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The Jehoshua Novels

global warming

elevated from the diaries
Global Warming

So I finally give in and start a diary thread on global warming. Why now? I commented on an article relating to "peak oil" on tfisb’s diary and tfisb responded to my comments and it seemed that s/he is a "climate-change skeptic."  Here is my answer to tfisb’s specific points.  Then in a separate comment I will outline my position on this issue.

 The larger question is, how can the truth or falsity of a technical question be established, in a partisan society.

Very briefly:  The "increased funding" argument is a red herring, you could assert that to discredit ANY scientific work.  The tipping canoe is a dramatic image to help explain the similar physics to the layman, there is nothing fantastic about it.  There is a widespread scientific concensus that human-induced climate change is here and now and important.  Only a few outliers dispute that — what are their motives?

I am aware of no "latest studies" that have superseded that basic concensus which has existed for ~10 years now.  Rather the latest studies refine our knowledge and change important details.  For instance, how much will sea level rise in the near future?  Obviously a crucial question.  There is some evidence that it may actually fall, as warmer air means more snow piles up in Antarctica.

35 comments to global warming

  • Anonymous

    The IPCC states unequivocally that the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth’s climate is affected by human activities, which “are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents . . . that absorb or scatter radiant energy.”  Most recently:  “There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.”

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the UN Environmental Program to evaluate the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy action.

    Is there really a concensus?  National Academy of Sciences report: "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise."  2003, the American Geophysical Union, a membership of 41,000 space and planetary scientists adopted a statement with the following conclusion: “Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth’s climate.”  The American Meteorological Society recent statement includes this sobering assessment: “…we are, in effect, conducting a global climate experiment, neither planned nor controlled, whose results may present unprecedented challenges to our wisdom and foresight as well as have significant impacts on our natural and societal systems.”

    What is the consensus?  The main points that most would agree are: 

    1. The earth is getting warmer (0.6 +/- 0.2 oC in the past century; 0.17 oC/decade over the last 30 years

    3. People are causing this

    5. If GHG emissions continue, the warming will continue and indeed accelerate

    7. (This will be a problem and we ought to do something about it)  This #4 is opinion not science.

    What about the published scientific literature?  "Politicians, economists, journalists and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.  Actually, there is a surprising degree of consensus about the basic science of global warming – at least among scientists."  Science historian Naomi Oreskes of UCSD wrote this in Science late last year.  She reviewed all 928 peer-reviewed papers on climate change published between 1993 and 2003 and showed the consensus to be real and near universal.

    This is how science ALWAYS advances.  Nothing is ever a proven fact.  It is a theory, supported by more and more research as the kinks are worked out, and eventually a concensus emerges.  After that, we treat the theory as a truth.

    And yet 90% of what I see on the Web is pro-skeptic.  I really don’t understand the dynamics of this.  How does such clear science get so extremely distorted?  The only similar development I know of is the question of Evolution vs Intellegent Design.

  • Anonymous

    In fact, I am a climate catastrophe skeptic or an eco-apocalypse skeptic.  Disputing that the climate changes is like disputing continental drift.

    I think the larger question is: how can scientists resist political pressure to draw premature conclusions from inadequate data?

    Similarly, the "what are their motives?" rhetoric can be used to attack any unfashionable view.

    Sea level <strike>rise</strike> change is just one example of how the climate catastrophists are in constant retreat.  Now that thermohaline collapse is off the table, I believe the latest is CO2 acidification of the oceans resulting in a collapse of the food chain. 



  • Anonymous

    The IPCC also said

     "In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we  are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and  therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible"

    For those interested, the standard reply to the Connolley consensus is here …;

    Yes, I know it a conservative site.  The points are valid nonetheless. 


  • Anonymous

    tfisb if you mean that we cannot really predict what will be the specific impact of HUMAN-induces global warming caused by more and more CO2 from HC’s, then I agree with you 100%.  But we all agree that the impact is here, now, it is just beginning, and it will get more and more dramatic.  Some impacts will be beneficial.

    What do you mean by dismissing sea level rise?  I personally expect that all costal cities will be underwater, as will essentially all of Florida.  OK that’s maybe 150 years from now, but, hey!

    My basic view is this:  Individual scientists do have incentives (career enhancement) to overstate the conclusions from their data.  Other scientists have incentives to dispute their conclusions.  It is a very contentious business.  When a concensus arises it is hard-fought, and it generally withstands the test of time.

  • Anonymous

    Your link to techcentral station doesn’t work for me.  About the IPCC you quoted, I definitely agree, we cannot predict even the direction of climate change after we change the inputs.  To quote the AMS above, "…we are, in effect, conducting a global climate experiment, neither planned nor controlled, whose results may present unprecedented challenges"  Yep, we are heading into the unknown and we can only expect that climate change will at least be commensurate with the human-induced changes in the inputs. 

    Of course (see the previous diary entry) I believe it is much worse than that.  I’d bet on  "Abrupt Climate Change".  That is NOT a concensus view today but I have good reasons nonetheless.

  • Anonymous


    I’ll try again with the link to the commentry on the Connolley consensus:

    <em>all agree that the impact is here</em>

    All agree that there is some impact

    <em>and it will get more and more dramatic</em>

    actually, I don’t believe that is true.  We are dealing with a nonlinear system.  It isn’t established that the feedback is net positive.

    <em>What do you mean by dismissing sea level rise?</em>

    You said yourself that sea level may fall.  We don’t know.

    <em>Other scientists have incentives to dispute their conclusions.</em>

    But it takes a while, and usually occurs only once there is a thesis to shoot down.

    <em>It is a very contentious business.  When a concensus arises it is hard-fought, and it generally withstands the test of time.</em>

    I believe the contention is only just now going on.  I look forward to following the debate.


  • Anonymous

    <i>I’d bet on  "Abrupt Climate Change".  That is NOT a concensus view today</i>

    okay, I’m glad that is recognized.  I’m actually with the consensus view on this one. 


  • Anonymous

    Yes, it is sad that what should be a scientific debate has become so partisan.  You’ll notice that what marcf cut-and-posted is well known enough to have its own commentary.  Have a read-through, it points out the flaws in the perceived consensus.

  • Anonymous

    Ad hominem never proves a point one way or another, and my science is not strong enough to venture an opinion. I’m reading it all with interest – I just like to keep track of who’s telling the story, and who pays their salary, on either side.

  • Anonymous

    In science, much more so than in general life, there is awareness of “tipping points” where things “really start popping” and where it can get really hard to “turn back”.  Some of the excitement seems to be due to the relatively fast changes measured “lately” after a really, really long time when there’s no evidence of the same thing happening.  The progress seems to match nicely with the progress of our (global) industrialization and reduction of “carbon sinks” (like major forests) and not match any cause from nature.  This “could” mean we’ve pushed the atmosphere to the point where it is moving to a new “equilibrium”, a new balance where things again become stable — or maybe it just keeps going until we do something differently.  Experts on climate are having trouble estimating what the climate will be like due to the change, but we are already “on the way”.  Since nobody likes that much uncertainty: yet more excitement.
    And since most of the world’s business and leisure practices contribute various heats and vapors, there is fantastic financial incentive to not accept the issue as genuine: even more excitement.  Anybody can yell out an answer, but I (boldly?) predict what will actually happen, near term, will be a compromise.  And that near term compromise will err on the side of legislation with winning names and inaction.  One does not get big contributions by hurting one’s contributors’ businesses, and the world of tomorrow is far away.  What do you think?

  • Anonymous

    Will the Florida property owners sue the federal government of its deliberate inaction?

    The sea level might or might not rise at the maximum speed of 30 cm per 100 a. I see this as a sideissue because it is uncertain.

    The immediate threat in Florida and nearby are the more frequent hurricanes.

  • Anonymous

    …playing the odds and making careful wagers. For instance, what’s the possible consequence to ignoring data that supports the global warming theory. Environmental disaster, yes? What price will we pay for taking actions to avert this possibility. Improved energy conservation, less profits for energy concerns and more buying power for consumers. Where’s the up side of inaction? I don’t see it.

  • Anonymous

    I am not a climate scientist but I know a few and I know some scientist-skeptics as well.  I respect all them I know.  Skeptics are very valuable to keep others on their toes.  For instance Fred Hoyle was a great scientist who kept championing the idea of a steady state universe, even as the evidence gradually kept piling up to the contrary.  He wrote lots of scientifically respectable articles trying to reconcile the new observations with his model. I’m glad he did.

    I’m all in favor of the (honest) climate change skeptics as well.  The difference however is that they are lionized on-line, in the press, in governmental circles, and conservative institutes.  By some process the “skeptic” view carries the day in the practical world, and the consensus science is written off.  Michael Crichton, Sen. Inhofe, George Will, and 90% of the blogosphere.  It is insane!

  • Anonymous

    It is not a long time when the president of South-Africa claimed that AIDS is not caused by HIV.

    There were multiple theories explaining why HIV as a cause of AIDS is a misunderstanding.

  • Anonymous

    ok I read Iain Murray’s article at the Tech site.  Well written.  Lots of tricks.  Let me parse.  

    Murray agrees with Connolley point #1 “The earth is getting warmer (0.6 +/- 0.2 oC in the past century; 0.17 oC/decade over the last 30 years”  He says that all skeptics agree, so why keep repeating it?  OK, but until a few years ago they fought that bitterly.

    But wait!  He pulls a fast one.  He says “0.1 oC/decade over the last 30 years” not 0.17 oC/decade.  Not a big deal?  0.1 means that ~ half the warming was in the past 30/100 years, and 0.17 means 85% of the warming was in the past 30/100 years.  Very different impression — but the numbers are certainly not exact so how can you blame him.

    Murray agrees with point #2 “People are causing this.”  But wait again!  He redefines it, without telling us.  To him it means human activities affect the climate somehow.  Well, duh.  Connolley clearly means that oil burning caused the recent global warming.

    Having established we are all reasonable people he now goes after point #3: “If GHG emissions continue, the warming will continue and indeed accelerate”  He claims that #3 is true only is there is “positive feedback” in the climate and that is not established.

    He is wrong, I can only believe purposely so.  The statement is simple and the science is simple.  Irrespective of feedback:

    Given that CO2 causes warming by the greenhouse effect (point #2), the more CO2 the more warming.  [Exactly how much CO2 causes a certain amount of warming is arguable.]  Once in the atmosphere, CO2 stays there for hundreds of years.  If we stopped GHG emmissions today (ha!) the warming will continue for 10 or 20 years until a new equilibrium is reached.  But is we continue to burn oil we add more CO2 to the CO2 already in the air.  Thus the warming will accelerate.

    Pretty simple, huh?  Point #3 is indeed universally accepted among scientists, and Murray just obfuscates.  How can he and his kind get away with it?

  • Anonymous

    But is we continue to burn oil we add more CO2 to the CO2 already in the air.

    Oil seems to take care of itself.

    The US has about 25% of the coal resources of the world. To burn or not to burn them during this century. That’s the trillion dollar question.

  • Anonymous

    First Somebody claims that sea level will rise because of CO2 emissions. Then scientist will assure that it won’t happen. Then Somebody will cite scientists saying that the effects of CO2 emissions are exaggerated by sneaky people and the emissions are basically harmless.

  • Anonymous

    Oh one more comment on Murray’s article, it is such a common and effective trick.  

    He mentions the “Pacific Decadal Oscillation which some researchers think may account for half of the recent warming trend” and references a reputable scientific article.  As if this is something new.

    It is not new.  There are many articles about the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.  Here is a webpage summarizing.  The PDO has long been well known to all of the climate modelers and they have dealt with it.

    What’s new is this one 2002 paper in which a young TAMU professor tweaked his personal climate model and found the PDO had a big effect on his climate predictions.  If I understand correctly.  The paper has only 3 citations so I can only assume it did not appear like an important paper to his peers.

    Nothing wrong with that, it’s how science is supposed to work.  But here is Murray pulling this paper out of thousands to counter the consensus on global warming.  Here are oodles of skeptic web sites quoting this article.

    Drives me crazy.

  • Anonymous

    Gandalf you are right about the coal.  

    The sea level rise is funny.  Most of the rise is because the ocean water expands as it warms up.  The biggest uncertainty is mixing times in the oceans — how quickly hot air turns into hot water. Hotter air means Antarctica gets more snow, and this number is highly uncertain.  The total error bars are from ~0 to ~100 m sea rise by 2100, last I looked.  Zero is pretty unlikely imho.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a proponent of playing the odds and making careful wagers.

    Then you know you don’t put all your money on a long shot.  You look at your options, rank them according to risk-reward and distribute your resources accordingly.

    Kyoto and its misbegotten ilk are expensive.  They raise the price of energy.  It’s a flat tax on pretty much everything.  The estimated cost is $200+ billion per year.  For half of that we could provide fresh water, food, sewage service, basic medicine and literacy to every person on Earth.  Instead: the poor pay disproportionately for eco-catastrophist fantasies, and a global temperature rise of 0.1 +- 0.1 of a degree may or may not be delayed by 5 +- 5 years.  It’s a bad deal and the Bush admin was right to reject it – which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t go to prison for war crimes, but we must be thankful for small mercies.

  • Anonymous

    tfisb, couple points

    kyoto need not be implemented as a flat tax on everything, not all. no reason but ideology not to integrate the costs of dealing with climate change into a progressive tax regime.

    the low estimates of the benefits of following kyoto are because it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough to slow the effects of human-produced warming.

    most importantly, in any analysis of risk/reward, you have to look at both sides. what are the costs of following the current course of 3 gallons of oil per day per US citizen ?

    by your rising energy price argument, the war in iraq has cost $1000 billion worldwide already, nevermind the hundreds of billions the US spent directly. now that’s enough to provide provide fresh water, food, sewage service, basic medicine and literacy to every person on Earth, then give them all Prada shoes and tickets to the opera.

  • Anonymous

    tfisb nobody mentioned Kyoto.  This thread is about the science.  We earth-dwelling creatures need to know the facts as best we can, about our global climate.  What are the range of possible/likely outcomes of different human inputs?  

    This is a different question than What to do?  I personally do not have a firm view about What to do?  Maybe some remediation scheme will be best?  That would be expensive too.  I also believe that doing nothing will be very very expensive.

    I have made my view clear, that the “skeptics” are obfuscating the science and hiding the facts.  I also see politicizing the research, demonizing the researchers …  Is this because they don’t like the policy implications of reality?  If so that is very very bad.

  • Anonymous

    I live in Kyoto area. It is already implemented whatever your media claims.

    And here you can see the prices:

    which follow the price of natural gas.

    If the value of the American coal fields are factored in Kyoto, you get a much bigger figure than 200 billion. Otherwise you get a much lower figure. I assume that 200 billion is a figure from outer space.

    The damage to the properties in Florida will be tens of billions? Who is going to pay that?

  • Anonymous

    about this sea rise subject earlier, but I don’t remember numbers.

    The maximum speed of rising sea water is 30 cm per 100 years.

    I think that only the surface of the sea is warm. Thus if the top 100 m of the sea water becomes a couple of degrees warmer it doesn’t mean much in sea level. (But it will have enormous effect in local climate.)

  • Anonymous

    tfisb please stop with your name calling “eco-catastrophist fantasies.”  It is prejudging the issues and ends the conversation.  I hope you don’t really believe that all of the mainstream climatologists are conspiring to carry out the machinations of the extremest Sierra Club?

  • Anonymous

    With 99% certainty we will experience here in Finland a more than 2 degrees Celsius increase in average temperature. That means the highest known temperatures in known recent history and is considered as the last safe increase in the temperature.

    The living areas of some animals and plants will shift to Arctic Ocean. Bears have already now difficulties to hibernate during the winter because of lack of snow. There is a lack of mosquitos in Lapland at the moment but other nasty Southern parasites will replace them which will make forests more dangerous.

    At the moment Sahara tries to expand to Southern Europe. Do you remember the last year’s heatwave deaths in Europe?

    I don’t believe in rising sea level but it would be disastrous in the Netherlands and Denmark.

    There are some fishing problems in North Sea. It might be because the warming sea water breaks the food chain.

  • Anonymous

    Actually Gandalf your memory is very good.
    The maximum speed of rising sea water is 30 cm per 100 years
    You might be thinking about a recent Science article  on sea-level rise for different scenarios.  The high scenario gave exactly 30 cm sea level rise from 2000 to 2100 (and still rising, fast).

    But this article was only about thermal expansion.  They say that melting ice will “at least double” this rise.

    But more striking to me is how conservative these scientists are.  Their high scenario has about twice as much CO2 in the air as today.  Their low scenario assumes we stop burning oil (no further CO2) today!  My view, humanity will be very very lucky to get by with the high scenario, I’d expect much higher.

    Anyway, I don’t think that 1 meter rise by 2100 is  unrealistic.

  • Anonymous

    …this comprehensive demolition of a wildly inaccurate climate-change sceptic Wall Street Journal editorial that at first read is measured and convincing if you don’t have the background, but comes out looking like little more than propaganda.

  • Anonymous

    It will rise less than 80 meters anyway, when all the ice over the current sea-level has melted.

    The variables are explained here clearly:

    Nobody knows their relationships. Pick yours.

  • Anonymous

    Afterwards there will be disputes who knew what and when and who is going to pay the damage caused.

    Or Iraqi war :-)

  • Anonymous

    That Wall Street Journal editorial that billy called attention to ( do read this link, you’ll be amazed) is having some immediate reprecussions.  

    The House Energy Committee has started what appears to be a direct attack on climate scientists and their NSF funding.
    The staffer mentioned, Peter Spencer, I assume is the same Peter Spencer whose wingnut climate writings are featured in WorldNetDaily

  • Anonymous

    This from the American Institute of Physics.

    Well sure there is a “Shift in Senate Thinking on Climate Change.”  Latecomers.  Who cares?

    But — read the link — what will strike any scientist as astounding is this:
    The ANTI-science crowd quotes lots of technical details.  These details add up to a smoke-screen, nobody understands the details but they understand there is a bully in the neighborhood (Inhofe).

    The pro-science position is presented apologetically (Bingaman) as just following Bush’s leadership.  Even so, Bingaman can convince only a handfull of the GOP Senators for this baby-step.

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