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.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

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What's Wrong With Warm Weather

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

This article has moved to ScienceBlogs

It has also been updated and this page is still here only to preserve the original comment thread. Please visit A Few Things Ill Considered there. You may also like to view Painting With Water, Coby Beck's original fine art photography.



  • At March 21, 2006 2:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It is correct to say that the rate of change is important, but also that the earth's climate is a complex chaotic system, and that forcing the system to change rapidly could push it to a different stable state, or throw it into a highly unpredictable dynamic state. We are already seeing more fluctuations (droughts, floods, storms, etc...).

  • At March 25, 2006 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So, your answer is: "I don't know for sure but I have a bad feeling about it"?

  • At March 25, 2006 9:58 AM, Blogger coby said…

    No, the answer is there is nothing wrong with a warmer climate, the problem is the mass extinction from the rapid transition and the hundreds of thousands of years it will take for the biosphere to recover its richness and diversity. The problem is there are billions of people who live in cities that may no longer be viable due to sea level rise, water supply changes or loss of supporting agriculture.

  • At May 08, 2006 1:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How does a change in global temperatures of 0.6 degrees C in a century qualify as a rapid change (or even 1.5 degrees for that matter)? Why do we assume people will be unable to adapt to such long term changes? If the earth was cooling by that amount, I might be more concerned!

  • At May 08, 2006 1:18 PM, Blogger coby said…


    You may find some more useful information in this post:
    Climate is Always Changing.

    The problem people will have adapting is due to our ultimate dependance on the environment for food and water.

  • At May 10, 2006 5:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    You appear obsessed with the idea that climate change will somehow destroy the Earths ability to feed us all. However, all the evidence indicates that a warmer world, with higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, will be conducive to more agricultural production. Not that we'll need it, because technology in this area is progressing at least as fast as in most other areas, and we can already produce massive food surpluses on less land than we currently use.
    Frankly, the doom and gloom scenarios being concocted run entirely counter to the weight of evidence. We are an adaptable species, and the greater the resources at our command (another term for wealth) the more easily and painlessly we will be able to adapt to whatever the climate should do. But whatever that is it certainly wont be widespread food shortages!

  • At May 10, 2006 9:16 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Obsessed is a little overstated. Yes I think it is the primary concern. You are not paying attention to the point of this post or the one I pointed you to, climate change is not the same thing as a warmer but stable climate. Re agriculture today, there are a lot of practices going on that I think most people expert in the area agree are unsustainable due to changing soil composition and/or aquifer depletion. I would also remind you that temperature is not the only factor in successful agriculture. You need either irrigation or reliable and appropriate rainfall patterns, appropriate and timely sunlight levels and suitable soil.

    Do you have some references about CO2 improving agriculture? I would like to deal with this argument soon unless it is sound and would appreciate any pointers.

    In terms of resources, I don't see the non-renewables being used in a sustainable manner and non-renewables are, well, non renewable so I don't think the conclusion that we will have more and more resources is even remotely supported.

  • At May 10, 2006 2:18 PM, Blogger Heiko said…


    Generally, more CO2 is helpful for plant growth. The straightforward explanation is that plants take CO2 and water to produce biomass (CO2 + H2O goes to O2 and CH20, really simple formula), and to get the CO2 they'll have to filter an awful lot of air with just 0.038% CO2 in it (with consequent evaporative losses of water).

    More CO2 in the air means that that job gets easier for plants.

    That's the basics and I don't think that's in any real dispute.

    However, when there's other growth limiting factors (high temperatures in the tropics, not enough N in the soil etc..) adding CO2 may provide little benefit, and the overall effect on world agriculture depends on all sorts of assumptions about what will be grown where in 2100.

  • At May 10, 2006 9:00 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Yes, water as well as nitrogen are limiting factors, CO2 alone is not enough. I plan to research this one a bit more I don't have good links handy, but I know that there have been studies and this CO2 benefit does not manifest itself in the real world for all plants and not for food crops. There are two or three types of plants when it comes to CO2 and only one type responds well to increased CO2.

    One interesting recent finding showed an actual increase in river flow attributed to CO2 increase causing plant stomata to stay more closed (easier to get the CO2) which results in less transpiration. So more water stays in the ground and runs into the river!

  • At May 16, 2006 3:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    is a googlemaps tool which shows sealevel changes all over the worldd. It starts at 7 meters, but can go from 0 to 14 meters.

    The 2001 IPCC suggests only 0.2-0.8 meters by 2001; however new data suggests much more drastic changes which may be reflected in the next IPCC report.

    This Floodmap also doesn't show population distribution (25% of the U.S. lives within 10 meters of the sea etc), nor other climate alterations (rainfall etc).


  • At May 16, 2006 12:07 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Thanks for that link Sam. I have seen a few of those google map flood tools, but this one seems the best so far. I will make a post about it.

  • At May 26, 2006 2:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The small rise in median surface temperature is not involved with rapid climate change in any manner; it is simply the at last noticed effect of 400 years of Human rematerialing of the land surface. It is that weather is patterned by Turbulence and Turbulence is the EXPRESSION within a system of inducted Kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is expressed as kinetic velocity and it is THIS that is measured in median by Temperature and Pressure.

    Within the overall CLIMATE, Temperature is rising naturally in response to natural climate processes that are actually present in a persistent manner. As to rainfall patterning alterations it has already been mentioned that alterations to Turbulence due to surface rematerialing is producing the noticed alterations. The transport of inducted kinetic energy via convection/conduction is presently running Ocean surface variation (in measured median temperature rise) at a 15 year lag.

    If you notice the geographical plot of Human population density/distribution within the link:-
    http://www.ucimc.org/newswire/display/113579/index.php#comments (*)

    -: it needs to be realised then that this 1994 distribution is the source of the PRESENT observed variations.

    Those alterations made since 1994 will be added in an accumulation with the continuance of the '1994 and before' additions. The total of this observed surface effect is still to be observed, and will continue to see increased expression in observations.

    There is NOT any reason to notice these future and expected alterations as being 'greenhouse related', there is not infact possible, with any notice to the real properties of the involved materials, a 'greenhouse process' or related 'climate effect'.

    See for further information:-
    http://www.climateimc.org/?q=node/348 &

    Your's, Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)
    From the PC of Peter K Anderson
    E-Mail: Hartlod@bigpond.com

  • At September 23, 2006 1:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sorry I can't add a link, but my understanding is that small increases in temperature and CO2 may improve agricultural production, but dramatic changes in climate (some of which are already occurring here in Australia) cause major problems. Even in the best case, 100 years from now, the effects will be way past the 'small positive' and into the 'largely strongly negative'. As of course intuition would tell you (and as pointed out the history of mass extinction etc).

  • At November 13, 2006 8:33 AM, Blogger HotTamale said…

    Don't let your partisan/business leanings interfere with your critical analysis of what is happening.

    The situation is very clear. We can try to keep the climate the same as it has been during the past 2000+ years of "modern" history, or we can go into uncharted territory and hope for the best.

    The prudent decision is to NOT screw with the environment that we know how to deal with.

    Humans are historically BAD at predicting how complex situations will work. Given that, there will be unexpected repercussions to this situations.

    Sure, Kansas may have gentler winters.

    And a band of desert may extend all around the world at the equitor.

    And all the coral may die. And the fish that live in the coral. And the fish that eat those fish, etc. And shrimp may become plentiful.

    And there may be less rain, causing drought prone areas to become deserts. And the growth of vegetation in colder regions may increase.

    The point is we don't know what will happen. If you lean toward it being a good or a bad thing, you are NOT GETTING THE POINT. The point is that we don't know what will happen, but SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN. And that something could really, really suck. I'd rather not gamble on this one. It's too important.

  • At November 17, 2006 4:59 PM, Blogger jo_bobtwc said…


    No offense, but are you taking a stand of BOTH sides of the issue?? Humans have a history of bad manegement of complex systems it is true; so we shouldn't mess with the environment. Instead we should leave the environment where it is, but the only way to do so is to stop it from changing (in other words we should mess with it).

    Rapid climate change will likely result in the death of some species, how many and which ones remains in question. I agree with the rest of you that this is not a good thing in of itself. But rapid climate change also allows for the development of new species. One example of that would be uh...Humans. So while the future COULD really suck, as you so eloquently put it, it COULD be really awesome with new biodiversity as well. Also, if we try to alter the climate to reverse the warming trend we are likely to cause damage to other ecosystems at the expense of saving the ones we deem more important (like coral reefs for example). Who gets to decide which species are more important? As we save one, we inevitably harm another. In light of this, I think we should have a good idea what we are trying to avoid and what will happen if we are successful before trying to alter this complex situation. This is not to say that nothing we do matters, I feel strongly that we should still recycle, push for renewable energy etc. but I am opposed to large scale measures to reverse AGW at this time in history. Who knows maybe in a few years it will be feasable, but I don't think we know enough right now.

  • At December 09, 2006 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    No offence, but your argument sounds extremely ignorant and poorly thought out.
    Firstly, you say that we shouldn’t do anything to try and stop the rapid increase in the global temperature because it’s ‘messing with it’. But we’ve already ‘messed with it’, which is why there is this rapid increase in global temperatures to begin with. And I find it hard to believe that trying to reverse that effect by cutting down on pollutants on a personal and industrial level is ‘messing with it’. I see it as being responsible. Even if all the CO2 and other GHGs we are pumping in to the air due to burning fossil fuels has absolutely nothing to do with climate change, it wouldn’t kill us to be a more energy responsible species.
    Second, you say that the rapid climate change ‘will likely result in the death of some species’ as if it’s not really that big of a deal. The number of species threatened by global warming is no secret. Millions of species are suffering from this problem. We can already see the extinction and endangerment of many species. And species that live in colder environments who cannot move to colder ground, such as polar bears and penguins are in a lot of trouble. Birds are being hit very hard by global warming as observed by the millions of bird watchers around the world. And, even though you talk about the coral reefs as if they are expendable, there is no debate about their bleaching and decline.
    Now, all these species may seem just like pretty things we get to look at and it’s no big deal if they all are wiped off the face of the planet (as we can still look at them in zoos and museums, which is all they are good for right?), but as a species, we seem unbelievably ignorant to the reality that our lives are in fact extremely dependant on many of these species survival. We like to put ourselves on the top of the pyramid, yet we fail to see that if any of the bottom parts of the pyramid collapse we fall too. I’m sure we rarely think about how important krill is to the survival of hundreds of species, yet global warming and the increase of krill fishing for cosmetics is driving krill to endangerment (thank Mr. Bush for that). It actually doesn’t take more than a few minutes of googling species extinction due to global warming to solidify which species are in trouble. So by saying we don’t know which species are in question just makes it seem like you didn’t even bother to look anything up before making your statement.
    And, I’m sorry, but “I agree with the rest of you that this is not a good thing in of itself. But rapid climate change also allows for the development of new species. One example of that would be uh...Humans”, is probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Firstly, the development of new species, if you believe in evolution, takes millions of years. If you believe in intelligent design, I seriously doubt God will drop a few new well-suited species on the planet because we screwed up his creation. And as for saying an example of the development of a new species would be humans, not only doesn’t make any sense because we are already a species, but it makes it seem like you think as long as humans can survive this, we’re in the clear. That shows a complete lack of understanding of biodiversity and how the natural world works. So in response to your “it COULD be really awesome with new biodiversity as well”, at this point that’s just as likely as shooting the engine in your car 6 times and having it work better. And yes, if we mess everything up, EVENTUALLY the planet will balance itself out, as it’s done many times in the past 5 billion years, but this awesome new biodiversity you’re talking about won’t be something we can dream of seeing for millions of years. So I’d rather just work towards trying save the wonderful species we currently have right now by being a more responsible species. Oh, and by trying to get the climate to stop its rapid increase will have no destructive effect on any species, as all the current species have developed to live just fine in the climate we’re trying to get the planet back to.

  • At January 28, 2007 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    snoot i was wondering what are ghg's. i have heard of cfc's which have an effect on the ozone but i have no idea what ghg's are.

  • At January 28, 2007 1:36 PM, Blogger coby said…

    GHG stands for GreenHouse Gas and refers to any gas that absorbs some infrared radiation as that radiation passes through from the earth's surface to outer space. GHG's include H2O, CO2, CH4, NO2, O3 and CFC's I believe. Of these CO2 is the dominate factor in the enhanced greenhouse effect that is causing global warming. CH4 and H2O are both much stronger greenhouse gases but CH4 is very much less concentrated than CO2 and H2O is so extremely short lived in the atmosphere, cycling in and out as rain and evaporation, that it acts only as an amplifier and not as a driver of changes in the greenhouse effect.

    It would be worth your while to look through some of the introductory material in the IPCC TAR report (the "Climate Change: the Scientific Basis" link in the sidebar)

    Thanks for the visit and comment!

  • At January 29, 2007 1:23 PM, Blogger HotTamale said…

    For clarity, I'm in favor of reducing CO2 emissions and planting more trees. I was simply brainstorming on the possibilities of global warming, good and bad. Also, I don't believe in mincing words about important topics, hence my use of the word "suck". Actually, a straightforward answer that anybody can understand IS eloquent.

  • At February 20, 2007 3:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is one of those arguments that is true enough, but misses the point. Change, not final state, being the real danger.


    All former Socialist predictions of "Change", including the Ice Age predictions, have been proven false every year.

    Considering the irrational predictions of "Change" why would I even believe a Socialist prediction of the "Final State"?

  • At November 29, 2007 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If .6 degree per century is too fast, what is the cutoff between ok and too fast?

    "Intelligent Design" people often point out that there are gaps in the evolutionary fossil record therefore evolution cannot possibly explain how humans came about. In response to this Carl Sagan (the atheist) once said that suppose we took one of these gaps and we actually found a fossil that fit right in the middle of this gap, the "ID" people would immediately scream "Ahah, now you have TWO gaps!".

    My point is that this whole article is simply editorial and provocative not science. You simply can't say something is too fast until you show us the speed limit sign.

  • At November 29, 2007 4:26 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi sarit,

    I don't believe I implied some kind of definite threshold anywhere. What is the cut off between safe driving and too fast? Obviously it is simply a matter of the faster you go the more dangerous it is, speed limit signs notwithstanding.

    In terms of climate, the faster the average temperature rises the harder it is on the biosphere. This is both reasonably deducible and an observed historical reality.

    If you were asking me to put up a global climate speed limit sign, I might chose the rate of change we saw during the ice age cycles, say .1oC/century.

    It would be nice if we had many planets teeming with life to experiment on, so we could definitively say XoC/decade causes on average X 1000's of species extinctions but we don't.

  • At December 01, 2007 12:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My reply got too long so I posted it on my blog here http://saritsblog.blogspot.com/2007/11/my-reply-to-whats-wrong-with-warm.html

  • At December 04, 2007 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    No rebuttal?

    Why pick a rate consistent with the Ice Age? Are we in an Ice age? Is it because you know that our climate has a history of temperature changes consistent with what we are seeing today? (goto the link in my previous post).

    In response to Snoot:
    Human evolution due to climate change is pretty substantiated. If a meteor impact hadn't wiped out the dinosaurs through global dimming (ie climate change) then we probably wouldn't be here today. In fact, some scientists believe that our ac­tu­al “an­ces­tors,” and those of other liv­ing mam­mals, be­gan to di­ver­si­fy around the time of a sud­den in­crease in Earth’s tempe­rature.

  • At March 12, 2008 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As you said not unprecedented, we will have as a species gone through worse than this, the difference is we now have elecred officials who want to control us and use this as a tool to do so, people look at the worst eg first comment "We are already seeing more fluctuations (droughts, floods, storms, etc)" are we seeing them, if we atually look back through recorded history we have had worse weather but just not attributed it to one cause, the general public have ben given a scape goat to blame everything on "global warming" we do not know how hot the planet has been in the past, but are willing to believe some guess from a scientist, we are gullible and deserve everything we get, only the future can show us the truth.

  • At June 24, 2008 7:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There is evidence on both sides of this argument, the average planet temperature has dropped 0.7 dgrees, inner ice packs are increasing but you only get shown the outer melting areas, officials are using this as a tax tool and scaremongery, I am not saying we do not effect our climate, of course we do, we cut down trees, clear forests all this effects the climate, but to pick one gas co2 as a culprit is naive at best.

  • At July 11, 2008 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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