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« Rare in TV’s economic ‘stimulus’ coverage: Economists | Main | Citizen Kane is dead: Journalists are the latest class of starving artist »

February 24, 2009

Comments

David Holliday

"The point here is, while 1998 was the hottest year in recent memory, the fact that the more recent years were a tiny bit cooler does not alter the overall trend of global warming."

But it decimates the theory of forced CO2 warming. If the theory was correct the earth would have continued to warm over the period since 1998 and it hasn't.

CJW

George Will Is Correct On Global Sea Ice, It Is Higher Today Than Almost 3 Decades Ago

jj mollo

The climate is a complex system. Year-to-year fluctuations are due to an even more complex weather system. A ten or twenty year stroll away from the trend line means nothing. There may be effects of solar variation and sunspot anomalies. There may have been some effects due to volcanic activity, particularly after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Who knows what other effects are involved. The steady rise of CO2 levels in the atmosphere, however, is incontrovertible. According data from Mona Loa, CO2 levels have been rising steadily and substantially for at least fifty-one years. Unless the BFG is just breathing out too much, the planet is changing, and I, for one, think that that is more than enough to worry about. Whatever you believe about the bulk of scientific research on this (and I believe most of it), whether you think it's "normal variation" or not, you are crazy to view it with equanimity.

jj mollo

I wonder, BTW, how much sulfur there is in Chinese coal and how much more they have been burning since 1998. Maybe that's the fix! Of course, there are those nasty rumors about the pH levels falling in the oceans. I don't suppose acid rain would be too good for that.

Frank Warner

Who was that former astronaut who said recently that CO2 levels rise as the world warms? He seemed to imply that warming causes more CO2. It's possible. And if it is true, the whole debate changes (if we're allowed to debate).

jj mollo

Debating a climate scientist is a lot of work. For one thing you have to read and understand what they have written. Then you have to rebut their arguments in the same terms that they present them. Data and more data with tightly reasoned analysis under withering scrutiny. (Unless you believe it's all a conspiracy.)

I know it's pretty hard to separate the wheat from the chaff on scientific issues. There are so many disinformation sources, and no scientist will ever give you a straight answer without a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.

Tell you what, take your argument to Dover, Pennsylvania, and sue some of these arrogant bastards. Maybe Judge Jones will give you a hearing.

BTW, it's Harrison Schmitt, but it wouldn't be the first time he fell on his face. Here's another article from the same paper about G. Will's recent assertions.

Frank Warner

That article said there was more sea ice in 1979 than there is now.

The other article said there was less sea ice in 1980 than there is now.

Anyone can make anything out of one or the other of those facts.

This is why we need to see experts debate in front of each other. The obvious inconsistencies would be pointed out faster, and each side would have to defend itself.

With a fairly smart moderator, we all might learn something.

Of course the biggest global warming mystery remains: If these people really believe all of Al Gore's dire warnings, why aren't they demanding an immediate campaign to double the number of U.S. nuclear power plants?

As long as the leading believers propose no practical response, I can't take them seriously.

jj mollo

I think most climate scientists would be happy for us to build more nuclear power plants, though I don't know that for sure.

No one believes Gore's dire warnings, per se. His schtick is polemical speculation with a scientific basis. No one really knows what can happen. But the possibilities are frightening, and Gore's presentation is correct in emphasizing the frightening possibilities.

Frank Warner

Gore is correct except where he's not correct or where he is deceptive.

And I believe if you took the 100 scientists who most frequently signed articles and petitions supporting Gore, you'd be lucky to find two who support a massive expansion of nuclear power. Too many play pretend.

Mark

It was stated:
1. "climate models project that... global warming will result in decreased sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere"
and
2. "that some recent studies have suggested that warming might initially cause sea ice to increase in the Southern Hemisphere"

So I want to know did ANY of climate models "project" the sea ice change now "studied" in the Southern Hemisphere?

Are there any climate models that have been reasonably accurate? What are the most accurate ones? I know the hurricane models after Katrina were WAY off.

jj mollo

I don't really know, but the way that climate modeling works is that all models are pretty accurate for historical data. Otherwise they are thrown out or fixed. By googling I've been able to find descriptions of models that forecast Arctic sea-ice annual minimums. (You could do the same, or you could ask a meteorologist.) I don't know how good these models are. Annual forecasts are very difficult because they are about the weather, not the climate. Most of these assertions you read about are based on general climate modeling where isotherms are generated by the model and results of those temperatures are imputed by researchers. The fact that a model is predicting an increase in Antarctic sea ice is BTW very interesting -- because it is counter-intuitive. Against a backdrop of generally rising temperature, you would expect polar ice to be decreasing generally, not increasing. If such a prediction pans out, then the scientists will have pretty convincing evidence that their model has merit.

The Arctic trend, fyi, is already pretty convincing. One graph in particular, percent of ice by age, looks pretty solid to me. Scan down a ways and you'll see it.

Scientists have collected most of their data and ideas by using indirect methods. Antarctic ice, for instance, probably shrank during the first half of the 20th century. We know that from studies of whaling records. Where did the ships go according to logbooks listing long/lat? Places they didn't go were likely to have been iced up.

Hurricane models are much less precise than climate models, as you are probably aware. The TV reports always include a large error distribution, usually represented as a darkened circle sector. The forecasters hardly ever commit to a high likelihood for any specific landing point or for any specific wind speed. Katrina forecasting, however, was certainly good enough. The inhabitants of New Orleans were instructed in no uncertain terms to leave town. I believe the same was true for Galveston.

The big problem with hurricane forecasts is vagueness and false alarms. If people have to leave town once and nothing happens, then the next time they are likely to ignore the warnings. Unfortunately, weather is probably too chaotic to predict much better than we currently do.

Frank Warner

This helps explain why a debate is so important.

First, you want to know, is the Earth warming up? It probably is.

Next, you want to know, is this bad for the foreseeable future -- say, the next 100 years? It's hard to tell.

Next, assuming global warming eventually will have some adverse effects, can global warming be slowed down or reversed by a change in human activity? In other words, are humans causing most or even much of the global warming? Or even if we're not, can we do something about it?

Next, is there something that must be done right now?

Not incidentally, what's the best path to take on our choice energy sources if we want to preserve a fairly decent economy for civilization, health and progress?

Finally, if it's too late to do anything about the climate changes coming over the next 100 years, where should we move?

jj mollo

Obama, Bush and Clinton have all confirmed that the climate is changing as a result of human influences. I don't know about Cheney, but I'm guessing Biden and Gore would agree. Those are the authority dudes who ought to know. You could also flip through some pages in Nature, Science, Science News, Scientific American, et al., and you might be surprised at the lack of debate on the subject.

Is this bad for the future? Probably not. Maybe a little. But just possibly it might be very bad. You don't need anyone to tell you that. All you need to know in order to worry about it is that CO2 has sauntered globally far from the beaten path and that CO2 has some peculiar characteristics. It would be irresponsible not to respond as if this possibility were important.

Is there something that can be done about it now? Yes. We can find a way to return to the status quo ante. That strikes me as the most prudent policy, though it's difficult to say for sure. We certainly know ways to reduce the greenhouse gas production immediately. We just lack the political will to take it seriously enough. (Part of the reason that we lack the political will is because of massive disinformation campaigns.)

What's the best path? Right now we could saturate every path that has been suggested without spending nearly as much as the stimulus bill. And it would all be stimulus! But the fact is, you already know the answer. We desperately need a massive conversion to nuclear power for this and other reasons. Steven Den Beste said it best, beginning about 2002. Here's a more recent synopsis of the Den Beste point of view. He's also right the the people who are most likely to fear global warming are also the most likely to resist nuclear power. But there are exceptions.

The question of whether it's too late to do anything about it is also irresponsible. You have to work on the assumption that there is hope. And where should you move? I'm staying put. It'll be beach front property any day now.

Wouldn't it be great, though, if we all had to move to Detroit! I could buy a lot of houses there for the price of mine. Hey, maybe I could get Michael Moore's autograph.

Frank Warner

Obama, Bush and Clinton aren't scientists, and I suspect that each of them has his own opinion on how much we humans have to do with global warming.

And no, I would not be surprised by the lack of debate on global warming in Nature, Science, Science News, Scientific American, et al. In the field of climate forecasting, scientists are intimidated into keeping their skepticism quiet.

Disinformation may be part of the problem. But the lack of information is the other side of the coin. "The debate is over," we're told again and again.

There are reasonable people who argue that global warming does not exist, or at least, that it has stopped. That was the whole point of George Will's column.

Will may be wrong, but he's no lunatic, and we should not only ask him to re-evaluate his information, we should ask his detractors to further explain how they came to their conclusions.

Those sounding the alarms also should explain better what "believing in global warming" means. In 2100, how much higher is the Atlantic Ocean likely to be in New York City and Miami? How much less food will the world be producing? (So far, we're producing more food each year.)

jj mollo

We are debating something where the science isn't mature. I am in full agreement with you as far as the uncertainty is concerned. I also agree with you about G. Will, whom I called "... the most reasonable, articulate ..."

The scientific consensus is that sea-levels will rise up to 1.5 meters by 2100. Maybe that's a problem, but it's not real certain and it's not what I'm worried about. What scares me is not the probabilities, but the possibilities. The USGS says that a complete melt, north and south, could raise sea-levels up to 86 meters. Since the K-T break, sea-levels have typically been 200 meters higher than today. Since we are doing things to the planet that are unprecedented, there is no reason to believe that a return to such conditions is out of the question. Do you believe Civilization could survive a 20M rise? Why should we take the chance if we can avoid it.

Frank Warner

We may have to survive a sea rise of 20 meters. 66 feet? We could survive it, but we won't have to. And neither will the next generation. Eventually, though, we humans won't be able to avoid every natural or man-made trend.

And if we over-react now, we could end up with much less fresh water and an East Coast 125 miles farther to the east, which happened in the last Ice Age. Lots of things could happen.

But no, we're not in major disagreement. If we seriously think C02 is causing something potentially catastrophic, then build many more nuclear power plants. That solves problems almost everyone agrees are real.

First, let's see all the evidence and debate it. Then let's ask the long-faithful of man-made global warming why most of them never have a real solution to anything.

jj mollo

They're Luddites. That's the reason. They know just enough science to be dangerous. Since it was human activity that got us into this mess, they reason, then all human activity is b-a-a-a-a-d. Most of them couldn't follow a debate, for lack of patience, much less provide a sound set of rational arguments. Everything is emotional.

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