Democrats & Liberals Archives

The World Gathers in Le Bourget

Today marks the beginning of COP21, the 21st annual Conference of the Parties on Climate Change. Personally, I am not terribly optimistic about these types of meetings. Politicization easily intrudes, which prevents meaningful action. I am not the only one concerned with the direction negotiations seem to be taking.

But enough with the silly charade going on in Paris. In this country, a far more unsettling example of politicization is playing out right now. First, let me provide some context:

A big topic in the climate science community recently has been the so-called global warming "hiatus" or "pause". The name is a bit of a misnomer as the Earth has never stopped warming. However, the rate of warming has slowed down a bit and in a manner that was not anticipated by most General Circulation Models (GCMs).

Many people concluded that GCMs were not properly simulating certain aspects of the climate system. Of course, to say that GCMs do not perfectly simulate the Earth System is akin to saying the sky is blue. There are enormous limitations to modeling the atmosphere, namely the imperfect parameterization of subgridscale processess, the coarse resolution and heterogeneities in the spatial extent of observations. Also, one of the most difficult aspects of a GCM is its coupling mechanism between different domains of the Earth System. For instance, a model might perfectly simulate the atmosphere provided one supplies accurate sea surface temperatures (SST) from an external source, but completely collapse when it predicts its own SST. On the other hand, the very same model might perfectly predict SST when supplied with a key atmospheric variable, such as sea level pressure (SLP) from an external source. Evidently, the simulations of atmosphere and ocean are quite good, but the coupling between the two is inferior.

Let us return to the so-called "hiatus" in global warming. Curiously, the reduction in the rate of warming began in 1997-1998, which was the strongest ENSO event in recorded history, exceeding even the infamous "El Niño of the century", which occurred in 1982-1983. Since then, ENSO has been relatively tame, just like it was in the 1970s, the last time the rate of global warming decreased. Notably, the period of the greatest global warming, between 1980 and 2000, featured the most intense ENSO and most frequent events ever recorded. Many in the climate science community speculate that there is a connection between global warming and ENSO.

An easy hypothesis to make is to claim that much of the heat produced by radiative forcing form greenhouse gases (GSGs) is absorbed by the oceans and sequestered deep in the abyss so that the heat is unable to warm the atmosphere, which prevents the full extent of global warming from being observed. In an El Niño event, much of these heat gets released back into the atmosphere, which is why years with strong El Niños are always much warmer than average.

It's a cute hypothesis, that much of the heat produced by global warming in the past 17 yeas has been sequestered in the deep ocean. However, last June, I encountered a paper in the prestigious journal, Science. The author, Thomas Karl, serves as the director of NOAA's National Climate Data Center. Apparently, flawed calibration of sea-based thermometers have artificially decreased the reported global mean temperature in recent years. Karl's result has been confirmed by others. Indeed, such replicability is the mainstay of sound science.

Now, the ramifications of Karl's study have not yet panned out. Regardless, the GOP has seized the opportunity to intrude into the objective process of scientific inquiry. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science Committee has sent letters to NOAA and the Department of Commerce, demanding the surrender of a plethora of internal communications. None save the most recent letter mention any justification for the intrusion as there is neither allegation nor evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Karl or his colleagues. Without a doubt, this is bullying is retribution for failing to tote the politically correct narrative established by the IPCC's 5th assessment report. Karl and the rest of NOAA tried their best to satisfy Lamar Smith's insatiable appetite for climate data. But when all the data used in the paper is already easily available on the internet, what else can one do?

Ultimately, the most recent letter, which threatens a subpoena, reveals Smith's allegation. Apparently, he is concerned the publication process for the paper was "rushed". He bases this upon concerns raised by "whistle-blowers" in May/June 2015. The actual claims of those "whistle-blowers" have not been released, so they cannot be evaluated. Still, it is odd that concerns were raised in May/June 2015 regarding a paper that was submitted for publication in December 2014. Not to mention that the Extended Reconstructed Sea Surface Temperature (ERSST) used by Karl was completed in December 2013. Usually, 1.5 years is too long to "rush" something like this, but who knows? The public is not privy to what these "whistle-blowers" have told Lamar Smith.

Fortunately, Democratic Ranking Member Eddie Johnson has written a letter with a scathing critique of Lamar Smith and his methods.

Ultimately, I find it very troubling that Congress feels the need to interfere with scientists' work because it doesn't fit their political ideology. For many decades, this nation has led the world in areas of scientific research, often because of the extraordinary freedom granted to scientists in order to maintain the integrity of their results in conclusions. Disrupting that process will only serve to tarnish a discipline that works hard to maintain its excellent ethical standards.

For more information, check out David Robert's excellently written articles on Vox.

Posted by Warren Porter at November 30, 2015 10:57 AM
Comments
Comment #400992

Be not afraid.

Not much will come from this summit. The leaders will make big speeches that will resonate maybe a minute after they are done. Obama will confess our guilt and promise what he cannot deliver and does not understand. Europeans will earnestly try to explain why they do not embrace fracking, which would relieve some of the urgent problem and why they will reduce or give up carbon free nuclear power.

But the non-political actors will meet and they will exchange ideas. Already, renewable energy makes up more than half of all the NEW capacity being installed. Dirtier coal is being replaced by less dirty gas. We are learning how to sequester carbon in soils and may soon be able to made concrete that absorbs carbon. Today cement manufacture is responsible for 20% of CO2 emission. If we make that a negative 20% consider how good.

The earth will be warmer 100 years from now. But we will have access to techniques and technologies that will help us cope. In the rich world, fewer people die of weather related events, fires or earthquakes despite the fact that there are lots more people at risk.

I think we easily underestimate human capacity to overcome. Consider Las Vegas. Lots of fountains and golf courses. It uses much less water than it did 20 years ago despite much larger population.

We have made remarkable strides in the last decades. Forests and wildlife are healthier now than they were in 1970. We use energy much more efficiently. Acid rain is a manageable problem. The population bomb did not explode and will not. Large areas of South America that were “unusable” are now productive. Our Brazilian friends can sustainably raise four cows on a hectare. It used to take two hectares to feed one cow and it degraded the pasture. Africa is next.

In 2115, people will look at our technology and concerns like we look at those of 1915. They will be adapting to changes and learning to live with sustainable novel ecosystems.

The future is bright, no thanks to the UN conferences, but it will keep those guys busy.

Posted by: C&J at December 1, 2015 12:05 AM
Comment #400993

We can overcome these challenges, but as long as we continue to subsidize the price of fossil fuels, we won’t make any progress.

Posted by: Warren Porter at December 1, 2015 7:55 AM
Comment #401009

The 21st annual Conference of the Parties on Climate Change is a great stage upon which politicians strut and posture.

Global climate will continue to be barely influenced by the activities of mankind. Grand schemes to spend money to affect climate will be proposed. Promises will be made and broken. The American president will continue his efforts to terrorize citizens with talk of climate catastrophe while real world crisis of war and peace go unresolved.

Those in opposition to the Global Warming Clique will be demonized as uncaring dolts. My liberal friends will all wears ribbons of some color or other to denote their superior intellect, compassion and effort.

The world will survive this latest craziness and come to realize that we are rapidly solving real problems with real solutions without the heavy hand of government intervention. Scientific graft and corruption in the field of global climate will diminish as the MMGW flummery is revealed.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 1, 2015 4:00 PM
Comment #401014

A friend’s daughter is in Paris for COP21. She has been busy filming a documentary in South America and Africa detailing some of the problems caused by climate change. I hope to see it released soon. She was very disheartened by the reports of unruly protests in Paris, when the real story was thousands and thousands of people linked arm and arm in the streets of Paris using peaceful means to attempt to bring attention to this matter that she was personally involved in. No mention of that but tear gas and unruly protesters is the click bait that news reporting looks to promote.

Speaking of climate change RF, what is your take on how this may affect Texas?

Posted by: Speak4all at December 1, 2015 4:48 PM
Comment #401016

I find this in a link contained your link…”Come Heat and High Water: Climate Risk in the Southeastern U.S.”


“Our research combines state-of-the-art climate science projections through the year 2100 (and beyond in some cases) with empirically derived estimates of the impact of projected changes in temperature and precipitation on the Southeastern and Texan economies. We analyze not only those outcomes most likely to occur, but also lower-probability, higher-cost climate futures.”

Speak, do you actually believe anyone can predict climate that far in the future when all attempts have failed so far in modeling for near term climate change?

The article is based upon a series of maybe’s. If this happens then this happens then this happens etc. The key word is “IF”. May I remind you that the word “IF”, as a scientific term, is hardly reliable.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 1, 2015 5:14 PM
Comment #401028

I am not advocating climate change but I have seen a few studies that show that southern pine forests will significantly benefit from anticipated warming plus increased CO2 in the air.

Posted by: C&J at December 1, 2015 6:50 PM
Comment #401033

I would put little stock in any attempt to predict regional climate. Especially with regards to precipitation.

Posted by: Warren Porter at December 1, 2015 7:41 PM
Comment #401049

What I believe is inconsequential, I am far removed from Texas. I was more interested in your opinion of the possible outcomes of climate change in your locality and the postulations of a group of conservative thinkers. From the article:

“an eclectic coalition led by former banker and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr., former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire hedge fund manager-turned-environmentalist Tom Steyer. The men co-chair a bipartisan 20-member governing committee made up mostly of former presidential Cabinet members – including President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state – who agree that climate change is occurring and that it will have negative economic consequences, but have consciously avoided the debate over whether human activity is causing it — or how to respond.”

For my part in this discussion of climate change, I have always held the opinion that in order to function and thrive our country as a whole needs to be good stewards of our land and environment. The discussion of how humans impact this stewardship is and will be the only possible control that can be exerted. The rest of the world is again not my concern.

You seem to hold the opinion that there are to many unknown variables to be able to predict the human impact. Would you agree though that paramount in this discussion should be the idea that we need to be good stewards?

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 9:32 AM
Comment #401050

What I believe is inconsequential, I am far removed from Texas. I was more interested in your opinion of the possible outcomes of climate change in your locality and the postulations of a group of more or less conservative businessman and politicians.

For my part in this discussion of climate change, I have always held the opinion that in order to function and thrive our country as a whole needs to be good stewards of our land and environment. The discussion of how humans impact this stewardship is and will be the only possible control that can be exerted. The rest of the world is again not my concern.

You seem to hold the opinion that there are to many unknown variables to be able to predict the human impact. Would you agree though that paramount in this discussion should the idea that we need to be good stewards?

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 9:39 AM
Comment #401051

Sorry for the double post. It was refused at first so I removed the long paragraph quote to attempt to mollify the submission.

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 9:42 AM
Comment #401058

Would you agree though that paramount in this discussion should be the idea that we need to be good stewards?
Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 9:32 AM

Speak, I also believe that climate changes as the evidence is everywhere and apparent. Growing up in Wisconsin I am aware of the glaciers that carved out our many lakes.

Good stewardship of our planet is desirable and possible. And, stewardship must be tempered to accommodate mankind. We can not practice one at the exclusion of the other.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 2, 2015 12:15 PM
Comment #401066

Good, we agree that good stewardship of our planet is desirable. Does good stewardship include the use of our powers of observation to determine if our actions are influencing the land or the environment in a negative way?

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 2:30 PM
Comment #401070

Smells like a setup question Speak. I’ll play.

Describe the observation. Describe the observers qualification to discern consequences of the observation.

Does Speak agree that good stewardship must be tempered to accommodate mankind.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 2, 2015 2:50 PM
Comment #401072

Yes good stewardship must be tempered to accommodate mankind as long as the accommodations made do not impart catastrophic endangerment to the land or environment(in which case it would be detrimental to mankind).

I would submit that the observation and the observers qualification to discern the observation are determined by the outcomes required. That is to say that if an abundance of caution regarding the observations and the accommodations to mankind is used rather than an abundance of caution regarding the impact on our land and environment is used then the resulting observations could be vastly different and might even be in conflict with each other. Could you agree with that?

Not a setup question, just an attempt at an honest discussion of how to approach climate change.

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 3:04 PM
Comment #401073

Speak, I am a really intelligent guy; like you. I know you can frame the question in a manner more easily understood. Thanks

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 2, 2015 3:08 PM
Comment #401075

I guess my point might be that if observations are made without concern for fossil fuel profits, then those might be different than observations made when the concern is focused on the maintaining profits from fossil fuel. Can we agree on that? Again not trying to trick or use subterfuge, just trying to help determine parameters of discussion.

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 3:27 PM
Comment #401076

“The World Resources Institute, a non-partisan environmental policy group, released a report in January calling for an end to biofuel production. Its argument is that we can no longer spare agricultural land for fuel crops that don’t produce enough energy to justify the investment. Government subsidies aimed at propping up the ethanol industry to make it competitive with gasoline cost more than $20 billion, mostly in the form of federal tax cuts.”

http://scienceline.org/2015/03/we-need-food-not-ethanol/

What is Speaks opinion about good stewardship on this issue?

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 2, 2015 3:29 PM
Comment #401077

I would use your words. “Describe the observation. Describe the observers qualification to discern consequences of the observation.”

Differing observations can obtain differing results if the outcome is predetermined. Can’t they?

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 3:39 PM
Comment #401079

OK Speak, you really don’t want a discussion as I correctly anticipated.

The observation: Corn makes more sense as food rather than fuel.

Qualification of observer: World Resources Institute.

Most readers could have determined both Speaks. I am surprised you couldn’t.


Posted by: Royal Flush at December 2, 2015 3:58 PM
Comment #401080

And I am equally surprised that your assumptions are that this observation fits your outcome so readily. Not really, but just wanted to prove that I want a discussion rather than an assertion of your observational truthiness.

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 4:01 PM
Comment #401081

“I guess my point might be that if observations are made without concern for fossil fuel profits, then those might be different than observations made when the concern is focused on the maintaining profits from fossil fuel.”

OK Speak…I’ll bite. What is the observation?

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 2, 2015 4:03 PM
Comment #401082

OK Speak…I gave an observation and you gave none.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 2, 2015 4:04 PM
Comment #401084

My contention would be that you and people who seek to deny any human impact on climate change do so with the knowledge that 99% of scientists make the observation that human impact does affect climate change only because they get grant money and other stipends from a government or governments that seek to exert more of it’s influence and control over a commodity market and people that make the observation that the 1% of scientists that are not convinced that there is any human impact on climate change do so to benefit the fossil fuel profits. This is the impasse.

“Corn makes more sense as food rather than fuel” could be a true statement. But the use and production of ethanol from corn based products isn’t the only source of bio-fuels, is it? That it might not be the most economical is part of the discussion, but it is not the only part.

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 4:30 PM
Comment #401085

Sorry Speak, your “contention” is full of holes.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 2, 2015 4:35 PM
Comment #401087

Sorry RF, you don’t seem to want to discuss but would rather just deny any contention I make.

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 4:36 PM
Comment #401088

Speak, it’s your game, not mine.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 2, 2015 4:42 PM
Comment #401090

I guess it could be considered all of our game who wish to peruse our pearls of wisdom.

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 4:45 PM
Comment #401091

I must say that this most recent discussion has not devolved into the tedium of gotcha questions and answers and insults that they normally devolve into. Thanks.

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 4:48 PM
Comment #401092

Keep it up Speaks…thanks.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 2, 2015 4:58 PM
Comment #401094

If only there were an impartial and unfunded group that we could turn to in order to resolve this impasse. Perhaps the author of this posting has some idea of how or when that could be established. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Speak4all at December 2, 2015 5:05 PM
Comment #401097

RF,

Thank you for sharing the link regarding corn-based ethanol. Definitely an example of mismanagement of natural resources. Unlike Brazilian sugar, American corn does not make sense as an energy source. Unfortunately, subsidies meant to entire Iowa caucus-goers persist and actual solutions to the global warming issue, such as a carbon tax, remain unimplemented.

Describe the observation. Describe the observers qualification to discern consequences of the observation.

Here’s an observation, in the absence of an atmosphere, Earth’s temperature would be 255 Kelvin, or roughly 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Do you agree?

Posted by: Warren Porter at December 2, 2015 5:39 PM
Comment #401098

Warren, my degree is in Natural Resource Management and Forestry. I agree that 255K is nearly 0F.

Given enough time the earth, without an atmosphere, would resemble our moon.

Posted by: Royal Flush at December 2, 2015 6:05 PM
Comment #401104

Excellent. I don’t know if you were able to follow the algebra in my link. This simple model shows us that processes in the Earth’s atmosphere are responsible for increasing the surface temperature by 33K because the observed average surface temperature is not 255K, but 288K instead. Applying the same model to the moon yields an Black-body temperature of 270 Kelvin, which is a bit higher than Earth’s 250 Kelvin due to the lower Lunar albedo.

Posted by: Warren Porter at December 2, 2015 7:46 PM
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