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chappy
12-02-2009, 12:04 AM
Anyone see the documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle on the Sundance Channel or at any other time? It only served to reinforce my belief that the CO2 causation is completely inacurate Sure, I think the planet's warming but I also smell a rat. The biggest thing that caught my attention was that based on ice core data that the warming trend drives up the CO2 not the other way around. This fact alone changes the forecast models we've been deluged with over the past several years. We are experiencing IMHO a normal change in the weather patterns. We all owe it to ourselves to research and verify the information presented in the documentary. Sure the eco-extremists will scream bloody murder at the masses daring to question their "facts" but I say let'em screamll ! There are huge amounts of money riding on the CO2 myth and we're the ones who'll be paying through the nose.

samclem
12-02-2009, 12:10 AM
I'm moving this out of General Questions, as I don't see a General Question here.

Not that this board is short of threads on Global Warming, but let's start this out in Great Debates where it will likely wind up.

samclem Moderator, General Questions

elucidator
12-02-2009, 12:24 AM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Global_Warming_Swindle

Wiki's take. Offered without comment for reference.

Chronos
12-02-2009, 12:48 AM
So, what process prevents CO2 from causing warming, and what is causing the warming instead? We can easily measure the infrared opacity of CO2 in the laboratory, and can model what that would do given sunlight and the current amounts of the gas in our atmosphere, and it matches what we're seeing.

There are huge amounts of money riding on the CO2 myth and we're the ones who'll be paying through the nose. I can't help but laugh every time I see this old canard. You want to know where there's huge amounts of money? Think about all the money made by fossil fuel companies. Exxon would really love for people to think that global warming isn't occurring, or that it isn't due to carbon dioxide, and they've got more money available to convince people of that than all the environmental organizations combined. Anyone who just wanted to make a buck without caring about the truth would be shilling for Exxon, not for the Sierra Club or whatever.

Euphonious Polemic
12-02-2009, 01:02 AM
Yep, I'm putting all my spare change into wind turbine company stock. The big CEO's running those companies are pulling in 7 figures now, and I"m gonna get me some of that cash too!

Euphonious Polemic
12-02-2009, 01:05 AM
Plus, I heard that one a them climate scientist guys just pulled in a $68,000 grant (distributed over 4 years). And that, after only 9 years of postgraduate education, 2 years as a post-doc and 5 years in a junior position. It's like they're printing themselves money!

GIGObuster
12-02-2009, 01:29 AM
We all owe it to ourselves to research and verify the information presented in the documentary.
We have to tell you that you are late by 3 years.

You are looking at a documentary full of ignorance, laziness and lack of research:

http://www.youtube.com/user/greenman3610#p/u/12/boj9ccV9htk

Sure the eco-extremists will scream bloody murder at the masses daring to question their "facts" but I say let'em screamll ! There are huge amounts of money riding on the CO2 myth and we're the ones who'll be paying through the nose.
Nope, facts do not follow ideology, but for the denial machine it does, funded denial organizations exist to confuse the public:

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/02/oreskes_on_the_american_denial.php

But, back to the swindler documentary:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/swindled/
So what did they have to say for themselves?

CO2 doesn’t match the temperature record over the 20th C.
True but not relevant, because it isn’t supposed to. The programme spent a long time agonising over what they presented as a sharp temperature fall for 4 decades from 1940 to 1980 (incidentally their graph looks rather odd and may have been carefully selected; on a more usual (and sourced!) plot the “4 decades of cooling” is rather less evident). They presented this as a major flaw in the theory, which is deeply deceptive, because as they and their interviewees must know, the 40-70 cooling type period is readily explained, in that the GCMs are quite happy to reproduce it, as largely caused by sulphate aerosols. See this for a wiki-pic, for example; or (all together now) the IPCC TAR SPM fig 4; or more up-to-date AR4 fig 4. So… they are lying to us by omission.

The troposphere should warm faster than the sfc, say the models and basic theory.
As indeed it does – unless you’re wedded to the multiply-corrected Spencer+Christy version of the MSU series. Christy (naturally enough) features in this section, though he seems to have forgotten the US CCSP report, and the executive summary which he authored says Previously reported discrepancies between the amount of warming near the surface and higher in the atmosphere have been used to challenge the reliability of climate models and the reality of human induced global warming. Specifically, surface data showed substantial global-average warming, while early versions of satellite and radiosonde data showed little or no warming above the surface. This significant discrepancy no longer exists because errors in the satellite and radiosonde data have been identified and corrected. New data sets have also been developed that do not show such discrepancies. See-also previous RC posts.

Temperature leads CO2 by 800 years in the ice cores.
Not quite as true as they said, but basically correct; however they misinterpret it. The way they said this you would have thought that T and CO2 are anti-correlated; but if you overlay the full 400/800 kyr of ice core record, you can’t even see the lag because its so small. The correct interpretation of this is well known: that there is a T-CO2 feedback: see RC again for more.

All the previous parts of the programme were leading up to “so if it isn’t CO2, what is it?” to which their answer is “solar”. The section was curiously weak, and largely lead by pictures of people on beaches. It was somewhat surprising that they didn’t feature Svensmark at all; other stuff we’ve commented on before. Note that the graph they used as “proof” of the excellent solar-T connection turns out to have some problems: see figure 1c of Damon and Laut.

Along the way the programme ticked off most of the other obligatory skeptic talking points: even down to Medieval English vineyards and that old favourite, volcanoes emitting more CO2 than humans.

It ended with politics, with a segment blaming the lack of African development on the environmental movement. We don’t want to get into the politics, but should point out what the programme didn’t: that Kyoto exempts developing nations.

Sage Rat
12-02-2009, 01:59 AM
There are huge amounts of money riding on the CO2 myth and we're the ones who'll be paying through the nose.
Plus or minus global warming, all the climate scientists at the EPA would still have a job. Half of all climate scientists are employed by private business. The EPA has been lead by conservative-leaning scientists almost exclusively since its foundation by Republican president, Richard Nixon. The EPA supports the global warming theory and in fact approved the submission of the IPCC report for the UN.

In studies of the effects of monetary incentive on scientists varying their expected output, only 15.5% did so. Given that every bit of science that supports the global warming theory has been reproduced by a dozen or so independent and competitive groups, that 15.5% who are releasing data that can't be replicated will end up being ignored. Given that half of all climate scientists are employed by private business, it's likely that they have a monetary incentive to disprove anthropogenic global warming and hence there's an even 15.5% who will attempt to skew the data in that direction.

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showpost.php?p=11348806&postcount=16
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showpost.php?p=9958584&postcount=123

hansel
12-02-2009, 02:56 AM
There are huge amounts of money riding on the CO2 myth and we're the ones who'll be paying through the nose.Not in comparison to the amount of money riding on 'proving' AGW wrong. You owe it to yourself to verify that.

elucidator
12-02-2009, 03:00 AM
What? Exxon, BP, guys like that? What are penny-ante operations like that compared to the awesome Gore-ACORN juggernaut?

WarmNPrickly
12-02-2009, 04:53 AM
So, what process prevents CO2 from causing warming, and what is causing the warming instead? We can easily measure the infrared opacity of CO2 in the laboratory, and can model what that would do given sunlight and the current amounts of the gas in our atmosphere, and it matches what we're seeing.



This is really the gist of it. If CO2 isn't causing global warming, then where is that energy going? In fact, the IR peaks for CO2 are in such an odd place in the spectrum, that I'll bet you can measure the absorbance pretty well from a satellite. You won't even need a background spectrum because nothing else resonates there.

jackdavinci
12-02-2009, 05:30 PM
What does the lag of CO2 behind temperature in ice cores tell us about global warming? (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/co2-in-ice-cores/)

The key here is that no scientist is saying that CO2 is the only contributing factor ever to global warming. Only that in the last 50-100 years, it has been the main one, and that while solar has been a factor, when you model the various factors, solar alone cannot account for the total increase, and CO2 seems to have a greater contribution to this period. And also that the accelerated rate of CO2 increase is historically novel.

Sam Stone
12-02-2009, 06:46 PM
I don't think the question is really that there's a relationship between CO2 and temperature. Pretty much every climate scientist and physicist agrees that CO2 increases will increase temperature, all else being equal.

The more interesting question is whether the estimates for climate sensitivity to CO2 forcing are correct. To get to the more extreme predictions of 6-7 degrees of temperature rise by 2100, you have to assume a lot of positive feedback mechanisms, and I think the science is much less settled around these (hence the fairly wide error bars on the IPCC estimates). There is still some question about how long CO2 remains in the atmosphere after being produced, which affects the long-term accumulation rate.

The problem I have with this debate is the attitude on both sides:

AGW opponents: "Global warming isn't happening! And if it is, it has nothing to do with CO2! It's all lies."

AGW Proponents: "CO2 is causing warming, and humans are spewing out more CO2. Therefore.... We must take drastic action NOW to stop it."

The opponents are guilty of ignoring the real science behind this. The proponents are taking a wild leap from the basics of the solid science to demanding sweeping economic changes NOW. And both sides are guilty of ignoring the science or exaggerating it. The opponents refuse to accept what is a very solid understanding of CO2's contribution to warming of a gas when you shine sunlight on it, while proponents tend to exaggerate the effects or claim that the extreme ranges of predictions are fact. The recent Copenhagen report does this. Al Gore does it all the time. Both sides throw up so much smoke that it's hard to find the truth in either direction.

Both sides have a vested interest in keeping the debate at this primitive level. For AGW proponents, the more they can keep the opposition fighting against the basic physics, the more they have the 'truth' on their side. For the opponents, they feel that they have to deny the entire thing, because they feel that conceding any of it means they lose.

But let's look at where we're at with the science, economics, and sociology once you get past the very basics of "More CO2 = warmer". First, we have very weak understanding of what the Earth's feedback mechanisms are, either positive or negative. We also have a weak understanding of what our future economic and energy landscape will look like. The IPCC builds 'scenarios' for development that continue out for 90 years. But of course, five years ago they couldn't predict the current recession, or the major reduction in CO2 that resulted. No one knows what our energy needs will be in ten years, let alone ninety.

The farther you go out on the predictive timeline, the fuzzier it gets. The farther you get from the basic physics of CO2's interaction in the atmosphere, the shakier the science gets.

Then there's the problem of discount rates. Even under the IPCC's more extreme scenarios, if we assume reasonable discount rates on our investment the math says we shouldn't do anything. So people like Stern have assumed a discount rate of zero, meaning we should spend a billion dollars today to prevent a billion dollars of damage ninety years from now. Which is a ridiculous thing to assume. But now we're out of the realm of science and into philosophy and ethics. How many deaths of poor Africans today are warranted to prevent the deaths of a million unborn poor Africans in 2100? How much economic pain should a person of today pay to prevent the possible economic pain of his or her great grandchildren? These are not questions of science. There is a healthy debate to be had here, but we can't have it so long as everyone is arguing over the basics.


Then we have the assumptions regarding the damage, which attempt to predict how humans will react to global warming as it slowly encroaches on them. But no one really knows this. We don't know how development patterns will change. We don't know how immigration patterns will change. Much of this stuff is a guess or a gross simplification.

Technology has shown itself to create huge discontinuities in human development, yet we have no idea what kinds of technologies will be invented in the next 100 years, or how we will react to them.

Then there's the 'problem' that even the IPCC's 'best estimate' of around 3-4 degrees of warming really isn't that big of a disaster for humanity. In fact, it might actually be a benefit. Under their own scenarios, it's generally accepted that warming below 2.5 degrees will have a net economic benefit for the planet (longer growing seasons in the temperate zones, lower heating costs, etc). Even if it eventually gets to 4 degrees, it will spend a lot of time in the 0-2.5 degree range, benefiting the planet, before it starts to hurt. Applying discount rates again, and realizing that the benefits come before the liabilities by decades, even warming of 4 degrees might not be a net negative for the planet from today's perspective.

The fact is that the 'settled science' only exists on the first rung of a ladder of assumptions that's about ten steps long. Everyone's squabbling over that first step, but even if everyone on the planet could agree that man is probably causing some additional warming, we still would not be anywhere near a reasonable consensus over what to do about it. The worst mistake the AGW propnents make is assuming that if we can just all agree that warming is happening, then it's clear what must be done. But it's really not. Not even remotely.

begbert2
12-02-2009, 07:04 PM
AGW Proponents: "CO2 is causing warming, and humans are spewing out more CO2. Therefore.... We must take drastic action NOW to stop it."I'm curious what you think the alternative 'pro' position should be instead.

"Therefore.... We should delay correction for a while, in the hopes the laws of physics will suddenly change!"

"Therefore.... We should delay correction for a while, in the hopes that we'll all die before things get bad, leaving only our descendents to suffer!"

"Therefore.... We should all invest in air conditioning stock!"

"Therefore.... We should all kiss our butts goodbye!"

Euphonious Polemic
12-02-2009, 07:19 PM
"Therefore.... We should pay lip service to making change, while at the same time doing absolutely nothing!"

GIGObuster
12-02-2009, 07:37 PM
The opponents are guilty of ignoring the real science behind this. The proponents are taking a wild leap from the basics of the solid science to demanding sweeping economic changes NOW. And both sides are guilty of ignoring the science or exaggerating it. The opponents refuse to accept what is a very solid understanding of CO2's contribution to warming of a gas when you shine sunlight on it, while proponents tend to exaggerate the effects or claim that the extreme ranges of predictions are fact.

The recent Copenhagen report does this. Al Gore does it all the time. Both sides throw up so much smoke that it's hard to find the truth in either direction.
Cite for this? If you claim that they do exaggerate the effects or claim that they say that the extreme ranges are a fact, you need to point on what you base that. I'm getting tired that you continue to say this with no good support.

In any case we are now discussing a movie that, has been demonstrated before, that play fast and loose with the evidence, I have not seen any good examples of the more in tune with the evidence side doing this.

The IPCC builds 'scenarios' for development that continue out for 90 years. But of course, five years ago they couldn't predict the current recession, or the major reduction in CO2 that resulted. No one knows what our energy needs will be in ten years, let alone ninety.
AFAIK the reports I saw said that at best it grave us a few years of a breathing space and a better chance to control the situation, of course the problem is also ignoring that the USA is not the whole world.

http://news.discovery.com/earth/carbon-dioxide-emissions-recession.html

Despite Recession, Carbon Pollution Swells

...

"The growth in emissions since 2000 is almost entirely driven by the growth in China," said study lead author Corinne Le Quere of the University of East Anglia. "It's China and India and all the developing countries together."

Carbon dioxide emissions, the chief man-made greenhouse gas, come from the burning of coal, oil, natural gas, and also from the production of cement, which is a significant pollution factor in China. Worldwide emissions rose 671 million more tons from 2007 to 2008. Nearly three-quarters of that increase came from China.

The numbers are from the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

According to the study, the 2008 emissions increase was smaller than normal for this decade. Annual global pollution growth has averaged 3.6 percent. This year, scientists are forecasting a nearly 3 percent reduction, despite China, because of the massive economic slowdown in most of the world and in the United States.

The U.S. is still the biggest per capita major producer of man-made greenhouse gases, spewing about 20 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year. The world average is 5.3 tons and China is at 5.8 tons.

Last year, the U.S. emissions fell by 3 percent, a reduction of nearly 192 million tons of carbon dioxide. Overall European Union emissions dropped by 1 percent. The U.S. is still the No. 2 biggest carbon polluter overall, emitting more than the next four largest polluting countries combined: India, Russia, Japan and Germany. China has been No. 1, since pushing past the United States in 2006.

The world remains on a dangerous path, despite the recession, scientists said.

"There's a very clear gap between the path we are on and the path we should be on if the goal is to limit global warming to 2 degrees (1.3 degrees Celsius)," said Le Quere, who also works for the British Antarctic Survey.

The world has spewed 715.3 trillion tons of industrial carbon dioxide since 1982, which is the same amount civilization produced in all the previous years, said study co-author Gregg Marland of the Oak Ridge National Lab.

Outside scientists said the study was thorough and the results sobering.



But now we're out of the realm of science and into philosophy and ethics. How many deaths of poor Africans today are warranted to prevent the deaths of a million unborn poor Africans in 2100? How much economic pain should a person of today pay to prevent the possible economic pain of his or her great grandchildren? These are not questions of science. There is a healthy debate to be had here, but we can't have it so long as everyone is arguing over the basics.
And you continue to ignore that the basics are not being argued much about, now, if you include the ones that are not gaining much support in the research world and academia, well of course there is arguing, but like creationism against biology the basics of the science regarding the effects of greenhouse gases are not a matter of controversy nowadays.

Everyone's squabbling over that first step,
Once again, no.

The worst mistake the AGW propnents make is assuming that if we can just all agree that warming is happening, then it's clear what must be done. But it's really not. Not even remotely.
Speaking for myself, you must be confusing me with someone else. Put your wide brush away.

billfish678
12-02-2009, 09:14 PM
Sam Stone.

I love you.

That was one of your best post ever IMO.

Lobohan
12-02-2009, 09:16 PM
That was one of your best post ever IMO.Well that isn't exactly setting the bar high. :D

Trepa Mayfield
12-02-2009, 09:22 PM
You know, the other day, I was just thinking, "Man, it's been a long time since we've debated global warming on this board.".

Do you people ever sleep!?

Trepa Mayfield
12-02-2009, 09:24 PM
I mean for heaven's sake, the last (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=541427) three (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=541297) threads (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=541300) on the topic are still on the front page.

elucidator
12-02-2009, 09:37 PM
Hot topic.

Squink
12-02-2009, 09:41 PM
I mean for heaven's sake, the last (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=541427) three (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=541297) threads (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=541300) on the topic are still on the front page.Yes, but this show was on the SUNDANCE CHANNEL!!!

Carol Stream
12-02-2009, 09:42 PM
Hot topic.

Shouldn't that read "Cool topic", at least for the last decade or so? :D

elucidator
12-02-2009, 09:46 PM
Say goodnight, Gracie...

Chronos
12-02-2009, 10:59 PM
The more interesting question is whether the estimates for climate sensitivity to CO2 forcing are correct. To get to the more extreme predictions of 6-7 degrees of temperature rise by 2100, you have to assume a lot of positive feedback mechanisms, and I think the science is much less settled around these (hence the fairly wide error bars on the IPCC estimates). There is still some question about how long CO2 remains in the atmosphere after being produced, which affects the long-term accumulation rate.That's almost tautological. To get the most extreme predictions, of course you have to assume a lot of things that the science isn't settled about. That's what makes those predictions extreme. The more interesting discussion is around the non-extreme predictions.

rowrrbazzle
12-02-2009, 11:55 PM
Anyone who just wanted to make a buck without caring about the truth would be shilling for Exxon, not for the Sierra Club or whatever.You're kidding, right? The noble reputation of environmentalists provides a perfect cover and would allow profiteers to get massively rich AND appear noble. Win-win. You know, a bit like Macy in "Miracle on 34th St." We'll be known as the helpful store, the friendly store, the store with a heart, the store that places public service ahead of profits.

And, consequently, we'll make more profits than ever before.

I'm not saying that's really happening. I just think your rationale is deficient.

Whack-a-Mole
12-03-2009, 12:13 AM
Yes, but this show was on the SUNDANCE CHANNEL!!!

I can only assume Sundance Channel showed it with the same sense of seriousness they might show Reefer Madness.

Whack-a-Mole
12-03-2009, 12:41 AM
This is a HuffPo link so as such will be panned by many but the claims are cited.

I think GIGObuster's first link to the video pretty much demolishes the OP by itself but to add to the pile-on:

ClimateGate: The 7 Biggest Lies About The Supposed "Global Warming Hoax" (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/02/climategate-the-7-biggest_n_371223.html)

Noel Prosequi
12-03-2009, 12:43 AM
I don't think the question is really that there's a relationship between CO2 and temperature. Pretty much every climate scientist and physicist agrees that CO2 increases will increase temperature, all else being equal.

To get to the more extreme predictions of 6-7 degrees of temperature rise by 2100, you have to assume a lot of positive feedback mechanisms.... [snip]

There is still some question about how long CO2 remains in the atmosphere after being produced, which affects the long-term accumulation rate. [snip]


But let's look at where we're at with the science, economics, and sociology once you get past the very basics of "More CO2 = warmer". First, we have very weak understanding of what the Earth's feedback mechanisms are, either positive or negative. [snip]



Then there's the 'problem' that even the IPCC's 'best estimate' of around 3-4 degrees of warming really isn't that big of a disaster for humanity. In fact, it might actually be a benefit. Under their own scenarios, it's generally accepted that warming below 2.5 degrees will have a net economic benefit for the planet (longer growing seasons in the temperate zones, lower heating costs, etc). Even if it eventually gets to 4 degrees, it will spend a lot of time in the 0-2.5 degree range, benefiting the planet, before it starts to hurt.

[snip]



That's almost tautological. To get the most extreme predictions, of course you have to assume a lot of things that the science isn't settled about. That's what makes those predictions extreme. The more interesting discussion is around the non-extreme predictions.


Chronos, I have no expertise in this area at all.

Sam Stone's post contains a number of issues both evidence-based and argumentative (as is entirely proper in a legitimate debate). I have edited out much of what seemed to me to be argument to see if there is agreement about the assertions that are closer to evidence. I note your observation about tautology, but since you conclude with the observation about the non-extreme positions, I would be grateful for your observations about some of the material advanced by Sam.

Is 6-7 degrees over a hundred years an "extreme" position?

Is there still a legitimate debate about CO2 retention in the atmosphere?

Is it fair to describe the present understanding of the Earth's feedback mechanisms as "weak"?

Is 3-4 degrees of warming the present "best estimate"? Is it generally accepted that warming below 2.5 degrees is a net benefit? Is it a legitimate position to take on the evidence that a benefit of the time in transitioning through this period may outweigh the detriment of 4 degrees?

Sam Stone
12-03-2009, 12:48 AM
I'm curious what you think the alternative 'pro' position should be instead.

"Therefore.... We should delay correction for a while, in the hopes the laws of physics will suddenly change!"

"Therefore.... We should delay correction for a while, in the hopes that we'll all die before things get bad, leaving only our descendents to suffer!"

"Therefore.... We should all invest in air conditioning stock!"

"Therefore.... We should all kiss our butts goodbye!"

"It appears that CO2 is warming the atmosphere, and that humans are contributing to this to some degree. What isn't clear is how much damage this will cause to the planet as a whole, if any. It's not clear whether the cost of curtailing CO2 emissions will outweigh the cost of the damage if there is damage. It's not clear if we can gain the kind of consensus required to significantly curtail CO2 in the first place. "

So how do you proceed? You spend a whole lot more money on studying the science. You improve the quality of your ground-based measurements. You build models and validate them as time goes on. You invest in more study on the role of clouds, the sun, ocean currents, algae blooms, and anything else you can think of. You agree to maybe a 10-year period of study and analysis, to try to reduce the error bars. In the meantime, you make prudent investments in research for alternative energy, and start implementing it where it's cost-effective to do so.

What you DON'T do is jump right in and try to pass sweeping, world-wide changes to our energy infrastructure.

If you want to approach this scientifically, then the thing to do is to work out the high and low estimates for warming, assign probabilities to each, and then work out the Pareto-optimal strategy for maximizing wealth for the next 100 years. Maybe it includes CO2 reductions, but maybe mitigation is a smarter strategy. Maybe it will be much easier to reduce CO2 ten years from now after a decade of research into alternatives, at which point we'll also have a better grasp of just how much warming the planet is undergoing.

Or maybe the error bars are currently so big that you can't base reasonable policy on the conclusions. The IPCC's range for their estimate of temperature in 2100 is 1.8 degrees to 6.4 degrees. That's a huge range. The natural warming of the earth in the inter-glacial period we're in is about 1.1 degrees per century, as I recall. A lower estimate of 1.8 degrees means .7 degrees of warming over a century, which is almost inconsequential, and almost certainly beneficial to the planet as a whole. Do you want to put the world into a deep recession to avoid that?

On the other hand, warming of 6.4 degrees would probably cause trillions of dollars in damage and cause significant dislocation of future populations. It would be nice to avoid that if we can.

The IPCC's overall 'best estimate' in the 4th assessment report is 3.7 degrees of warming by 2100. That is NOT a catastrophe. We could deal with that if we had to by simply transferring the wealth created in the temperate zones to the equatorial regions that will be hardest hit.

In short, the range of estimates is very wide, which will make policy based on them rather inefficient.

You need to understand that the reason the global warming movement is steaming ahead so fast is that politics are getting way ahead of the science. There are a lot of vested interests out there that stand to gain from global warming treaties. A lot of countries that will benefit economically if other countries carry a preponderance of the burden. A lot of this is driven by ideologues seeking to use global warming as a springboard to achieve what they've always wanted - more global government, a decrease in nationalistic power, wealth transfer from the U.S. and Western Europe into the poorer countries in Africa and elsewhere, and lots of political control.

One key fact that continues to bother me is that there are many people saying that global warming is an imminent catastrophe, and yet it is very hard to get those same people to agree to nuclear power, which is the only feasible large-scale power source available today which doesn't emit greenhouse gases. That tells me their motivation is more than just keeping CO2 out of the atmosphere. For some, it's about reductions in energy output entirely, for others it's about 'green jobs' or being able to exert control over the means of production.

The bottom line is that there are many agendas at play here, and a lot of smoke being thrown up by ideologues on all sides of the debate, and this is obscuring rational thinking on the issue.

Sam Stone
12-03-2009, 03:09 AM
Chronos, I have no expertise in this area at all.

Sam Stone's post contains a number of issues both evidence-based and argumentative (as is entirely proper in a legitimate debate). I have edited out much of what seemed to me to be argument to see if there is agreement about the assertions that are closer to evidence. I note your observation about tautology, but since you conclude with the observation about the non-extreme positions, I would be grateful for your observations about some of the material advanced by Sam.

Is 6-7 degrees over a hundred years an "extreme" position?


From the IPCC 4th assessment synthesis report, page 38:
Progress since the TAR enables an assessment that climate sensitivity is likely to be in the range of 2 to 4.5C with a best estimate of about 3C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5C. Values substantially higher than 4.5C cannot be excluded, but agreement of models with observations is not as good for those values. {WGI 8.6, 9.6, Box 10.2, SPM}

These numbers represent their best guesses as to the temperature change caused by a doubling of atmospheric CO2. The terminology in the IPCC reports regarding uncertainty are described as:

virtually certain >99%;
extremely likely >95%;
very likely >90%;
likely >66%;
more likely than not > 50%;
about as likely as not 33% to 66%;
unlikely <33%;
very unlikely <10%;
extremely unlikely <5%;
exceptionally unlikely <1%.

So, they're saying that there's a greater than 66% chance that climate sensitivity is between 2 to 4.5C, with a 10% or less chance that it is below 1.5C. But notice they don't even try to assign a very unlikely assessment to values above 4.5C, as they admit that there's really no science to support it. They can't exclude the possibility, because of course if you have no idea you can't exclude something. But there's not even enough evidence to allow an estimate of the probability of higher values.

From here, the question now becomes how much CO2 humans will release. A key piece of evidence is the Keeling Curve (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mauna_Loa_Carbon_Dioxide-en.svg), a measure of CO2 concentrations on Mauna Kea from the late 1950's to today. It shows that CO2 has increased from about 315 to 385 ppm over 50 years. You can extrapolate farther by looking at CO2 levels trapped in ice cores, which were about 284 ppm in 1832.

CO2 emissions have been increasing, and the rate of increase has been increasing. In other words, it looks like an exponential growth curve, and this scares people. But in fact, we really don't know what the trend looks like. The rapid increase in the last 20 years undoubtedly has most to do with economic growth in Asia, caused by rapid industrialization and heavy energy use. But economic growth like that cannot be sustained, and as economies mature they start to stabilize in their CO2 output - gains in energy efficiency offset economic growth, which slows down anyway.

But let's take some real numbers. From 1995 to 2005, atmospheric CO2 increased by 1.9ppm per year. At that rate, in 100 years, we'd add 190ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere. To double CO2 to get a warming of 2-4.5 degrees, we'd need to emit CO2 at an average rate about double of the last decade's. And that's entirely possible.

But note that each molecule of CO2 emitted has less effect than the last one - doubling CO2 gets you to 3 degrees, but to get to six degrees you need four times the CO2, and to get to 9 degrees, you need 8 times the CO2. It's not a linear relationship.

So, we start with estimates that are pretty wide in the first place, and then we have to add estimates of how much CO2 we'll generate, which is all about the nature of the future economy, which is very fuzzy indeed. For example, for 30 years from 1970 to 2000, the global economy was actually becoming less carbon intensive with each year. That changed in 2000, again, due to the rapid economic growth in Asia, which has very poor energy efficiency.

But assuming China and India follow the same growth path as the rest of the western world, they will reach a point where gains in energy efficiency will outstrip economic growth, and they will become less carbon intensive with each year as well. But no one knows at what point this will be reached, and how big the economy and energy output of China and India will be by then.

The way the IPCC handles the uncertainty about future growth is that they have developed various 'scenarios' or stories about the growth of the world, and then try to pull estimates from each scenario as to how much CO2 mankind would generate. This is very fuzzy stuff. Can you imagine how accurate similar scenarios generated in 1900 would be today? In any event, this is what they look like:
The A1 storyline assumes a world of very rapid economic growth, a global population that peaks in mid-century and rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies.

A1 is divided into three groups that describe alternative directions of technological change: fossil intensive (A1FI), non-fossil energy resources (A1T) and a balance across all sources (A1B).

B1 describes a convergent world, with the same global population as A1, but with more rapid changes in economic structures toward a service and information economy.

B2 describes a world with intermediate population and economic growth, emphasizing local solutions to economic, social, and environmental sustainability.

A2 describes a very heterogeneous world with high population growth, slow economic development and slow technological change. No likelihood has been attached to any of the SRES scenarios.

These are little more than educated guesses, and they have nothing to do with climate science. Rather, they are questions of economics, technological growth, political science, etc. Our track record in predicting such things is pretty weak.

In any event, the IPCC sets emissions rates of CO2 for each scenario, then gives estimates for how much warming there might be by the year 2100. They look like this:


Constant concentration of CO2 (no man-made contribution): 0.3 - 0.9C
Best estimate: 0.6C

Scenario B1: 1.1 - 2.9C Best Estimate: 1.8C

Scenario A1T: 1.4 - 3.8C Best Estimate: 2.4C

Scenario B2: 1.4 - 3.8C Best Estimate: 2.4C

Scenario A1B: 1.7 - 4.4C Best Estimate: 2.8C

Scenario A2: 2.0 - 5.4C Best Estimate: 3.4C

Scenario A1F1: 2.4 - 6.4 C Best Estimate: 4.0C


So we have estimates that range from not much above the natural increase to about 6.4 degrees.

As an aside, I'd like to point out the IPCC's estimate for sea level rise for the various scenarios:



Scenario B1: .18 to .38m

Scenario A1T: .20 - 45m

Scenario B2: .20 - .43m

Scenario A1B: .21 - .48m

Scenario A2: .23 - .51m

Scenario A1F1: .26 - .59m


Make note of the fact that the IPCC's highest prediction, for the highest temperate increase scenario, is .59m of sea level rise. Also note that the 'natural' level, if man were not producing CO2 at all, would still be somewhere between .1 and .3 m.

Is there still a legitimate debate about CO2 retention in the atmosphere?

You can find numbers all over the map on this. Most sources say "50-200 years". Some AGW advocates say "hundreds of years". There are outliers - some people claim that the effect of a molecule of carbon added to the atmosphere today will be felt for a thousand years. Some seem to think the carbon is removed on the order of a decade.

It's actually not a simple problem, because CO2 recycles through the atmosphere multiple times before it is sequestered. It's absorbed in a plant, the plant burns, and it's back in the atmosphere. Or it's absorbed in algae, which is eaten by whales, which die and decompose and release their carbon back into the cycle. Eventually, the stuff gets locked away (sinks to the bottom of the ocean, mineralizes, gets locked up in plant life which winds up being petroleum in the next 100 millions years, etc). I couldn't find a definitive number for CO2 lifespan, and I'm not sure there is one.

Is it fair to describe the present understanding of the Earth's feedback mechanisms as "weak"?

The IPCC talks a lot about the various questions around feedback. They admit that much is unknown, and in fact the estimates in the 4th assessment report were changed before publication because of new information about some feedback mechanisms.


Is 3-4 degrees of warming the present "best estimate"? Is it generally accepted that warming below 2.5 degrees is a net benefit? Is it a legitimate position to take on the evidence that a benefit of the time in transitioning through this period may outweigh the detriment of 4 degrees?

See the quotes from the IPCC above for the best estimate values. As for economic costs, moderate warming would have a net benefit on agricultural output and would open up a lot of new land in the northern regions. But to be fair, there are a lot of non-economic costs associated with global warming. Species extinction, habitat changes, changes to animal migration patterns, etc. It's hard to put a value on this, and it's ultimately going to be an ideological decision.

Source documents:

IPCC 4th Assessment Synthesis Report (http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr.pdf)
IPCC 4th Assessment Chapter 2 - Changes in Atmospheric Constituents and in Radiative Forcing (http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter2.pdf)

Note that I've been using the numbers straight from the IPCC, not from any of the 'skeptics'. This is the stuff that everyone is supposed to agree on.

Noel Prosequi
12-03-2009, 07:27 PM
Thanks for the effort, Sam. I appreciate it. But you will of course appreciate that there is actually a debate about this, and I am trying to figure out what the parameters of the debate are. Each side has been accused of being selective with the evidence (not that I am accusing you of that - I am simply in no position to judge).

That is why I though it would be useful to me at least if I could determine where there is agreement, and that is why I asked Chronos for his views of your post. He seems to take a different position from you, although I am wary of assuming that any one individual is some sort of spokesperson for one of two rigidly polarized positions.

While there are expressions of disagreement at all levels, it may be that the primary points of contention are at the level of primary facts (is warming real? is it man-made?) or at the level of inferences from those facts (what will the world's climate be like in 100 years?) or at the level of response (what is the cost/benefit analysis of an aggressive but expensive response as opposed to a less expensive response or even doing nothing?)

Both sides of the debate in the large (and I am not suggesing you personally) have been guilty of seeking attention by catastrophising their opponents position, and the media has magnified this effect by selectively emphasising worst case scenarios advanced by both sides. For all I know, The Truth may well be one of the worst case scenarios, but if that is not really where the debate is at, I am keen to know.

To know the size of the debate, it is helpful to know where its edges are. Hence my question to Chronos.

Sam Stone
12-03-2009, 07:42 PM
Sure. Always good to seek a second opinion.

But note that I didn't give you my opinion - I gave you the straight facts from the UN's panel on climate change. This is the report that is considered the definitive statement on global warming. I linked to the source documents so you can see if I took anything out of context or fudged the numbers.

chappy
12-03-2009, 10:53 PM
The effects of drastic global temperature change either way would be catastrophic in a great portion of the world. I think most agree on this. What will be ironic is the return of a "little ice age" as occurred from the 13th - 19th centuries. I can see it now; documentaries, commercials, magazine ads and web sites like this encouraging everyone to paint their roof black, turn off the windmills, take down the solar panels and burn all available fossil fuel possible in order to enhance CO2 based global warming.:smack: Not trying to make a big joke about it, but it would be ironic indeed. I certainly don't claim to be an expert in this matter but from what I've learned from both sides of the issue is that the ice age scenario is just as feasible.

chappy

GIGObuster
12-03-2009, 11:53 PM
The effects of drastic global temperature change either way would be catastrophic in a great portion of the world. I think most agree on this. What will be ironic is the return of a "little ice age" as occurred from the 13th - 19th centuries. I can see it now; documentaries, commercials, magazine ads and web sites like this encouraging everyone to paint their roof black, turn off the windmills, take down the solar panels and burn all available fossil fuel possible in order to enhance CO2 based global warming.:smack: Not trying to make a big joke about it, but it would be ironic indeed. I certainly don't claim to be an expert in this matter but from what I've learned from both sides of the issue is that the ice age scenario is just as feasible.

chappy

Nope.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nTw0KneNLg

Everyone has a favorite decade, and for Climate deniers, that decade has got to be, the 70s.
Yes, the decade of disco, kung fu, and watergate

Because in the 70's, Deniers will tell you, All climate scientists believed an ice age was coming. Those crazy climate scientists! Why can't they make up their minds?

But is that really true?
Maybe a little historical perspective is in order.

Of course, you seem to try to talk about the near future, on that the consensus on the earth cooling to the levels of the previous decades is unlikely.

Czarcasm
12-03-2009, 11:58 PM
The effects of drastic global temperature change either way would be catastrophic in a great portion of the world. I think most agree on this. What will be ironic is the return of a "little ice age" as occurred from the 13th - 19th centuries. I can see it now; documentaries, commercials, magazine ads and web sites like this encouraging everyone to paint their roof black, turn off the windmills, take down the solar panels and burn all available fossil fuel possible in order to enhance CO2 based global warming.:smack: Not trying to make a big joke about it, but it would be ironic indeed. I certainly don't claim to be an expert in this matter but from what I've learned from both sides of the issue is that the ice age scenario is just as feasible.

chappyHave you read any of the other posts in this thread?

Sam Stone
12-04-2009, 12:33 AM
The effects of drastic global temperature change either way would be catastrophic in a great portion of the world. I think most agree on this. What will be ironic is the return of a "little ice age" as occurred from the 13th - 19th centuries. I can see it now; documentaries, commercials, magazine ads and web sites like this encouraging everyone to paint their roof black, turn off the windmills, take down the solar panels and burn all available fossil fuel possible in order to enhance CO2 based global warming.:smack: Not trying to make a big joke about it, but it would be ironic indeed. I certainly don't claim to be an expert in this matter but from what I've learned from both sides of the issue is that the ice age scenario is just as feasible.

chappy

No, it's really not. The vast preponderance of evidence is that the earth is warming. No one in the scientific community seriously disputes this. Very few people dispute that man is contributing in some degree to the warming.

If you chose not to believe this, then I have to join with the others and say you're adopting an unscientific attitude.