June 23, 2006
The Questions Never Asked
According to the New York Times, global warming -- excuse me, global climate change; I keep forgetting -- has raised world temperatures to the warmest it's been in at least 1,000 years, maybe more.
But this immediately raises a number of questions that, alack, are never even asked, let alone answered in the article. How many can you guess before reading them? Can you think of others that didn't occur to me? I suspect there are many more than I can spot...
An influential and controversial paper asserting that recent warming in the Northern Hemisphere was probably unrivaled for 1,000 years was endorsed Thursday, with a few reservations, by a panel convened by the nation's pre-eminent scientific body. [They mean the National Academy of Sciences. -- the Mgt.]
The panel said that a statistical method used in the 1999 study was not the best and that some uncertainties in the work "have been underestimated," and particularly challenged the authors' conclusion that the 1990's were probably the warmest decade in a millennium....
The rise in global temperature since 1900 is only about 1º F or so (0.6º C), or 0.1º F per decade. Yet mean global temperature (MGT) has fluctuated, warmer sometimes, cooler other times. But how much has the MGT risen and dropped since this study was produced in 1999? We need more information.
Prof. Bob Carter, a paleoclimatologist at James Cook University in Queensland, supplies some: MGT rose until 1998... and then it simply stopped rising:
For many years now, human-caused climate change has been viewed as a large and urgent problem. In truth, however, the biggest part of the problem is neither environmental nor scientific, but a self-created political fiasco. Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero).
Looking at the Wikipedia article on the temperature record, since 1850 (the "instrument period"), we see that the rise wasn't even consistent during the industriali era: from a low around 1910, the temperature rose fairly precipitously, a little less than 1º F -- until 1940; at which point, it began to drop.
It fell for 15 years, hitting local nadirs in 1955, 1965, and the late 1970s... then it started rising again for the last 20 years. There is no plausible correlation of this rise, fall, and rise again to world industrialization, which rose consistently and exponentially during this entire period.
So the "rise" in MGT has been anything but smooth: MGT rises in fits and starts, and sometimes even falls back significantly.
All right, the first question: the temperature record clearly shows that there was global cooling during the twentieth century. Since world industrialization and the release of greenhouse gases cannot account for that cooling, what natural event caused it? Does anybody have a guess?
Oh, but let's do continue:
The study, led by Michael E. Mann, a climatologist now at Pennsylvania State University, was the first to estimate widespread climate trends by stitching together a grab bag of evidence, including variations in ancient tree rings and temperatures measured in deep holes in the earth....
More broadly, the panel examined other recent research comparing the pronounced warming trend over the last several decades with temperature shifts over the last 2,000 years. It expressed high confidence that warming over the last 25 years exceeded any peaks since 1600. And in a news conference here on Thursday, three panelists said the current warming was probably, but not certainly, beyond any peaks since the year 900....
In the report, the panel emphasized that the significant remaining uncertainties about climate patterns over the last 2,000 years did not weaken the scientific case that the current warming trend was caused mainly by people, through the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Looking again at the temperature record in Wikipedia, this time using "historical proxies" for earlier time periods, we see temperatures rose to a peak during the "Mediæval Warming Period" (around AD 900-1100), then plummeted to the depths of the "Mini Ice Age" around 1600-1700, then rose again to the current highs.
But wait -- if the current warming trend is (a) "caused mainly by people, through the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," yet (b) is no hotter than the warming trend of the A.D. 900s... then what the heck caused all that global warming in the Age of Chivalry? There certainly was no mass industrialization 1,000 years ago.
Follow-up question: what caused subsequent cooling again for the next five or six centuries?
Finally, what caused even more global warming in the 1700s and 1800s?
If you're getting the strangest feeling of déjà vu, it's because you really have read this before:
- In News Flash: Catastrophic Global Warming Found - 55 Million Years Ago!, we noted extraordinary heating in that geological time period; so much so, in fact, that "the North Pole quickly developed a climate much like Florida today." Clearly, this had nothing to do with homo-sapiens, who did not even exist then (it was the age of the "wet-nosed primate," who are reputed to have been chivalrous, but we can't be sure);
- In My Globaloney Has a First Name, It's H-a-r-r-y, we rehearsed the argument that temperature has risen and fallen naturally in the last several hundred million years, typically without any correlation to the level of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere (but with a good correlation to solar activity).
- And now, we find that this same rise and fall in temperature has occurred not just in geological time but in archeological time... in fact, within recorded European history.
What is the common thread? That no matter how coarse or fine you tune the temporal focus -- from a billion years to a scant thousand -- you find the same pattern, like a global-temperature fractal: temperature rises and falls by many natural cycles, without human beings monkeying with it.
Against that backdrop, how can we make any pronouncements at all about what "causes" global warming, global cooling -- in short, global "climate change?" Let me repeat what I wrote at the end of the first item linked above:
We need a twenty-year moratorium on "doing" anything about climate. Instead, let's commit vast treasure and human resources to improving our basic scientific understanding of climatology and all that's related. It would make little difference in the projected rise of [mean global temperature]; we would better be able to decide whether the current rise was natural or anthropogenic; and even if we did decide to "do something," those twenty years would allow us to craft a much more intelligent and effective "thing" to do than striking out blindly today.
There is no significant downside to sentencing globaloney to a "timeout".
There are far too many unanswered, unasked questions about what drives climate, temperature, and the sun. Aren't any of these scientists even interested? Or does the negative political impact such questions may have on the Kyoto-Protocol sales job render them unaskable?
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 23, 2006, at the time of 11:50 PM
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» Questions to Ask on Global Warming from Joe's Dartblog
If you've got to tell yourself a lie to believe that there isn't global warming, and I believe that's true, then you've got to at least dumb yourself down a few clicks to believe Al Gore-type hysteria on the subject.... [Read More]
Tracked on June 24, 2006 3:54 AM
Tracked on June 24, 2006 9:12 AM
» Global Something Or Other from Blue Crab Boulevard
Dafydd over at Big Lizards has a thought, well reasoned and articulate explanation of the questions that simply are not being answered in all the hype over global warming. Because it is so carefully worded and so obvious correct i the questio... [Read More]
Tracked on June 25, 2006 4:23 AM
The following hissed in response by: hunter
Man Caused Global Warming (mcgw), or the algore school of climatology, is a religion, not a faith.
Much of what the promoters are pushing is a series of computer projections, which by definition are not testable.
Many of the scientific papers published are echo chambers, affirming other papers.
As more paleo-climate data comes in, it shows more and more clearly that what is happneing now is not extreme or unusual.
Thanks for rounding up some of the important rational responses and questions and skeptical thoughts that are out there.
I didn't like Crichton's book much, but he is correct: we ahve been sold a bunch of fear.
In efect mcgw is a secularist apocalypse, exactly like the traditional religious apocalypse stories, and complete with everything except an angry god.
The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman
There are far too many unanswered, unasked questions about what drives climate, temperature, and the sun. Aren't any of these scientists even interested? Or does the negative political impact such questions may have on the Kyoto-Protocol sales job render them unaskable
Sure they are interested, but you won't hear about them and the Politicos will Censor and correct what you do hear.
All this suggests that in the warmer epochs that have occurred in the past, CO2 levels must have been a lot higher than those that are causing the hysteria today. And so they were. The concentration 100 million years ago is estimated to have been 3,000-5,000 ppm against today's paltry 350. 156
Outside the make-believe world of computer models, there's actually more evidence over the longer term for cooling rather than warming, and as a number of scientists have remarked, the warm periods between glacials seem to last about 11,000 years, and we're 10,800 years into the current one. Sherwood B. Idso, a research physicist at the Water Conservation Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, argues that flooding the atmosphere with CO2 could be just about the best thing we could do right now—our "one good deed for the other life forms with which we share the planet." 157
With the exception of the Wall Street Journal, none of the mass media mentioned the Heidelberg Appeal, signed initially by 218 leading scientists including 27 Nobel Prize winners in April 1992, after the "Earth Summit" in Rio, as a condemnation of irrational ideologies opposed to scientific and industrial progress. By the fall of that year the number of signatories had grown to 500 scientists, including 62 Nobel Prize winners, and by 1997, S. Fred Singer, who heads the Science and Environmental Policy Project in Washington D.C., reported the figures as 4,000 and 70 respectively. 160 Nor do the media publicize the Leipzig Declaration, based on an international symposium held in Germany in November 1995, which contains the statements "there does not exist today a general scientific consensus about the importance of greenhouse warming" and "we cannot subscribe to the politically inspired worldview that envisages climate catastrophes and calls for hasty actions." This was reissued in 1997 prior to the climate treaty conference due to be held in Kyoto in December, signed by almost a hundred atmospheric specialists, and carried the caveat "we consider the drastic emission control policies likely to be endorsed by the Kyoto conference—lacking credible support from the underlying science—to be ill-advised and premature." 161
Instead, the world was told there was a virtually unanimous scientific consensus on the existence of a clear and present danger. On July 24, 1997, President Clinton held a press conference at which he announced that the catastrophic effects of man's use of fossil fuels was now an accepted scientific fact, not a theory. To underline this, he produced a list stated as being of 2,500 scientists who had approved the 1996 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report preparing the ground for Kyoto. That sounded conclusive, and most of the world at large accepted it as such.
However, upon further delving, things turn out to be not quite that simple. For a start, by far the majority of the signers were not climate scientists but political representatives from their respective countries, ranging all the way from Albania to Zimbabwe, with degrees in the social sciences. Their listing as "contributors" meant, for example, that they might have been given a part of the report and asked to express an opinion, and even if the opinion was a negative one they were still listed as "reviewers." 162 Only seventy-eight of the attendees were involved in producing the document. Even then, to give it even a hint of supporting the global warming position, the executive summary, written by a small IPCC steering group, was purged of all politically incorrect skepticism and modified—after the scientists had signed it!—which caused an uproar of indignation from the qualified atmospheric specialists who participated. 163
So how did atmospheric physicists, climatic specialists, and others with scientific credentials feel about the issue? To find out, Dr. Arthur Robinson, president and research professor of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, also publisher of the newsletter Access to Energy, in February 1998, conducted a survey of the professional field by circulating a petition calling for the government to reject the Kyoto agreement of December 1997, on the grounds that it would harm the environment, hinder science, and damage human health and welfare; that there was no scientific evidence that greenhouse gases were or were likely to cause disruption of the climate; and on the contrary there was substantial evidence that such release would in fact be beneficial. 165 After six months the petition had collected over seventeen thousand signatures.
At about the same time the German Meteorologisches Institut Universitat Hamburg and Forschungszentium, in a survey of specialists from various branches of the climate sciences, found that 67 percent of Canadian scientists rejected the notion that any warming due to human activity is occurring, while in Germany the figure was 87 percent, and in the US, 97 percent. 166 Some consensus for Kyoto!
I am sorry, but the above quotes are not in the Free section, but I do think the text is worth paying for.
The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman at June 24, 2006 5:36 AM
The following hissed in response by: MarkD
To answer your question, no: There is grant money to be had studying problems. There is no money to be had if it is not a problem.
The following hissed in response by: Infidel
Hunter opined: "is a religion, not a faith."
Check your terms, primarily the definition of "faith"; it's not the security blanket conservatives, in their own denial, would like it to be. Also, the analogy you draw is completely inverted. Religion and modern environmentalism operate virtually identically.
See http://www.crichton-official.com/speeches/speeches_quote05.html for a good breakdown.
The following hissed in response by: hunter
I should not post in a pre-coffee state.
My very very bad.
Please accept this correction and forgive my incredibly bad typing:
mcgw/algore school of climatology, is a religion, not a science.
The following hissed in response by: chipengineer
Dafydd >... fell for 15 years, hitting local nadirs in 1955, 1965, and the late 1970s... then it started rising again for the last 20 years. There is no plausible correlation of this rise, fall, and rise again to world industrialization...
Not that I agree with the global warming hysteria, but at least one explanation for the temporary fall in temperatures is increased particulate polution (which dims sunlight) through the 1970s. Subsequent reduction of partictulates then allowed temperatures to rise again.
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
Only if you can show that the temperature drop was entirely within large metropolitan areas. There was no significant increase in particulate-driven albedo in the sweeps of Russia and China, Africa, South America, or the Great Plains of North America.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at June 24, 2006 6:49 PM
The following hissed in response by: Dick E
Chipengineer and Dafydd-
To say nothing of the fact that, according to my old Air Force meteorology training (and a little bit in college), the best greenhouse gas of all is good old water. I've heard some talk about carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons as greenhouse gases, but I haven't heard of them being scientifically proven to have a significant effect.
And BTW, why would particulates give a greenhouse effect? Water vapor allows light to enter the lower atmosphere but prevents heat from escaping. Wouldn't particles (presumably being opaque) prevent light from entering, thus allowing less heat to penetrate? This might even cause a bit of local surface cooling. Call it a "shadow", rather than greenhouse, effect.
The following hissed in response by: cdquarles
Here are some facts of life.
1. The primary greenhouse gas in our atmosphere is dihydrogen monoxide, aka water, as noted by DickE.
2. The Earth's orbit about the sun is toroidal, plus the whole solar system circles the galactic core, making each orbit different from previous ones.
3. Our sun, aka Sol, is a yellow dwarf variable star (spectral class G2V). This means that the energy output varies, adding addtional variablity to the orbital variability. What is often forgotten is that solar EM is the primary weather driver here. There is some evidence that ol' Sol's getting brighter
4. Climate is statistical weather. Climate change logically follows from the fact that weather changes. The "normal" temperature reported by meteorologists is a 30 year moving average (and they don't give the standard deviations!).
5. Much of what is called global warming is actually local warming of metropolitan areas. Temperature records are very limited (the longest ones are those recorded in European cities) in length, and data quality varies significantly.
6. Satellite measurements do not corroborate the "warming" noted by surface records.
7. Antactica is cooling, as is Greenland. In Antartica, the cooling enhances formation of Polar Stratospheric Clouds, which in turn accelerate ozone depletion (IOW, warm Stratosphere, no Polar Stratospheric Clouds, no "ozone hole").
8. No one knows what the multidecadal oscillations will mean for future weather. This is more than the El-Nino, La-Nina that dominate the low latitude Pacific regions. There are multidecadal oscillations affecting the North and Mid-Atlantic as well...(alter the semipermanent Bermuda High, Gulf of Alaska & Hudson Bay Lows).
9. Volcanic eruptions add millions of tons of gas (water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, methane, chlorinated hydrocarbons) and dust to the atmosphere. An Anarctic volanic eruptiom injected chlorine into the polar stratosphere (bye-bye ozone). The eruption of Krakatoa contributed to cooler temperatures (and spectacular sunsets) for several years. More recently, eruptions in Mexico in the 80's added to atmospheric haze and lowered temperatures, as well as eruptions by Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Pinatubo.
In conclusion, we can be fairly certain that climate change is continual, natural, and human activities have at most a variable, marginal effect.
The above hissed in response by: cdquarles at June 24, 2006 11:01 PM
The following hissed in response by: Jim,MtnViewCA,USA
Sorry, lots of facts in the comments above, I only have an assertion.
For some time, it has seemed to me that the Dems truly believe the Repubs succeed by using fear (e.g. fear of terrorism), and the Dems feel that the fear is not justified. I've been confident that they had a "fear counterattack" in plan if they ever got their hands on the levers of power. However, I've assumed that they would simply find a way to smash the economy. When people don't have jobs they are fearful. The Dems would respond to the fear with programs that provided gov't jobs requiring union membership, end of story. Electoral dominance forever.
Looks like global climate change instead of sabotage of markets is the plan, though. (Of course that's one way to wreck the economy).
The following hissed in response by: questionable
Note that the answer to anthropogenic (man made) GW from C02 is also never given (if there is any). You would think Al Gore would be on a nuclear rampage fighting the greens on every coast to build more nuclear power plants.
The "Left's" answers to a problem is to spend everything on anything except that which fixes the problem. Since Nuclear power can potentialy fix two problems (Opec and AGW) the "Left" is doubly not going to want it.
The following hissed in response by: chipengineer
Dafydd> Only if you can show that the temperature drop was entirely within large metropolitan areas.
I think it is well established that fine particulates have a global effect (volcanos, for example).
Dafydd> There was no significant increase in particulate-driven albedo in the sweeps of Russia and China, Africa, South America, or the Great Plains of North America.
I'm not familar with that data; do you have a link?
The following hissed in response by: Dick E
A big mea culpa.
Sorry I misread your prior post. You were, of course, talking about the cooling effect of particulates, not warming.
Thanks for not hitting me with a "doh" slap.
The following hissed in response by: Dick E
You probably already know this, but the Supreme Court will hear a case next year about carbon dioxide as a pollutant/greenhouse gas.
I really don't like the idea of the courts deciding what is good science and what is not (although this obviously is not the first time it has happened -- the Scopes Monkey trial leaps to mind immediately).
I guess all we can do at this point is hope they get it right, and that the advocates present good scientific and legal arguments, rather than political ones.
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