Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Warmer is better for me

I would like to share two items in today's news cycle about the earth's climate. The first is about January 2006 being the warmest on record in the U.S. The other concerns some Russian scientists who are predicting a mini-ice age for the upcoming middle part of this century. They compare it to the Little Ice Age which occurred from 1645 to 1705 and froze the canals of Holland solid.

I for one am very happy to have been able to save energy this winter due to the much warmer weather southern Utah has experienced so far. I like it when I can use solar radiation to heat my home instead of using natural gas which is very expensive. This warmer sunnier weather also makes me feel better and puts me in a nicer mood.

Should I brood because it is currently 55 F and delightfully sunny? I'm getting a tan and there are little buzzing honey bees in my office, in this second week of the month most dreary! Bring on more record breaking heat and we'll save even more energy and I'll get even happier. Who says this is bad or good and why? Long term predictions about the supernatural powers of the air is a tricky business ya'll, so I personally vote for a warmer planet rather than a colder one. Just my preference, that's all.

So let's hear it for Global Warming in my usually cold and windy Great Basin valley in February! It can warm up all it wants to.

January breaks records: http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/02/07/D8FKGOE80.html

Future ice age: http://upi.com/NewsTrack/view.php?StoryID=20060207-041447-2345r

The Little Ice Age in Europe


Uncle Jelly said...

Spoken like a parent of none.

beamis said...

If we can't predict where a hurricane is headed more than one day out, how the hell is anyone gonna convince me that they know what's gonna happen way down the road? The answer is: they can't.

The fear of global warming is another example of the bad sensationalist science we have aplenty in the postmodern world. It is the Paul Erlich school of predict enough doom and gloom and the funding will soon follow. I've seen these same university trained idiots in the National Park Service asserting the same utter nonsense about the fate of the enviornment, and see the meteoroligcal branch of Chicken Littles no differently.

With all of the dire hysteria global warmists daily fulminate I still haven't heard one of them say specifically what will be so dogone bad about a warmed up planet. That's cause they plumb don't know themselves. They need some seed money to get started on a draft proposal for obtaining more money to study the effects of something that hasn't happened yet, and may never.

What are you afraid your children will inherit? We know ice ages happen rather frequently, doesn't that concern you too? What is the fate you are so afraid "the children", as Bubba Clnton liked to intone, will be left with?

I'll bet the climate of the earth will keep on doing what it is doing right now-----whatever the hell it pleases. Bring on the volcanoes and Toyota fumes. More carbon is good! It makes more plant food for photosynthesis! That ain't bad now is it? Not if you're a plant.

Audie said...

I'm a plant.

Uncle Jelly said...

"If we can't predict where a hurricane.... The answer is: they can't."

I can't predict where the schmearings are gonna be in the pot after a long hard crap either, but I can guess they'll be there and hope I'm be responsible. Meaningless point.

"university-trained idiots..."

Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle.

"They need some seed money to get started on a draft proposal for obtaining more money to study..."

To study peaceful crap, kinda like... oh, I don't know... geography or some such useless shit.

"What are you afraid your children will inherit?"

Go get knocked up and you'll know there ain't enough space on your and all the other blogs put together to hold all the shit you'll worry about your kid inheriting. Until you do that, having a mouth (or in this case an internet connection) is the only thing that gives you the right to ask the question.

Global warming is not on the list of shit I worry about. Stoppin' the global warming president from pissin' money away on those silly, dangerous, murderous fuckers sonic booming over your tropical paradise and instead directing it to the utterly useless liberal arts like... oh, I don't know... Tour Directing Technology and Meteorology is on the list and tops it.

I have to admit though, had I remained childless, nieceless, nephewless, and friendless, I would be in complete agreement on the global warming thing.

Merle rules. I don't like bein' mean to a Merle fan.

beamis said...

Kinfolks, I got. Children, not yet. It don't change the fact that we don't know enough to guess what's gonna happen, and it's too vague a problem to try and pretend to understand.

That's all. you can be mad acting all ye want, but it ain't really about me or what I done said uncle jelly.

Uncle Jelly said...

Uh... yeah... lemme straighten my collar and my hair here... mop my brow... and try to uh... regain some semblance of dignity here.

Audie said...

Do I know who uncle jelly is? I dunno, but I like any Merle Haggard fan who muses about crapper shmearings. After my own heart.... You go, unk!

One reason I am glad to have remained childless is because I think I would otherwise die an almost immediate death due to the stress that I would be suddenly beset with about what kind of angry, shallow, desperate, and resource-depleted world my child(ren) would inherit -- coupled with my pessimism that there is little we can do about it, (given the intelligence, reasonableness, and level of discipline exhibited by the average earth citizen), save delay the inevitable by a matter of years, maybe.

I still don't see how the reporting of an upward trend in global temperatures counts as "sensationalist science." When I hear the weatherman today say that it was 47 degrees out, and that it was unseasonably warm because the jet stream flowed a more northern route than usual, I don't scream at the poor meteorologist and accuse him of promoting some meteorological agenda. Or if he says it's gonna get down to an estimated 15 degrees tonight -- and I'd better bring in my houseplants or else they'll die -- I don't accuse him of being a crazy "sensationalist." I trust that he knows what he's talking about, and that there's a very good chance he's right about not only what the temperature will get to tonight but what that'll do to some of my (fellow) plants. And I heed his warning or suffer the consequences (i.e., dead houseplants out on the patio in the morning). Similarly, if, as in a recent article I read, a scientist who has been studying the effects of warming temperatures on frozen tundra for 30 years issues a warning that the soon-to-be-completed trans-Himalayan railroad will suffer costly track damage due to the reasonably-anticipated continued warming of the ground over which said railroad passes, I puzzle at certain persons' vilification of said scientist. He doesn't necessarily have any more agenda than does the TV weatherman who's telling me I might oughta bring my houseplants in off the patio tonight. He's not being a sensationalist, and he furthermore does not necessarily hold any opinion about whether said track damage (or the advisability of building a trans-Himalayan railroad in the first place) is a good or bad thing. I still think the work he is doing is reasonably worthwhile, basic research, and I still wonder (as I have for years) why such a person is one of beamis's favorite targets ("university-trained idiots"?).

Oh well....

Anonymous said...

Well, I sp'ose I'll have to weigh in here being as I'm one of those "university trained (or training) idiots" that spends time wondering and worrying about our environment. I do so because I believe that my efforts and the efforts of my colleagues might in some small way make life a little bit better for us, our children, and the other critters (including plants such as Audie) we share this blessedly amazing spheroid with. Or at least provide some hope that it will continue in ways that we and other critters can find useful.

The senstationalist science aspect of global warming, chicken flus, and other imminent catastrophies is a point well taken. It is usually generated not by the scientists who spend their lives working to understand what makes things tick on said spheroid, but by the second hand crowd that likes to take little sound bites out to feed to the hungry masses, who don't have the time, patience, or interest to read for themselves and make an informed decision. So yes, there's a sensationalist problem. However, scientists don't build careers by simply building chicken little scenarios to scare the populace and 'get more money to study getting more money'. We do what we do because we care about something bigger than our own little paradise. For some it is simply the pleasure of learning more, or of the scientific methods... of attempting to answer some of the great mysteries. Be it whether we'll have snow or rain tomorrow, or whether an average temp increase of 1-1.5 degrees is going to seriously muck things up, or whether bird nesting ecology is flexible enough to withstand severe forest fragmentation, timber production monocultures, and habitat isolation impact(my personal favorite), scientists do what we do because we care about something. A lot of us care about our children, and what we're leaving them. Some decry Rachel Carson as an alarmist chicken-little because what she predicted didn't come to pass. But I'll argue that her predictions either didn't come to pass because she brought the issue to a head and we started changing the way we do business, or that they haven't yet come to pass but are still imminent. I read an article today discussing increasing whale mortality, amphibean declines and reproductive losses, and turtles and alligators that don't have penises, or have small penises, testicles, AND ovaries. All of these have been linked to PCB's, DDE (a DDT derivative) and other endocrine disrupting compounds we're pumping into the environment. Do we care about whales, alligators and frogs? I sure as hell hope so, cause we're part of the food chain. This stuff is already turning up in alarming amounts in human breast milk. A concentrated concoction that, though not lethal to mommy, can have serious effects on baby. As Grech and I have started discussing the very real potential of actually having a baby, you better believe I'm listening to what my scientists are saying. I'm scared as hell for the kid that I don't have, but that is looming more realistically on my horizon.

You know I love you Beamis. And I have a great respect for your knowledge and keen insights. But I have to ask you to take it easy on me and my scientific peers, because many of us are really doing this because we care. Do we play the grant game? You bet, because the same crowd in D.C. that's mucking up everything else continues its attack on funding for research and development, unless your science is warmongering. We play it because we have to. But good scientists report what they find, along with what they think it means. You want to stop the sensationalism, talk to the sound bite media complex, and tell them to give us the whole story. By the way, I know there are bad scientists out there too. Part of what good scientists do is point them out. MOST scientists in the know today are really worried about global warming issues.

We can't predict who'll get cancer, but science has given us some pretty good ideas about how to reduce our likelihood, and it seems to work in many cases. Sensationalism?

Shane Pruett
University of Missourah
Fisheries and Wildlife Science

beamis said...

Yet we have a government that we KNOW is killing people this very day, but does that stop any of us from giving it more money? Here we see a tangible source of death that we know about, one that we contribute directly to, but instead we're going to worry about a nebulous future none of us can truly predict.

If you're worried about your children, worry about the resumption of nuclear testing in Nevada or the enviornmental destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq and now Pakistan by American bombs. If you're worried about the future, why don't you ask what's going to become of the genes and chromosomes of all the children born after their parents absorbed radiation from spent uranium cased American bombs. Those are real and present dangers. Don't need any grant money to figure that one out.

Why can't we deal with the real death makers in our midst first and then maybe I'll feel like we have the luxury to go after what is currently an intangible threat.

Audie said...

As I've said before, some of us can worry about more than one thing at a time.

Beamis's position? Our country is using my money to kill people, so therefore we needn't worry about not pissin' in the drinkin' well, cuz the latter implies that our drinking water tomorrow might make us sick -- and who knows if tomorrow will even come, and what will truly happen? The future is nebulous! I happen to like warm water, anyway, so I say bring on the piss, neighbors! And another thing for all you sensationalist chicken littles to consider: drinkin' piss has saved peoples' lives before! (Lost sailors and hikers, for instance.) So there! But my shifting main point is that the government is taking our money and using it to kill people, so therefore anyone devoting their time to alerting people to the possible ill effects of our collective piss in the drinkin' well are wasting their time! Shame on them!

What would you have us do, Beamis? Go chain ourselves to the testing ground gates in Nevada? Camp out in Crawford, Texas, holding up a sign? March in New York City? Give money to orgnanizations working toward peace? Quit our jobs and just do contract work and not report our earnings to the IRS? Have you done all these things? Like you, I've done one or more, but, also like you, I haven't done all of them. Those are personal choices, and I applaud anyone (including you) who have made any of those choices.

I also applaud people who've taken up other causes -- including, for example, studying the big hole in the ozone and what implications it might have for life on earth. And I used to care more about stuff like that, and used to do more myself, but it gets old having to fight not only ignorance (which would be enough of a challenge), but also otherwise intelligent beings who consistently attack those who take up causes, just because said beings find some other cause more pressing.

One could argue about which cause is more pressing, anyway -- that piddly little bitch-slap of a war in Iraq may not mean shit if we're fighting over a future none of us can survive in anyway. But why not put the argument over which cause is the greater one aside, and lend our support to ALL those fighting for a better world -- whether it's camping out in Crawford, TX or thumbing our noses at the IRS or letting fucking Utah Wilderness Alliance try to save a species or two now and then? It's all good, isn't it?

beamis said...

No, it's not all good dude. First things first.

It would be like a German citizen worrying about animal cruelty during the Holocaust. I mean they're all worthy causes, right dude? Fighting genocide and being a Green are all cool. You know whatever you're into fight on dude! We can't be there for everything man, but whatever you pick it's all good dude. Wrong. First things first. First things first.

beamis said...

Being forced to pay tribute to a war god I despise taints my soul enough to make indignation at anything else a shameful mockery of self-indulgent self-righteousness.

Audie said...

And how is it you escape from the same indignation, pray tell? Is anti-war-ism your only concern in life?

Your fascination with barbeque and trilobytes and Wilma's peppers while there is a war going on insults me.

Audie said...

Shame on you for taking time out of your anti-war campaign to think about such things.

Anonymous said...

by the way, I'm commenting as anonymous because your blog still won't let me post proper, but I wanted to play too...

Beamis said:
"Yet we have a government that we KNOW is killing people this very day, but does that stop any of us from giving it more money?"

Point taken. No I haven't stopped paying my taxes. Have you? I agree that I abhor the idea that my money isn't being spent the way I'd prefer (say, doing good science) but as much as I hate the imperialism that seems to be growing stronger daily by stealing from my table, I figure that at this point in history, if I don't pay my taxes, I could (if I were truly making enough to matter to the great Uncle) go to jail, or at least end up penalized and giving them a whole lot MORE. I don't want to give them more, and I sure as hell can't do any good if I'm in jail. So I pay, and hope for a better day, a movement I can support, and make my voice heard on as many topics as I can, while remaining first true to myself and my ideals.

"but instead we're going to worry about a nebulous future none of us can truly predict."

You're right, no one at this point can "truly" predict it, but we have it on pretty good data, theory, and authority that global warming won't mean a tropical paradise for both Hawaiians and Inuets. We suspect that it means major shifts in climate patterns. Some species will be able to adapt (i.e. move) and many won't. IF the larger food chain starts collapsing, we'd better watch out because we're more dependent than we like to let on. And then all the wars in the world won't matter.

Besides, your original post was about global warming, to which I responded. We weren't talking about supporting one or the other. I am vociferous daily in my antiwar stance, but want there to be something to look forward to "if" we get things under control in the middle east. Actually, that would be getting things under control in Washington, and things in the middle east might just take care of themselves in some ways.

"If you're worried about your children... Those are real and present dangers."

I think about these things everyday my friend...

"Don't need any grant money to figure that one out."

Ah, but that's because "grant money" or "gov't money" or some money was spent once upon a time to study the effects of said radiation exposure. I have a friend in NYC. I visited and met his dad, a scrawny, emaciated, feeble scrap of a man. I wondered at what brought him to that state. Then I saw the scrapebook on the coffee table. Photos (his) of those very above ground tests you often invoke. He was a frontline soldier (read guinea pig) standing watching the show as close to ground zero as was "safe". I don't wish it on anyone, having looked in his eyes and heard his stories.

"Why can't we deal with the real death makers in our midst first and then maybe I'll feel like we have the luxury to go after what is currently an intangible threat."

One definition for intangible is "That which cannot be easily defined, grasped or formulated." I think that's a fair description of Global warming. But I believe we owe it to ourselves, our kids, and yes even the other critters to try and define, grasp, and formulate before we are left simply trying to patch up the holes.

Just my humble opine.

beamis said...

That we admit we submit out of fear of jail lets me know that we're all just pissing into the wind in this totalitarian sty of a country.

You pay for bloody brutal war against your will because you are too afraid of going to jail if you speak up, or decide you don't want to contribute. How can any other issue be less important than that? The state of your soul is dictated by fear. Mine too. I'm not above this scenario, but I'd be way more scared to bring my child into this dictatorship than worrying about the long term effects of the ozone hole.

It really is getting time for me to leave.

Audie said...

"I'd be way more scared to bring my child into this dictatorship than worrying about the long term effects of the ozone hole."

Six o' one, half dozen o' the other. Either way you're toast... On second thought, I guess I would rather get toasted by radiation from the sun than by radiation from one of Shrub's bombs or one of his personal enemies'. Hmmmmm....

"It really is getting time for me to leave."

If Canada were warmer I'd be there already.

beamis said...

Cayman Islands & Baja California sound nicer and nicer.

Uncle Jelly said...

New Zealand and Australia are hurtin' for folks trained in the sciences. As soon as I can figger out which is the lesser evil, I'm outa here. Thanks for the nudge.

Anonymous said...

"That we admit we submit out of fear of jail lets me know that we're all just pissing into the wind..."

I admit it because I'm trying to be more honest with myself about who I am. I didn't say I liked it, as I know you don't either. Believe me when I agree with you that I think Shrub and his ripple effect are a very real, very imminent threat to our well being.

And note, I'm afraid to go to jail, sure, but I'm also acknowledging that I can do less in there than out here. At least that's what I believe.

"The state of your soul is dictated by fear."

Sometimes, but I like to think that most of the time it's dictated by hope. Far more powerful ultimately than fear. Just look at the number of successful revolts throughout history. Fear put them off, but hope and a desire for something better ultimately changed the situation. Sometimes for the better, sometimes worse.

"It really is getting time for me to leave"

I remember some very kind beaches in lower Baja... olives, fresh grilled fish... I'll be looking at some of those other opportunities when I shed my current chains. Grech and I have discussed extended stays abroad... and Uncle Jelly makes a good point about the Down Under.

Peace brothers.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that last Anonymous was me again...

Burdick Shane

Audie said...

Beamis said: "Here we see a tangible source of death that we know about [war], one that we contribute directly to, but instead we're going to worry about a nebulous future none of us can truly predict [global warming]."

Audie says:

For many people in the world, global warming is far more "tangible" than some war in a far-off Persian desert.


Some excerpts:

There [is] now a near-unanimous scientific consensus that rising levels of greenhouse gases [will] cause global warming and other climate changes.... Climate change may already have led to lower production of food in some regions due to changes in temperature, rainfall, soil moisture, pests and diseases.... In food insecure populations this alteration may already be contributing to malnutrition.... Sea levels [have] risen in recent decades, and people [have] already started moving from some low-lying Pacific islands. Such population movements often increased nutritional and physical problems and disease.... The number of people adversely affected by El Nino-related weather events over three decades, worldwide, appears to have increased greatly....

Furthermore, The advent of changes in global climate signals that we are now living beyond the Earth's capacity to absorb a major waste product... [i.e.,] greenhouse gases.

So, according to a "near unanimous consensus" of (albeit idiotic, university-trained) scientists from all over the world, (a) the effects of this event are already being felt (that is, it's not about some "nebulous future"), (b) people are dying because of it, and (c) we (including you and I) are contributing to it, just as we are contributing to the war in Iraq.

So, your point that there is this huge difference between the two concerns, and that it is shameful to devote energy to one and not the other, seems a bit weakened. Unless, of course, you want to continue to dismiss a near-unanimous scientific consensus (which, I realize, you very well may do).

beamis said...

I recognize no near consensus among anyone on this issue. It is too complex for humans to understand. Period. We just don't know. Anything that says we do is pure hubris and grant money produced gibberish.

By the way I'm not against your ideas because I favor pollution, I don't. It's just that we can't know the unknowable with any degree of certainty.

Andy said...

Beamis, I'm late in the game, but you win this one in my book.

1.The statistics are too contradictory, too variable to location for us to know for sure.

2. We probably are contributing in some way to global changes, but assuming we are more damaging/influencing than say volcanoes or ungulate/ swamp farts is egotistical.

3. There is a Zen element to this. Global cooling will be bad and good; Global warming will be bad and good. Some species/locales will benefit from global warming. Some species/locales will suffer. Ah, such is life/ such is death. And every solution to a problem causes more promblems. And Hetch-Hetchy hasn't impacted Yosemite near as much as another ice age will. And a lava flow once damed the Grand Canyon for centuries longer than they say the Glen Canyon dam will.

Devastatin' Dave said...

I'll chime in with some questions/comments of my own...

1. Is the Earth warming significantly? Seems it depends on who you ask. I think NOAA has temperature data that shows no warming.

2. If there is warming, is it human-caused or natural? If it's natural, then que sera, sera.

3. If there is natural warming, then so what. That's not meant to be a flip remark, just a call to adapt and move on.

4. I think solar activity effecting global weather should be looked at more closely. Is it a stretch to say that if energy output from the sun varied then it could effect our weather? To take it to both extremes, if the sun went red giant or white dwarf, it would definitely effect us.

4. I saved 10% on my car insurance by calling GEICO.

beamis said...

Andy----I'm impressed with your knowledge of Grand Canyon geology. That dam was formed where the present day Hurricane Fault crosses the Grand Canyon at Lava Falls. I've read in nerdy journals on such stuff that it could re-rupture again at any time, and viola we'd have yet another dam built above Hoover to help alleviate the silt inflow. This would be an instant boon for the irrigation intensive Cal-Vegas Civilization, and thus enable them to thrive for at least another hundred years.

You will always remain the smartest cop I ever knew. I know that ain't saying much, but it's true. Now you're one the smartest authors I know. Nice upgrade dear.

Devastatin' Dave said...

Thems fightin' words, Beamis.

beamis said...

What are you bitchin' about? You were never a cop. You were as much of a police type as Benson was a teetotaler.

Andy was a cop. We hid illegal things from her. Good thing Stump was dating her at the time. Kinda took some of the heat offa his criminalist dorm buddies like myself.

Devastatin' Dave said...

Beamis said, "I know that's not saying much, but it's true."

Thems fightin' words.

Audie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Audie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Audie said...

I'm gonna try again after gettin' some sleep....

beamis said: It is too complex for humans to understand. Period. We just don't know.... We can't know the unknowable with any degree of certainty.

audie's image of beamis in this discussion: Hands over ears, singing "LALALALALALA!"

audie: But it's right here.


audie: It's in all the scientific jour--


audie: It ceased to be a controversy quite a few years a--


It's like trying to talk about prehistoric geology to a Biblical literalist.

audie: "Yeah, but these rocks are millions of years old. There're some minor quibbles between scientists, but multiple data sets from many different branches of science all converge, time and again, toward the same conclusions. There's some astounding general consensus amongst those who specialize in paleo--"

Biblical literalist: LALALALALALALALA! They don't know! It can't be known! We can't be certain! LALALALALALALALALA! The earth is 6,000 years old! LALALA!

"We can't know the unknowable"?!? Uh, yeah, beamis, pretty much by definition. I bet we can't stop the unstoppable, either, or break the unbreakable.

"We can't predict where a hurricane is headed more than one day out"? Really? Where'd you think Katrina was gonna hit? Honolulu?

Does the fact that you were supported for several years by federal dollars, partly to further your knowledge about canyon geology, negate everything you learned about the subject during that time, and render any work you produced during that time "idiotic" and tainted and automatically flawed and unreliable? I don't see why it should.

And yet that is your automatic assumption about certain fields of science about which you have declared a firm position, and it seems that your only option against the mounting evidence (aside from admitting there might be something there) is to close the door and declare it "unknowable." So sayeth the all-seeing delineator of the knowable from the unknowable, beamis from Quichipa?

As for Andy and Dave's comments and questions:

Dave: I think NOAA has temperature data that shows no warming.

On the contrary, one of many links on the NOAA website is to Senate testimony presented by Tom Karl, the director of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center ("the world's largest active archive of weather data"), which I quote from below, and which can be found in full at

Of course, he is a federally funded scientist, so at least one amongst us will discount anything he says, but for the rest of us:

Dave: Is the Earth warming significantly?

Karl (basing his comments on the work of hundreds of scientists worldwide): The global-average surface temperature has increased over the 20th Century by 0.4 to 0.8° C (0.7 to 1.4°F). This occurred both over land and the oceans. The average temperature increase in the Northern Hemisphere over the 20th Century is likely to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years, based on "proxy" data (and their uncertainties) from tree rings, corals, ice cores, and historical records. The 1990s are likely to have been the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year of the past 1000 years. Other observed changes are consistent with this warming. There has been a widespread retreat of mountain glaciers in non-polar regions. Snow cover, sea ice extent and sea ice thickness, and the duration of ice on lakes and rivers have all decreased. Ocean heat content has increased significantly since the late 1940s, the earliest time when we have adequate computer compatible records. The global-average sea level has risen between 10 to 20 centimeters (4 to 8 inches), which is consistent with a warmer ocean occupying more space because of the thermal expansion of sea water and loss of land ice.

[Notice that he is not using terms denoting "certainty." So, dismissing "global warming" because of climatologists' supposed hubris in doing so is off base.]

Dave: If there is warming, is it human-caused or natural?

Karl: Direct atmospheric measurements made over the past 40-plus years have documented the steady growth in the atmospheric abundance of carbon dioxide. In addition to these direct real-time measurements, ice cores have revealed the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of the distant past. Measurements using air bubbles trapped within layers of accumulating snow show that atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by more than 30% over the Industrial Era (since 1750), compared to the relatively constant abundance that it had over the preceding 750 years of the past millennium. The predominant cause of this increase in carbon dioxide is the combustion of fossil fuels and the burning of forests.... Other heat-trapping gases are also increasing as a result of human activities. We are unable to state with certainty the exact rate at which these gases will continue to increase because of uncertainties in future emissions as well as how these emissions will be taken up by the atmosphere, land, and oceans. We are certain, however, that once in the atmosphere these greenhouse gases have a relatively long life-time, in the order of decades to centuries. This means they become well mixed throughout the globe.

[Again, a mixture of humility about what is uncertain with what is certain -- and the concern (as expressed by others) comes from what is certain -- and even from "best case scenarios" within the range of uncertainties.]

Dave: I think solar activity affecting global weather should be looked at more closely. Is it a stretch to say that if energy output from the sun varied then it could affect our weather?

and Andy: Assuming we are more damaging/influencing than say volcanoes ... is egotistical.

Karl: Emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols due to human activities continue to alter the atmosphere in ways that are expected to affect the climate. There are also natural factors which exert a forcing on climate, e.g., changes in the Sun's energy output and short-lived (about 1 to 2 years) aerosols in the stratosphere following episodic and explosive volcanic eruptions. The forcing estimates in the case of the greenhouse gases are greater than for these two other forcing agents. [Partly because...] ... A greenhouse-gas warming could be reversed only very slowly. This quasi-irreversibility arises because of the slow rate of removal (centuries) from the atmosphere of many of the greenhouse gases and because of the slow response of the oceans to thermal changes. For example, several centuries after carbon dioxide emissions occur, about a quarter of the increase in the atmospheric concentrations caused by these emissions is projected to still be in the atmosphere. Additionally, global average temperature increases and rising sea levels are projected to continue for hundreds of years after a stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations (including a stabilization at today's abundances), owing to the long time scales (decades to centuries) on which the deep ocean adjusts to climate change.


Note that there are no moral judgments in this testimony -- about whether the forecast changes are "good" or "bad," in the scientists' opinion. As Shane has already brought up, it seems to me, too, that you (beamis and now andy) are attacking scientists and their work, for what is really the activities of lobbyists and politicians and media types looking for an angle and some sensationalist soundbites to boost their ratings or campaign chests. Some of us long-time academicians and/or scientists naturally take offense to your mischaracterization, as the vast majority of people we know in the field are people of integrity.

Having said that, I do think it worthwhile to consider what the implications are if these reported trends are real (as, I think, they likely are) -- especially given the "quasi-irreversibility" of the changes being wrought. Otherwise we'll likely be swimmin' in a cesspool in a Global Ninth Ward, cuz somebodies was hollerin' "We cain't be fer certain where dat hairricane is gon' hit. We shan't do nuthin'! Hesh up all you chicken littles! ... Oops! Shit! Honey, hand me dat axe, so's I can punch a hole in the ruff. Lawd! Why din't somebody warn us peoples?!?"

And, for the record, I'm all about the Zen thing and the Art of Que Sera, Sera, Some Will Adapt and Some Won't -- but isn't foresight a handy tool to have in your "adaptation strategies" toolkit? I don't see the incompatibility.

Devastatin' Dave said...

An excerpt from an interesting article...

"The first truth told at this meeting was that there is no human-caused global warming, despite what (some) government-funded scientists, anti-technology environmentalists, and the media tell us. Dr. Willie Soon, a physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in a talk titled "Level with Me: the Sea, the Sun, and Climate Change," refuted claims that the 1990s was the warmest decade of the millennium – or that the 20th century has been warmer than any other century.

Dr. Soon presented data from his recently published study, coauthored with Sallie Baliunas, titled "Lessons & Limits of Climate History: Was the 20th Century Climate Unusual?" (April, 2003). The last ice age ended 14,000 years ago. This study shows that since then there has been a Medieval Warm Period, lasting from 800–1,300 C.E., followed by a Little Ice Age, lasting from 1400–1900 C.E. The 20th century has emerged from this 500-year cold cycle to return to a more typical interglacial temperature. The global warming that occurred during the Medieval Warm Period far surpassed anything that has been seen over the past century. Variations in solar irradiance, volcanism, and other natural phenomena affect the planet’s temperature, not human activity. People who fear global warming can take comfort in the fact that the Antarctic polar ice cap is growing slightly, not receding.

The report, Global Warming: A Guide to the Science, by Drs. Soon, Baliunas, Arthur Robinson, and his son Zachary Robinson, presents the facts on climate change in a clear and unbiased fashion. It is a good antidote to the report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The temperature of the planet’s atmosphere has not changed over the last 25 years, as Dr. Robert Balling, Director of the Office of Climatology at Arizona State University, showed in the next talk, based on data obtained by surface, satellite, and balloon thermometers. Carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, however, are another matter. They are rising. Is this something we need to be concerned about? The answer is "No." Dr. Balling presented data that allays fears about greenhouse gases, fears which brought about the Kyoto agreement. His book, The Satanic Gases: Clearing the Air about Global Warming, coauthored with Patrick Michaels, addresses this subject.

Sherwood Idso, PhD, President of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, presented data that validates a second truth related to the environment: Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant; it is essential to life. Animals cannot live without oxygen, and plants cannot live without carbon dioxide. Indeed, increased atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have a beneficial effect on plant life. Conducting experiments where he grew plants in atmospheres containing different concentrations of CO2, Dr. Idso found that a 300 ppm (parts per million) boost in concentration of CO2 increases the productivity of plants by 30 to 50 percent, as measured by rate of photosynthesis and biomass production. Orange trees, for example, produce twice as many oranges, each containing a 20 percent greater amount of vitamin C when you increase the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere from 300 to 600 ppm (the level of CO2 in the atmosphere now is 370 ppm). Dr. Idso’s Center publishes the CO2 Science Magazine weekly online, which provides plant growth data, temperature trends, editorials, and journal reviews."


Devastatin' Dave said...

Another one...

"Most of the rise in temperature in the 20th century occurred before 1940, before CO2 levels started rising. Temperatures fell 0.3° F from 1940 to 1970 while CO2 levels rose, from 310 to 325 ppmv (there is a graph of this on page 86). The temperature of the planet’s upper atmosphere (which the theory of global warming predicts should warm first), as measured by satellites, beginning in 1979, and weather balloons, has remained unchanged over the last 25 years despite a rise in atmospheric CO2 levels to 370 ppmv (p. 99).

Claims trumpeted by the media about how much warmer the planet is now compared with previous decades, centuries, and millennia are equally false. Indirect measurements of temperature, obtained from ice cores, tree rings, corals, ocean sediments, boreholes, and glacier movement, show that there was a Medieval Warm Period, from 800 to 1,300 (there were no thermometers then), when the planet was considerably warmer than it is now. Vineyards flourished in England and cattle grazed in areas of Greenland that today are blanketed by ice more than a mile thick. (The climate was also warmer 6,500 years ago during the Holocene Climate Optimum.)

Policy makers and environmentalists claim that a "consensus of a very large group of scientists" agrees that greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming. In his Caltech lecture, Dr. Crichton says, "I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels… In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results… Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough." He’s right. Furthermore, the proclaimed consensus for global warming is bogus: 1,500 scientists (of whom only 181 work in fields related to climatology) signed a pro-global warming petition in 1997, but 19,000 scientists signed a petition a year later opposing the U.N.’s Kyoto Treaty Against Global Warming. (The petition states, "… The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate….")"


Audie said...

DD quotes from lew rockwell: Dr. Soon presented data from his recently published study, coauthored with Sallie Baliunas, titled "Lessons & Limits of Climate History: Was the 20th Century Climate Unusual?" (April, 2003).

Countless eye-opening responses to the quoted paper (which I am very familiar with, and I believe have already discussed at length with beamis previously) can be found with a simple google search, but I find the one below to be the most "to the point," even though it is not solely about that article but is making a larger point, of which the aforementioned work is illustrative. It comes from the website of a great magazine, The Skeptical Inquirer, and includes mention of the facts that the editor-in-chief of the journal in which the Soon & Baliunas article first appeared resigned in face of the exposed flaws of their work, as did several other of the journal's editors, and the publisher also even later admitted the article was erroneous (but let's not count on lew rockwell to mention any of that, cuz it might weaken his ideological push):


an excerpt:

This is how it begins: Proponents of a fringe or non-mainstream scientific viewpoint seek added credibility. They're sick of being taunted for having few (if any) peer reviewed publications in their favor. Fed up, they decide to do something about it.

These "skeptics" find what they consider to be a weak point in the mainstream theory and critique it. Not by conducting original research; they simply review previous work. Then they find a little-known, not particularly influential journal where an editor sympathetic to their viewpoint hangs his hat.

They get their paper through the peer review process and into print. They publicize the hell out of it. Activists get excited by the study, which has considerable political implications.

Before long, mainstream scientists catch on to what's happening. They shake their heads. Some slam the article and the journal that published it, questioning the review process and the editor's ideological leanings. In published critiques, they tear the paper to scientific shreds.

Embarrassed, the journal's publisher backs away from the work. But it's too late for that. The press has gotten involved, and though the work in question has been discredited in the world of science, partisans who favor its conclusions for ideological reasons will champion it for years to come [Lew Rockwell, for instance].

The scientific waters are muddied. The damage is done.

This basic story-line describes not one, but two high profile incidents in the past two years. One concerns climate science, the other evolutionary biology. Both are highly politicized fields, and in each case, the incentive to get something into print is considerable for those who want to carry on their political and scientific fight against the accepted, mainstream view.

Take the climate science storyline first. The most definitive account of what happened appeared in a Chronicle of Higher Education article by Richard Monastersky; the New York Times and Wall Street Journal also covered the story [links to all these provided].

In early 2003, the small journal Climate Research published a paper by climate change "skeptics" Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, which challenged the established view that the late twentieth century saw anomalously high temperatures. The paper didn't present original research; instead, it was a literature review. Soon and Baliunas examined a wide range of "proxy records" for past temperatures, based on studies of ice cores, corals, tree rings, and other sources. They concluded that few of the records showed anything particularly unusual about twentieth century temperatures, especially when compared with the so-called "Medieval Warm Period" a thousand years ago.

Soon and Baliunas had specifically sent their paper to one Chris de Freitas at Climate Research, an editor known for opposing curbs on carbon dioxide emissions. He in turn sent the paper out for review and then accepted it for publication. That's when the controversy began.

Conservative politicians in the U.S., who oppose forced restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, lionized the study. Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe called it literally paradigm shifting. The Bush administration attempted to edit an Environmental Protection Agency report's discussion of climate change in order to include reference to the Soon and Baliunas work. None of this should come as a surprise: The paper seemed to undermine a key piece of evidence suggesting that we can actually see and measure the consequences of human-induced climate change.

Soon mainstream climate scientists fought back. Thirteen authored a devastating critique of the work in the American Geophysical Union publication
Eos [link provided]. After seeing the critique, Climate Research editor-in-chief Hans von Storch decided he had to make changes in the journal's editorial process. But when journal colleagues refused to go along, von Storch announced his resignation.

Several other Climate Research editors subsequently resigned over the Soon and Baliunas paper. Even journal publisher Otto Kinne eventually admitted that the paper suffered from serious flaws, basically agreeing with its critics. But by that point in time, Inhofe had already devoted a Senate hearing to trumpeting the new study. However dubious, it made a massive splash....


As for Balling, I am quite familiar with him, as well, as he made the news frequently during my years in Arizona, as his ties to the oil industry were exposed. That doesn't in itself mean his work is necessarily questionable, but it's certainly worth noting. And sure, he's written a book -- the most noted being The Heated Debate -- but is this peer-reviewed scientific work? Hardly. It was "published" by the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, an anti-environmentalist group advocating a "free economy, private initiative and limited government" (obviously concerned, as is lew rockwell, about the possibility someone may try to limit their fossil-fuel burning). Foreign translations were funded by a Kuwaiti group, which distributed the book free of charge.

Balling (and his even less credible cohort Michaels) "publish" primarily by writing editorials, letters to the editor, articles in (their own, oil-industry-funded) "newsletters," and speeches presented to sympathetic audiences such as the Cato and Fraser Institutes (and lew rockwell). They like to claim that there is a conspiracy keeping their work out of peer-reviewed journals; another (to me more likely) explanation is simply that their work is flawed and not up to muster. For instance, one of Balling's principal claims is that temperatures measured higher up, by satellites, show a cooling and not a warming of the earth. As a later article in Nature pointed out, though, Balling didn't account for the fact that satellites' orbits gradually, over time, get closer to the earth, and their angles to the planet change as a result, and when these effects are factored in, warming is indeed detected.

Michaels and Balling and Idso for years tried to hide their fossil fuel industry backing (why?), but later (under oath, at a utility hearing) owned up to support that collectively neared a million dollars. They are also all three veterans of the coal industry's move several years ago to found an "Information Council on the Environment" to plant scientists into a public relations campaign designed to "re-position global warming as theory (not fact)." This campaign was aborted when it came to light.

A final point, about this petition signed by 19,000 scientists supposedly opposing the Kyoto Treaty, which supposedly dwarfs the 1500 scientists who helped draft the Kyoto protocol?

The petition was a joint project of the little-known Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (Cave Junction, OR), headed by Arthur Robinson, a physical chemist who admits to never having done any direct research on global warming, and the George C. Marshall Institute, whose chair, Frederick Seitz, is also affiliated with the Global Climate Coalition (an industry group calling itself the "voice for business in the global warming debate"). The petition was mass-mailed to countless thousands of academicians in the U.S., and was deceptively packaged to look as if it came from the National Academy of Sciences -- so much so that the NAS issued an official statement distancing itself from the bogus report. Contrary to what Donald Miller (the author of your last post) indicates, the only "requirement" for signing this position was a bachelor's degree in science. And while there were some reputable scientists' names on the petition, there were also plenty of obviously fake names included in that 19,000 -- including that of Michael J. Fox, Perry Mason, and Ginger Spice. Lots of "scientists" on that list -- dentists, nutritionists, and others with no expertise in climatology.

The magazine Scientific American took a random sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science. "Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition—one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers – a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community."

Signatories to the "smaller" letter mentioned by Miller, in contrast, included 110 Nobel laureates, including 104 of the 178 living Nobel Prize winners in the sciences, along with 60 U.S. National Medal of Science winners -- and was sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

We could, of course, follow Miller's lead in getting our understanding of climatology from the author of Jurassic Park instead.

Miller, too, benefits from the lack of peer review -- or doesn't, rather, when and if his readers do a little fact checking.

Dave said...

Seems like everyone has an ideological ax to grind except government-funded scientists that favor the conventional wisdom on global warming. Although some skeptics may have received millions from the fossil fuel industry, I'm sure that pales in comparison to the billions in tax-funded grants received by other scientists. By the way, why should Michael Crichton be excluded from the debate just because he is an author? He's also a graduate of Harvard Med School.

Dave said...

Plus, I think using a greenhouse as an analogy is troublesome. Greenhouses don't have two-thirds of their area covered in water, don't have trade winds, don't have jet streams, don't have seasonal changes, don't incur natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, don't flucuate between wet and dry periods, etc.

Audie said...

Apparently, Crichton is not excluded from the debate if he's giving lectures on the subject at Cal Tech (or was this just a book-signing event?). It's just that if I'm weighing the two sides of a debate, and I'm not in there doing the measurements and calculations and field work myself, I do look to see who's saying what. And if I find, on one side, a majority of the living Nobel Laureates in the sciences, and on the other side some guy who graduated from med school in the 1960s and has been writing fantasy fiction for the last 35+ years, the scales don't, for me, budge much in the latter's favor. But I've read portions of his speech anyway, in an effort to be fair, and I simply did not find it persuasive. But he's having his say; he's in the debate. (Personally, I don't think he's written anything decent since The Andromeda Strain (1968).)


And what exactly is this ideological axe, the grinding of which unifies the vast majority of climate scientists all over the world on this issue? If such a thing exists, we should expect, then, a similarly unifying position on everything pursued by the (mostly publically supported) sciences (and arts), no? They're "government funded," therefore they all hold the same views? How this is so needs to be explained to me more clearly. Because certainly that is not what one finds at academic conferences (I've been to a few) or in the literature or at institutes of higher learning. There is both general agreement on some topics, and bitter, nasty contention about countless other topics in every field of pursuit. The fact that the active participants are all (mostly) "government funded" appears to do little to unify. Why is it that in this case a few of you are proposing that being publically supported is somehow a unifying thread amongst holders of the mainstream view on this issue?

The fact that they were "publically supported" did little to help the once-mainstream views of scientists holding anthrocentric or (later) heliocentric views of the universe, or those who decried Einstein's views on physics a hundred years ago. It was other (mostly publically funded) scientists who proved them wrong and advanced our understanding. Einstein is a great example of someone from outside the academy who advanced science, but even he did it by publishing his work in peer-reviewed journals.

And while your point about the differences between the earth and a greenhouse are well taken, the fact remains that our "roof" appears to be getting more efficient at trapping heat, and it's the effect of that eventuality on the very phenomena you mention (jet streams, oceanic water, natural disasters [their frequency and magnitude]) that scientists are studying and asking about. The "greenhouse effect," which is all this debate borrows from the analogy, still applies.