Another global warming somersault

Tim Lambert and John Quiggin have both been banging on about global warming rather a lot lately. Tim’s Global Warming Sceptic Bingo post is an especially useful corrective source for the spurious and fraudulent material typically trotted out by global warming sceptics.

But Tim’s and John’s posts caused me to revisit the GISS global mean temperature records just out of idle curiosity. It was these records that caused me to abandon my own former position of moderate global warming scepticism about 12 months ago. The reason was that, although there was neither high solar activity nor an El Nino event to inflate the temperature record, the temperature record seemed to be continuing to show a warming trend.

My previous position, based on a fairly careful though non-expert perusal of the evidence, had been that human-induced global warming, though an undeniable reality, was likely to be quite modest and not a matter for panic or extreme measures. The GISS records in the first part of last year made it look like my conclusions had been wrong: the continued warming appeared significantly greater than you would expect if the long-term warming trend was as modest as I had thought.

But it turns out my assessment was premature. In fact the global mean temperature actually dropped by 0.02 °C in calendar year 2003, and by a further 0.04 °C in 2004. Can anyone recall reading anywhere that the world has actually cooled slightly in each of the last 2 years? I certainly can’t. I wonder why?

Now, a global cooling of 0.06 °C might not seem much, but it’s almost exactly what you’d expect if, as I had previously assumed from the evidence, the overall amount of warming caused by human emission of CO2 was real but exceedingly modest. The rate of warming since 1978 (before which the world had actually been cooling slightly for the previous 30 years or so, leading some of those now at the forefront of global warming alarmism to make equally alarmist predictions of an impending Ice Age) is about 0.15 °C per decade. The most common view is that about half of this warming is due to increased solar activity (i.e. not human activity), so that human-induced warming is around 0.075 °C per decade. The slight recorded cooling over the last 2 years, when solar activity has been reduced, tends to confirm those proportionate estimates.

So what does it all mean in practical terms? Well, global mean temperature has been increasing in linear fashion over the last 3 decades or so, as has atmospheric CO2. If we assume (not unreasonably) that that trend is likely to continue in the absence of major policy action to reduce human-generated CO2 emissions, then the extrapolated global temperature increase over the next century or so computes to a total of about 0.75 °C. Hardly insignificant, but not cataclysmic “the sky is falling” territory either.

But the UN IPCC asserts that the most likely increase is more like 2-2.5 °C, a much more worrying figure that would certainly have very serious effects on human life, civilisation and the global environment. My glance at the GISS figures early last year suggested to me that those IPCC estmates might just be correct. But the picture now looks much more benign, and approximates to my previous more moderate assumptions.

As far as I can work out from extensive though non-expert perusal of IPCC reports, they only manage to generate a projection as scarey as 2-2.5 °C (rather than 0.75 °C, which is all that can be justified on current trends) by making 2 assumptions, both of which are unjustified by the evidence:

(a) That most climate “feedback” mechanisms (e.g. the net effect of changes in cloud cover in reflecting or trapping heat) will operate to amplify rather than dampen the temperature increase generated by human-induced CO2. In fact the IPCC’s own reports clearly show that scientists simply don’t know enough at present to be able to say whether the net effect of feedbacks will be positive or negative. Moreover, the record of the last 30 years shows little or no sign of any amplifying influence.

(b) That world economic/industrial growth with be faster and dirtier than in recent decades, and/or population growth will be more rapid. In fact, the most recent world population growth projections show it slowing and then stopping by the middle of this century. Moreover, no respectable economist would hazard growth projections for any longer time frame than a decade and in a single country. Projecting growth over a whole century for the entire planet is just plain silly. Hence the IPCC talks in terms of “scenarios’ rather than concrete predictions, but that doesn’t stop it purporting to predict a temperature increase of 2-2.5 °C, when current rates of growth and temperature increase simply don’t support it.

Thus, while it’s certainly true, as Tim Lambert and John Quiggin claim, that most of the global warming sceptics’ arguments are spurious, so too are the official estimates exaggerated and speculative and unjustified by the current evidence. There is certainly a “consensus” among climate scientists as to the reality of human-induced global warming, but there is no consensus at all about its likely magnitude. We are entirely justified in treating sceptically claims of large or catastrophic human-induced climate change.

That means we should take modest, considered action to moderate CO2 emissions, but extreme, drastically growth-inhibiting measures simply aren’t justified by the current state of knowledge and evidence. It would be a good idea for the US and Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and for carbon taxes and an international and domestic emissions credits trading system to be developed. And it’s very important that the third world be required to sign up to Kyoto-style emission reduction targets. First world governments should also continue and expand funding for development of sustainable, non-carbon energy sources (e.g. hydrogen).

But that’s about as far as it goes. There’s certainly no overwhelming case for major conversion to nuclear energy, at least until generation costs come down and waste disposal and proliferation problems can be more securely managed.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Tiny Tyrant
2022 years ago

Nuclear or Global Warming?

This is great. Two easy pieces.

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

It is not true that it is generally accepted that only half of the warming since 78 has been caused by humans. Most estimates suggest that it is more like 110% (that is, it would have cooled slightly without our help). Look at the graphs here:
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=100

The reason why no-one except global warming sceptics have made much of the small decline from 2003 to 2004 is that year to year changes don’t tell us much about long term trends. More relevant is how the year compares withe long term average and 2004 was the fourth warmest year in the instrumental record.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

Personally I prefer the options being canvassed by scientists and futurists.

For example, the diffractive lens option. Build a lens which directs away 1-2% of sunlight, push it to L1 orbit. This scheme is very scalable, and compared to carbon taxes, regulations and such, is easy to track for costing.

Or push nanotechnology. It’s expected that nanomanufacture will rely heavily on carbon, because of the very qaulities that make it a core element in biochemistry. In one of his books on nanotechnology, Eric Drexler described a scenario in which coalfields had been set alight to replace carbon taken from the air by nanomanufacturing.

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

Ken,

What you’ve written is very interesting and I agree with your conclusions. But even relatively extreme reductions in emissions achieved over a long enough time frame to allow technical responses might cost a few percent of GDP but could be easily managed within the context of continuing economic growth.

Ask yourself how much your life would change if you knew that over the next fifty years the price of petrol and fuel would rise say five or even tenfold. There would be all sorts of social, economic and technical changes to minimise the costs to your lifestyle. And lots of zero emissions options (eg biomass based energy production) become viable well below this level. Its a storm in a teacup and we should get on with it. And fifty years will give us a fair bit of time to work out how stringent we need to be along the way. As a technical problem its no big deal. As a political problem – well it won’t be easy.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Tim L

The graphs you link don’t appear to show what you claim. Do you have a source for your claim that changes in solar activity have had a NEGATIVE effect on global warming in recent decades? This contradicts just about everything I’ve ever read on the subject.

I agree that just a couple of years of cooling don’t prove anything much. But the reason I picked up on it initally was because of a challenge issued by John Quiggin. He in turn had siezed on a remark by the late John Daly to the effect that the absence of enhanced solar activity (moving into a solar minimum) or El Nino over the current few years would provide a test for human-induced global warming. JQ suggested (rightly I think) that if the extreme sceptics were correct and CO2 was having no effect on global warming, then the solar minimum + La Nina should see the global mean temperature fall back to a substantial extent towards the long-term mean. Predictably it didn’t, but it DID fall back modestly, to almost precisely the extent you would expect mathematically if solar activity and human-generated factors were each contributing about 50% of the total warming. I’m not suggesting that this proves the respective contributions are 50%, but it’s certainly consistent with it and not with your claim of a negative effect.

I went back and looked again at the IPCC Third Assessment Report and, as I had recalled, AFAIK it makes no specific claims for proportionate influence between solar and human-generated CO2. It simply surveys recent research on the solar influence and concludes that it isn’t well enough supported to be able to conclude that solar activity is the dominant factor in global warming.

Here is a very recent paper that summarises recent research on the effect of solar factors: http://zeus.nascom.nasa.gov/~pbrekke/articles/halifax_brekke.pdf . It gives a more modest proportionate figure than I quoted above, namely 25% from changes to total irradiance, and suggests it’s a generally accepted figure. It also mentions various research areas about factors which may conceivably boost this proportionate influence e.g. increases in UV spectrum irradiance, cosmic rays etc.

But even if we take the 25% figure (rather than my 50% one quoted above), my general position remains unchanged. This only suggests human-induced warming of about 1.1

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Mm hmm.

Funnily enough, the warmest years on record were, in descending order, 1998, 2002 and 2003. 2004 was the fourth…If 2005 is the fifth warmest, and this trend continues, we’ll be facing ruination from the cold.

One 1/100th of one percent. That’s the percentage of the atmosphere that man made CO2 accounts for. Its percentage effect in the greenhouse of gases surrounding the Earth is dwarfed by naturally occurring water vapour.

Excellent researching, Ken. I know we still agree to differ, but I hope you notice that every time you really stop to look at the ‘proven fact’ of man-induced climate catastrophe, you note the number of ‘ifs’, ‘mays’, ‘maybes’, ‘possiblys’, ‘coulds’ etc that litter the expert literature.

Now remember how much research money and how many professional reputations have become hopelessly dependent on the ‘truth’ of anthropogenic climate disaster (And just how much consideration has been given to the possibility that global warming might have some benefits? To put it politely, there has been something of an emphasis on the possible downsides.)

I’m no climate expert – but I know when politics is at play. Take Tim L’s bingo board…Half of the links are to Realclimate.org, a site set up by some of the founding fathers of greenhouse theory to counter the dangerous propositions advanced by Michael Crighton. Take the urban heat island link supplied on Tim’s site.

It says:

“The reasoning behind this is that the major cause of urban heat islands is the reduced cooling that occurs at night when the “view to space” of the surface is blocked by buildings.”

Bollocks.

According to one NASA paper, (http://weather.msfc.nasa.gov/uhipp/epa_doc.pdf), and most other discussions I’ve seen on UHI:

“In urban areas, buildings and paved surfaces have gradually replaced preexisting natural landscapes. As a result, solar energy is absorbed into roads and rooftops, causing the surface temperature of urban structures to become 50 – 70

derrida derider
derrida derider
2022 years ago

“Now remember how much research money and how many professional reputations have become hopelessly dependent on the ‘truth’ of anthropogenic climate disaster”

You’re joking, right Al? Any researcher in it for the money can get far more from the coal and oil companies. And any researcher who manages to knock a serious hole in the prevailing consensus on a major issue has his or her professional reputation made forever – it’s Nobel prize stuff.

The likely biases are all towards scepticism. I too was once a greenhouse sceptic, but I think you have to have really strong priors to remain so after the accumulating evidence of the last decade. I call it the King Canute option – “the sea is not rising, the sea is not rising …”.

Al, mate, something can be true even though the left says it is true.

JN
JN
2022 years ago

By way of an exaggerated example consider the sequence 5,5,5,5,5,10,9,8 which shows a late downward trend. Nonetheless the late terms are still above the long run average. You still need an explanation for the midseries upturn before making predictions.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

JN

That’s true. But the explanation is provided by the broadly accepted assumption that solar activity contributes about 25% of the measured warming, and human-induced CO2 75%. Reducing the influence of solar activity at a time of solar minimum in the 11 year sunspot cycle accounts very well for the small late downward trend.

I again emphasise that I’m not arguing that global warming generated by human activity is a myth. It provides most of the explanation for the midseries upturn. My sole point is that, looked at soberly, the figures don’t currently justify alarm.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

The trouble is, DD, the oceans aren’t rising, the Pacific Islands aren’t drowning…so there’s no need to pull the King Canute caper. And colour me skeptical if you’re trying to tell me that there is more money in refuting the hockey stick brigade than whole-heartedly embracing it.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Al. I don’t think you realise how funny your comment really is. Go read the real King Canute story.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Nabakov – I must confess, I’m out of my depth on viking history…but wasn’t the Canute tale about some geezer trying to order the waves back on a beach? Er, we don’t need that sort of caper if the sea isn’t actually rising, do we?

Help me out here – never said I was real quick on the punchlines.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Canute sat on the beach and ordered the sea to retreat as a means of refuting courtly flatterers who said he as the king could do anything. It was an exercise in irony, intended to demonstrate how wrong they were.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

The question is not about the amount of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere as it stands. We are all hoping it is still too low to drown King Canute and fill my sea level office with water, flathead and sea-stained copies of the Age.

The issue is what happens if we keep going. The water vapour is a constant (sort of) which sustained temperatures as they have been, with the various bumps we are arguing about. Any more makes a difference.

The physics is pretty simple. A ball of gas changes its composition, with a constant supply of energy. The temperature inside changes. We can show that ups and downs in the CO2 level made a big difference to life on earth in the past.

What the changes mean is very complicated and we need to work them out. But the broad facts remain true. The issue is just how far it has gone, and whether we are going to stop it.

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

Ken, I quote from chapter 12 of the TAR which is on attribution of causes (and which contains the graphs in the link I posted):
http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/448.htm
“Recent decades show negative natural forcing due to increasing volcanism, which overwhelms the direct effect, if real, of a small increase in solar radiation (see Chapter 6, Table 6.13).”
That is, more than 100% of the warming in recent decades is man-made.

James Lane
James Lane
2022 years ago

Tim, neither the quote above, or anything else in your TAR link, supports your assertion that “more than 100% of the warming in recent decades is man-made”.

In fact, it doesn’t support an assertion that any of the warming is man-made.

As the title of the page, “Natural Climate Forcing” would suggest, it compares volcanic and solar forcings.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Moreover, there is also a serious logical flaw in Tim’s argument. If Tim poured 9 glasses of water into a bowl and I poured 3 glasses, then someone came along and drank four glasses of water from the bowl, would Tim be able to say that he had contributed all of the remaining 8 glasses? Surely our respective contributions to the bowl (in our present case containing heat rather thn water) would remain at 75/25.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Moreover, the page to which Tim refers says:

“All reconstructions indicate that the direct effect of variations in solar forcing over the 20th century was about 20 to 25% of the change in forcing due to increases in the well-mixed greenhouse gases (see Chapter 6).”

That is, it confirms my earlier statement that increases in solar activity contribute (at least) 25% of current measured warming. It also explains why I had the higher figure of 50% in mind. It’s generally accepted that increases in solar irradiance contributed 50% to the observed warming between the late 1700s and the early 20th century, but that the contribution of “solar forcing” since then has been around 25%.

It still leaves us with the bottom line proposition that human-induced CO2 is contributing about 0.11 degrees C per decade to current global warming, or 1.1 degrees C projected over the next century: not insignificant but not deeply frightening either.

However, I should also point out that James Lane’s assertion in an earlier comment that “it [the page Tim L links] doesn’t support an assertion that any of the warming is man-made” is incorrect. The page DOES primarily compare volcanic and solar forcing (as James observes), but it also (if only in passing) compares their contribution to climate change with that of human-generated greenhouse gases. The latter is dealt with elsewhere in the IPCC report. Just about no serious scientist denies that increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases ARE contributing to global warming. The questions are : what proportion? Are there countervailing or amplifying “feedback” mechanisms? Are there human or other factors that may increase or decrease the amount of greenhouse gases humans are producing and discharging into the atmosphere? The first of those questions is probably fairly well understood now, but questions 2 and 3 involve major unknowns and uncertainties, and the IPCC “most likely” temperature rise claim (2-2.5 degrees over the century) involves making assumptions about questions 2 and 3 that aren’t justified by the current state of knowledge.

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

But the question you were interested is what happens if current trends continue. If we repeat the bowl-and-water thing 100 times, then I’ll put in 900 glasses of water (that’s standing in for man-made effects). Ken’s net contribution will be zero glasses because it represents solar effects which will average out to no change over several solar cycles. The contribution from the third person (mainly volcanic effects) will also average to zero. After 100 times there will be 900 glasses of water in the bowl. You incorrect calculation would predict that there wpuld only be 600 (by multiplying the 6 glasses that you reckon I contributed by 100).

A straight line extrapolation of current warming rates gives us warming of 2 degrees over the next century. This is likely an underestimate because it takes decades for the oceans to come into equilibrium. Even if there were no further increases in CO2 there would still be an additional 0.5 degree of warming.

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

Ken, you are taking the contribution of solar changes to warming over the 20th century (about 25%) and assuming that this is its contribution to warming over the past couple of decades. This is not correct.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Tim

Your analogy doesn’t hold up. We’re attempting to estimate likely future man-made warming by extrapolating current trends into the future. The current trend includes a 25% contribution from solar forcing. We have to deduct it to get the contribution of greenhouse gases to current warming, and it’s that figure we then extrapolate into the future.

Turning to your second comment, if you claim that solar forcing is not currently contributing 25% of the observed warming (and thus presumably that the increase was confined to the first part of the century and the 150 years or so before that), what is your source for that claim? Again it contradicts my previous reading, and doesn’t appear to be supported by the page you linked earlier (or the article I linked in an earlier comment). I’m quite prepared to be shown that I’m wrong, but you haven’t done it so far.

Finally, how does straight line extrapolation of a warming trend running at 0.15

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

You can’t safely assume that warming will be linear over a 100 year time frame. Even in the absence of changes in feedbacks, as Tim points out, the thermal inertia of the oceans will render the assumption invalid.

As a comparison, the IPCC projects the warming from 2000 to 2010 to range from 0.14 to 0.24 degrees. The lower numbers are consistent with the rate of growth quoted by Ken; however, the thermal inertia of the oceans will ensure that the lower end of the spectrum is unlikely.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Very sensible post, Ken, and not just because I agree with it. I’ve seen you flip-flop on this issue on a couple of new significant points of data, and this speaks highly of your nonpartisan scepticism on the issue. You do seem willing to look at the facts and change your opinion as the facts change.

My own beef with the global warming hypothesis is that we know that the Earth has experienced dramatic temperature changes in just the last 2,000 years without any input from man, and these forces are not well understood. It troubles me then to hear scientists talking about a 0.6C change over the last 50 years as unambiguous proof that we’re going to hell in a handbasket because of anthropogenic warming.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

“It troubles me then to hear scientists talking about a 0.6C change over the last 50 years as unambiguous proof that we’re going to hell in a handbasket because of anthropogenic warming.”

Which scientist has made a statement like this?

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Ken,

I may be bothered to dredge up some names for you. In the meantime, Tim Lambert made the assertion on this very thread.

John
John
2022 years ago

Coming in very late, I’m surprised by your claim that the IPCC assumes: ” That world economic/industrial growth with be faster and dirtier than in recent decades, and/or population growth will be more rapid. ”

This isn’t true in any of the projections I’ve seen.

I think you have a problem with your order of differentation here. For the rate of CO2 growth to accelerate, all we need is for the level of emissions to increase, and, under business as usual, this will happen as long as output grows, even if it grows more slowly than in the past.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

“For the rate of CO2 growth to accelerate, all we need is for the level of emissions to increase …”

But it isn’t accelerating, despite rapid economic and population growth over the last 30 years and more. That’s the point. Atmospheric CO2 has continued to increase at a linear rate, as has global mean temperature (allowing for solar and volcanic factors). Why should we expect that to change?

I find Ken Miles’ point much more persuasive i.e. the lag fator of ocean heat sinks may well suggest higher net warming in future decades than has been evident to date, although it appears from the IPCC Third Assessment Report that there’s still an awful lot to discover about this area (like many others).

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

And it occurs to me that there may well be a link between JQ’s point and Ken Miles’ point. That is, JQ is no doubt correct mathematically that future growth in industrial output (which is to be expected) will necessarily lead to an increase in emissions (in the absence of emissions reduction initiatives), which SHOULD logically lead to an increase in the rate of atmospheric CO2 accumulation and therefore global mean temperature. But to date, despite ever-increasing total industrial output and CO2 emissions, neither the rate of CO2 accumulation nor temperature increase has accelerated. Why not? Maybe because of the oceans’ role as carbon and heat sinks (and maybe other feedback mechanisms as well), and maybe the lag effect means that faster increases in both accumulation and temperature can be expected in future decades. I assume that’s what Ken Miles is suggesting, and it may well be correct.

John
John
2022 years ago

Ken, I was going to make exactly the same response to you, but you’ve beaten me to it.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

Um, all these wonderful calculations on economic growth and increased use of fossil fuels – aren’t these fuels s’posed to run out at some time in the not so distant future.

Estimates vary, but the average estimate seems to be that the world’s reserves of black gold will be exhausted in about 50 years. There’s perhaps 900 billion barrels remaining. Perhaps the killer part of this story lies in the fact that the economics of oil supply and demand dictate that the cost will rise dramatically as demand continues to soar and the supply dwindles. The simple corollary of this is likely to be massive slow down of industry. Sad, but highly likely, unless we can harness new sources of energy – and soon (two or three decades – not centuries).

The story is similar on the coal and natural gas fronts. Forget your greenhouse phantoms that are going to smother us under some hokey heat blanket, a much worse fate awaits ten billion people clinging to a planet starved of energy (especially in the colder regions).

Remember what happened last time a major power was starved of natural resources? They set out to form the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere – that little foray ended up causing a lot more deaths than any baloney theories arising from the politically motivated pseudo-science of the Greenhouse Industry.

Have any mental giants like John Quiggin factored the inevitable (and frighteningly rapid) decline of fossil fuels into their scary calculations. Brainiacs like Michael Mann can work tree rings into his hockey stick, but I’m not seeing the point on the IPCC hockey stick where the petrol tank runs empty.

It’s gonna be real ugly is my bet. Not just a case of everybody hippily, happily hopping onto a solar powered bus to go to work and leaving their gas guzzler in the garage – sorry, but the wealth of modern society that generates the work we enjoy came on the back of abundant cheap energy. My guess is war, famine and decline of the like not seen in the last millennium. Jeezus H, call me a crank as I’m sure many of you do already, but the real time bomb with fossil fuels is what happens when the world’s fuel gauge starts nudging empty.

For that reason, you won’t find me banging on about the folly of alternative and renewable energy supplies. They’re not just for left-wing enviro-zealots. Even sensible right-wingers know that were going to need something to keep the power supplies in our computers happily ticking over if we’re going to continue to argue on the Internet when the legacy from Dorothy the Dinosaur and her mates runs out.

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

Ken writes: “The current trend includes a 25% contribution from solar forcing. We have to deduct it to get the contribution of greenhouse gases to current warming, and it’s that figure we then extrapolate into the future.”

This is doubly wrong. The current trend (that is, over the past 20-30 years) does not include a 25% contribution from solar forcing and even if it did, subtracting it does not give the contribution from greenhouse gases.

What you need to do is subtract the contribution from NATURAL forcings not just solar forcings.
Again, from
http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/448.htm
“Recent decades show negative natural forcing due to increasing volcanism, which overwhelms the direct effect, if real, of a small increase in solar radiation (see Chapter 6, Table 6.13).”

RECENT DECADES SHOW NEGATIVE NATURAL FORCING. That is, without the man-made effects it would have cooled over the past couple of decades. That means that the anthropgenic contribution to current warming is more than 100%. The current warming trend is 0.17 degrees/decade. Add 10% to get a man-made component of 0.19 degrees/decade Multiply by ten to get about 2 degrees of warming over the nect century.

As for solar forcing being 25% of the warming in the past 20-30 years — I think you’ve confused warming over the past century with warming over the past 20-30 years. This paper may be relevant:
http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/DamonLaut2004.pdf

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

Fyodor dishonestly asserts that I claimed “a 0.6C change over the last 50 years as unambiguous proof that we’re going to hell in a handbasket because of anthropogenic warming.”

I said nothing of the sort and I do not appreciate the attemmpt to stuff words into my mouth.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

What was that link again? Oh, that’s right…

http://Mr-we-have-to-offer-up-scary-scenarios,-make simplified,-dramatic statements,-and-make-little-mention-of-any-doubts-we-might- have.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/DamonLaut2004.pdf

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

Al can always be relied on to trot out the doctored Schneider quote. Next he’ll be telling us about those mythical science books that predicted a new ice age.

Al Bundy
Al Bundy
2022 years ago

I’m standing by my claim, Tim. I think it’s at least as credible as some of the computer modelling that turns ‘garbage in’ to ‘conclusive proof of climate doom out’.

Doctored, eh? I guess if ‘doctored’ means ‘to faithfully recreate the original article’, well, yeah, you got me.

“On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. SO WE HAVE TO OFFER UP SCARY SCENARIOS, MAKE SIMPLIFIED, DRAMATIC STATEMENTS, AND MAKE LITTLE MENTION OF ANY DOUBTS WE MIGHT HAVE. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.” (my emphasis with the caps – otherwise quoted in Discover, pp. 45-48, Oct. 1989,)

To me, the capitalised quote, while a ripper, is not the money shot. It’s the glazed eyes, hallelujah bit where he says

“And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change.”

This is the article of faith that drives the greenhouse lobby. As soon as a scientist gets a cause, you can be fairly certain that their foregone conclusion will be the horse ever thereafter pushing his/her empirical cart.

And I’m curious…I wonder if you’d like to comment on the possible consequences for climate change modelling of:

1. Oil running out in forty years;

2. Natural gas running out in sixty years; and

3. Coal running out in 250 years?

(Those figures incidentally don’t come from Junkscience or any of your other favourite stalking horses. They’re an average of what I’ve been able to Google up.)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Al

I agree that even the full Schneider quote shows him as a propagandist of a holy cause, which is a dangerous quality in a scientist who one would hope to be rather more detached and aspiring to objectivity. Nevertheless, the full quote doesn’t suggest the epic dishonesty of the truncated version.

In some respects, all Schneider is doing is reflecting on the dilemma that faces any expert author when trying to explain a complex issue to a lay audience. You don’t have any choice but to seriously oversimplify or the audience will get bored and won’t understand what you’re talking about (and the media outlet won’t publish your story for those reasons). It’s something I deal with every time I write a blog post about public law issues. Moreover, if you’re not only trying to explain the outline of an issue to a lay audience but also to make a contentious or ‘political’ point that you’re bona fide convinced is a correct one in light of your evaluation of the issue in all its complexity, you do indeed face the sort of ethical dilemma Schneider discusses.

Moreover, it’s drawing a long bow indeed to suggest that the very large number of scientists (certainly the vast majority) who agree that human-induced global warming is a proven reality are also mere propagandists carried away by a holy cause and allowing it to overwhelm scepticism and scientific method.

Nevertheless, picking up briefly on Tim L’s throwaway line, it IS true that Schneider wrote a book and several articles in the early 1970s where he hypothesised a new Ice Age because of human emissions of sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere. And he even disparaged the role of human-generated CO2 in countering this cooling effect (Schneider S. & Rasool S., “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols – Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate”, Science, vol.173, 9 July 1971, p.138-141):

“We report here on the first results of a calculation in which separate estimates were made of the effects on global temperature of large increases in the amount of CO2 and dust in the atmosphere. It is found that even an increase by a factor of 8 in the amount of CO2, which is highly unlikely in the next several thousand years, will produce an increase in the surface temperature of less than 2 deg. K.

However, the effect on surface temperature of an increase in the aerosol content of the atmosphere is found to be quite significant. An increase by a factor of 4 in the equilibrium dust concentration in the global atmosphere, which cannot be ruled out as a possibility within the next century, could decrease the mean surface temperature by as much as 3.5 deg. K. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease could be sufficient to trigger an ice age!”

However, I don’t see this stuff as discrediting Schneider’s subsequent work. We know vastly more about the proceses involved now than we did 30 years ago, and everyone is entitled to change position in the light of new evidence. In fact that’s what you’d HOPE would be the case. Nevertheless, it would be hard to argue against the proposition that Schneider is temperamentally prone to somewhat hysterical alarmism, and to disregard some of his more technicolour populist pronouncements as a result.

The reality is that, although the vast majority of climate scientists agree that the evidence clearly establishes the reality of global warming, there is no such agreement on the extent or likely future speed of increase. There are huge areas of uncertainty and unknown variables in just about every research field impacting global warming. Nevertheless, I think I have to concede Tim L’s point that the balance of current evidence supports the proposition that 0.15 degrees C per decade is a valid starting point for the imprint of human-generated gteenhouse gases on global warming (you DO have to subtract both volcanic and solar factors to isolate the effect of greenhouse gases).

Moreover, I also accept that there’s a real (although radically unquantifiable in the state of present knowledge) prospect that the oceans will stop absorbing and storing human-generated heat and CO2 at the rates they’ve been doing to date and/or that they’ll begin releasing some of it, thus amplifying the base warming rate of 0.15 degrees C per decade.

As I said, there are huge areas of uncertainty surrounding such propositions, and other imperfectly understood phenomena that might countervail them. But it seems that there is a significant lag (thermal inertia) in the way oceans react, and it’s in part this that creates the dilemma for policy makers. If we wait until enough is known about such phenomena and it turns out global warming IS as big a problem as people like Schneider fear, then it may well be too late to avoid major adverse effects because the oceans lag factor will already have unavoidably “locked in” large amounts of future warming even if we then stop emitting CO2 completely. It’s that danger which militates in favour of taking decisive (but not stupid or radically economically damaging) remedial action now depite the huge areas of remaining uncertainty.

Incidentally, it’s this lag factor that explains why one can mount a pretty persuasive argument for taking remedial action now despite the fact that fossil fuels (except coal) are likely to be exhausted within the next century (I suggest the balance of evidence indicates that 40 years is significantly too short an estimate for petroleum). That is, even if CO2 emissions are radically reduced starting from around 50 years time because of huge price rises as the fuel becomes scarcer and scarcer, major future warming may already be locked into the climate system.

Two degrees or more of warming over just a century would certainly have very significant adverse effects on both the environment and human civilisation, so it makes sense to take remedial action if there’s a reasonable probability of such an outcome without it (and I think I’ve reached the conclusion for our current discussion that the balance of evidence IS strong enough to suggest a significant probability of such an outcome).

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Incidentally, I reckon this discussion is quite a good illustration of how the blogosphere permits complex issues to be explored in a rather more careful and detailed way than you could ever achieve in the mainstream media, that is also both interesting and accessible to at least some members of a lay audience (including me).

It makes you wonder why some prominent climate scientists (like Schneider) don’t bother to use it as a vehicle to improve the level of public understanding of the issues. No doubt part of the answer is that they’d just have their time and energy wasted by RWDB zealots fuelled up by assorted “astroturf” organisations, and end up continuously fending off the same tired old canards again and again, no matter how many times they’d been comprehesively debunked to the satisfaction of any reasonable audience.

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

The very first box in my bingo board is “In the 70s scientists were predicting an ice age #” The link goes to http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=94 which is a blog by climate scientists meant to improve the public understanding of the issues.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Tim,

I normally have a lot of time for you, but you’re taking the piss on this issue.

You said:

“It is not true that it is generally accepted that only half of the warming since 78 has been caused by humans. Most estimates suggest that it is more like 110% (that is, it would have cooled slightly without our help).”

Then you said:

“That is, more than 100% of the warming in recent decades is man-made.”

Then, later on, you said:

“RECENT DECADES SHOW NEGATIVE NATURAL FORCING. That is, without the man-made effects it would have cooled over the past couple of decades. That means that the anthropgenic contribution to current warming is more than 100%.”

These comments indicate you unambiguously attribute recent warming to anthropogenic forcing. Feel free to clarify.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Al,

The line that we are “running out of oil” is a furphy. We won’t run out of oil [or coal etc.] – it’ll get more expensive as it becomes relatively more scarce in an economic sense. As the oil price rises [and extraction technology improves, for that matter], uneconomic deposits become economic and new reserves are “created”. That’s why any estimate of “reserves” is illusory, and dependent upon price.

Chances are we’ll switch to alternative energy sources long before oil “runs out”.

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

Fyodor, you said that I claimed “a 0.6C change over the last 50 years [was] unambiguous proof that we’re going to hell in a handbasket because of anthropogenic warming.”

I made no such claim. Your refusal to admit this is dishonest.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Boo-hoo.

What part of it do you dispute?

1) The assertion that the observed increase in temperature is unambiguous proof of anthropogenic warming; and/or

2) We’re going to hell in a handbasket?

Tim Lambert
2022 years ago

I didn’t say either of those things as you know full well.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Nah, Tim, you said the first thing very clearly, several times, and its “dishonest” of you to deny it.

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

I suspect the reasons why Schneider doesn’t have a blog include (in addition to the one you put forth):

* Age (he is 80)
* He already has an awesome website (his collection of papers and documents available to download is unbeatable) so he may fell that he’s done his part
* Unwillingness to constantly be called a liar

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Fyodor, nowhere did he say that it was unambiguous proof.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Ken, he asserted that recent warming is more than 100% attributable to anthropogenic forcing. How much more unambiguous can you get?

Ken Miles
2022 years ago

Fyodor, the term “unambiguous proof” should never be used in science. Tim didn’t use it, nor anything like it. Your trying to put words into his mouth.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Yes, Ken, people shouldn’t state things are certain when they’re not.

Steve
Steve
2022 years ago

Ken (Parish),

Thanks for your post. This is fascinating stuff.

I’m very interested in climate change stuff, but the thing that’s getting me thinking about your post is the way we process info, and decide what to keep and what to reject.

Fyodor seemed pleased with you that your back and forth on this issue showed that you were sceptical, and a non-partisan thinker (which is to be admired).

Its also possible that you are making quick, sloppy judgements without having good knowledge, or good access to authoritative sources of info and you therefore are changing your mind when you notice something you had missed before. (Consider the flip-flopping juror in 12 Angry Men. He was overwhelmed by the debate, instead of holding back and feeling out the solid ground).

I don’t mean to criticise, you already acknowledged in your post that perhaps you were too hasty in your judgement.

I guess what I am finding interesting is how we go about analysing this kind of stuff.

I agree that blog discussion allows a more detailed debate than the mainstream media. But is it good enough?

Is it good enough to view the back and forth between you, TimL, JQ, Ken Miles, Fyodor, Al Bundy etc etc. Is this good enough for being on top of the debate? Is this good enough to feed into public policy creation?

None of us are climate scientists. Which isn’t to say we can’t analyse the work of climate scientists. However, I find it odd that you would offer your analysis of the situation without actually quoting any published literature. Surely if what you are saying makes sense, someone has already published a similar analysis in a peer reviewed journal.

You seem to be putting up your own non-expert authority against that of the scientists who contributed to and brought together the IPCC reports.

This comment probably sounds like a convoluted appeal to the authority of the IPCC. I guess it is.

I think its good that the IPCC findings be challenged, but via authoritative channels (ie peer reviewed journals.) If there are good arguments counter to what the IPCC is finding, surely these will show up in peer reviewed literature, and laypeople like myself won’t need to rely on posts such as your one here to challenge the IPCC.