Friday, December 18, 2009

My Global Warming Primer

There seems to be lots of questions on this global warming issue. Anonymous Guy and Andy just go back and forth quoting things that make there point of view true. It is like one of you saying the way to heaven is to follow the Koran and the others says to follow the Bible. Your only proof of who is correct comes from those books you are promoting. Is it possible that the Jews know the way to heaven too? To finish the analogy are human actions the absolutely only reason the Earth is currently warming? If not how much effect do human actions have on it?

--Pack04 commenting here.

I thought Pack04 brought up an excellent point. When I discuss Global Warming face to face with people, I don't have the ability to insert a hyperlink to make my case. Instead, I rely on logic, and hope to give the person some direction to go do their own research. I am going to do my best to do that here. Hopefully this will help shed some light on my thoughts on global warming, and might give you some food for thought.

A little about my background. I have been writing about global warming on here since 2007. I have been reading about the topic longer than that. I studied geophysics in college as a minor. Does that make me an expert in the field? Absolutely not. It does give me a few tools to understand some of the science behind the arguments. Truthfully, I think most of this debate can be understood by anyone, if they can keep a few points in mind. As you read the rest of this article, try to put aside what you currently know about the debate on global warming. Then, after reading this, go back to what you previously thought with, hopefully, a slightly different perspective.

First, it's important to remember that the Earth's climate and temperatures are constantly changing. If you could magically transport all humans, and every piece of our technology and pollution off the planet, the Earth would probably still be warming. At the very least, the temperature would continue to change. Before man arrived, the Earth went through natural warming and cooling cycles. This will continue long after we leave. The question both sides debate is: How much warming is due to man?

Secondly, remember that all future predictions (dire and otherwise) are based on computer models. Computer models are a very complicated set of predictions and assumptions an individual makes. In every other scientific or engineering field, once a computer model is created, it is tested with a known set of data with known results. For example: if you were creating a climate model, you might plug in data from 1900 to 1960 to see if your model could accurately predict the weather of the 1970's and 1980's. If it does, you have a good model. If it doesn't, your model still needs work. Here is the second important point: No model currently out there will predict previous years climate. None of them.

One of the assumptions built into climate models is how clouds act. Climatologists on both sides agree that clouds are an important component (some have argued they are a primary component) of what our climate does. However, climatologists don't understand how or why clouds form, or how and why the disappear, or even why they appear in some locations and not in others. As a third important fact, this means all computer models incorporate a guess on how clouds do what they do. This starts the model with an error before the first piece of data is entered.

Now let's pretend we could accurately predict the climate, and we knew it was in fact warming. That still doesn't end the debate. There is no proof that global warming is a bad thing. If the planet was to increase its temperature by 1 degree over the next 100 years, that might be beneficial. It could cause an increase in plant life and human life. Hot weather kills less than cold weather. If we knew a 1 degree increase might cause an additional 1000 deaths in the summer, but save 10,000 lives in the winter, would that be bad? This debate hasn't happened yet, and until it does, we shouldn't spend fortunes trying to correct something we don't really understand.

We aren't sure how accurate our predictions are, and we aren't sure if global warming would truly be a bad thing. Now, let's look at some solutions. If you have read about this topic, you are familiar with the Kyoto treaty. In a nutshell, the Kyoto Protocol is a international treaty that sets targets for reductions of greenhouse gases. The United States is has not ratified this treaty. However, if every nation in the world signed on to Kyoto and met its requirements, it wouldn't stop global warming. The best it would do is to reduce global temperature increases by approximately 0.01 degree Celsius. And this relatively insignificant reduction would come at a fortune of money, technology, and even quality of life.

However, just because I don't believe in man-made global warming doesn't mean there aren't solutions I would support. I do believe conservation is important. I recycle in my own home. I also believe that if the United States did a major push to increase our nuclear energy facilities, there would be a number of benefits. More US nuclear energy would mean more energy here, less money going over seas, more jobs in the United States, and if you believe in Global Warming, a clean energy source. I am always suspicious of people who claim to believe in man-made catastrophic global warming, but aren't willing to discuss more nuclear facilities in the United States. This is a compromise that should generate support form Democrats and Republicans alike.

The next time you read a global warming article (regardless of the point of view of the article) keep these points in mind. I think you might be surprised with what conclusions you reach on your own if you ignore the propaganda, and just look at the facts. Regardless, like any other issue, if you are going to make an informed decision, you will need to do some homework. I hope this helps to give you a framework to start digging around with.


the anonymous guy said...

This is great:

Andy's reasoning: People's body temperatures change all the time, so it's silly to call your kid's 107 degree temperature a "fever." It could be just a natural fluctuation. Just like the hottest decade on record (2000-2009) is no cause for alarm. (The second hottest was the 1990's, and the third hottest was the 1980's, etc.) Don't listen to the kids' doctor, they're just "scientists."

Uh, all kinds of models have predicted exactly the kind of warming the planet is now experiencing. That's why it was a "theory" before the warming got profoundly observable. If Andy is saying that computers can't predict the exact temperature of a given day or year, he's right; the point is that scientific climate models (the stuff real scientists use) continue to predict the very changes in climate that are happening--often, actually, underestimating how fast things are heating up.

Andy's reasoning: "who knows? maybe global warming is good, so prove that it's not good!" So if somebody suggested nudging the earth a few thousand miles closer to the sun, Andy would say, "sure, that's probably a good idea, unless somebody more convincing than the world's scientific community can prove that it's a really, really, bad idea."

Andy on nuclear power: "let's put the most dangerous weapons-material on earth in every part of the world, and then store the radioactive waste-materials (also good for weapons) safely for the next 10,000 years. We're working on computer models that will show that we can keep it safe for that long. No uncertainty in *this* case!"

Andy, seriously: what if (I know it's hard to imagine) you and your favorite talk show hosts are wrong, and the world's scientific community is right? I mean just hypothetically. Do you think we should take any precautions just in case right-wing talk show hosts turn out to be mistaken in their rigorous scientific assessments of global climate processes?

pack04 said...

I think both Andy and I have mentioned some things that could be looked at a just in case things that would not be as extensive, costly and most likely uninforceable as what is trying to be passed now.

Weak compairsion on the kids tempature thing.

Again I ask is the only reason the last three decades are warmer than the previous decades because of man made issues?

the anonymous guy said...

Pack, the answer to your last question: yes.

Andy D said...

Anonymous, the graph you present has been disputed, and questioned once the data was released that compiled it.


There are some scientist that believe global warming supporters haven't taken into account natural warming trends, sunspots, and volcanic eruptions in recent times.

I still think anyone researching this topic should read some of the literature from both sides of the debate. I have, and that's what lead me to the position that there is no catastrophic man made global warming.

pack04 said...

Anonymous guy that does not answer the question I asked. It proves your point but does not answer the question.

I can show you a graph that has my weight and ammount of m&m's I have eaten. Yes in the last five years that graph would look the same as the graph you linked too. However it does not take in to account the fact that I stopped running at least a mile a day because I quit playing soccer.

A quick google search of world population will show a similar graph of population since the 1800's exploding. Is the warming of the earth their fault? Should we reduce poeple? How is it known for sure that it is just CO2? As Andy points out volcanos, sun spots or as you mentioned gettin closer to the sun ( the earth wobbles which brings it closer to the sun. Some early research is looking at how those wobbles corospond to ice ages).

the anonymous guy said...

Pack and Andy,

The scientific debate about whether or not humans are causing climate change is over--like the debate over the flat earth. There aren't two "scientific" sides to the issue any more than there are two scientific sides to the question of flat-or-round earth.

CO2 (along with some other gases) is warming the atmosphere just as scientists have predicted. All of the other theories invented by the wackos and the fossil fuel industry keep being disproved. If you've got another theory (that hasn't already been disproved), then offer it. What is causing the warming?

pack04 said...

The debate is over? Who declared that?
I did a quick read of the first couple of pages of this article and yes it does provide some very good information on observed data. However, it uses the words "likely", "very likely", "virtually certain" and "more likely than not" too many times for a debate to be over. Also on figure SPM.2 page 4 they have listed 9 things that they have found to be radiative force components. 2 of them have a high level of scientific understanding. The rest are low. They don't even mention volcanic aerosoles because they have a very low understanding of them. That does not sound like an end of a debate when there are that many questions left out there.

The debate on gravity is not even over. Newton said things free fall because of gravity, Einstein says they free fall because that is what they do when no force acts on them.

Yes the debate on the earth being flat is over. The debates on gravity and climate change caused by humans are not.

the anonymous guy said...

Pack, kudos for looking at some real scientific info.

A few notes:

-Notice that the observed warming of the planet is declared "unequivocal." That means there is no debate among scientists about whether or not the planet is heating up. [Andy and his buddies still (sometimes) argue for global cooling.]

-Notice that the scientists are *not* debating whether humans are heating up the planet or not. That debate is over. Any debate is about how much, how fast, and how hot it will get in the future under various circumstances. [Andy and his buddies point to the latter debate and try to confuse it with the former debate.]

-Notice that the level of certainty ("very likely," "likely," etc) usually deals with very specific questions (e.g. how many more degrees of global heating will occur given X amount of emissions). It's not about whether humans are actually heating the planet or not. That debate is over.

-Notice that there are actually at least four citations of volcanic aerosols in the doc you're looking at. They add uncertainty not because they're mysterious but because they're episodic/irregular.

Basically: of course there is debate about some of the details. As you point out, there is still debate about gravity. But that doesn't mean I should expect to fly if I jump off of my roof today. That debate is over.

Andy D said...

Anon, a few clarifications:

1- The global temperature appears to be warming. However, taking a global temperature is a very difficult thing to do. Should you take it at sea level? Or maybe a few hindered feet into the air? Perhaps even well into the upper atmosphere. How many data points do you need? What countries / cities / land masses should have temperature monitoring stations? How do you reconcile that we believe the global temperature over the entire world has increased over the last ten years, while the average temperature of the US (one of the highest emitters of CO2)appears to have decreased over the same time period?

You may believe the debate over global warming is over, but in truth the debate over the details is far from over. There are scientist on both sides of the argument who disagree on this issue. How are you going to simply step in and tell them the debate is over?

the anonymous guy said...

Andy, your question reveals that you really don't understand basic climate science. That the U.S. is a major CO2 emitter has *nothing* to do with its local patterns of climate change. To misunderstand such a basic part of climate science indicates that you don't understand much of it at all. Seriously, take a crash course, man.

Andy D said...

Anon, am I to understand that our large emissions of CO2 don't affect our local weather and climate patterns in any way? Is that really the argument you would like to put forward here?

pack04 said...

It is the details that are important to scientific debate!
The debate with gravity was never about jumping off of a roof and flying or not. The debate is about why do you fall when you do jump off the roof.

If we assume that the earth is warming as a closed debate then scientist are trying to understand why the earth is warming. Those are details. Most of which scientist seem to have little understanding. One of those debates that is very important is as you point out this:
Notice that the level of certainty ("very likely," "likely," etc) usually deals with very specific questions (e.g. how many more degrees of global heating will occur given X amount of emissions).

If by your own admission scientist do not know the amount of heating that will occur with X amount of emissions how can we pass any laws or make any moves to reduce the proper about of emissions? That is the point of the meeting in Denmark and the Kyoto protocol, reduce emission. How much? If we are going to pass a law to reduce emission in the US by 50% and that will have no effect on the warming of the earth, that is wasted money.

That is a harsh way of putting it, I understand that. But it is a realistic look at the debate. Yes there are people that are saying the earth is not warming keep going on what we have been going on. There are also people who are saying do away with everything modern and reduce population. Both are in the extremes. But this is real life stuff. This is our health and our money. If I spend my money I want something for it. When I hear reducing emissions (cost money) will change the warming by an unknown amount (questionable return) I get concerned.

the anonymous guy said...

Right, Andy. Local emissions of CO2 contribute to global climate change, but they do not *disproportionately* effect climate at the site of emission. This is because the earth's atmosphere very efficiently mixes C02 globally.

So even if one place in the world emitted all of the C02 on the planet, you wouldn't really expect that one place to warm more significantly than other places on the planet. C02 spreads globally quite efficiently.

Again, bro. This is super basic. It's ok that you don't know this. You just might want to study up a bit on the very basics before you go trashing the work of the world's top scientists. You'd definitely learn something, and it might make you more convincing.

Pack. We don't know *exactly* how many people would be killed by a nuclear bomb going off in any given city. But we know enough to try to prevent it. It would be ludicrous to suggest we should wait until we have a precise body count in advance.

pack04 said...

Bad analogy again with the bomb analogy. With that thinking I guess I should never buy a house because I don't know how many things will go wrong. I probably should not even get up in the morning because I might slip and fall in the bathtub and kill myself.
With a bomb we know that it will kill a lot. Exact numbers are not important. With a house I can look at the condition of appliance, roof and such and make an estimate of what the cost will be.
Again by your own statement scientists don't know "how many more degrees of global heating will occur given X amount of emissions." With a statement like that you cannot even apply the house rule (estimate of cost of repair) or bomb rule (a lot will die) from above.

I know you love saying the debate is over but the more you keep "explaining" and the more I keep reading the more and more questions I have with this topic. Anonymous, I have to ask are you truly keeping an open mind when reading research? Or are you allowing politics to keep you from having an open mind? Mr. Bush disagreed with global warming and I hate him so global warming must be correct.

Nuclear bomb? Really? **pause while I shake my head in disbelief** Of course you can't know exactly how many people would be killed. The scientist can't even answer the simple question of how much, not even a ballpark.

the anonymous guy said...

Andy wrote this smart post in 2009, now known as the second hottest year on record.

Andy D said...

Ha! You still believe in global warming. This is for you. I will probably do a post on this, but you can have a sneak peak.

Seattle Dave said...

And this, Andy, is for you.

You should watch this guys videos. No politics, just pure explanation.