We live in the Holocene interglacial epoch. In this period the earth has been warming and virtually all recorded human history from about 11,550 years ago took place in it. There is every reason to believe we will return to mile-thick glaciers sometime in the future.
Whether or not human civilization is mostly responsible for the increase in global warming has been the popular argument. (Not all temperatures records agree even on this basic issue!). Humans are certainly partly responsible for this Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). But there are some issues that should be considered, and there are many reasons for taking a less rabid view:
1)Science is not a matter of getting everyone to agree. Really it isn't. Honest!
2)In the words of Dr. David Deutsch, it is too late to prevent a global-warming disaster if there is to be one. In fact, it was too late to stop the global-warming disaster even in the 1970's when the best scientific theory said that atmospheric pollution was going to cause a new ice age that would kill millions. We can fix the current problem somewhat, but we can't prevent it.
3)When the pilgrims landed in 1620, one could walk across New York harbor on the ice. The Earth is now, not as much warmer than average, as it then was colder than average. Hmmmm..
4)Have you seen the Sun recently? It is now quieter than any time in the last century. No sunspots mean a cooler Sun. Many AGW people are in a panic over this. Google "Maunder Minimum" to see why.
6)Having a baby is the super-humongous-GIANT carbon footprint. Little has been said about this. A US baby generates a lifetime 1,000,000 kg of CO2. Until environmentalists look at population growth, they're just whistling past the graveyard. But even so, population rate of increase has been declining for a century. Best estimates are 9.2-9.5 Billion people in 2050 and that's about the maximum. It looks like a slow reduction after that. Don't panic. Read:
Can you say Milankovitch? Milan Milankovitch calculated the 70,000 year occultation period of the earth's orbit, and discussed the implications for climate shifts as the north and south poles are progressively more exposed to solar flux. This was done a hundred years ago, and seems never to enter our current discussions.
I have yet to see a computer model which shows a clear Milankovitch related baseline, and then posts the modelling for AGW above that.
I have no doubt that there are climate shifts in process...warming some places and cooling others. Look at Europe this year! But that may be an indicator of a weakening gulf stream/labrador current, which is itself an indication of shifts in the thermohaline circulation in the north atlantic, and a symptom of increased solar flux on the north polar regions.
There is no doubt....NO DOUBT... that we need to look after our use of energy, minimize our production of waste, and secure clean potable water. But we must separate responsible environmental conservation from the heated political debate about AGW.
From an engineering perspective, by the way, it's a lot easier to measure the BTU or KWH input to a system than it is the trace gas effluent. If AGW is real, we're focussing on the wrong variable to monitor....not to mention that CH3 is 30 times worse, as a greenhouse gas than CO2...and bovine flatulence is a major component of atmospheric methane.
When I was listening to my favorite Science radio, Science 360, it was noted that 97% of climate scientists believe that this is ocurring (does anyone have actual statistics to back/refute that statement). So that the Wall St. Journal can find 16 scientists that still believe this is not ocurring is not surprising. I remember watching a Science Channel show that featured a scientist who doesn't believe in evolution, though the show name and scientist name escapes me.
The point the Science 360 host was making is that the overwhelming scientific consensus, backed even by our own National institutes is that it is happening. There will almost always be dissent; dissent is healthy.
However, the quesiton I always pose is this...are you willing to bet your childrens future and their childrens future on being right about it not happening and/or not being caused by human activity. What's the cost if you 3% are incorrect?
The reason Wall St. Journal and other oppose the science is actually not rooted in science, but in the politics of our so called "free market" and the cost they believe they are incuring because of the 97% of scientiss. As a voting Libertarian, I cringe every time these Republican free market frauds get up and deride science because of the cost that their backers will pay; i.e. those industries that would be regulated to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. If you look at their positions on other "free market" issues you'll see that they are frauds; for instance, NASA as "good" for the country when most Americans could give a hoot about what it does and USDA subsidies (ooh don't get me started with that bit LOL).
The point is...this is not about science it is about regulation and the desire to not be government regulated. There are different ways to regulate and it is amazing that most American's are oblivious to the fact that much of regulation is industry self-imposed, not government imposed. One can see this by just going through the mountains of standards created by ANSI, much of which, is self-policing.
It is true that scientific ideas have changed substantially since Aristotle's day, but this was well before the scientific method was formulated. More typically nowadays scientific theories aren't completely overturned but modified. For example Newtonian physics > Relativity > Quantum Mechanics. Strictly speaking the former is incorrect, except for special cases, however for mechanical Engineers it is usually a good enough approximation for most practical purposes.
To call Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) a theory is of course rather ingenuous since its basis forms the operation of many of our scientific instruments. Indeed even Sceptics use instrumentation using the same principles responsible for AGW to estimate atmospheric temperatures! AGW can therefore be considered, at least in its most basic form, a scientific fact. That is why you will not find any serious climate scientist, even the few Sceptics who will deny this.
However, it is also possible that subsequent research may change views on the sensitivity of the climate, and the subsequent temperature rise. This will be probably due to the feedback effects from clouds and ice which are difficult to model. Indeed, the IPCC already provide a range of estimates to reflect this uncertainty. However, this is where sceptics and in particular certain policymakers and politicians draw the wrong conclusions. This very uncertainty is the best reason for taking action, in fact we would have to be very certain of a low sensitivity of the climate to greenhouse gases not to take action.
Lots of lengthy, well written, thoughtful posts --- from both sides of the argument. But an important point for either position to embrace as "bedrock" is that the scientific process --- discovery, theorization, and group acceptance --- is a living process that often undergoes continuous growth and evolution as we deepen our understanding of a subject.What looks like hard cold facts today will quite likely find exception tomorrow.Remember, "Spontaneous Generation" was an accepted scientific theory by Aristotle for over two millennia until disproven in the 1800's. Further discovery leads to greater clarity.
Thanks for those thoughts. I'll follow your recommendation and learn more from many sources.
Over the years (I graduated in '74) of working, I've found in my industry that just because industry experts agree and follow a similar course of analysis, that doesn't make it correct. With computers, very smart people can analyze very complex situations, but if the model isn't tested against reality, it is only gibberish. The devil is in the detail. If you don't go back to the original data and science, and make sure it is tied to the real world, then you may be in fantasy land. Once it is accepted as fact, the lemmings continue...
I'll look into the ocean temperature issue. I work in the offshore energy industry, have a lot of sources that should have acess to good data.
jhachen: Yes, it can be better to investigate the science directly rather than rely on authority, but authority was the main thrust of the original article, so that is why I linked to the most up to date scientific opinions on this issue. However, I also linked to multiple independent evidence of AGW, which covered the technical basis as well.
Its probably best that I don't give you my opinion of Richard Lindzen. He is one of the high profile denier scientists and most frequently comments in various formats and media outside the published scientific literature.
I could try to list all the things wrong with his article but that would fill this blog. And Lindzen has already moved on to post thre same sort of stuff somewhere else.
Yuo should read the post I put up earlier about ocean warming. Apply your engineering background, basic Conservation of Energy, to what I have written and the conclusion I have drawn and see if you agree with my reasoning. Then ask yourself where was such data and reasoning from Lindzen?
For those such as yourself who aren't deeply immersed in the AGW wars and the science it can be difficult to know where to start and who to rely on. And my personal view (although this is shared by many other people) is that the likes of Lindzen are continually playing on that fact to mislead people and to create the illusion that there is still serious debate within academic circles about AGW when actually there isn't.
But my simply saying that obviously will not convince you.
So, instead of a single article describing the pro's & con's, which is too big a field, rather try this site: www.skepticalscience.com(SkS)
This site was originally established to be skeptical of the climate skeptics - hence its name. So it began by writing rebuttals to skeptic claims. The strength of it is that all the rebuttals are grounded in links to the published science. So starting point for you might be to read through the rebuttals to the skeptic arguments - these are often in Basic, Intermediate & Advanced form. Some of the arguments do at least at face value need to be taken seriously, with a serious explanation of why they are wrong. Others are simply nonsensical. But SkS still takes seriously writing a rebuttal to them. Then start skimming back through the archive of posts. Read things like the 'OA not OK' series on ocean acidification. And there is also a section on the denialists and the identified faults and logical inconsistencies in their positions.For example, this thread began with the 16 in the WSJ talking about how warming has stopped. As I pointed out below, it hasn't. And several of that group are Climatologists/Meteorologists. They should know that ocean heat is the main game. But they feign ignorance in the media.
Let me lay my cards on the table. I am one of the circle of authors who work producing content at SkS. Like you I was looking around for answers. I thought I understood that AGW was real but in on-line forums skeptics would put up some arguments that were hard to answer with the level of knowledge I had. Reading and then commenting at SkS led me to a much deeper understanding of the science and eventually I was asked to join the authors group.
Some of the posts will seem combative, rebutting other skeptic sites such as WUWT. This is because over time one comes to realise how false and mendacious much of the organised skepticism is and thus one becomes less tolerant of the same repeated misleading claims. But many of the others are intentionally informative. The level of mosts of the posts is somewhat technical but if you bring your engineering background in areas such as Thermodynamics, Physics, Chemistry to understanding them you should be OK.
And posts almost universally link back to published scientific papers. So not just a commentary about the science. Direct links to allow you to read the scientific papers for yourelf. Compare that with somewhere like WUWT where the majority of the articles are commentary without links to the science, claims by a few 'experts' such as Willis Eschenbach that they can show some of the science or opinion is wrong with their 'analysis'. WUWT and its ilk try to tell you what to think, SkS offers you arguments, data and analysis but lets you make up your own mind
And the standard of moderation leaves the likes of WUWT looking positively barbaric.
But don't take my word for it. Go read for yourself & make up your own mind
We looked at a number of sources to determine this year's greenest cars, from KBB to automotive trade magazines to environmental organizations. These 14 cars emerged as being great at either stretching fuel or reducing carbon footprint.
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