Greenhouse numbers and the world as we know it

Cumulative emissions

Here’s an informative set of graphs from a column by Martin Wolf on climate change.  Australia’s failure against it’s emissions is unexplained in the diagram – since we’re much closer to our Kyoto target then the graph has us – but I presume the reason is that the emissions counted in the chart relate principally to the burning of fossil fuels and do not include the reduction in land clearing.

Martin Wolf is not known as an intemperate or alarmist man. But at one stage of his column he says this.

Conceivable feedback effects might, for example, generate temperature increases of 20°C. That would be the end of the world as we know it. I cannot imagine a rational person who would not seek to eliminate even the possibility of such outcomes. But if we are to do that, we must also act very soon.

Indeed!

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Jc
Jc
13 years ago

Conceivable feedback effects might, for example, generate temperature increases of 20

Robert Merkel
13 years ago

Jc, if it’s alarmist, that’s because it’s something to be bloody alarmed about.

It’s not likely, but it’s within the range of possibilities.

Jc
Jc
13 years ago

So is a meteor hitting the earth, Rob.

The science is telling us that possibility is remote. In fact ther isn’t enough energy the create the sort of situation. The earth has never experienced that sort of heat when it has been at 1200 PPM, further supporting my argument.

You just don’t ramp up the alarm to add further weight to the issue.

Even using Stern’s report with the science that was imbedded in his report the argument is to do nothing and allow GDP to rise unmolested.

conrad
conrad
13 years ago

Jc,

Nuke power isn’t just the reason France is there. The other reason is that they recycle their nuclear fuel more than anyone else. The upside of this is that you get much more energy out of it (I wish I could remember the amount of power you get vs. when you don’t — perhaps someone else knows the answer). The downside of this is that you get plutonium (which isn’t a downside in France’s case — you just keep on re-using it. But it might be if, say, Pakistan did it).

Robert Merkel
13 years ago

conrad: actually, that makes very little difference to France’s emissions.

Even using a once-through fuel cycle, the life cycle emissions of nuclear are bugger-all. Mining and milling uranium takes bugger-all energy.

France still uses the horribly inefficient gas-diffusion enrichment for part of their fuel, but that’s powered by – you guessed it – nuclear power stations. It’s still a piddle in the ocean.

John Greenfield
John Greenfield
13 years ago

JC

The truly alarming reality is that the science clearly tells us that reducing emmissions schemes like kyoto will not matter a hill of beans.

Jc
Jc
13 years ago

Robert:
Do you agree that France’s position on that table is mostly the result of using nuke power or don’t you?

France still uses the horribly inefficient gas-diffusion enrichment for part of their fuel, but thats powered by – you guessed it – nuclear power stations.

that seems to offer more credence to to view that taking nuke off the table is about as dumb as you can get in terms of AGW policy. You’re alluding to the point that there are even more efficient ways of producing emission free nuke derived energy.

John G:

Yep , even Wolf himself admitted that linked peice Howard and Bush were at least not hypocritical

Do you agree that France’s position on that table is mostly the result of using nuke power or don’t you?

France still uses the horribly inefficient gas-diffusion enrichment for part of their fuel, but thats powered by – you guessed it – nuclear power stations.

That seems to offer more credence to view that taking nuke off the table is about as dumb as you can get in terms of AGW policy. You’re alluding to the point that there are even more efficient ways of producing emission free nuke derived energy.

John G:

Yep, even Wolf himself admitted in that linked piece Howard and Bush were at least not hypocritical

The one point in favour of George W.Bushs US or John Howards Australia is that they were not hypocritical. For the signal feature of most of the commitments made so far has been the failure to meet them (see chart). The vaunted European emissions trading system has been more a way of transferring quota rent to a few big emitters than an effective means of emissions control. The UK government has, for example, been honest enough to admit that large electricity generators gained

Niall
13 years ago

JC said: “The earth has never experienced that sort of heat when it has been at 1200 PPM, further supporting my argument.”

Quite so, but the Earth didn’t support human life at those levels either. In fact, it didn’t support sentient life of any type. I think science will bear me out on that. The bottom line with climate change being that all the bones are pointed in the direction of humanity, yet a great many of us are unprepared or unwilling to do anything constructive to slow it down.

It strikes me funny that forty years ago, we – Homo Sapiens sapiens – were worried we’d make our species extinct through a nuclear holocaust, yet weren’t prepared and weren’t willing to do anything constructive about negating the threat. Today, it’s climate change, and we’re still as blase` as ever. Sure, we’ll eventually manage something in the way of carbon dioxide reduction, just like we did with nuclear arms limitation treaties, but we won’t stop producing CO2 at prolific levels, just as those nuclear weapons nations have never totally eradicated their bombs.

Is it ‘alarmist’ to fear for the future of our species? The future, mind you, not the here and now, but a millenium from now. I think not.

Spiros
Spiros
13 years ago

Even six degrees would be in the realm of the end of life as we know it, so there’s no need to think about 20. And six degrees, while at the upper end of most estimates, is certainly quite possible.

John Greenfield, everone agrees Kyoto in itself isn’t enough. That is why we are all trying to reach agreeement on how to make serious cuts to emissions when Kyoto runs out in 2012.

Jc
Jc
13 years ago

Is it alarmist to fear for the future of our species? The future, mind you, not the here and now, but a millenium from now. I think not.

Yea it is alamrmist because our species will never survive more than what is expected life span for any species. We will go extinct the way all others have gone before as there is nothing inherently special about ourselves to suggest otherwise.

Funny how many creationists there really are.

The changes we are making are simply part of the big evolutionary process, that’s all.

MarkL
MarkL
13 years ago

Well, I certainly hope this hilariously silly scare lasts long enough to establish a nuclear power industry in Australia. Then this rampant and illogical hysteria would at least have had one beneficial outcome.

However, I do not think it will. As anyone who has read Rhodes Fairbridge’s work over the past few decades knows, we are probably heading into an age very much like the Dalton Minimum (1790s-1820s) with solar orbit cycles 23-26 reflecting the solar orbit cycles of that era. Things will return to normal (cooler than now, but warmer than 2010-2040-ish) after the sun’s chaotic phase of orbit around the solar barycentre concludes.

So get prepared for a much colder climate for a few decades, then a rise back to 1910 levels.

MarkL
Canberra

Jc
Jc
13 years ago

That would be global cooling, Markl, SO WE Q

MarkL
MarkL
13 years ago

Typical response of the gross ignorami, Nick. You understand nothing and prove it by automatic ad hominem. How typical that you do not even know about one of the greatest Australian scientists of the last hundred years.

Should you be able to comprehend this material (which I seriously doubt), perhaps you’d like to read:

Fairbridge R.W., Solar Variations, Climate Change and related Geophysical Problems, Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 95 (Art 1) 1-740

Fairbridge R.W., and Shirley, J.H., 1987, Prolonged Minima and the 179-year cycle of the solar inertial motion, Solar Physics, 110, 191-220

Fairbridge, R.W., 1997, Orbital commensurability and resonance, in, Encyclopedia of planetary sciences, Eds Shirley and Fairbridge, Chapman and Hall, London, pp.564-571.

(this is particularly important. You have to understand the chaotic nature of the suns orbit [it is epitrochoidic] around the barycentre and the role of orbital resonance. The sun’s orbit is sometimes retrograde, which seems to have very unusual tidal impacts on the heliosphere) Oh, sorry. you’ll have to look up the big words in a dictionary. Old chap.

Palamara, D. Solar Activity and recent climate change: Evaluating the impact of geomagnetic activity on atmospheric circulation, Wollongong, NSW PhD thesis (340pp)

Reid, G.C., 1991 Solar total irradiance variations and the global sea surface temperature record, Journal of Geophysical Research, 96, 2835-2844

These are the easiest ones for someone of your towering intellect to understand.

Or you could just believe Peter Garrett. He sang cruddy songs once upon a time….

TTFN, old cod.

MarkL
canberra

conrad
conrad
13 years ago

Its good to see the quoting of high quality work, like PhD theses and book chapters, as evidence.

Niall
13 years ago

You’ll pardon the erudite nature of my response, JC, but frankly I believe you’re full of it. I take great offence to the inference of ‘creationist’, while at the same time agreeing with you that all life forms have evolutionary spans before being superceded by the next most likely pretender to the title of planetary ruler. Reptiles, after all, held sway on this world for hundreds of millions of years, but reptiles had no influence on or over their climate or environment either. We do. While I’m a realist on most issues, I’m optomistic enough to believe that homo sapiens sentience has much more ability and longevity than our reptilian predecessors. Whether we have the instinctive sense of self-preservation as a species is as yet, unknown.

It’s right to alarmed, I believe, at the retiscence, nay……stubborn stupidity, of those we elect to represent us as nation-states, and collectively, as a species. Mind you, as an individual, there is little I can do but be alarmed and dismayed, but if we as a species all express that alarm and dismay, we might….might, get something to happen to the benefit of all. I for one have no intention of standing by as the only world my species has any hope of existing upon goes to a very hot place in a rickerty wicker carry-all.

Robert Merkel
13 years ago

Jc: I have repeatedly and loudly argued that nuclear power is:

a) a safe and effective way to reduce CO2 emissions.
b) the major differentiating factor between our emissions and the low-emitting countries in continental Europe.
c) that taking nukes of the table is indeed “about as dumb as you can get” if you’re serious about mitigating climate change.
d) the environmental movement should get with the program, realize that the agrarian dream will have to wait, and accept that its blanket opposition to nuclear power is untenable with the information we have available.

John Greenfield
John Greenfield
13 years ago

Spiros

My point was not to make some “anti-Kyoto” snark. I am talking about the usefulness of ANY carbon emissions system. I agree with you that first steps have to be made toward SOME response, and Kyoto is the only game in town. I suppose my comment is directed more generally at the problems we face, and to draw attention to realities currently being drowned in the cacophony of self-congratulation over the mere signing of a largely impotent document.

Ken Parish
Admin
Ken Parish(@ken-parish)
13 years ago

The Dalton Minimum seems to have become the latest pseudo-scientific hobbyhorse of the warming denialists. I’m sure nothing I say will deter them from believing whatever they want, but let’s try a few facts at least for the benefit of readers with open minds and a willingness to engage with the evidence (as opposed to half-baked versions of scientific research that happen to suit their increasingly desperately held prejudices).

No climate scientist would deny that solar irradiance is the major factor influencing the earth’s climate. Variations in solar irradiance obviously include the 11 year cycle of solar maxima and minima and a number of other longer cyclical phenomena. The Dalton Minimum was a period in the 18th and early 19th century when solar activity was significantly lower than average. If such an event occurs again in the next decade or two (as it may), then that would certainly have an effect on climate, lowering temperatures from what they otherwise would have been. No-one disputes this. Thus, quoting Fairbridge etc tells us very little about the current situation.

Climatic variations may also be influenced by variations in cosmic rays and their interactions with clouds, although the extent of this is not well understood.

However, the problem for denialists is that both these contributors to climate (i.e. solar irradiance and cosmic rays) simply don’t explain the measured warming over the last 30 years. Only the measured significant increase in atmospheric CO2 has explanatory force for this (actual not just computer model-predicted) significant warming. There has been no detectable trend in cosmic rays (upwards or downwards) over that period and the trend for solar irradiance has if anything been slightly negative i.e. you would have expected it to result in cooling rather than warming, whereas what has actually occurred has been the steepest warming for at least the last 400 years.

Below are extracts from the latest IPCC synthesis report on the solar irradiance issue, and from RealClimate concerning cosmic rays.

IPCC report (topic 2)

Most of the observed increase in globally-averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations.8 This is an advance since the TARs conclusion that most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in GHG concentrations (Figure 2.5). {WGI 9.4, SPM}

The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing, and very likely that it is not due to known natural causes alone. During this period, the sum of solar and volcanic forcings would likely have produced cooling, not warming. Warming of the climate system has been detected in changes in surface and atmospheric temperatures, and in temperatures of the upper several hundred metres of the ocean. The observed pattern of tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling is very likely due to the combined influences of GHG increases and stratospheric ozone depletion. It is likely that increases in GHG concentrations alone would have caused more warming than observed because volcanic and anthropogenic aerosols have offset some warming that would otherwise have taken place. {WGI 2.9, 3.2, 3.4, 4.8, 5.2, 7.5, 9.4, 9.5, 9.7, TS 4.1, SPM}

RealClimate on cosmic rays:

There is little evidence for a connection between solar activity (as inferred from trends in galactic cosmic rays) and recent global warming. Since the paper by Friis-Christensen and Lassen (1991), there has been an enhanced controversy about the role of solar activity for earth’s climate. Svensmark (1998) later proposed that changes in the inter-planetary magnetic fields (IMF) resulting from variations on the sun can affect the climate through galactic cosmic rays (GCR) by modulating earth’s cloud cover. Svensmark and others have also argued that recent global warming has been a result of solar activity and reduced cloud cover. Damon and Laut have criticized their hypothesis and argue that the work by both Friis-Christensen and Lassen and Svensmark contain serious flaws. For one thing, it is clear that the GCR does not contain any clear and significant long-term trend (e.g. Fig. 1, but also in papers by Svensmark).

Svensmark’s failure to comment on the lack of a clear and significant long-term downward GCR trend, and how changes in GCR can explain a global warming without containing such a trend, is one major weakness of his argument that GCR is responsible for recent global warming. This issue is discussed in detail in Benestad (2002). Moreover, the lack of trend in GCR is also consistent with little long-term change in other solar proxies, such as sunspot number and the solar cycle length, since the 1960s, when the most recent warming started.

The fact that there is little recent trend in the GCR and solar activity does not mean that solar activity is unimportant for earth’s climate. There are a large number of recent peer-reviewed scientific publications demonstrating how solar activity can affect our climate (Benestad, 2002), such as how changes in the UV radiation following the solar activity affect the stratospheric ozone concentrations (1999) and how earth’s temperatures respond to changes in the total solar irradiance (Meehl, 2003). Furthermore, the lack of trend in GCR does not falsify the mechanism proposed by Svensmark, i.e. that GCR act as a trigger for cloud condensation nuclei and are related to the amount of low clouds. As for this latter issue, the jury is still out.

Jc
Jc
13 years ago

Rob:

Great points. Wasn’t aware you were in full swing on this.

MarkL
MarkL
13 years ago

Ken Parish said:

The Dalton Minimum seems to have become the latest pseudo-scientific hobbyhorse of the warming denialists.

Comment: You just invalidated your argument in the first paragraph with an appeal to emotion (a fallacy in logic), and by implying that the Dalton minimum is a pseudo-science. Does this make you a reality denialist? After all, the Dalton minimum is a verifiable fact.

Im sure nothing I say will deter them from believing whatever they want, but lets try a few facts at least for the benefit of readers with open minds and a willingness to engage with the evidence (as opposed to half-baked versions of scientific research that happen to suit their increasingly desperately held prejudices).

Comment; Ad hominem. Again, you have invalidated your own argument through use of a fallacy in logic. You imply that only those who agree with you are readers with open minds and a willingness to engage with the evidence, all those who do not agree must be half-baked to suit their increasingly desperately held prejudices. This is not the path of logical discourse based on the scientific method, it is the path of a religious/ideological zealot or dogmatist whose religious beliefs have been challenged. Again, it indicates you have a closed mind, fully made up and no discussion will be entered into. The challenge before you, then, is simple. You have to refute Fairbridge: refute, not dismiss on the basis of pseudo-religious or ideological dogma.

No climate scientist would deny that solar irradiance is the major factor influencing the earths climate.

Comment: here, you contradict yourself quite breathtakingly. You have just stated that this is both the latest pseudo-scientific hobbyhorse of the warming denialists as used by those using half-baked versions of scientific research that happen to suit their increasingly desperately held prejudices. Then you blithely admit what you have just dismissed. This is remarkable. You cannot have this both ways.

Variations in solar irradiance obviously include the 11 year cycle of solar maxima and minima and a number of other longer cyclical phenomena. The Dalton Minimum was a period in the 18th and early 19th century when solar activity was significantly lower than average. If such an event occurs again in the next decade or two (as it may), then that would certainly have an effect on climate, lowering temperatures from what they otherwise would have been. No-one disputes this. Thus, quoting Fairbridge etc tells us very little about the current situation.

Comment: Strawman, another fallacy in logic. Also, you just dismissed these very points, then admitted them, now you say that they tell us nothing anyway. You are not helping yourself here by this illogical flailing about. Fairbridge pursued research into this hypothesis for over 40 years and was a giant in his field: the evidence he and others amassed notes a close correlation of solar activity to climate (to grossly simplify a large amount of poorly understood and highly complex chaotic behaviour) in a way which the childishly simplistic AGW hypothesis does not. Yet, this tells us very little, while failed politicians and second-rate rock singers apparently know it all. Interesting view of scientific method you have there. Again, you quite fail to make logical sense here.

Climatic variations may also be influenced by variations in cosmic rays and their interactions with clouds, although the extent of this is not well understood.

Comment: Now you introduce a third line of argument. At least you admit that this has an influence on climate which is not well understood. That is important, Ill return to it later.

However, the problem for denialists is that both these contributors to climate (i.e. solar irradiance and cosmic rays) simply dont explain the measured warming over the last 30 years.

Comment: I do not accept your word for this. Please give me the academic references for this rather remarkable statement. I will not accept website references unless it is a published item in an untainted journal. (So no Realclimate or Climate Audit, please)

Only the measured significant increase in atmospheric CO2 has explanatory force for this (actual not just computer model-predicted) significant warming.

Comment: Here, you just reduced your own argument to the veriest trash. Please note that above you admitted that you knew of an influence on climate of extra-terrestrial origin which in your own words is not well understood. Yet, having admitted that we do not understand at least a portion of the drivers behind climate change, you now come up with an absolute! Only the measured significant increase in atmospheric CO2: this baldly states that GW has ONLY one cause. Your argument (invalidated at the start by numerous logical fallacies) is now revealed as complete nonsense.

There has been no detectable trend in cosmic rays (upwards or downwards) over that period and the trend for solar irradiance has if anything been slightly negative i.e. you would have expected it to result in cooling rather than warming, whereas what has actually occurred has been the steepest warming for at least the last 400 years.

Comment: Read the references I posted: something you patently have not done. You appear to have misread how complex this issue is by at least a couple of orders of magnitude. You seem to assume a linear impact: this is very probably wrong. The impact of solar activity is distinctly non-linear. See Veerstegh, G.J., Solar Forcing of Climate. 2: Evidence from the past, Space Science Review, 120, 243-286. Secondly, we have ample past evidence of steep warming over short timescales (such as occurred 15,000 years ago) without a corresponding CO2 increase. How this occurred is just not understood yet. There is ample evidence of quite remarkable eustatic fluctuations over short timescales, again without corresponding CO2 increases. These fluctuations are known as the Fairbridge Curve of the Holocene Eustatic Fluctuations: see his Dating the latest movements in quaternary sea level, New York Academy of Science Transaction, 20, 471-482 and Eustatic changes in sea levels, in, Ahrens, Rankama, Press and Runcorn (Eds) Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Vol 4, London, Pergamon Press 1961, pp99-185.

Below are extracts from the latest IPCC synthesis report on the solar irradiance issue, and from RealClimate concerning cosmic rays.

Comment: Sources such as Realclimate and Climate Audit cannot be accepted. Such sites display a lack of adherence to scientific method, and are tainted in other ways. The IPCC report actually dismisses ANY link between solar variability and climate on the grounds that the variations in electromagnetic radiation are too small. This (obviously) ignores completely the totality of solar impact. Much worse, it is based on methodologies only appropriate to analysis of linear and stationary time series: yet we do know that the sun affects the earth with periodicities in many time scales, each being stochastic and immensely complex! In essence, IPCC assumes away some significant phenomina which are non-ergodic. Finally, IPCC simply does not address any of the challenges posed by Koutsoyiannis (A generalised mathematical framework for stochiastic simulation and forecast on hydrologic time series, 2000, Water Resources Research, 36 (6) 1519-1533 AND Climate Change: the Hurst phenomenon and hydrological statistics, Hydrological Science Journal 47 (4) 573-595) or Chen and Lins (Natures Style: Naturally trendy, geophysical Research Letters, 2006, (32) L23402.)
If the IPCC report does not address the issues Koutsoyiannis or Cohen and Lind (let alone North!) raise, then how can it be regarded as having anything of value to say on the subject it does not address anyway?
In attempting to make such a point, it is plain that there is a pseudo-religious dogma speaking in your words, not the scientific method. You may as well quote Noddy and Big Ears in support of your ‘argument’, for just like the IPCC report, Noddy and Big Ears do not address the issue of the impact of solar variance on climate.
It is apparent that you actually lack the background information and understanding to discuss this matter factually. May I suggest that some actual reading in may be required, should you ever wish to do so? Your argument here is little more that a few statements of religious-like dogma shot through with internal contradiction and a smattering of poorly understood data, most of which is either irrelevant or actually tainted.

Basically, your argument is as simplistic, convoluted and wrong as that of a phlogiston alchemist. I am quite disappointed in that, I had hoped to find another well-read layman here with whom to discuss this matter logically.

MarkL
Canberra

trackback
13 years ago

greatings…

agree…