that even the community colleges are filled with Left Wing kooks. Sure looks that way to me too now.

          When will this torture end?

  3. “· that human emissions are accumulating in the atmosphere”

    They’re actually not. It’s going to take a long time to seep through the mental block which has accumulated over time, but that was never more than an assumption, for which evidence consistent with it was sought, but falsification was never attempted.

    If, however, you actually look at the data, it is clear that temperatures are driving CO2. This plot shows that, since accurate records began, CO2 has evolved to a high degree of fidelity according to the difeq

    dCO2/dt = k*(T – To)

    where k is a coupling constant, and To is an equilibrium temperature. This is simply a 1st order Taylor series expansion of a continuous transport process for which the rate of change depends on temperature. One such process is the continuous transport of CO2 into downwelling waters and out of the upwelling waters of the thermohaline circulation. With this equation, if you have the starting point and the temperatures in between, you can calculate the CO2 concentration to high accuracy at any time up to the present. You don’t need to know anything about human inputs at all.

    The relationship precludes any significant contribution from human emissions. This is because the coupling constant k which matches the variation also precisely matches the trend. Since the rate of human inputs also has a trend, k would have to be reduced to make room for it, but then the variation would not match. The conclusion is necessarily that human inputs are rapidly sequestered, while temperature determines the equilibrium concentration of CO2.

    The whole brouhaha is an absolute fiasco, which hasn’t even got the most fundamental part of the riddle correct.

  4. Completely missing question: are the worst case scenarios within the capability of sophisticated technological civilization to handle?

    If the answer is yes, then who frackin’ cares?

    Now, to tie climate change to space settlement: if you ever think people are going to live on other planets (or even in free space) in any significant numbers, then you agree future civilization will be capable of dealing with a “climate” that is more hostile than any of the worst case scenarios for climate change here on Earth. So why are you wringing your napkin over minor temperature variations?

    1. Two reasons to care:

      1. Sophisticated technological civilizations are not necessarily robust ones. New York is the height of sophistication, but it still took weeks to get power back to people after Sandy. Japan has great technology, but Fukushima was still a disaster.

      2. There are billions of humans who don’t have sophisticated technology, or much of anything. Their ability to cope with worst case climate scenarios is very limited.

      1. 1. That’s a failure of leadership that should be rectified by replacing the leadership and is irrelevant to the conversation of what *humanity* can do.

        2. So what? Primitive people either become technologically sophisticated or die off. How is that a bad thing?

        1. what *humanity* can do

          The issue isn’t what an ideal version of humanity can do, but what actual humanity will do. There’s little evidence that the humanity we have can get 7-9 billion people through 4º C of warming without massive suffering.

          How is that a bad thing?

          So we should disrupt the climate in order to cull unlucky people from the population?

      2. New York is the height of sophistication

        Explain that claim. How do you define “sophistication,” and how is NYC at its height?

        Technological growth requires a certain amount of economic freedom, an area where NYC is behind the learning curve.

      3. Two reasons to care:

        1. Sophisticated technological civilizations are not necessarily robust ones. New York is the height of sophistication, but it still took weeks to get power back to people after Sandy. Japan has great technology, but Fukushima was still a disaster.

        2. There are billions of humans who don’t have sophisticated technology, or much of anything. Their ability to cope with worst case climate scenarios is very limited.

        As to point 1, why do you think these events shows fragility in technologically sophisticated civilizations? Major hurricane hits one of the largest population centers on the planet and the main result is a short period without power for a small portion of that urban area. Second, Fukushima for all the talk really didn’t hinder Japan. They evacuated the area, obtained cold shut downs of all the damaged nuclear reactors, and that was it. From about April, 2011 till now is just hand wringing and clean up.

        As to those “billions of humans”, those people have far more urgent matters, such as bad farming practices or poverty that affect them far more than anyone has projected AGW would do.

        1. Maybe one thing hindering the Sandy aftermath is a culture of complacency – over-reliance on government aid. A lot of people did not take the time to make a quick trip to the store to stock up on perishables. Hunger should not be an issue in the first week after a hurricane – they give folks advanced warning. When I heard about the travails of Staten Islanders, I immediately thought of the Boston Yacht Club. If I had been a member, I would have been getting my blue-blood homies together to organize a seaborne relief effort. It seems there’s very little imagination in the Northeast.

  5. “that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and warms the lower atmosphere”

    This is the annoying part of this debate for me with regard to people on my side of the issue (AGW hasn’t been shown to be a big deal). I agree with Bob Carter, there is no questing that AGW is real, only that no one has been able to properly quantify it, is it +0.000001C/century or +5C/Century. Pick your number just as long as it’s a nonzero, positive, real number.

    1. Why would it necessarily be a positive number? We add CO2 and CO2 delivers warming true, but that does not mean the climate will react by warming only. Human CO2 emissions might initiate the next glaciation for all we know, or initiate nothing at all. I think it was Roy Spncer who said that the earth produces 24,000 times more greenhouses gases everyday than all of humanity combined. He was referring to water vapour of course, CO2 is insignificant.

      1. And as a -specific- item:

        One of the key claims was “More heat leads to more clouds”. This does appear to be true. But the exact type of ‘more cloud’ appears to be tropical thunderstorms. Which are a negative feedback. (The best current data is that they probably cause a net cooling effect. Some studies show a -strong- cooling effect.)

        And the sea of models mostly ignore the heat and mass transfer aspects of clouds completely while assuming they’re a strong positive feedback.

        1. Exactly. Without employing those magical ‘assumptions’, climate alarmism would likely be non-existent.

  6. I’m a “Lurkwarmist”. I feel that it’s likely that there is some AGW (I think water vapor from farming plays a larger role than CO2), but that it is far, far less than claimed, and also far too small to worry about, with one freaking huge exception: there is a way that a tiny amount of AGW could have a massive effect on climate; via keeping us away from the tipping point into a new glacial era. (we are, after all, overdue for that).

    So could this small AGW have a massive impact; yes, by preventing what would be the greatest disaster in human history. Personally, I don’t think that’s a bad thing worth crippling our economy to prevent. YMMV.

    As for the IPPC models, they are clearly rubbish. If they can’t even predict the past (and they can’t) and they fail to explain why there has been no warming for a decade and a half, how on earth can the predict the future?

  7. The missing question is whether it would be less costly to abate CO2 immediately or wait and deal with the consequences (if any). That, however, is not a question to be answered by climate science, and climate scientists have no particularly relevant expertise in answering it. This is why I feel perfectly at liberty to disregard the claimed consensus, even if there really were one.

    1. Alarmists will say that the oceans will warm and their clathrates melt and the atmosphere will fill with greenhouse gases and the seas will boil and life on earth will end (although the last two would likely occur in the opposite order). That scenario has a fairly high cost.

      The other extreme is that the earth gets greener, more land becomes arable, food becomes more plentiful. That would seem to have a fairly low cost.

      The last scenario seems the more likely of the two, but I’d kind of like to know the probability of the first. I’d think that people who actually believed in the doomsday scenario would be almost rabidly pro-nuke.

  8. Mr. Waddington, the worst case scenarios end up with Earth being considerably more uninhabitable than Mars. IIRC, the worst case scenario is that of Earth being nastier than Venus; surface temperature around 500C, surface pressure around 300 bar and an atmosphere mostly composed of steam and CO2.

    The reason why Earth would be worse than Venus is simply that Earth has more water – a lot more. Venus lost its water early in its history, because it has no magnetic field to keep the solar wind off. And water is a very efficient greenhouse gas.

    And BTW, on the business of nuclear power I agree with you. I would prefer SPS or fusion, but nukes will do for now. Incidentally – James Lovelock, the man who invented the Gaia Hypothesis, agrees with you too.

    Daver – You’ve been reading different predictions from me. Global warming leads to more extreme weather, more deserts (including large parts of the USA that currently aren’t) and, paradoxically, colder weather in NW Europe (probably) including the UK, where I live. Oh, and several countries either disappearing altogether or drastically reducing in size – Tuvalu and the Netherlands being examples, respectively.

    Personally, I object to the idea of living in a climate similar to northern Labrador as a consequence of Americans continuing to take two tons of iron with them when they go to buy cigarettes. Perhaps Americans think that attitude is unreasonable.

    1. Fletcher, if the Earth was going to go all Venus, it would’ve done so during the hundreds of millions of years when CO2 levels ranged from 0.1 to 0.6 percent instead of 0.03 or 0.04 percent. Our glacial era CO2 levels are frighteningly low when compared to the levels when anything worth eating evolved.

      The IPCC is finally dropping the “extreme weather” nonsense because there wasn’t a scientific basis for it, and in fact basic science (along with all available records) predicts less-extreme weather if the planet warmed up, as the delta-T between the equator and poles would reduce.

    2. Fletcher,

      1) The entire “Island nations will disappear” train of thought is a complete canard. Tuvalu: “It comprises three reef islands and six true atolls spread…”. Coral reefs grow to just above the surface – they don’t give a damn how far from the center of the earth they are. The Netherlands is -already- underwater. It had nothing to do with nasty American assholes. How -did- they manage? The sane predictions (which are still excessive IMO) are for 1m in a century.

      2) 500C, 300 bar, mostly steam and CO2
      Link please – because I do doubt that this is a serious, honest estimate. From even an armchair “What happens if we just burn -everything- and boil the oceans the hell off?” standpoint it’s wrong. Bond albedo of Venus: 0.90. Bond albedo of Earth: 0.306. The albedo of Venus is entirely cloud-based – and the ‘Venus-like’ conditions yield Venus-like clouds. The actual chemistry is such that, yes, the gases will -also- adjust to Venus-like. And yet … we’re much farther from the Sun. Reflecting ninety percent of the incoming sunlight combined with the radiative dumping effect of being at 500C…. If you -locked in- that albedo the whole thing would freeze solid in a year. You’re just dumping too much heat. This is an amazingly strong negative feedback.

      3) Also on the ‘worst case’ crap: You’ve left off the other direction entirely. We’re in an “interglacial”. Reentering a ‘glacial’ is more likely than everything about the “Venus-like” scenario.

      4) “Global warming leads to more extreme weather,” Rampant lazy journalism and scaremongering. We can detect smaller tornados now than we could in 1950 because we have much better tools. But a plot of “F5’s” is flat, and a plot of “Tornado energy” for larger tornados -> flat. Plot of “small tornados” in a localized area near the new radars – flat if you start on opening day, upwards if you include pre-that-radar. You can march through the “extreme weather” claims with exactly the same template. Hurricanes? Flooding? Drought?

      All the historically well-documented “ice-faires” and frozen Thames signs of rampant Global Warming. Good to know.

    3. Mr. Waddington, the worst case scenarios end up with Earth being considerably more uninhabitable than Mars. IIRC, the worst case scenario is that of Earth being nastier than Venus; surface temperature around 500C, surface pressure around 300 bar and an atmosphere mostly composed of steam and CO2.

      I disagree, precisely because Earth has so much water in its atmosphere. What you miss here is that because of water vapor condensation, there is a massive and fairly efficient heat transfer mechanism, rain, for transferring heat from the Earth’s surface to space. For example, the Earth already absorbs more power per unit area of sunlight than highly reflective Venus does (about 20-30% more, apparently depending on how much of the Earth is covered by cloud at the time – 20% corresponds to heavy global cloud cover).

      1. If you think Earth becoming like Venus is a sensible worst case scenario of climate change, you belong a street corner waving a placard and possibly reading verses from the bible. FFS people.

  9. Mr. Turner and Al – During the eras mentioned, the sun was cooler. One theory is that the Earth has homoeostasis going on; essentially, the reason for today’s really low CO2 levels is that they need to be low to keep Earth’s climate stable.

    My description of a hotter-than-Venus situation is precisely because in such an extreme case there would be much higher levels of greenhouse gas in Earth’s air. The best guesstimate is that Venus, if it had Earth’s water levels, would be a much worse place than it is now; 600-700C and 300 bar surface pressure, perhaps. Earth, potentially, has two or three times the amount of greenhouse gases as does Venus, currently.

    And lastly, regarding glacial eras; An Ice Age is survivable, and also reversible. We’re still here, after all, after two or three of them. A Venus-style hothouse is neither.

    1. The issue is that you need to allow your chemistry to evolve though, not “just” boil the ocean and declare “Look! Steam!”

      Venus has a virtually “steam-free” atmosphere without having any odd distribution of hydrogen or oxygen. Think for a second about where Venus’s perfectly ordinary distribution of H & O ended up. “Hot” and “High pressure” both increase reactivity in general by minimizing the impeding effects of the activation barriers. Think “Water-gas shift reaction” and “coal gasification”. Add the ongoing upper atmospheric hydrogen losses and you, again, get “This end-state is not stable and would have a strong push towards lower temperatures and pressures”.

      There just aren’t many “high water vapor planets”. And it isn’t from any -lack- of the most common element in the universe. Uranus is the only one with “water clouds” that I’ve read of.

      And lastly, regarding glacial eras; An Ice Age is survivable, Yes, I see. You’re worried about Tuvalu due to ignoring growth patterns of coral, but perfectly accepting of glaciers obliterating major metropolises as “survivable”.

    2. It’s as simple as this: there’s no need to pay attention to anyone who says Earth is going to become anything like Venus within any time frame that humanity currently cares about (at most few hundred years). Go tell it to The Long Now Foundation, they might give you the time of day with their big stupid clock.

  10. But solar output isn’t going to remotely match the CO2 estimates for the past 500 million years (graph).

    Until the sun starts expanding into a red giant, a Venus style hothouse here is less plausible than the moon’s orbit destabilizing and crashing into the Earth. There’s no way to get the oceans anywhere remotely near the boiling point, and if they did our albedo would freeze the planet.

    Sagan suggested that perhaps Venus had suffered a runaway greenhouse effect, but there’s absolutely no reason to assume it ever had an ocean or was ever any cooler than it presently is. Strangely enough, his calculations of its likely surface temperature were several hundred degrees hotter if it had a nitrogen atmosphere than if it had a CO2 atmosphere, due to the different adiabatic lapse rates of the two gases.

  11. Sure, Al. A state with large amounts of steam in the atmosphere is not stable. Actually, I agree. I do, however, have a few questions for you to consider. One is quite simple; what is the timescale of the change? Venus, with a higher insolation and also greater exposure to solar wind protons, is estimated to have taken half a billion years or so to lose just about all its water by the route you describe. Earth would take longer, because it a) is subject to less UV flux to split water in the upper atmosphere in the first place b) is subject to a lower incident proton flux in the first place for the same reason (further from Sol) c) is subject to a massively lower solar proton flux because Earth actually has a magnetosphere and Venus does not (and never did).

    Taken all together, if Earth ever gets into a Venus-style situation the correction time might be a billion years. Coincidentally, 1E9 years is thought (using models that take gradually increasing solar luminosity into account) to be roughly the lifespan (from right now!) of Earth as an abode for multicellular life, assuming no major changes are made for any other reason.

    Second question: How long can humanity survive on Earth when typical surface temperatures are in the hundreds of degrees and surface pressures are comparable to current pressures half a mile deep in the ocean? Sure, Earth might heal itself – but neither we nor any other form of multicellular life would be around to see it. Ever again.

    And lastly: Yes, an Ice Age is survivable – at least one comparable to the ones in the geologically recent past. Surface temperatures comparable to molten lead are not.

    1. But that’s precisely the point. The processes that make “large amounts of steam in the atmosphere unstable” are operating today. Much more slowly. But they are there – and are negative feedbacks. Necessarily. And they mostly aren’t in any of the older models – particularly the panicky ones.

      And on the “How fast would it happen?” point. It’s been awhile since I’ve worked through this, but if I recall correctly the “cooling time” estimates of around “a billion years” are dominated to an absurd amount by the temperatures and heat capacities of the core and mantle. The ocean and atmosphere is around 0.001 the mass of the core and mantle.

      Turning into Venus today would be entirely dominated by the greenhouse/cloud issue. (The mantle has already cooled.) And a planet in Earth’s orbit with a 0.9 albedo would cool off quickly enough that neither astrophysicists nor geologists could even display it properly on their standard graphs. It would make a total mockery of “biblical floods”. Just the daytime-to-nighttime temperature are a pretty solid indicator of what a 0.9 albedo might be like as far as heat loss is concerned – although the latent heat of vaporization of the entire ocean would at least impede the collapse as it impeded the evaporation in the first place.

      Perhaps a better gedankenexperiment is: What if just -two- percent of the atmosphere was water vapor? (We’d have to pass through it between -1%- and -Venus-like-but-with-steam- anyway.)

      1. The alarmists think that we are in an unstable equilibrium. The initial prediction, that increases in CO2 would bring about increases in H20 which would bring about more H20 have so far not been born out. Maybe there’s a tipping point where that would happen. It seems kind of unlikely, given the high CO2 levels in the past.

        The second scenario, where the subsea methane clathrates melt and add a large amount of methane to the atmosphere has yet to occur. Of course, we could circumvent that by mining the clathrates and burning them. Maybe Japan could help out there, since they’re shutting down their nuclear plants.

        1. Not just subsurface deposits. Similar remarks apply to methane locked up in permafrost. BTW, the fact that CO2 levels were very high in earlier eras (I believe the Carboniferous Era is the classic one) are of limited relevance. Why? Simply because in the Carboniferous, the Sun was something like 7% cooler than it is now. Another possible reason for a lack of relevance is that the configuration of the continents is completely different now. The even higher levels in the era around 550 million years ago are even less relevant.

          1. The thing to keep in mind with those clathrate deposits, is that they mostly have formed since the end of the last glacial period, about 10-12,000 years. How much methane can Earth’s polar and oceanic regions lock up in that short a time frame, a civilization-threatening amount?

            I think the tipping point people haven’t really thought it out. For example, we don’t see runaway greenhouse effects in past onsets of glaciation when the water levels drop a hundred meters (release of that much pressure should create a large spike of methane generation from clathrates in oceans).

          2. are of limited relevance.

            They’re of limited relevance when just thrown at the wall as proof of “failure to become Venus” and direct comparisons of temperature. (Which, admittedly, they often are.)

            But that actually isn’t the part to think about. The claim is that carbon dioxide is a strong positive feedback. And, additionally, that there are no significant negative feedbacks.

            Both of these are necessary conditions of the -catastrophic- global warming position.

            1) What prevented the CO2 levels from going higher?
            2) What brought the CO2 levels down?
            3) How did temperature correlate with CO2 then?
            4) What triggered the intense glaciation and drop in sea levels at the end of that era?

  12. 4.5 billion years of Earth’s history: Super Volcanoes, asteroid impacts, magnetic pole reversals, tectonic shifts of entire continents, etc etc. And not once has an event occured that has even remotely hinted at being able to push us to a Venus like atmosphere. But humans arrive on the scene and in a mere blink of eye in comparative time scale we somehow manage to bring the climate to some magical tipping point that will instantly transform us into Venus.

    Excuse me a moment, “BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA!”

  13. It amazes me that so many people ignore global warming but I believe the majority of us don’t underestimate the real threat that could have detrimental consequences if the warnings are not heeded. I’m glad that I live in a city whose inhabitants are fighting the threat of global warming by taking part in the so-called Greenest City 2020 Action Plan whose aim is to eliminate the negative impact that our actions have on the environment. And global warming is one of the key areas in which the right decisions, if put into practice, may produce the desired effect even in the short term.

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