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Global Warming: Are the Skeptics Right?

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Rob Spiegel
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Re: Why not just stop smoking?
Rob Spiegel   2/9/2012 2:47:52 PM
Good point, Jeffbiss. Through most of my adult life, I have assumed we could bring technology solutions to environmental problems (bacteria that eats spilled oil). But you're right, that attitude simply enables us to continue bad behavior.

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Why not just stop smoking?
jeffbiss   2/9/2012 1:52:41 PM
Your suggestion that we use an engineered "solution" to the global warming problem is like a smoker waiting for a pill that allows him to continue smoking. This makes absolutely no sense.

Global warming is but one of a number of problems caused by human activity and human overpopulation. The only valid solutions lie with stopping our irresponsible bad behavior. Considering anything else is delusional.

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You've got be kidding!
jeffbiss   2/9/2012 1:49:29 PM

Anyone can put up a web site and from that "friends" site, anyone did.

I challenge you to find their, as in any of their members, work in a scientific journal.

We're waiting!

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Re: The Endless Dither
jeffbiss   2/9/2012 10:45:52 AM

Where is your evidence? Come on Charles, can't you do anything to support your unsubstantiated allegations? Anything? I don't see anything bu whining about being victimized by evil researchers.

Here's something to consider. The "skeptics" are wrong and so their papers don't get published for a variety of reasons. I suggest that you read "Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation" by João Magueijo. In it you'll read about the author not getting published.

Dissent with the research and work to back it up is one thing, dissent for dissent's sake is another. Until you post some valid research or rebuttal your position is nonsense.

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What inormation is correct?
Non-mag   2/9/2012 9:46:02 AM
Why is information from this site wrong?

Friends of Science

I see a lot of links to data presented by AGW "proponents" meant to convince us their view is correct. This site has a lot of data stating just the opposite. I'm not a militant, so I won't use terms such as "misinformed Brit" or other stupid stereotypical terms I've seen in earlier responses. As someone who is concerned about AGW, but not convinced it's occurring, it would be great to have people explain their views in a professional manner.

Dave Palmer
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Re: The Endless Dither
Dave Palmer   2/9/2012 6:59:22 AM
@Charles: The "skeptics" like to portray themselves as victims, but I don't see any real evidence of this beyond their own statements. The claim that they are being shut out of the scientific establishment is hard to take seriously, since they are members of the scientific establishment. Their tale of woe provides them with a convenient explanation of why their numbers are so small, but it is based on unverifiable anecdotes. It also seems aimed at eliciting sympathy for them as "underdogs." But this discussion should be about facts, not sympathies. Clearly, it hasn't been. The idea that one side has been following the rules for scientific debate and the other hasn't is untrue. That's why it's so difficult to have a calm and rational discussion about this.

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Re: The Endless Dither
Cassiopeia   2/9/2012 3:49:52 AM


I think you will find it is the climate scientists who are being intimidated. Let's just take one example, Michael Mann. 

He is one of the most most respected scientists in the field of paleoclimatology, yet has been the victim of a long-running harassment and intimidation campaign by right-wing ideologues and conspiracy theorists, including political and legal threats by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

After hackers stole emails from a the CRU in the UK, climate deniers renewed their attacks on Mann, forcing several academic inquiries, all of which debunked the slanderous charges.

Glenn Tamblyn
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Re: The Endless Dither
Glenn Tamblyn   2/8/2012 11:34:16 PM


There are a number of ideas floating around for GeoEngineering answers. For example a research group in France is designing 'pipes' that can be lofted from the ground to the upper atmosphere to allow sulphates to be pumped up there. However there are issues with this strategy. One is just how much would be needed to counter the level of warming that burning all our fossil fuels would cause. The quantities are enormous and need to be maintained continuously because aerosols drop out relatively quickly. Then there are any health implications. This stuff as air pollution at low altitude is dangerous.

Next is the fact that even if it did produce the overall level of cooling needed, there would still be variable climate impacts around the world as local climates would still alter since the pattern of cooling the aerosols would produce wouldn't match the geographical pattern of warming. As an earlier example of this, the period of bad droughts in Sub-Saharan Africa during the 60's & 70's is believed to have been caused by pollution from the US & Europe altering the movement of the West African Monsoon, stopping it moving north.  When we cleaned up our air, the monsoon returned to normal. So what happens if some nations unilaterally start doing this and it has adverse impacts on other nations. Military strikes to destroy the 'pipes'?

The final consequence of this course of action is called the 'termination problem'. If we stop doing this for whatever reason before CO2 levels have dropped low enough, we have gained nothing. The warming just returns. Since burning all the available fossil fuels would mean that natural processes would take 1000's of years at least to draw CO2 levels back down to something reasonable, we would have to keep doing this for millenia. As long as civilisation has existed already.

All the research to date, and much of this isn't climate models but studies into past climates (paleoclimatology), is that a doubling of CO2 will produce around 3 DegC warming, possibly higher. However burning all the fossil fuels would probably quadrupal or more CO2 levels so 6 DegC warming or so. And thats the global average. Land warms more than that, high latitudes more again. At these temps, Amazonia at least converts to savannah instead of rainforest, releasing more CO2, Progressively the world permafrost all melts releasing Methane & CO2. All the main ice sheets melt over the course of centuries - 600 ppm has been identified from past climates as the rough level at which Antarctica started freezing over. So 60-70 m sea level rise over future centuries.

The most basic problem we face is 2-fold. Firstly most people react to a problem when we see it happening. However, due to the huge thermal mass of the oceans the CO2 we release today doesn't produce its full warming until decades into the future. So our normal wait-and-see attitude means that by the time we start to react seriously to the problem because we are seeing the effects, we are already decades too late. This is a problem where only prevention works.

Second issue is that the actions required means we need a huge transformation in our energy systems and economies rapidly, now. Because of this lag time. But we can't see the urgency so we might act but still only slowly. So we keep building FF power plants that have economic lives of 40-80 years.

A recent International Energy Agency report highlighted that within 6 years, expected investment in new FF plant would lock in place CO2 emission levels to take us past the first CO2 doubling, even though it would take decades of operation of these plants to bring that about. To then reduce emissions fast enough to try and keep below a reasonably safe threshold, these plants would become 'stranded assets'. We would have to shut them down before the end of there economic lives. Costing Trillions. Right now there are resource companies that are carrying on there balance sheets FF resources vallued at trillions. If we can't extract them because we can't affoird the carbon, their balance sheets get trashed, their stock prices everything. But if we don't and use all those FF's, our grandchildren's future is absolutely screwed.

So this is the core issue. People can't see the threat yet. By the time they do see it directly, its too late.

Perhaps this might explain to you the stridency with which those who are convinced of the science advocate for action. And why they tend to be less than polite to skeptics who seem to simply want to endlessly talk and delay action.

The nature of the question is such that someone who is skeptical really needs to throw themselves totally into resolving their skepticism one way or the other through in depth inquiry into the science. Just going along with our lives and treating this question as something that will be resolved eventually isn't really good enough. It is no good saying 40 years from now that your doubts have been resolved because you can now see it happening. 40 years from now will be too late to start acting.

We all value our rights in society. But along with rights come responsibilities. And I would argue that every single one of has a fundamental responsibility today. Whatever our view, we need to become active in reaching a resolution of the 'debate' rapidly. And if that means we need to drive ourselves to be deeply informed quickly. Doubt as a justification for avoidance is not a valid position.

Rather doubt on a question such as this requires we resolve the doubts rapidly since it is such a huge question and at least one of the possible answers to the question requires huge change to avoid bad outcomes. I personally have no doubts that when people engage deeply with the science their doubts will diminish hugely. And in a forum such as this, most people here are, in some form, of technical backgrounds making you all suitable enquirers into this subject in a way that many people aren't.

Make no mistake, this isn't just another 'policy question'. We are living in extraordinary times, perhaps unprecedented in human history. It is easy to think that we don't face exceptional questions because no previous generation has. The exceptional does happen occasionally. And it happens to be falling on our watch.

I wouldn't want to be telling my grandchildren 40 years from now that "I had doubts about this so I didn't enquire into it too much. I'm convinced now but its too late."

Glenn Tamblyn
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Re: CO2 is a minor constituent of Greenhouse gases
Glenn Tamblyn   2/8/2012 8:15:14 PM

"frankly the fact is the only thing that will convince me is a steady rise of global temps in lock step with CO2 levels"

This is an unreasonable thing to expect. What is reasonable is that the total heat content of the whole climate system should rise somewhat in line with CO2. It may not rise in complete lockstep because CO2 is causing an imbalance in energy flows into & out of the Earth. But total heat content doesn't follow this excatly because other factors affect where the heat goes and some parts of the system, notably the oceans take a long time to accumulate enough heat to increase their temperature enough to restore the radiative balance.


Total Heat Content (2011 update)

Updated graphic of total heat content from Church et al 2011


This graph however does show a steady rise in total heat for decades. Note that what you are probably thinking of as temperatures, air temperatures, is just one small part of the lower section of the graph. The oceans are the main game.

The dip around 2000 is associated with the big El Nino of 1998. The ripples at 1992 and 1982 are the eruptions of Mt Pinatubo & Mt Agung. Is that consistent enough agreement for you?

And just as a comparison, this rate of warming works out to over 2 1/2 Hiroshima Bombs per second since 1970. So more warmth than could have come from anything other than a change in the Earth's radiative balance with space.

Ivan Kirkpatrick
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Re: The Endless Dither
Ivan Kirkpatrick   2/8/2012 8:12:20 PM
Just to change the debate slightly, before I have to get to my work, even if CO2 is a problem, it is unlikely that any efforts will reduce the emissions in the near term.  The global economics dictate that the world will utilize every bit of hydrocarbon fuel that can be obtained at a profit.

Given that assumption, what would be the best course of action?

One answer is Climate Modification.  Several schemes have been put forward to try to control the global temperature, such as putting millions of tons of Sulphur Dioxide I think it wasinto the air.  This is a similar mechanism that occurs when a volcano emits the same gas and has an immediate although not long lasting effect on the atmospheric temperatures.

So is anyone willing to pony up money for some Terraforming experiments?  Be sure to take out some insurance against the lawsuits that might follow.

One can find arguments for and against anything on the net.  

I am a software engineer and I know that software models of physical processes have limitations that are not necessarily apparent to their creators.  Just look at the stock market.  One can find any number of systems designed to predict the rise and fall, some even work.  Some work for some time periods and then there are others that just get lucky.

For the AGW debate, only time will tell.

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