Friday, July 18, 2008

More updates to "An Inconvenient Truth"

Al Gore has appeared before Congress and more importantly (judging by popularity ratings) Oprah Winfrey saying that man-made Global Warming is now "settled science", comparing dissenters to "Flat-Earthers". Some Global Warming activists have gone farther than that- Scott Pelley has been quoted on the CBS News PublicEye blog saying: "There is virtually no disagreement in the scientific community any longer about ‘global warming.’ … The science that has been done in the last three to five years has been conclusive.” Pelley also posted this quote to the same blog: “If I do an interview with [Holocaust survivor] Elie Wiesel, am I required as a journalist to find a Holocaust denier?”

Is that the case? Are those who deny that the Global Warming that occurred between 1970 and 2000 (there has been no change the last eight years) no better than holocaust deniers? Let's look at them. There are a few deniers associated with the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine ... 31,000 of them! "On May 19th 2008, OISM announced that over 31,000 scientists, including more than 9,000 with Ph.D.s, signed a petition that states, "... There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases is causing, or will cause in the future, catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate..." Signatories include such luminaries as theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson, MIT's atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen and first National Academy of Sciences president Frederick Seitz. More than 40 signatories are members of the prestigious national Academy of Sciences."

Then there's the American Physical Society , which has reversed its stance on climate change and is now proclaiming that many of its members disbelieve in human-induced global warming. "In a
posting to the APS forum, editor Jeffrey Marque explains,"There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution." This Article shows one of the things they are discussing:
"WASHINGTON (7-15-08) - Mathematical proof that there is no “climate crisis” appears today in a major, peer-reviewed paper in Physics and Society, a learned journal of the 10,000-strong American Physical Society, SPPI reports. Christopher Monckton, who once advised Margaret Thatcher, demonstrates via 30 equations that computer models used by the UN’s climate panel (IPCC) were pre-programmed with overstated values for the three variables whose product is “climate sensitivity” (temperature increase in response to greenhouse-gas increase), resulting in a 500-2000% overstatement of CO2’s effect on temperature in the IPCC’s latest climate assessment report, published in 2007."

Let's not leave Europe out- in a paper from the Danish National Space Center entitled "Reply to Lockwood and Fröhlich –
The persistent role of the Sun in climate forcing", they authors say, "As for the upward linear trend removed from Fig. 2 (lower), it is customary to attribute to greenhouse gases any increase in global temperatures not due to solar changes. While that is reasonable, one cannot distinguish between the effects of anthropogenic gases such as carbon dioxide and of natural greenhouse gases. For example, increased evaporation means that infrared radiation from water vapor, by far the most important greenhouse gas, will tend to provide positive feedback for any global warming, whether driven by anthropogenic or solar forcing. In any case, the most recent global temperature trend is close to zero."

It's starting to sound to me that there's some wiggle room here, that anthropogenic Global Warming is "settled science" only to Al Gore. What is the truth? I don't know; I'm not competent to say. Neither is Al Gore. In fact, neither are many of the scientists on both sides of the debate; a scientist, when speaking outside his specialty, is merely an educated layman. Even Nobel Prize winners. You doubt me? I offer in evidence William Shockley
, 1956 Noble Prize winner for physics, co-inventor of the transistor, one of the founders of silicon valley... who believed that it could be mathematically proven that Blacks are inferior to Whites. His math was correct, but his presumptions were wrong- which is what Global Warming debaters are saying about each other.
This being the case, it bothers me that both Presidential candidates are big believers, and want us to spend a fortune on programs that will further damage our economy before it is even determined what can be done, and what should be. I'm hoping that the new Congress will consider any such measures closely.


Brian said...

Hate to say it, but this is all anecdotal evidence. You can find faculty members at accredited US universities who deny the holocaust too. Quoting them does not make it true.

The subject of climate change is incredibly complicated and illsuited to play out in the media which can't handle subtlety.

But if you take a survey of climate scientists (not particle physicsts) it is about 95% to 5% who believe there is a significant component of anthropogenic warming. That is why the press doesn't feel the need for rebuttals anymore and they're right. Unlike some other fields (like my own field of ecology) the climate scientists have behaved very responsible. Twenty years ago they said "we don't know" and they've done the work and now they say "we know". Unfortunately this kind of caution plays into the hands of those who wish it wasn't true but in the end it should earn respect.

All it takes is an analysis of the data instead of the smokescreens used in the media. I give my undergraduate students (coming from all backgrounds and predispositions of beliefs on climate change) a homework problem with actual data and their conclusion (unanimously but independently reached) is that some of the warming is in fact due to solar changes, but that in the last 100 years (no cherry picking a random 7 period please!) a somewhat bigger warming component is due to increased atmospheric CO. It is very well measured that almost all of that CO2 increase over the 20th century is traceable to humans (this is the indsutrial age and we put a lot of energy into measuring industrial output).

In the end it is basic indisputable physics and economics - CO2 is a powerful greenhouse gas (known and proven in labs since the 1920s)and we have spewed oodles of it into the atmosphere that used to be underground. There can be a lot of other factors involved but there is no way around this.

Joel Monka said...

I guess it partially depends on the definition of "anecdotal"... is more than 31,000 signatures merely anecdotal? Can you find 31,000 holocaust deniers on the faculties of accredited universities?

I don't doubt that your students all came to the same conclussion independently from the same data- but the authors of the paper from the Danish National Space Center claim that the data being used is flawed. About that data, they say "Their analysis relies on data on surface air temperature which, they say, "does not respond to the solar cycle". Yet over the past 20 years the solar cycle remains fully apparent in variations both of tropospheric air temperature and of ocean sub-surface water temperature... When the response of the climate system to the solar
cycle is apparent in the troposphere and ocean, but not
in the global surface temperature, one can only wonder about the quality of the surface temperature record. For whatever reason, it is a poor guide to Sun-driven physical
processes that are still plainly persistent in the climate system."

Those may have been mere physicists speaking, but it does seem odd to me that of all the branches of science, it would be climatologists who hold a less than twenty year old conclussion as beyond question.

Brian said...

Umm the data the students were using was mostly surface temperatures (it is one of the most sophisticated assemblages of temperature to date, using a wide variety of sources ranging from tree rings to diatoms in the ocean, but primarily representing surface temps). And it DID show an effect of solar (indeed the dominant effect until ~1900). So not sure exactly what the paper you're citing is claiming. This data is also not subject to heat island or other issues.

31000 signatures means nothing. Science is, unfortunately, not democratic. If it were Darwin would have been "wrong" by a landslide. It is evidence based as interpreted by people who spend their careers understanding that paarticular form of evidence and its limtations.

I don't deny you can find papers that raise issues, but that is cherry picking again. Have you ever sat down with the top journals of primary research in the field and done a count of pro vs. con global warming? I've never done a formal count but I read these journals and they are overhwelmingly tilted towards evidence for. I don't have the reference but people have done the counts and they are overwhelmingly finding evidence supporting climtae change. I believe Inconvenient Truth even has these statistics.

Which step of this basic syllogism do you disagree with:
1) Humans have pumped massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere
2)The earth has not been able to resorb this and the atmospheric CO2 levels have gone up 30-50% since the industrial age.
3) CO2 is a green house gas (transmits solar light, but refelcts infrared back to the eath) that has to have a net warming effect
4) We can calculate using basic laws of chemistry/physics how much this CO2 should warm things and compare it to other factors like radiative forcing. (PS CO2 is why Venus can melt lead and Mars never gets above freezing this is not some vague theory)
5) CO2 is the biggest warming factor since 1900.

Take a look at the "Radiative Forcing Components" graph near the top of Wikipedia's Global Warming which represents the best science to date on causes of global warming and please tell me using science where it is wrong. And if you're going to quote somebody's opinion without getting into science, please do a full search and tell me the amount of pro vs con opinions (I stipulate you can find somebody or some group that claims it is wrong).

Your blog is one of my favorite and I've always found it a source of clear-headed thinking (even when I disagree)including on science. But I can't understand your thinking on global warming.

Cheers - thanks for the contrarian views.

Joel Monka said...

Thanks for being a reader and for your well presented discussion!

Agreed that science is not a democracy! My point with the position papers from those respected organizations was only that disagreement comes from many educated, intelligent men and women, not a few kooks as the "Holocaust denier" label would imply. Do you think that men of the stature of Freeman Dyson have never sat down and looked at the data?

I don't disagree completely with any point of your syllogism- it is a question of degrees of effect.

"1) Humans have pumped massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere"

True. Figures from the Department of Energy, Carbon Dioxide measured in parts per billion:
Pre-industrial baseline,288,000
Natural additions: 68,520
Man made additions: 11,880
Total concentration: 368,400
My calculator puts the manmade additions at 2.2% of the total.

"2)The earth has not been able to resorb this and the atmospheric CO2 levels have gone up 30-50% since the industrial age."

True- but only a percentage of that was manmade.

"3) CO2 is a green house gas (transmits solar light, but refelcts infrared back to the eath) that has to have a net warming effect."

True. But is it not also true that CO2 is one of several greehouse gasses, and not the most important of them? Isn't water vapor far more important than CO2? I have seen figures claiming that water vapor comprises up to 95% of the total greenhouse gasses- is that true? Does it make sense that our CO2, 2.2% of the total CO2, which itself is only 5% of the greenhouse gasses, is the primary cause of Global Warming?

Which part of this syllogism do you disagree with?

1) The Sun is the primary source of atmospheric heat.

2) According to the Danish National Space agency, tropospheric and deep ocean temperatures track Solar activity exactly.

3) According to NASA, Mars and Jupiter are also undergoing climate change.

4) The Sun is the primary source of climate change.

Joel Monka said...

I should have said that manmade CO2 was 3.2% of the total, not 2.2%. Guess I should proofread BEFORE posting!

Bruce said...

The fact that global temperatures dropped from 1998 to 2002 and have plateaued since then even though CO2 levels have continued to rise, tells me that the climate models are not very accurate or complete at this time. (See,25197,23411799-7583,00.html)

Humans may indeed have a significant effect on climate, and I believe we should shift to energy sources that do not produce greenhouse gases. We should do this not only to prevent potential climate changes but also for economic and geopolitical reasons.

We should not make drastic changes because of unsupportable alarmist predictions.

Bill Baar said...

We human's have a bad habit of overestimating our impact on the universe.

I suspect global warming one of them.

There are some cosmic forces at work with temps. I'm not sure we have much clout one way or the other at that level.

Anonymous said...

I admit that I know very little about this field of science, but I've also heard in collegiate courses that what we're thinking is global warming is actually a natural climate shift that results from the earth going through mini ice age periods. According to one of my professors, within the last 25 years, we have been coming out of one of those periods. Just thought I'd throw out some more fodder for the debate...