Sceptical about global warming? Read this!

Learning from Dogs is not a blogsite about climate change!

Why, you may ask, do I start today’s post with that sub-heading?  Because, I am conscious that many of my posts do touch on this subject.  For example, just two days ago there was Breaking news.  Then there was the piece about the climate implications for Phoenix, Arizona.  Followed the next day by the changes in the flow of the jet stream across the North Atlantic with all the weather implications for North-West Europe.

Indeed, as the heading to today’s post makes clear, this is also about the changes going on to our planet.

Learning from Dogs is about a different way of living and behaving.  A campaign, if one wants to call it that, to show that the way that modern man is living is corrupt.  Not with a big ‘C’ but still in the sense of living a dishonest life.  Learning from Dogs attempts to show that our wonderful dogs, a source of so much love and pleasure for so many millions, offer us an example of a life in and of this planet.

If there was ever a time in the history of man when we needed being reminded of our frailty and vulnerability, it is now.  As the following so starkly illustrates.

Peter Sinclair of Climate Crocks recently republished an item from Skeptical Science that opened up as follows:

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.

But what really jumped off the page was this graph.  It is truly scary!

Figure 1: Ocean Heat Content from 0 to 300 meters (grey), 700 m (blue), and total depth (violet) from ORAS4, as represented by its 5 ensemble members. The time series show monthly anomalies smoothed with a 12-month running mean, with respect to the 1958–1965 base period. Hatching extends over the range of the ensemble members and hence the spread gives a measure of the uncertainty as represented by ORAS4 (which does not cover all sources of uncertainty). The vertical colored bars indicate a two year interval following the volcanic eruptions with a 6 month lead (owing to the 12-month running mean), and the 1997–98 El Niño event again with 6 months on either side. On lower right, the linear slope for a set of global heating rates (W/m2) is given.

I’m not going to republish the whole piece, although Peter Sinclair kindly gave permission, because I want to move on.  But please do go to that article here and take in the conclusions; for all our sakes.  Conclusions such as:

Their results in this respect are very similar to 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.”

and such as:

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.

What I want to move on to is a recent item highlighted on Grist.  This was an essay by David Roberts under the heading of Two reasons climate change is not like other environmental problems.  David opens by saying:

If you’ll forgive me for stating the obvious: Most people don’t understand climate change very well. This includes a large proportion of the nation’s politicians, journalists, and pundits — even the pundits who write about it. (I’m looking at you, Joe Nocera.)

One reason for the widespread misunderstanding is that climate change has been culturally coded as an “environmental problem.” This has been, in all sorts of ways, a disaster. Lots of pundits, especially brain-dead “centrist” pundits, have simply transferred their framing and conception of environmental problems to climate. They approach it as just another air pollution problem.

David writes that firstly carbon dioxide is not like other pollutants, for example like air particulants.  Then later goes on to say:

The second difference is that climate change is irreversible.

As Joe Romm notes in a recent post, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera slipped up in his latest column and referred to technology that would “help reverse climate change.” I don’t know whether that reflects Nocera’s ignorance or just a slip of the pen, but I do think it captures the way many people subconsciously think about climate change. If we heat the planet up too much, we’ll just fix it! We’ll turn the temperature back down. We’ll get around to it once the market has delivered economically ideal solutions.

But as this 2009 paper in Nature (among many others) makes clear, it doesn’t work that way:

This paper shows that the climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop. Following cessation of emissions, removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide decreases radiative forcing, but is largely compensated by slower loss of heat to the ocean, so that atmospheric temperatures do not drop significantly for at least 1,000 years. [my emphasis]

The article is really best read in full. Because it’s a reminder that the way we presently behave is, in so many ways, a scary legacy for future generations.

So, back to dogs!

When dogs were living as wild dogs, thousands of years ago, a typical pack size was between 40 to 50 animals. The ‘head’ dog was the alpha dog, always a female.  Next in status was the beta dog, always a dominant male. The last one in terms of status was the omega dog, or clown dog.  Those genetic traits still survive in the domestic dog.

Pharaoh - still being an assertive beta dog; taken 22 days ago!
Pharaoh – still being an assertive beta dog; taken 22 days ago!

The alpha dog had two important roles as ‘leader of the pack’.  She had first pick of the male dogs, for obvious reasons. (Only much later in life do we human men come to understand that it’s always the woman who chooses!)

The second role was that she was the one who decided that their territory was unsustainable for her pack and signalled the need to find a new territory.

For man, there’s no other territory to move to.  So we will just have to clean up the only one we have!

9 thoughts on “Sceptical about global warming? Read this!

  1. Very informative reading! It’s only now that I realize in the dog’s world, the female plays the leading role. I love dogs, but I think I should first know how to take care of dogs before I get one!


  2. Wow! What synchronicity, Paul! For the avoidance of doubt (in the mind of other readers), I had no idea you were going to post this when I re-published Joe Romm’s piece myself 12 hours ago. As I point out in my introduction, the Geological Society of London warns that the change we are now inducing may take a hundred thousand years to be undone; and James Hansen and many others fear it will never be undone (because we are now so close to triggering a runaway greenhouse effect).

    Therefore, change may now be stoppable but, as more and more people are starting to admit, it may not be so for very much longer. If this were not so we would not see evidence of mutually-reinforcing feedback mechanisms all around us. I did invite you to re-publish a recent post of mine (summarising the work of Guy McPherson) but I think you were very busy… So, for the benefit of all your readers, here is a link to it:


  3. Paul: Thanks for finding this!
    The original article is protected by a plutocratic pay wall. That’s when billionaires make money from publicly funded research. But I am not surprised; all studies here and there in recent years showed extremely deep warming, including CH4 eruption, deep down. I have talked on my site of that article in Science where CH4 bubbles were actually photographed, but the authors soothingly concluded not to worry, as they were re-absorbed before they made it to the surface!

    The iceshields can catastrophically melt from below, and they will, if the ocean warms in depth (as it does). surface freezing can hide the process.

    In general, notice that if the icecaps start to go, they will not be back for thousands of years, or as long as the CO2 stays high (CO2 is worse than most radioactive waste as far as persistence!). There are actually NO ways to eliminate CO2 from the atmosphere, with EXISTING technology usable on a VAST scale. The only plausible mechanism (freeze the CO2 out) would require first to develop cheap and reliable thermonuclear fusion. An ironical quandary. We may as well go for fusion first.


    1. And thank you for your detailed comment. Despite being an optimist by nature, and incredibly thankful for the life I have had thus far, the rapidly growing evidence of what faces humanity is frightening in the extreme. In geological timescales, a mere blink of an eye away.

      I mutter under my breath that I foresee two things in the near future. The first is that by the end of 2013 people will look back and realise that this was the year when it became utterly obvious to all about the irrevocable changes to our planet.

      The second is that by the end of Obama’s term of office, climate change will be ‘in the face’ of just about every conscious and aware inhabitant of Planet Earth. Who knows, may even include politicians!


      1. Obama’s responsibility will be heavy. Another point, never to forget:

        Real optimists do not shrink from looking at horror and catastrophe in the eye.


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