Monday, June 11, 2007

I don't believe in Kennedy...

"I don’t believe in global warming."

After a few tedious experiences, I've tried to avoid "global warming" discussions on this blog. There are much smarter people than I already fighting the good fight -- that is, explaining to fact-deficient people why their hunches and beliefs may not be entirely accurate.

But David Keelan's latest declaration leaves me with several unanswered questions. And even though I know global warming per se isn't the topic of his post -- that would be the bugaboo of economic gains some are deriving from the new opportunities present in the market (which is ironic considering just a couple years ago the main argument against action on the climate change front was that it would devastate our economy, but just as goalposts move, I digress) -- I still feel his first statement needs challenging.

Taken at face value, I can appreciate the mindset of one who doesn't believe in "global warming." I have some doubts myself, especially considering one of the most dire possibilities of human-induced climate change is an ice age for most of Europe. Wha?

Because higher concentrations won't lead to uniformly warmer temperatures across the globe, some people, like myself, prefer to use the term "climate change," which accounts for the myriad scenarios and ensures that whenever we get an early fall cold snap, dummies won't go around saying "huh, so much for global warming *guffaw, guffaw*."

But I don't think this is what he's going for.

Which leads me to ask, what does he mean? Is it that he doesn't believe humans release carbon into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels? Or maybe he doesn't believe that this carbon stays in the atmosphere as long as others say it does? Or does he not believe that we release enough carbon to bring about non-trivial change in its concentration in the atmosphere? Does he not believe the polar ice cores that tell us atmospheric carbon concentrations are at their highest point in the last 800,000 years or that models that indicate it is higher than it's been in the last 20 million years? Or, maybe he doesn't believe carbon actually traps heat (is a greenhouse gas)?

Perhaps he doesn't believe the model predictions put about by the UN and others about the potential impacts of increasing carbon in the atmosphere. If so, that's fine, I guess. But I'd love to see his models or know exactly what assumptions the scientists are making that he disagrees with.

Maybe he just means that fundamentally altering the concentration of the atmosphere -- of somewhat importance to all of human existence -- isn't a big deal. After all, volcanoes do it, why can't we?

I'm sorry, but at this point those who continue to brush aside the issue of climate change are dooming themselves. This is not to say we should not have vigorous debates about what the impacts of greater atmospheric concentrations of carbon will be or continue to challenge the scientists to learn more about the complex blanket of air the makes life possible. But this "oh, little old us, we're so small and the world's so big" mindset has taken willful ignorance to a whole new level.

I honestly believe Keelan is a smart guy and is, as he says, an environmentalist. But if he really wants to make a difference, he shouldn't be buying a hybrid or changing his light bulbs; he should be educating himself on something other than internet agitprop and talk radio.

33 comments:

David W. Keelan said...

I don't listen to talk radio

The Walrus said...

Great post!

David Keelan said...

BTW: I caught this on Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or was it Al Franken Anyway:

95% of the Greenhouse effect is caused by water vapor (some say as little as 66% and as hight as 85%). The remaining 5% consists of carbon dioxide, methane, etc. of which man contributes 3.2% to 5% the rest occuring naturally.

The fastest growing greenhouse gas is methane (not carbon dioxide). Human activity may cause up to half of methane emmissions. Yet the scinence is contridictary "Long term atmospheric measurements of methane by NOAA show that the build up of methane has slowed dramatically over the last decade, after nearly tripling since pre-industrial times. It is thought that this reduction is due to reduced industrial emissions and drought in wetland areas." The other half of methane emmissions is naturally occuring. The net life time of methane in the atmosphere is 8.5 years so it has no long term effect on the atmosphere.

CO2 (carbon dioxide) is an important component of regulating the atmosphere because if absorbs infrared radiation - which if it got through would destroy most biological life.

Since the two gases often referred to as the leading cause of global warming are such a small part of the gases that contribute to the green house effect and human activity contributes so little to those two gases I doubt human activity is causing global warming or that we can do much to reduce the effect.

So, back to "climate change" since we contribute so little to the effect what do you propose we do that I haven't already suggested?

Ian, don't call me a propagandist.

tomberkhouse said...

Hayduke, Hayduke, Hayduke - sometimes I wonder if you ever tire of looking down upon us lowly, ignorant folk, from up on your high horse.

There are many POSSIBLE explanations for climatic change. It could be slight deviations in the Earth's tilt. It could be solar flares or other solar activity anomalies. It could be high amounts of volcanic activity from one year to the next.

Most people acknowledge that there are temperature changes being experienced. However, not everyone is going to shriek in terror and have a knee jerk reaction over it. There is ample evidence that these changes are cyclical and that Mother Earth will do her thing to balance things back out. Sort of like a ripple effect from throwing a pebble in a pond. If there is signifcant increase in temperature (the first ripple), then there will be a period of adjustment and correction where the temperature decreases (second ripple), and so on until it stabilizes again.

Or, how about this scenario. The ice caps melt a little (or a lot - whatever). The ocean levels rise, now there is more water surface on the Earth meaning more water that can evaporate back into the atmosphere and then fall back to the earth as precipitation. Plus, the larger water surface reflects more sunlight than before. Plus, the oceans are now deeper, meaning cooler temperature. So, the Earth should experience more rainfall - which means cooler temperatures, which means the ice caps reform, which brings us back to about where we are today. Now, I don't know how long such a "cycle" takes - it's certainly not 1-2 years. But, it's a similar cycle to other documented cycles examined in those ice core samples you so correctly referenced.

If this theory wasn't plausible, then how do you explain that temperature changes (up and down) have occured throughout history, even before the Industrial Revolution? And yet, here we are, still chugging along.

I do think it's ironic that the loudest lobbyists for the global warming faction are the ones cashing in on the remedies. You are very dishonest in trying to spin that as a pro-business stance, when in fact, it's nothing more that certain people trying to create a panic and then cash in on it (fraud and deception). I suppose if it was a group of Republicans like Dick Chaney and Jeb Bush cashing in, you'd be singing a different tune. It's deplorable, and there are plenty of people who have too much common sense to go overboard in believing the gloom and doom predictions. At the same time, many of those people are still willing to improve their environmental awareness, but just to a much more reasonable level.

You shouldn't denigrade those who happen to disagree with you on this topic. Although, that's par for the course for you.

Hipocryt said...

"You shouldn't denigrade those who happen to disagree with you on this topic."

Or, in layman's terms, "Kettle, you're black. Respectfully, Pot."

FreeMarket said...

In the past 650,000 years (before the industrial revolution), CO2 levels have never exceeded 300 parts per million (PPM). CO2 levels are currently around 375 PPM and projected to reach over 600 PPM in the next 45 years. There is a scientific correlation between earth temperature and greenhouse gases, including CO2. The more CO2 we put in the air, the hotter the Earth gets.

As much as I do not like to see drowned Polar Bears, I am much more concerned about my own rear end. Take for example Greenland, which is nothing more than a giant ice cube. In Greenland, meltwater is causing moulins to form which is causing the ice to break apart. If Greenland breaks up and falls into the ocean, it will melt and cause the sea to rise over 18 feet. At that point, all current maps of the world will be obsolete. Despite the harmless scenario that Berkhouse is painting, this crap is gravely serious. The site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan would be underwater. 60 million people in Calcutta and Bangladesh will be refugees. Not to mention the 20 million displaced folks in Beijing and 40 million in Shanghai.

Just a reminder, this is not a partisan issue. Climate change is the biggest externality out there. I am reminded of an Indian proverb (I may have heard it from AIT)- it goes something like: we don’t inherit the Earth from our forefathers; we borrow it from our children.

Anonymous said...

Tom,

When you say "The ice caps melt a little (or a lot - whatever)", are you aware of the UCAR model predicting no Arctic ice left by summer 2040?

And when you say "Plus, the larger water surface reflects more sunlight than before", are you aware that an ice covered Arctic Sea reflects far more light back into space than open ocean water, preventing that open ocean water from heating anywhere near as much? Exposing the Arctic Ocean to sunlight will accelerate global warming's pace, not decrease it.

Similar loss in reflectivity of the permafrost also awaits due to similar loss of snow/ice cover, resulting in more solar heat retention. Heating the permafrost will also result in massive amounts of CO2 and methane being released from it, too, increasing greenhouse gases and acclerating global warming all the more.

"Climate change" is too weak a term to accurately describe what we're all facing. Kind of like Elmer Fudd saying he's having Bugs Bunny "over for dinner". Guess who winds up in the boiling pot.

Anonymous said...

Sign the petition. As Al Gore to debate Global Warming.

http://www.petitiononline.com/agdgw/petition.html

I bet Al will crush this Lord Monckton of Brenchley guy. Maybe not and that explains why Al hasn't responded to Lord Monckton's request to debate presented to Al Gore on March 14, 2007.

Anonymous said...

What I find the most entertaining about this debate is the sources of information. On one side are thousands of scientists and thousands of studies. On the other side are a few pseudo-scientests hired by lobbying groups and conservative institutes with the mission of finding some evidence that global warming is not caused by us, or that it is completely normal and cyclical.

There are those who also insist that we won't run out of oil in our or our children's lifetime.

There are those who don't believe in evolution.

The questions I would ask are:

What exactly are your beliefs based on? Should all science be viewed with scepticism? Even those theories that have been supported by research in experiment after experiment?

What's up doc said...

LOVE the Bugs Bunny analogy, Anon 1:18!

Anonymous said...

Can you name those few pseudo-scientests hired by lobbying groups and conservative institutes. If you are so sure of your statement I am sure you compiled a list of names and the institutions they are associated with.

Anonymous said...

Where did Keelan propose any solutions? Didn't he just say that the police should not run their cars too long and make some long-winded statement about Ulman (which, at this point, just reads like "blah blah blah.")?

Yeah, that, instead of incentivizing large corporations to decrease emissions, that will save the world.

tomberkhouse said...

ANON 1:18 - are you aware of hte fact that in the early 1970's, many esteemed scientists and weather experts were predicting the next mini ice age, and yet not 30 years later now they're saying that the Earth is going to be scorched. HUH? And you wonder why people are skeptical of the new predictions.

The fact is that there are a lot of factors that have been seemingly dismissed or ignored by those people who are predicting catastrophic warming.

Try thinking of the earth as a self contained HVAC systems. If the temperature goes up or down, the system will adjust accordingly and balance back out. This is how the cycles are created. Peaks and valleys; cold period foollowed by warm period, follwed by cold period, etc.

If a temperature increase meant that the temperature would keep on increasing indefinitely, then why hasn't the earth died already. There are certainly documented periods of "warmer" periods. How did the Earth cool back down? Why didn't the Earth's temperature continue to rise until everything was on fire?

Granted, the time it takes for the Earth to re-adjust its temperature is not quick. It could be decades or longer. BUt history proves that the temperature does adjust back and forth.

Furthermore, all of these greenhouse gases and compounds (CO2, SO2, etc.) are all naturally occuring things. If nature could not absorp and "digest" them (in whatever timeframe applies), then there would be a problem. But, the fact is that the Earth DOES absorp/digest these compounds and life goes on.

tomberkhouse said...

Freemarket - you are obviously one of the "chicken Little" mindsets. I have never heard anyone predicting an 18' rise in sea levels. Sounds a little on the extreme end of the predictions. See my previous comment to ANON for other points that I think speak to what I and other "dissenters" view as the fallacies in many of the current predictions.

If these other factors are not relevant, why don't the scientists and experts address them in a formal fashion to demonstrate how/why they should not be factored into the equation. See also Dave Keelans most recent post about North American and Europena Warming which talks about anomalies in the Earth's tilt as yet another factor that could explain the temperature changes.

Hayduke said...

David,

Now we’re getting into the part that’s really tedious and explains why I’m usually happiest just letting this mess lie.

Rather than letting the facts speak to you, you’re cherry picking information in a vain and somewhat said attempt to confirm your preconceptions. You’re trotting out canard after canard and hoping at least one sticks. Rather than go through your laundry list of wrongs, let me address a few key points.

First, you seem utterly incapable of grasping the fact that we’re not talking about global warming specifically. Yes, there are parts of the earth that will warm considerably as a result of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, but as I said this warming will not be uniform, nor will it be the only (or even most significant) impact of the grand chemistry experiment we’re conducting in our atmosphere.

Temperatures are really just the superficial, easy-to-grasp element of this whole debate. The real concern, as I tried to make clear, is that we are fundamentally and almost-permanently (in human terms, anyway) altering the composition of our atmosphere. Smart people and fast computers have helped piece together the likely implications of this – rising temperatures in some areas, droughts in others, cooling in yet more – but we don’t know for sure what will happen. Which is why, contrary to your characterization, I welcome disagreements on predictive models and policy approaches and adamantly support free and open exchange of ideas and knowledge about the complex functioning of the atmosphere.

What I don’t welcome is misinformation and selective citations. As FreeMarket said, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is higher than it has been in a long, long time, likely since the dinosaurs, though we can’t say for sure. In the last 200 years, it has risen nearly 35 percent (from 285 ppm to 375 ppm). And this is a non-trivial change, according to you? Really? What makes you say that? If your income dropped 35 percent in a matter of days (minutes would be more accurate from a geologic perspective), would you consider that a non-trivial difference?

Apples to oranges, you’re probably thinking. Carbon makes up such a small percentage of the atmosphere that even large changes to its concentration won’t have big effects. Water vapor is the real greenhouse gas that we need to look at. Am I characterizing this correctly?

There are a number of reasons why water vapor is largely a red herring. See here for the complex refutation of tired talking point or here for the wordy, but easier to understand answer. The general point, however, is that water vapor in the atmosphere is in equilibrium and humans aren’t changing its concentration. Also, by changing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere we are not only increasing the carbon’s impact on the greenhouse effect, we’re also getting an increase in water vapor (creating a new equilibrium).

Just a few loose ends from your comment that need refutation:

I think it has a more detrimental effect on local communities contributing to personal health factors. I think there is more of a correlation between asthma and man made CO2 emissions than to “global warming” and as such is reason enough to limit their emissions.

You think? I think airborne particulates and other low-level pollution, of which CO2 is not really a concern (NOx and SOx are), are of bigger concern than CO2. Of course, an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere can cause plants to emit more pollen, so in a roundabout way we might both be right. That said, CO2’s impact climate change is probably a bigger concern than localized public health issues. But I suppose that depends on whether you live here or in Bangladesh.

The IPCC doesn’t even know how long it stays in the atmosphere and estimates range from 50 years to 200 years)

Not all the CO2 leaves the atmosphere. Some of it sticks around forever in a new equilibrium, meaning we are permanently changing things.

An in-depth discussion of models is probably best suited for technocrats, not a couple yokels spitting at each other on some blogs. That said, models are just models. They’ll evolve as our knowledge evolves. They are there to provide guidance to policymakers. They aren’t crystal balls. If anyone’s putting too much stock into them it’s their critics.

I don’t believe we emit enough (less than 1% of all greenhouse emissions) to make a difference and to suggest we do fails to take into account the complexity of the world around us and is a rather arrogant position.

Did you write that with a straight face? I can’t imagine you did. The beginning and the end should get together and hash out their differences. Am I being snide? Perhaps. But if anyone’s being arrogant it’s you. So, you don’t “believe” what thousands of trained professionals have spent years researching and questioning, and yet those with in-depth, highly-specialized research are the arrogant ones who fail to appreciate the complexity of the situation? And this from the guy who seems to think all these professionals have overlooked something as simple as water vapor.

Don’t assume that I am an advocate of CO2 emissions. You would be hard pressed to find any statement from me that would advocate that position.

I never assumed that but you might as well be if you refuse to look past your biases and misperceptions.

Stick to what you know and don’t make assumptions.

Practice what you preach.

I don’t know how many times I’ll have to link to it, but if you really want to understand this issue – not that you, I or any other untrained laymen will ever fully understand it – you should read Real Climate. It’s just scientists talking about the science -- no one’s trying to make any money or score political points. Here’s their review of Al Gore’s movie, including corrections.

(Cross-posted on my blog)

hayduke said...

Whoops. That would be "Cross-posted on David's blog."

Gotta get your facts right.

Anonymous said...

If CO and methane are so bad, why would God create them? We are all here as tools of the great creator, so if the world is meant to implode, only God has control over it. We should burn fossil fuels and cut down trees, because if we weren't meant to, why would God make oil and saws?

Anonymous said...

God also created hemlock, but he gave us the brains not to eat it.

David Keelan said...

http://www.junkscience.com/Greenhouse/

Anonymous said...

Your source is a guy who works for FoxNews and gets paid by Exxon Mobil and Phillip Morris for his "junk science" claims?

Great source!

Anonymous said...

Maybe he'll prove that eating hemlock is actually healthy (funded by a study done by the hemlock growers of America).

It's difficult to determine who is being sarcastic and who is serious.

I'd like to hear from the plethera of conservatives out there who are concerned about the environment.

Anonymous said...

And Rush L? You must be kidding.

Anonymous said...

Note to all: The poison variety of hemlock is not the conifer/tree form, but rather an herbaceous plant of the parsley family. Wouldn't want anybody to go cut down a tree (one of those great absorbers of carbon and other greenhouse gases) by mistake.

FreeMarket said...

With respect to the notion that we “arrogant” humans cannot possibly alter the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere in any meaningful way, it is important to keep in mind that the atmosphere is relatively thin. In fact, if you covered a globe with a coat of varnish, the varnish represents the relative thickness to the globe as the atmosphere’s thickness to the Earth. However, the massive amounts of greenhouse gases that we are releasing into the atmosphere are causing it to thicken and trap the infrared radiation that is bouncing off the Earth’s surface which would otherwise escape through a thinner atmosphere. These trapped rays are causing the Earth to heat up, triggering global climate change.

On Venus, the atmosphere is too thick and therefore the planet is too hot for humans. On Mars, the atmosphere is too thin and the planet is too cold for humans. The atmosphere on the Earth is like the baby bear’s porridge. Let’s not screw with it.

David W. Keelan said...

Anon 4:06. So he is not credible, he is a liar? Have you looked at his credentials and citations? Is he not credible because his views differ from yours?

Anon 5:42. Yes, I was kidding. My point is I don't listen to talk radio.

Anonymous said...

Paid off by tobacco and oil? Yeah, I'd say his credibility is in question. You know, if we're talking about "scientists with an agenda."

David W. Keelan said...

How about the scientists who are cranking out climate change studies in exchange for grant dollars so they can keep their university jobs. The US Government under George Bush has spent billions on research and guess who is chasing that money. In 2003 the budget was $3B just in studies. That is a lot of grant dollars. Add what the States pay in grant research and you will find that climate research is big business.

Talk about special interests.

So a guy who contracts for Exxon and Phillips is in their pockets because Exxon and Phillips doubt many of the dire predictions put forth by the likes of Al Gore?

Is the research necessary. Most of it is. Don't be dismissive and pretend that climate change isn't big business.

Anonymous said...

Do you realize that you sound senile and disconnected from reality?

FreeMarket said...

Hayduke, thanks for your post and comments on this thread. I hope this did not turn out to be another tedious experience for you (as you referenced in the beginning of the post), but regardless, I personally learned a lot from it. I bet many others did as well.

Anonymous said...

Tom,

"ANON 1:18 - are you aware of hte fact that in the early 1970's, many esteemed scientists and weather experts were predicting the next mini ice age, and yet not 30 years later now they're saying that the Earth is going to be scorched. HUH? And you wonder why people are skeptical of the new predictions."

I am aware that 1970's-era weather data sets, weather models, computational speed and capacity were all far, far less developed than what has come after. The subsequent data sets, models, and computational tools are resultingly far more accurate and continue to be refined to be even more accurate and better at providing insight even further into the future. Keeping with the song references, even The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald provides an example of the difference in weather modeling between then and now. (warning: you will need to put on your propeller beanie to follow that technical discussion)

Any skepticism arising due to differences between 70's weather models forwarded by "many" scientists and weather experts then and more recent weather models accepted by an overwhelming majority people in the field now I would attribute to not being fully aware of the body of work or capability of modeling tools that now exist.

(P.S. - You can also extrapolate this to mean that future computational abilities will be far beyond today's, too, progressing to a point in your lifetime where your toaster is smarter than you. If you can't grasp that, just wait a few years and your blender will explain it to you. And, no, I'm not trying to insult you, I'm just complimenting your appliances ahead of time.)

"The fact is that there are a lot of factors that have been seemingly dismissed or ignored by those people who are predicting catastrophic warming."

What are some of those factors? Examples would be helpful.

"Try thinking of the earth as a self contained HVAC systems. If the temperature goes up or down, the system will adjust accordingly and balance back out. This is how the cycles are created. Peaks and valleys; cold period foollowed by warm period, follwed by cold period, etc."

Manmade HVAC systems are designed to keep temperatures within a given range. However, introduce inputs into such a system that are beyond that HVAC's capacity to compensate and the volume being serviced by that HVAC system will then be subjected to out of range temperatures. Or, introduce changes to the HVAC system iteself that prevent it from functioning normally and that can also lead to out of range temperatures. We are both introducing different inputs into the planet's system and introducing changes to the planet's HVAC system that further diminish its ability to compensate.

"If a temperature increase meant that the temperature would keep on increasing indefinitely, then why hasn't the earth died already. There are certainly documented periods of "warmer" periods. How did the Earth cool back down? Why didn't the Earth's temperature continue to rise until everything was on fire?"

I don't know. Let's go ask, um, Mars. It may have some first hand knowledge of such things. It appears Mars' HVAC system broke, resulting in its loss of most of its atmosphere and most of its water. And I'm not anticipating a cycle to fix it. Oops.

"Granted, the time it takes for the Earth to re-adjust its temperature is not quick. It could be decades or longer. BUt history proves that the temperature does adjust back and forth."

Furthermore, all of these greenhouse gases and compounds (CO2, SO2, etc.) are all naturally occuring things. If nature could not absorp and "digest" them (in whatever timeframe applies), then there would be a problem. But, the fact is that the Earth DOES absorp/digest these compounds and life goes on."


Life will go on, yes. Yet, massive extinctions of species will occur with loss of polar ice caps. So will complete consumption of some countries by rise in sea levels. Storms will become more powerful. Hundreds of millions of people will be displaced from near-sea level regions. Crop output will be reduced. The costs to our global economy will be staggering.

But is that the gift we want to hand future generations of the surviving species?

A few more words from a few more experts.

Dave Wissing said...

From that Conservative rage Time Magazine thirty years ago.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,944914,00.html

As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.

Even more....

Telltale signs are everywhere —from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F. Although that figure is at best an estimate, it is supported by other convincing data. When Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather data for the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of the ice and snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, for example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are covered year round.

I love people who put all their faith into the current models when models just 30 years ago were not only showing no global warming, but in fact, were showing global cooling. Some say today's models are more accurate, but how do we know models thirty years from now aren't going to be more accurate than the models out today?

Read more here.

hayduke said...

There are many differences between the predictions made in the 1970s by magazines and a few scientists and what we're seeing now. Here's what a Newsweek article from last year had to say about the ice age scare:

The point to remember, says Connolley, is that predictions of global cooling never approached the kind of widespread scientific consensus that supports the greenhouse effect today. And for good reason: the tools scientists have at their disposal now—vastly more data, incomparably faster computers and infinitely more sophisticated mathematical models—render any forecasts from 1975 as inoperative as the predictions being made around the same time about the inevitable triumph of communism.

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