D-O, Homer’s guide to Global Warming.

homer.jpg I don’t really understand the in-depth research done by the IPCC, and always thought a ‘hockey stick’ was something Nova Peris used to get a gold medal. Then there is the usual dash of Ricardo ridicule, providing evidence once again that somebody enjoys Ken’s blogging so much that they are prepared to write comments of such transparent stupidity that makes anything he says sound sensible. So it came as a pleasant surprise that something published in the Review section of Friday’s AFR (available online to those rich enough to afford a subscription) looked at global warming from a completely different perspective.

I’ve been reading most of the debate in the comments about global warming, I say ‘most’ because I don’t waste my time on diatribes about whether or not the political stance adopted by the proponent of a point of view has relevance; e.g.

Daring to publish studies or articles that contradict global warming religion? Being “associated” with a right wing thinktank (as opposed to leftwing ones, as both you [John Q] and Christopher Sheil are)? Or does the “association” have to be closer than merely being very frequently published by the “suspect” thinktank?

and,

Ken, I’m continually amazed at your touchiness on this issue. I don’t raise a big fuss if someone describes me as, say, a ‘leftwing economist’, particularly if I’m engaged in public debate. And you’ve been happy enough to use the “usual suspects” locution yourself, to refer to people whose views on a given topic are predictable.

Given that you take the trouble to cite “Tim Patterson, a professor in the department of earth sciences at Ottawa’s Carleton University, who specializes in paleoclimatology (whatever that is).”, why don’t you mention the equally relevant fact that he’s a prominent anti-Kyoto activist?

In an article called ‘A cold change for the clever animal’, Paul Monk postulates that

“The next ice age could be very close, could set in with brutal suddenness and an apocalyptic impact on the human world. If you thought global warming was the real danger, you don’t know the half of it.”

He writes

” just when we thought that global warming was threatening us, it turns out that we are almost certainly dangerously close to the end of the warm period that has been the climatological precondition for the whole of ‘world history’. This has nothing to do with human agency and would overwhelm our species with sublime indifference to our religious beliefs, metaphysical speculations and secular ideoligies of progress. It may well be more than our sciences can handle – to say nothing of our polities.”


It appears that, amongst the long cycles, the earth’s climate changes every few thousand years with breathtaking speed. They are known as Dansgaard Oescher events (D-O’s). (Don’t you just love it when scientists have to resort to the Simpsons to explain complicated theories). Anyway, a recent example of a D-O is the Younger Dryas, which interupted the present warm period a few millennia before we invented agriculture, and

“was the most significant rapid climate change event that occurred during the last deglaciation of the North Atlantic region.

Previous ice core studies have focused on the abrupt termination of this event because this transition marks the end of the last major climate reorganization during the deglaciation. Most recently the YD has been redated …… as an event of 1300 + or -70 years duration that terminated abruptly, as evidenced by an 7C rise in temperature.”

So what, I hear Ricardo say, well while we’re all dribbling on about a 2 – 4 degree C over the next 50 to 100 years,

“”Large, abrupt climate changes have repeatedly affected much or all of the earth, locally reaching as much as 10 °C change in 10 years. Available evidence suggests that abrupt climate changes are not only possible but likely in the future, potentially with large impacts on ecosystems and societies.

We do not yet understand abrupt climate changes well enough to predict them. The models used to project future climate changes and their impacts are not especially good at simulating the size, speed, and extent of the past changes, casting uncertainties on assessments of potential future changes. Thus, it is likely that climate surprises await us.”


In an even more ironic twist a bloke called William Calvin proposes the theory in his book A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change that it was these rapid, drastic climate fluctuations that “sculpted our species – shaping hominids into canny generalists with a suite of physical attributes and cognitive skills unmatched in the rest of the animal kingdom.”

The book is brilliant in the way he explains how it may have been climate anomalies such as D-O’s that stimulated our rise from nomads and slayers of megafauna to city builders and inventors of WMD.

“Climate change is, of course, a standard theme of archaeology, all those abandoned towns and dried-up civilizations. Droughts and the glacial pace of the ice ages surely played some role in prehuman evolution, too, though it hasn’t been obvious why it affected our ancestors so differently than the other great apes. The reason for our brain enlargement, I suspect, is that each ice age was accompanied, even in the tropics, by a series of whiplash climate changes. Each had an abrupt bust-and-boom episode and that, not the ice, was probably what rewarded some of the brain variants of those apes that had become adapted to living in savannas.

The ice-core record of temperature suggests that this phoenix scenario recurred hundreds of times, that the Phoenix paleoclimate pump is the longest-running rags-to-riches play in humanity’s history. Even if each individual window of opportunity only changed the inborn abilities for hunting or cooperation by a mere one percent, 200 repetitions of this same selection scenario would (just like compound interest) be potentially capable of explaining seven-fold differences between our inborn abilities and those of our closest relatives among the great apes.

Yet how did such abrupt coolings happen on a worldwide scale? And can such population oscillations account for the enormous increase in altruistic and cooperative behaviors in humans, compared to our closest cousins among the apes? Might they have set the stage for the emergence of language? The structured thinking needed for planning ahead or logical trains of reasoning? The survival skills of being able to regularly eat large grazing animals? For our reflective consciousness? And why didn’t other land animals experience the same boost, given that they must have been put through the same trials? Why just us?

For a quarter century global-warming theorists have predicted that climate creep was going to occur and that we needed to prevent greenhouse gases from warming things up, thereby raising the sea level, destroying habitats, intensifying storms, and forcing agricultural rearrangements. Now we know that the most catastrophic result of global warming could be an abrupt cooling and drying.

When “climate change” is referred to in the press, it normally means greenhouse warming, which, it is predicted, will cause flooding, severe windstorms, and killer heat waves. But warming could also lead, paradoxically, to abrupt and drastic cooling (“Global warming’s evil twin”) a catastrophe that could threaten the end of civilization. We could go back to ice-age temperatures within a decade and judging from recent discoveries, an abrupt cooling could be triggered by our current global-warming trend.

Europe’s climate could become more like Siberia’s. Because such a cooling and drying would occur too quickly for us to make readjustments in agricultural productivity and associated supply lines, it would be a potentially civilization-shattering affair, likely to cause a population crash far worse than those seen in the wars and plagues of history.

If the concepts of huge, quick climate change resulting in a phoenix society made up of an ultra improved species are attractive, as they are to me, then could it not be said that perhaps global warming is simply part of some great master plan – a modern Biblical flood – that washes away all the imperfections of this shabby place.

Bit harsh think you ? It’s important to remember that all this talk of global warming is much, much more important to those in the highly industrialised societies of the northern hemisphere (OK, it’s probably fairly important to Tuvalu as well, but we have the technology to resettle them); so here I am in a tropical paradise thinking, maybe I’ll have to move inland to somewhere like the hills around Hayes Creek, big deal, Oh, and BTW, I just hope that Wayne is the modern equivalent of Noah.

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Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Great post, Wayne. This is really thinking outside the square. It also provides a great rationale for the propensity for the global warmers to point to the twin phenomena of freezing cold winters in the northen hemisphere last winter (our summer) and the present exceptionally hot summers in UK as both being caused by the greenhouse effect. Why I even saw an item that maintained that the present temperatures in London were the highest for a whole 45 years. Imagine that! This proves without a doubt that the greenhouse effect was to blame. Come to think of it, I, being even older than you, seem to have some recollection of reading about similar temperatures in the Old Dart 45 years ago – at that time they were caused by the atom bomb, as we used to call it. This time however I’m sure they really are terminal! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, amen.

Gummo Trotsky
2022 years ago

Ron,

It’s perfectly possible for both effects to be caused by the greenhouse effect, or other generalised global warming effects. I don’t know what part of the world you live in, but in Melbourne we have seasonal variations in temperature and rainfall, and there hasn’t been a year on record where the temperature, rainfall and other meteorological phemomena have sat comfortable on the annual daily average all year long. A general raising of the average atmospheric temperature doesn’t necessarily equate with a general rise in temperatures everywhere.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Quite so, Gummo. Reminds me of my old stats teacher making the point about having one foot in a bucket of dry ice and the other in a bucket of boiling water. The average was a pretty comfortable room temperature. Great things, averages.

bailz
bailz
2022 years ago

It would be nice if you’re idea of room temperature was -20.5C.

T(avg) for dry ice is -141C.
T(avg) boiling water is 100C.

T(avg-total) = (-141+100)/2 = -20.5C

bailz
bailz
2022 years ago

hmmm, teacher, my spelling is ungood.

Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2022 years ago

Bugger! There’s always some bastard wanting to introduce facts to spoil a good argument.

mark
2022 years ago

Doubleplusungood, Rich.

Don’t pay any attention to him, Ron, he’s an engineer…

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Great post Wayne!