Posts Tagged ‘Global warming’
Looking back enables us to look clearly ahead.
I struggled for a while to decide what to call this post, the first of three. Explain why in just a moment.
The post is predominantly from the hand of a professional writer who goes under the name of Gaius Publius. He is described as contributing editor on AMERICAblog from where one also learns that:
Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Gaius has written in a variety of genres and styles. He’s published short stories and poetry, books on education & technology, and is currently working on two book-length projects, including one novel.
In addition to writing, Gaius has been a professional educator and currently manages a small publishing consultancy. He holds a Bachelors degree in Great Books with a side concentration in physics and math, and a Masters in English and Communication.
A web search soon comes across a blog where there is a collection of the gentleman’s works.
OK, back to the theme.
Five days ago I read an essay on Yves Smith’s Naked Capitalism blog that struck me as a fabulously bold and clear presentation of the climate crisis. The essay, written by Gaius, also derived a positive message from the boldness and clarity of the argument. I dropped Yves an email asking for permission to republish on Learning from Dogs and not only did I get a quick reply from Yves, that reply included approval for the reposting from Mr. Publius. Thank you both.
The essay was called: The climate crisis in three easy charts. However, I was uncomfortable that the word ‘crisis’ might be a turn-off in a blog post title, so opted for The story of carbon. So with that off my chest, let me go straight to the essay as it appeared on Naked Capitalism.
The Climate Crisis in Three Easy Charts
Yves here. This post is the first in a series by Gaius. It starts by looking at the larger climate picture over larger swathes of time and showing what level of temperature changes led to mass extinction events.
I’m preparing to pivot back to climate crisis, starting with some reformatting of the earlier Climate Series posts — the transition to WordPress wasn’t kind to them — and the organization of this material into book form. (There’s also a climate-themed novel in the works; thriller fans, stay tuned.)
As a result, I’m doing serious study to refine both the concepts (or rather, the explanation of them) and the dating of coming events (the crisis in its various stages).
The first part of that pivot includes two media appearances this week. I’ll be on Virtually Speaking With Jay Ackroyd this Thursday (May 2) at 9 pm ET to discuss climate crisis for a full hour, followed by a Sunday appearance with Avedon Carol as part of the Virtually Speaking Sundays weekly media panel.
It’s the climate discussion I want to focus on here, and I’d like to do it by focusing on three diagrams and a few references back to my earlier climate pieces.
Climate catastrophe will usher in a new geologic era
Long-scale earth history is divided into Eons, then Eras, then Periods. But in fact, prior to the Cambrian Period, when life on earth exploded in number and variety, earth history is the story of non-life or small single- or multi-celled life. And starting with the Cambrian period, there’s just one “eon” anyway. It’s eras and periods we care about.
So let’s start there, with the Cambrian Period and the flourishing of life on earth. Consider the chart below:
The divisions across the top are geologic periods, starting with the Cambrian (“Cm”), the period of “visible life”‘ — meaning a proliferation of hardshelled species. It’s the big explosion of life on earth. The numbers across the bottom are millions of years ago. The spikes show extinction events, with the percentage of marine species going extinct expressed on the vertical or Y axis.
The chart doesn’t call them out, but starting with the Cambrian period, we’ve had three geologic eras (the larger divisions):
The Paleozoic Era runs from the start of the graph to the big spike at 250 million years ago on the X axis. It encompasses six geologic periods and ended in the greatest mass extinction event on the planet — geologists call it the “Great Dying”.
The Mesozoic Era runs from the Great Dying at 250 million years ago to the big spike at 65 million years ago, the event that wiped out the dinosaurs — and every other large species. That cleared the way for mammals to grow big and thrive.
We’re now in the Cenozoic Era. Keep those transitions in mind — when mass extinctions change which groups of species can evolve and rule, it’s the end of an era and the start of another. Now look at the chart again. The whole chart shows 540 million years, and just three geologic eras. The next extinction event on the scale of the one at 250 million years ago, or the one at 65 million years ago, will change the shape of life on earth and usher in a new era. Ready for that?
Where does man fit in?
Great question — where does man fit in? Answer: We come in very late.
First, notice the last three geologic “periods” at the top-right in the chart above. The period marked “K” is the Cretaceous, the period at the end of the Mesozoic Era. The next period (“Pg”) is the Paleogene, the one that marks the start of the Cenozoic (new life) Era. The period after that (“N”) is the Neogene, which ended just 2 million years ago. The period after that, not shown, is the Quarternary Period, our current one.
The Neogene-Quarternary boundary is the start of the time of great glaciers, and the best way to show that is with the chart below, showing earth temperatures mapped across the geologic periods (at the left end) and geologic epochs (the rest of the chart).
First, get oriented. On the Y axis is global temperature using change — in °C — from global temperature in the year 1800 as the norm or zero mark. (The global pre–Industrial Revolution temperature is generally the mark from which other global temperatures are measured, unless otherwise noted. To convert from °C to °F, just double the number; you’ll be pretty close.)
On the X axis, the first big division — from 542 million years ago to 65 million years ago — represents the first two geologic eras, the Paleozoic and Mezozoic (which unfortunately aren’t called out on this chart). “K” at the top and bottom is still the Cretaceous Period, and the end of the Cretaceous Period is also the end of the dinos and the end of the Mesozoic Era.
In this respect, both charts are the same. Man hasn’t showed up yet — our mammal ancestors were the equivalent of field mice in that world, small prey with soft shells and hiding skills.
But before we look at the rest of the X axis, notice that in the left-most part of the chart, the Y axis shows a huge change in global temperature relative to pre-Industrial norms. Looks like a monster spike, especially the first one, doesn’t it?
The Cambrian temperature spike is 6–8°C (about 11–14°F) higher than pre-Industrial levels.
It’s also the temperature we’re headed for by 2100.
But let’s not get distracted. Let’s set some markers in this chart in the horizontal (time) dimension. The whole rest of the chart — the part after the period called “K” — shows the Cenozoic Era (“new life” or Age of Mammals). From here to the right, the chart’s subdivisions show Epochs, which are sub-parts of Periods.
[Update: For a chart that shows the relationship between eras, periods and epochs, Quarternary Period, the one we’re in, and the one we’re interested in.
The epoch of the Pleistocene, which starts the Quarternary Period (again, see the chart), is the great age of glaciers. Homo habilis evolves at this time, a little over 2 million years ago. Homo erectus evolves shortly afterward. Each starts in Africa — now you can probably guess why — and each leaves Africa and spreads across the globe. (Homo erectus, by the way, lasts a long time on this earth. Longer than us by a lot.)
Homo sapiens evolved much later, in the Pleistocene — the age of glaciers, remember — just 250 thousand years ago, almost died out in Africa, but rebuilt our numbers, then spread out of Africa like our cousins. Because that was the glacier age, we’re still hunter-gatherers like the the rest of our cousins. The big beasts of the earth are creatures like woolly mammoths and sabre-tooth tigers, and we’re all alive on a fairly frozen planet with glaciers coming and going.
At the end of the Pleistocene is another extinction event. At the same time that the last glaciers recede (see chart), the big mammoths and tigers (et al) die off. Simultaneous with a noticeable change in climate, what we call “human civilization” begins. You can see that above, around 12–10 thousand years ago as the planetary temperature stabilizes. From then until almost now, planetary temperature is pretty stable. Notice it doesn’t take much of a wobble to mark the “Little Ice Age”.
Just two more points to make in this piece and I’m done.
First the bad news
Folks, that little climb in temperature you see near the right end of the graph above is just the beginning. Remember the Cambrian spike at the left end of the graph? Take another look and note the increase — about 7°C. Now here’s Figure 21 from the Copenhagen Diagnosis, a report prepared by … oh … every single one of the world’s top climate scientists for the benefit of our world’s “leaders,” who met in 2009 to discuss how to pass the climate buck one more time:
What you see is temperatures from 500 AD to about 2000, with a number of prediction scenarios going forward. See the scenario called “A1FI”? It’s the one in red. That’s the one we’re on if we don’t stop spewing carbon. I call it the “do nothing” scenario — otherwise known as the “Keep David Koch Happy” scenario.
All you need to know? We’re on track for about +7°C — the peak temperature in the big Cambrian spike — by the year 2100.
Now the good news
Despite all this doom-and-gloom, it’s not over yet. Truly. By my calculation, we have a 5–10 year window to avoid the catastrophe. It won’t be easy — we’re past the point where any transition will be smooth — but we can make the transition and survive as a civilized species, humans in a recognizable world.
But two things are needed:
- This has to be our top priority, which means you and everyone you know has to be fully aware and in full battle gear. (For reference, it’s called “hugging the monster.”)
- It’s us vs. David Koch and all of his friends and enablers. Tackling any other enemy is tackling a dummy while the game is being played.
Educate your friends, and put a wrench into the Koch machine. How’s that not a plus?
If the Koch Bros keep getting rich, we move backward. If Barack “Hope & Change” Obama approves Keystone, we move backward. If the U.S. develops “domestic oil” resources, we move backward. For every new car (“carbon-delivery system”) sold, we move backward. People need to know this and think like this. We can stop the crisis, but only if we stop carbon. It’s that simple; and that stark.
But it’s also doable, and we’re the species that’s most equiped for “doable.” It’s what our big brains are for.
I’ll have more in the weeks and months ahead. I haven’t given up, not by a long shot. But you can’t pull out of a tail spin if you don’t admit you’re in one. Me, I think we can pull out.
So presumably if you are reading this, you have read the essay above. I hope so because while at first sight there appears to be much to take in, the story is clear, informed and powerful. You are unlikely to change the mind of a committed ‘denier’ but if there’s a little part of you that isn’t utterly clear about the risks ahead, then this essay is a fabulous opportunity to embrace clarity – and not to give up hope! Remember those words in the essay:
“By my calculation, we have a 5–10 year window to avoid the catastrophe. It won’t be easy — we’re past the point where any transition will be smooth — but we can make the transition and survive as a civilized species, humans in a recognizable world.”
Sometimes one just scratches the head and wonders!
In yesterday’s post, I wrote, “strongly resonated with a recent item on Peter Sinclair’s excellent blog Climate Denial Crock of the Week …”
Here is that item, republished with Peter’s kind permission:
Global Warming Continues to Accelerate
March 25, 2013
A new study of ocean warming has just been published in Geophysical Research Letters by Balmaseda, Trenberth, and Källén (2013). There are several important conclusions which can be drawn from this paper.
- Completely contrary to the popular contrarian myth, global warming has accelerated, with more overall global warming in the past 15 years than the prior 15 years. This is because about 90% of overall global warming goes into heating the oceans, and the oceans have been warming dramatically.
- As suspected, much of the ‘missing heat’ Kevin Trenberth previously talked about has been found in the deep oceans. Consistent with the results of Nuccitelli et al. (2012), this study finds that 30% of the ocean warming over the past decade has occurred in the deeper oceans below 700 meters, which they note is unprecedented over at least the past half century.
- Some recent studies have concluded based on the slowed global surface warming over the past decade that the sensitivity of the climate to the increased greenhouse effect is somewhat lower than the IPCC best estimate. Those studies are fundamentally flawed because they do not account for the warming of the deep oceans.
- The slowed surface air warming over the past decade has lulled many people into a false and unwarranted sense of security.
The main results of the study are illustrated in its Figure 1.
In this paper, the authors used ocean heat content data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts’ Ocean Reanalysis System 4 (ORAS4). A ‘reanalysis’ is a climate or weather model simulation of the past that incorporates data from historical observations. In the case of ORAS4, this includes ocean temperature measurements from bathythermographs and the Argo buoys, and other types of data like sea level andsurface temperatures. The ORAS4 data span from 1958 to the present, and have a high 1°x1° horizontal resolution, as well as 42 vertical layers. As the authors describe the data set,
“ORAS4 has been produced by combining, every 10 days, the output of an ocean model forced by atmospheric reanalysis fluxes and quality controlled ocean observations.”
Accelerated Global Warming
As illustrated in Figure 1 above, the study divides ocean warming into three layers for comparison – the uppermost 300 meters (grey), 700 meters (blue), and the full ocean depth (violet). After each of the Mt. Agung, Chichón, and Pinatubo volcanic eruptions (which cause short-term cooling by blocking sunlight), a distinct ocean cooling event is observed in the data. Additionally, after the very strong El Niño event of 1998, a cooling of the upper 300 and 700 meters of oceans is visible as a result of heat being transfered from the surface ocean to the atmosphere.
One of the clearest features in Figure 1 is the rapid warming of the oceans over the past decade. As we have previously discussed, the warming of the shallower oceans has slowed since around 2003, which certain climate contrarians have cherrypicked to try and argue that global warming has slowed. However, more heat accumulated in the deeper oceans below 700 meters during this period. The authors describe the ocean warming since 1999 as,
“the most sustained warming trend in this record of OHC. Indeed, recent warming rates of the waters below 700m appear to be unprecedented.”
Their results in this respect are very similar the main conclusion of Nuccitelli et al. (2012), in which we noted that recently, warming of the oceans below 700 meters accounts for about 30% of overall ocean and global warming. Likewise, this new study concludes,
“In the last decade, about 30% of the warming has occurred below 700 m, contributing significantly to an acceleration of the warming trend.”
Some ‘Missing Heat’ Found
Kevin Trenberth past comments about ‘missing heat’ drew considerable attention. The phrase refers to the fact that the heat accumulation on Earth since about 2004 (e.g. from warming oceans, air, and land, and melting ice) that instruments were able to measure could not account for the amount of global heat accumulation we expected to see, based on the energy imbalance caused by the increased greenhouse effect, as measured by satellites at the top of the Earth’s atmosphere.
These new estimates of deeper ocean heat content go a long way towards resolving that ‘missing heat’ mystery. There is still some discrepancy remaining, which could be due to errors in the satellite measurements, the ocean heat content measurements, or both. But the discrepancy is now significantly smaller, and will be addressed in further detail in a follow-up paper by these scientists.
So what’s causing this transfer of heat to the deeper ocean layers? The authors suggest that it is a result of changes in winds related to the negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and more frequent La Niña events.
Good News for Climate Sensitivity? Probably Not
Recently there have been some studies and comments by a few climate scientists that based on the slowed global surface warming over the past decade, estimates of the Earth’s overall equilibrium climate sensitivity may be a bit too high. However, as we previously discussed, these studies and comments tend to neglect the warming of the deep oceans below 700 meters.
Does the warming of the deep ocean support these arguments for lower equilibrium climate sensitivity? Probably not, as Trenberth explained (via personal communication),
“it contributes to the overall warming of the deep ocean that has to occur for the system to equilibrate. It speeds that process up. It means less short term warming at the surface but at the expense of a greater earlier long-term warming, and faster sea level rise.”
So the slowed warming at the surface is only temporary, and consistent with the ‘hiatus decades’ described by Meehl et al. (2011). The global warming end result will be the same, but the pattern of surface warming over time may be different than we expect.
The real problem is that in the meantime, we have allowed the temporarily slowed surface warming to lull us into a false sense of security, with many people wrongly believing global warming has paused when in reality it has accelerated.
Global Warming Wake Up Call
Perhaps the most important result of this paper is the confirmation that while many people wrongly believe global warming has stalled over the past 10–15 years, in reality that period is “the most sustained warming trend” in the past half century. Global warming has not paused, it has accelerated.
The paper is also a significant step in resolving the ‘missing heat’ issue, and is a good illustration why arguments for somewhat lower climate sensitivity are fundamentally flawed if they fail to account for the warming of the oceans below 700 meters.
Most importantly, everybody (climate scientists and contrarians included) must learn to stop equating surface and shallow ocean warming with global warming. In fact, as Roger Pielke Sr. has pointed out, “ocean heat content change [is] the most appropriate metric to diagnose global warming.” While he has focused on the shallow oceans, actually we need to measure global warming by accounting for all changes in global heat content, including the deeper oceans. Otherwise we can easily fool ourselves into underestimating the danger of the climate problem we face.
“Global warming has not paused, it has accelerated.”
Now I should end it there. But I can’t!
American readers worried about the drought? Do watch this short video from Paul Douglas. (Apologies for the ad. at the start.)
For worldwide readers who have seen the massive changes in ‘normal’ weather this winter, take a look at this, first published on the NASA Earth Observatory website:
While a high-pressure weather system brought warmer than normal temperatures to Greenland and northern Canada in March 2013, much of North America, Europe, and Asia shivered through weeks of unseasonably cool temperatures. The contrasting temperatures are no coincidence: the same unusual pressure pattern in the upper atmosphere caused both events.
Atmospheric pressure patterns are constantly in flux, as air masses of differing temperatures and densities move around the skies. One key measure of pressure that meteorologists track closely is known as the Arctic Oscillation (AO) index, the difference in relative pressure between the Arctic and the mid-latitudes. Changes in the AO have can major impacts on weather patterns around the world.
When the AO index is in its “positive” phase, air pressure over the Arctic is low, pressure over the mid-latitudes is high, and prevailing winds confine extremely cold air to the Arctic. But when the AO is in its ”negative“ phase, the pressure gradient weakens. The pressure over the Arctic is not as low and pressure at mid-latitudes is not as high. In this negative phase, the AO enables Arctic air to flow to the south and warm air to move north.
In late March, the AO dropped as low as -5.6. (See this chart published by the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang to see how this compares with other periods when AO values reached record-low levels).
The temperature anomaly map above, based on data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite, shows how this affected temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere. The map displays land surface temperature anomalies between March 14–20, 2013, compared to the same dates from 2005 to 2012. Areas with above-average temperatures appear in red and orange, and areas with below-average temperatures appear in shades of blue. Much of Europe, Russia, and the eastern United States saw unusually cool temperatures, while Greenland and Nunavut Territory were surprisingly warm for the time of year.
Many parts of the Northern Hemisphere saw near record-breaking cool temperatures as the value of the AO fell. The United Kingdom experienced its 4th coldest March since 1962. In late-March, two-thirds of weather stations in the Czech Republic broke records. Germany saw its coldest March since 1883. And Moscow had its coldest March since the 1950s.
- Climate Central (2013, March 19) From Heat Wave to Snowstorms, March Goes to Extremes. Accessed April 1, 2013.
- Der Spiegel Online International (2013, March 28) White Easter: Germany Faces Coldest March Since 1883. Accessed April 2, 2013.
- Earthsky (2013, March 22). Officially spring, but feels like winter for many in U.S. Accessed April 1, 2013.
- Met Office (2013, March 28) Coldest March for the UK since 1962. Accessed April 2, 2013.
- NOAA Arctic Oscillation (AO). Accessed April 1, 2013.
- Prague Daily Monitor (2013, March 28) Cold weather breaking records. Accessed April 2, 2013.
- Washington Post (2013, March 24) Record blocking patterns fueling extreme weather: detailed look at why it’s so cold.Accessed April 1, 2013.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using MODIS data from the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LPDAAC). Arctic Oscillation data from the NOAA National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center. Caption by Adam Voiland.
Sorry, I know I went on a bit!
But first Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Cynthia.
(Image courtesy of UK’s Met Office blog post: Top ten romantic weather phenomena.)
My dear Dan,
In a way this stunningly beautiful photograph is a reflection of our long relationship. Over the 33 years that we have been friends you and I have enjoyed many calm moments and tried to make sense of this crazy world. Yes, we have often disagreed about many things but never fallen out; not even come close to it. No better illustrated than me wanting you as my Best Man when Jean and I were married November 20th, 2010.
Your email to me of the 4th February was a difficult one to embrace; the Controversy Continues one. The last thing I wanted to do was to react impulsively because I knew you would disregard such a thoughtless response. After all, we have known each other’s views on the matter of climate change for a very long time.
Thank goodness I did sit on my hands. It allowed a more reflective part of my aged brain to compose a blog post on Learning from Dogs. The post that came out on the 12th under the title of Doggedly seeking the truth.
That post then led to yesterday’s post Truth never follows a straight line. Two essays that gave me much joy. Thank you.
But the plain fact of the matter is that I profoundly disagree with the idea, as expressed in your email heading, that there is any controversy over the question of global warming resulting from man’s behaviours. I know from our years of friendship that you are open to all sorts of ideas. Meaning you wouldn’t be closed-minded to the biggest issue facing Homo sapiens and all the species on this planet, the one of anthropogenic global warming (AGW).
So let me offer you some links that make it very clear as to the reality of what is happening to this planet.
Start with this one Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility – In One Pie Chart. Or this one IPCC Draft Report Leaked, Shows Global Warming is NOT Due to the Sun.
Then there’s this one A Brief Note on the Latest Release of Draft IPCC Documents and this one Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime as a Result of a Spreading Atmospheric Arctic Methane Heat wave and Surface Firestorm. I could go on and on.
Perhaps the reason that so many intelligent people ‘avoid’ the truth of what we are doing to this planet was voiced in a recent comment by Prof. Guy McPherson on Learning from Dogs, “Perhaps Upton Sinclair had it right, years ago: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Even though you and I are well past salary days it doesn’t alter the chilling realisation that comes from embracing the truth of climate change and global warming: The undermining of just about everything that we have embraced over our years. No wonder it’s so much easier to stay within familiar comfort zones! To remain hypocrites as Jean and I do!
Let me close with the words uttered by mother Dellarobia to son Preston in Barbara Kingsolver’s book Flight Behavior: ”It won’t ever go back to how it was, Preston.“
In my heart I know that to be the truth.
Jean and I send you and Cynthia our fondest love,
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing”).
I’m at my PC thinking about tomorrow’s post. It’s past 4pm and my creative juices are elsewhere! So out of curiosity I wondered what I had published a year ago, in early February 2012. To my amazement what was published was as fresh and relevant as if it had been published today. So that’s what I am doing. Republishing it along with the sequels on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Climate, truth and integrity, part one.
It ought to be straightforward, but the reality is different!
Those of you, dear readers, that have been following these ramblings and musings over the last 30 months, now amounting to more than 1,200 Posts [now 1,582, Ed.] , will hopefully have sensed that Learning from Dogs is much more than a blogsite about dogs! It is, as I say here, about truth, integrity, honesty and trust using dogs as a powerful metaphor for these essential qualities of a civilised society.
But perhaps there is no topic more challenging for people to determine the truth than the topic of man’s impact on the earth’s climate. I’m sure that millions intuitively sense that we are over-consuming ourselves to oblivion. That is where I come from. I am not a scientist, just a humble writer, and rely on quality sources of information and instinct to form my conclusions in this area. I am also deeply suspicious of the largely out-of-sight relationships between large corporations, big money and politics!
I have no doubt that there are other millions of people who do believe that mankind is changing our planet’s climate.
So when I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal, I was dumbstruck. Here’s the headline and opening paragraph,
No Need to Panic About Global Warming
There’s no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy.
Editor’s Note: The following has been signed by the 16 scientists listed at the end of the article:
A candidate for public office in any contemporary democracy may have to consider what, if anything, to do about “global warming.” Candidates should understand that the oft-repeated claim that nearly all scientists demand that something dramatic be done to stop global warming is not true. In fact, a large and growing number of distinguished scientists and engineers do not agree that drastic actions on global warming are needed.
The long article closes with this paragraph just ahead of the ‘signatures’ of the scientists.
Every candidate should support rational measures to protect and improve our environment, but it makes no sense at all to back expensive programs that divert resources from real needs and are based on alarming but untenable claims of “incontrovertible” evidence.
Then in short order, up came this from the Daily Mail online,
The supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years.
The figures suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames in the 17th Century.
Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.
I subscribe both to Climate Sight and Lack of Environment, although wish I spent more time thoroughly reading these fabulous sources of information. However, I did spot an article on Climate Sight that came out on the 31st January with the heading of How much is most? It opened thus,
A growing body of research is showing that humans are likely causing more than 100% of global warming: without our influences on the climate, the planet would actually be cooling slightly.
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its fourth assessment report, internationally regarded as the most credible summary of climate science to date. It concluded that “most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations”.
A clear question remains: How much is “most”? 51%? 75%? 99%? At the time that the IPCC report was written, the answer was unclear. However, a new frontier of climate research has emerged since, and scientists are working hard to quantify the answer to this question.
The timing was impeccable, so far as I was concerned. I posted a comment, “While in every way that I can think of, I support the premise of mankind affecting global climate, I would love to hear from someone who could reconcile the Post above with these recent items:” and then included the links to the WSJ and Daily Mail items.
Little did I realise what a response I would get. Just wonderful! I will offer some of them to you in this piece, but please do read all the comments offered on that Climate Sight post.
First up was Dana Nuccitelli. Dana is an environmental scientist at a private environmental consulting firm in the Sacramento, California area. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in astrophysics from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master’s Degree in physics from the University of California at Davis. (Taken from here.) This is what he wrote,
How to reconcile the two? The folks who wrote those two articles you linked are misinformed and/or misinformers. I covered the first here (and) SkS will shortly have a post on the second as well, but I covered the solar cycle issue recently here.
Dana’s article in Skeptical Science, that first link, included this:
Nearly half of the list (at least 7 of 16) have received fossil fuel industry funding, and the list also includes an economist, a physician, a chemist, an aerospace engineer, and an astronaut/politician. These are apparently the best and brightest the climate denialists can come up with these days?
- Claude Allegre, former director of the Institute for the Study of the Earth, University of Paris
- J. Scott Armstrong, cofounder of the Journal of Forecasting and the International Journal of Forecasting;
- Jan Breslow, head of the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism, Rockefeller University;
- Roger Cohen, fellow, American Physical Society;
- Edward David, member, National Academy of Engineering and National Academy of Sciences;
- William Happer, professor of physics, Princeton;
- Michael Kelly, professor of technology, University of Cambridge, U.K.;
- William Kininmonth, former head of climate research at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology;
- Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT;
- James McGrath, professor of chemistry, Virginia Technical University;
- Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences;
- Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne;
- Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator;
- Nir Shaviv, professor of astrophysics, Hebrew University, Jerusalem;
- Henk Tennekes, former director, Royal Dutch Meteorological Service;
- Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists, Geneva.
RED – No climate science publications, member of at least one climate denialist group – GWPF (advisory board), George C. Marshall Institute (board of directors or roundtable speakers), Australian Climate Science Coalition (advisory panel), Heartland Institute (board of directors), and/or ExxonMobil
BLUE – Published climate science research
Orange – both a member of a climate denialist group and has published climate science research
Black – no climate science publications or climate denialist group membership
Next was Gail Zawacki who writes a compelling Blog Dead Trees and Dying Forests. She commented thus,
The first link went to this,
Panic Attack: Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal Finds 16 Scientists to Push Pollutocrat Agenda With Long-Debunked Climate Lies
By Joe Romm on Jan 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm
A lot of folks have asked me to debunk the recent anti-truthful Wall Street Journal article with the counterfactual headline, “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” I’ll combine my debunking with the rapidly growing list of debunkings from scientists and others. And I’ll update this as new debunkings come in.
That the WSJ would publish an amateurish collection of falsehoods and half truths is no surprise. The entire global Murdoch enterprise is designed to advance the pollutocrat do-nothing agenda (see Scientist: “The Murdoch Media Empire Has Cost Humanity Perhaps One or Two Decades in Battle Against Climate Change”). As National Academy of Sciences member Peter Gleick explains in his evisceration of the piece, “Remarkable Editorial Bias on Climate Science at the Wall Street Journal“:
But the most amazing and telling evidence of the bias of the Wall Street Journalin this field is the fact that 255 members of the United States National Academy of Sciences wrote a comparable (but scientifically accurate) essay on the realities of climate change and on the need for improved and serious public debate around the issue, offered it to the Wall Street Journal, and were turned down. The National Academy of Sciences is the nation’s pre-eminent independent scientific organizations. Its members are among the most respected in the world in their fields. Yet the Journal wouldn’t publish this letter, from more than 15 times as many top scientists. Instead they chose to publish an error-filled and misleading piece on climate because some so-called experts aligned with their bias signed it. This may be good politics for them, but it is bad science and it is bad for the nation.
Science magazine – perhaps the nation’s most important journal on scientific issues – published the letter from the NAS members after the Journal turned it down.
A tad more surprising is that 16 admittedly non-leading scientists would choose to soil their reputations by stringing together a collection of long-debunked falsehoods. What is surprising is that these falsehoods are more easily debunked than the typical disinformer clap-trap because they are so out-of-date!
This is a long, detailed and powerful response to that WSJ article. Do try and read it in full.
Gail’s second link went to this,
Human emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases have risen so rapidly that they now overwhelm any plausible decrease in solar activity. Indeed, a paper from last June found that even if the Sun goes into “Hibernation” it won’t stop catastrophic global warming.
But that doesn’t stop serial disinformer David Rose of the UK’s Daily Mail from misleading the public — even after being slammed by top scientists in 2010 for falsely asserting “no global warming since 1995″ — see “Error-riddled articles and false statements destroy Daily Mail’s credibility.“ Rose has another willfully misleading piece, “Forget global warming – it’s Cycle 25 we need to worry about (and if NASA scientists are right the Thames will be freezing over again): Met Office releases new figures which show no warming in 15 years.”
OK, I think this is going to end up too long for one Post.
So let’s pause there and I will continue on Monday. [Tomorrow, Ed.]
Would love your comments, of course!
There is real hope for us all!
Hopefully, you were able to watch the Amory Lovins talk in yesterday’s post? If not, then do find time to watch how Professor Lovins sets out the powerful argument that the USA could soon, relatively speaking, be energy self-sufficient.
So on top of the Lovins presentation, I wanted to draw your attention to an item on Climate Crocks last October 5th.
One of the great stories untold in the American media is the ongoing revolution in one of the world’s most advanced economies – as Germany undertakes a bold and serious transition from powering a great engine of prosperity on fossil fuels, to plentiful and inexhaustible renewable energy.
Listening to Mitt Romney double and triple down on the bogus Fox/Fossil narrative about “clean coal” and failed renewables, it might be well to consider how one of our toughest manufacturing competitors is going all-in on the high stakes renewable energy revolution of the new century.
The article is a detailed analysis of how Germany is powering ahead, pardon the pun, in the provision of non carbon-based power, as this reference illustrates,
German use of coal to generate electricity has declined steadily from 1990 to 2011, according to readily available statistics on the German electricity system. The percentage of coal-fired electricity in German electricity generation has fallen from 56.7% in 1990 to 43.5% last year–a decrease of more than 10% despite a increase in total electricity generation during the same period of about 10%. At the same time the share of renewable energy in the electricity mix has increased from 3.6% to 19.9%, mostly due to the rapid development of wind energy and biomass.
Do go across and read the article.
Then thanks to a comment left on a recent post by Martin Lack another very positive story came to light (yet another pun – read on!),
Comment from Jules,
Here is one for you- http://www.solarroadways.com/intro.shtml – the idea is totally leftfield, but it fulfils certain issues such as distribution, decentralisation of power and offers a recharge network for electric cars and it has received a big chunk of government funding. It is so out there that I wonder if it could possibly be the answer but you never know.
Very quickly one finds that Solar Roadways are involved in something VERY interesting, namely,
Years ago, when the phrase “Global Warming” began gaining popularity, we started batting around the idea of replacing asphalt and concrete surfaces with solar panels that could be driven upon. We thought of the “black box” on airplanes: We didn’t know what material that black box was made of, but it seemed to be able to protect sensitive electronics from the worst of airline crashes.
Suppose we made a section of road out of this material and housed solar cells to collect energy, which could pay for the cost of the panel, thereby creating a road that would pay for itself over time. What if we added LEDs to “paint” the road lines from beneath, lighting up the road for safer night time driving? What if we added a heating element in the surface (like the defrosting wire in the rear window of our cars) to prevent snow/ice accumulation in northern climates? The ideas and possibilities just continued to roll in and the Solar Roadway project was born.
Now watch this!
and then watch this, as nearly 1.5 million others have!
The Solar Roadways project is working to pave roads with solar panels that you can drive on. Co-founder Scott Brusaw has made some major steps forward since our first visit back in 2007, so we visited him again for an exclusive update on the project, including the first ever video recorded of the Solar Roadways prototype! For more information visit http://www.solarroadways.com . This Solar Roadway project is highlighted as one of many planet-friendly solutions in the feature film by YERT – Your Environmental Road Trip. To learn more about YERT, visit http://yert.com .
Flattr this video here: https://flattr.com/thing/407726/YERT-video-about-Solar-Roadways-The-Prototype
And you can become a fan of YERT on Facebook here:http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/YERT-Your-Environmental-Road-Trip/12…
So nothing ever stays the same!
Can we trust the predictive output of computer modelling?
I would be the first to admit that this is not an area where I have anything more than general knowledge. However, what prompted me to think about this topic was a chance conversation with someone here in Payson. We were chatting over the phone and this person admitted to being less than fully convinced of the ’cause and effect’ of man’s influence on the global biosphere.
When I queried that, what was raised was the idea that all modelling algorithms used in climate change predictions must incorporate mathematical constants. I continued to listen as it was explained that, by definition, all constants were, to some degree, approximations. Take, for example, the obvious one of the constant π, that Wikipedia describes as: a mathematical constant that is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi, of course, would have to be rounded if it was to be used in any equation. Even taking it to thirty decimal places, as in 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279, would mean rounding it to 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83280 (50288 being the 30th to 35th decimal places).
OK, so I must admit that I was leaning to the viewpoint that this person had a valid perspective. I then asked Martin Lack, he of Lack of Environment and a scientifically trained person, for his thoughts. The rest of this post is based on the information that Martin promptly sent me.
One of the links that Martin sent was to this post on the Skeptical Science blogsite. That post sets out the common skeptics view, namely:
Models are unreliable
“[Models] are full of fudge factors that are fitted to the existing climate, so the models more or less agree with the observed data. But there is no reason to believe that the same fudge factors would give the right behaviour in a world with different chemistry, for example in a world with increased CO2 in the atmosphere.” (Freeman Dyson)
The author of the Skeptical Science posting responds,
Climate models are mathematical representations of the interactions between the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, ice – and the sun. This is clearly a very complex task, so models are built to estimate trends rather than events. For example, a climate model can tell you it will be cold in winter, but it can’t tell you what the temperature will be on a specific day – that’s weather forecasting. Climate trends are weather, averaged out over time – usually 30 years. Trends are important because they eliminate – or “smooth out” – single events that may be extreme, but quite rare.
Climate models have to be tested to find out if they work. We can’t wait for 30 years to see if a model is any good or not; models are tested against the past, against what we know happened. If a model can correctly predict trends from a starting point somewhere in the past, we could expect it to predict with reasonable certainty what might happen in the future.
So all models are first tested in a process called Hindcasting. The models used to predict future global warming can accurately map past climate changes. If they get the past right, there is no reason to think their predictions would be wrong. Testing models against the existing instrumental record suggested CO2 must cause global warming, because the models could not simulate what had already happened unless the extra CO2 was added to the model. All other known forcings are adequate in explaining temperature variations prior to the rise in temperature over the last thirty years, while none of them are capable of explaining the rise in the past thirty years. CO2 does explain that rise, and explains it completely without any need for additional, as yet unknown forcings.
I strongly recommend you read the full article here. But I will republish this graph that, for me at least, is a ‘slam dunk’ in favour for modelling accuracy.
Not only does this show that the data is within the range of projections of the modelled output, more seriously the data is right at the top end of the model’s predictions. The article closes with this statement:
Climate models have already predicted many of the phenomena for which we now have empirical evidence. Climate models form a reliable guide to potential climate change.
There is a more detailed version of the above article available here. Do read that if you want to dig further down into this important topic. All I will do is to republish this,
There are two major questions in climate modeling – can they accurately reproduce the past (hindcasting) and can they successfully predict the future? To answer the first question, here is a summary of the IPCC model results of surface temperature from the 1800′s - both with and without man-made forcings. All the models are unable to predict recent warming without taking rising CO2 levels into account. Noone has created a general circulation model that can explain climate’s behaviour over the past century without CO2 warming. [my emphasis, Ed.]
Finally, back to Lack of Environment. On the 6th February, 2012, Martin wrote an essay Climate science in a nut fragment. Here’s how that essay closed:
If I were to attempt to go even further and summarise, in one single paragraph, why everyone on Earth should be concerned about ongoing anthropogenic climate disruption, it would read something like this:
Concern over anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is not based on computer modelling; it is based on the study of palaeoclimatology. Computer modelling is based on physics we have understood for over 100 years and is used to predict what will happen to the atmosphere for a range of projections for CO2 reductions. As such, the range of predictions is due to uncertainty in those projections; and not uncertainties in climate science. Furthermore, when one goes back 20 years and chooses to look at the projection scenario that most-closely reflects what has since happened to emissions, one finds that the modelled prediction matches reality very closely indeed.
In his email, Martin included these bullet points.
- Concern over anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is not based on computer modelling.
- It is based on our understanding of atmospheric physics (and how the Earth regulates its temperature).
- Computer modelling is based on this physics (which we have understood for over 100 years).
- Models have been used to predict temperature and sea level rise for a range of projections for CO2 emissions.
- The wide range of predictions was due to uncertainty in those emissions projections not uncertainties in climate science.
- This can be demonstrated by looking at predictions made over 20 years ago in light of what actually happened to emissions.
- The model predictions for both temperature and sea level rise are very accurate (if not slightly under-estimating what has happened).
Sort of makes the point in spades! The sooner all human beings understand the truth of what’s happening to our planet, the sooner we can amend our behaviours. I’m going to pick up the theme of behaviours in tomorrow’s post on Learning from Dogs.
Finally, take a look at this graph and reflect! This will be the topic that I write about on Thursday.
The cumulative effect of millions of decisions brings about change!
Yesterday’s Post was about personal change. It came on the back of a short series that was triggered by the Bill McKibben essay in Rolling Stone magazine that I republished on 31st July. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour and read it soon.
The essay highlighted the challenge of how we change our ways, that is at a personal level, which is why I decided to devote a complete Post to the subject of change. There was no doubt that the McKibben essay opened our eyes to the need for change, if they weren’t open already. So being clear about the need for change and how, initially, it can make us feel less sure of ourselves, where do we go from here? As John Fisher explains, within the change process, there is the stage where things start to happen. This is what he writes about that stage,
In this stage we are starting to exert more control, make more things happen in a positive sense and are getting our sense of self back. We know who we are again and are starting to feel comfortable that we are acting in line with our convictions, beliefs, etc. and making the right choices. In this phase we are, again, experimenting within our environment more actively and effectively.
Keep this stage in mind as you journey along your individual path towards reducing your impact on the planet. It really does act as a beacon for you, as a candle in the darkness.
OK, there’s an old saying in business ‘if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it!‘ So let’s start off by calculating the CO2 we are presently responsible for.
There are a number of CO2 calculators available on the Web but this one from The Resurgence Trust website seems as good as any. Easy to use and it provides a starting point from which to plan your attack! Make a promise to calculate your present CO2 output, soon!
Then to the plan of action! A web search on reducing CO2 produces a huge number of results and I recommend that you undertake your own trawl to find the information that ‘rocks your boat’. But on the Brave New Climate website there’s a summary that caught my eye, especially how it was introduced:
Top 10 ways to reduce your CO2 emissions footprintPosted on 29 August 2008 by Barry Brook
Solving climate change is a huge international challenge. Only a concerted global effort, involving the governments of all nations, will be enough to avert dangerous consequences. But that said, the individual actions of everyday people are still crucial. Large and complex issues, like climate change, are usually best tackled by breaking down the problem into manageable bits.
For carbon emissions, this means reducing the CO2 contribution of each and every one of the six and a half billion people on the planet. But what can you, as an individual person or family, do that will most make a difference to the big picture? Here are my top ten action items, which are both simple to achieve and have a real effect. They are ranked by how much impact they make to ‘kicking the CO2 habit’.
Then follows ten solid recommendations:
- Make climate-conscious political decisions.
- Eat less red meat.
- Purchase “green electricity“.
- Make your home and household energy efficient.
- Buy energy and water efficient appliances.
- Walk, cycle or take public transport.
- Recycle, re-use and avoid useless purchases.
- Telecommute and teleconference.
- Buy local produce.
- Offset what you can’t save.
Each of these recommendations is supported by great web links and plenty of advice. So don’t just skip through those 10 options, go here and commit to doing something!
And when you are ready to involve others beyond your family, 350.org has a great selection of resources for potential organizers.
We can make a difference!
The business of acting to make a difference.
The future depends on what we do in the present. - Mahatma Gandhi
Yesterday, I republished a long essay from Bill McKibben under my title of Stop, read, reflect and Act! Bill’s essay was called Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math and terrifying the numbers are!
If you didn’t read it yesterday, I encourage you to do so as soon as you can. Why? Because the process of change cannot start until we truly want to change; a total emotional commitment. And the formation of those emotions, that realisation, requires a new understanding of the world around us, who we are and who we want to be. An outcome that is all part of being better informed, which is why the McKibben essay is so profoundly important.
Tomorrow, I want to explore that process of personal change.
But before then, let me go back and repeat some words in Bill’s essay that really jumped off the page and hit me between the eyes.
Writing of Germany, Bill said, “… on one sunny Saturday in late May, that northern-latitude nation generated nearly half its power from solar panels within its borders. That’s a small miracle – and it demonstrates that we have the technology to solve our problems. But we lack the will.“
We lack the will!!
Then in the next paragraph, Bill went on to write,
This record of failure means we know a lot about what strategies don’t work. Green groups, for instance, have spent a lot of time trying to change individual lifestyles: the iconic twisty light bulb has been installed by the millions, but so have a new generation of energy-sucking flatscreen TVs. Most of us are fundamentally ambivalent about going green: We like cheap flights to warm places, and we’re certainly not going to give them up if everyone else is still taking them. Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.
This is what hit me between the eyes, “the iconic twisty light bulb has been installed by the millions, but so have a new generation of energy-sucking flatscreen TVs.” That describes me to perfection. OK, we have installed solar panels as well but I admit to a significant degree of ambivalence! “ tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself“
Let me remind you of Bill’s next paragraph,
People perceive – correctly – that their individual actions will not make a decisive difference in the atmospheric concentration of CO2; by 2010, a poll found that “while recycling is widespread in America and 73 percent of those polled are paying bills online in order to save paper,” only four percent had reduced their utility use and only three percent had purchased hybrid cars. Given a hundred years, you could conceivably change lifestyles enough to matter – but time is precisely what we lack.
So it comes down to change; change in a timely manner, to boot!
Let’s hold that until tomorrow and I will leave you with this: Put your future in good hands – your own.
The latest from Bill McKibben has to be read and shared.
We live in a world where there’s a great fondness for shortness, whether it’s headlines, soundbites, Twitter length ‘conversations’, text messages, and the rest. However, I’m introducing an essay from Bill McKibben that is long. When I use the word long I mean both literally, the essay is a shade under 6,200 words, and subjectively, the essay is long, very long, on meaning.
It was published in the August 2nd, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone. As Allyse of the 350.org team wrote in a widely distributed email,
Here at 350.org, we do a lot of our internal communication via online chat, and our written shorthand for “YES!” and “totally awesome!” and “you rock!” is “++”. Which is why I say to you: ++ Social Media Team, ++. You all rock.
Bill McKibben’s article in Rolling Stone—which we asked you to spread around the internet last week—has been shared on Facebook almost 100K times and seen by hundreds of thousands of people. Great work. If you haven’t read it yet, please do.
This article really lays out the intellectual framework for much of our work in the weeks, months, and years ahead. We want to keep pushing these ideas out there, especially this one: our objection to the fossil fuel industry is structural—these businesses are in fact planning to wreck the planet!
So we took a quote from Bill’s article and made it into a graphic that’s already been shared almost 2,500 times on Facebook. Will you help us push it past 5,000? Click here to share.
As you know if you’ve read the article, this is really an all-hands-on-deck moment for humanity. Thanks for doing your part—in ways both large and small.
Will you put aside some time, settle down in a comfortable chair, and read the article? Please do!
It crossed my mind to split it over a couple of days but I decided against that. But I have inserted a ‘click to reveal more’ about 1,100 words into the article – please do read on when you reach that point. And just as important, do comment!
Oh, want to see that image on Facebook that has been shared so widely? Here it is:
Finally, feel free to share this as far and wide as you want. Thank you.
(Apart from the first image from Edel Rodriguez, all the other photographs have been inserted by me and are not in the original Rolling Stone production – I decided to insert them to make reading the article more visually attractive on a screen.)
Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math
Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is
By Bill McKibben
July 19, 2012 9:35 AM ET
If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record.” The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet’s history.
Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world’s nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn’t even attend. It was “a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago,” the British journalist George Monbiot wrote; no one paid it much attention, footsteps echoing through the halls “once thronged by multitudes.” Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I’ve spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we’re losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.
When we think about global warming at all, the arguments tend to be ideological, theological and economic. But to grasp the seriousness of our predicament, you just need to do a little math. For the past year, an easy and powerful bit of arithmetical analysis first published by financial analysts in the U.K. has been making the rounds of environmental conferences and journals, but it hasn’t yet broken through to the larger public. This analysis upends most of the conventional political thinking about climate change. And it allows us to understand our precarious – our almost-but-not-quite-finally hopeless – position with three simple numbers.