Thursday, January 27, 2011

Climate Change (AKA Global Warming)

I've been blogging as a Guest Contributor over at Watts Up With That? the world's most viewed climate blog. Here are some graphics I created that may be of interest.

This one is from The PAST is Not What It Used to Be where I discuss the Data Bias that I think has exaggerated Global Warming since 1880 by about 0.3ºC.
The blink graphic switches between two different sets of US Annual Mean Temperature data covering the same years published by NASA GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies). My annotations remain fixed to show the changes.

Notice how the 1999 version has the years before 1960 warmer, by about 0.1ºC as compared to the same data published this year! Note also how the 2011 version has the data for 1980 and afterwards warmer, by up to 0.2ºC as compared to the same years on the 1999 version! Why would data that has been in hand for decades have to be adjusted in this "see-saw" way, if not to exaggerate the amount of warming in recent years? (That is Dr. James Hansen, head of NASA GISS, juggling the Earth and his impact on our economy.)

The second graphic is from Do We Care if 2010 is the Warmist Year In History?. It reproduces a NASA GISS email from Dr. Makiko Sato to Hansen, released in an FOIA request, in which she recounts the seven versions of US Annual Mean Temperature published for 1934 and 1998.
I've annotated that email with a graph showing how 1934 was warmer than 1998 by more than 0.5ºC when the first version was published in 1999. When the exact same raw data was reanalyzed and republished in 2001, 1934 temperatures (which were by then old enough to collect Social Security :^) were somehow reduced by almost 0.2ºC and 1998 data got boosted by nearly 0.1ºC, to reduce 1934's lead.

The graphic shows how 1934 continued to get cooler and 1998 got warmer (though 1998 had a surprising setback in the 2006 version :^) until, in the last analysis, they were in a virtual tie. Note that all this data is from an official NASA GISS email.

Sadly, after the date of the email, further reanalysis was done to make 1934 about an eighth of a degree cooler than 1998. Sad loss for the old guy. This clearly demonstrates the NASA GISS desire to make the more recent year warmer to prove Global Warming. It was embarassing to have the older data beat the more recent in the race to be warmer. Kind of like losing a footrace to your grandfather! So they did a Photoshop on the photo finish image to correct their earlier error.

Question: If the final version (1934 cooler than 1998) is correct, then the initial seven versions must all be in error?

Ira Glickstein


Howard Pattee said...

Ira, do you ever ask yourself why you and many others are motivated (obsessed) by the uncertainties of global warming? The data are simply not adequate to resolve the issue. You sound conspiracy-minded. If you have no real evidence that changes in the interpretation of noisy data are willfully dishonest then you should not make that implication.

What do you hope to achieve? Republicans and Democrats agree that the US should reduce its dependence on foreign oil. One obvious way to do this is to decrease our burning of oil. This is an achievable strategy that does not depend on global temperature change, whether up or down.

It is also obvious, except to some conservatives, that all energy use in all forms produces many pollutants that are a serious threat to health. Over five years ago China recognized the problem and began a serious campaign to reduce pollution. They respect scientists and engineers. Consequently it now dominates the market on manufacturing clean coal-burning equipment, solar cells, and wind turbines. China also has the most modern and aggressive nuclear power construction in the world.

The US is losing out because conservatives have been using all this misplaced publicity of Climategate and the uncertainty of global warming as a general strategy to discredit expert knowledge. Rep. Issa says he will subpoena scientists for hearings on global warming and put them on You Tube. All this publicity will accomplish is to prevent serious action on these much more immediate, vital, and correctable problems that do not depend on global climate change.

Deardra MacDonald said...

Howard, I think the words (obsessed) and conspiracy-mind are a bit overstated concerning the uncertainties of global warming. There are many reputable scientists that have shown global warming statistic to be false. Check out “fraudulent global warming scam” on the various search engines, Google has 4,900,000 results. It is my understanding that Dr. James Hansen the chief climate scientist at the NASA (GISS) was the guy the started the fraudulent “panic” on global warming in 1988 when he testified before Congress. His research pointed to a catastrophe if the US did not significantly reduce (C02) emissions that he said were causing “global Warming”. Hansen’s closest ally is Al Gore. The result of that panic was followed to the tune of $1 billion each year since 1995 for climate research.

The estimated amount of money the U.S. government has spent on all areas of global warming “research” and related programs dances around the figure of $50 billion or more. A quote I got from one of the articles I read said, “That’s a lot of money for something that was NOT happening and in 1998 the Earth entered a natural cooling cycle; one in which we’re likely be for two decades more or longer.”

Ira’s Graphic charts merely pointed out that seven versions must be in error. Retired senior NASA atmospheric scientist, Dr. John S. Theon, the former supervisor of James Hansen, NASA’s vocal man-made global warming fear soothsayer, has now publicly declared himself a skeptic and declared that Hansen “embarrassed NASA”. Theon joins the rapidly growing ranks of international scientists abandoning the promotion of man-made global warming fears.

If James Hansen’s man-made claim to global warning is questionable or wrong, we should seriously look at that possibility. I am sure there would be other correctable problem that the U.S. can spend $1 billion on.

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Howard for your comment, (and Deardra for your outstanding reply).

I wish Howard, you would engage your physicist's expertise in the area of climate science. Have you really looked at the two graphics in this Topic or read and carefully considered my detailed explanations? Do you think we US taxpayers are getting any value funding NASA GISS scientists who have nothing better to do than re-re-re-re-re-re-re-analyze 1934 and 1998 data for over a decade?

What possible explanation can any group of scientists have for adjusting old data cooler and recent data warmer other than incompetence (by their own admission, getting it wrong seven times) or, more likely, to push a political agenda disguised as science?

You say (correctly) "The data are simply not adequate to resolve the issue,", yet, they told us (via former VP Al Gore) "the science is settled".

Yes, I want us to reduce dependence on foreign oil, due to the cost in blood and money protecting access. That's why I favor an across-the-board Carbon Tax that will have the effect of nudging industry and consumers towards nuclear and renewables and away from fossil fuels, based not on government mandate (like the ethanol mess) but on their own computation of self-interest. I have supported the Carbon Tax in my WUWT blogging where it is not a popular idea, to say the least.

What do I want to achieve by posting here and at WUWT? Well, I'm trying to inform and calm down the "science is settled" Alarmists/Warmists who have been hoodwinked into supporting policies that will wreck our economy over a non-existent "tipping point" crisis, and also correct some of the Denialist/Skeptics at WUWT who think that there has been no warming at all in the past century (it is all a scam, they say) or that there has been no human contribution to warming (it is all natural, they say), views which you and I agree are misinformed.

You mention China, which I agree is dominating the market in solar and wind, for sale to the US and Western countries that use our taxpayer money to subsidize "green" energy. T. Boone Pickens just blew $2Billion of his own money on US wind power and threw in his cards because of problems with government permitting and opposition by environmentalists over dead birds. Meanwhile, the Chinese are building themselves new COAL powerplants (that they call "clean") at a high rate. Janes Hansen, head of NASA GISS, calls coal trains "death trains" and says coal cannot ever be clean. You and I, who favor clean coal, are paying him for his "expertise" (as a PhD astronomer :^) to oppose our own interests.

You also mention nuclear which has been stymied in the US for decades due to environmentalist fear-mongering and local and federal government permitting issues. China is following the example of France, which (as I personally observed) built nuclear powerplants while the US was stuck in red tape.

You say "conservatives have been using ... Climategate ... to discredit expert knowledge." It has been false "experts", funded by you and me and other taxpayers, who discredited themselves, and their liberal environmentalist religionists who beleved their politicized science.

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

Deardra and Ira,

I think you have both missed the point of my question, which (restated) was, Why are you so motivated to uphold one point of view on a problem that is so complex that no climate scientist claims to have more than uncertain estimates (scenarios) that are continually being updated from new models and new data? I think the answer to my question is clear from your choice of language like “fraudulent,” “scam,” “false data,” false experts,” etc. It appears that your emotions have take over reason when issues are politicized. (This happened to Hansen for a period after the Bush administration censored his paper.)

Ira suggests I engage my physicist's expertise in the area of climate science. I have no desire or ability to match the thousands of experts in this area, except that I do try to read some of the original literature as well as blogs. As a physicist I also do not treat data, like Ira, as right or wrong, but as probabilistic and subject to improved statistics. All physical constants have been continually re-analyzed and improved for centuries. I have no knowledge of how or why the temperature data was re-analyzed. (Ira, you certainly know about Bayesian analysis.)

You might get some feeling for the complexity and uncertainties of the problem by actually reading a 2007 paper by
Hansen, et al.
in which they conclude, “Present knowledge does not permit accurate specification of the dangerous level of human-made GHGs (greenhouse gases).” If you think this statement makes Hansen, et al “false experts” or causing “panic’ then you have a problem.

By the way, Hansen has promoted a carbon tax for over 20 years.


Ira Glickstein said...

Howard, in my 2008 James Hansen Favors Carbon Tax Topic, I credit Hansen, quote him extensively, and reproduce one of the charts he presented to Congress. In my 2009 Carbon Tax YES!, Cap & Trade NO! Topic, I credit Hansen and quote him again (along with Krauthammer). Thus I have publicly credited Hansen for being right to favor the Carbon Tax (ahead of me :^) and for opposing the Cap and Trade scam (ahead of me :^).

The reason I am so exercised is that I have incontrovertable evidence to distrust what you call "new models and new data". As of 2000, there was no "new data" on 1934 or 1998, it was ALL in hand years or decades before. I have read every CRU (Climategate) email and every NASA GISS FOIA email, and it is clear that their political agenda overshadowed their devotion to scientific truth.

You know, as a physicist, that if the thing being measured (net warming since 1880) is 0.8ºC and the measuring stick is noisy by 0.5ºC (as shown in the NASA GISS email from Sato to Hansen that is embedded into my first graphic), no conclusions can be trusted.

You have claimed before that if you have enough noisy measurements, some high and some low, the errors will largely cancel themselves out. That is absolutely true, but ONLY if the errors are nearly independent and mostly random.

In the case of the 1934 and 1998 data, there are literally hundreds of thousands of points, each representing a measurement by a particular person at some specific point in the US at a known time and date.

The fact that the aggregation of 1934 data could be re-analyzed (seven times) to make it cooler by over 0.2ºC and the aggregation of 1999 data to make it warmer by over 0.2ºC is prima facie proof the data had a systematic error -or- that those doing the analysis had a systematic agenda. Which do you think it was? Is it possible people and thermometers prior to 1960 were, on average, systematically warm by + 0.1ºC to + 0.2ºC and those after 1970 were systematically cold by - 0.1ºC to - 0.3ºC. What rational explanation can you think of for that?

It would be bad enough if this was an isolated physics experiment, but the results have been used by the IPCC and world governments as the reason to impose limits on carbon emissions and by our US EPA to declare CO2 a toxic chemical. CO2 has historically been around 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv) and is now about 390 ppmv. Most plant life grows optimally at levels of 1000 to 2000 ppmv, evidence CO2 levels were much higher when life developed and adapted on Earth. People work all day in elevated CO2 greenhouses at levels of 1400 ppmv with absolutely no evidence of harm.

You quote Hansen as saying: "Present knowledge does not permit accurate specification of the dangerous level of human-made GHGs (greenhouse gases)." and you add: "If you think this statement makes Hansen, et al “false experts” or causing “panic’ then you have a problem."

I followed your link and here is what I found: "Present knowledge does not permit accurate specification of the dangerous level of human-made GHGs. However, it is much lower than has commonly been assumed. If we have not already passed the dangerous level, the energy infrastructure in place ensures that we will pass it within several decades.". Panic? What Panic? (What scientific basis?)

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

The paper I linked had nothing to do with breathing CO2.

The paper was about sudden climate change. What is your view of their evidence of climate sensitivity to small changes in GHGs?

I have no opinion, except I have no more reason or data than they do to doubt their conclusions. Do you believe there a reasonable chance that they are correct?

What do you think of the data interpretation program of PCMDI?


Deardra MacDonald said...

Howard, Let me try again. Please let me take out those emotional words that I used, but I would like to keep everything else in my comment. You said that I was motivated to uphold one point of view on the problem of Global Warming. You also said that it is so complex that no US Climate Scientist claims to have more than uncertain estimates. I totally agree with you, Global Warming is too complex! I responded back to you out of frustration! The frustration leads me to ask why is the US government spending tax dollars on a problem that is not understood or correctable?

If global warming is so complex that Climate Scientist have to continually change and updated their records that make me question and ask, who started this so called uncorrectable problem? I also wanted to know why a highly respected politician has made 100 million on publicizing it??? It also makes me wonder how many of these Climate Scientist have a vested interest in the Global Warming phenomenon

Howard, please give me your answer on why our US Government has spent more than $79 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money since 1989? This makes me ask the unbiased question, if the problems of Global Warming are so complex that Climate Scientist only have uncertain estimates (scenarios) that are continually being updated from new models and new data… why is the US Government spending (last Report) 79 billion on it?

I have always enjoyed reading charts! The chart on Climate Change (AKA Global Warming) was fun to follow. It cleverly and clearly showed what you said about how our top US Climate Scientist having uncertain estimates (scenarios) that are continually being updated from new models????? If their data is continually being update from new model, I have a problem with that! This annoying thought keeps smoldering and hovering over my mind about GW tactics and new data, cover-up (?), (!)…

Ira Glickstein said...

Howard asks my opinion of "sudden climate change", due to human activities including burning of unprecedented amounts of fossil fuels and altering the landscape by cutting down forests for wood and farmland, paving large portions of the surface, erecting buildings with dark roofs, etc.

I have no doubt we have been in general warming trend since the "little ice age", even before human actions became an issue. I believe human actions over the past century and especially the past half-century, have raised average global temperatures by 0.1ºC (0.2ºC at the most), which is a very small part of the 0.8ºC supposed temperature rise since 1880, which, itself, is a very small amount of warming compared to the temperature changes experienced since complex plants and animals evolved, half a billion years ago.

During historical human times, even prior to the industrial revolution, average temperatures have been higher than now (Medieval Warm Period, Roman Warm Period, ...), clearly due to natural processes and cycles, and there was no "tipping point" or "runaway" melting of the polar ice. (But they did grow grapes in Greenland - it got its name because it was an agricultural resource during the Medieval Warm Period.)

Thus, there is no reason to believe that human activities now, though unprecedented, have any real possibility of tipping us into any sudden climate crisis.

Yes, if the warming continues at the rate of the past half-century, we will have to adapt (flooding, more precipitation, possibly more intense storms, etc.). It is more likely, IMHO, that the coming two or three decades will see a natural cycle of temperature stabilization and some cooling (see my projections for the next 40 years on a graph I posted yesterday here.)

I looked at your PCMDI link and they are analyzing IPCC models, which I believe are overly sensitive to CO2. As you know, it is very easy to make a model that retrodicts (predicts the past) more or less accuratly, but much harder to predict the future.

Unfortunately, due to the politicization you and I agree has occurred in climate science, the official climate Team has noticed that their models do not correctly predict the recent past, so they have changed their past DATA (!) as I show in my two smoking gun graphics, above, both of which are reproductions of NASA GISS published documents. Of course, the thing to do is change the MODELS, to include less CO2 sensitivity, but, to do that, would be to admit they have been too quick to panic.

Ira Glickstein

Ira Glickstein said...

Howard (and Deardra below):

My link to the posting I did yeaterday is broken in the above comment. The correct link is here. (Sorry, my fault.)

Thanks Deardra for summing it up nicely. If, as Howard seems to agree, the DATA is not clear (else why change it by up to 0.5ºC out of the supposed 0.8ºC warming?) and the models did not predict the current stabilization of temperatures (head of CRU said, no statistically significant warming in past 15 years) and models cannot predict what I believe will be some global cooling in the coming decades, despite continued rapid rise in CO2, why should we put so much money into corrective actions?

With the rise of China and India and other countries, does anybody really believe we will be able to put a significant worldwide dent in burning of fossil fuels?

Of course not! As Deardra says, they are in it for the subsidies and carbon credit trading (which amount to indulgencies no more worthy than those sold by priests in the worst days of the Catholic Church.

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

Ira, I have not read all these Climategate e-mails so I can’t comment on your analysis of the writer’s motives. I thought there were several independent investigations that concluded there were no “evil doers” just some bad decisions that had no significant effect on the total evidence. Also, as I said, I am not an expert on climate, and the comments on your blogs confirm my belief that we should leave it to the experts!

I have had experience with the critical process of refereeing papers that is essential for the integrity of science. Also, Deardra, it is the very essence of science to continually update models (theories) and collect new data (make measurements).

I have also used the type of computer models that rely on hypothetical data sets (outside the range of real data) as initial conditions to study the robustness of the model. These predictions are necessarily probability distributions. They are used primarily to improve the models, not to argue over whether they are true or false.

There are two types of predictions, one based on extrapolation of data, the other on a model that predicts the data. For example, from simple observations we can predict that the weather in an hour will be similar to what it is now, and that the weather in 24 hours will be different. A model prediction gives the same result but explains why this is what we observe.

Physics is an extreme case where we often do not even look for data until we create a dynamical model. By contrast, short-term weather prediction uses mostly extrapolation from the statistics of large data sets from past weather patterns. Global, long-range climate prediction requires dynamical models starting with an ensemble of initial conditions. Nothing is certain, but I understand that experts claim it is hard to find reasonable dynamic climate models (even if there are “incontrovertible” data errors) that do not show significant anthropogenic warming over decades with the current rate of increasing GHGs.

Models are best for “what if” scenarios to test probable limits of anthropogenic climate changes. Many papers give limiting scenarios (e.g., Fig. 2 in Hansen. Of course models are not enough. Predictions also take account of all the old and current data.

Considering the consequences predicted by most models, in my opinion (and many others) even if these model predictions have only a 50/50 chance of being accurate, a policy of reducing GHGs would seem to be the most responsible bet.


Ira Glickstein said...

Howard, as I've said, I favor a policy of curtailing GHGs (specifically a Carbon Tax), mainly due to the cost in blood and treasure we must expend to protect access to our foreign sources in the turbulent MidEast. Secondly to cope with peak oil that may occur in a few decades, which will require energy efficiency and more use of nuclear, clean coal, and, to the extent practical, wind and solar.

I looked at the Fig 2 you recommended in the Hansen paper, which provides a wonderful example of the failure of their models. The paper was published only five years ago (2006) and it shows three scenarios, A, B, and C, that predict a temperature anomaly, as of 2010, of 1.15ºC, 1.0ºC, and 0.65ºC, respectively. Quoting the Hansen 2006 paper:

"Scenario C was described as ‘a more drastic curtailment of emissions than has generally been
imagined,’ specifically GHGs were assumed to stop increasing after 2000. Intermediate scenario B was described as ‘the most plausible.’ ..."

Well, guess what, only five short years on, CO2 levels are still rising at at least as high a rate as they were in 2006, yet Scenario C ("drastic curtailment of emissions") is the closest to what we have experienced. Scenarios A and B are high by 0.35º and 0.2ºC, respectively, using the official climate Team global temperatures, which some of us think are exaggerated, so the models may be high by more than indicated.

That is proof their modeled CO2 sensitivity is way too high. They also ignore Sunspot cycle variations, and totally missed the possibility SC#24 would be very low, which I think is the reason for the temperature stabilization we have experienced lately.

IPCC models assume CO2 sensitivity (which is rise in temperatures for a doubling of CO2 from 280 ppmv) of at least 2.0ºC to 5.0ºC. Based on other models (none of which are accepted by the IPCC) I ascribe no more than 0.5ºC and possibly as litle as 0.24ºC to CO2 sensitivity. See my most recent posting on WUWT, particularly the comments and my replies.

Ira Glickstein

Howard Pattee said...

Deardra asks, “Howard, please give me your answer on why our US Government has spent more than $79 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money since 1989?” (This amounts to ~$3.6 billion per year.)

I assume you simply lifted this questionable figure from the biased “warming-deniers’ at the Science and Public Policy Institute. If you trace this number to the dozen or so agencies where they were spent, you will find it was spent on many projects. Most of the cost is in the design and launch of dozens of satellites that gather data that is important for general understanding of the atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere. These satellites are not biased! They do not care if the climate is warming or cooling.

As I emphasized in my first posting, global warming is only one unresolved aspect of environmental degradation, and only one consequence of burning fossil fuels. The worst known effects of burning coal and oil are the pollution products that affect not only human health but the entire ecosystem on which our survival depends. My question was: Why are you and so many others “exercised” (Ira’s term) over this unknown warming issue rather than the known pollution problem that is not strongly dependent on warming?

If it were not for the oil lobby and the conservative dogma that God put the Earth at our disposal for exploitation we might have developed a new industry of conservation like China. In 2008 China budgeted 498 billion (in US$) for a long-range environmental cleanup program. The next year alone China spent $34.6 billion on clean technology. As I pointed out, the US has lost the economic ball. China “now dominates the market on manufacturing clean coal-burning equipment, solar cells, and wind turbines. China also has the most modern and aggressive nuclear power construction in the world.”

Ira asks, “With the rise of China and India and other countries, does anybody really believe we will be able to put a significant worldwide dent in burning of fossil fuels?”

Not with the current Tea Party congress! And we won’t get any economic stimulus either.


Howard Pattee said...

Deardra, you say you checked out “fraudulent global warming scam” on Google and got 4,900,000 results. So what should you conclude from this number? I have concluded from reading “random” samples that probably 4,800,000 of them are venting anger at some other blogger or politician they disagree with. In any case, I don’t believe this polemical contest is scientifically useful.

Ira, unlike the average blogger, I think some of your ideas on global warming are worth more than blog status. Why not take time to add references supporting your assertions, and submit your results to a journal? You will get more interesting comments from recognized referees who know more than the typical blogger.

You might first read the latest Hansen and Sato paper. I read it, but don't know enough to comment on it.


Ira Glickstein said...

Howard, I read part of and paged through the Hansen/Sato paper you linked to. They claim [in their Abstract] "We conclude that Earth in the warmest interglacial periods was less than 1°C warmer than in the Holocene ..." [Emphasis added]

The interglacials are the warm periods between ice ages. The last three peaked at about: (1) 140,000, (2) 230,000, and (3) 330,000 years ago. The Holocene is the warm period we are now in. It started about 12,000 years ago and coincides with the era of modern humans with not only large brains, but capacity for metaphoric thinking. So, from the point of view of complex life, warm is good!

Hansen/Sato's main claim is the WARMEST interglacials were LESS than 1ºC WARMER than now. But, have a look at this graph that indicates the last three interglacials, peaked at: (1) 3-4ºC, (2) 2.5ºC, and (3) 3-3.5ºC (ALL more than 1ºC warmer than now) based on both the EPICA and Vostok ice cores. This graph is in conflict with the Hansen/Sato Figure 1(c), that shows the last three peaking at (1) 0.5ºC, (2) -0.7ºC, (3) 0.0ºC warmer (and cooler) than now.

Also, my link shows a variation of about 7ºC to 9ºC between interglacial peaks and ice age valleys, while Hansen/Sato shows only 3ºC to 4ºC variations for the same ice ages. Something is wrong and I have no desire to go further than that.

As for me writing a journal paper, I do not have the credentials in climate science or any official position in a government or university climate science department, so no professional journal would consider any paper I might write. I would have zero chance of getting published. Also, as you know all too well from your own academic publications in well-regarded journals, it is quite a lot of work, more than I am willing to do, even if I thought I could get published. Besides, how many people actually read journal papers (other than those in Nature and Science, etc.)? I do not need the publication credits to get tenure or keep my job teaching an online grad course in System Engineering at U. Maryland.

Meanwhile, as a Guest Contributor at WUWT, I get to publish to a worldwide audience with 50,000 page views of my writing over the past six weeks and more than a thousand comments. Some of the comments include technical criticism, some of it valid, and that helps me learn. Why do I need more tsuris?

Ira Glickstein

Don Hess said...

In response to comments seeming to denigrate the preponderence of climate research with "ad hominem" attacks on the integrity of a few well recognized scientists like Hansen of NASA, let me suggest that the locus of the argument be changed a bit.

Conservatives often like to quote former VP Dick Cheney to support their arguments on many topics. Cheney was famous for stating the "One Percent Doctrine" Quoting him, “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a CERTAINTY (emphasis mine) in terms of our response.”

In that case, I think Chey was right. This was a "pre-cautionary" position taken against a low-probability/high-impact event. Could not the same "Doctrine" be applied for acting with prudence in approaching a situation that could potentially be disastrous for the whole world and all its species?

In a December 2009 "Op-Ed" piece in the New york Times, Tom Friedman had this to say:

"Indeed, many of the same people who defend Mr. Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine on nukes tell us not to worry at all about catastrophic global warming, where the odds are, in fact, a lot higher than 1 percent, if we stick to business as usual.

That is unfortunate, because Cheney’s instinct is precisely the right framework with which to think about the climate issue — and this whole “climategate” controversy as well."

(Tom Friedman, NYT, December 8, 2009)

Those who argue that because all the evidence isn't "in" yet or "conclusive" enough seem to me to be gambling with the future of their world and their grand-children's very survival.

There may be a point at which all argument is moot because it will have become TOO LATE to stop the progression of change brought on by the procrastination of requiring that the proof of man's contribution to global warming be 100% certain.

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Don Hess for joining the discussion here. Your views, while different from mine in many respects, are welcome. I want this Blog to be, let us say, as fair and balanced as possible.

When evaluating former VP Dick Cheney's "1% precautionary principle" we have to consider both the chance of a detrimental event happening and the cost and consequences of any action we may take.

In the case of the Pakistani nuke scientists, particularly Abdul Qadeer Khan, we were certain he had developed a nuke for Pakistan, most likely in coordination with North Korea. In 1998, Newsweek said Khan had sent nuclear know-how to Iraq. We also knew that Al-Qaeda had made repeated attempts to obtain radioactive materials for a dirty bomb. In 2003, under US treat, Libya agreed to abandon its nuke program, and they admitted buying nuclear components from black market Pakistanis. So the level of certainty was high, and fully justified US pressure on the Paks. Indeed, In 2004, Khan signed a confession indicating that he had provided Iran, Libya, and North Korea with designs and technology to aid in nuclear weapons programs.

Summary: Strong evidence that Kahn proliferated nuke technlogy and materials. Relatively low cost pressure by US on Pakistan reigned him in.

In the case of Global Warming (now called Climate Change in the face of lack of warming over the past decade and a half to any statistical level of certainty) the proof of any chance of alarmist (e.g., former VP Al Gore) "runaway" or "tipping point" is lacking.

Yes, it is certain that CO2 levels are rising rapidly at a rate unprecedented in human times, that humans are largely responsible for that rise due to burning of fossil fuels, and that CO2 is a "greenhouse" gas that has the effect of raising the mean temperature of the Earth. However, it is also certain that the estimates of what is called CO2 sensitivity (how much mean temps will rise if CO2 doubles) have been way overestimated by the official climate Team (IPCC, Hansen, ...) They estimate 2ºC to 5ºC and the actual sensitivity is closer to 0.25ºC to 1ºC.

The costs of, for example banning coal ("Death trains" according to Hansen) would wreck our economy since about half our electicity comes from coal. The "Cap and Trade" scheme is a scam that benefits politically well-connected corporations and industries, and, it has been almost totally ineffective in reducing use of fossil fuels.

Furthermore, there is evidence that moderately increased temperatures will benefit the majority of the Earth's population (which is why I moved from NY to FL :^) as will moderately higher levels of CO2 (which is plant food).

Summary: No convincing evidence that there is any "tipping point - runaway warming" crisis. Imposssibly high cost to severely curtail fossil fuel use in the near future.

By the way. I do favor development of alternative "clean" energy such as nuclear as in France, and renewables like water, wind, solar, and biofuels. However, it is widely recognized that US subsidy of Ethanol has raised food prices quite a bit and not reduced use of oil by very much. When the government makes decisions, they favor well-connected industries (farming in the case of Ethanol) and therefore almost always make bad decisions.

By the way, I do 40-50 miles per week on my bicycle and my wife and I share an electric golf cart and a hybrid Prius (~45 MPG) and I do favor a Carbon Tax that will raise the price of fossil-fuels and thereby make aternative energy relatively less expensive, to that industries and individuals will, for their own self-interest, choose reasonable carbon-neutral or carbon-free fuels.

Ira Glickstein