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What's Going On?

The oceans don't seem to be warming. Even NPR says so.

This is obviously one of those many insidious effects of global warming.

 
 

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32 Comments

Jim Harris wrote:

The oceans don't seem to be warming.

According to one type of measurement, in the past three or four years. But global warming is a century-long phenomenon, and on that time scale, the oceans are warming.

Big D wrote:

Great! Let me know when it gets warm enough to start growing grapes on Greenland again. This Maunder Minimum stuff was starting to get me worried. :P

Mac wrote:

But global warming is a century-long phenomenon.

Longer than that actually. So much longer that its impossible for us to have caused it. Is the Earth getting warmer? Yes. Are we the cause? No.

Fidel, MD wrote:

The best line:

One possibility is that the sea has, in fact, warmed and expanded and scientists are somehow misinterpreting the data from the diving buoys.


Or, ignore data that doesn't fit your theory

Andy Freeman wrote:

Perhaps Harris will tell us what measurements would convince him that:
(1) Global warming isn't occurring
or
(2) Man does not have a significant effect on warming and/or cooling.

Jim Harris wrote:

Perhaps Harris will tell us what measurements would convince him that: (1) Global warming isn't occurring or (2) Man does not have a significant effect on warming and/or cooling.

That is like asking for evidence that there isn't an ozone hole, or that the sun isn't much larger than the earth, or that humans and chimpanzees don't have a common ancestor. No one knows a plausible way to walk back from the evidence that we already have. It's not that science is frozen in place like the Bible. Rather, science also isn't a cyclical fad: it marches forward in new directions. For instance, one of the new directions of climate predictions is that polar ice is melting a lot faster than scientists thought even 10 years ago. Climate science has made great progress in the past 30 years, with the result that ill-prepared skeptics like it a lot less.

Actually, claim (2) points to the weird ideological grounding of anti-environmentalism. Everyone interested in space travel understands that humanity can begin to terraform planets. You folks would like to believe that accidental terraforming is impossible, or that if it is barely possible, it can't be all that harmful. But no law of science or Moses provides us with any such insurance. We have eliminated a significant fraction of the world's forests, we have laced ground soils with several poisonous metals, and we have significantly changed the atmosphere. There is no natural law to make these changes good news. The only saving grace is that human intelligence allows us to live without. In the case of global warming, that will mean living without South Florida.

Big D wrote:

I think... that says it all.

Jim got religion.

Fletcher Christian wrote:

Jim:

Add to that list most of the Netherlands, a large part of Southeast England, the entire nation of Tuvalu, large parts of Bangladesh, and no doubt many others. Never mind all that; they are either toffee-nosed Brits, drug-addled Hollanders or poor brown people of no consequence, and it's perfectly allright to carry on using twice the fossil energy per $ of GNP that anyone else uses and to carry on driving 2-ton cars when 750-kilo ones would be perfectly comfortable enough.
Oh, and to carry on giving tens of billions of dollars per year to people who will use it to kill us infidels, and to spend further hundreds of billions on attempting to secure supplies and to try to suppress the terrorism that those tens of billions finance.
That's the American way!

Jim Harris wrote:

Never mind all that

To be fair, I think the idea is not that Floridans and the Dutch don't matter (although maybe they really couldn't care less about Bengalis), but rather that technology will work a miracle so that we don't have to worry about the sea level.

What's weird is the conviction that climate scientists and international treaties can't be part of that miracle, we have to trust industry to pull it off by itself. It would have been nice if they had thought that industry can solve all of the Middle East's problems too, then we wouldn't have had the Iraq War.

Rand Simberg wrote:

No miracles are required. The Dutch have been handling high sea levels for centuries. It's a very mature technology.

Richard wrote:

Jim, the idea we've cleared gobs of land (at least here in the States) is pure fantasy. If one includes all of the cities, towns, roads down to the Interstates (which can get pretty isolated even east of the Mississippi, say nothing of out west), and even farmland (which is usually mostly plant-covered anyways), we've managed to build or pave over 15% of the total land area of the United States. That means there's still 85% of the US that's still in its "natural state," regardless of whether or not that's a good thing for humanity.

Regarding those international treaties you seem so fond of, I freely admit I don't trust those who're trying to push us into signing them. I don't trust their motives, I don't trust their words, and I note that their deeds to date haven't matched their rhetoric. If they really want to grow their economies and cut emissions at the same time, they're free to do so--as are we. We don't need some piece of paper to wave around like it's some kind of magic wand. Since the signing of the Kyoto protocols, for instance, the US has reduced the amount of various "greenhouse" gasses it produces (again, not going to get into whether or not it's a good thing). We've expanded our economy at a rate eclipsed only by the (also non-signatory) China and India. The EU nations who originally pushed for us to sign the treaty have economic near-stagnation, and their own emissions of GHGs have only increased. Somehow the idea that a top-down solution is no solution seems to slip past the "watermelon environmentalist" crowd. Sadly, I'm not surprised.

Mac wrote:

Jim says: You folks would like to believe that accidental terraforming is impossible, or that if it is barely possible, it can't be all that harmful.

And you would like to believe that everything bad that happens is mankind's fault. Doesn't make either theory true.

Steve wrote:

Jim,
the energy crisis will be better and quicker solved by evil capitalists seeking more evil profits than by hand wringing delegates to any treaty negotiations. In the real world, things are bought and sold by profiteers who wish to line their pockets with my money, in exchange for which I get a product from the profiteer that I can't produce myself as quickly or as efficiently. When a total lack of oil and gasoline production outstrips our ability to keep us afloat at a reasonable price, some bright boy will find an alternative.

The problems in the Middle East can't be solved by industry Jim. They're not a problem of supply and demand. those are the kinds of problems industry solves.

More often than not the problem over there is one of the powerful lying to the masses to stay in power. The warlords / Imams / dictators of the Middle East can't be removed by GE or B of A or GM. It was a stupid off hand remark.

Craig wrote:

This perfectly understandable. We just need to find the proper constant by which to multiply the data points in order to get the right temperature increase. This isn�t even that difficult. The Scientific Consensus can meet (preferably somewhere with good restaurants) to determine what the right temperature rise should be. Then determine what the proper multiplier would be�.voila! Can I get my Nobel Prize now?

Mac wrote:

Craig theorizes:We just need to find the proper constant by which to multiply the data points in order to get the right temperature increase.

Only problem is, the data points and the constants are already known. The right temp increase needed by Global Alarmist Pseudoscientists is the unknown parameter. ;P

Mike Borgelt wrote:

"the entire nation of Tuvalu" will disappear under the rising seas?

Pity there's no evidence.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/feature/story.cfm?c_id=26&objectid=10498927

More correct would be "the entire nation of Tuvalu would like an excuse to move to Australia or New Zealand to access their social security systems."

If Argo had showed warming I doubt anyone would be questioning the data.

Jim Harris wrote:

Rand Simberg: The Dutch have been handling high sea levels for centuries.

So therefore if we give them another 5 or 20 feet to chew on, they'll be able to handle it? That is not the way that the Dutch see it. They're very worried about becoming another New Orleans. If Florida asked the Netherlands for advice on this, the Dutch would certainly not say, "sure, just build an 800-mile U-shaped levee from Tampa to Daytona Beach".

The larger lesson is that you won't get any magic out of technology unless you know its limits.

Richard: the idea we've cleared gobs of land (at least here in the States) is pure fantasy

You can be fooled by the fact that a lot of farmland in the Eastern United States has reverted to forests. This is better than farming even more surplus acreage, but it is not "the natural state". With either farming or second-growth forests, it's certainly not true that all plants that could grow on a patch of land are equivalent. Haphazard terraforming really isn't very good for the planet. Witness the Dust Bowl.

Regarding those international treaties you seem so fond of, I freely admit I don't trust those who're trying to push us into signing them.

The easiest way to be suspicious of treaties is to both take them for granted and undermine them when they actually work. For instance, you can travel to Canada with fair confidence that you won't be arrested and held without habeas corpus, much less flown to who knows where and tortured. You can be so used to it that you can know nothing about the treaties or diplomacy that led to that protection. You then wouldn't know to be outraged when a Canadian citizen is arrested at an American airport and then tortured in Syria.

Likewise, in environmental law, you can take the Montreal protocol that banned CFCs for granted: the CFC problem and the ozone hole are beginning to abate. At the worst, they are worsening less quickly than before.

There is an argument that the Kyoto accord was ineffectual. But the Bush administration did everything it could to undermine environmental diplomacy, so that it could then say that treaties don't work. It's like parking your car in the middle of the road and then declaring that traffic laws are all hokum.

Steve: The problems in the Middle East can't be solved by industry Jim.

Why not? More than you have let on, the Bush Administration does in fact see it as a demand for security that can be solved by a supply of private security services. That is what Blackwater is all about. If a sea level rise is just a demand for levees that the private sector can build, why not security in the Middle East too? After all, that's how the Dutch trading companies handled it in their heyday. Instability in the boondocks was just a cost of doing business. Maybe we should have let Exxon sponsor a coup against Saddam Hussein instead of making it a trillion-dollar government project.

some bright boy will find an alternative

If bright boys say that we need to do something about global warming, don't expect other bright boys to make the problem magically go away. Just as, if you're an alcoholic and a bright boy --- your doctor --- says that you have cirrhosis and you should stop drinking, don't expect another bright boy to rescue you with a painless, good-as-new liver transplant. Yes, liver transplants exist and they are an amazing technology, but you should listen to everything that bright boys have to say, not just the good news.

mrsizer wrote:

Jim, let's say, for the sake of argument, that Global Warming is bad (the Canadians like their new vinyards) and all the US's fault (China has exceeded our CO2 output).

What do you want to DO about it?

If we had imposed a carbon tax the day after Al Gore's Power Point presentation came out, do you think ANYONE would have suggested a big enough tax to equal $100/barrel oil? If the purpose of the tax is to raise the price enough to lower demand, how much is enough? Or is the point to funnel money to the technocrats in the government who know, much better than we do, what's good for us? In which case, there is no such thing as "enough".

Richard's point stands: The US rejected, and demonized, the Kyoto treaty but, nonetheless, has done better a meeting it's goals than any of the signatories. What makes paper important (to you)?

The "bright boys" are, due to the $100/barrel price of oil and various (good or bad) government incentives, already coming up with some wonderful alternatives: Nanotube capacitors, cool new Lithium battery tech, better solar tech, solar farms, wind power projects, a new generation of nuclear power, ethanol, flex-fuel vehicles, etc... What more do you want?

Jim Harris wrote:

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Global Warming is bad (the Canadians like their new vinyards) and all the US's fault (China has exceeded our CO2 output).

Global warming is bad even if the Canadians do like it. Yes, China has surpassed the US in CO2 emissions because they are tired of using 1/10 as much coal as we do per person, they would rather use 1/4 as much per person. But yes, it's now a problem for both the US and China to solve.

If we had imposed a carbon tax the day after Al Gore's Power Point presentation came out, do you think ANYONE would have suggested a big enough tax to equal $100/barrel oil?

We could easily afford a greenhouse tax that prices coal out of the electricity market, even if it wouldn't have all that big of an effect on oil. It would probably lead to a lot more nuclear power, a copious number of wind turbines, and better building insulation. Maybe also some solar thermal plants. Coal is a bigger part of the problem than oil anyway.

I mean, there are bright boys and there are bright boys. The truly smart ones would roll out these tried-and-true solutions on a large scale. Then there are the not-so-bright boys who are basically government-subsidized wankers. They are off with their lab coats playing with lithium batteries or hydrogenated organ pipes or whatever. They aren't a solution to the problem.

Jim Harris wrote:

Richard's point stands: The US rejected, and demonized, the Kyoto treaty but, nonetheless, has done better a meeting it's goals than any of the signatories.

Sorry, I missed this. Only part of this point stands. Kyoto has been ineffectual, partly because the US undermined it, but certainly not because the US did a better job than any of the signatories. That is just not true. Germany, for instance, cut its emissions from 2/3 as much per person as the US, to less than 1/2 as much per person. That is from 1990 to 2004.

What is true is that the US did not fall off the wagon as badly as some signatories did. It's also just generally true that there has been a depressing lack of progress. Humanity is shoveling the coal as fast as ever.

mrsizer wrote:

Jim, thanks for engaging. Three points:

1) I think the "depressing" part of "lack of progress" is an expectations management problem. We've spent decades, if not centuries, getting ourselves into this position; how quickly do you expect it to change?

2) How much of the coal problem (in the US) is due to environmentalists' opposition to nuclear power? Fission is the only currently feasible solution that works. (I assume you know this, being a commenter here, but nonetheless...) There is no way to store electricity; it must be generated to meet demand. Wind and solar cannot satisfy that criterion. They are useful for offsetting load, but they simply cannot replace reliably ramp-up-able/ramp-down-able sources.

3) This statement, "Then there are the not-so-bright boys who are basically government-subsidized wankers" juxtaposes nicely with this one "What's weird is the conviction that climate scientists and international treaties can't be part of that miracle, we have to trust industry to pull it off by itself. It would have been nice if they had thought that industry can solve all of the Middle East's problems too, then we wouldn't have had the Iraq War."

So, the government is subsidizing wankers and is the source of Middle East problems (arguably true) but industry cannot handle it, either. I ask again, what do you propose?

I cannot resist one spiteful comment (we have irreconcilable views, so I don't feel too bad):
"In the case of global warming, that will mean living without South Florida." and "Haphazard terraforming really isn't very good for the planet. Witness the Dust Bowl."

This is where global warming folk (and environmentalists in general) overreach: The Dust Bowl and no effect on the planet whatsoever. It sucked for the people involved, but the planet was fine. The loss of Florida doesn't matter planet-wise (it's just a recent giant sandbar, let it sink back into the sea). Focus your arguments on the human issues and you will receive more buy-in from the skeptical. The earth has been almost entombed in ice before, from a planetary perspective, perhaps it is happy to have this tropical interlude.

Jim Harris wrote:

We've spent decades, if not centuries, getting ourselves into this position; how quickly do you expect it to change?

You know, if you have been overeating for many years, you might correctly argue that it will take time to adopt a healthy diet. But that does not mean that fate will give you an A for effort or let you plead ignorance; you might still bring on diabetes.

How much of the coal problem (in the US) is due to environmentalists' opposition to nuclear power?

Too much of it. But in the past 7 years, the Republicans made no effort to bring back nuclear power. Instead, they just mention nuclear power as an excuse to throw up their hands and declare that there is no way to make the greenies happy. That response might be fine as a blog post, but it is pretty crappy as a national policy.

There is no way to store electricity; it must be generated to meet demand.

That is an oversimplification. People have built in-and-out water reservoirs that can in effect store electricity in the form of gravity energy. Besides, the wind always blows somewhere, so you can at least reduce the problem with a more developed electrical grid.

So, the government is subsidizing wankers and is the source of Middle East problems (arguably true) but industry cannot handle it, either. I ask again, what do you propose?

I propose not to elect government leaders who have no faith in government. Hokey programs such as the "hydrogen economy" are a win-win for anti-government types. They are, first off, an industry subsidy. If they work, then you have found a miracle cure to make global warming go away. If they don't work, then that's fine too, because it proves that government doesn't work.

There will probably always be some earmarks for hokey energy research, I don't see how we can get rid of that entirely. But we could still shift some of the income tax to a greenhouse tax. Even if the tax is only about 50 cents a gallon for gasoline, it would still be high enough to price coal out of production in the long term. The Swedes have gone in that direction. They make about 1/3 as much carbon dioxide per person as Americans.

It sucked for the people involved

But that's exactly the point. The Earth will do fine as big lump of rock no matter what we do to the atmosphere. It will still orbit the sun for a long time. The question is whether it will suck to live here. I agree that the loss of Florida doesn't matter planet-wise, but it does matter if you live in Florida.

Fletcher Christian wrote:

Jim:

Actually, the loss of Florida would be beneficial for the planet, as long as its inhabitants and their monstrous overuse of fossil energy went with it.

The real problem is that neither the mainstream nor the extreme Greens have any real interest in solving the problems. (Incidentally, another problem linked to this whole subject is Peak Oil - most sources I can find agree that we are already on the downward slop of that curve.)

The mainstream just wants Business as Usual. The research that is being done is being done in directions that aren't going to produce any results for half a century or more. Probably because they are the ones that involve large, centralised installations. An example is tokamak fusion, which is not only half a century away as it has been for half a century, but if it ever does work is going to produce just as much if not more radioactive waste as does fission.

On the Green side, we have wind power as an example, and perhaps ground-based solar; rotten power density and huge maintenance and installation costs, coupled with unreliability.

What do we do, then? There is a long list of stuff that could be done. Wave power - current spending approximately zero. Ocean thermal - ditto, plus we know it works as the pilot plant was built in 1930! Thermal depolymerisation and cellulosic biomass, plus garbage incineration - ditto. Geothermal. SPS (many other benefits as well as power). And last to start but possibly first across the line - Polywell fusion. DITTO. One of the world's most respected physicists thinks that might work. OK, maybe he's wrong. It's going to cost about $200 million to find out. About 60 cents for every American. Just a little less than the $650 billion spent so far, the most recent time, on protecting just one of the currently conventional sources.

Once there is a source of clean power, then making liquid fuel with it is fairly trivial. Of course, it would make a mess of Exxon's share price. And that last is an example of why nothing effective is being done.

Anonymous wrote:

> That is like asking for evidence that there isn't an ozone hole, or that the sun isn't much larger than the earth, or that humans and chimpanzees don't have a common ancestor.

Let's try again since Harris clearly doesn't understand science, particularly falsification.

We believe that the sun is larger than the earth because of the values of certain measurements. If those values had been different, we'd believe something else.

The question is whether there are measurements where certain values would change Harris' beliefs about GW and/or mankind's role. The question is NOT whether those measurements come up with those values, it's merely whether there's any possible evidence that would change his mind.

If there isn't, Harris' belief isn't science, it is religious.

Note that reciting measurements and values that support his belief is NOT an answer to the question. We already know that Harris accepts measurements and values that support his belief and rejects those that don't.

Jim Harris wrote:

We believe that the sun is larger than the earth because of the values of certain measurements. If those values had been different, we'd believe something else.

Fine, then. If a lot of measurements that we have already taken had been different, then there would have been no reason to believe that the Earth is warming. It's the same principle.

There are, by the way, plenty of strange measurements that don't make the sun look bigger than the Earth. When you look at the sky, the sun looks about the same size as the moon. For a long time, most people thought that both the sun and the moon were fairly small --- that was the way it looked. Of course, today, we reject measurements that don't support our belief that the sun is much bigger than the Earth. We reject them for a good reason: Those contrary measurements don't hang together, while the measurements that show that the sun is huge do hang together.

rjschwarz wrote:

When those who believe in Man Made Global warming start debating rather than trying to cut off debate, when they stop acting as if its a religion and skeptics are heretics rather than science, when they listen to options (wind power, nuclear power) that can prevent it without crippling the economies of the West we might start to have an honest debate.

As it is the Man Made Global Warming consortium seems hell bent simply on screwing up economies and bad mouthing anyone that doesn't believe. That's hardly going to convince people and in fact makes people wonder if the man made global warming arguments are all that sturdy to being with.

Jim C. wrote:

Obviously, all those melting glaciers and other ice formations have cooled the oceans.

/sarcasm

Fletcher Christian wrote:

rjschwarz:

Hear, hear! The real problem in this "debate" is that one whole side of it has been hijacked by those who don't like technology at all, and think we all ought to go back to the Middle Ages, and don't realise that going that far back would kill three-quarters of the human race. (Or maybe they do realise that, and think it's OK because humans are evil.)

Nuclear power doesn't have to be dangerous; there are early designs (early as in needing detail work but the principles are known) that are intrinsically safe, as in not melting down if cooling fails or some such. As for radioactive waste, how about dropping the stuff into a subduction zone and forgetting about it for the next half-billion years or so?

I'll set out what I think, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Crash programme for nuclear power, using pebble-bed or some such safe design. That buys time. During which all the alternatives I put forward in my last post get worked on. Some of them can be built just about immediately (depolymerisation and ocean thermal, for example) and some need more work.

The approach that has most promise, in my humble opinion, is SPS. Not because it's the best for the short-term provision of power - it isn't. But because eventually it, because of the space industry and development needed to make it work, allows the human race to grow to a literally astronomical extent, with enough materials for a quadrillion to live in comfort and potentially FOUR HUNDRED TRILLION TERAWATTS of available power. And, if you are a Green and believe that there are too many people on Earth, fine. I happen to agree with that idea. Too many people ON EARTH.

The Green lobby doesn't think anything like enough about the implications of those last two words.

Jim Harris wrote:

As it is the Man Made Global Warming consortium seems hell bent simply on screwing up economies and bad mouthing anyone that doesn't believe.

There is a great flaw in this logic, because whatever the "consortium" is or is not hell-bent on doing, the fact is that we have thickened the planet's blanket of carbon dioxide insulation. This unintended terraforming is real and significant.

So your comment is like saying, "I'm not going to listen to my spouse and doctor who say that I have diabetes, because they are just hell-bent on making me miserable and bad-mouthing anyone who doesn't agree with them." Even if you are totally right about your spouse's and doctor's attitude, you might actually have diabetes. It could even be worse than they say it is.

Andy Freeman wrote:

> we have thickened the planet's blanket of carbon dioxide insulation.

Perhaps Mr. Harris will tell us what the temperature was the last time the CO2 percentage was significantly higher than it is now.

After all, we do know that the CO2 percentage has been 5x higher.

Andy Freeman wrote:

It appears that there aren't any measurements that would change Harris' mind.

He claims that his position comes from measurements.

I wonder what he'd say if newer values of some of those measurements didn't support his position.

We've already seen some of this when an error was found in the way that US measurements were crunched. The initial version of that crunching suggested that warming had occurred, so clearly it was important evidence. When an error was found and those same measurements were found to not support warming, they became irrelevant.

Andy Freeman wrote:

It appears that there aren't any measurements that would change Harris' mind.

He claims that his position comes from measurements.

I wonder what he'd say if newer values of some of those measurements didn't support his position.

We've already seen some of this when an error was found in the way that US measurements were crunched. The initial version of that crunching suggested that warming had occurred, so clearly it was important evidence. When an error was found and those same measurements were found to not support warming, they became irrelevant.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on March 19, 2008 8:34 PM.

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