A Few Things Ill Considered

A layman's take on the science of Global Warming featuring a guide on How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

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Hodgman on Hurricanes

Now for the lighter side of raging monster storms tearing across the globe destroying lives and property...

(h/t to Prometheus!)


Monday, September 25, 2006

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Getting our heads out of the hot, hot sand

(Guest post from Lisa T, who is involved with the film The Great Warming, and is trying to keep us up to date with this project)

E&ETV's acclaimed "On Point" show featured a webTV interview with The Great Warming producers today, to find out what they hope to accomplish with their documentary and coalition as the November elections approach.

Filmmakers Mike Taylor and Karen Coshof argue that while global warming and climate change are deadly serious issues, individuals, businesses, religious and secular groups and governments CAN make a difference if we all act fast, although as Coshof puts it in the interview, "the key word is fast!"

You can check out the interview at OnPoint, and join the broad-based coalition's "Call to Action," get voter tips and resources or adopt a theater for a screening at www.thegreatwarming.com

There’s also a new story on the religious green component of the film and coalition that’s been picked up by more than 70 media outlets. You can see it at Reuters AlertNet site.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

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More Evidence of Whitehouse GW Censorship

(via ThinkProgress)

A series of emails just released by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) show CNBC requesting an interview with NOAA's Tom Knutson about a month after Katrina to ask about the Global Warming - Hurricane link.

Waxman wrote in a letter:

CNBC’s request was forwarded from NOAA to Chuck Fuqua in your office. Mr. Fuqua is currently a press officer. He used to be the Director of Media Operations for the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Upon receiving the request, Mr. Fuqua emailed back to NOAA, “what is Knutson’s position on global warming vs. decadal cycles? is he consistent with Bell and Landsea?”

NOAA responded to Mr. Fuqua that Dr. Knutson projected a “very small increase in hurricane intensity” due to increased greenhouse gas pollution. Mr. Fuqua responded, “why can’t we have one of the other guys then?” This apparently ended the matter. NOAA’s Daily Media Tracking Log states that the request for the interview with Dr. Knutson was subsequently denied.

Gary Bell and Chris Landsea are in the camp that believes natural cycles and not global warming are causing the observed increase in powerful storms.

Nothing new here folks...

[Update: Salon.com has a lot more to add here. It was apparently their initiative that uncovered these emails in the first place]


Monday, September 18, 2006

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The Great Warming

There is an interesting looking documentary on Global Warming due for release soon in the US, in time for the November elections. It is called The Great Warming, and looks like it will be quite good.
Via a comment here from Lisa T who is involved in the film:

The documentary was produced in Canada (shot partly in BC) and released in 2004 as a 3-part series on Discovery Canada and on Canal D in Quebec. There was a lot of clamour on the website for a US release, but the big networks told us "environment is too depressing for TV" (which may be one reason not much has improved here...). PBS ultimately released a short version last year called "Global Warming: The Signs + the Science".

THIS film is the culmination of all that, with a stronger activist voice, updated science content, inclusion of the faith-based green movement-- and a revisit of Louisiana, where every interviewee in 2002 predicted devastation on a Katrina scale. That part is infuriating, but worth seeing.

The website will give you a pretty good idea of the film (it's also gorgeously shot), and the link to the Call to Action coalition should go live Monday. If you like what you see, we'd appreciate anything you can do to spread the word - we don't have Al Gore's budget!

They don't have Al Gore's budget, but they do have Keanu Reeves and Alanis Morrisette!

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

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Arctic Sea Ice Declines

This is a familiar headline by now, but what is significant this time is that the finding is about winter sea ice. The winter ice forms and melts in an annual cycle, the summer ice is permanent. Earlier findings were that ice was melting more in the hotter summers, but the recovery in winter was generally quite good. Now, according to two NASA studies, there have been quite dramatic drops in the maximum winter extent and thickness over the last two years. This follows on two decades of slower declines.

NASA has an article about it here and there is a piece in the Washington Post here. The NASA piece has some nice animations.

Related Guide entries:


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

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The Economist on Climate Change

The Economist has a featured article on Climate Change that is getting some attention here and there. It is notable mostly because it means that a real bastion of capitalist Free Market thinking has finally swallowed the eco-nazi propaganda touted by the socialist UN hell bent on world domination via carbon credit trading.

It seems a basically sound piece of writing and I have no general comments or observations. But one passage did strike me and prompts this post:

The establishment of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change under the auspices of the UN was designed to silence the arguments and give policymakers an agreed line on what the future holds. But given how little is known about either the climate's sensitivity to greenhouse-gas emissions or about future emissions levels, that proved difficult. Not surprisingly, the IPCC's latest report, published in 2001, offers a wide range of predicted temperature rises, from 1.40C to 5.80C by the end of this century.

This huge range limits the usefulness of the IPCC's findings to

My problem with this passage is that it makes the very common mistake of equating the uncertainty about climate sensitivity with the uncertainty about emission levels through the coming century. The former is a property of the climate system, beyond our control and with a value that is independent of our influence or understanding of it. The latter is a property of our own behaviour and as such is entirely in our control (in theory, at least, even though the reality of collective behaviour brings quite a few practical limits).

The reason for the error ranges around model runs using a given scenario is due to incomplete understanding of the complex ocean-atmosphere climate system. The reason for the range of greenhouse gas concentrations in the various IPCC scenarios is not to express how unknown the future is, but to provide a guide so that we may choose, to whatever extent possible, what those future emission levels will be.

Therefore I think the conclusion in the cited quote is completely wrong. Decision making is in fact facilitated by having a range of possible outcomes from which to determine a goal and a set of actions.


Monday, September 11, 2006

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A Perfect Storm of Character Flaws

Roger Pielke Jr. has an interesting post on setting policy for emissions reductions that target particular levels at which CO2 should be stabilised. This seems to be the preferred approach, both for policy makers and advocates of climate change mitigation. I find myself in the odious position of criticising this approach while having nothing much better to offer. Nevertheless, here are some expanded thoughts on this matter that I submitted as a comment on Roger's post.

Firstly, any good emissions policy also needs to consider ocean acidity. It is fine for GW if stabilized emissions balance natural sinks at some low risk temperature change, but as long as that means increasing the level of carbonic acid in the ocean, the global environment still faces a huge problem. This urgent issue remains remarkably out of sight in the public debate.

As for the best policy on reducing carbon emissions, it is unfortunate that "as much as possible as soon as possible" is not precise enough for policy makers, litigators and tax incentive schemes. It is equally unfortunate that public perceptions seem to mirror the fabled "Frog in the Pot of Boiling Water". How much worse is 380 than 378? How much worse is 382 than 380, and on it goes until we find ourselves asking "how much worse is 550 than 450?"

But perhaps the greatest challenge to both our political and economic ways of thinking is the temporal seperation between cause and effect that characterizes this issue. Few alive now will ever see the consequences of their choices, and none will ever know the long term effects that our current and recent-past lifestyle and technology choices have set in motion. Four, five or six year terms do not encourage today's leaders to place any priority on such long range planning. Markets have trouble looking beyond the next financial quarter. The IPCC scenarios may stop in 2100, but let's not forget that the world does not.

So what the Climate Change debate is faced with here is a perfect storm of societal character flaws and through these, incontrovertible proof of the immaturity human civilization. I am a big believer in the adage that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but that is what you say to yourself after you have survived. And while I am not worried that the species will not survived, I think there is abundant and clear evidence that our global society may not.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

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We Are Just Recovering From the LIA

(Part of the How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic guide)

The current warming is just a recovery from the Little Ice Age.

[UPDATE: Please see this guide entry.]

This entry is on my ToDo list but for now I would just point to a post by Andrew Dressler that covers it nicely. In a nutshell this argument assumes some kind of natural level that the climate system automatically gravitates back to. Like almost all of the sceptic arguments, this one is inconsistent with many others, especially those trying to say nothing new here, the climate is always changing or the climate is chaotic.

Other Guides, by Category


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

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CO2 Highest in At Least 800,000 Years

As analysis of ice cores from the Antarctic continue, we have moved from the finding that GHG's in the atmosphere are at their highest concentration in 450,000 years to 650,000 years and now to 800,000 years. I believe the limit to this record is supposed to be around 900,000 years. Even though the antarctic ice sheet is older than that, the continent has been mostly ice covered for the last 15 million years, the usable record is limited by melting from the bottom and corruption of the record due to motion and pressure.

What this new result reconfirms is that humanity is really taking us off the charts in terms of the atmosphere/ocean climate system that has existed for longer than the entire history of the human species. (NB - other indicators such as ocean sediments suggest we may be at a 20 million year high, though the time resolution is not as fine nor the measurement as direct),

And we have done this is about one century.

It doesn't take a computer model to tell a sincere and intelligent person that this is folly on a monstrous scale. There is nothing in geological history that tells us this is nothing to worry about, in fact, quite to the contrary.

Here are a few guide entries that relate to this paleo-climate record.

Complete listing of guide entries here.

Wikipedia has a fascinating article on ice cores.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

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Pat Michaels and the Holiday Inn Express

"State Climatologist? No, I'm no State Climatologist. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once." (that chuckle from Eli Rabbet in the Global Change google group)

One interesting development while I was away last month concerns Patrick Michaels, one of the gaggle of standard climate sceptic voices. It seemed to have started with a leaked memo from an electric/coal company that discussed some of their global warming denial strategy and mentioned having earmarked $100,000 for Dr. Michaels. Tim Lambert discusses it briefly here, and Real Climate talked about its scientific point of view here.

Then in this post, Eli Rabett noted some digging into Michaels' background was calling into question just whether or not the position of State Climatologist of Virginia, the title on Pat Michaels' business card, even exists! Eli has further thoughts and developments here, very much worth reading, including an aparent game of "Hot Potatoe" between the State and the University of Virginia with Michaels as the potatoe, and official requests that he ensure no one thinks he actually represents anybody when he makes his speeches and writes his op-eds.

Does it matter? One poster in the Global Change thread thought it only distracts from the problems with Michaels' scientific arguments.

But does Patrick Michaels' present any credible scientific arguments? I don't think so. If the main arena for this issue were scientific, Patrick Michaels' name would have had no meaning for a long time now. But the arena in which the climate sceptics are effective is by far more one of appearances and PR. In this arena, Michaels' sole source of credibility is his job title and if it turns out it was never really his, whatever the reason, he will need another source of credibility.

The only risk is that he gets this from martyrdom. To avoid this, anyone concerned about the scientific part of the debate should avoid dancing on the State Climatologist of Virginia's grave!

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