Friday, March 20, 2009

Global Warming: Tale of the Tiger

Once upon a time, long ago and far away, a tiger was terrorizing a village and four brave young men decided to do something about it.

The first approached the tiger's head and whacked it with a stick. The tiger ate him!

The second approached the tiger's fore quarters and struck out with a knife. The tiger clawed him to death.

The third approached the rear quarters with the same result.

The last brave young man decided to sneak up on the tiger from behind and he managed to snip a piece out of the tiger's tail and get away.

Of course, nipping the tiger's tail didn't do much to solve the problem.
Nevertheless, the villagers celebrated his pluck and luck and everybody felt quite satisfied - until the next tiger attack.

This is the first of five postings about the causes and cures for Global Warming. There is no doubt the Earth has warmed significantly over the past 150 years. The IPCC claims the warming trend is mainly (over 50%) due to rising CO2 levels caused by human burning of formerly sequestered carbon (coal, oil, natural gas). They demand immediate action to reduce carbon emissions by 75% within the coming decades.

I believe they are right about our being in a global warming trend. I believe continued warming will affect our way of life. However, I think the IPCC will be proven to have been wrong about the percentage of global warming due to human activities and, especially, about our ability to stabilize and reduce carbon gas production.


Let’s imagine Global Warming as that tiger, and let us divide it up into three large sections, leaving 10% for the tiger’s tail. The sections represent the causes of the 0.8 ºC (about 1.4 ºF) apparent temperature rise.

I say apparent because around 30% is due to bias in measurements, due to encroachment of local development and land use on temperature measuring stations. (The second posting is about Data Bias.) An additional 40% is real warming, due to natural cycles, mainly variability in the Sun’s activity and the Earth’s orbit. About 20% is due to "greenhouse" warming effects of the carbon gases that have fizzed out of the oceans due to natural cycle warming, especially over the past fifty years.

The remaining 10% is due to human activity generating greenhouse gasses. I suggest we are attacking the “tiger’s tail” –that last 10%- because we really cannot do much about the other causes and we need to find some satisfaction! I also suggest that efforts to reduce carbon footprints, some of which I support (Carbon Tax), are unlikely to have much practical effect.
After celebrating the successful, but futile, attack against the tiger's tail, the villagers had to face reality. They had to adapt to living with the tiger by fencing their village and being extremely careful when venturing out. They also prayed the tiger would go away.
Ira Glickstein


JohnS said...

John’s addition to the tale.

The council met and after a discussion lasting far into the night they decided to listen to Ig Gore because he was so outspoken and everyone else was tired from their day’s work. Ig Gore pointed out that, over the last eight years Ida was killed, baby ing was carried off while Enna was frightened by the tiger while gathering wood. Horrible! Without protection the tiger would become more bold. They must fence the village! All the men stopped tilling the fields and hunting. Build the fence! Build the fence!

It took all spring and summer but the men were proud. The village was safe.

In the mean time, the wives had to till the fields and gather nuts and fruit to augment what little food was left from the previous year. This food had to go to the men who were saving the village. The women and children became fragile and weak. There was little mother’s milk to feed the babies. Many of the elders and young died. No new babies were born. But the village was safe.

Until the villagers realized that with fewer villagers they couldn’t maintain the fence, till the fields, gather and hunt. They again gathered in council, voted Ig Gore out of the council, agreed that the menace of the tiger must be put in perspective with the overall welfare of the village.

Ira Glickstein said...

Great addition to the tale, John, but you left out the part where they gave Ig Gore the Nobel Prize a year before they voted him out of the council :^)

But, seriously, I hope we can take some prudent action to reduce our dependence upon foreign energy. Quite apart from any threat or non-threat of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), dependence upon the volatile MidEast and Russia and Venezuela endangers our national safety and our economy.

Cap & Trade, and the international bureaucracy that goes with it, will be law in the US within a year unless we can get the unstopable train on the Carbon Tax track, uniting AGW skeptics, agnotics, and alarmists. Sometimes we must pick the lesser evil, and hope that Carbon Tax, done right as a revenue-neutral measure, could actually help stimulate the economy while encouraging development of non-carbon alternative energy.

Ira Glickstein

JohnS said...

I am anxiously awaiting for your follow up postings.

You said, ”But, seriously, I hope we can take some prudent action to reduce our dependence upon foreign energy. Quite apart from any threat or non-threat of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), dependence upon the volatile MidEast and Russia and Venezuela endangers our national safety and our economy.”

In this, you and I agree completely.

At one time I thought, naively, that our government might have a plan - withholding our oil while using foreign oil until it ran out. This might give us enough time to react. In the last few years, I have come to the correct answer. Our government will keep bumbling along until it is too late. Our economy will crash and burn.

I use crash and burn not as hyperbole but as a high probability. We need to develop a practical, intelligent plan for developing alternate energy sources not only for transportation but to meet all energy needs.

We can develop many scenarios whether natural (hurricanes, earthquakes or volcanic) or manmade, (wars, accidents, irresponsible governments) that could cause extended oil shortages. Imagine a scenario where the world loses just 10% of its available oil because of dictatorial governments - Russia and Venezuela. Add to that a category 5 hurricane, which seriously damages our refineries – we lose another 10% until the refineries can be rebuilt. We have a petroleum reserve but without refineries! Today America cannot survive without a steady flow of oil at the current levels.

Yet Congress does nothing except talk and the Presidency does even less whether democratic or republican. You used the word prudent and I used practical and intelligent do these apply? I think not.

Ira Glickstein said...

John, you use "Congress ... and the Presidency" in the same sentence as "prudent ... practical and intelligent" and then add "I think not".

Of course you are correct. "CONgress" is the very opposite of "PROgress". Our government has shown (under both parties -I don't want to be partisan) it is incapable of managing a single company (AIG).

There are over 600 members of Congress and the Senate and each has dozens of assistants (all with advanced degrees) and, just a month ago, no one apparently read the TARP bill and noticed the wording allowing previously contracted bonuses.

Now those who voted for it are crying foul! Everyone knows a "special law" directed at a few idividuals or companies is unconstitutional, as is changing the rules after the fact -they are lawyers- yet they voted overwhelmingly for the 90% tax on bonuses (including Republicans -I am not being partisan). Everyone knows this tax will die in the Senate. It was a diversion, giving the "talking heads" in the media -including FOXNEWS I am not picking on the left-wing media alone- (who also did not notice the bonus provision in the bill rushed through last month) something to blab about while the next installment of newly-printed money is passed out. OY!

As Milton Friedman said: "When Mr. A uses Mr. B's money to benefit Mr. C, there is no limit to how much will be wasted." With these bailouts and stimulus packages we have Congress and the President ("Mr. A") using taxpayer's money ("Mr. B") to benefit politically-connected localities and companies and "entitlement" groups ("Mr. C"). Of course, we needed some stimulus to head off a depression and get credit flowing again, but the current plan seems deeply wasteful and misdirected.

By the way, I think many of the AIG bonus receivers belong in hell -I am not defending them- but we US taxpayers now own 80% of AIG and other troubled financials and we should not let our anger over "mere" millions in bonuses chase away the execs who may be the best ones to manage and recover part of our billions in sunk investments.

So, if the government can't be prudent and practical and intelligent, about our precarious energy dependence who can? Despite the obvious exceptions in the financial and auto sectors, I think our best bet is with the private sector and the market and -especially- the people.

When people are spending their own money, they are usually quite careful with it. That is why I favor a revenue neutral Carbon Tax imposed at the source to minimize complexity, and returned to the people as a stimulus. Such a tax will put an umbrella over alternative energy sources that will not be taxed, making them relatively less expensive, and leading industry and the public to voluntarily adopt practices that minimize our dependence upon foreign oil supplies (and also that reduce atmospheric CO2 for those who worry about it).

Ira Glickstein

JohnS said...

I agree we should let the private sector solve the energy problem. However, several things interfere - 545 people in Washington. We now have so many regulations governing building nuclear power plants that it takes billions of dollars and years to bring one on line. We already know that the new administration is no better, if not worse, than previous administrations in managing our economy and the other affairs in Washington. Washington is going to throw (waste) money ineffectively at the energy problem if they manage it, so here is a thought.

Someone running for the Presidency in the last election, someone who didn’t win, of course, proposed that the Government offer three hundred million to the company that developed an improved battery. I like this concept. Let the private sector compete. To solve our energy problems as efficiently and expeditiously as possible, a select committee from the private sector could establish energy goals, their priorities and approve the final results, while the government would offer appropriate financial incentives. Once a goal is achieved and the incentive paid the government could waive patent laws permitting other companies to quickly and efficiently apply the new technology.

American inventiveness and competition would be put to the best use and the government would benefit from the best use of its money.

But, congress will ask where is my pork, sorry fellas there ain’t none, :>)

Ira Glickstein said...

Let's see John, who was that candidate who suggested a $300 Million reward for a better battery? Sen. John McCain, wasn't it?

A lot of smart people voted for him, including me of course, but the other guy won.

It would be great if President Obama, in the name of bipartisanship, earmarked $300 M of the stimulus package as an award for a better battery and appointed McCain chairman of a committee that would pick some distinguished non-partisan engineering experts to set out the criteria for picking a winner. Then they should step back and let the great inventive spirit of American industry do the rest.

Ira Glickstein

JohnS said...

Ira, I would not appoint a politician, even John McCain. Choosing a select committee of business people will still be political, however hopefully once appointed they will put the betterment of the country at the top of their list. A politician, today, whatever his persuasion, will put himself or herself first. It is the nature of the beast.

joel said...

You folks forgot the part of the story where the Maharajah used the presence of the tiger as an excuse to annex all the villages in the area. A wise guru named Mahatma Holderlin sat on a dunghill among the oxen (which now belonged to the Maharajah, so he could better protect them) and chanted his mantra, "What has always made the state a Hell on Earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his Heaven." He expired one day, because the chant was too long for his lung capacity. -Joel

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks, Joel for adding to the tiger tale story - quite humorous and (sadly) true.

I look forward to your informed opinions on how I have divided the apparent temperature increase of the past 150 years between human-causation (10%) and human-caused measurement bias (30%) and my claim that over 80% of the actual warming we have experienced is due to natural cycles (and natural outgasing of the oceans due to warming) beyond human control)?

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

Ira says, “I look forward to your informed opinions on how I have divided the apparent temperature increase of the past 150 years...”

Ira’s parables may be fun to write, but they shed no light on the scientific issues. I am also disappointed in the obvious pleasure he gets in “debunking the experts” which is very easy to do by selecting your target and ignoring the full body of evidence. It reminds me of Senator Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Awards. I’m afraid this is a common ploy that goes hand in hand with the politicization of science. Unfortunately this is a popular sport.

The thousands of expert studies and enormous quantities of DATA as well as the many complex computer models are not dismissible as "measurement bias" or by simply making fun of them.

I am not "informed" enough on global warming to contribute a useful opinion, but at least I have listened to some expert informed opinions that appreciate the complexity of the problem. The experts agree that nothing is certain, although they may have strong opinions, and like the weather itself, they know their models are not reliable predictors.

Two examples of oversimplification, one theoretical, the other experimental: In a tightly coupled dynamic system with many forcings it is useless to attribute temperature to, say 10%, of forcing A, and 30% to forcing B, etc. Control of carbon is nonlinear and instabilities allow small changes to have large effects. Ira would divide the cause of a plane crash as 10% pilot error and 90% gravity. Control requires a correct dynamical model.

Second example: To control the increase in CO2 you need (at least) to separate (1) Carbon cycle CO2, (2) deforestation CO2, (3) oceanic CO2 and (4) fossil fuel CO2. You also must know how they interact. Determining the source of the increased carbon in the atmosphere depends partly on measuring carbon isotopes in atmospheric CO2. By far the most prevalent carbon isotope is the stable C-12 isotope. Carbon 13 is also a stable isotope, but plants prefer C-12 and therefore photosynthetic CO2 like fossil fuel or wood fuels are much lower in C-13 than CO2 that comes from animal respiration. Carbon-14 is radioactive. There has been a decline in the C-14/C-12 ratio in CO2 that parallels the increase in CO2. Fossils do not contain C-14 because they are much older than 10 half lives of C-14. There has been a parallel decline in C-13/C-12 ratio of atmospheric CO2. Fossil fuels, forests and soil carbon come from photosynthetic carbon which is low in C-13. If the increased CO2 was due to warming of the oceans, there should not be a reduction in the ratios of C-13 and C-14 to C-12. There has also been a decline in the oxygen concentration of the atmosphere. If ocean warming was responsible for the CO2 increase, we should also observe an increase in atmospheric O2, because O2 is also released as the water is warmed. The literature is full of this type of evidence, but none of it conclusive because the real experimental problem is much more complex.

Instead of writing fables, why not read the IPCC Report and the “variety of criticisms” link?

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Howard for your thoughtful and detailed comment - that is what I hoped for when I posted this first installment in a series where I will explain how I came up with the approximate contributions to the Global Warming the Earth has experienced over the past 150 years.

I monitor websites that accept the IPCC reports completely and others that appear to me to have reasonable, fact- and science-based skepticism about some aspects of the report. One does not have to have complete understanding of all the data to point out some obvious issues.

Indeed, the changes in concentrations of the various isotopes of carbon that you mention have been used by some skeptic sites to dispute the IPCC-assumed contribution of human-caused carbon (IPCC says it is the majority) vs ocean and other natural-caused carbon (some skeptics say that is in the majority). I will include that information when I post my fourth and fifth installments.

There are several computer models accepted by the IPCC and they all correctly model the past 100 years within reasonable limits, though none of them retro-predict the dramatic 100,000, 40,000, and 20,000-year cycles found in the ice core data for the past 400,000 years, nor do they account for the lag of CO2 changes hundreds of years behind temperature found in the ice core data but not in the current models.

These models all differ considerably about the future, as would be expected. Nevertheless, all of them predict that increasing atmospheric CO2 will, due to "greenhouse" effects, translate into a nearly linear increase in average Global temperature. Those models are the basis for the "hockey stick" alarmist conclusion in Al Gore's movie.

Well, according to the latest measurements, CO2 continues its rapid rise, but average Global temperature seems to have failed to cooperate since 2000. As every reasonable scientist points out, "climate ain't weather", so we'll have to wait another few years to get a ten-year climate change result, but it does not look good for the IPCC-accepted models.

Of course your 10% pilot error + 90% gravity analogy is not meant to be taken seriously, but I have a true story from the early days of aircraft. In those days, a row of identical toggle switches controlled various items of equipment and some serious accidents were caused by the pilot inadertently throwing the wrong switch while landing because they often did this by touch while looking out the windscreen. You could say it was 100% pilot error because the switches worked fine for nearly all flights. On the other hand, several different pilots made the same sort of error over the years, so the design and layout of the switches was clearly at fault. By analysing the data, the relative percentages of "fault" were estimated and, based on that approximate allocation, the authorities mandated that all future aircraft would have switches with different colors and shapes and that certain critical switches would have guards that had to be disengaged before the pilot could throw the switch. Sure enough, several years after the changes were made, data indicated near elimination of "wrong switch" accidents, and allowed determination, after the fact, of the actual percentages of fault (pilot vs design error).

I expect this will happen with Global Warming within five years. As you may know, the IPCC has changed their predictions over the past decade by considerable percentages as more data came available. I expect to report on this Blog (if it and I am still running) that my estimates in 2008 and 2009 were closer than theirs. I expect you to congratulate me at that time, and, if I was wrong, I will appologize.

Ira Glickstein

PS: I did not expect you, of all people, to show such respect for experts. For example, the foremost experts on Sunspot cycles at NASA predicted, in 2006, that the new cycle #24 would start that year or early in 2007, and that it would be 40% stronger than the past cycle #23. They were wrong! Here it is 2009 and the new cycle had not yet started. Now they predict #24 will start soon but that it will be weaker than #23. I do not dispute these folks are the best experts around, but, in only three years, they have admitted being off by over 50% in their predictions. I do not think the climate modelers are any better than that.

Howard Pattee said...


I really think global warming is harder to predict than the weather. That is, a month ahead weather prediction is perhaps as uncertain as a 5-year warming prediction.

That means the "better" prediction, say by the Farmer's Almanac, may just be chance rather than a better model.

I agree with you that we have more urgent energy problems that need our efforts whatever nature does.