On the blindness of moral crusades

The debate is over, we are told. All the evidence is in: Our machines, our industry, our capitalist system is making the world hotter and if we do not repent the effect will be irreversible.

But how do we know this is true? What’s the evidence? ‘Why, our models predict it. Do you doubt the models, unbeliever?’

The good news is that those-who-know-better-than-us have a plan. They are willing to save us from our sins and keep the planet from being made utterly lifeless and void, but it won't happen until, "we regain our moral authority."

Gore urges moral crusade against global warming

OAKLAND — Al Gore brought corporate executives and environmentally minded investors roaring to their feet Thursday with multimedia images of an overheating planet and a call for Americans to reclaim their "moral authority" by tackling global warming.

"This is really not a political issue, it is disguised as a political issue," Gore said. "It is a moral issue, it is an ethical issue — If we allow this to happen, we will destroy the habitability of the planet."

So do we rely on Facts or Faith? Is this an issue where we need to act first and then get the facts straight or should we get the facts first and then decide what action is necessary? Because no one has convinced me the planet is in danger yet. Much less proven that global warming is all our doing. What we have is proof by propaganda. Where scientists suggest and then the journalists and activists preach the end of the earth unless we repent.

"Climate change: Only 10 years to act"

NEW figures show urgent action must be taken to avoid climate change becoming unstoppable within ten years, a leading environmentalist warned yesterday.

..."Once levels cross a certain threshold, climate change may become unstoppable and lead to catastrophic impacts on the environment and on the economy." scotsman.com

----
Sir David King issued a stark wake-up call that climate change could cause devastating consequences such as famine and drought for hundreds of millions of people unless the world's politicians take more urgent action. news.independent.co.uk

Is this science or Religion? Science is supposed to dwell in the realm of the quantifiable and reproducable in order to explain natural phenomenon. But with the Global Warming agenda we are treated to a situation where climatologists, environmentalists, journalists, and activists have crossed the line from science to hyperbolic religious crusade.

"We have been blind to the fact that the human species is now having a crushing impact on the ecological system of the planet," Gore said. After Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005, federal hurricane scientists used the Greek alphabet in naming tropical storms.

"This is the first foretaste of a cup that will be offered to us again and again and again until we regain our moral authority," Gore told members of Ceres, an organization of companies, investors and environmentalists pressing for greener behavior by corporations. insidebayarea.com

The wrath of the climate gods? Yeah, verily, I say unto you, unless you turn away from the Republican blasphemers the environment will continue to pour out it's wrath on itself...

A MAN named Noah is predicting floods across the US. But Noah Diffenbaugh is no biblical prophet. He is a climate scientist at Purdue University, Indiana, and his computer model of the continental US is predicting at least a doubling of extremes of both rain and drought across the US by the end of this century. newscientist.com

What we don't know

Are you sure global warming is caused by industrial society?

Everyone knows trees are "A Good Thing". They take in the carbon dioxide that threatens our planet with global warming and turn it into fresh, clean oxygen for us all to breathe.

But now it seems we need to think again. In a discovery that has left climate scientists gasping, researchers have found that the earth's vegetation is churning out vast quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent even than CO2. This is not a product of trees and plants rotting, which everyone already knew was a source of methane; it is an entirely natural side-effect of plant growth that scientists had somehow missed. Yet it is by no means trivial: preliminary estimates suggest that living trees and plants account for about 10 to 30 per cent of the methane entering the atmosphere. ft.com

We apparently need to cut down more trees to fix this problem... and maybe get rid of some dirt.

Unexpectedly vast quantities of carbon released from British soils since 1978 may be critically reducing their effectiveness as carbon sinks, claims a rigorous new survey. The phenomenon effectively cancels out the UK's recent successes in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the finding could have wider global implications.

It suggests that so-called terrestrial sinks across the planet are mopping up much less carbon than predicted, on balance, and so the planet may warm at an even faster rate than expected. Most climate models assume that forests and soils absorb about 25% of the greenhouse gases humans produce. newscientist.com

Is there any reason at all to doubt the accuracy of assumptions of the climate models? Any reason at all?

CLIMATE predictions for many regions of the world may have to be rethought, following the discovery that global warming may have a bigger effect on air pressure than anyone thought. newscientist.com

The climate models do not even purport to be fully accurate models of the physical processes of climate. We simply don't have all the information we need to model all the physical properties of the world's climate because we do not know all the variables of the world's climate. We are still learning.

We are only now, in the last few years, actually monitoring global temperatures in any comprehensive and standardized way. Any insistence on comparing current temperature readings from the last decade and comparing them to reconstructed average temperatures is quite frankly either dishonest or delusional.

Through a glass darkly

In other words, when you are looking at averages of temperatures which measure periods of possibly three hundred years, extrapolated from tree ring data, sediment, or ice cores and comparing them to modern thermometer readings from the last few years, you are comparing apples and oranges.

Consider this graph: Holocene Temperature Variations. These are temperature reconstructions made from ice core samples, undersea sediment samples, and pollen distributions going back 12,000 years.

How accurate are these reconstructed temperatures? Do we know exactly how climate change works and has worked for the last several thousand years? Is it possible to proclaim on the basis of this data that we are in the warmest period of the last thousand years?

Because of the limitations of data sampling, each curve in the main plot was smoothed (see methods below) and consequently, this figure can not resolve temperature fluctuations faster than approximately 300 years. Further, while 2004 appears warmer than any other time in the long-term average, an observation that might be a sign of global warming, it should also be noted that the 2004 measurement is from a single year (actually the fifth highest on record, see Image:Short Instrumental Temperature Record.png for comparison). It is impossible to know whether similarly large short-term temperature fluctuations may have occurred at other times, but are unresolved by the resolution available in this figure. The next 150 years will determine whether the long-term average centered on the present appears anomalous with respect to this plot. wikipedia, Holocene Temperature Variations, paragraph 3

The data is interesting, even fascinating, but not conclusive in any way to be able to say that humanity is causing a runaway greenhouse effect.

Occam's razor

"...when you have two competing theories which make exactly the same predictions, the one that is simpler is the better."

If climate change has been happening throughout history naturally, without the input of man, is it not likely that present day climate change is... dare I say... natural?

We know that climate change is natural. This is an established fact, because even the data presented as proof of wholly human induced global warming shows climate change when there are no people alive and no industrial age to blame it on.

What this data shows are patterns. The pattern of our climate is an oscillation of warm and cold. With smaller oscillations of warm and cold within the broader strokes of climate change.

So too, we see patterns in the religion of doomsday forcasting. I started this post with an article entitled, "Climate change: Only 10 years to act", because it matches perfectly with this Newsweek article from 1975 with a similiar predeliction:

April 28, 1975 Newsweek

There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. [Emphasis mine.]

This is practically the same article. Perhaps only ten years from now... The next quote is tellingly, 'the evidence is so massive', i.e. that global cooling is going to result in famines and catastrophic disaster...


The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it...

To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world's weather. The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth's climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale, warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.
The Cooling World, Newsweek 1975

Keep your consensus, and your 'moral crusade', I want facts.

Posted by Eric Simonson at April 19, 2006 3:44 AM
Comments
Comment #141631

Poor Eric Simonson, he wants facts…

Maybe he should go to the North Pole and watch the Polar Bears die…

Maybe he should go to Africa and watch people die instead…

Maybe he should just go to New Orleans as the next Category 5 Hurricane hits it…

Maybe he should go to Antartica and walk on thousand year old glaciers that are paper-thin now…

Better yet, maybe he should read properly published scientific articles that were vetted by its pears…

But I forgot, Eric still believes smoking is harmless to humans. After all, the Tabacco Industry released all those nifty studies proving smoking is safe…

Keep smoking, Eric!!! 3 Sticks a day will grow hair on your chest!!!


P.S. Does this mean you believe the Earth is 6,000 years old?

Posted by: Aldous at April 19, 2006 4:54 AM
Comment #141632

When you have a fever, red spots and ulcers, and flu like systems, how do you know what ails you? You go to a doctor, who makes an educated guess based on the systems. Will the Dr. sign a letter of guarantee that the diagnosis will be 100% correct? Try it. The answer is NO! He/She won’t. Why? Because diagnosis is a matter of probability. Many illnesses share those symptoms, and combined with a history of the onset, locations and travels and exposures, immunology record, etc. the Dr. will years of education and experience will give you a best guess diagnosis.

That is also true of climatology, and the great majority of experts in the field agree on two things. We are experiencing global warming, AND certain man made activities can and likely will exacerbate the problem, though how much, is not yet known. Their recommendation is to err on the side of caution and don’t hasten the process unnecessarily.

That is the best advice that can be given, and our politicians and the nations of the world would be prudent and wise to heed it. Failing that, they risk making the problem worse, sooner, than later.

Now Eric appears to imply that we should not sacrifice now, in order to try to protect tomorrow. For him it would appear, a dollar in the hand is worth risking far greater human and financial losses later. Of course, that is true of the entire Republican government which is selling out our future through debt and deficits as if there were no tomorrow.

But of course, the majority of the public no longer believes the Republicans know what they are doing. So, perhaps, we should listen to the majority of the scientists who advise against risking making the problem worse to the extent that we can avoid it.

Posted by: David R. Remer at April 19, 2006 5:05 AM
Comment #141638

Eric,

Keep your consensus, and your ‘moral crusade’, I want facts.

I want a future for my kids.

I failed to see how becoming in the next years more environment aware and less energy angry is a bad idea. Except for “pure” capitalism, indeed.

PS: at what temperature dollars start to burn spontaneously, already?

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at April 19, 2006 6:23 AM
Comment #141643

Eric-
I think you’ll rue the day you stepped into my territory on this one.

First and foremost, it isn’t the capitalist system doing this, it’s the greenhouse gases, which our cars and our our industries have been putting out vast quantities of. The quantity of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere has reached levels not seen in hundreds of thousands of years. Carbon Dioxide has been known to be a greenhouse gas since the 1700s, and in the 1970s we came to understand that the reason behind our Sister Planet’s hellish temperatures was in part its high concentration of CO2.

The rise in Atmospheric CO2 could be traced to any number of sources, but ours seems to be what you could call the odd polluter out. There are other CO2 sources, of course, but has anybody published research correlating the unprecedent jump in those levels to another source?

And yes, even our little contribution can be problematic. It’s like a bank account. If you put more into it than you take out of it, even if you don’t put a lot more in, it will begin to accumulate. One thing for sure, we have been persistent generators of CO2.

You focus on the personalities of these people, making an ad hominem argument. You’re trying to make this all about political hyperbole, but the science is solid. Of course some fools and demagogues are going to jump on the bandwagon. That always happens. But with Global Warming, they’re taking the side of something real.

The people you would cite as authorities generally publish their results in journals outside the discipline, where people could check stuff like the statistics and the samplying perhaps, or maybe the social science value, but where few folks actually have any expertise in the field in question. This is quite intentional, as these folks don’t want to actually see their work cross examined by folks who know the ins and outs of these things.

Instead, they just want the authority that comes with publishing papers and research. This is the typical path that much of the counter-science that the conservative think-tanks and religious groups use to cloud the scientific picture for the laymen, especially those who only tune in to conservative outlets.

Noah’s name may be cutely and coincidentally associated with a religious figure, but what he says is true, and in fact is the trouble that comes of global warming which the average person will see more of. It’s not just heat-waves and the seas rising. Our weather is part of the heat engine by which our planet deals with inequalities in temperature. Raise the inequalities, the differences in temperature from one end to another, and it’s like increasing the tilt on a ramp- whatever rolls down it rolls with more force. That includes hurricanes, thunderstorms, and (paradoxically) winter storms.

It pays to keep in mind that climate models are just that. We are steadily learning the ins and outs of these things, and though perfection is likely beyond us, we can get a good sense of what is going on. You provided some pretty random examples there, and in fact, you put forward an examples, including the lower performance on the carbon sinks, that would tend to indicate that the models are underrating things, rather than exaggerating them. What’s more, you’re taking uncertainty as a license to believe whatever you want.

Science doesn’t work that way. Uncertainty about the model means both conclusions could be wrong, not just the one that preserves the status quo.

What’s more, it takes a certain expertise to look at the data properly because of those complexities. This is atmospheric physics, Eric, the place where chaos and complexity theories got their start. Now the indirect measures may seem uncertain to you, but people have refined these rules of thumb as well, and again the result has been confirmation of the coming crisis, rather than denial of it.

The use of Occam’s Razor gets a little tricky when you’re dealing with atmospheric physics and climate. Here, the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. I mean, you talk about uncertain models,but you never ask why they are so uncertain. The real reason is that with weather and climate, simple actions no longer have simple consequences, and many outcomes are the result of emergent phenomenon. Why do you think predicting the path of Hurricanes is so difficult? Why do you think their behavior is so complex?

I think you and folks like you appreciate the weather and the climate from a perspective that is badly outdated. You use the inherent uncertainties of the new science to claim that old fashioned reads on the environment are still the case. It’s rationalization, and often you folks fail the test of occam’s razor in coming up with your reasons for believing differently.

As for Global Cooling? Why are you judging the science of today by the science of the past? Global Warming shouldn’t be judged on the flaws of Global Cooling any more than Relativity should be judged on Newtonian physics. The fields in question have changed. Only thing that hasn’t is the support of you folks for contrarian science. I bet when Global Cooling was the fear, your people were taking the side of the polluters then.

That’s what you’re doing now. You’re backing the special interests who have something to lose. Such an attitude has been the prime reason why time and again, the Bush administration has lead us into predictable disasters. You guys are so intent on winning the arguments for your side, for your status quo, that you will accept any half-baked argument so long as it’s an argument for your side. Such uncritical thinking is one of the main reason your party wallows now in low political fortunes: you’re too busy thinking you’re right to actually make yourself that way.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2006 7:45 AM
Comment #141645

Eric,

How dare you not be a true believer! Haven’t you seen the holy hockey stick graph?

Posted by: JimmyRay at April 19, 2006 8:08 AM
Comment #141646

Jimmy Ray-
Oh, damn. You know, everything was staked on that one graph. ;-)

Be realistic, Jimmy Ray. There’s more to climate science than one graph, especially when the so-called debunkers couldn’t keep their math straight.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2006 8:16 AM
Comment #141649

Eric,

As Stephen points out, you’re focusing on ad hominem attacks instead of the facts.

What are the facts?

There’s now an overwhelming scientific consensus that the world is getting warmer, and that human activity is the cause. In 2004, an article in the journal Science that surveyed 928 papers on climate change published in peer-reviewed scientific journals found that “none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.”[Science]

Distract readers if you’d like with attacks on Gore et al if it makes you feel better. However, the scientific consensus on this is total.

Posted by: LawnBoy at April 19, 2006 8:32 AM
Comment #141650

:o0

Wow, Eric… Have you ever Stepped In It:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sun/

http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&lr=&newwindow=1&safe=off&as_qdr=all&q=+%22global+dimming%22+%22pan+evaporation%22&btnG=Search

Wow oh my holy Jesus that was a *FANTASTIC* pas-de-deux of Synchronicity, my friend! The equivalent of God just slipping a Cosmic Banana Peel right under your foot, causing it to *swi-i-i-ng* upward and land perfectly in your mouth…

Pride goeth before a Fall.

My, my, my.

Posted by: Betty Burke at April 19, 2006 8:35 AM
Comment #141655

Eric, when you take a break from your ranting, you might want to read FactCheck’s Can You Prevent Global Warming?

Summary: “the bulk of scientific opinion … holds that the earth will warm by 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.3 degrees Fahrenheit) sometime in the next 20 to 54 years, and that this warming will be accompanied by severe weather events.”

Nothing in life is certain, Eric, but there’s a difference between weighing evidence fairly, and just believing what you want to believe - or what Bush wants you to believe.

Posted by: William Cohen at April 19, 2006 9:17 AM
Comment #141659

Some points to consider:

CFCs were outlawed to prevent deterioration of the ozone level.

We took action in the mid-90s to fix this problem.

It takes anywhere from 15 to 25 years for the released CFCs to reach the stratosphere. That’s means we have roughly 10-15 years of continuous degradation before we start seeing positive results from these actions. (I used to hear the stupid argument that volcanos produced far more chlorine than produced CFCs, and since it’s the reaction within the ozone layer to the chlorine atom, obviously this is not a man made problem. It was a good “red herring” kind of argument - one that any freshman chemistry major could refute, but one that sounded really good to people ignorant of the chemical reactions involved.)

This same “wait and see” approach worked very well for the tobacco industry for years (you can’t prove that tobacco causes health problems…) and the environment has very similar outcomes - once you see an actual problem, it’s probably far too late to fix it.

The National Academy of Sciences agrees that global warming is a serious future threat, and that man is a great contributer to this problem.

Posted by: tony at April 19, 2006 9:32 AM
Comment #141663

So


Summary: “the bulk of scientific opinion … holds that the earth will warm by 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.3 degrees Fahrenheit) sometime in the next 20 to 54 years, and that this warming will be accompanied by severe weather events.”

Where is the evidence that this never happened before the model T? Posted by: George at April 19, 2006 9:42 AM
Comment #141665

George -

So if this did happen in the past, you’re OK with all this? Seriously?

I mean, let’s get religious: sure the great flood happened once before, but if I have an idea of how to fix the problem I’m going to do everything in my power to not drown.

You’re free to simply go down with the ship - I prefer to try and keep things afloat.

Posted by: tony at April 19, 2006 9:45 AM
Comment #141669

Awesome! So I can stop worrying about global warming and do nothing about it because there’s no proof.

Clearly this scientific rigor is the standard in conservative decision making. What would we have done without it during the preparation for war with iraq? Of course, if we had followed this line of reasoning, we would have spent years collecting the facts to make SURE that war was justified. Then again we could just trust in the fact that we were bringing those iraqis their freedom..

So if you’re still unconvinced that global warming is a reality, why don’t you take some of your own medicine and convince yourself of the fact, this time without sarcasm, that the process of weaning ourselves from oil and reducing our greenhouse gas production will involve a lot of investment, a lot of research and development, and i bet a lot of pretty amazing technologies that, i’m sure Gore believes (without implicitly saying it,) will bring the US to the forefront of enviromentally friendly technology. Then we could actually join Kyoto without getting our asses handed to us, and sell our technologies to countries around the world.

An interesting addition to the global warming “debate” is something I found a few years ago. The link i’m going to provide may not be the best in terms of originality but it gives a taste of what i’m talking about, and a little further investigation on your part (if your interested) should unearth some more information.
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001665.html
Apparently, the Inuits (eskimos..) have, in recent history, begun seeing things that they can’t describe in their own language. That’s right — this includes lots and lots of animals that previously couldn’t survive in their environment, as well as thunderstorms, which prevously couldn’t form in the temperatures that used to prevail. Your argument may be that these temperature swings occur on a longer scale than the existance of the inuit people.. but i’m willing to bet that if this is the case, and we’re approaching a swing, exacerbating the problem instead of combating it isn’t the best of decisions (i.e. the inuits weren’t there before the swing, think they’ll survive this one?)

Posted by: mpc at April 19, 2006 9:57 AM
Comment #141676

The thing is, being proactive in addressing these painfully obvious issues would be at least net nuetral for the economy. Some products and industries would thrive, research and enforcement jobs would be created. Business did fine under Clinton.

Some industry executives may take a hit. Cant have that, can you Eric?

Posted by: Schwamp at April 19, 2006 10:34 AM
Comment #141677
we’re approaching a swing, exacerbating the problem instead of combating it isn’t the best of decisions

How would you combat it if you were ruler of the world.
Stop all further development?
Ban all smoking from people as well as industries?
ban the paving over of the green fields?

or tax anyone who does not believe?
we are moving forward ( maybe to slow for you) we cook our food with and heat our bodies with electricity and gas rather than wood and dung fires.
Yes the problem is the huge waste in the size of our bodies and homes.

Posted by: George at April 19, 2006 10:38 AM
Comment #141680

Geeze, Eric, I get it already…

Even if the whole thing is a hoax, what’s wrong with people being interested in making the world a cleaner and less polluted place? At least it gives the majority of people a somewhat positive movement to be involved in; and a peaceful one at that.

Even if humans are NOT the primary factor in global temperature change, and ‘global warming’ is a total farce, I still think the positives outweigh the negatives. It certainly has caused both people and governments alike to pay more attention to the way we treat the earth. You make it sound like the worst thing that ever happened.

Posted by: Beijing Rob at April 19, 2006 10:49 AM
Comment #141682

Eric,

You got the Dems!!! Also there’s no proof that evolution is real, it’s just a theory, and there’s no proof of the big bang either!

Bush gave a great speech debunking the whole global warming thing already:

http://www.transbuddha.com/mediaHolder.php?id=1147

Posted by: Max at April 19, 2006 10:52 AM
Comment #141683

Eric,

Seriously, I agree with Beijing. A lot of poeple believe this is a real problem and could lead to the end of life as we know it. Shouldn’t we address it just in case? Why all the anger about it? This isn’t really a partisan thing, I don’t think. This is science.

Posted by: Max at April 19, 2006 10:59 AM
Comment #141684

I have to admit there is hype here. I was channel surfing last night and came across Matt Damon wistfully warning me about the 6th extinction. I almost laughed at his serious and sombre tone.

I don’t know if our climate is changing. If it is, I’m not sure we can effect change. There is a consensus that there is a short term rise in ambient temperature. I haven’t heard science conclude that that is due to CO2, or that it is a climate trend. I have heard a lot of speculation to that end.

I think we should reduce our carbon profiles for other reasons. Avoiding a middleast war, is a big one.

Posted by: Jack Mohammedoff at April 19, 2006 10:59 AM
Comment #141686


Extinction of plant and animal species is un- important. Degradation of the Earth is not important.

The only thing that is important is cnosumption. So, consume,consume,consume.

Posted by: jlw at April 19, 2006 11:03 AM
Comment #141687

Tax anyone who doesn’t believe? I think we do that all the time with everything that we tax for. Nothing will have 100% support — except, perhaps, the longterm existence of humankind, which seriously might be at stake with this issue (as well as a handful of others).

The problem certainly is with our consumption — it’s unsustainable. the solution is not to cripple ourselves by “stopping development” or making everyone quit smoking (!), though arresting the “paving over of the green fields” might not be a bad step (black pavement = lots of solar absorption.)

Also, burning dung and wood for energy would be a step backwards, as opposed to a step forward which is what I think we should strive towards.

Come on! Do you seriously think that these kinds of things are what I mean when I say “development”? I mean research into renewed energies, greenhouse gas ‘scrubbers’ that allow smokestacks to function without as many of their negative atmospheric contributions, removing those rediculous ‘standby’ modes from all of your appliances that waste an amazing amount of energy (you’d be surprised.) There are a ton of ways to potentially curb our contribution to greenhouse gasses. We don’t have to shoot ourselves in the foot to begin investing in them (or increase those investments.)

Posted by: mpc at April 19, 2006 11:04 AM
Comment #141688

OK - so we reduce Green House gases by finding alternative energy sources.

- helps solve the issue with Global Warming
- reduces effect of foreign influence
- removes huge funding source fo global terror
- minimmizes increase in energy costs by converting to sustainable, renewable energy
- makes hippies happy

Posted by: tony at April 19, 2006 11:07 AM
Comment #141700

The world is surely coming to an end because, for once, I see the fault in an argument by Stephen Daugherty and agree to an extent with Eric Simonson (partisan politics aside). My politics would put me in the global warming hysterics camp, but my reason thankfully keeps me from it. Climate change is upon us. That is the only certainty. The science behind greenhouse global warming is horrible. It is taking the fact that climate change is happening and meshing it with increased production of CO2 and coming up with the conclusion that it is a cause and effect relationship.

Climate change needs to be addressed by science. Not the backwards science of having a conclusion and running the numbers to prove your point. Stephen, I don’t have a lot of faith in climate modelers because of my experience with garbage-in-garbage-out results. Let’s figure out what is really at the root of this issue so we can address the real problem instead of hysterically fixing “problems” that don’t have any net effect.

It might sound like I’m pro-poluter, but the reality, like the reality of the climate change situation, is anything but that. There are so many reasons to adopt the stance of an environmentalist that it doesn’t need the poster child of greenhouse global warming. We in the US are good at coming up with solutions/innovations. Give us another hurdle! We can do it and we’ll do it faster and better than anyone else. Rather than hurting our economy it would be a boon. We can conserve resources and boost the economy? We don’t need greenhouse global warming. We need good solid science.

-Good for our economy
-Good for our national security - no dependence on unstable and anti-US nations
-Good for our communities
-Good for our environment

Change must happen, but don’t think greenhouse global warming is a holy grail.

Posted by: John Dixon at April 19, 2006 12:32 PM
Comment #141701

George,

“we are moving forward ( maybe to slow for you) we cook our food with and heat our bodies with electricity and gas rather than wood and dung fires.”

Are you truely that naive?

Do we produce electricity with magic, or fossil fuels?

Do you know the difference between CO2, and CO?

Posted by: Rocky at April 19, 2006 12:42 PM
Comment #141705

Facts go into the creation of predictive models. The three best models in the world for predicting climate:

Hadley Centre
http://www.met-office.gov.uk/research/hadleycentre/

Lawrence Livermore Labs
http://www-pcmdi.llnl.gov/

Max Planck Institute
http://www.mpimet.mpg.de/en/home.html


Posted by: phx8 at April 19, 2006 1:19 PM
Comment #141709

phx8,
Yes, but then the gaps are filled with whatever gets you from point A to point B. Climate models are great tools in testing our understanding of the climate, but are nothing that I would look at for a prediction or base policy on. Good, but not good enough. The problem is that you write a program to work how you think it should. If you write a calculator program that always answers 4 because that’s what you’ve observed as a correct answer of 2+2, it’s not a good progam. Correct by observation, but hardly reliable for its intended function. That is the basis for the whole greenhouse gas global warming hysteria. We think that is the way it works and the change is significant. Two separate figures that move in the same direction are not necessarily related. Let’s make the changes to conserve resources, limit foreign control of our energy supply, clean up our air and water AND objectively research the cause of climate change. This is one of those few opportunities where we can have our cake and eat it too. Opportunities like this may only come along once in a generation. We would be wise not to let it pass without acting on it.

Posted by: John Dixon at April 19, 2006 1:45 PM
Comment #141713

Whether or not human activity is warming the earth, we have the same solutions. We need to get away from oil because its sources are unstable. What do we do.

Legislation alone won’t work. Kyoto was a waste of time. We need:

Higher prices for energy to encouage conservation. Higher prices specifically for oil based energy to encourage alternatives. AND nuclear power to take up the slack.

If you believe we should counter global warming or if you just prudently want to diversify U.S. energy sources, these are the things we do. We don’t really need to argue about it.

BTW - it has been warmer in not to distant human history. If you really believe in human induced warming, the deed is done. We can modify it, but you better think of ways to adapt. Maybe we should think about the last time the earth was warm (1000-1200) and see what happened then.

Posted by: Jack at April 19, 2006 1:52 PM
Comment #141716

Aldous,

Poor Eric Simonson, he wants facts…

Maybe he should go to the North Pole and watch the Polar Bears die…

Maybe he should go to Africa and watch people die instead…

Maybe he should just go to New Orleans as the next Category 5 Hurricane hits it…

Maybe he should go to Antartica and walk on thousand year old glaciers that are paper-thin now…

Better yet, maybe he should read properly published scientific articles that were vetted by its pears…

Precisely. I said facts, not anecdotes.

Consensus is not proof. Why can’t the consensus explain their actual proof instead of saying their model says so? That’s all I’m asking.

But I forgot, Eric still believes smoking is harmless to humans. After all, the Tabacco Industry released all those nifty studies proving smoking is safe…

Keep smoking, Eric!!! 3 Sticks a day will grow hair on your chest!!!

I don’t smoke. Never have. Not sure what you’re talking about.

Posted by: esimonson at April 19, 2006 1:58 PM
Comment #141718

David,

When you have a fever, red spots and ulcers, and flu like systems, how do you know what ails you? You go to a doctor, who makes an educated guess based on the systems. Will the Dr. sign a letter of guarantee that the diagnosis will be 100% correct? Try it. The answer is NO! He/She won’t. Why? Because diagnosis is a matter of probability. Many illnesses share those symptoms, and combined with a history of the onset, locations and travels and exposures, immunology record, etc. the Dr. will years of education and experience will give you a best guess diagnosis.

Precisely. Again, you make my point. Best guess diagnosis?

mal·prac·tice (mal-prak’tis), n.
1. Improper or negligent treatment of a patient, as by a physician, resulting in injury, damage, or loss.

You’re a physician. Your patient has something previously unknown to medical science. Instead of doing research to fully define the problem on this new medical malady you tell him that his arm has to come off and proceed to get the saw out of your drawer. As the patient in this case I’d prefer to get a second opinion before treatment.

Posted by: esimonson at April 19, 2006 2:10 PM
Comment #141721

Eric,

Why do you find it nesecessary to take the most extreme position to make your analysis right?

There are scientists and bozos out there from both sides of this issue, that are trying to get their “opinions” accepted as facts.

Me, I would prefer to err on the side of caution.

The earth will be here long after we have expired.

I seems to me that we would want to put off our expiration date as long as possible.

Posted by: Rocky at April 19, 2006 2:25 PM
Comment #141723
Why can’t the consensus explain their actual proof instead of saying their model says so? That’s all I’m asking.

They explain their evidence all over the place. Here’s just one place.

Alternately, go read one of the 928 peer-reviewed papers that unanimously came to the conclusion you refuse to accept because Al Gore supports it. If that’s not sufficient, please tell us what would be.

It’s not their fault you refuse to read the actual proof when it’s presented over and over and over again in scientific journals.

Posted by: LawnBoy at April 19, 2006 2:28 PM
Comment #141724

Since we’re using doctor analogies…

I went to my doctor, told him my complaint, he ran test after test and told me I was dying of cancer. I got mad told him he was nuts and went somewhere else. Three times, same process, same result. I finally went to one in a small office at the edge of town, he took my blood pressure and checked my temp. He then informed me I had indigestion and gave me tums. I left happy.
Do you see the dangers here?

Posted by: Ted at April 19, 2006 2:29 PM
Comment #141726

Ted,

“I finally went to one in a small office at the edge of town, he took my blood pressure and checked my temp. He then informed me I had indigestion and gave me tums. I left happy.”

So what you’re saying is that we should only belive what we want to hear?

Posted by: Rocky at April 19, 2006 2:32 PM
Comment #141727

Stephen,

You focus on the personalities of these people, making an ad hominem argument. You’re trying to make this all about political hyperbole, but the science is solid. Of course some fools and demagogues are going to jump on the bandwagon. That always happens. But with Global Warming, they’re taking the side of something real.

No, I am not making an ad hominem argument, I am pointing out that their arguments are not based on the science. That the political hyperbole is wildly out of bounds and not supported by logic or science.

You still offer no proof that human industrial activity is the reason for global warming. You offer only assurances that you are right.

It pays to keep in mind that climate models are just that. We are steadily learning the ins and outs of these things, and though perfection is likely beyond us, we can get a good sense of what is going on. You provided some pretty random examples there, and in fact, you put forward an examples, including the lower performance on the carbon sinks, that would tend to indicate that the models are underrating things, rather than exaggerating them. What’s more, you’re taking uncertainty as a license to believe whatever you want.

Science doesn’t work that way. Uncertainty about the model means both conclusions could be wrong, not just the one that preserves the status quo.

What’s more, it takes a certain expertise to look at the data properly because of those complexities. This is atmospheric physics, Eric, the place where chaos and complexity theories got their start. Now the indirect measures may seem uncertain to you, but people have refined these rules of thumb as well, and again the result has been confirmation of the coming crisis, rather than denial of it.

On the one hand you say these matters are much too complicated for me to understand and that any uncertainties in the input for these models has been thoroughly accounted for by the ‘experts’.

The use of Occam’s Razor gets a little tricky when you’re dealing with atmospheric physics and climate. Here, the whole is more than just the sum of its parts. I mean, you talk about uncertain models,but you never ask why they are so uncertain. The real reason is that with weather and climate, simple actions no longer have simple consequences, and many outcomes are the result of emergent phenomenon. Why do you think predicting the path of Hurricanes is so difficult? Why do you think their behavior is so complex?

On the other hand you say that weather and climate is a very uncertain and complex system, apparently involving too many variables to be accurately predicted with 100% certainty.

So which is it? Certain or uncertain? Do we know or don’t we know? Where your arguments really fall down is in the following paragraph:

As for Global Cooling? Why are you judging the science of today by the science of the past? Global Warming shouldn’t be judged on the flaws of Global Cooling any more than Relativity should be judged on Newtonian physics. The fields in question have changed. Only thing that hasn’t is the support of you folks for contrarian science. I bet when Global Cooling was the fear, your people were taking the side of the polluters then.
We can’t trust the science of the past because science gets better and better, but todays science has all the answers?

This is in essence the reason for my example about global cooling. Tomorrow, the science of today will be the science of yesterday. Can we not judge the flaws of today’s science because soon it will be outdated by more accurate knowledge?

Posted by: esimonson at April 19, 2006 2:33 PM
Comment #141728

John Dixon-
There are at least three questions to resolve here. The first is what’s responsible for the incredible rise in atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. The Second regards what the consequences of such a drastic increase in an atmospheric gas known to have a dramatic impact on the climate. The last is what exactly is driving the warming trend and the destabilization of the weather we’re currently experiencing.

These are all complicated questions, to which most scientists believe the answer is human introduction of fossil fuel emissions, the warming of the planet, and the increase in CO2, respectively. Gaining that consensus, though, was neither immediate, nor without some major hurdles to overcome.

Eric, though, glosses over much in his critique of the science. Improvements in modeling have tended to reinforce, even if in a moderate fashion, the current understanding of global warming. We’ve got much better computing power and understanding of climactic forces.

He takes this one study, with the one graph, and addresses the entire issue of temperature reconstruction from this standpoint. He tries to generalize the margin of errors from this one publication to everything.

There are questions as to how accurate such paleoclimatology can get, but Eric doesn’t really address those. Instead, he just questions the accuracy in general, and implies that scientist simply don’t know what they’re talking about (while he does, of course.)

It’s the same old folk wisdom approach, which takes a highly complex subject and tells folks that the people who study it enough to actually understand it in depth are just ivory tower elitists, and that they know the real story. It’s nice, except for one things: it contributes nothing to really understanding the subject, and it amplifies the human tendency to discount the future in favor of the present.

The Global Warming concensus has evolved out of a better understanding of the subject. It could still be wrong, but besides being contrarian on the subject, Eric’s side has failed to contribute any alternative theory on the subject that passes the smell test. I mean, you can’t say that CO2 isn’t rising. It is. You can’t say that the temperature isn’t rising. It is. You can’t say that weather patterns aren’t changing, or that the permafrost is shrinking. They are. You can’t say that the glaciers and the ice caps aren’t melting around the world. They are.

The trick is where we’re heading, and why. Some might say it’s natural temperature variations. That could indeed be a part of it. Even if that is part of the issue, though, that doesn’t mean we don’t have a problem. In fact, it could make things worse. Some might say that CO2 levels might be rising for other reasons. So far, I’ve not heard a plausible reason for the huge increase in CO2 in recent times, and these rises coincide with the industrial revolution, when mass fossil fuel usage became the norm. Correlation isn’t causation, of course, but it’s mighty suspicious, and our CO2 emissions have been increasing.

What’s more, other sources of CO2 and greenhouse gasses in nature could be stimulated to add more to things by the rise in temperature. Examples include the release of material from the permafrost, and the increase of heat-trapping water vapor due to surface evaporation.

With this kind of thing, we don’t necessarily have to do the whole job of tipping things over into a warming trend. We just have to add enough to get the ball rolling out of its normal rut. One can hope that some natural process will cause negative feedback (like the water vapor creating reflective clouds), but the trouble is, by the time we find out for sure, the ball will already be rolling.

The costs of Global Warming are both significant and uncertain. I think its damn foolish to wait for these things to happen to deal with them, given the fact that kicking our atmosphere out of its rut like this may be far easier than putting back where we left it. Also, dealing the consequences of all this might squander a bunch of the political and economic gains we get in the near term. To wit, this may just be a form of climatological deficit spending, wherein the debt we pay tomorrow is an environment that reduces our future prosperity.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2006 2:34 PM
Comment #141729

Ted

No, actually. If you are really going to die of cancer anyway, why worry, and if you are not the last doctor was right.

The question is what can you do about it. If the answer is nothing, you do nothing.

In the case of greenhouse gas, it matters little whether or not it IS happening because our best strategy (high energy prices & more nukes) is a good general strategy given the nature of our oil supplies.

To return to your cancer analogy, even if you are not sick, it makes sense to eat right and exercise.

Posted by: Jack at April 19, 2006 2:38 PM
Comment #141732

Eric-
Pointing out or concluding for yourself? Just because some guy gets melodramatic about global warming doesn’t make it false. Your post starts with paragraphs devoted to making it seem that the Global Warming science is just some quasi- or actual religion, and therefore irrational.

I’ve seen enough on this to know that while Climate science is an emotional subject, it is a credible scientific one as well.

You ask me for proof. Proof of what? That CO2 levels are historic highs, their rising trend coinciding with human industrial development? That temperature readings for the last century are rising, that unusual weather patterns are cropping up? The question is, where’s your proof that the two have nothing to do with each other, other than the typical charge that it’s all a liberal conspiracy to push junk science?

As for whether you could understand it, I can’t speak to that. You may be fully capable of understanding it, but just not willing to agree with any conclusion that lays blame, however high or low, at human feet.

The uncertainties are there, but the scientists admit they exist. Some have been taken care of, some remain, but might be solved, and others may never be within our power to exactly work out. Trouble is, you don’t properly respect uncertainty. You do not lay out for us the range of this uncertainty. I’m not sure you’ve worked it out or looked it up to begin with. Furthermore, you use it as an excuse to stay with the status quo, despite the growing consensus on these matters that there is cause for concern.

Your malcontent with the experts is amusing to me. I prefer to believe that I have the intellectual confidence not to feel it necessary to put down people who devote their lives to thoroughly understanding an issue. I prefer to respect the fact that sometimes somebody else does know more than I do. If I want to compete with that someone, I should try and understand things before I accuse them of all people of being ill-informed.

I’m not a climate expert. I don’t pretend to be. I don’t pretend to have the background to come to such a conclusion. I’m saying, listen to these scientists, stop treating it like a political disagreement, with all the ad hominem B.S. that comes with that.

There are differing degrees of certainty and uncertainty, you know. If somebody says that a series is starting next week but says nothing else, there are seven potential days, and any number of timeslots it could be in. If somebody adds the specific day of the week, time period, hour, date, channel, etc, these facts reduce your uncertainty. The science here may be uncertain, but it’s grown far less so over time, especially since the Seventies. The three decades have brought a great deal of change.

Here again, your disrespect for the real meaning of uncertainty shows. The climate science of that time is apples and oranges compared to that of today. There is a possibility that the same may occur with today’s science. That said, you’re claiming with very little uncertainty that the science of tomorrow is known to you today, and that revolutionary science will take us to a new paradigm that supports you. This is a circular argument, worse yet, one based on knowledge you not only don’t have, but can’t have. You have only to look at science fiction visions of the world from one decade to another to find just how off the mark people are, most of the time, at determining the nature of science and technology in the future.

Until that day comes upon us, Eric, any speculation your or I have about the state of science years from now is just science fiction. The difference here is that I’;m not trying to tell you what science will be in the future, I’m telling you what it is now.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2006 3:07 PM
Comment #141736

A very good article on NPR.

The guest pointed out that since Kyoto, the EU reduced its energy intensity by 7%, while the U.S. achieved 12%.

The market works better than the state’s command.

Beyond that, 2005 the U.S. used less energy than in 2004. This happened DESPITE the robust economic growth we enjoyed last year.

You can hate Bush all you want, but something is working.

Posted by: Jack at April 19, 2006 3:14 PM
Comment #141737

Stephen,

Very well said. Thanks.

Posted by: LawnBoy at April 19, 2006 3:17 PM
Comment #141738

Jack,

I get a page not found on the NPR link. Could you check it?

Posted by: LawnBoy at April 19, 2006 3:20 PM
Comment #141740

Stephen,
Two great posts. Well said.

What makes the climate models- and by the way, there isn’t just one model- anyway, what makes the models disconcerting is that the more data is gathered, and the better the models become, the worse the Global Warming issue looks for us.

We’re performing the greatest uncontrolled experiment of all time, and we’re the subjects. We’re putting large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in a relatively short amount of time. We know C02 causes warming. We know it persists in the atmosphere for about a century. What will happen to the world? What will happen to us?

We can measure the increase. We can make predictive models, run them backward & forward, vary estimates for scenarios, and make reasonable estimates on how much the temperature will change.

The stakes are high.

Posted by: phx8 at April 19, 2006 3:28 PM
Comment #141741

the sad fact about cfcs is the phase out will take longer. today still most of your big walk in freezers and commercial and industrial units are still running on r 12 they cant be converted to the safer r 134a like a older car can .the pressures of r 134 a are much higher than r 12 and the chemical compounds are completely different. r 12 simply removes more heat than r134 a. so the whole system has to be replaced from ground up. r 134 a ,requires bigger evaporator coils and condensers and compressors factor that in . ie example a building like the sears tower im sure the refergrant is r 12 the retrofit to r 134a will be astronomical. times that by millions for this country for retrofits.you get my point! those old systems leak they all do! and r 12 has a ozone depletion factor many times higher than r 22 the older house type refergrant replaced by r 410a so we still have a long ways to go on the cfcs. yes its a little better but we have a long ways to go! and any licensed air mechanic can buy r12 they are recycling it .and some third world countries are still making it.

Posted by: RODNEY BROWN at April 19, 2006 3:29 PM
Comment #141743

Lawn boy

I don’t know. It is “talk of the nation” from yesterday at npr.org

Posted by: Jack at April 19, 2006 3:37 PM
Comment #141752

Rocky,
My point was that seeking out only sources that confirm our beliefs is a limited and dangerous route.

Jack,
I knew someone was going to disect my post as you have as soon as I hit enter. My mistake was to claim dying instead of just sick. Thank you.
Your stratgy with higher prices, we are stuck with them as long as there is a choke point in supply. An interesting side effect of that is the terrible consequeces on micro-businesses. I deal with a large number of owner operator truck drivers. The increases are starting to take a toll, one that I know has started to refuse freight because it costs less to sit idle than the fuel to deliver. This will start to effect the cost of everything. the economy you tout will not long survive this trend.

Posted by: Ted at April 19, 2006 4:03 PM
Comment #141755

Ted

If you want to reduce CO2, you have to use less fossil fuel. Oil and gas currently cost significantly less to use than alternatives. That is why we use them. At around $60-65 (about what we have achieved today) a barrel for oil, many alteratives become viable. So at today’s prices, you can start to use alternatives profitably, otherwise oil is cheaper. You cannot both reduce CO2 and have low energy prices. If you manage to reduce the price of gas, you are voting for more CO2. Reducing CO2 will make living standards lower than they would be if we did nothing. That is undeniably true.

Nuclear can take up some of the demand. The French get 78% of their electricity from nuclear. We only get around 20%. We should be more like France.

So people can complain about high prices or complain about CO2, but they cannot do both at the same time. They can oppose nuclear energy or demand we release less CO2, but not both at the same time. These are either or choices.

Lots of people like to claim to love the environment, but they do not want to do the things necessary to make it better.

To take your sick man analogy in a different direction, a man with heart problems can lower his cholesterol, but he cannot expect to eat a couple of pounds of bacon at the same time.

Posted by: Jack at April 19, 2006 4:18 PM
Comment #141759

Stephen,
I think you may be thinking that I’m advocating no change from our current consumption rates and technologies. Far from it. Every time I see this issue come up I want to make the changes suggested by the people who are concerned about greenhouse gas induced climate change, but am very suspicious of the science behind the theory. It just doesn’t deserve the consensus it receives. We can’t afford to be wrong. There is too much on the line. We can’t afford a wild goose chase either. What needs to happen is to do what is possible to curb the current trend from our best running theory and search for a better theory. If the science was more conclusive the debate wouldn’t be so emotional. I think the worst idea is what Eric is advocating. Until you can prove we’re THE cause, he’ll keep his head in the sand. Am I wrong Eric? Are you advocating we do something even though there is no conclusive proof?

Posted by: John Dixon at April 19, 2006 4:33 PM
Comment #141761
We should be more like France.

Wow. I didn’t think I’d ever see that sentence from an editor on the Red side.

Just kidding ya.

I completely agree that increased use of nuclear fission for our energy development would be a great idea (along with more windfarms, more use of solar, etc.).

Posted by: LawnBoy at April 19, 2006 4:39 PM
Comment #141766

Jack,
The sick man may continue excess bacon consuption until his wife, or significant other, find out and put only salad in front of him at table.
We can have fun with this analogy all day, but it won’t solve the problem.
I often re-evaluate my opinions to see if I am wrong. That said, I can support your call for nuclear energy with this caveat. Waste disposal regulations that are written not by industry lobbies or other industry related think tanks, crafted in such a manor that it would take an act of god, not the majority party in congress (R or D) to change them. As to alternative fuels we do not reward their development and usually quash attempts at their implementation. Did I not see someone post on this very site a condemnation of ethanol as reqireing more energy to make than recieved by factoring in the sunlight required to grow it.

Posted by: Ted at April 19, 2006 4:50 PM
Comment #141769

Stephen,

You provided some pretty random examples there, and in fact, you put forward an examples, including the lower performance on the carbon sinks, that would tend to indicate that the models are underrating things, rather than exaggerating them. What’s more, you’re taking uncertainty as a license to believe whatever you want.

Why did I include this example? Partly because it illustrates the fact that a model is only as good as the rules it is set up with. Being off by a single degree can put you off course by thousands of miles, and the climate change data is anything but 100% accurate.

Unexpectedly vast quantities of carbon released from British soils since 1978 may be critically reducing their effectiveness as carbon sinks, claims a rigorous new survey. The phenomenon effectively cancels out the UK’s recent successes in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the finding could have wider global implications.

It suggests that so-called terrestrial sinks across the planet are mopping up much less carbon than predicted, on balance, and so the planet may warm at an even faster rate than expected. Most climate models assume that forests and soils absorb about 25% of the greenhouse gases humans produce.

If true, this means that climate models have had a major variable in their calculations wrong for all this time. What other major variables are also wrong?

This is what I mean about the uncertainty of the evidence. We don’t even know if this report will bear out to be true or not. But the fact that a major part of the models could have been wrong for all this time, should give one pause to think about how accurate and how certain the conclusion and interpretation of these models should be.

We are told in no uncertain terms that the conclusions must be regarded as 100% correct or else we will all die. This is what we are told. Any gross errors or new information cannot be allowed to change the conclusions that global warming is our fault. This is the canon, the dogma of the climate change religion.

It elicits many questions in my mind. In fact there are so many questions, if’s, possibly’s, and maybe’s about virtually every variable of the climate cycle that it is laughable to read the stories journalists write about scientific studies.

Questions without answers does not equal absolute truth.

So the status and behavior of the world’s soils is an important issue for scientists and policy makers. This has been highlighted recently by the puzzle of “the missing carbon.” In calculating how much CO2 levels have risen as a result of human activities, scientists found that the atmosphere contained much less carbon than they initially expected. Only about half of the additional CO2 from human activities that has been added to atmosphere has remained there. enviroliteracy.org

Off by half!!!???

So if the soil is indeed emitting higher levels of CO2, or not fixing as much as previously thought, that means that somewhere, somehow, some other natural process is taking care of even more CO2 than scientists could have possibly conceived. The models are certainly way off.

But then we have another little story that makes an even more startling claim, that plants are, “churning out vast quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent even than CO2.”

And “…it is an entirely natural side-effect of plant growth that scientists had somehow missed.”

Everyone knows trees are “A Good Thing”. They take in the carbon dioxide that threatens our planet with global warming and turn it into fresh, clean oxygen for us all to breathe.

But now it seems we need to think again. In a discovery that has left climate scientists gasping, researchers have found that the earth’s vegetation is churning out vast quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent even than CO2. This is not a product of trees and plants rotting, which everyone already knew was a source of methane; it is an entirely natural side-effect of plant growth that scientists had somehow missed. Yet it is by no means trivial: preliminary estimates suggest that living trees and plants account for about 10 to 30 per cent of the methane entering the atmosphere.

So what about the models? Are we still to cling to the idea that man and man alone is responsible for causing global warming? Obviously we still have research to do.

This is where Occam’s Razor comes into play. A corrolary of which is to say that, “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.”

If you want me to believe that it is 100% certain that global warming is entirely man made, and that therefore our actions can reverse it, then show me the rock solid extraordinary proof. Show me.

Posted by: esimonson at April 19, 2006 5:06 PM
Comment #141771

John Dixon-
What do you base your feelings about the science on? It’s basic physics, basic thermodynamics. Some gases and other materials are more transparent to heat than others. CO2 is a known heat trapper. Venus’ current condition is proof of that.

What complicates it is that CO2 doesn’t act alone. It’s part of a system, one that includes the reflectivity of the planet’s surface, the clouds, the absorption of heat by water vapor and methane among other gases, and all the process that can circulate and change concentrations of these.

Atmospheres are complicated enough that small errors can throw off calculations. The science isn’t bad. In fact it’s cutting edge! Trouble is, one very important fact has come up: Much of the complexity is there regardless of what theory you use. It’s part of the nature of the system itself.

You should read a book by James Gleick called Chaos: The Making of a New Science. It’s very illuminating on the subject.

Overall though, I’d say this: It is in our interest to reduce CO2 emissions. Lower emission, higher efficiency vehicles can help this. Businesses can take advantage of the shift in policy. The trouble with too many conservatives is a lack of imagination, and an unwillingness to cross special interests. We need to break free of that logjam, and all reconsider what we’re doing. If global warming turns out to be a ghost in the machine of theory rather than something real, we will still reap the benefits of getting off our oil addiction, and leading the way in efficent technologies.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2006 5:12 PM
Comment #141772
If you want me to believe that it is 100% certain that global warming is entirely man made, and that therefore our actions can reverse it, then show me the rock solid extraordinary proof. Show me.

The beauty of the Straw Man. No one’s saying that it’s entirely man made, or that it’s 100% certain, or even that we know how to reverse it.

The overwhelming consensus based on scientific evidence is that human activity is very likely to be a significant cause in the global climate change that we see, and that we’re going to make things worse if we don’t change things.

However, since you demand absolute certainty of something no one claims, you get by without having to acknowledge what has otherwise been demonstrated to be the best explanation going.

Well done, well done.

Posted by: LawnBoy at April 19, 2006 5:13 PM
Comment #141774

Eric,
The “missing carbon” question was solved. It turns out the oceans absorbed it. This is bad news. Very bad news.

Interesting about methane, but not much of a factor. The amount of methane was already known; that living flora might produce that much could be surprising. While methane warms more than C02, it occurs in much smaller amounts than C02, and methane breaks down naturally in only a few years. The effect on models could be very interesting though…

Climate Change, aka Global Warming, is already a done deal. The only question is, how much more do we want.

Posted by: phx8 at April 19, 2006 5:34 PM
Comment #141775

Jack:

We should be more like France.

ROTFLMAO - I’ve had my suspicions for a long time, but this is incontrovertible proof that Jack is certainly no conservative and 99.9% probably a RINO (Republican In Name Only). LOL, “We should be more like France.”, that kills me.

Posted by: wanna_be_jack at April 19, 2006 5:37 PM
Comment #141776

Stephen,

You ask me for proof. Proof of what? That CO2 levels are historic highs, their rising trend coinciding with human industrial development? That temperature readings for the last century are rising, that unusual weather patterns are cropping up? The question is, where’s your proof that the two have nothing to do with each other, other than the typical charge that it’s all a liberal conspiracy to push junk science?

The proof I’m asking for is: Where is the proof that global warming is man-made and can thus be reversed by man?

Let’s look at the limited evidence you offer, which is in essence the argument for anthropogenic climate change:

1. Higher CO2 coincides with human industrial development.
2. Temperature readings for the last century are rising.
3. There are ‘unusual’ weather patterns.

Number 1:
CO2 is a naturally occuring element which I presume has been present throughout history. Obviously if the theories are correct, and CO2 levels have a causal link to temperature and climate change, then isn’t it possible that other warming periods were also preceded by increases in CO2? And if so, then it does not necessarily follow that the mere coincidence of the two proves a causal link between rising CO2 and industrial society.

Meaning that the following syllogism is not true by itself because of D.

A. Higher CO2 coincides with human industrial development.
B. CO2 causes global warming.
C. Therefore industrial development causes global warming.

D. Global warming has happened without industrial society.

Are we experiencing global warming brought on by industrial society or global warming that would have happened anyway? How long would such a natural period of global warming last seeing as how other theories postulate that there is an oscillating climate change cycle?

These are the important questions, not arguments about SUV’s and industrial society.

Number 2:
Temperature readings have only been taken directly for the last century. Temperature readings for all history are reconstructions prone to error, and or misreading, and or misinterpretation. Nevertheless they are all we have and are probably more right than not. But from the limited knowledge I have they are approximations not direct measurements.

Comparing global temperatures across the millenia is an apples to oranges proposition.

Basically, what I’m saying is that it does not take a scientist to look at the arguments and ask some pointed common sense questions. If global warming today is entirely due to human interference, how did it ever get hotter in the past? Obviously, the first rational explanation is that there is a natural mechanism for climate change. The irrational explanation is that for the first time in history this change is all our fault.

I’ll have to get to three… gotta go for now.

Posted by: esimonson at April 19, 2006 5:38 PM
Comment #141777

Eric,

“Basically, what I’m saying is that it does not take a scientist to look at the arguments and ask some pointed common sense questions.”

Sooo, your solution is to do nothing?

Posted by: Rocky at April 19, 2006 5:41 PM
Comment #141784

stephen d. good post about venus. venus is mostly co2 and is twice as far away from the sun as mercury but venus gets hotter 780k and stays hotter! mercury just about touches the sun and has hardly any atmosphere. temps go from 90k to about 680k. to much co2 not good

Posted by: RODNEY BROWN at April 19, 2006 6:29 PM
Comment #141786

The ice cap at the North Pole is melting, but the lie the envirocult has been spreading is that the glacier covering Antarctica is melting, as well. WRONG!! It has actually been growing for the past several decades and has kept pace with, if not exceeded, the rate at which the Arctic ice cap is melting. Also, the ice in the Arctic is floating, meaning that if it melts, it will have ZERO effect on the sea levels.

The Earth goes through climate change all the time. There have been warming and cooling periods since the Earth originally cooled and solidified. There will be hot periods, but, we are also headed for another ice age in the future. Mankind will be helpless to stop either of these changes.

Posted by: Duano at April 19, 2006 6:42 PM
Comment #141788

Duano,
Ice reflects heat. It has a high albedo. Water absorbs heat. It has a low albedo. If the arctic icecap melted, the dark, open water would absorb heat. Heat causes expansion. For this reasons, sea levels would rise. Even if no ice melts from ice on land masses, best estimates are that the sea levels will rise at least 3 feet, simply due to expansion caused by absorbed heat.

Did you know 9/11 caused temperatures to drop 2 degrees? Interesting bit of trivia. When aircraft no longer created contrails (which reflect more than they absorb) for the two days after 9/11, there was a noticeable drop in temperatures.

Mankind can, and mankind does affect the climate.

Posted by: phx8 at April 19, 2006 7:10 PM
Comment #141791

Did you know 9/11 caused temperatures to drop 2 degrees? Interesting bit of trivia. When aircraft no longer created contrails (which reflect more than they absorb) for the two days after 9/11, there was a noticeable drop in temperatures.

I’ve heard some stupid, unscientific, made up stuff from both sides on this issue.
This is definitely the stupidest.

Posted by: WOW! at April 19, 2006 7:19 PM
Comment #141798

WOW!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/dimming_trans.shtml

On a more general note…

It’s tempting to flame conservatives for ignorance. Not legitimate disagreements over points of view, not for people taking reasonable stands on the opposite sides of controversial issues, but just plain willful stupidity. The awful part is that it is usually such aggressive, arrogant, in-your-face stupidity, an ‘ignorant and proud of it’ attitude with no hint on humbleness or humility. But I will critique the messages, not the messengers, and refrain from referring to anyone in particular. I repeat. I am not referring to anyone in particular, but to an attitude that appears in too many posts.

If I can make a suggestion, conservative posters in the red column might take a moment and read previous posts/threads before repeating previously refuted comments. And google is a great resource; try it! Research can really help make a case, and also help avoid pitiful embarrassments.

Posted by: phx8 at April 19, 2006 8:00 PM
Comment #141814

Eric-
First, CO2 is known to absorb and trap heat. That’s not theoretical, that’s empirical fact. Additionally, it’s known that CO2 does indeed help create a greenhouse effect that raises temperatures about thirty to fifty degrees above what it would otherwise be.

Logically speaking, then, it is empirically correct that increased CO2 levels, all else being equal, would increase the atmosphere’s absorption of heat. That’s just basic fact.

Of course, not everything else is equal. We get into the effects your side likes to appeal to on this issue. Trouble is, your side mostly treats it like it makes up for the difference instead of mitigating it. Climate forcing is literally a matter of degrees, a matter of thermodynamics and the feedback between the temperature and the environment itself. If the increase in temperature created and aided by the increase in CO2 is greater than the cooling effects resisting it, then you still have a net warming effect, even if it’s not the big effect that the raw increase in heat that would occur if CO2 was the only factor. With that in mind, another factor must be taken into account: The effect of greenhouse gases will not be linear. depending on the situation, the system may dampen the change through negative feedback, or reinforce it through positive. Changes can runaway on us, creating a new equlibrium. Evidence shows us that Earth may have been a virtual snowball at one point. Venus shows us that things can go in the other direction as well.

Also, you fail to factor in the possibility that the forcing from the additional CO2 we’re pumping into the atmosphere could be added to or aggravate an already existing cycle. If you have a rise in the solar energy coming in and the CO2 together, the effects can amplify each other- more heat being trapped, more heat to trap. Same thing with oceanic temperature fluctuations.

A warning here: The notion that these cyclical effects are the major driving forces is a scientific hypothesis, which means the jump to true theory requires evidence. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the cyclical elements may be part of the warming, plenty to suggest that human originated CO2 emissions are contributing to greenhouse gas forcing. Where’s your evidence that Cyclical changes are behind most of the warming?

In short, you haven’t cleared manmade greenhouse gas emissions of responsibility. You’re only throwing out other suspects which I know are not mutually exclusive of human-forcing on climate.

re: paleoclimatology- Direct measurements are of course preferable. We don’t have that luxury though, if we wish to get an idea about climate change. Your hypothesis, in fact, depends on establishing those cycles over time. You can’t blame solar or oceanic cycles whose progress might take decades or even centuries to unfold, if you only have the last century and a half of temperature records at your disposal.

See, all you’re giving us at the moment is logical blue-sky speculation. We human’s though, have a talent for imagining things both real and not real, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. If you really want to seek out the truth, and not just justify the position of an ideology, you got to be willing to look at the evidence, or seek out sources that have done so. Global Warming Science has been intensely studied, and much work has gone into building the theory and the models. Is it fair to let folks like you just waltz in and suggest these causes without backing your hypotheses and theories up with equal vigor and skill?

If you seek scientific credibility, you must employ scientific methods. If you seek to change the paradigm, you got to explain things better, and that’s more than just coming up with an explanation of things that sounds nicer and is more convenient to you.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 19, 2006 8:55 PM
Comment #141817

WOW!
http://archives.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/08/07/contrails.climate/index.html

“The thin wisps of condensation that trail jet airliners have a significant influence on the climate, according to scientists who studied U.S. skies during a rare interruption in national air traffic after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

During the three-day commercial flight hiatus, when the artificial clouds known as contrails all but disappeared, the variations in high and low temperatures increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) each day, said meteorological researchers.”

Duana,
Ever hear the phrase “too cold to snow”? It would be more accurate to refer to Global Warming as Climate Change, because there are cases, such as Antarctica, where an increase in temperature could increase snowfall. Warmer air holds more water vapor. It’s possible. I believe a few glaciers in Norway have grown for the same reason. However, the vast majority of glaciers are melting, especially equatorial glaciers, and this has potentially disastrous ramifications for many major cities that depend on glacier runoff for drinking water & irrigation.

Posted by: phx8 at April 19, 2006 9:01 PM
Comment #141818

Stephen D.
Have you considered the inverse of your idea about the increase in CO2? Perhaps a natural rise in temperatures has caused the release of CO2 and not vice versa. As a working scientist I have to consider all possiblities - you should try it! And finally, scientific models are only predictive tools. As one who deals with them regularly I can tell you they are not reality. They are only as good as the input data and algorithm used are at capturing all possible variables - and we all know how infallible man is.

Posted by: bobc at April 19, 2006 9:03 PM
Comment #141823

wana

We can learn some things from the French. I like to make fun of them, but they are a great nation. Their decision on nuclear power is a good one and they have a better method of dealing with potential and real terrorists. Hint - not softer than ours.

Of course their labor laws and way of integrating imigrants are bad news.

Posted by: Jack at April 19, 2006 9:22 PM
Comment #141840

WOW!

Climatology: Contrails reduce daily temperature range

The potential of condensation trails (contrails) from jet aircraft to affect regional-scale surface temperatures has been debated for years, but was difficult to verify until an opportunity arose as a result of the three-day grounding of all commercial aircraft in the United States in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. Here we show that there was an anomalous increase in the average diurnal temperature range (that is, the difference between the daytime maximum and night-time minimum temperatures) for the period 11–14 September 2001. Because persisting contrails can reduce the transfer of both incoming solar and outgoing infrared radiation and so reduce the daily temperature range, we attribute at least a portion of this anomaly to the absence of contrails over this period.”

http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v418/n6898/abs/418601a_fs.html&filetype=

Posted by: phx8 at April 19, 2006 9:59 PM
Comment #141844

I have an observation that I admit is entirely anecdotal and not the least bit scientific.

In 1970 I visited Glacier National Park in the northern Rocky Mountains, noted for it’s glaciers that had been there for millenia. I specificaly visited the Many Glacier area of this park, and the glaciers were indeed mind bogglingly beautiful and they were plentiful virtually everywhere you looked.

I visited the same area of this same park in 2004. All of the glaciers had receded significantly or were gone all together.

Like I said before, this is an anecdotal observation.

Posted by: Rocky at April 19, 2006 10:22 PM
Comment #141846

In case anybody cares here is an article on the Glacial melt;

http://www.nrmsc.usgs.gov/research/glacier_retreat.htm

Posted by: Rocky at April 19, 2006 10:25 PM
Comment #141862

bobc-
Working Scientist in what field?

Natural heat-induced releases of CO2 are not beyond the pale. But Anthropogenic forcing could be the cause, if you’re considering all possibilties. If our output can raise the temperature, it can certainly cause higher decay rates and the release of greenhouse gases from formerly colder places, like the Arctic tundra.

I think one of the big problem is that we aren’t thinking of climate change systematically, in how it could work and effect things.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 20, 2006 12:02 AM
Comment #141873

phx8,

Eric, The “missing carbon” question was solved. It turns out the oceans absorbed it. This is bad news. Very bad news.

…Climate Change, aka Global Warming, is already a done deal. The only question is, how much more do we want.

Hmm. That’s an interesting assessment. The oceans absorbed it. Why didn’t the models predict this?

Where is the missing carbon?

Curiously, the increase in atmospheric CO2 is only about one-half of what would have been expected from the amount of fossil fuel consumption and forest burning.

Where has the rest gone?
Research has shown that increased CO2 levels lead to increased net production by photoautotrophs. There is some evidence that the missing CO2 has been incorporated by

* increased growth of forests, especially in North America;
* increased amounts of phytoplankton in the oceans.

http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/C/CarbonCycle.html

It is interesting to note that increased growth of forests is not something the Sierra Club may be aware of, as I think the Sierra Club types believe that devastating deforestation has been the only result of the pillaging of this continent by the white man.

Posted by: esimonson at April 20, 2006 3:36 AM
Comment #141875

phx8,

re: contrails

Fight global warming, build more planes?

I suppose I could do my part by traveling to Europe a few times. Maybe the government should pay for it?

Posted by: esimonson at April 20, 2006 3:40 AM
Comment #141877

Stephen,

re: paleoclimatology- Direct measurements are of course preferable. We don’t have that luxury though, if we wish to get an idea about climate change. Your hypothesis, in fact, depends on establishing those cycles over time. You can’t blame solar or oceanic cycles whose progress might take decades or even centuries to unfold, if you only have the last century and a half of temperature records at your disposal. See, all you’re giving us at the moment is logical blue-sky speculation.

Wait… I may be misunderstanding what you’re saying here.

Are you saying that we don’t need establish whether or not these are natural climate cycles?

Specifically, when you say: “You can’t blame solar or oceanic cycles whose progress might take decades or even centuries to unfold, if you only have the last century and a half of temperature records at your disposal.”

Do you mean that for your purposes a century and a half of temperature records is enough for you to make a determination as to the anthropogenic nature of global warming?

I don’t think that demanding the general question of whether or not these are part of natural cycles be answered is blue-sky speculation. I think that it is the crux of the problem.

I can find hundred if not thousands of hundred year graphs with the notation saying that this proves global warming is man-made. But a hundred years is not enough time to determine that.

Either proponents can explain the evidence to a non-scientist and sceptic or they can’t. If they can’t then why can’t they? If my questions are too hard, or the answers too technical to be understood or withstand any amount of scepticism what good is the scientific method?

Or is Climate Science actually a priesthood of such a technical nature that I as a lay person should not be allowed to read the holy text?

Posted by: esimonson at April 20, 2006 3:58 AM
Comment #141881

Eric,

What many of us still want to know after reading post after post by you on this subject is: do you have any potential solutions or plans of action to offer up? I see you regularly criticizing the findings of others, but never presenting your own conclusions or ideas. It’s starting to get stale.

Posted by: Beijing Rob at April 20, 2006 5:00 AM
Comment #141891

Eric : “I don’t think that demanding the general question of whether or not these are part of natural cycles be answered is blue-sky speculation. I think that it is the crux of the problem.”

You seem to wait and do nothing in order to make sure of everything before doing anything. The National Academy of Sciences has determined that global warming is real and that is caused - at least in part - by man. That’s enough to say “OK, we’ll take your word for it and try to fix the problem.” So what if we find out in 300 years that it really wasn’t as much our fault as we suspected.

Also, by changing our oil use to alternative energy sources, we rid our enemy of their vast fortune - we can drastically reduce their ability to influence the world. If American industry owns the new energy technology, then we become the next energy-rich nation. If we let some other country develop and own that technology, the we get pushed down the food chain to ‘just another customer.”

Right now, it seems that we are the deer in the headlights, debating what could be making all that light. I’d rather not be roadkill.

Posted by: tony at April 20, 2006 8:25 AM
Comment #141892

esimonson,

re: your 3:30am post.

You realize that link you provide links to some random internet user’s “biology page” and that the info it provides is completely unsourced, right?

Or at most, his links lead to other unsourced pages by the same guy.

Please explain to me why I should place any credence in the information this random internet user provides.

Posted by: Arr-squared at April 20, 2006 8:30 AM
Comment #141898

Eric-
I think you ask that question ignorant of what’s likely the truth: They probably are putting that in the models, and likely have been for some time.

You’re acting here as if these people haven’t thought up these things before. Has it occurred to you that the conclusions you’re coming to are not consensus because people can’t get the data to support it?

As for the contrail issue, I believe it’s been found that high level cirrus clouds trap heat better than low level clouds, which tend to reflect more solar radiation back. Contrails, if you know your stuff, are the condensation and crystallization of water vapor in the jet exhaust- essentially artificial cirrus clouds. phx8 was saying that the removal of these contrails may have cause less heat to be trapped. There may be other factors as well, but that’s my amateur take on it.

As for paleoclimatology, I was not saying anything of the sort. I was saying that if you wanted to verify your hypothesis about natural cycles being most responsible, that you really couldn’t prove anything if you restricted the data you would accept to recent decades. Additionally, you couldn’t claim uncertainty about data gathered through paleoclimatology, and not have that uncertainty compromise your hypothesis as well.

It may not be your intent to muddle the debate like this with the tactics you use, but those whose tactics these are an imitation of know what they’re doing, and are unfortunately helping America to get nowhere and do nothing about the issue.

Their aim is to dampen any public concern about global warming. Whether it’s the truth or not doesn’t seem to be their concern. Many of these people have a special interest in the status quo, or at least the kind of change that requires the least effort from them.

Now you sometimes translate that into a concern for economic efficiency, but there you run into a problem. Or to be more witty about it, there you run out of gas. The economy is a much more complex thing than you give it credit for. You talk about competition, but you never ask yourself whether government could have a non subsidizing role in shaping that competition. Raise CAFE standards moderately, and you would likely see the car companies that know what they’re doing competing to make vehicles that fit that standards. The ones that know what they’re doing would also encourage R+D to make the process cheaper.

The irony is, you and so many of the corporate leaders out there fail to compete intellectually on these terms, having focused so much on over-simplified cost-benefit analyses. You fail to see that our economy is a system as complex and non-linear as the weather it is now affecting. You treat regulations as if they are subsidies or taxes in disguise, and therefore a violation of the free market. Meanwhile you let tax breaks and existing subsidies slide. The truth is, we don’t need so many tax breaks, we need standards, raised and applied appropriately, and with enough moderation that the market has time to adjust, and competition has its chance to feedback and change the situation.

Even if Anthropogenic Global Warming is not the case, we have much to gain from increasing the efficiency and the cleanliness of our technology. You fail to see pollution and the potential for global warming for what they are: future costs, future liabilities. If you trully had good business sense, you would take care of these emerging problems now, rather than wait for them to become or grow further into worse problems that cost you more.

You also fail to see the political costs, even as last years hellish hurricane season so lethally raised fears that Global Warming is indeed having a negative effect.

But ultimately, you also fail to see the human cost of doing nothing. We are probably bound to see some continuing damage and destruction tied to the change in climate, along with potential problems as the rainfall and temperature patterns change. Chicago in 1995, I think, stands as an example.

As the climate changes, the margins for survival and success will change, and those who formerly lived in favorable or at least tolerable positions will end up invested in lives and locations that no longer can sustain them. This isn’t the end of everything, some ecological apocalypse in general. Instead, it will be an expensive, destructive, and painful lesson in our dependence on nature. To a certain extent, there is a part of this process we cannot stop. But what we can stop, it’s in our interests to. We would be better off if the lesson we are taught is not such a harsh one.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 20, 2006 9:08 AM
Comment #141975

I just came across recent research that says we don’t have to worry about global warming. Trends indicate will we soon all be billionaires and be able to live in colonies on the moon.

The number of rich growing at fastest rate in decade

Posted by: Jack Mohammedoff at April 20, 2006 4:36 PM
Comment #142014

This is an excerpt from Michael Crichton’s authors’ note from “state of Fear”

We know astonishingly little about every aspect of the environment, from its past history, to its present state, to how to conserve and protect it. In every debate, all sides overstate the extent of existing knowledge and its degree of certainty.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing, and human activity is the probable cause.
We are also in the midst of a natural warming trend that began about 1850, as we emerged from a four-hundred-year old cold spell known as the “Little Ice Age.”
Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be a natural phenomenon.
Nobody knows how much of the present warming trend might be man-made.
Nobody knows how much warming will occur in the next century. The computer models vary by 400 percent, de facto proof that nobody knows. But if I had to guess —- the only thing anyone is doing, really —- I would guess the increase will be 0.812436 degrees C. There is no evidence that my guess about the state of the world one hundred years from now is any better or worse than anyone else’s. (We can’t “assess” the future, nor can we “predict” it. These are euphemisms. We can only guess. And informed guess is just a guess.)
I suspect that part of the observed surface warming will ultimately be attributable to human activity. I suspect that the principal human effect will come from land use, and that the atmospheric component will be minor.
Before making expensive policy decisions on the basis of climate models, I think it is reasonable to require that those models predict future temperatures accurately for a period of ten years. Twenty would be better.
I think for anyone to believe in impending resource scarcity, after two hundred years of such false alarms, is kind of weird. I don’t know whether such a belief today is best ascribed to ignorance of history, sclerotic dogmatism, unhealthy love of Malthus, or simple pigheadedness, but it is evidently a hardly perennial in human calculation.
There are many reasons to shift away from fossil fuels, and we will do so in the next century without legislation, financial incentives, carbon-conservation programs, or the interminable yammering of fearmongers. So far as I know, nobody had to ban horse transportation in the early twentieth century.
I suspect the people of 2100 will be much richer than we are, consume more energy, have a smaller global population, and enjoy more wilderness than we have today. I don’t think we have to worry about them.
The current near-hysterical preoccupation with safety is at best a waste of resources and a crimp on the human spirit, and at worst an invitation to totalitarianism. Public education is desperately needed.
I conclude that most environmental “principles” (such as sustainable development or the precautionary principle) have the effect of preserving the economic advantages of the West and thus constitute modern imperialism toward the developing world. It is a nice way of saying, “We got ours and we don’t want you to get yours, because you’ll cause too much pollution.”
I believe people are will intentioned. But I have great respect for the corrosive influence of bias, systematic distortions of thought, the power of rationalization, the guises of self-interest, and the inevitability of unintended consequences.
I have more respect for people who change their views after acquiring new information than for those who cling to views they held thirty years ago. The world changes, Ideologues and zealots don’t.
In the thirty-five-odd years since the environmental movement came into existence, science has undergone a major revolution. This revolution has brought new understanding of nonlinear dynamics, complex systems, chaos theory, catastrophe theory. It has transformed the way we think about evolution and ecology. Yet these no-longer-new ideas have hardly penetrated the thinking of environmental activists, which seems oddly fixed in the concepts and rhetoric of the 1970’s.
We haven’t the foggiest notion how to preserve what we term “wilderness,” and we had better study it in the field and learn how to do so. I see no evidence that we are conducting such research in a humble, rational and systematic way. I therefore hold little hope for wilderness management in the twenty-first century. I blame environmental organizations every bit as much as developers and strip miners. There is no difference in outcomes between greed and incompetence.
We need a new environmental movement, with new goals and new organizations. We need more people working in the field, in the actual environment, and fewer people behind computer screens. We need more scientists and many fewer lawyers.
We cannot hope to manage a complex system such as the environment through litigation. We can only change its state temporarily —- usually by preventing something —- with eventual results that we cannot predict and ultimately cannot control.
Nothing is more inherently political than our shared physical environment, and nothing is more ill served by allegiance to a single political party. Precisely because the environment is shared it cannot be managed by one faction according to its own economic or aesthetic preferences. Sooner or later, the opposing faction will take power, and previous policies will be reversed. Stable management of the environment requires recognition that all preferences have their place: snowmobilers and fly fisherman, dirt bikers and hikers, developers and preservationists. These preferences are at odds, and their incompatibility cannot be avoided. But resolving incompatible goals is a true function of politics.
We desperately need a nonpartisan, blinded funding mechanism to conduct research to determine appropriate policy. Scientists are only too aware whom they are working for. Those who fund research —- whether a drug company, a government agency, or an environmental organization —- always have a particular outcome in mind. Research funding is almost never open-ended or open-minded. Scientists know that continued funding depends on delivering the results the funders desire. As a result, environmental organization “studies” are every bit as biased and suspect as industry “studies.” Government “studies” are similarly biased according to who is running the department or administration at the time. No faction should be given a free pass.
I am certain there is too much certainty in the world.
I personally experience a profound pleasure being in nature. My happiest days each year are those I spend in wilderness. I wish natural environments to be preserved for future generations. I am not satisfied they will be preserved in sufficient quantities, or with sufficient skill. I conclude that the “exploiters of the environment” include environmental organizations, government organizations, and big business. All have equally dismal track records.
Everybody has an agenda. Except me.

Posted by: Keith Gurian at April 20, 2006 7:14 PM
Comment #142015

Great responses to the asinine post. Eric’s rant was so bad, I felt I had to respond, but all you others have said it for me.

I do have one question for Eric, though. Hey, Eric. Let’s say a terrorist has a knife to your daughter’s throat and you’re sitting there at your kitchen table eating your ice cream and you have a pistol in your pocket. And let’s say there are a bunch of terrorist experts sitting next to you telling you that it’s pretty likely that he’s gonna cut your daughter’s throat. Would the following be your response?

“Hey all you terrorist experts, I appreciate your efforts, but how do I know for sure this guy will cut her throat? You all have a vested interest in promoting your theory that this guy’s a killer cause that’s how you make your living. Besides, I’m really enjoying my ice cream and if I shoot this guy it means I’d have to put my spoon down for a couple of seconds. And, for all I know my daughter might die of natural causes soon anyway. So, before I act, I need some more facts to be sure what I’m doing is 100% right.”

Do you see what we’re saying now?

Posted by: Jeff at April 20, 2006 7:18 PM
Comment #142020

Keith,
“State of Fear” is a crappy book on several levels. In terms of pure readability, it’s awful. “State of Fear” is an info dump with flimsy characters moving like wooden soldiers through a crappy plot.

But it gets worse. Crichton uses outdated and discredited data to make disingenuous arguments. At times he exhibits the most basic, grossest, willful ignorance of history. For example:

“I think for anyone to believe in impending resource scarcity, after two hundred years of such false alarms, is kind of weird.”

For Mr Crichton, I have two words:

Easter Island.

There are many, many examples of civilizations which have collapsed due to resource scarcity. In fact, there is an entire book, “Collapse” by Jared Diamond, which gives an excellent account of this. “Collapse” discusses Easter Island, and many other extremely interesting examples of ways in which resources and geography determine the fates of civilizations.

Entire web sites publish refutations of Crichton’s crappy book and stupid assertions. It’s old news. My only regret is to see someone bring it back into the light of day.

Posted by: phx8 at April 20, 2006 7:35 PM
Comment #142024

Keith -

You do know that “State of Fear” is fiction… right?

Posted by: tony at April 20, 2006 7:54 PM
Comment #142025

“”The planet is now out of balance with space,” as one climate scientist put it.

So the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere has crept up in tandem with the increased concentration of greenhouse gases that people put into the air.

One hundred and fifty years ago, our atmosphere had about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide; now that figure has reached 381 parts per million, an increase of 35 percent.

When the concentration of greenhouse gases gets to roughly 400 parts per million, say many scientists, we’ll probably be close to the threshold beyond which the impacts of climate change become extremely severe”

ABC News : http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/GlobalWarming/

Posted by: tony at April 20, 2006 8:12 PM
Comment #142026

and what to the misinformation - presented in blogs such as this one:

“The point of this campaign was not necessarily to persuade the public that global warming isn’t happening,” Gelbspan said. “It was to persuade the public that there is this state of confusion.”

A 1998 memo by the American Petroleum Institute said, “Victory will be achieved when … average citizens recognize uncertainties in climate science.”

To redefine global warming as theory — not fact — the industry funded research by “friendly” scientists such as Michaels.”

Posted by: tony at April 20, 2006 8:17 PM
Comment #142108

Try this out
It seems to me that if we examine history and use technology we could come up with a workable theory of what actually could have happened. First, the history, dinosaurs lived in a tropical paradise you don’t here of any winter storms freezing temperatures ect.. then according to experts the earth was struck by a meteor, causing a long and cold winter. What caused the Ice Age I theorize that when the earth was struck with the meteor (which is now considered a part of history) that the nice round orbit that the dinosaurs enjoyed was moved into a sever elliptical orbit causing the Ice Age. What caused the Ice Age to reseed? It wasn’t cave men driving SUV’s perhaps this is where technology comes in. As I am sure everyone is aware our government has some private contractors that do things very well, like measuring, we know the distance to the moon to the inch, surprise, surprise we also know the distance to the sun. Our constant measuring the distance to the sun has shone us that the earth’s orbit around the sun is changing, it is moving from a more elliptical orbit to a circular orbit, going from longer colder winters and short hot summers to shorter warmer winters and longer less sever summers. (Global Warming) but what caused this. It appears that the sun’s gravity is just doing what it does and bringing the earth back to a circular orbit. Although I had discovered the information about the sun’s orbit from one the military contractor that was building satellites for the government and at the time this info was classified I am sure that by now this information is available to anyone in the general public who wants to find it, don’t believe me, do your job, be skeptical and check it out for yourself.

Posted by: DS at April 21, 2006 10:51 AM
Comment #142110

DS,
It’s called the Malinkovitch Cycle.

Posted by: phx8 at April 21, 2006 11:06 AM
Comment #142111

Stephen,
I base my opinion of the science of human induced greenhouse effect climate change on real scientific principles and not “pat each other on the back” consensus. A scientific theory is only as good as it is predictive. If it was really “basic” physics and “basic” thermodynamics then why can’t the best minds in the business get it right? I see lots of examples listed here that give excuses of why these models are not predictive. I still advocate making changes to reduce our production of CO2. This only makes sense on so many levels. All I want to be sure is that we don’t forget about science in the process and really look for a better cause.

My personal feelings about the whole theory of greenhouse global warming is that it presumes a lack of convection like a real greenhouse. CO2 will give up its heat if it moves to a significantly energy lacking place. Remember simple thermodynamics. Maybe the effect of CO2 is actually a refrigerant. It might soak up heat at the surface and move it to the higher atmosphere where it unloads that excess heat. Do I think that is the case? Not really, but we have to consider all possibilities. Why are observations of the oceans warming trend seemingly glaring while surface temps aren’t nearly as reflective of the weather gone wild. We have a problem in climate change for sure. We better be sure we’re fixing the right problem. What if we’re not the problem? If we know beforehand we can prepare for climate change whether we’re the cause or not. The climate has changed in the past without our help. Are we so full of ourselves that we think we can save ourselves by changing our habits?

Posted by: John Dixon at April 21, 2006 11:08 AM
Comment #142112

phx8 thanks, I have never heard of it, where could I get more info or do you have anything you could share? What I wrote just came to me and seems logical.

Posted by: DS at April 21, 2006 11:17 AM
Comment #142118

DS,
Pardon, typed it from memory and made an error. Milankovitch Cycles.

http://www.homepage.montana.edu/~geol445/hyperglac/time1/milankov.htm

Posted by: phx8 at April 21, 2006 11:50 AM
Comment #142126

DS-
Your point only holds water if we assume that the causes of climate change either have to be natural or artificial. Truth is, such distinctions are themselves artificial. CO2 is CO2, its atomic spectra no different whether it’s coming out of a natural forest fire or a SUV tailpipe.

Also, CO2 is not the only element of climate change It’s part of a system, and must be considered as such.

The earth’s orbit is one part of that system, but I must emphasize: only part. One way to illustrate this is by informing you that at our planet’s greatest distance from the sun in its current orbit, we’re in summer. Another factor comes into play, other than strict distance: the amount of atmosphere that must be travelled through by rays before they can warm the earth, and in turn the troposphere around it.

Here is the Wikipedia article on the Milankovitch Cycles. There are some issues that this theory may not really work out that well. Also, the net effect of a bunch of these changes might ultimately be a negative one, the shifts working to cool the Earth rather than warm it up. This would be because the reduction in eccentricity in Earth’s orbit is accompanied by other changes as well.

Last but not least, there’s another objection: the changes in orbit alone are neither quick enough nor strong enough in their effect to explain the sudden rise in average global temperatures.

John Dixon-
Actually, a real greenhouse does have convection. What makes a greenhouse a greenhouse is that the glass is transparent to radiation in the visible spectrum, but opaque to it in the infrared spectrum. Light checks in, but heat doesn’t check out, at least not as fast as it would otherwise.

Carbon Dioxide, Methane, and Water Vapor are among the gases that help the atmosphere trap heat in this way. Without this effect, the planet would be much too cold to support life.

The thing about CO2 is how much its skyrocketed over the past few decades. It’s a greenhouse gas, so having more of it in the mix will make the atmosphere a readier absorber of heat. The mix of it, by the way, is fairly uniform. Also, C02 is heavier than air, so even if it was heated, the rest of the air would rise further.

Additionally, it shouldn’t surprise you that water is soaking up so much heat. That’s one of water’s big properties: it’s a great heat absorber.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2006 12:44 PM
Comment #142151

Read it and whine, libs/greenies/goreweasels:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20060420-115953-7360r.htm

Posted by: Beak at April 21, 2006 2:49 PM
Comment #142157

Beak,

First, thanks for insulting us. It makes us love you all the more.

Second, why do you consider that one study to be definitive when other studies disagree with it. Could it be that you unquestioningly accept news you want to hear and refuse to hear news you don’t like?

Third, if it’s true, it’s good news. We’ll have to see based on more research. So far, it’s just one paper.

Posted by: LawnBoy at April 21, 2006 3:15 PM
Comment #142158

Beak,

“Read it and whine, libs/greenies/goreweasels”

Wow, you have really refined the concept of “How to win friends and influence people”.
I won’t make the mistake of assuming that you actually care.

Where in this link you provide does it say that global warming isn’t actually taking place?

“The Duke estimates show the chances that the planet’s temperature will rise even by 11 degrees is only 5 percent, which falls in line with previous, less-alarming predictions that meteorologists made almost three decades ago.”

Wow, I will remember those figures when it is 120 here in Phoenix.

Posted by: Rocky at April 21, 2006 3:16 PM
Comment #142165

Beak-
If the science is good, the paradigm should shift. I would advise you, though that you should no more trust one study than you should trust one media outlet, especially this one.

You see, the trouble is, Global Warming doesn’t have to raise temperatures 11 degrees to start causing problems.

Even one degree’s change can have profound affects. One degree hotter, and the area that remains above freezing shrinks that far back. One degree hotter, and the waters that can sustain Hurricanes have expanded by that much more. Other weather phenomena will change because of that too, with profound consequences for us.

What if the temperature rises four or five degrees? Look into that, if you are so keen on finding the truth.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 21, 2006 3:52 PM
Comment #142170

Beak, Beak Beak.
Beak.

Are you a Moonie? You cite the article from the Washington Times, which is owned by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. I’m pretty sure you either didn’t read or didn’t understand the article. But let’s keep moving right along…

Here is an article on the exact same article, published by National Geographic:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/04/0419_060419_global_warming.html

The Moonie newspaper article certainly gives an interesting slant, doesn’t it? I especially love this line:

“In recent years, much academic research has indicated otherwise, often in colorful terms and citing the United States as the biggest contributor to global warming.”

That last phrase is absolutely adorable! No one questions that the US is “the biggest contributor to global warming.” But by tacking that phrase onto the end of the sentence, this reporter, Jennifer Harper, implies the US may not be the biggest contributor to global warming.

Beak, would you work for the Reverend Sun Myung Moon? Most reputable reporters would not work for the Reverend Moon. Would you take his money? Would you have your wedding performed in one of his mass ceremonies? No? Then why do you cite his newspaper as a source? Why, why, why do you support him? This same article was carried on Reuters the day it came out.

Here is a little jewel from the Wikipedia article on Moon:

“Moon announced that he would save everyone on Earth as he had saved the souls of even such murderous dictators as Hitler and Stalin, who he claimed had received ‘the Blessing’ through him. Moon said the reformed Hitler and Stalin vouched for him from the spirit world, calling him ‘none other than humanity’s Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent’.”

Posted by: phx8 at April 21, 2006 4:14 PM
Comment #142171

I was also going to point out that the article did not mention any specific scientist by name ot offer any links to their web material.

http://www.dukenews.duke.edu/2005/09/sunwarm.html

This is the official Duke web site… it basically says that we need to add in some modification of the models used because of an increase in solar output over the past few years. However, the same article here states that humans also add to Global Warming, and that Global Warming does exist.

So - a question to you: Are you OK if we face large scale problems because of Global Warming if we can state that it’s not all our fault? If we can minimize the recent increase of solar output from the sun by reducing our emissions of green house gases, do you see that as a good thing or a bad thing?

Posted by: tony at April 21, 2006 4:23 PM
Comment #142189

No offense, but I would really stop the whole “global warming=religious crusade” tactic. You did the same thing last time you brought this up, when you decided to label climate scientists “environment ministers” on some kind of jihad. It just makes you look stupid, and everyone here knows it’s just rhetoric with no basis in fact. If you disagree with global warming, please explain your facts instead of turning legitimate science into religion.

Because no one has convinced me the planet is in danger yet. Much less proven that global warming is all our doing.

Well, of course no one’s going to convince you. Like most good neocons, you’ll always deny global warming along with most science you don’t like, no matter what the evidence is. Just like fundamentalists will always deny evolution. Maybe if it was like the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” you would, but then again I’d wonder if you’d just say it’s natural.

“Keep your consensus, and your ‘moral crusade’, I want facts.”
No, face it, you just want facts that support your position. Over 700 peer-reviewed articles have been published on this issue, not one has questioned global warming. Maybe this doesn’t concern you, but I think I’ll trust real scientists who’ve studied this for years than some politician or neocon who won’t deal with reality.

Posted by: mark at April 21, 2006 5:41 PM
Comment #142208
But how do we know this is true? What’s the evidence? ‘Why, our models predict it. Do you doubt the models, unbeliever?’

The good news is that those-who-know-better-than-us have a plan. They are willing to save us from our sins and keep the planet from being made utterly lifeless and void, but it won’t happen until, “we regain our moral authority.”

Pretty thick rhetoric, “moral authority, saving us from sin, unbelievers.” You never once really refuted the actual science behind global warming, did you? You know, the facts, evidence, stuff like that.

Since you don’t, why not just admit it:
“I don’t like global warming.I can’t stand the idea of it being taken seriously. Although I don’t have any evidence against it, I will always deny it no matter the evidence and no matter what real scientists say. Because of this, I will resort to rhetoric and empty propaganda rather than actual facts when discussing it.”

Posted by: mark at April 21, 2006 6:30 PM
Comment #142251

Eric,
The venomous attacks against you asking for “facts” shows that this is not a science issue, but a vitriolic crusade.

The true scientists admit the evidence is not conclusive and don’t make wild claims that “we only have 10 years left to fix it.” The nut-jobs will attack a demand for conclusive evidence before we radically alter he world as foolish and ostrich-like.

Keep demanding the truth be told.

Dave

Posted by: Dave at April 21, 2006 9:40 PM
Comment #142255

“The nut-jobs will attack a demand for conclusive evidence before we radically alter he world as foolish and ostrich-like.”

Wow - you’re right. I mean, seriously, what would the world be like without all that CO2?

Damn… maybe we should sit back and ponder the whole thing a bit longer… Actually - you sit back and try to figure it all out. Make sure you’re 100% sure before you react. I’ll go ahead and push ahead - ya know, go ahead and try to fix the problem rather than trying affix the blame. But if I’m right and you’re worng - will you thanks those of us who make things happen? (Don’t worry - that last question what rhetorical.)

Posted by: tony at April 21, 2006 10:04 PM
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