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NYT Discovers "Middle" Ground on Climate:

On New Year's Day, the New York Times published an interesting (if long overdue) article pointing out that there is much more to the climate change policy discussions than a debate between "believers" and "heretics." Now, article author Andrew Revkin claims, there is a "third stance" emerging that "challenges both poles of the debate."

They agree that accumulating carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases probably pose a momentous environmental challenge, but say the appropriate response is more akin to buying fire insurance and installing sprinklers and new wiring in an old, irreplaceable house (the home planet) than to fighting a fire already raging.

"Climate change presents a very real risk," said Carl Wunsch, a climate and oceans expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It seems worth a very large premium to insure ourselves against the most catastrophic scenarios. Denying the risk seems utterly stupid. Claiming we can calculate the probabilities with any degree of skill seems equally stupid." . . .

"Global warming is real, it's serious, but it's just one of many global challenges that we're facing," said John M. Wallace, a climatologist at the University of Washington. "I portray it as part of a broader problem of environmental stewardship — preserving a livable planet with abundant resources for future generations."

The article also notes that some who take this approach -- those who Roger Pielke Jr. calls "nonskeptical heretics" -- face pressure to tailor their public comments for political reasons: "Some experts, though, argue that moderation in a message is likely to be misread as satisfaction with the pace of change.

The article quotes Dr. Mike Hulme, director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in Britain, "raising the concern that shrill voices crying doom could paralyze instead of inspire."

"I have found myself increasingly chastised by climate change campaigners when my public statements and lectures on climate change have not satisfied their thirst for environmental drama," he wrote. "I believe climate change is real, must be faced and action taken. But the discourse of catastrophe is in danger of tipping society onto a negative, depressive and reactionary trajectory."
Above I say the article is "long overdue" because the real climate debate has, for quite some time, not been over the science but rather over the proper policy response to an uncertain yet significant environmental risk. Indeed, as I have said before, most of those labeled "skeptics" accept that human activities are altering the climate and some (such as Bjorn Lomborg) explicitly accept the conclusions of the IPCC. They are labeled skeptics less for their view of the science than their view of the proper response to the risks of climate change. Lomborg, for instance, accepts the IPCC's scientific assessment, but argues that the resources required to forestall significant cliamte change would be put to better use if used to alleviate other global problems, particularly those related to poverty.

The evidence that human beings are, and will continue to, have an impact on the climate has been strong for quite some time. There is significant uncertainty about what precisely this means (e.g. the effect it will actually have on weather, sea-level, etc.), but little doubt that it will produce signficant environmental changes, some of which will impose significant costs and some of which may provide benefits. There is also little doubt that the distribution of climate change's costs and benefits will be anything but uniform. So, for instance, parts of Canada might benefit from longer growing seasons and milder winter, while low-lying tropical regions are flooded and suffer greater disease outbreaks.

At the same time, we have no clue how to reduce anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases sufficiently so as to stabilize atmospheric concentrations anywhere near present levels. Existing technologies, including projected advances in renewables, nuclear, and other low-to-zero-emission energy sources, can only do so much. Ditto for conservation. The realistic costs of climate change policies approach the magnitude as those of climate change itself, and include significant uncertainties of their own.

The real debate is thus over what sort of insurance policy -- or, more properly, mix of policies -- represents the proper response to the real risk of climate change, and how should the costs of such policies be apportioned. This is a serious an important debate. Unfortunately, it does not get more attention because a fiery believer/skeptic debate over the science creates a simpler "he said/she said" narrative for popular consumption.

For additional reactions to the Revkin piece, see this post at RealClimate, this post at Prometheus, and this post at Gristmill.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Al Gore Won't Debate:
  2. NYT Discovers "Middle" Ground on Climate:
Steve:
Above I say the article is "long overdue" because the real climate debate has, for quite some time, not been over the science but rather over the proper policy response to an uncertain yet significant environmental risk.

This kind of statement makes me wonder if you read, for example, the comment threads here at the VC.

Even if the scientific debate isn't polarized, the political debate certainly is. Every time you post one of these threads, dozens of commentors scurry to line up with Sen. Inhofe and proclaim global warming to be a hoax. In my experience, when climate change advocates get "shrill," it tends to be in response to strident political denials as opposed to measured scientific statements that arguably don't go far enough.

I'd love it if we could all stipulate to the state of the science and then talk about what, if anything, we ought to do about it as a policy matter. But that's what Al Gore would like us to do, which means there's always going to be significant and automatic opposition. The scientific stipulation may have been drafted, but it doesn't seem to have been signed at this point.
1.4.2007 10:09am
johnt (mail):
Humans have an impact on climate, but then so do cows.
A welcome article, more so considering it come the the Times, lord and master over the minds of many. This will shock those who have worked themselves into a frenzy over the earth's demise, sometime the next year or two.
Cancel those plans to purchase rubber bumper cars for now and someone pass the aspirin to Al Gore. It seems we actually have to talk about this.
1.4.2007 10:17am
David Sucher (mail) (www):
"...the real climate debate has, for quite some time, not been over the science but rather over the proper policy response to an uncertain yet significant environmental risk."

I wish it were so.
1.4.2007 10:34am
Mark Buehner (mail):

In my experience, when climate change advocates get "shrill," it tends to be in response to strident political denials as opposed to measured scientific statements that arguably don't go far enough.


I disagree- in my experience the entire 'skeptic' movement is a response to decades of environmental catastrophic alarmism. Environmentalists have been shrill for a lot longer than Inhofe has been around, and it goes far beyond global warming. There have simply been a lot of chicken littling from the Green movement over the years, and after we've seemingly ducked the impending doom of global cooling, acid rain, ozone depletion, garbage overrun, mass starvation, overpopulation, etc, its not a big surprise that a lot of people are demanding some very hard evidence before devoting massive resources to social changes demanded by environmentalists that just magically happen to line up with their idealogical and aestetic preferences.



I'd love it if we could all stipulate to the state of the science and then talk about what, if anything, we ought to do about it as a policy matter. But that's what Al Gore would like us to do, which means there's always going to be significant and automatic opposition.


You've got to be kidding me. Al Gore makes a movie predicated on passing off the most dire of scientific scenarios as not just the most likely, but universally accepted by climate experts as likely, and thats your ideal for political debate? Al Gore is exactly the problem.

The whole point is that many of the Alarmists like Gore don't in fact want a well informed public- they want a public to know what they want them to know and no more. That is propaganda. Al Gore doesnt want to talk about mitigating the low end of the disaster scale, he doesnt even want to admit such a scale exists. Massive hurricanes, draught, and global flooding are the only issues he wants in peoples heads because the Greens dont believe the rest of us smart enough to make a rational decision based on reasonable risk assessment. We might come up with different answers, and that is not acceptable. Hence the heresy charge.
1.4.2007 10:38am
Steve:
I disagree- in my experience the entire 'skeptic' movement is a response to decades of environmental catastrophic alarmism. Environmentalists have been shrill for a lot longer than Inhofe has been around, and it goes far beyond global warming.

In the long view, I actually wouldn't disagree. But as the debate exists today, it's more than a little frustrating to see people channeling Inhofe out of nothing more than reactionary opposition to the spotted-owl types.

As to Gore's movie, if you don't think he was basically correct as to the science, that simply serves to illustrate the lack of consensus I was talking about.
1.4.2007 10:43am
hey (mail):
I'm a skeptic on all aspects, because I have built models and dealt with systems analyses all the way through school. I know the history of "complete" models, and how often they get revised with completely different results.

SO what is their to question: the conclusion of warming, especially dramatic warming; the conclusion of anthropogenesis, while ignoring the dramatic and swift changes in the past; the predicted effects and costs of warming vs the effects and costs of prevention vs the effects and costs of mitigation.

I get called every name just for pointing out that maybe, just maybe, it would be cheaper to build dikes, pumps, and pay for drugs than it would be to destroy the economy for a minimal change in final CO2 concentration, especially when it seems designed only to hamper Western economies and limit Western emissions. Stipulating anythign gets you nowhere because we're dealing with the usual watermelons that can't and won't accept a rational analysis of options. It's pure emotionalism: "Think of the CHILDREN". Logic, reason, tradeoffs are just a mysoginistic capitalist racist conspiracy to keep the planet down!

The same damn dirty hippies we've been fighting for so long, and they're just as wrong now as when they said that Mao was a great man and never hurt anyone, just as Stalin loved his people! Nihillists.
1.4.2007 10:44am
Mark Buehner (mail):

As to Gore's movie, if you don't think he was basically correct as to the science, that simply serves to illustrate the lack of consensus I was talking about.


He was (mostly) correct about the science. That isnt the same as accentuating the most dire of scenarios. How much time did he spend discussing the implications of a 2 degree climate increase in the next century as the low end of the models predicts? Its all about how the science is presented. A mile wide asteroid smacking into the earth would be catastrophic beyond belief, thats a scientific fact. But that doesnt mean Dan Quayle should be out showing his asteroid movie to school kids and handing out telescopes while promoting his plan for turning the worlds collective GDP towards building space cannons.
1.4.2007 10:49am
hey (mail):
Of course any name I get called for my inability to type is fully deserved. I just got out of some meetings and am not at government mandated minimum caffeine standards.

Apologies to all who attempted to read my previous post.
1.4.2007 10:52am
Houston Lawyer:
Many skeptics believe the "science" has been politicized by those who want me to live in a cramped apartment, walk to work, wear itchy organic clothing, and be limited to one child (after getting the proper government license). Many have adopted global warming as their new religion and those outside the religion are described as deniers or heretics. Every bad thing that happens weather-wise is now blamed on global warming. Jerry Falwell blames these events on the sins of homosexuals. You decide who is more irrational.
1.4.2007 11:01am
LTEC (mail) (www):
Steve --

The big question is: "Is there a large amount of human-caused global warming?" The "scientific stipulation" may have been drafted by some scientists, but it has been rebutted by others. There are respected scientists on both sides; one side gives counter-arguments and the other side tends to make ad-hominem attacks. No one who is not an atmospheric scientist is qualified to comment on whose conclusions are right. Not being such a scientist, I can still see that there has been a lot of fraud here.

You claim that Gore merely wants us to stop discussing the science and instead to talk about what to do about it. I'm glad to see that he is not a strong supporter of Kyoto, since even they agree that complete implementation of Kyoto would make negligible difference to the weather.

Lomborg accepts the conclusions of the IPCC for the sake of argument. He knows that, not being an atmospheric scientist, he is in no position to claim it is wrong. He is an economist, and that is what interests him.

If indeed the "science" is settled and has been for some time, can someone tell me since when? And tell me where I can find an objective analysis of the current consensus?
(It certainly was not settled in 1995 -- see my link -- and yet the Kyoto conference happened shortly afterwards.)

Lastly, if indeed the "science" is settled and has been for some time, it would be nice if scientists could start settling things on Mars, where the ice cap is disappearing at a "prodigious rate".
1.4.2007 11:01am
Steve:
one side gives counter-arguments and the other side tends to make ad-hominem attacks.

In the real world, one side tends to write op-eds and the other side tends to publish hundreds of peer-reviewed studies.

These comment threads are always hilarious. Someone will accuse Al Gore of alarmism, and then in the next breath accuse him of wanting to destroy the U.S. economy and reduce our technology back to the Stone Age. The irony never gets old.
1.4.2007 11:11am
Bob R (mail):
Denying the risk seems utterly stupid. Claiming we can calculate the probabilities with any degree of skill seems equally stupid.
That's a good way of putting it. If that is the scientific state of affairs that you want stipulated, I'd be happy to agree. But many proponents of the most popular climate models want to assert a degree of confidence that I find appalling. I don't see how anyone literate in the modeling and approximation of complex dynamical systems could call the current results anything other than a reasonable first step. (And I don't see how anyone without that knowledge could pretend to have a scientifically based opinion.)
1.4.2007 11:16am
JRL:
So I am at a "pole of the debate" if I'm skeptical of global warming?
1.4.2007 11:22am
Kovarsky (mail):
"...the real climate debate has, for quite some time, not been over the science but rather over the proper policy response to an uncertain yet significant environmental risk."

Has it? My sense was that it had become so polarized because the current administration kept arguing the human impact was "indeterminate" for so long. Doubtlessly the administration (and people on this thread) will say that the change is indeterminate, but it is only indeterminate in magnitude, not in direction. The former is, as you point out, a reasonable subject of scientific dispute. The latter is the inference the administration sought to create, however explicit it was about doing so, for quite some time.
1.4.2007 11:23am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Steve said:

As to Gore's movie, if you don't think he was basically correct as to the science, that simply serves to illustrate the lack of consensus I was talking about.


If you do think Gore's movie is correct as to the science, that simply serves to illustrate the lack of consensus I'm talking about.

Not only is Gore's movie an example of the laughable religion of the Holy Earth and mankind (especially capitalist humans) is the devil worshipers, but wrong on the science.

Any article that doesn't recognize the significant probability that global warming, if real, is NOT caused by man but is instead caused by an increase in energy output from the sun and other natural cycles that occur over thousands of years and are merely repeating a cycle that has already happened many times on earth is hardly a middle ground article.

An article that takes as its basis that global warming is man made and therefore can be man cured is NOT middle ground.

We need to ADAPT to the warming and NOT cure it. It will warm and then grow colder just as its done for eons. If it doesn't, there isn't anything we can do about it but adapt. Further, any adaptation doesn't need to take place solely with today's technologies at huge costs to the material welfare and development of all humans everywhere. Instead it can be solved in 30 years and 50 years with FUTURE technologies not even yet dreamed of.

We double our knowledge base every 5 years or so, according to what I've read, in 30 to 50 years imagine the technologies available and the laughter that will be evoked by remembrance of the chicken little Steve/Gore types running around seeking to solve a non-man made problem by wrecking the economies of some but not all developed countries based upon "expert" science from the MIA school of experts. MIA = Made As Instructed. A classification of real estate appraisers with the MIA designation that like almost all "experts" provide the testimony they have been paid and instructed to provide. Virtually all grant based peer reviewed global warming studies should bear the MIA label.

Says the "Dog"
1.4.2007 11:31am
Bob R (mail):
the other side tends to publish hundreds of peer-reviewed studies.

And the studies are on models with a coarse grid and with dozens of unknown parameters. The parameters are being fit to data that has only recently been collected with anything approaching accuracy and has never been collected on the most important time scales for the predictions we are interested in. Again, it's good science. But it is very young science. Its predictions are plausible, but it is either naive or dishonest to say they are certain. The trope that these predictions are the "scientific consensus" is true (I agree that these models are the best we have, so I guess I'm part of the consensus) but does not at all speak to the degree of certainty of the prediction.
1.4.2007 11:36am
JRL:
My googling skills poor as they are, can anyone point me to some data on the net of, say, daily temperatures at an observation point going back 100 years or so?
1.4.2007 11:41am
Monkberrymoon (mail):
JRL,
Well, according to this History Channel thingy I saw last week, if you're skeptical of global warming, you're the same as a Holocaust Denier. So, get with the program you freakin' Nazi!

BTW, if that's not shrill, I don't know what is.
1.4.2007 11:42am
theBman:
So, is the "global warming" we are experiencing climbing above Earths optimal temperature or is it rising from below optimal to get back to it's optimal temperature?
1.4.2007 11:54am
Harry Eagar (mail):
'No one who is not an atmospheric scientist is qualified to comment on whose conclusions are right.'

I cannot tell, from the rest of your comment, whether that is meant ironically or not, LTEC.

However, if we take it at face value, it's wrong.

Hansen announced catatrophic global warming about a quarter century ago, with the catastrophe to arrival within about a century -- that is, four quarter centuries.

But the assumption was that warming had been accelerating already for a century, or four quarter centuries.

Now we are five-eighths of the way on the road to hell, so maybe we ought to be at least observing some of hell's suburban sprawl?

Yet we don't. No geophysical events are any worse now than they were in 1907. There are not more or stronger storms, the ocean hasn't drowned any cities, the deserts are the same as they used to be, the crops still grow where they grew.

In fact, AGW is a hoax and you don't need as much as a thermometer to know it. The computer models are irrelevant because the real world is obviously not changing.
1.4.2007 12:02pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
Steve --
Both sides write peer-reviewed papers and both sides write op-eds. Or perhaps it's more correct to say that one side tends to write op-eds and the other side tends to write editorials (often masquerading as news articles).
1.4.2007 12:06pm
uh clem (mail):
If indeed the "science" is settled and has been for some time, can someone tell me since when? And tell me where I can find an objective analysis of the current consensus?

Here you go.

The scientific consesus is overwhelming. But don't take my word for it, read for yourself.
1.4.2007 12:08pm
uh clem (mail):
Both sides write peer-reviewed papers

Really?

Where are those peer reviewed papers on the other side? Are they published in the same journals that publish Creation Science and the 4000-year-old-earth papers?
1.4.2007 12:11pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
theBman raises a good question. I would also add that the question of whether or not we should intentionally try to cool (or warm) the climate is an independent question from the validity of AGM. The theory of AGM is only useful because we can use it (if worth the cost) to cool or warm the planet to the desired temperature.

If an ice age were coming, isn't there a cost at which it would make sense to try to avert it? Is there value in having a stable climate, even if it's not optimal?
1.4.2007 12:15pm
Steve:
I'd appreciate a link to any peer-reviewed study which concludes human activity is not a significant contributor to climate change. I know both sides supposedly write a great many peer-reviewed papers, but just one will do.
1.4.2007 12:17pm
woodsey (mail):
Regarding "the other side tends to publish hundreds of peer-reviewed studies."

After reading the social network analysis in

The Wegman Report

it seems reasonable to think that peer review among paleoclimatologists could be described as a circle jerk.

Reading the rest of the report also calls into question the methodology of the climate scientists' statistical analysis, and to me, therefore any validity to the claim of scientific concensus. Certainly the science to date is insufficient to serve as a foundation for public policy changes involving anything more than further rational study.
1.4.2007 12:30pm
MnZ (mail):
uh chem,

Oreskes study indicates that there is a scientific consensus which states the following:

"[M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations"


However, this consensus is not very useful in terms of making specific policy decisions. Moreover, it does not support the hysterics in which global warming campaigners engage.
1.4.2007 12:30pm
theBman:
uh clem-

from the article you posted:

Admittedly, authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.

and

The scientific consensus might, of course, be wrong. If the history of science teaches anything, it is humility, and no one can be faulted for failing to act on what is not known.

and

Many details about climate interactions are not well understood, and there are ample grounds for continued research to provide a better basis for understanding climate dynamics. The question of what to do about climate change is also still open.

Point being, very, very few people argue that climate change is not going on. Climate change has, is, and will continue to happen until the Earth is vaporized when our sun goes Red Giant > White Dwarf > Black Dwarf; several billion years from now.

What is NOT consensus is what, if anything, should we DO about climate change; and the article you linked makes that very clear.
1.4.2007 12:33pm
Bob R (mail):
Again, degree of consensus has nothing to do with degree of certainty. If every expert agrees that the Chargers are the favorite to win the Super Bowl it does not mean that the probability of a Chargers' win is 100%. Every member of the National Academy may believe that AGW is the most likely senario, but I'll bet darned few of them have significant investments in North Dakota real estate and Siberian wheat futures.
1.4.2007 12:37pm
M. Gross (mail):
Peer review in Climatology can be best described as a joke, at worst a farce. Documentation of data and methodology is pretty awful as well.

In my field, models are generally not used for proven future production. Why more complex models with far more unknowns and worse data should be used as the basis for huge economic changes is beyond me. Their failure to replicate current and past behavior would never past muster anywhere else.
1.4.2007 12:44pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
Clem and Steve --

If Clem were serious, he would not ask me to go read the literature. I've already told him that I am not a relevant scientist and so I am not able to understand or evaluate the technical literature. Is he? As far as reading the "consensus" goes -- if that is really what he meant -- I do not have the time or technical expertise to figure out what that is. I do know (see my original link) that the consensus was close to nil in 1995, shortly before Kyoto.

As far as a "peer-reviewed study which concludes human activity is not a significant contributor to climate change":
The main claim of "skeptics" is not that human activity is not a significant contributor to climate change, but that we don't have enough information to conclude that it is.
Richard Lindzen from MIT, for example, takes this position. He has written gobs of papers in respected journals, but I have neither the time nor the expertise to go through them. The claim that any such papers are the equivalent of "creation science" shows an extreme unwillingness to engage the issue. How about doing some research yourself and try to find the most respectable skeptic papers in the most respectable journals possible, and then argue to nonscientists that they are obviously all crap?

And what about Mars (see my original comment), and climate change in recent historical history? Do the non-skeptics claim that we understand well enough the causes of those changes that we can state as a fact that none of those causes are responsible for current climate change on Earth?
1.4.2007 1:03pm
A.C.:
Hi, Houston Lawyer! It's been a while.

I agree that environmentalism-as-religion gets very silly. I was guilty of it myself for about a month in 1992, and I hope that all the current adherents get over it the way I did. It's not a particularly humane religion, after all. The basic beliefs are "humans ruin everything" and "fun stuff is mostly evil." I had another religion like that in my teens, and I ditched that one too.

Fact is, we're stuck with fossil fuels. I happen to like energy sources that aren't human or animal power. Think of all the human drudgery that has been saved by fossil fuel, not to mention all the animal dung that we no longer have to deal with in our cities. Turning the clock back is simply not an acceptable option -- I personally link female emancipation to electricity and central heating rather than to abortion, and I sometimes wonder whether global efforts to end slavery are linked to the fact that people invented a lot of other ways to get work done. Taking away artificial energy sources raises one big question -- WHOSE muscle power will be the substitute? I submit that it won't be Al Gore's.

That said, though, what's the big problem with conservation? We deal with uncertainty through insurance in many areas, but we also deal with it through saving. As long as the mechanisms involved aren't particularly coercive, energy efficiency makes sense. Consumers should be demanding that manufacturers produce products that give us comparable lifestyles at lower fuel costs. Does anyone think the limits have been reached on all the products we use?

Then, if global warming turns out to be no big deal, the next generations can always burn the coal and oil that we save. They won't have that option if we hog it all.
1.4.2007 1:30pm
Bpbatista (mail):
I'll believe that modern human activity is causing global warming today just as soon as someone proves that Neanderthals caused the global warming that ended the last ice age.
1.4.2007 1:51pm
abean:

The scientific consesus is overwhelming. But don't take my word for it, read for yourself.

Yes. That's precisely what happened. That study came out and people like Al Gore and others started spreading the word that anyone who claimed that a consensus did not exist was unhinged. It actually became dangerous to assert otherwise.

But that study has been repudiated. http://www.staff.livjm.ac.uk/spsbpeis/Scienceletter.htm

What's really interesting I think is that if you start sampling the papers, relatively few scientists engage in the sort of work necessarily to test the plausibility and degree of anthropogenic warming. What you do have is lots of people studying what the effects might be of rising temperature.

There is a reason for this--and it reflects the concreteness of science in general. The temperature trend line is clearly going up. That is already a fact--which in itself makes questions of what if an X degree rise occurs an important line of research.

But what about those climate change computer the models? The ones wherein you can adjust the CO2 trend line and see what happens. The picture isn't pretty but it also isn't necessarily compelling. There are a few reasons for this:
- The equations are not well-conditioned
- The model contains assumptions about which parameters are important and what physical processes link them

I was involved for a bit with computer modeling of fusion reactors. Let me tell you, if the modeling was sound, we have commericialized fusion--indeed the models tell us that we've solved all of the problems--10 yrs ago. Clearly we haven't.

We we can agree on is that there is some correlation between CO2 emissions and temperature. We can even agree that the derivates are positively correlated....

But so what? We've just agreed on a juvenile point. Because this isn't what people mean when they debate whether or not global warming is man-made.

Agreeing that global warming is man-made means agreeing that the altering out C02 output will have a substantial impact.

It is precisely over this point that the disagreement forms. But this is not entirely a policy decision. If it were than the question would revolve around how much economic cost versus how much temperature change. That isn't the question because temperature = f(g(cost)) where f CO2 -> temperature and g cost -> CO2 isn't settled. 'g' we do have some guesses on but 'f' is not settled at all.

That is why Al Gore doesn't say things like every x millon vehicle miles/yr of today's cars means y temperature cost.
1.4.2007 2:05pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
My understanding is, that water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas, and that CO2 is a much smaller contributor - perhaps 10% of the total (don't jump on me if my memory got the exact number wrong, but it's that sort of difference). When you consider the change in temperature attributable to human-generated CO2, it's miniscule.

On the other hand, back in the middle ages, the climate was much warmer than at present - Greenland was really green and the Vikings had productive farms there. Later, the temparature dropped in what is called the "little Ice Age" which lasted through the 19th Century. The Vikings had to give up their settlements in Greenland as they could no longer grow food there, winters were much colder and snowier (so if your great-great-great grandparents talked about lots of snow, that's the reason why). We are now recovering from that period, and while man may provide a tiny amount of the current warming trend, mostly it's a natural phenomenom, probably related to the sunspot cycles or some other solar action.

Between the people shouting, "The Sky is Falling," for the benefit of their own agenda - political control or hatred of western civilization or whatever - and the people who follow them either because they buy the program or because they do not know enough about the issues - scientific, political, cultural and economic - to make a rational decision and tend to go along when someone or some organization starts playing the pipe in the name of "science," which we have been taught to respect far too much, we are going to waste a lot of money and freedom and quality of life chasing after the global warming chimera, and I suspect that it's not going to make any difference in the long run, because we can't do anything about the sun.

In addition, an increase in CO2 will increase plant growth. Maybe we will once again see forests where the Sahara Desert used to be and larger crops to feed the worlds hungry people - or is letting people starve to death part of the "Zero" or "Negative Population Growth" crowd's agenda? Sometimes I wonder....
1.4.2007 2:12pm
Steve:
But that study has been repudiated. http://www.staff.livjm.ac.uk/spsbpeis/Scienceletter.htm

That's an interesting link. You should go here and form your own judgment.
1.4.2007 2:21pm
JonBuck (mail):
World Climate Report is a skeptic blog that about 90% of the time publishes links to peer-reviewed scientific papers that do not support the alarmism that you often see in the mainstream media.
1.4.2007 2:29pm
MnZ (mail):
Many skeptics believe the "science" has been politicized by those who want me to live in a cramped apartment, walk to work, wear itchy organic clothing, and be limited to one child (after getting the proper government license). Many have adopted global warming as their new religion and those outside the religion are described as deniers or heretics.


It is interesting that the biggest global warming alarmists tend to be the most opposed to sacrificing other environmentalist priorities to address global warming. The prime example is nuclear power. However, there are others such as hydroelectric power and non-greenhouse emmission standards.

If we are really nearing a tipping point in which the Earth quickly turns into a semi-Venus, shouldn't all options be on the table?
1.4.2007 2:29pm
Dick King:
I would believe that Al Gore believes his own movie if he came out publicly and admitted that his opposition to widespread replacement of coal power by nuclear power in already-nuclear-armed countries such as China and the US and India was wrong-headed. Such opposition is expressed in his book, Earth in the Balance.

Until I hear the announcement I will continue to believe that this very political movie, and politicized AGW in general, is primarily a stick with which to beat political opponents. People who advocate for more nuclear power in the US are excepted from this conclusion. They could be sincere.

"What makes you think that movie is political?" you ask. Gimme a break. It contains the sentence "I used to be the next president of the United States."

Why am I making these ad homenim arguments? Because I don't have time to evaluate the science, so I must get into the heads of those who claim to have done so through revealed preferences.

-dk
1.4.2007 2:41pm
JRL:

That said, though, what's the big problem with conservation?


It increases consumption as a result of lower prices?
1.4.2007 2:54pm
Mark Buehner (mail):

Open Kyoto to debate
Sixty scientists call on Harper to revisit the science of global warming

Published: Thursday, April 06, 2006
An open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

Dear Prime Minister:

As accredited experts in climate and related scientific disciplines, we are writing to propose that balanced, comprehensive public-consultation sessions be held so as to examine the scientific foundation of the federal government's climate-change plans.
...
We appreciate the difficulty any government has formulating sensible science-based policy when the loudest voices always seem to be pushing in the opposite direction. However, by convening open, unbiased consultations, Canadians will be permitted to hear from experts on both sides of the debate in the climate-science community. When the public comes to understand that there is no "consensus" among climate scientists about the relative importance of the various causes of global climate change, the government will be in a far better position to develop plans that reflect reality and so benefit both the environment and the economy.


Open Letter from 60 Canadian Climate Scientists:

Anybody else want to argue about consensus?
1.4.2007 3:32pm
Stating the Obvious:
Houston Lawyer: Every bad thing that happens weather-wise is now blamed on global warming. Jerry Falwell blames these events on the sins of homosexuals. You decide who is more irrational.
---
Jerry Falwell.

I grant it was a tough decision, and a close call...
1.4.2007 3:34pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
clem, Pat Michaels has a whole book, 'The Satanic Gases,' that discusses the issue of peer-review and the numbers of papers that tend to support/tend to negate the concept of AGW.

The ratio is something like 9:1 for papers supporting AGW. Michaels, a well-known skeptic, argues that to get through the peer-review process with a negative-AGW paper, it has to be a really, really good paper.

Whether that's so or not, there are in fact hundreds and thousands of papers that don't support AGW.

It's entirely possible that human activities (like putting tens of millions of acres under the plow and changing the albedo of whole continents) may have affected the global climate.

Maybe so, maybe not so. If so, we don't even know whether the effect was warming or cooling.

Nobody in the climatological community wants to touch that one. There's no theory for it, and as W. Edwards Deming used to say, 'You've got to have a theory. If you don't have a theory, how do you know when you're wrong?'
1.4.2007 4:28pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
So, is the "global warming" we are experiencing climbing above Earths optimal temperature or is it rising from below optimal to get back to it's optimal temperature?

I have never seen anyone say other than "This is the best of all possible worlds" -- go back in time and step on a bug, it doesn't get to eat the great-grandfather of the caterpillar who instead grows into a butterfly that flaps its wings and causes the Category 6 Hurricane, or a world where donuts are unknown.

Therefore, notwithstanding that my heating bill is less unaffordable, I may be able to get things to grow in my garden between last frost and first frost, and my drive to the beach is a few feet shorter, we must be moving away from the optimal temperature.
1.4.2007 6:19pm
ZF (mail):
"The real debate is thus over what sort of insurance policy -- or, more properly, mix of policies -- represents the proper response to the real risk of climate change, and how should the costs of such policies be apportioned."

No it isn't. To see this, all you have to notice is that the remedies proposed by vehement climate change believers always turn out to be measures they believed we should have been implementing even before this debate got started.
1.4.2007 7:22pm
r78:
Adler,

I wish you were right that there is consensus that global warming is a fact and that it is either mostly or largely caused by human activity.

But, as the comments show, there are still a good many people who think it is all just a hoax. (e.g. Mr. Eager's comment that "...the real world is obviously not changing.")

No doubt, most informed people recognize the reality of global warming and it is a fair question about how best to deal with it. But - just to pull some numbers out of my rear end - I'd guess that something like 20% of people think it is a myth and that, coupled with the (another wild guess) 20 or 30 percent who don't care much one way or the another is enough to effectively prevent any useful political actions.

The nuts, like Eager, who think that the world has been static for the past century, serve sort of the same function that tobacco-funded scientists did during the "debate" about whether tobacco was harmful or not. Most people knew that it was, but the vocal nuts provided enough ammunition for the undecided and indifferent people to deal with the cognitive dissonance that would have otherwise result from holding beliefs that were so obviously contrary to reality.

So, before we reach the question of what sensible steps we should take to deal with the reality of global warming, I would submit that the more pressing question is what is the best way to deal with the nutty deniers and the indifferent.

I am not a fan of Al Gore - or of hysterical environmentalists who predicte imminent doom - but I think we would have to concede that they have moved the debate forward.
1.4.2007 8:17pm
Brian345:
The big question is: "Is there a large amount of human-caused global warming?"

To me, the big question is "what if any will the negative effects of global warming be?" If there are no or few negative effects, then we don't need to worry about it whether or not human activity causes it. Conversely, if there are major negative effects, we'll need to reduce or mitigate it, again whether or not human activity is a cause. The only difference is that if human activity *is* a cause (for the record I believe it is), that gives an an additional option for reducing it.
1.4.2007 8:30pm
juris_imprudent (mail):
So, before we reach the question of what sensible steps we should take to deal with the reality of global warming

I just love the smarminess of AGW zealots - it so reminds me of the condescending self-righteousness of right-wing religious nuts.

Climate change is not a hoax, r78. It's been going on for aeons before we humans showed up, let alone industrialized. However, I remain skeptical as to the "A" in AGW, and as to whether the warming is inherently bad. It wasn't but a generation ago that climate predictions were running cool rather than hot.

Now, if you want to talk about how humans will adapt to a warmer climate, that's fine. If you want to talk about how humans should attempt to alter the climatic system - then you consign yourself to the camp of Gore and the hystericals.
1.4.2007 9:07pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I don't mind being called a nut. It would bother me more if r78, or anyone else, could specify just how climate has changed -- right where he lives.

Has the lake lapped over your deck, r78? Armadillos started to root in your garden? (Very likely if you live in the lower central states, but not due to climate change, apparently.) Have you stopped wearing a coat in the winter?

You tell me the dire changes that you are experiencing, and I'll recant.

Till then, it is a hoax.
1.4.2007 9:59pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
It's actually quite straight forward to find serious climate scientists who are serious skeptics, and many clear statements that the "consensus" is a political/propaganda exercise. See, for example, this oped
(the link is to reprint of the original article in the WSJ), or read Roger Pielke Sr's blog, which generally follows the "somewhat skeptical" approach --- Pielke Sr has said that he thinks global warming is about 30 percent anthropogenic, for example. He also argues strongly that CO2 may not be the major ccomponent of any anthropogenic effects. More can be found at this boston globe article. This Wikipedia article lists a number of skeptics as well.
1.4.2007 10:13pm
Eli Rabett (www):
It was over 60 in January in DC today. No coat necessary. Actually have not had to wear a heavy coat from September on.
1.4.2007 11:25pm
Eli Rabett (www):
We are changing the climate by emitting greenhouse gases. We did change it by putting lots of land under the plow. This is called the pioneer effect and dominated climate change in the 19th century when greenhouse gas emissions were low. You can see how much of an effect it had.

There are very few climate papers that do not support the consensus view about climate change, by which I mean the IPCC reports. Claims of the contrary are bogus. Further endless repetition about global cooling being claimed outside of the papers you see in supermarket checkout lines are wearying.
1.4.2007 11:39pm
JRL:
Seriously. Just one town, one city, one field, one mountain? Can anyone point me to a database of historical daily temperatures at a particular observation point?
1.4.2007 11:45pm
r78:
Eager and JRL

If you are serious, why don't you do a google search for the words "shrinking" and "glacier".
1.5.2007 12:17am
Mark Buehner (mail):
Can also do 'growing' and 'glacier' if you want to play that game, there are many.

And for the record there are long natural cycles where there are no glaciers at all on Earth- we are technically still in an Ice Age which by definition is a period where there is glaciation.
1.5.2007 12:34am
Harry Eagar (mail):
r78, I recommend Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's "Times of Feast, Times of Famine: A History of Climate Since the Year 1000."

It has a lot about glaciers shrinking, which they have been doing for about half a millenium now.

It's illustrated with contemporary paintings of glaciers before they started shrinking, so even illiterates can see what's been going on.

But I'd even rather you tell me how climate has deteriorated where you are, wherever that is.

Eli, so? Washington DC is in plant hardiness zone 8, along with Seattle, Tucson and Dallas. It is also a zone warmer than the surrounding countryside, because of the urban heat island effect.

Of course you aren't wearing a heavy coat. It's a southern city.
1.5.2007 1:24am
Nate F (mail):
Yeah, but I could say the same thing about the suburbs of Allentown PA. It's barely been below freezing. My father is still playing golf.
1.5.2007 3:10am
TokyoTom (mail):
Jonathan:

we have no clue how to reduce anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases sufficiently so as to stabilize atmospheric concentrations anywhere near present levels.

One would wish for a little more straightforwardness. We certainly know HOW to reduce GHG emissions; we simply lack sufficient POLITICAL WILL domestically and internationally to do so.

As you know full well, this deficit of political will is a simple corollary to the nature of the climate (as constituted by its global atmosphere/oceans/land components) as an unowned comnmons crossing all jurisdictions. Unlike most environmental problems that can be recognized and solved locally, regional and global open-access resource issues can be resolved only through mutual, collective action.

In the absence of such action, resource users may use a valuable resource free of charge, and transfer the costs to others; in effect, we all subsidize current consumption of the atmosphere and dumping of GHGs. These users have a vested interest in slowing any coordinated response, which is subject to difficult negotiations among (and within) all nations involving free rider, enforcement and equity issues.

In other words, domestic "rent-seeking", abetted by short-term political agendas, is gumming up an already difficult political discussion.

The "quasi-religious" moral suasion offered by enviros and others and do bemoaned by many on the right is an attempt to increase the domestic political heat, and is clearly analogous to other types of moral suasion that groups traditionally apply to deal with other open-access resources locally.
1.5.2007 7:12am
JRL:

Eager and JRL

If you are serious, why don't you do a google search for the words "shrinking" and "glacier".




That is nonresponsive. I'm trying to find actual temperature data. Or is global warming "more nuanced" than global warming? Does it not actually mean global warming? I had assumed if there was global warming it would bear itself out it some actual temperature data. Is that not the case? I would think this information would be readily available--how else would people claim global warming? But yet I can seem to find it???

We have the antecdotal it's been 10-15 degrees above 'normal' where I am for the last couple weeks, but the week before that temperatures were 20 degrees below normal. Also, I know that 2 of our last 6 winters are in the top 5 coldest on record.

I just want to see the numbers.
1.5.2007 7:16am
markm (mail):
"Bpbatista (mail):
I'll believe that modern human activity is causing global warming today just as soon as someone proves that Neanderthals caused the global warming that ended the last ice age."

There's actually a serious hypothesis that's close to that, although it doesn't involve Neanderthals, because they were already extinct. At least some estimates of past temperatures give a graph that shows consistent cycles, including a low about 22,000 years ago and a high 11,000 years ago, then the temperature starting back down. 8,000 years ago, the graph abruptly departs from the cyclical pattern, changing to a trace with small jags, but that is nearly level overall (as compared to the wide swings before). 8,000 years ago is also when widespread clearing of forests for farming began, which probably would have increased the CO2 level. Without that (or whatever aborted the cycle), we'd now be heading into another ice age.

One thing to keep in mind is that added CO2 has a much stronger effect at low levels of the gas than when levels are higher. The second thing is that water vapor has a much stronger effect on temperature than CO2, and it can be both + and -, depending on when and where it forms clouds or snow. (In regards to whatever happened 8,000 years ago, widespread agriculture also has a considerable direct effect on the water cycle.) So what climate science has to do to form any predictions at all is to figure out how CO2 levels affect water vapor levels, clouds, and snow - and since so far they are doing computer models with a grid much coarser than many of the hills that uplift air to form clouds, I rather doubt they're getting much accuracy.

Finally, understand what a geologist means when he says something is changing "at a prodigious rate". An earlier poster linked to an article about the shrinking Martian icecaps, in which a scientist is quoted as saying just that - but this "prodigious rate" of shrinkage is 10 feet a year, or a mile in 500 years. If global warming causes the sea to rise and shrink Manhattan Island at such a "prodigious" rate, we've got centuries to relocate New York City - and I know quite well that it costs much less to build a new city in North Dakota than to bring century old buildings, pipes, and wiring up to modern standards in an existing city.

At any rate, the real issue isn't what causes temperature changes, but what to do about them. I think that crippling our economy - which is the only thing that would affect CO2 emissions by enough to matter, if that even has the desired effect - is a gross overreaction and will greatly reduce our ability to cope with changes.
1.5.2007 8:43am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
A geologist has a different view:

A Geologist Looks At Global Warming

There have been long periods where CO2 was 5X higher and temperatures were lower.

All this global warming fetish is due to a too limited data set.
1.5.2007 9:08am
Eli Rabett (www):
If temperature goes up (down) because of an external forcing, such as a change in the sun's intensity, the effect will be amplified by increased (decreased) water vapor concentrations. (The absolute humidity increases (decreases) exponentially with temperature). Burning fossil fuels gives rise to an external large source of increased CO2, which causes the concentration of water vapor to increase. Doubling CO2 by itself would only result in a global temperature rise of ~1C. The increased water vapor concentration pushes the net effect up to ~3C.

JRL if you want station data go to GISS. The raw data is not very useful because it has to be corrected for changes over the years such as moving of the observation site, time of observation, etc. If you want to get an idea about the difficulties involved and the cherry picking that can be done, read Eric Swansons posts at sci.environment.
1.5.2007 9:12am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
An atmospheric scientis is sceptical.
1.5.2007 9:15am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Eli,

The models are so bad nothing can be predicted from them see my 9:15am post.
1.5.2007 9:17am
Eli Rabett (www):
M. Simon might want to examine why the situation 1.5 billion to 5 billion years ago is not exactly what it is today. Suffice it to say that the geolocial arguments are at best red herrings, unless you believe that there is no oxygen in the atmosphere, in which case you are. or will shortly be brain dead.
1.5.2007 9:20am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Eli,

At this point the data on water vapor is not very good and the models are worse - the chunks are too big. 150 miles on a side.

After much tweaking the models pretty much agree with each other. However, their match for the real world is poor.
1.5.2007 9:22am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Eli,

You should look at the graphs linked in my 9:08AM post.

Limit your studies to the last 500 million years. Heck if you want to limit your studies to the last 150 million years.

CO2 was declining and global temperatures were high during most of the the last 75 million years. Then came a sharp decrease in temperature with CO2 still slowly falling. However, around 150 million years ago tempeature took a sharp dip with CO2 levels roughly steady at around 2,000 ppm, 5X what they are today.

In other words there is not a good correlation between CO2 levels and global temperature.

NASA has some nice charts covering about the last million years.

What do the charts show? Big ice age danger. In fact we are not yet out of the ice age.
1.5.2007 10:01am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
AS I said,

The global CO2/warming hysteria is based on a too limited data set.

We have yet to recover from the Little Ice Age of the 1500s.

BTW by picking the truncation points of any data set you can adjust your predictions to come up with the numbers you want. Big problem when using Fast Fourier Transform. Probably applies to any predictive model.

Pick your start in a cold year. End it in a hot year - you get dramatic rise predictions. Start in a hot year and end in a cold one and the effect is reduced or goes the other way.

As I said. The data set used in climate models is way too sparce. Not to mention the models are too chunky. And that the effect of water vapor may be positive, neutral, or negative. No one knows. In the models it is assumed positive. Also atmospheric circulation (wich lowers avg global temperatures from what a strictly green house model predicts) is not well understood - and the models used for it are too chunky in any case.

BTW the 9:15 AM link is a piece by Richard S. Lindzen.
1.5.2007 10:14am
Mike Brown (mail):

Seriously. Just one town, one city, one field, one mountain? Can anyone point me to a database of historical daily temperatures at a particular observation point?


Try:
or
1.5.2007 10:33am
Mike Brown (mail):
Sorry, the links didn't work for some reason. Second try:

Central England Data Sets
or
Historic Temperature Data around the UK
1.5.2007 10:36am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Tell you what though. If curbing green house gases is really important to you, this technology might be the answer:

Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion
1.5.2007 10:41am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
The Little Ice Age of the 1500s is associated with the Maunder Minimum. A period when there was little or no sunspot activity.

The sun is a variable star as far as the earth's climate is concerned.

We have no model for predicting sunspots other than the fast fourier transform of historical data sets. And as we know past history is no guarentee of future perfomance.

Estimates are that a .1% change in solar output caused a 1 C change in global temperature. We have no way of predicting solar output. Zero. Nada. Bupkiss.

Sunspot activity is estimated to be at an 8,000 year high.

Wiki on sunspots.

Really. We have uncertainty piled on uncertainty, with bad models to boot. This is acknowledged by almost every one in the field. Skeptics or no.

We may be able to show global warming by measurement. We have no idea of the cause.
1.5.2007 11:00am
Harry Eagar (mail):
JRL, the reason you cannot find any long-term global surface temperature data sets is that there are not any.

Zero, zip, nil, nada, not any.

There is global satellite coverage of part of the upper atmosphere from 1979 on, and, thanks to a new techinque, global surface temperature satellite coverage for about the last five years.

That's right. We know the global surface temperature by direct measurement for the 21st century but for no other century.

All earlier estimates are estimates, based on proxies, guesses, inferences and partial -- very, very partial -- measurements.

For example, almost any extended discussion of climate change -- by anybody -- will sooner or later compare today's global surface temperature to a century ago. Yet for 1907, there are no -- zero, nil, nada, not any -- measurements for about two-thirds of the globe.

AGW is a hoax and it will always be a hoax.
1.5.2007 11:18am
justanotherguy (mail):
We can argue science back and forth and by-pass each other as most of us are not scientists (I am though). However an easily grasped fact is that RECORDED HISTORY as grapes and wheat growing in the times of the Romans (3000 years ago) and in the middle ages (1100 years ago) where it is currently too cold to grow them!

If it was warm enough to grow crops that we can't grow now becuse of the cold...it got colder and is now getting warmer... what does man have to do with it.

Methinks the huge amount of peer reviewed evidence of a 1500 year warming and cooling cycle (glacier ice core studies going back thousands of years etc) why can't we simply see that those spouting the Global War]ming are WATERMELONS: green on the outside and red on the inside... or they are useful idiots...too concerned with getting their next grant or next election...
1.5.2007 11:27am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
BTW we have good solar output data (good enough to calculate climate given the high sensitivity to solar output) only going back to 1978. That is about one solar cycle. Farther back than that we have rough estimates (the Maunder Minimum for instance).

Given the high sensitivity we have no idea whether the short term global temperature fluctuations are due wholly or in part to solar output. Or something else.

Latest estimates are that solar output has been increasing .005% a decade for about 100 years. Which if the effect is linear might account for 1/2 of observed warming. Or more. Or less. The uncertainties are large.

This was announced in late 2006 with publication due in Feb. of this year I think.

Are we going to spend trillions on such large scientific uncertainties? Suppose the global warmers are correct about CO2 as a driver, but we are headed for an ice age, due to the earth's orbit and other celestial fluctuations (100,000 year, 41,000 year and 23,000 year cycles - first suggested by Milankovitch). We could be doing the wrong thing.
1.5.2007 11:36am
MnZ (mail):
One would wish for a little more straightforwardness. We certainly know HOW to reduce GHG emissions; we simply lack sufficient POLITICAL WILL domestically and internationally to do so.


The "political will" is lacking on the Left side of the political spectrum as well as the right. Much of the Left won't even discuss nuclear energy. Many still agitate to close hydroelectric dams. Wind power is supported in theory but opposed in practice (e.g., Nantucket). I have heard no one suggest that we might reduce energy intensive or greenhouse gas producing clean air requirements (e.g., refining and scrubbing technologies).

The "quasi-religious" moral suasion offered by enviros and others and do bemoaned by many on the right is an attempt to increase the domestic political heat, and is clearly analogous to other types of moral suasion that groups traditionally apply to deal with other open-access resources locally.


The problem is that religions can be difficult to follow, unrealistic, or even internally inconsistent. The current enviro-commandments seem to say, "Thou shalt not:
1) Emit greenhouse gases,
2) Use nuclear power,
3) Dam rivers, and
4) Bespeckle beautiful vistas with windmills."

The vast majority of people will not buy into such a religion when they realize the sacrifices involved.
1.5.2007 11:42am
M. Simon (mail) (www):
I live in the semi-rural midwest. (Big town, lots of farmland within 10 or 20 minutes of the town center)

Guess what. We have had winmill zoning denied in the area because it would affect the asthetics of farmland.

I can understand Nantucket (to a certain extent), but farmland?
1.5.2007 12:16pm
Dick King:
Although I'm all for solar power if it proves economical, I would be rather leery of wind power.

I did back-of-the-envelope calculations once. To replace all the coal power the US now generates we would need to capture about 3-5% of the wind power. This is very likely to affect climate, not only by directly making the winds milder but by the fact that these reliable winds carry moisture from the Pacific Ocean to an entire thirsty continent.

We could do the same job by capturing 0.007% of the solar power falling on the US, maybe a tad more in the winter. This is almost certainly not a problem, even considering that practical solar panels are black and absorb sunlight that they do not convert but are likely to be installed in deserts which are high-albedo.

-dk
1.5.2007 1:01pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
The area with the greatest wind potential is the mid west.

One mountain range and at least 1000 miles from the Pacific.

Slowing the surface winds is not dissimilar to having a lot of trees in an area. Probably not a big deal. America once had a lot more trees, before agriculture covered a lot of the continent.
1.5.2007 1:54pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
The advantage of wind is that it is lower cost than natural gas (for electricity production) and nearly on a par with coal.

The same is not true for solar. Its cost is about 5X or 10x coal.
1.5.2007 1:57pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
The problem with wind power is that it is direcly dependent on the length of the rotors. Thats the physics, and its inescapable. We can make stronger and bigger rotors, but the space they need to inhabit is nonnegotiable. A quick caculation of the amount of energy the US alone consumes gives you an idea of just how much space would be needed to have a significant impact on power production.
1.5.2007 2:00pm
Paul Dietz (mail):

My understanding is, that water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas, and that CO2 is a much smaller contributor - perhaps 10% of the total (don't jump on me if my memory got the exact number wrong, but it's that sort of difference). When you consider the change in temperature attributable to human-generated CO2, it's miniscule.

This is a common talking point among the denialistas. It's based on an implicit fallacy, that because water vapor is more important (in the sense of the fraction of infrared radiation it blocks), changes in CO2 are not important.

What it misses is that water vapor is a feedback, while CO2 is a forcing. That is, levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are controlled by an external input (additions of CO2 to the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion, biomass oxidation, and so on), while water vapor content of the atmosphere is controlled by short-term effects of evaporation and precipitation, which are in turn driven by temperature. An increase in temperature, for example due to increased CO2 forcing, will cause the mean water vapor content of the troposphere to increase, causing additional warming. This is a positive feedback.

Any addition of water to the total system is utterly swamped by the huge quantity of water already in the oceans, but the size of the 'reservoir' of carbon that exchanges with the atmosphere on a short time scale is much smaller, so this is not also true (on the relevant time scale) of CO2 additions.

The presence of logical fallacies like this in the denialist propaganda should be a red flag about the overall quality of their case. Why are they resorting to logical fallacies? Don't they have real arguments they could use?
1.5.2007 2:33pm
Paul Dietz (mail):
The advantage of wind is that it is lower cost than natural gas (for electricity production) and nearly on a par with coal.

This is incorrect. If you take away the tax subsidy for wind power in the US, the levelized cost of wind is about twice the cost of electricity from coal. It's also more expensive than electricity from gas or nuclear (source:
EPRI). Even with the subsidy, it's still considerably more expensive than power from coal.

One serious problem with wind is the power it produces is inherently less valuable. It isn't 'dispatchable', requiring the inclusion of expensive spinning reserve to handle fluctuations, and expensive backup capacity to provide power when the wind doesn't blow. So you end up buying gas turbines anyway (probably inefficient ones) so you don't have blackouts during calm days.
1.5.2007 2:39pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Well, even if you have wind with a potential to supply 100% of demand, you still need installed capacity of somewhere close to 100% of firm source (oil, coal, nuclear, water) if you want electricity 24/7.

I cannot say whether 'close to 100%' means 90% or 50%, because it would depend on lots of variables (like the size of the grid).

But for sure it would cost a ton of money to have tens of thousands of megawatts of capacity sitting idle for, say, 25% of the time, and not generating any revenue to recoup the sunk costs.

The essential irresponsibility of the 'do something now' crowd is demonstrated by the fact that they never discuss such things.

Wind can be made 'firm,' but if M. Simon is shocked by the opposition to wind farms themselves, wait till you see the opposition to the methods (like pumped storage) needed to make wind firm.
1.5.2007 2:40pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I am in complete agreement with what Brian345 said at 8:30pm yesterday.


Eli Rabbett writes at 11:39pm
Further endless repetition about global cooling being claimed outside of the papers you see in supermarket checkout lines are wearying.

My supermarket doesn't carry Newsweek next to the WordFind.

I distinctly remember Jean Shepherd commenting on his radio show, some time in the early 1970s, about some sports figure who, upon being told that an ice age was coming, responded "What will that do to the baseball season?"

(Any pointers better than my faulty memory, especially to the incident in question, much appreciated. The point was that compared to all the havoc that would be wreaked by an ice age, this comment indicated the speaker was focusing on something unimportant. But now I think it is exactly the right question, going back to Brian345's attitude, what will global warming do to the baseball season?)
1.5.2007 2:47pm
MnZ (mail):
The essential irresponsibility of the 'do something now' crowd is demonstrated by the fact that they never discuss such things.


It's worse than that. The "do something now" crowd will rip their opponents to shreds when their opponents actally try to do something. In Australia, John Howard is being excoriated for pushing nuclear power to reduce greenhouse emissions.

I suspect that, like Social Security and Medicare, Global Warming is an issue that is (cough) too politically important to solve.
1.5.2007 2:57pm
Dick King:
M Simon, with the exception of the pacific coastal redwoods, trees over 100 feet [30 meters] tall are rare. Power windmills are 150-200 meters tall, and likely to get taller because of scaling advantages and the desire to capture more wind.

-dk
1.5.2007 3:02pm
Foobarista:
As for conservation, which would be defined to be to assume a steady-state technological environment and use exhortation or taxation to reduce resource use, it isn't a viable long-term solution (if solutions are needed; I'm an AGW skeptic, but interested in reducing fossil fuel use for other reasons) because economic growth will increase energy requirements, particularly in poorer countries like China and India. In more advanced countries, you may reduce resource use by a few percent, but not much more, and that is likely to be temporary.

The "techno-fix" (ie, a basket of improved technology) is the only solution that will work everywhere, because the improved techs would be used by poorer countries as well as richer ones. Government-centered solutions won't work.
1.5.2007 3:03pm
paul (mail):
"I would believe that Al Gore believes his own movie if he came out publicly and admitted that his opposition to widespread replacement of coal power by nuclear power in already-nuclear-armed countries such as China and the US and India was wrong-headed. Such opposition is expressed in his book, Earth in the Balance. "

I would believe that Al Gore believes his own movie if he adopted a lifestyle that reflected his concern. There is nothing I find more irritating than to be lectured about greenhouse gasses by persons whose lifestyle creates more greenhouse gasses in a week than I do in a year. Of course, that would require that he move to a modest home and avoid jet airplanes and limos.
1.5.2007 3:10pm
r78:

That is nonresponsive. I'm trying to find actual temperature data.

Oh don't be silly. You do understand that ice melts as temperatures get warmer, right?

That if a current glacier was 10% or 50% of the size it was 50 or 100 years ago that is either caused by a) warming or b) nocturnal ice eating elves.
1.5.2007 3:33pm
Joe Gator (mail):
What caused the Great Lakes to form?
1.5.2007 4:43pm
Foobarista:
Glaciers can advance or retreat based on changes in local snowfall, or in shifting of the precipitation season. Advancing glaciers don't always mean "it's colder", and retreating glaciers don't always mean "it's warmer".
1.5.2007 5:10pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'too politically important to solve'

I'm stealin' that, MnZ
1.5.2007 6:29pm
Eli Rabett (www):
1. Jean Shepherd was a very entertaining radio personality. He was not a climate scientist but I did learn Ragtime Cowboy Joe from him.

2. I must shop in higher class supermarkets than most here, as Time and Newsweek are both on the checkout racks. Neither is a climate science journal. Get real.

3. Glaciers can advance or retreat based on a few factors, mostly temperature and precipication. Are you claiming it is getting drier?

4. M. Simon, the graphs come from a web page that was last modified March 28 1997. The first graph was a SKETCH from the first assessment report of what the drafters impressions of global temperature vs time was for the past millenia. Because most of the studies available at that time were Euro and NAmerica based, it was strongly biased towards the behavior in those regions.. It was not based directly on data, but the general impression of the drafters. At best it was qualitative, but never quantitative. Graphs of quanitative measurements can be found on the Wikipedia, with refereces back to the original papers. of these quantities r
1.5.2007 9:07pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
' Glaciers can advance or retreat based on a few factors, mostly temperature and precipication.'

And time. You forgot time. Glaciers have been retreating for centuries, and before that they were advancing for centuries.

Do you have a point?
1.5.2007 9:23pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Sorry, hit the wrong button, here is the link for the Wikipedia article

Dave Chester, I did provide a link back to a page which discusses the popular and the scientific literature. There is a distinction. I clearly remember from the former that you are a Martian, all of you.

JRL might remember that the thermometer was invented in the 1612s. The Central England record goes back to ~ 1630, the one at de Bilt in the Netherlands almost that far and there is also a Central European instrumental record that goes back into the 16th century. There are several records that go back as into the eighteenth century, but for a global measurement there are only enough sites that are well enough distributed to go back to 1850. The longest record in the US is the New Haven one
1.5.2007 9:26pm
TokyoTom (mail):
MnZ, thanks for the comments. You make interesting points that are really about other issues:<blockquote>The "political will" is lacking on the Left side of the political spectrum as well as the right. Much of the Left won't even discuss nuclear energy. Many still agitate to close hydroelectric dams. Wind power is supported in theory but opposed in practice (e.g., Nantucket). I have heard no one suggest that we might reduce energy intensive or greenhouse gas producing clean air requirements (e.g., refining and scrubbing technologies).
The problem is that religions can be difficult to follow, unrealistic, or even internally inconsistent.
The "do something now" crowd will rip their opponents to shreds when their opponents actally try to do something.
Global Warming is an issue that is (cough) too politically important to solve.
</blockquote>
My thoughts:
- Enviros can be wrong; coal is clearly much more environmentally costly than nuclear power.
- Opposition to big government, corporate statism everywhere should be encouraged, whether from the left or the right. The nuclear liability shield is one lingering issue from the left; concern about bloated bureaucratic approaches to climate change and pork programs comes from all sides.
- We will always have our NIMBYs - especially among the wealthy - until we figure out ways to undercut them via statutory partial compensation programs.
- Non-private hydro dams involve state action to benefit some at the costs of others. It makes sense to examine these issues case by case; and to identify interests and allocate rights, so that interested parties have a basis to negotiate. As long as government is in the middle, incentives from rent-seeking prevent resolutions.
- Emotions and religions fill certain needs; I agree that these may be internally inconsistent and counterproductive.
- As you suggest, economists have long been saying that reducing energy intensivity and increasing GHG sequestration should be our main areas of focus. This does not require huge and meddlesome government investment or regulatory programs, but a simple carbon tax, which could offset income taxes and thus be revenue-neutral. Simply altering incentives would produce a wide range of consumption and investment changes that would recognize that there is a social cost to using the atmosphere as a GHG dump and reflect that cost in private behavior.
- Republicans in Congress (Domenici and McCain) have already invested significantly in legislation to address climate change, based on a perceived need. This reform agenda has been held back because of a deliberate political calculus within the Administration, backed by the industries that profit the most by allowing the continued use of the atmosphere as a GHG dump, that greater political/financial benefits would flow from denial, delay and by painting the pro-regulatory side as out to destroy America. You must be familiar with the Luntz memo.
1.5.2007 10:23pm
MnZ (mail):

'too politically important to solve'

I'm stealin' that, MnZ


Feel free! I am glad you liked it.
1.5.2007 11:59pm
MnZ (mail):
TokyoTom,

Thanks for your response.

I understand the implicit government involvement to support both nuclear and hydroelectric. However, government involvement has stymied both as well. A cap-and-trade system would implicitly subsidize both nuclear and hydroelectric power as well as wind and solar.

In general, addressing the Nimby-ism and red tape associated with wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, and so on will lessen the negative effects associated with greenhouse gas reduction. This should help make greenhouse gas reduction more palatable to people.
1.6.2007 12:30am
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Seems global warming that was quick with erratic changes in temperatures and quick rises in CO2 levels (far greater than observed to date in this and the last century) occurred 300 million years ago. Gee, How many SUV's were around 300 million years ago? Was it as many as are on Mars over the last 5 years causing Mars to warm up over the past 5 years?
How many fossil fuels were being burned by dinosaurs or whatever life forms existed 300 million years ago? And to think, I didn't know dino's drilled for oil 300 million years ago. Wonder if dino's drilled in ANWR?



See Sun-Sentinel Article Regarding UC Davis Study

early global warming caused unexpectedly severe and erratic temperature swings as rising levels of greenhouse gases helped transform Earth, a team led by researchers at UC Davis said Thursday.

The global transition from ice age to greenhouse 300 million years ago was marked by repeated dips and rises in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and wild swings in temperature, with drastic effects on forests and vegetation, the researchers reported in the journal Science.

"It was a real yo-yo," said UC Davis geochemist Isabel Montanez, who led researchers from five universities and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in a project funded by the National Science Foundation. "Should we expect similar but faster climate behavior in the future? One has to question whether that is where we are headed."

The provocative insight into planetary climate change counters the traditional view that global warming could be gradual and its regional effects easily anticipated.

Over several million years, carbon dioxide in the ancient atmosphere increased from about 280 parts per million to 2,000 ppm, the same increase that experts expect by the end of this century as remaining reserves of fossil fuels are burned.

"It suggests," she said, "that the normal behavior in major climate transitions is instability, erratic temperature behavior and carbon dioxide changes."


Yes anyone who denies the science in Al Gore's movie that CO2 rises and global warming are man made are just ideologues as opposed to the deaf, dumb, and blind monkeys of the global warming movement.

Says the "Dog"
1.6.2007 2:16am
Dick King:

Gee, How many SUV's were around 300 million years ago? Was it as many as are on Mars over the last 5 years causing Mars to warm up over the past 5 years?


The United States and especially the Bush43 administration does operate a fleet of SUVs on Mars and is obviously at fault.

-dk
1.6.2007 12:18pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
DK, don't forget the environmental impact on Mars of the secret CIA prisons up there !!!!

Says the "Dog"
1.6.2007 8:24pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Eli I followed your link, but note that it says:

To clarify a little: I am interested in "Was an imminent Ice Age predicted in the '70's by scientists, in scientific journals?".

So far I only followed his link to Misc stuff from non science journals (so far only holds a newsweek 1975 article). That's why I made my request for a citation for "What will it do to the baseball season?" -- the idea was out there (just like the idea that blondes are an endangered species.)

When somebody claims that an imminent ice age was never predicted in the 1970s, they've got to add (stealing another VC line) "Who are you going to believe, me or your lying ears?" (We didn't have the world's greatest reference library at our fingertips in the 1970s -- Newsweek would have carried a lot of weight.)
1.8.2007 6:04pm
TokyoTom (mail):
PuppyDog:

Will you take your ears out of your fingers and listen to Jonathan?

"Above I say the article is "long overdue" because the real climate debate has, for quite some time, not been over the science but rather over the proper policy response to an uncertain yet significant environmental risk. Indeed, as I have said before, most of those labeled "skeptics" accept that human activities are altering the climate and some (such as Bjorn Lomborg) explicitly accept the conclusions of the IPCC. They are labeled skeptics less for their view of the science than their view of the proper response to the risks of climate change. Lomborg, for instance, accepts the IPCC's scientific assessment, but argues that the resources required to forestall significant cliamte change would be put to better use if used to alleviate other global problems, particularly those related to poverty.

The evidence that human beings are, and will continue to, have an impact on the climate has been strong for quite some time. There is significant uncertainty about what precisely this means (e.g. the effect it will actually have on weather, sea-level, etc.), but little doubt that it will produce signficant environmental changes, some of which will impose significant costs and some of which may provide benefits."


You might also notice the recent "conversions" of long-time skeptics Ron Bailey at Reason and Michael Schermer of Skeptics Mag.
1.8.2007 9:29pm