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Planet Earth Under Threat

Climate Change - The Mother of all Distractions?

  • Julian Hector
  • 16 Mar 07, 09:17 AM

cloud-leopard.jpg

Picture (c) WWF-Canon / Alain COMPOST

With so much comment on this blog, in the print media and else where - the new raging debate: is global warming real? Is global warming linked to our activity? Is there a robust theory which explains the phenomenon of global warming. Are we all barking up the wrong tree? Are we let off the hook?

The Clouded Leopard of central Borneo is a new species of large cat. What wonderful news and this is something we want to hear. Not only that, but reports that this magnificent animal lives in an area of undisturbed rainforest the size of the UK. There is something reassuring about this discovery. Science, thanks to the modern techniques of DNA mapping, is sure of this cats lineage and can show that its separation from other cats for a million years or so has allowed it to evolve on its own trajectory.

But we have to be careful. On that same remote island in SE Asia, both Indonesia and Malaysia harvest the forest to grow palm oil - a hugely lucrative primary product needed in many goods from yoghurt to cosmetics , that many of us want in copeous quatities in the developed world.. Large areas of Borneo are protected by both nation states, but Borneo's natural heritage is as much under threat as anywhere with the relentless march of economic development, aspiration for wealth and meeting the needs of an ever increasing global population. The international market place makes Borneo a resource rich island - far more money can be derived from the commodity industry than from the existence of a large cat. How safe is the Clouded Leopard? Is it climate change that will threaten this feline top predator and the ecological cascade underneath it - or is it the global market place?

There's evidence on this blog that doubts recently broadcast about the mechanism of climate change have put us in a spin. What with the Stern Report on the economics of climate change, the second IPCC report, which specifically addresses the mechanism of climate change - And the contents of the draft Climate Change bill recently announced by the UK government there's no doubt whatsoever that global warming is part of climate change - And we're largely the cause of it. But there are strong seeds of doubt in the air and many are saying they don't know what to believe or do any more.

One of the great outcomes in all the reports on climate change is the world is in trouble. This either freezes us with angst, or we feel fairly complacent because nothing around us seems especially wrong. As we ask "what are we supposed to do about it" - there are quite a few shoulders being shrugged - NGO's coming up with suggestions - And a sense that a lot of new rules and laws are about to be passed: More expensive flights, tax of big vehicles, energy bills will go up, laws to make housing carbon neutral - carbon tax on all goods. A lot of thwacking sticks off set against the fear that if we don't act we're doomed.

Not surprising then if we hear news that global warming might be nothing to do with us - there's no proof that CO2 drives climate etc etc etc, we welcome this comforting news. It's a reason to carry on as we are and understandably reason not to agree with new rules and laws. P[erhaps an olive branch to be less angst about the doom and gloom message of CC.

Back to the clouded Leopard...most likely, the threat to this newly discovered species will be human disturbance and destruction of its habitat before climate change. Over exploitation of natural resources, pollution, meeting the demands of a huge global human population - And meeting the demands of so many peoples who want a life akin to the quality and stability we've built in the developed world is impossible to meet at this rate.

The overwhelming environmental medicine the earth and society needs is a cultural shift in our relationship with the natural world: from this spins out our attitude towards waste, energy, trappings of wealth - a desire for endless goodies. How do you stimulate a cultural shift?

Whether you're confused about the messages associated with climate change or not - a change in behaviour is needed regardless. Dealing with the issues of habitat destruction, resource exploitation, pollution and population are the same as dealing with the issues around global warming. To be able to sustain the global population in the direction its going requires real leadership now, irrespective of climate change.

So climate change could be one big distraction - whether you believe it or not, confused or not, we have to get our relationship with the natural world right. A change in our western cultue to a sustainable life style will help with most of the environmental issues, regardless of what you believe.

It's hard to refute the evidence of most of the scientists who contributed to the IPCC reports, to those that contributed to the Stern Report - But science is a process which seeks the truth and many out there don't believe the published mechanisms of global warming and the role people play in driving that process. Plate tectonics was considered a mad idea until a theory was developed and proved in the 1960's - so let us let the scientists get on with it and let us keep our eye on the real ball.

If we want to all have a reasonable quality of life, a decent life expectancy and to be happy into the future we have to deal with the massive environmental issues of today - and not be distracted by the spectre of climate change.

To be reassured that climate change might have little or nothing to do with people is folly.

The change needed in our behaviour is the same regardless of the climate change debate - CC could be the mother of all distractions if we are not careful: The developed world is so resource hungry, surely we have to throttle back and stimulate creative cultural changes that lead to modern sustainable living.

It's going to be so good to see having less being cool.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 12:37 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • P lathwell wrote:

Westminster is now full of present day KING KANUTES. He tried to Order the tide back and failed.The only difference now, Global warming is to be controlled by polititians.The whole Global Warming Band Wagon ,will by filed by History, in the same slot as King Kanute.

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Thanks Julian
That's a good summary and the implications are spot on. I agree that the searching for the truth behind CC should be left to those who know what they are doing. Dragging lay persons into the process simply muddies the water and provides an excuse to continue 'fiddling'.
Striving towards a 'less is more' mindset is the real challenge. It does not sit comfortably with our natural competitiveness, but may from a more global tribe, Darwinist point of view. As ever, education is the key to change. Can we now move to a series on overpopulation, ecological footprints and dangers of demographic entrapment please?

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  • 3.
  • At 01:29 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Julian - I like the blithe way you persist in repeating that man contributes significantly to climate change. So typical of the arrogant BBC output and based on guess-work and unjustified extrapolations. You obviously ignore the ice-core evidence of increased CO2 being caused by ocean warming, the failure of sea-level data to fit and that there has been no warming over the last decade.
Anecdotes and talk of early Springs is not good enough and in fact Spring arrived on time this year, have been two weeks late last year!
This is not to say that we should ignore good husbandry, maintaining a decent environment for ourselves and improving conditions in the developing nations, which would be put at risk if ill-considered damage was done to the economy in the name of global warming.
A Severn tidal barrage and nuclear power stations would clean up our electricity production to that of the French.
Female emancipation and education would also also lead to population control in the most prolific of nations.
The green extremists could then be put back in their box.

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  • 4.
  • At 01:53 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • Trefor Jones wrote:

What a watershed of a post!! In recent days, mainly owing to the transmission of the "Global Warming Swindle", (though much of the evidence was already in the public domain)there seems to be definite backtracking on the certainties of anthropogenic climatic change. The real tragedy is that the pomposity of the uber-environmental lobby, so clearly exemplified by that patornising halfwit from Blur on last night's Politics Show, has muddied the waters of the real issue which is social/civic responsibility for our environment and the need to replace fossil fuels eventually.Even the Snow Leopard specie was described yesterday as coming from a habitat largely untouched by man, when did I last here Borneo described thus?

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  • 5.
  • At 02:54 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • Trefor Jones wrote:

Apologies- cloud leopard !! A snow leopard in Borneo that really would be something !

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Bob (2),

Can we now move to a series on overpopulation, ecological footprints and dangers of demographic entrapment please?

I'll second that, Julian! A good idea for another series. Bring it up at the next meeting. It's absolutely imperative that we address these central problems, and there isn't any realistic doubt about them. Population (and profligate 'Western' lifestyle) are the main drivers of global resource exhaustion, whether or not they have a causative role in climate change.

Vaya con Gaia
ed
16/03/2007 at 15:30:34 GMT

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  • 7.
  • At 03:50 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Ed - Thomas Malthus, although not a resident, managed to die in Bath while visiting in-laws for Christmas.
Besides an economist he was a Clerk in Holy Orders and therefore was entitled to be burried in Bath Abbey. His plaque is to be found on the left as you enter the north door.

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Jon,

Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.
--Kenneth Boulding

Which are you?

Vaya con Gaia
ed
16/03/2007 at 19:06:22 GMT

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  • 9.
  • At 07:51 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Ed - you get the wrong end of the stick my friend - I do not believe in the integrity of extrapolation be it arithmetic, geometric or exponential.
This is precicely why I cannot accept the pseudoscience of the IPCC.
I am more drawn to the random walk (or choas theory if you wish) and the best fit for our continued survival in a pretty hostile universe has a lot do do with homeostasis of our environment, somewhat along the lines of the Gaia theory (till it sucked in by the latest fad).

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  • 10.
  • At 08:04 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Ed - you get the wrong end of the stick my friend.
I do not believe in extrapolation of arithmetic, geometric or exponential proportions.
It is remarkable that we have survived in such a hostile universe, and I put this down to homeostasis of our environment - the random walk (or chaos theory, if you must), with self correcting mechanisms. This was popularised in the Gaia principle (but this has recently been hi-jacked).
I brought up Malthus as a starting point for anybody interested in demographics rather than approval of his futurology which was flawed, as is the IPCC review.

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  • 11.
  • At 11:48 PM on 16 Mar 2007,
  • john cooknell wrote:

Julian,

It is a total distraction from more important things, most people in the world suffer from grinding economic poverty, this is really our greatest challenge, and one we could do something about.

Climate Change is a constant natural process, it occurs on Earth and all other Solar Planets, mainly driven by the Sun.

The Planet and Climate have quite happily survived enormous events such as Asteroid strikes, unbelievable Volcanic Eruptions etc. etc. and has always kept its life supporting properties. If the Climate system was as fragile as the Climate Chaos gang believe it would have shown up before now, and we would not be here!

The Climate Chaos lobby want us to believe that altering the CO2 content from 300ppm to 600ppm will cause climate chaos, even bring about the end of life!

Sorry, I cannot subscribe to that view, it just not make any logical sense.

Our Technology protects us from the raw savagery of Nature, Climate Change is not a threat at all but without our technology it would be.I much prefer to keep a distance from Nature and gaze on in Awe.

Conservation and Sustainability are worthwhile pursuits but Climate Change it is just a distraction.

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I'm sure that most would agree that poor old John Cooknell is in a serious state of denial,(he certainly hasn't been able to take the hints). However, he probably represents the majority misguided view and for that we should be grateful.
John, I believe you stated earlier that man is arrogant to believe he might possibly have an affect on global warming. Do you not consider it even more arrogant to consider yourself above nature?

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Anyone interested in a detailed criticism of some of the plain-wrong assertions in the Channel4 documentary (Great Global Warming Swindle) can download a talk from my home page http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/homes/chris .

It includes a discussion about why their ice-cores argument is wrong, and an attempt on my part to reproduce one of their key graphics "demonstrating" the link between sunspots and temperature.

You don't need to have seen the documentary before. It was aimed at students who have studied some climate, but hopefully most of it isn't too technical.

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  • 14.
  • At 09:21 AM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • john cooknell wrote:

Thanks Bob, haven't been patronised for a bit, it relieves the boredom.

Through prompting by people like yourself, I did actually find out how the Physics of this CO2 thing is meant to work, and the Hypothesis has been honestly worked through I do not attempt to deny that.

I even agree that we might get a few degrees rise in temperature from a doubling of CO2 if all the assumptions and approximations in the Hypothesis are correct. I just don't think it will really matter.

The Sun drives our Climate and we really know little about the Great Cosmic forces that govern it, and understand them even less.

Just take one of these forces, gravity, this governs everything about our planet and its climate etc. etc. we know about it, but we haven't got the faintest idea what it is, how and why it varies etc. so if we don't understand things like this how can we say how our planet works.

I am concerned about conservation and sustainability, and have been an active member of Sustrans for more years than I care to remember(you are right I am getting old!)and have helped build Cycle Routes and Walking routes to make it easy for people to use instead of their cars, but I did not do this to "save the planet" just help people.

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  • 15.
  • At 09:46 AM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Well, the much vaunted "consensus" is cracking. Reputable meteriological scientists have a conscience about the hyperbole and hysteria surrounding man made climate change.
Green NGO's and the media have been largely responsible, but refreshing to hear that IPCC conclusions reptresent gut-feeling and guesswork rather than hard evidence.
Can we now move on to the physics of :
The more rapid the expansion, the faster a balloon will burst?

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  • 16.
  • At 09:57 AM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • mark shepherd wrote:

Since the C4 program; every debate (that I've heard) on the Radio (Radio4) has had the scientists that back the human factor ridiculing the program at the preface to their rant and yet they have not categorically denied it.
for me there is global warming but I'm not convinced it's any thing more than a natural cycle. What I want published is the numbers that are used to make the CO2 graph so that we can all plot the graphs ourselves. Are these scientists able to correctly read a graph? To determine the dependant variable (what is controlling what) it is important to look at the 'turning points' ie where the graphs change direction.
The C4 program stated (in so many words)that CO2 lags global warming If we plot the figures we will see the evidence for ourselves

The program also claimed that during the period between ww2 and 1970 (greatest industrial output) the world was actually cooling. Is this true?

How come the meteorological gang with the worlds 'biggest' computers cannot predict the weather beyond a few days at a time when its changeable (take this weeks impending cold spell)
Yet their word is taken for something as nebulous as global warming in 50 years?

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Chris Merchant (13),

Thanks very much for the lecture. A few points for those without powerpoint:
1. download the zipped 127Mb
2. Unzip/extract to a new folder on your desktop
3. Double-click pptview.exe
4. select clim_swin_lecture_narr_pinal.ppt
and you'll get the lecture.
5. To escape the lecture and send notes like this to the blog, do an alt-tab.

Thanks again, Chris for an excellent rebuttal.
Vaya con Gaia
ed
17/03/2007 at 11:31:48 GMT

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  • 18.
  • At 07:39 PM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Poor old mark - worried about the research grant for his department being cut.
Probably better spent on researching GM crops to feed the starving on the planet.
Ivory towers with feet of clay.

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  • 19.
  • At 07:46 PM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

I suggest that all contributers to this site file a declaration of interest so that we can truely understand their impartiallity, or otherwise.

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  • 20.
  • At 08:23 PM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • mark shepherd wrote:

Interesting rebuttal Chris but not infallable:
You didn't disagree with the CO2 being the dependant variable rather than the independant variable but you added that there could be another possibility. Effectively positive feedback. If this was the case then the system is unstable and would switch into some kind of extreme warming. If that is the case and that it had been the case in the past; then what 'on earth' caused it to switch back in the past.
Your contention that "just because we humans are a proportionately small purveyor of CO2 compared to world output that doesn't mean that it can't have a significant and controllable effect (like a small dose of strychnine is fatal)You neglect the affect therefore that the larger producers of strychnine (or CO2) that not only exist but are also variable and control a greater margin; for example when Yellowstone Park explodes it will have the final say. Less extreme is if south America increases its cattle herds by 10% etc etc etc.
Sunspot correlation? well I wouldn't like to say. But your dismissal may also be wrong if (as we well know) any relationship will only produce a parallel graph if the relationship is directly variable. Could [is] more complicated eg 1/X -2x^2 + z... I'll leave that to Stephen Hawking :o)

All I think you prove is that the vast body (2 1/2 thousand or whatever)of scientists may be right for the wrong reason or may be wrong for the wrong reason ... huh?

Can you tell me when does knowledge advance with initial consensus? It's always individuals or small groups Eg Darwin, Einstein, Jenner... see what I mean?

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  • 21.
  • At 10:37 PM on 17 Mar 2007,
  • john cooknell wrote:

Julian,

If Joe Public now turns against the Environmental Lobby They will only have themselves to blame, not the sceptics. They may have overplayed the Climate Change card to the extent that the claims made were so bizarre they were open to easy ridicule.

They aligned themselves with those who consistently lie to us (Politicians), those who distort the Truth (The Media), and those who believe in the Supernatural (Religious Leaders), and then tell us it is all our fault and we will have to pay and make sacrifice to clear the mess up.

I have always said that Climate Change Science will teach us more about human nature and behaviour than it will ever tell us about the future climate, unfortunately all too soon my words are becoming true, lets see what happens next!

The next move is likely to be a break in the political consensus on this matter, I believe David Cameron has alienated so many of his natural supporters (all with holiday homes abroad) with his Green Skies policy that he will have to reverse, in the good old political tradition.

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From Economist Kenneth Boulding:

The Dismal Theorem: If the only ultimate check on the growth of populations is misery, then the population will grow until it is miserable enough to stop its growth.

The Utterly Dismal Theorem:
Any technical improvement can only relieve misery for a while, for so long as misery is the only check on population, the [technical] improvement will enable the population to grow, and will soon enable more people to live in misery than before. The final result of [technical] improvements, therefore, is to increase the equilibrium population, which is to increase the sum total of human misery.

The Moderately Cheerful Form of the Dismal Theorem:
If something else, other than misery and starvation, can be found which will keep a prosperous population in check, the population does not have to grow until it is miserable or starves; it can be stably prosperous.

xx
ed

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Well,
Julian - QED as far as continuing distractions are concerned.
John Cooknell - apologies extended.
Ed - thanks for getting us back on track - but what is that "something else"?

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  • 24.
  • At 10:13 AM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • Geoff Peacey wrote:

Does it really matter if our actions are or are not actually responsible for global warming (GW)?

No!!

What really does matter is the probability that we are responsible for GW.

Suppose that there is a 1 in n chance that our actions are responsible for GW. Bearing in mind the possible disastrous consequencies forecast, at what value of n would we be justified in taking no action?

Does anybody have an estimate for the probability that we are causing GW?

Humans are the only species which gamble but . . . . .

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Geoff Pacey,
"Does anybody have an estimate for the probability that we are causing GW?"

The IPCC Summary puts it at 90%

Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. (P.7)


In this Summary for Policymakers, the following terms have been used to indicate the assessed likelihood, using expert judgement, of an outcome or a result:
Virtually certain > 99% probability of occurrence, Extremely likely > 95%, Very likely > 90%, Likely > 66%, More likely than not > 50%,
Unlikely < 33%, Very unlikely <10%, Extremely unlikely <5%.

Also there is a table (SPM-1, P.8) Summarising the likelihood of various observed trends having an anthropogenic influence.
Vaya con Gaia
ed
19/03/2007 at 11:11:02 GMT

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  • 26.
  • At 12:29 PM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Interesting Geoff, but on that basis we would all believe in God.
I would remind you that gambling is not only concerned with the odds, but also the size of the stake.
Selfishly, what odds would it take for you to live without electricity?
Altruisticaly, the odds for you to tell the destitute to carry on living in their muud huts with no clean water supply?

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  • 27.
  • At 02:43 PM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • Chris Reed wrote:

We know that the CO2 increase is down to humans.

"1)
A drop of the 14C/12C ratio of atmospheric CO2. The Suess effect,first observed and accounted for, by Hans Suess in the early 1950s. The Suess effect happens because fossil fuels do not contain 14C precisely because they are fossil so they are much older than 10 half-lives of 14C.
2)
A drop of the 13C/12C ratio of atmospheric CO2. Because fossil fuels, forests, and soil carbon come from photosynthetic carbon, which is strongly depleted in 13C.
3)
A drop in the oxygen concentration of the atmosphere, the signature of an oxidation of carbon. Were ocean warming responsible for the CO2 increase, we would also observe an increase in atmospheric O2."
4)
The Oceans are acidifying due to uptake of CO2. So they are not the source.
5)
Volcanoes?
http://www.springerlink.com/content/631t022372116213/
"...in the recently published eruption chronology of Hirschboeck (1980), a volcanic input of about 1.5 x 10^11 moles CO2 yr-1 was determined for the period 1800-1969. The period 1800-1899 had a somewhat lower input than 1900-1969, which could well be related more to completeness of observational data than to a real increase in volcanic CO2.

This input is well below man's current CO2 production of 4-5 * 10^14 moles CO2 yr-1."


Why might we suspect CO2?

We have had 0.6degC of warming since 1970, at about 0.2degC/decade

During that period we know there has been no increase in solar radiation, and no trend in cosmic rays, thus ruling out the Sun, which is well correlated with earlier warmings/cooling.

During that period we have also observed a gain in ocean heat content, this is generally global, climate cycles like El-Nino or the hypothesised Atlantic Ocean Oscillation move energy around, they don't lead to long term changes in the energy balance of the planet.

The stratosphere is cooling, it'd warm if the sun were causing the warming. CO2 is theorised to cool the stratosphere.

Models attribute the warming since 1970 to CO2. (Coincidence?)

The theory that more CO2 leads to a warmer planet has withstood every challenge since it was proposed by Svante Arrenhuis in 1896.

etc etc...


I agree Julian.

There is more to this than just CO2, but with CO2 in the background, and the long term nature of it's threat. There may be an understandable feeling that we'd be tidying up the garden before a hurricane comes to undo our hard work.

That said James Annan of JAMSTEC (Japanese climate modelling centre) makes a fair argument about horse dung in 18th century london. At that time, by very reasonable extralopation, dung may have seemed like a serious coming problem. It was impossible to know that the internal combustion engine was coming, thus removing the problem. But there are over ~4000 Gigatons carbon of extractable fossil fuels, we've used 300Gtons carbon of fossil fuels. So given the great availability and cheapness of coal, any 'combustion engine' type solution possible in the future would have to be cheap enough (in terms of energy invested for energy produced)to rival coal. I'm not holding my breath on that.

The CO2 issue remains mainly a long term threat (probably) with catastrophic potential scenerios. For example it's quite possible we can melt much of Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheet, this would imply tens of metres of sea level rise. However given the slow speed of such a process (ice melt takes a lot of energy) it's at least a century plus timescale for impacting the majority of us. Yet we keep seeing it mentioned in the press!

In the short term (decades), from what I read, species and ecosystem impacts are more likely to be due to human impacts other than global warming due to CO2.

Sorry for another long post.

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Geoff
At a rough guess I'd put the probability at around 1 in 1. I only have to watch the thermometer as I make my way into town to witness man's impact at first hand.
The root concern that we have is that the probability changes daily by 1 in n-210,000 (i.e. the daily increase in world population). I'm sure a statistician will correct my maths, but you get the point.

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  • 29.
  • At 05:39 PM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Hmmm - are we entitled to enquire about earlier episodes of climate change which have been of greater dimension? The global temperature has been much greater without the puny efforts of man.
The probabilties in the IPCC review are simply averages of some contributers gut-feeling and putting percentages to the word "likely" does not imbue it with authority.
We have already had two British meteorologists stepping back from the hype this week. It will be interesting to see more melt away as we learn more.
Some heretics did not passively accept the auto da fe.

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Climate Change and Global Warming have to be addressed before we become a replica of Venus.

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Jon (26),
"Interesting Geoff, but on that basis we would all believe in God."

We cannot exclude the possibility, but I don't follow your line of thought. If a >90% likelihood is acceptable, then one MUST believe in something supernatural to bail us out if one still opts to do nothing.

Vaya con Gaia
(far from supernatural)
ed
19/03/2007 at 18:34:25 GMT

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  • 32.
  • At 07:39 PM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • the entertainer wrote:

Go out and have fun, it won't be long 'til we're all dead anyway.

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  • 33.
  • At 08:14 PM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Ed - could not resist a dig at Blaise Pascal.
Afirmative action based on deeply held beliefs has been responsible for most of the worlds atrocities. Religion probably is the chief problem but politics comes a close second: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Castro come to mind. Social Darwinism and selective human breeding had a scientific basis with quite a probability at the time.
In the present debate I see so much of the baser side of human nature, envy of a higher standard of living and a nostalgia for times past when the few enjoyed foreign travel (for a purpose Dahling) whilst surrounded by grinding poverty at home.

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  • 34.
  • At 08:35 PM on 19 Mar 2007,
  • john cooknell wrote:

I have a Theory.

That all the evidence for human induced CO2 warming, and the science behind the fact that CO2 causes warming has only been discovered, since we thought the Theory up.

So What! you will all say! that is the way science works! You produce your Hypothesis, predict, then find the evidence.

So it is either complete coincidence, or too much of a coincidence, that the Climate Science and its Computer Models have been developed "just in time", "we only have 10/15 years to act" so that they can save the world in the nick of time. That's Handy isn't it! not just too late, or far too early, Carbon Based Technology developed Just in time!

Just a suggestion, that its perhaps for the first time in our history we have the ability to see things on a planet wide basis, that we interpret these findings to fit our model.

Just take one example of a prediction, that the number and frequency of hurricanes will increase, we can now see every tropical storm in complete detail, whereas only a few years ago we did not have this ability, but some confidently hold this up as evidence.

I think one of the most interesting things I have seen recently is the pictures of Giant Waves, according to Climatology and Oceanography to be impossible, do actually exist, so the historical seafarers legends are true. How do we know, well for the first time we can see all the oceans and every wave upon it.

Also that the things we observe and measure the climate with have changed, so why do we think that data gathered in one way can be compared to data gathered another way. I know clever statistics are used to try and get round this problem, but as an Engineer I have never found statistics like these helpful in diagnosing what is really happening, they just are clever statistics, look nice in a report but little real use.

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  • 35.
  • At 10:05 AM on 20 Mar 2007,
  • CobblyWorlds wrote:

Hello John Cooknell,

The theory has been around for >100 years. It was only in the 1980s that computers were powerful enough to model it. Arrenhuis actually saw the increases of CO2 likely at the time he did his work as being beneficial - leading to a comfortably warmer planet.

Tropical Storms / Thunderstorms etc. Do we see more powerful storms in warmer climates? YES. Higher humdity + adiabatic cooling -> more energy for storms as the latent heat of evaporation is released on condensation of water vapour.

The 'quantum like' waves you refer to do not overturn the theories that allow us to calculate tides, thermal profile of the ocean etc. They are an additive process, on top of the known processes where theory gives good agreement with observation - like the "thermohaline pumps". They are a detail. We shouldn't overlook the importance of details. But neither should we overlook the broad thrust of the evidence. i.e. is there any good reason to suggest that these waves have a large role in ocean energy uptake or large scale behaviour?


Hansen is saying 5 - 10 years to act before we are committed to dangerous climate change. He's saying this because we've arguably committed ourselves to the sort of temperature rises seen in periods like the previous inter-glacial (~0.8degC warming so far, planetary energy imbalance of 1 watt/metre-squared implies another 0.5degC even if we level off atmospheric concentrations of CO2. He supports this argument with reference paleological evidence, precedents of when temperatures were as high as now.

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Jon (33),

"Afirmative action based on deeply held beliefs has been responsible for most of the worlds atrocities."

Afirmative action based on the best data available is a different matter, and may save some of the upcoming pain.

As to envy, my standard of living leaves me little to envy. And as to nostalgia for past times, consider this.

Homo Colossus amounts to less than 0.025% of the span of Homo (supposedly) Sapiens.

Vaya con Gaia
ed
20/03/2007 at 11:22:18 GMT

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  • 37.
  • At 12:19 PM on 20 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Might be salutary at this point to consider:
"1975 Newsweek article

At the same time that these discussions were ongoing in scientific circles, a more dramatic account appeared in the popular media, notably an April 28, 1975 article in Newsweek magazine. Titled "The Cooling World," it pointed to "ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change" and pointed to "a drop of half a degree [Fahrenheit] in average ground temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968." Though the article claimed that "[t]he evidence in support of these predictions [of global cooling] has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it," the Newsweek article did not make "environmentalist" claims regarding the cause of that drop. To the contrary, it stated that "what causes the onset of major and minor ice ages remains a mystery" and cited the NAS conclusion that "[n]ot only are the basic scientific questions largely unanswered, but in many cases we do not yet know enough to pose the key questions." Rather than proposing environmental solutions, the Newsweek article suggested that "simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies" would be appropriate. Nonetheless, the article ended on a cautionary note, claiming that "[t]he longer the planners (politicians) delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality." [18][19]

In the late 1970s there were several popular (and melodramatic) books on the topic, including The Weather Conspiracy: The Coming of the New Ice Age.[20]

On October 23, 2006, Newsweek issued a correction, over 31 years after the original article, stating that it had been "so spectacularly wrong about the near-term future" (although editor Jerry Adler claimed that the article was not "inaccurate" in a journalistic sense)[21]"
Hey Ho.

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  • 38.
  • At 07:28 PM on 20 Mar 2007,
  • john cooknell wrote:

Hello Cobbly,

Nice to hear from you again.

I did take heed of what you have said before and spent a lot of time understanding the Physics. I now see how the Hypothesis has been worked through, what assumptions made, what has been tested, and what observed, what connections made etc. etc.

If you have the patience can you help me? One thing I couldn't find was an actual test or experiment that showed that CO2 mixed in air when exposed to infra red does behave as the quantum physics says it will.

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  • 39.
  • At 11:26 AM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • Matt Lees wrote:

This articlle is a load of piffle from someone who has made a judgement on something he doesn't understand - but has strong 'feelings' about. It's a very good bar argument. The Stern and IPCC reports are both examples of non-scientists pursuing arguements using the cloak of scientific veracity. The Stern report was compiled by an economist, the IPCC report was compiled by UN bureaucrats. Can anyone name a Global Warming computer model that is accurate. I did 1 year of a OU science course and the GW models used didn't make sense then and they don't now. It's a bit difficult explaining something when you don't really know how it works. Everyone should look at the Danish National Space Centre website - very interesting.

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  • 40.
  • At 08:25 PM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • john cooknell wrote:

To lighten the debate a little.

I think the only likely outcome of politics becoming involved in Climate Change, will be cars that do 200 miles per gallon, and planes that fly on fermented straw. This is easy to achieve technically, but isn't quite what the Green Lobby envisaged!

I wonder what they will smell like?

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  • 41.
  • At 08:51 PM on 23 Mar 2007,
  • Chris Reed wrote:

Hello John,

The problem is that this is all so basic and was settled long before the internet age. So the references are sparse and my old university doesn't have them, so I have no access to the actual papers.

Arrhenhuis' paper of 1896 is available here: http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/Image:Arrhenius_pdf

Arrhenhuis' proposal was challenged on the basis of absorption spectra, but the objection was based on spectra at sea level temperature and pressure, not the conditions in the troposphere. There's a discussion of this here: http://www.aip.org/history/climate/co2.htm (But AIP seems to be down right now - hope the link is still valid.

Google "CO2 laser" to see an alternate and well-examined practical use of the physics that involves CO2's spectrum and the underlying physics.


I haven't followed the physics of this down to the level of theory in quantum physics. I really don't see any point. In the field I am have a degree in (electronics) it's quite apparent that the underlying physics is a tight web of theories. If one of the earlier theories ever seems wrong, it's always a fault elsewhere.

As in carpenting something like a staircase, the proof of the accuracy of making the parts lies in whether the whole thing fits together.

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  • 42.
  • At 03:33 PM on 24 Mar 2007,
  • john cooknell wrote:

Thanks Chris,

I have read this before, I just wondered if there was anything else, like some sort of experimental proof.

However, when the Cosmic Ray man came up with his theory of Cosmic Particles helping to cause Clouds, I did think "what a daft pratt !", and then he goes and does an experiment.


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  • 43.
  • At 05:01 PM on 26 Mar 2007,
  • Chris Reed wrote:

Hello John,

Yes Svensmark has done experiments.

You could do one too. Taking 2 bottles one with CO2 in it one with air. Put them in direct sunlight next to each other and the one with CO2 warms more.


The problem with both the above experiment and with Svensmark's experiment is that the real atmosphere is way more complex. Both experiments demonstrate that in the effects work in principle. But in the case of CO2 the atmosphere is far from all CO2. And in the case of CRF (cosmic ray flux), CRF is far from being the only source of cloud condensation nuclei.

I've read most of Svensmark's recent papers on the subject. "The Antarctic climate anomaly and galactic cosmic rays" is typical. It starts off talking about cosmic rays, then it shows clouds as being involved in the cooling of regions of Antarctica, then it finishes talking about cosmic rays. BUT, and it's a very big but, at no point does it show that the cloud changes are due to cosmic rays. Thus it fails to do what the person presenting it to me claimed it was showing; that the Antarctic cooling was due to CRF. There is research (sorry I've clean forgotten the name of the paper) that shows the cooling is due to the behaviour of the Antarctic polar vortex, now that could also cause a change in clouds. So you don't need to resort to CRFs to explain it. But more to the point Svensmark doesn't do so.


I agree with your implication that the power of politicians is limited (Curtis' "The Trap" which concluded on BBC2 last night has an interesting take on this). In view of the global market, and the intense competetion it causes. I think that as oil and gas deplete and their costs go up we'll see a global transition back to coal. Coal could be used as the base energy source for a 'hydrogen economy' it can also be used to make gas (like "town gas") and via processes like Fischer-Tropsch it can make oil. Only where 'renewables' are cheaper can we expect to see them challenge fossil fuels. At the least, when burnt coal makes significantly more CO2 per joule of energy than oil/gas (conversion processes are worse).

Needless to say I hope I am wrong on that as much as I hope I am wrong on CO2 driven climate change. But that's a hope, not an evidenced conclusion.

Regards

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  • 44.
  • At 09:58 PM on 26 Mar 2007,
  • john cooknell wrote:

Chris,

Thanks for detailed reply. I have tried the plastic bottle myself and its true, however the more sophisticated direct experiment of 300ppm CO2 compared to 600ppm CO2 showed no discernable change due to saturation, any way thats what I would expect, as there isn't a lot of it is there!

I am still unsure about it all.

I just remember the Y2K bug fiasco, either the science community knew that this was all hype and no substance , but chose to say nothing out of self interest, or the science community didn't know! Either option is not clever is it?

Either way I must admit to losing faith in science at this point, I said it was rubbish, within half an hour of hearing about it, but was rounded on and shouted down by colleagues who should have known better. They never found a millenium bug, in fact I never even heard of anyone who found one, and if they had we would have heard all about it.
Even more interestingly is that some people still think they solved the millenium bug problem, but when I ask which piece of software did you alter? I get no response!

So I have a jaundiced view of scientific consensus/fashion.

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  • 45.
  • At 04:45 PM on 28 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Well that about wraps it up for the anthropogenic global warming myth.
The BBC should have done better and should, in it's near monopoly of the airwaves, have been more balanced, with less dramatic licence and anecdotes. A sceptic perspective was noticable by it's absence, probably because the BBC canteen culture is in thrall to celebrities and failed politicians.
Quite clearly, promoting damaging hindrances upon the economy is irresponsible and will look foolish in the future.

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  • 46.
  • At 08:13 PM on 30 Mar 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

BBC censorship rules OK !

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  • 47.
  • At 07:18 AM on 31 Mar 2007,
  • Chris Reed wrote:

Hello John Cooknell,

If you used a somewhat more meachnically rigid container and reduced the pressure you'd find more of a response. That's the situation in the troposphere above the boundary layer. And as the temperature here at the ground is affected by the temperatures aloft. Tropospheric warming still impacts. There's a basic tutorial here: http://www-paoc.mit.edu/labweb/notes/chap2.pdf (specifically 2.3.3)

Sorry I still find the Y2K issue irrelevant. Neither that, nor the claimed ice age scare in the 1970s, were long-standing science. Furthermore they had not been subjected to the intense attack the science of climate change has been.


Jon,

If you prefer the idea of 'random walks' then you will of course have no problem with the science of modelling. The models do not numerically extrapolate. Issues such as Random Walk are key to the way they iteratively apply the physics. Without that they wouldn't produce the agreements with observation that they do.

BBC Censorship? Like the censorship of those claiming the Universe revolves around the Earth, miasma causes disease, humans didn't evolve from apes...

Sorry there's no censorship, it's just that unlike Channel 4, the BBC are making efforts to stick to the findings of science.

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  • 48.
  • At 04:00 PM on 31 Mar 2007,
  • Angela Leonard wrote:

I was annoyed by a news report last night that said the BBC were monitoring the global temp and predicting that 2007 would be the warmest year ever. The use of the word EVER is what bothered me. I'm sure they would say they meant since records began, but it's very misleading.

I would also like to see the percentages given for carbon emissions clarified. eg. Air travel accounts or 2% of CO2, but it's never made clear in any report I have seen that this is refering to 2% of manmade CO2. All the manmade CO2 is a tiny percentage of the CO2 that comes from natural events.

This unclear and misleading reporting is manipulative and unbalanced. Please do better.

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  • 49.
  • At 07:11 PM on 01 Apr 2007,
  • Chris Reed wrote:

Hello Angela,

We know that all of the increase in CO2 has come from humans. some of the reasons given here: http://equake.geos.vt.edu/acourses/3114/global_warming/0505PTgw.html

So when the media talk of a certain percentage of CO2 they normally mean a percentage of total annual emissions (typically fossil fuel emissions). And as when we burn fossil fuels we are burning carbon fixed millions of years ago, by definition; all of our emissions are additions to natural budgets.

Terrestrial biosphere ~ 500 Gton.
Soils ~ 1500 Gton
[Siegenthaler and Sarmiento, 1993].

So as we have emitted about 300Gton fossil fuel Carbon so far(since 1880), our impact is not negligible. Especially as most of that has been absorbed by the oceans and the ocean surface is in a chemical equilibrium with the air: The oceans can return CO2 into the atmosphere more directly than land and soil.


We could reference all temperatures to some 4.5billion years ago. Against a few thousand degrees C current temperatures are negligible thus any changes are all the more so. So there's nothing to worry about if the planet boils, that's only a ~10% change.

With regards the Little Ice Age / Medieval Warm Period. There is no evidence to show that the temperature excursions then were likely as large and as sharp as todays, e.g. Moberg et al 2005: "Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low and high resolution proxy data "
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/moberg2005/moberg2005.html
And bear in mind, that's for the Northern Hemisphere. The global average temperature changes less because of the thermal buffering of the large ocean surface area in the southern hemisphere.

Surely it's reasonable for us to compare with the most recent periods for which we have good records?

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  • 50.
  • At 08:31 PM on 01 Apr 2007,
  • john cooknell wrote:

Thanks Chris,

Read the tutorial, took till now to get through it !

I still cannot make "the leap of faith", that you have made. Perhaps its just me.

However, I will pick you up on the Y2K bug thing, it shows that the Science community didn't have a clue, or were entirely dishonest, about computer programming, something where the whole thing was created by humans, and they didn't listen to anyone who disagreed with their pet theories.

So what chance have they got on making sense of how a planet works?

I still believe that it is human physchology driving the climate change science, we want to believe we are affecting the planet, this is our nature, it always has been and always will be!

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Chris Reed, why don't you debate the proof och that both NASA, Svensmark as well as later researchers gives, for the period between 1980 and 2002 and with above 90 per cent correlation instead of just insists that Svensmark talks with no data behind what he say.

The only white on the map is clouds before sattelites started to messure them, but the rest of the data for all other factors suits extremely well to the theory. Different feields of scinence already uses Svensmarks theory as a well grounded one (and it helps them to make great improvements!).

It's important to be honest to truth and don't for the sake of any political aim and misguidence in science for the same reason. Otherwise we ruin both sound politics and the reputation of science.

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  • 52.
  • At 07:55 PM on 08 May 2007,
  • Bunc wrote:

I got to thinking about the impact of climate change on my wee corner of Scotland. Its too easy for us to think that all the changes will be benign or that the signs are being exaggerated. I was surprised at the evidence that there already is about this and ended up writing a failry long post about it.

As for wether Global warming is man made that is of course a different story. I think the IPCC reports have been very pursuasive on this given that the editing process that they go to tends to weed out claims which are not well substantiated.

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  • 53.
  • At 11:54 PM on 08 May 2007,
  • john cooknell wrote:

April 2007 UK Weather records

In UK April 2007 was the warmest on record, it was also the sunniest on record. Most days there was a total absence of clouds which for this dismal country is highly unusual.

So why do the media and BBC weather experts keep reporting these record surface temperatures are due to CO2 induced global warming, when the obvious correlation is the record lack of clouds. No explanation is even attempted for the lack of clouds.

The sunniest years are not unexpectedly the warmest years, and there is a well founded theory by the Danish Sun research team that explains the lack of clouds. Cloud cover is decreasing year on year over the whole planet due to the record strength of the Sun's Gravity field.

Can anyone offer a better explanation for the record lack of clouds. Or is my view just too simple.

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  • 54.
  • At 07:04 AM on 03 Jun 2007,
  • Niyati wrote:

Climate change

I m from kolkata and miserable changes are taking place here too.Climate is changing here too.Enviromentalists are adding new subjects but they dont know that addition of new subjects is just a burden for some students ....for some but not for me...we should be very carefull while throwing any wastes in the river bodies.If the global warming starts with a gr8 speed then kolkata and other low lying areas will be the first to be affected.we sholud minimise the use of nitorgen dioxide ,cfc etc.. only ading new subjects wouln't work some steps has to be taken by the environmentalists and tell me if i am wrong!!!! plz!!!

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The climate has historically greatly fluctuated. Ecosystems, and mankind, have always been able to adapt to these changes. The big question is whether we will be equally able to adapt to such rapid changes as these man-made ones.

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  • 56.
  • At 06:37 AM on 12 Jun 2007,
  • puchen wrote:

the climate problem has been commented for long time. However most of goverment had ignored that as bad students treat their homework.So many climate comment report have been written by some of climate export.......

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