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« Peer Review | Main | Global Warming – Part 4 »

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Jon Benski

Thought you might like this.

Study: 38 Percent Of People Not Actually Entitled To Their Opinion
http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/study_38_percent_of_people

Wacky Bob

Remember the joke: Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody's doing anything about it.

So it appears that we have been, but now we don't like it.

By the way, based on the length of our prolonged spring here in NC, maybe a little global warming wouldn't hurt.

Wacky Bob

Since the guys who create the computer models that tell us that the earth will be exactly 2.6 degrees warmer at the end of the century have it so right, can we get them to do a model that will accurately tell me whether it will rain tomorrow afternoon?

It seems to me that if we can't get the short-term stuff correct, how can we possibly get it right 93 years out?

The models in the '70's showed that we were headed for a cooling trend, and that if we didn't do something, we would head into a mini-ice age.

But wait, those models were right, but the inputs changed!

Todd

"I think it’s entirely possible that human activity is warming the earth"

I think it's entirely possible that humans are throwing up more tons of CO2 into the atmosphere than any other time in geologic history, but I think the effect on the *average temperature* of the entire planet is negligible.

From the data referenced in the links you and other commenters in the blog provided, cloud cover is the dominant source of temperature control. Even as the source, clouds are still a link in a chain of events: sunspots appear, their magnetic fields block cosmic rays entering the earth's atmosphere for a short time, cloud cover on the planet goes down, so the average temperature goes up.

The average temperature of the earth is a balance of radiating heat away from the surface of the planet into deep space (3 Kelvin), and the surface being warmed by radiant energy from the Sun. The atmosphere around the planet regulates the balance of "radiation in" versus "radiation out". The average cloud cover on the planet affects that balance more than any other single component of the earth's atmosphere by several orders of magnitude. More clouds makes a cooler planet. They so by reflecting the radiant energy from the sun back into space, instead of allowing it to warm the surface of the planet.

Is CO2 in the atmosphere? Of course it is. Does it contribute to the rising or falling average temperature of the planet. Of course it does. Does it do so in a way that is significant? Only if you consider that 0.0043 is significant compared to 10,000. Personally, I don't.

Is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere MEASURABLE? Yes, and because it is, people measure it. Then, other people, lots of them apparently, judge the result and say that "it's too much!" and "it's going to affect the future!" and "we're making it worse by adding more!".

How come people aren't measuring the amount of H2O in the atmosphere? Or Argon? Or Nitrogen? Well, they are. The results just aren't published as dramatically as CO2.

CO2 amount in the atmosphere became political because it's also easy to measure CO2 OUTPUT of production facilities. Tie the two together and you've got a great hammer to beat corporations with. After all, who do you sue? The ones with the deepest pockets - the largest order of magnitude in the problem you want fixed. CO2 is a HUGE output of any power production facility.

Global warming is a "follow the money" problem, not a weather problem.

I acknowledge that it's easy to go off the deep end here. I'm not trying to crucify liberals or deify capitalists. I'm trying to point out that the science liberals are using in their accusations is fundamentally flawed.

By far, clouds (driven by sunspots messing with cosmic rays) and *not* carbon dioxide, determines the average temperature of the earth.

Todd

Todd

"I think it’s entirely possible that human activity is warming the earth"

I think it's entirely possible that humans are throwing up more tons of CO2 into the atmosphere than any other time in geologic history, but I think the effect on the *average temperature* of the entire planet is negligible.

From the data referenced in the links you and other commenters in the blog provided, cloud cover is the dominant source of temperature control. Even as the source, clouds are still a link in a chain of events: sunspots appear, their magnetic fields block cosmic rays entering the earth's atmosphere for a short time, cloud cover on the planet goes down, so the average temperature goes up.

The average temperature of the earth is a balance of radiating heat away from the surface of the planet into deep space (3 Kelvin), and the surface being warmed by radiant energy from the Sun. The atmosphere around the planet regulates the balance of "radiation in" versus "radiation out". The average cloud cover on the planet affects that balance more than any other single component of the earth's atmosphere by several orders of magnitude. More clouds makes a cooler planet. They so by reflecting the radiant energy from the sun back into space, instead of allowing it to warm the surface of the planet.

Is CO2 in the atmosphere? Of course it is. Does it contribute to the rising or falling average temperature of the planet. Of course it does. Does it do so in a way that is significant? Only if you consider that 0.0043 is significant compared to 10,000. Personally, I don't.

Is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere MEASURABLE? Yes, and because it is, people measure it. Then, other people, lots of them apparently, judge the result and say that "it's too much!" and "it's going to affect the future!" and "we're making it worse by adding more!".

How come people aren't measuring the amount of H2O in the atmosphere? Or Argon? Or Nitrogen? Well, they are. The results just aren't published as dramatically as CO2.

CO2 amount in the atmosphere became political because it's also easy to measure CO2 OUTPUT of production facilities. Tie the two together and you've got a great hammer to beat corporations with. After all, who do you sue? The ones with the deepest pockets - the largest order of magnitude in the problem you want fixed. CO2 is a HUGE output of any power production facility.

Global warming is a "follow the money" problem, not a weather problem.

I acknowledge that it's easy to go off the deep end here. I'm not trying to crucify liberals or deify capitalists. I'm trying to point out that the science liberals are using in their accusations is fundamentally flawed.

By far, clouds (driven by sunspots messing with cosmic rays) and *not* carbon dioxide, determines the average temperature of the earth.

Todd

J Jetzen

I think the future climate predictions would be more accurate using a monkey picking out ping pong balls with the predictions written on them.

Sure, CO2 will be the end of us. So was freon. The result, ozone safe freon that reduced safe refridgeration in less developed countries. Big Gain made there. Save the climate and kill poor people with food poisioning from inadequate safe food storage.

bb

I saw the update the your Sunday post which seeks to show that very few 'scientists' really believed that a ice-age was imminent in the 1970s.

That got me wondering if 30 years from now someone would be making a similar post stating that 'very few scientists in the 2000s REALLY believed that we were all going to die due to global-warming'. I have to wonder if the mainstream media (not to mention, uninformed politicians and celebrities) are really to ones driving the scare today. Much like they undoubtedly did in the 1970s when you could see dire predictions of a coming ice age on the cover of TIME magazine.

proscriptus

Ten years ago, my astronomotry professor (doubling as a meteorologist) stated, "the only real question is does global warming harm or benefit ME."

I live in the mountains, in a cool climate; we could easily move to a feudal-style, self-sufficient lifestyle; and I like interesting weather. I don't care if it's warming or not, since my children won't, from my point of view, suffer. And are conditions in the Kalahari really going to get any worse than they are already?

Now, talk about filling my breathing air with, as poster Mr. Gosling said, noxious crap, and I'll start to get peeved.

Free Mubutu!

Ed Holden

(Scott, sorry I double-posted. I haven't commented here before and just realized that comments sit in limbo for a while before you release them. I thought something was wrong with my browser...)

Ed Holden

Scott,

Since this is a heavily politicized issue many people have aligned themselves on the imaginary "right" and "left" of the debate armed with talking points, but little actual information, Which is rather sad, because this would be a big story whether we were exterminating ourselves or being deluded by scientists. Either way it would be a big issue.

In this kind of scenario I sometimes like to ask myself what people on either side of the debate would be saying if they were wrong. My reasoning about global warming goes like this:

(1) The Alarmists. If the Alarmists are wrong and scientists are mounting a conspiracy to hold back economic progress, their movement would have collapsed a long time ago. Global warming dates back at least twenty years, and a lot of past skeptics have converted in the light of new information. I find that rather compelling, and it makes it hard for me to believe that global warming is a vast conspiracy. So what if the Alarmists are deluded? Your thoughts on peer review deserve mention here: if global warming is not real and the Alarmists are deluded, could their evidence be a result of unstoppable alarmist momentum through failed peer review? I think your critique applies well to review of a single paper or study, but less well against a whole scientific paradigm. It seems like peer review over decades is more reliable than peer review of a single study.

In short, what you'd expect from the Alarmists if they were wrong hasn't happened. Peer review won't likely fail that dramatically and efforts to act on global warming haven't collapsed.

(2) The Skeptics. If the Skeptics are wrong and global warming is real, I'd expect large energy companies to mount astroturf campaigns and lobby (bribe?) the federal government, regardless of what actual science is telling them. I'd expect a lot of smokescreen efforts to bring about debates that, as far as the experts are concerned, are already settled. I'd expect the religious right to support the Skeptics, since people can't bring about the end of the world unless it's in God's plan. (These are the people eagerly awaiting the Apocalypse, if that tells you anything.) And I'd expect America and China to be behind much of the rest of the Western world in dealing with the problem, because America gets paralyzed by its politics and China always favors its industrial growth above other interests.

In other words, what you'd expect from the Skeptics if they were wrong has happened.

I'm always eager to hear arguments on both sides, and I'm wary of the predictable politics surrounding this issue, but the scientists are still standing on firmer ground.

Deepesh Garg

There is something about human activities which is highly abnormal and can be measured.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Population_curve.svg

I don't see any solution; but global warming, deforestation, increasing sea level, growth in extinction rate of other species etc etc are all but effect of same cause.

Does it mean it is all going to end? Well yes of course. Nothing is permanent, it is just about choosing the appropriate time scale. Have we made the process faster, I guess yes. How much? May be even before we are advanced enough to measure precisely, but then again how would I know. I could only see what we can measure.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population)

Becky

Oh, Scott. Just go to the Creation Museum and watch the dinosaurs cavorting with cavemen. You'll forget all about this silly global warming nonsense!

AndrewTX

My favorite myth was the one about Mars and Pluto warming up. Hey, if Mars warms up, then we can import water in evian bottles and set up shop there. That way, when the sun starts to burn out, and scients in the year 201560654687 decide that the human race needs to move, we will already have zip codes waiting for us back on Earth. Nice...
Hey, anybody know what Noam has to say about this? He is one of the most important intellectuals of our time...I think we should listen to him rather than provide dissertation fodder for the masses.

Trickypickle

Isn't this all moot anyway though? There is X amount of carbon deposits in the earth's crust. Our best data indicates that this will last maybe another 40 years, and the price will continue to rise as gas and oil deposits become scarcer, and demand for energy becomes greater. It seems to me that this problem, if it is a problem, will solve itself. Market forces will cause a shift to alternative feuls, all by their lonesome. 40 years is a short, short time. I suspect that any global initiative to reduce or eliminate carbon emissions will have a timeline that cannot be realistically less than that period. As an aside: I'm confused about the rising sea levels thing. I live by the ocean (on a tiny island), and have for the last 25 years. There's no cliff or sea wall, just a beach. We're only a foot or two above sea level. And I haven't seen a rise of any kind, barring the natural tides. All those melted glaciers and polar ice caps haven't seemed to add an inch in over two decades, what's the deal?

Peter van Ginneken

Believe it or not but in the Netherlands its illegal to fuel your car with home made bio diesel (vegetable oil).
The problem seems to be that cooking oil is not taxed so therefore illegal to use as fuel.

Ed Holden

Scott,

Since this is a heavily politicized issue many people have aligned themselves on the imaginary "right" and "left" of the debate armed with talking points, but little actual information, Which is rather sad, because this would be an important issue regardless of whether we were being deluded by scientists or exterminating ourselves. Either way it would be big.

In this kind of scenario I sometimes like to ask myself what people on either side of the debate would be doing if they were wrong. My resulting reasoning about global warming goes something like this:

(1) The Alarmists. If the alarmists are wrong and scientists are mounting a conspiracy to hold back economic progress, their efforts would have collapsed a long time ago. Global warming dates back at least twenty years, and a lot of past skeptics have converted in the light of new information. I find that rather compelling, and it makes it hard for me to believe that global warming is a vast commie/scientist conspiracy. So what if the Alarmists are not commies, and are instead simply deluded? Your thoughts on peer review deserve mention here: if the global warming alarmists are deluded, could their evidence be a result of unstoppable alarmist momentum and failed peer review? Your critique of peer review could apply really well to a single paper or study (in fact I think it's rather accurate, having worked with scientists who peer reviewed papers). But I don't think it applies well to review of a whole scientific paradigm. Doesn't it seem like peer review over decades is more reliable than peer review of a single study?

In short, what you'd expect of the Alarmists if they were wrong hasn't happened. Peer review is unlikely to have failed so dramatically, and the movement hasn't collapsed.

(2) The Skeptics. If the Skeptics are wrong and global warming is real, I'd expect large energy companies to mount astroturf campaigns against it and lobby (or bribe?) the federal government to ignore it, regardless of what the actual science is telling them. I'd expect a lot of effort to bring about smokescreen debates that, as far as the experts are concerned, are already settled. I'd expect the religious right to support the Skeptics, since God's people can't bring about the end of the world unless it's in God's plan (and God, as the saying goes, helps those who help no one but themselves). And I'd expect America and China to be behind much of the rest of the Western world in dealing with the problem, because America is easily paralyzed by politics and China's industrial interests overrule its other priorities.

In other words, what you'd expect from the Skeptics if they were wrong has happened.

[Good analysis but slightly misses the point. The question of whether humans are causing global warming seems settled by the lack of credible peer reviewed science to the contrary. The part that can't be settled is whether the models of what happens in the future are accurate. -- Scott]

Gametheory

Scott,
I just read your three articles, and I tend to agree with you. A couple of thoughts:

- Although current weather forecast models cannot predict if it will rain tomorrow, it is possible that there are excellent reasons why climate models CAN predict the weather in 100 years. However, it is probably impossible for a layman to separate the actual climate-model theory that explains these reasons from the pro-warming political activism that will inevitably be enbedded with them.
- So far, the debate about GW has been dominated by scientists, most of which are climatologists. However, some of the key questions on the issue (like if the cost of action is lower than the cost of inaction for a given GW scenario) should be answered by economists, not by climatologists. Climatologists may be able to forecast twice as many Katrinas during the next century, but only economists can conclude that re-building New Orleans is more expensive than capturing all of China's CO2.
- The Economist produced an article last year where it compared GW reducing measures with an "insurance policy". This would be fair if we knew that there is a strong probability of having a catastrophic event. I still cannot see how an increase of 6 C can have catastrophic consequences, although someone may be able to demonstrate them. At worst, some areas would be rendered too hot to inhabit, but today many areas are also like that (ie the Sahara and the poles).
- It would be interesting to make people decide between putting, say, 1 trillion $ to either fight GW or to develop a system to track and destroy large asteroids on a collision course with Earth. GW may render life hard in some places, but humans will probably continue to live. An asteroid might wipe off civilization or at least a large chunk of it, but it may be less probable. Personally, I am more afraid of asteroids, but I wonder what would the sheep shepard think about it...

YAQ

"... Remember Y2K disasters? ..."

I feel a bit sorry for people who seek comfort regarding global warming by comparing it to Y2K.

Misunderstanding the Y2K does not delegitimize the science global warming. Yet, it comes up frequently.

Here's a non hysterical summary of what happened with Y2K...

1. Computer programmers noticed a pretty obvious bug with the way dates were stored on computers. They stopped storing dates in that buggy way.

2. About 10 years (even earlier?) before the year 2000, someone pointed out that we should start work on fixing the already existing buggy dates.

3. Some reporters asked why we were fixing this stuff. "Well, look." said a scientist, "if we don't, some computers that use these dates might not work properly. That might be a computer for your dole cheque, your power bill, a nuclear power plant, etc. So we're going to fix it. It's quite a lot of work. It's not particularly hard, there's just a lot to do."

4. A reporter writes a big scary story about nuclear power plants melting down. He doesn't want that 30 min interview with the geek to go to waste and his story is due in 2 hours. Besides, he did say something about nuclear power plants going haywire.

5. Politicians, keen to look "on the ball" and "hip to the groove", announce numerous useless "task forces" and "commitees" to address the issue.

5. Computer programmers ignore hype and fix buggy dates. No big deal.

6. Year 200 comes. Nothing happens.


I'm not a climate scientist, but global warming seems to be a lot more complicated than how dates are stored on computers.

It's pretty easy to wind the clock forward on a computer and see what happens.

Can't do that with the earth, unfortunately.

BobUK

Thanks to dave for telling us about the Stern Report - saves me doing it.

Although I think the following analogy might help the general discussion:

Imagine you have high blood pressure and the doctors say that they don't know exactly what is causing it - it could be your behaviour or it could just be the way you are.

Regardless of the cause, they tell you that the appropriate treatment is to reduce the things that are bad for the BP, such as consumption of tobacco, alcohol, salt, fatty foods, etc. and increase the things that are good for it, such as exercise, fresh air, sleep, eating fresh fruit, etc.

Whether or not these changes lower the blood pressure is irrelevant. Doing them is going to make you feel better in body and mind anyway and you have the satisfaction of knowing that at least you tried.

As dave said: "No brainer."

Mark

[Isn't that the same reasoning that says you should convert to Islam to avoid the risk of burning in hell forever? Anyway, I don't have an opinion on the odds of being able to stop global warming. Who thinks we can stop China from developing in the most economical way? If you have that estimate, I'd like to see it. -- Scott]

But aren't you using the same reasoning that says you shouldn't worry about effects beyond your term as president? Or you shouldn't worry about things beyond the next quaterly report? Or that long-term investment in stocks is silly, so sell as soon as the value goes down?

These are the things that make politics self serving, cause harm to the workforce and make the stock market inherently unstable.

If you aren't willing to take a hundred (because global warming is sooo not happening, yeah, so you aren't going to be blowing your brains out) then it shows you think there IS a chance you're wrong.

And so we go back to your stance that humans are wired to avoid future catastrophes more than small current gains. Can't be right, really, can it.

PS if you convert to islam you may burn in the jewish hell, so you can't reliably move religion to avoid it, so it doesn't apply. a strawman.

TheReaper

REPENT or DIE!

Mark

"Thus, we know that the tempature of the Earth is cyclical. What's the big deal?

Posted by: gc"

But if it is cyclical it would be:

w w w w c c c c c c w w w w c c c c c c w w w w c c c c c c

But when we see

w w w w c c c c c c w w w w c c c c c c w w w w c c c w w w

It isn't cyclic.

YAQ

"... Remember Y2K disasters? ..."

I feel a bit sorry for people who seek comfort regarding global warming by comparing it to Y2K.

Misunderstanding the Y2K does not delegitimize the science global warming. Yet, it comes up frequently.

Here's a non hysterical summary of what happened with Y2K...

1. Computer programmers noticed a pretty obvious bug with the way dates were stored on computers. They stopped storing dates in that buggy way.

2. About 10 years (even earlier?) before the year 2000, someone pointed out that we should start work on fixing the already existing buggy dates.

3. Some reporters asked why we were fixing this stuff. "Well, look." said a scientist, "if we don't, some computers that use these dates might not work properly. That might be a computer for your dole cheque, your power bill, a nuclear power plant, etc. So we're going to fix it. It's quite a lot of work. It's not particularly hard, there's just a lot to do."

4. A reporter writes a big scary story about nuclear power plants melting down. He doesn't want that 30 min interview with the geek to go to waste and his story is due in 2 hours. Besides, he did say something about nuclear power plants going haywire.

5. Politicians, keen to look "on the ball" and "hip to the groove", announce numerous useless "task forces" and "commitees" to address the issue.

5. Computer programmers ignore hype and fix buggy dates. No big deal.

6. Year 200 comes. Nothing happens.


I'm not a climate scientist, but global warming seems to be a lot more complicated than how dates are stored on computers.

It's pretty easy to wind the clock forward on a computer and see what happens.

Can't do that with the earth, unfortunately.

Angela S

You've probably done more research in the last few days than most people have in the last year. Both sides are full of "tell me what I want to hear"s.

Me? I'm not 100% sure. I do believe there's a price to pay for all the conveniences we've created that just so happen to emit gasses and pollutants. If someone can say pollution irritates the lungs and causes lung cancer, why can't we admit it can do damage on a larger scale.

How large that scale is, I don't know. But what harm does it cause to try and reduce those things anyway? It might not change things - this may be a typical cycle the earth goes through. But what if it did? What if each person did 1 thing differently - just 1 thing, such as using a different type of light bulb. No, 1 person alone can't affect change in the same vein that 1 person can't make or break an election.

But 1 person plus 1 person plus 1 person, etc ... can change the world. Or so the saying goes.

I fall in the category of ... maybe it won't change things in a huge way, but is that really an excuse to continue to add pollutants to the air and to suck up the earth's limited supply of yummies?

Richard Gosling

jbirch: "Regardless of whether we're heating the earth or not, it's a pretty dumb idea to pump megatons of noxious crap into the atmosphere, no?"

Apart from the disputed effect on the earth's temperature, CO2 is a pretty much inert and inoffensive gas - certainly not "noxious crap". The less pleasant exhaust components - partially combusted hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides, and sulphates - we are getting pretty good at preventing or filtering out.

Absurdly simplistic statements like this, with no explanation or justification whatsoever, won't sway the minds of someone as analytical as Scott, nor (with any luck) most of the blog readers.

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