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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Comments

In my opinion, the biggest problem with not doing anything about global warming is this - If it IS happening, and we don't do anything, and we make the earth unlivable for ourselves, where do we(or more realistically, the people a few generations from now) go? What do we do then? It's too late at that point, we can't just flip on the AC. (It may even be too late to fix now, if you get into some sort of positive feedback loop.)

And I think part of the problem with alleviating the climate change problem, is that there are things that should make the situation improve, but they aren't clearly and easily perceived in a short period of time.

Even if you know exactly what to do, how can you force people to do whatever "it" is to fix the problem if they choose not to and then make the planet unsuitable for humans (and likely other fauna)? I think for the most part you could do get most everyone on board if the crisis was readily visible and the effects of the correcting activity were easily demonstrated, but climate change is slow, and the correction (if it can be done) will take awhile as well...

Oh well, I suppose you're right, at least the weather presenters can get together and all agree about what a wonderful day we're looking forward to. Except for the hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms and other unexpected weather (like this winter has been in areas of Europe.)

Mike funny you use Phoenix as your comparison.
It's 66 right now in Phoenix, up from the low 50's this morning.
But that's still warmer than Milwaukee was when I left there three weeks ago.

Does this mean you won't be moving south?

Well, here East-South-West we had a winter storm over much of North New Mexico.

And who says spring starts at the equinox?

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/161/is-it-true-summer-in-ireland-starts-may-1

A few days ago, with ice crunching beneath my crampons on the trail down the Grand Canyon, I quipped to a fellow hiker: "I didn't come down from Minnesota to see this."

Gorgeous day in Burlington, Vermont.

Doing nothing is certainly one choice. The outcome is as unceratain as all the others. And LOTS of people are working on trying to find out what's going on, trying to find a way to make a buck from it, trying to find a way to delay effective action, and many other things. LOTS and lots of people.

Mike, my family has been into agriculture and cattle for generations (with huge technological and science investments). There was a huge change during the 30s, 20 years of draught and heat. Things changed, and stayed the same for around 40 years, a lot more rain and less temperature variation. The last 7 have been very dry and hot again. And I can tell you we DEPEND on the weather. And all the time there are new alternatives and opportunities and you actually go on living if you're open to progress and change.
I can't really tell about global warming, but the truth is stability is a myth achieved through greatly overstating the significance of the serious statistic data we have, which is more or less a few decades old. It's what we all do, even in our heads, when in nature times 50 or a 100 years don't really establish much.
I'll enjoy the crisis, that's all I can do, and it's the sane thing to do, in my experience.

Global warming IS happening, the only question is how much how soon. Whether you believe it or not, reducing Western dependency on fossil fuels and funding research into sustainable sources including fusion can only be a good idea in the long run, so why quibble? Burning oil has many unpleasant side effects apart from CO2 emissions, so why defend it?

Oh, and I love nature, and nature is gonna have its way with us, not the other way around. It always will.

Dear Mike,

Or Daly City (if Amazon ever gets their tax shit together); right now it's a sweltering 18 Celsius. Oh, feel the burn, baby.

pax / temperate Ctein

Mike,

Same here.

Chris In Minneapolis

Lilacs are leafing out. Unreal.

We'd love to have you join us.

"How come, on TV, rain is always bad?"

Not here on the left coast, SF subsection. We are completely dependent on runoff from the Sierra snow pack for summer, fall and early winter water.

Our TV weather guessers get just as nervous as the rest of us when we have a dry winter. This has been a very dry winter, so when the long weeks of beautiful, dry, dry winter and spring finally broke into rain last week, we were excited. It's only fair that it's low fifties and mostly cloudy now, as we had wonderful weather while the rest of the country was suffering.

Fortunately, last winter was very wet, so we're OK for this year.

Moose

Here in the Pacific NW, the weather has been doing a pretty good impression of winter for the past month. Probably three quarters of my Pac NW contacts on Flickr are posting archival shots, and the balance aren't updating at all...

But is it wise for us to do absolutely nothing about climate change? Shouldn't we at least set somebody to work on the problem, just in case?

Ahem… Mike… People ARE working on it. Only Americans don't seem to notice.

Mike,

In my simple mind the sun is responsible for most of the global warming. The little, if any, that we can control is not something we will be to agree upon or to afford.

Moving is the age old answer. When the glaciers came men moved. When they left, men moved back. Moving to Phoenix is moving in the wrong direction. Try going to Canada.

"The demands of a daily blog really do get insistent sometimes."

Especially if you do a post on Global Warming and have to moderate comments.

It warmer up there then it is here in Austin Mike.

My take. If the weather need fixing where would we ever start? I mean really. Immediately stop burning fossil fuels? Stop driving our automobiles? Shut down high energy use facilities? I don't mention these thing to be smug but I just don't think there would be enough folks on the bandwagon to ever make a difference. I also think some of the politicians who say they care really only want to sell carbon tax credits and profit off the situation.

Personally I'm waiting for affordable electric vehicles as gasoline is dirty, smelly, old tech stuff.

Mike, in regards to climate change, do realize that just a few short thousand of years ago (which is nothing compared to the 4 billion year+ age of the earth) the very place where you are now sitting was covered by a glacier over a mile thick, which, when it melted, created Lake Michigan.

Also, do realize that for a huge majority of the earth's four billion years of age, year-round polar ice is an anomaly, not consistent with the "norm." There is abundant evidence that Antartica was a completely forested, lush continent for MILLIONS of years, before the last ice age.

And somehow, through all that, organic life continued to change, adopt and overcome all that Mother Nature could throw at it.

So I wouldn't worry too much about our early spring. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Ron Zack,
Right, but I'm a little more anthropocentric than you are. The animals that adapted to that warmer earth you speak of are now mostly gone, and we have evolved (perhaps not our bodies and brains, but our societies, agricultures, and industries) to the earth as it has been for the last five or six thousand years. If we change that through our shortsighted actions, especially if it happens quickly, we do so at our considerable peril.

If Wisconsin were covered by a glacier a mile thick, for instance, it would presumably be somewhat less hospitable as a place from which to host TOP. And if the world were twenty degrees warmer, such that it created catastrophe after catastrophe, from food plants no longer being adapted to the climates where arable soil exists, to another sixth of the earth's land mass being underwater, it would presumably also cause some considerable inconvenience for us humans, and disruptions to our civilization.

It's not the earth I worry about. The earth will be fine. It's us I'm concerned about.

I hope to have great-great-great grandchildren someday, you know.

Mike

"Does this mean you won't be moving south?"

Jack,
Funny you should ask, because I just looked it up, and, near as makes no difference, Milwaukee is currently experiencing about the average climate of Sarasota, Florida--where I was thinking of moving.

But I'm not sure what to do with this data. Does it mean that I get to try out Florida's climate in advance of moving there, or does it mean I should stay put and let Florida's climate come to me?

Mike

Oh, and I love nature, and nature is gonna have its way with us, not the other way around. It always will.

All this talk of global warming is indeed troubling. But what is truly INTOLERABLE is to live in California and not be able to gloat about the weather!

I am a plant biologist working in agriculture and I am very worried about global warming. For information see the blog "Climate Progress" and the blog "RealClimate" Doing nothing is a recipe for disaster because uncontrolled CO2 emissions will in the long run lead to an ice free planet-think about the implications of that for a minute. And that is only one of the long term effects. Many other bad things happen on a shorter time scale. For example, think about the optimum temperature for growing crops. And the number of people to feed. If we want to hang onto the "sapiens" part of the Homo sapiens title we have given ourselves we will address this challenge. Otherwise ultimately we won't be around to name anything.

"The demands of a daily blog really do get insistent sometimes. If I haven't put up a post in 24 hours it feels like there's a screaming in my head."

You could always claim temporary insanity!
We understand, as we are on "your" side!

C.Cunningham and Steve Jacob seem to have data no one else has to claim "global warming" "is happening". How about that.

Even the Climategate so-called scientists rued via email, "it's a travesty!", when they admitted there has been no warming for many years (1998).

The eminent Journal of Geophysics-Oceans (Aug. 2010) published the paper showing no acceleration of sea level rise for the past 100+ years. This was followed up in the Journal of Coastal Research (Mar., 2011) that there has been a deceleration in rise (the rise referred to is that since the last Ice Age).
All these papers run exactly counter to the alarmist model predictions of catastrophe.

In fact, in geological time, warming has preceded CO2 increase, the exact opposite of the models, again.

As yet, no one has data to support any significant global warming due to CO2 increases. And particularly from any man-released CO2.

Best to read what climate physicists, astro and geo, have to say about solar radiation and its cycles. The recent CERN experiments (Switzerland) add to the support about how radiation (cyclic in nature) can affect cloud formation nuclei.

In 1980, Dr James Hansen (NASA), solemnly proclaimed the Manhattan perimeter road would be no more by 2010. Gasping journalists asked why and were told about the rising sea level due to "global warming".
To this day, there has been no measurable increase around Manhattan. And in the Maldives, a new sea-level international runway is being constructed.

But something did happen to sea levels more recently. A rise was recorded in Hong Kong harbour. No where else. Immediately this rise was added to all harbour data worldwide as a "correction" factor!

Here in Australia there has been much egg-on-face by our resident alarmists whose models predicted continuing crippling drought. Instead, the country is awash, the reservoirs full or close, record cereal crops, etc, etc. So now they're mumbling that such rain and lower temps are all part of "global warming", despite their published models.

And nice to see Arctic Ice is tracking right on average (yes, there has been a great increase in polar bear populations since the 1950's, too), and Antarctic Ice continues its remarkable acceleration of growth.

So much for the scurrilous alarmism, taxation "fixes", and rent-seeking.

The argument as to whether or not man-made global warming is happening has been settled and the discussions should be on what to do about it. The bad news is that with existing technologies and the world's rate of growth, there isn't a hell of a lot we can do about it except fund research to find a way out of the hole we've dug ourselves into.

Eh, maybe this eh, helps, to get a grip on the situation:

http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/

Greetings, Ed

John St. Onge: Even Canada has only a finite capacity...

Someone working on strategies to deal with climate change, just in case, will not make investors happy.

A few other comments touched on this, but suppose we figure a way that we can control the weather, then what?

Anything that makes what we have go further and be used more efficiently is brilliant. I'm not happy energy providers see this as a chance to maximise their profits that's all.

Meteorologists use science to try to predict the future weather and usually fail miserably. Climatologists use science to study the past climate events and use this to try to predict the future and...well, who knows how that's gonna work for us? Sure, weather is warmer now than when I was young, a half century or more ago. But that half century means less than nothing in the history of the Universe.

I'm pretty existential about the whole thing. I think it's arrogant to believe inconsequential human beings are totally responsible for changes in climate (either making it warmer or changing it back). But it makes us feel better and more important as human beings to be able to focus blame on something--someone. In the meantime, may as well enjoy the weather 'cause it sure as hell will change soon.

"Try going to Canada" That's a laugh. For one thing, there's a fair chunk of populated Canada that is south of the 49th parallel. Global warming will have a drastic effect on most parts of Canada.

I live on Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast, and today the weather is headed into the mid-70s. That is a tad unusual to say the least. In the past we often got some of our worst winter weather in March.

There are so many strong indications of global warming--rising sea level, ocean acidity, shrinking glaciers, disappearing polar ice, increasing insurance costs for weather events, animals and plants migrating north (in the northern hemisphere)--it can't be denied. I really fear for my grandchildren.

Mike-

I don't think you should move to Sarasota unless you like scuba diving, it will likely be under water like most of the other coastal areas. I suggest you join me at my place in the mountains of Colorado. I like to think of it as snow ski property now, beachfront/water ski property later!

Steve

Global warming is just one of the effects caused by the root problem - too many people.

The world's population has tripled in my lifetime and its growth is accelerating. When the developing world begins to achieve a similar standard of living as the developed world the demand on world resources, already unsustainable, will lead to an envirnmental crash like we can't imagine. It's only a matter of time before the tragedy of Easter Island gets repeated on a global scale. The only question is - how much time?

Of course this begs the question, "Is it a bad thing?" For humans and a range of other species, yeah. If things get globally really hot, it could be deep do-do for future generations. But what about for the ecosystem of the planet as whole? Is it a bad thing? Maybe not. Maybe it's a regeneration. If human activity truly is responsible for global warming, could it be the globe's way of ridding itself of a major annoyance? Would a fractional reduction in some human activities really make any significant difference when human population grows geometrically?

I'm getting a headache.


Dear Dohmnuill,

If there is one thing there is no shortage of it's data.

To say there is no data because you have not seen it is like denying it's raining because you have the curtains shut.

This is not a matter of opinion, this is just science and the corroboration of multiple published and independent sources that have been well reviewed and scrutinised.

Indeed some were discredited which shows the system works. But for every flawed study there have been hundreds that people have reluctantly come to accept and none that have showed convincing counter evidence despite many many attempts.

Would you prefer to believe so called studies funded by special interest groups or those conducted by academics?

After all, according to a certain well know tobacco company, studies show no link between cigarette smoking and cancer.

Do you believe that too?

Sorry, I'm not making a claim of data or anything or even that I'm an expert on the matter.

While I admit that I lean toward the "climate change is happening" side of the issue based on what I've read, I can understand how some people might not be convinced.

One point I was trying to make was that part of the reason it is difficult to convince some people is the time frame the change occurs over.

The other point I was trying to make was that, even if I weren't leaning toward the climate change camp, I would prefer to act AS IF climate change was a problem.

Why? It seems like the safest of the two sides.

See below for the TL;DR. Or not if you don't want to, I understand that too.

Here's the thing, if the scientists and activists who believe in climate change are incorrect, what's the outcome? Well we wasted some money and time, but it seems like someone always has a scheme to get someone else to do that. So not much changes there.

And maybe as part of handling climate change (even if it's a hoax,) we get some renewable energy sources, better environmental management practices, etc. Would it really be so bad to drive a car that gets more than 10 mpg? Would solar energy really be so awful? (I suppose it might be, but I'm at least willing to give it a try.)

Now, the flipside is to consider what happens if the people who believe climate change is a hoax are actually incorrect.

Well, worst case you might be saying goodbye to humans and numerous other species. Certainly the world that we know will be dramatically different if the climate changes significantly, even if it isn't enough to wipe us out.

So it would seem to me that, unless you have some form of indisputable evidence that climate change is complete fabrication and utter hoax (which you should probably publish in a peer reviewed scientific journal to help resolve the issue for everyone,) the prudent thing to do would seem to behave as if climate change is occurring and take measures to lessen or stop it.

Admittedly, not the word of an expert, it's an opinion, and we all are entitled to 'em.

Mike J. said:

"...It's not the earth I worry about. The earth will be fine. It's us I'm concerned about..."

Even that sentiment might be too optimistic. There is a small chance, if we are truly unlucky, that positive feedbacks might turn out to be unexpectedly more robust than we think. For example, there is a titanic amount of methane trapped in northern permafrost and under northern seabeds, and how quickly it might be released is not well understood.

Dr Hanson himself is mentioning in public that we do not know for certain that the Earth will not be victim to a runaway greenhouse effect from these sorts of positive feedbacks.

A runaway greenhouse is a scenario where the Earth would simply continue to heat up way past the point where human civilization would be impossible. The oceans would evaporate to such a degree that the water vapor - itself an extremely powerful greenhouse molecule - would overwhelm the precariously balance left in the system, and the oceans and atmosphere would boil away, leaving the earth much like Venus - fireball hot and completely lifeless. Forever.

Dear John St. Onge & Dogman,

“It's mainly the fault of the Sun” was scientifically disproven a good dozen years ago and the work has been replicated many times since.

The climate change deniers keep bringing this up as a talking point, the notion that somehow it isn't primarily due to human activities. It's not a debating point. It's simply a lie. There's an overwhelming body of research that confirms that.

“Arrogant” is a much-overused--usually-incorrectly epithet dujour, but if it applies to the current situation, what is arrogant is believing that “common sense” is a better analyzer of climatology than science.

Pretty much every bit of your posts (and Dohmnuill's) is refuted here, point by point:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

and here

http://www.grist.org/article/series/skeptics

In fact, you can Google on the words "climate change refute skepticism" and get a long list of sites, but I recommend the following four, in decreasing order of conciseness/readability. That is, the topmost ones are the most accessible to a lay reader who doesn't want to have to read the web equivalent of War and Peace or digest complex technical information. As you drill down, it gets longer and/or more technical.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

http://www.grist.org/article/series/skeptics

http://www.meltfactor.org/blog/?cat=5

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_controversy

These are by no means the only good and readable pages. But if a reader is not sufficiently convinced by what is on these pages, others are not likely to sway them.

Read and be educated.

(and in case anyone is wondering, no, I don't depend upon those secondary sites; I read the primary journal articles. But those are way over laypeople's heads)

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
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It's not the sun, at least not recently: http://www.skepticalscience.com/solar-activity-sunspots-global-warming-intermediate.htm

Every peer-reviewed study on climate change indicate the climate is warming. Those that address the anthropocentric aspect agree, it's us. The only reason there are deniers of this is an economic one.

Dear Ginger,

Something to remember, which may be mildly comforting, is that folks who are trained in the physical sciences, like me and Hansen, get it beaten into us to never say anything is 100% certain. I mean, if you ask me in all seriousness if I think the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning, I will say, "Almost certainly." I am not joking, I am just about incapable of giving a scientific opinion that isn't qualified. So, if Hansen gets asked if a runaway greenhouse could occur, the best he'll say is probably, but not certainly, not. It COULD happen. Doesn't mean we lose a lot of sleep over it.

In the case of the possibility of major methane releases, those are, unfortunately, not in the "sun won't rise" category. The risk is finite, it may even be very large. Still under research, but there is some really disturbing stuff in the paleo data.

But, the good news is that the planet has seen excursions in climate in the past caused by those kinds of event and they are massively unpleasant and unhealthy-- more than a 10C rise in mean temperatures, approaching 20C in some areas. This is way beyond catastrophic, it's devastating. But it did not push the planet into thermal runaway, and would not be likely to do so this time.

So, it's only awful. Makes you feel better, a bit? (wry smile)

pax / Ctein

Hi Ctein

In the video clip which I saw, Dr Hansen was not, I believe, actually asked about a runaway greenhouse - he seemed to initiate it himself. That clip is one where he he dressed casually, and is wearing, if I recall correctly, an Aussie type of field hat. I can't find that clip for you, I am sorry to say.

But I did find this one ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACHLayfA6_4) where he is addressing the topic, and seems to be saying that if business as usual continues, and we get end of century CO2 levels which continue to climb ( MIT, I believe, has forecast end-of-century CO2 at 1000 ppm) we could see the loss of all ice sheets in as little as 100 years(!) That is roughly by 2200, if I understand him correctly. Pretty shocking, considering the conventional wisdom speaks of worst-case millennial time scales for Antarctic melting.

So, yes, all highly speculative, and based on huge error bars. But, on the other hand, Semiletov has reported seeing, with his own eyes, methane bubbling areas increase from a few meters across to a full kilometer across in just a few years. Reception was skeptical.

RealClimate had a nice discussion about clathrates and expected time scales which was somewhat comforting, but the fact is we know very little about what to expect, as warming effects most often seem to be shockingly faster than our best scientific prognoses.

Sigh.

For me, the takehome message is that Hansen is indeed talking about runaway greenhouse in multiple public venues. And let's face it - if anyone in the world has been correct most often about AGW over the past decades, it is Hansen.

I do appreciate your kind consolations regarding 10c to 20c climate excursions in the past. I wonder if they are truly prognostic to our situation now with regard to total available greenhouse forcings? Well, not to worry. We will fight the good fight regardless. :)

Dear Ginger,

Hmmm, OK, we *may* have been talking about slightly different things. My interest tends to be in "planetary science" in general, which includes climatology, but isn't the same.

In PS, "runaway greenhouse" means Venus! In other words, add another zero to the horrid temperature rises I was talking about, and, yes, that does make the planet entirely uninhabitable by humans. And we cannot yet say with absolute certainty it won't happen. But it appears very unlikely, maybe not on the level of "sun won't rise" but on the level of "the Libertarian or Peace and Freedom candidate will win the next US Presidential election."

There's good and widely-accepted paleo evidence for such a massive release of greenhouse gases (just asked Paula-- she says Eocene period, 50 megayears or so ago) producing the kind of huge temperature spike I talked about, but it didn't cause a Venusian runaway, didn't come close.

OK, now I don't think that's what you've been reading about. There's a more casual use of runway to refer to cases where the secondary effects become bigger than the primary ones.

For example, if the expected global warming due to CO2 and H20 buildup causes a massive methane release from clathrates or from existing soils (either of which is entirely possible, and may even be likely, we don't have sufficient data yet) then an expected rise of a few degrees Celsius jumps to something an order of magnitude worse, as I described.

But it doesn't keep running away, ala Venus. That's what is important. Doesn't make the planet uninhabitable by humans, "only" costs a hundred trillion dollars or so and god knows how many tens of millions of human lives.

There are also what are known as "tipping points' which is actually a technical term with a precise meaning, and that's a whole 'nuther set of nasty problems. Harder, actually, to address than massive methane release.

pax / Ctein

If everybody throws a stone, nobody is guilty

IMHO you do not need to be a scientist to perceive that the world is heating and that we humans are contributing heavily to it. Negationists have a really hard time, no real data to support their claims, no matter how much money the fossil fuel companies pour on their "investigations" and PR efforts.
But more important, the whole argument is pointless and utterly ridicule. Supose we, believers in global warming, are wrong. Isn't it still a good idea to reduce emissions and control contamination? Specially as opposed to continue releasing venoms to the air we breathe...

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