Yet another effort, Citizens, if you would truly become [climate change] apocalyptic!

June 19, 2013


Thanks are due to President Obama for articulating the current End of Days scenario so clearly:

“The grim alternative… more severe storms, more famine and floods, new waves of refugees, coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise,” 

He said it is our “job,” our “task” to avert it.  Duty, I guess.  For the children…of our children.  Sounds suspiciously like another prediction of which I am very fond:

We must arm ourselves with all the material and spiritual forces at our disposal … or else our culture is doomed to destruction. Extrapolation from our present condition … yields a vision of busting sewer mains and all waters of the world made as wormwood, unfit to drink. Mankind will be reduced to a primitive state of disunity, neighbor isolated from neighbor by vast surging cataracts of fluid, while the monument of our era’s accomplishments will gradually be submerged beneath festering pools of stagnant runoff. . . Men in their frenzy of despair and disbelief will turn the evil upon themselves, building houses at the bottom of hills, in marshes, and along oozing gulleys, while the Few Who Know will be the object of arrogant derision. And it is the folly of human inaction which will bring down on us this recapitulation of the Flood.*

*Hilton S. Korngold, “Toward an Interpretation of the Drainage,” Journal of Historicist Philosophy, 98 (October, 1972): 302 – 398.
Let’s see:

More severe storms… Not much evidence of that.  Climate scientists are very hesitant to say that a storm or set of storms can be attributed to climate changes, such as they are.  We might have more severe storms – that’s what many predict – but that remains to be seen.  Of course, it assumes that all their predictions are correct.

More famine…  We seem to have our hands full with famine today, and have for some years now.  Any scholar of famine will tell you that their causes have much more to do with politics and infrastructure than with weather.  Our record dealing with those two issues is rather poor.

More floods…   Another speculation.  It’s not as though we haven’t had a hard time with floods for a long time, and done precious little about it.  Are we supposed to think it’s a “real” problem because climate change supposedly is involved?  We report more floods now – everything is reported more – and there is more property loss because humans continue to build heavily in areas that have been and will continue to be flooded.  It could get worse, yes, but it’s bad now!

New waves of refugees…  You guessed it, the same response as above.  If we are not moved by the plight of refugees now, why is the notion of “climate refugees” more compelling?  Shouldn’t we address the problems we have now?  We might foreclose the possibility of worse ones later on.  For instance, if people had enough land to grow their own food on, they might actually plan for the inevitable bad years…  Just a thought.

Coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise…  Coastlines vanish, then reappear.  They just follow you inland if the sea rises.  It will be a different coastline, but that happens now, much to the dismay of the Army Corps of Engineers which spends billions of dollars trying to hold back the seas so that municipalities can make money on beach tourism and property taxes.  And just how much are those seas going to rise?  And how fast?  Must we take as gospel the most extreme projection, that assumes a “rapid ice-melt” of the Greenland ice sheet?  How likely is that?  Not very, given the recent data, but then, that’s just a bump on the road on the way to Armageddon.

RSS_mwSST_2002_thru_Feb_2013

Look, maybe the predictions are true, but if we are going to examine them rationally, they become less likely with each year.  Would you invest your life savings on the basis of a projection for 2050 that had been shown wrong for the period 2002 – 2013?


Hard to be a prophet.

April 7, 2013

 Prophet Wannabee

I was looking into just who this Justin Gillis character is, the one on the left, who is sometimes referred to as “the most apocalyptic reporter” writing on climate change, and I was struck by the resemblance to this famous portrait of Ludwig Wittgenstein.  Not that I would compare the two…just pointing it out.  Maybe Justin is modeling himself on Ludwig, the tormented intellectual…

He had an article in the NYTimes the other day about a glacier in the Andes, and it was a perfect example of the junk-journalism that passes for substantive reporting in the Science Times on this topic.

The title, In Sign of Warming, 1,600 Years of Ice in Andes Melted in 25 Years, was misleading and alarmist.  It continues with the statement that the find is

…the latest indication that the recent spike in global temperatures has thrown the natural world out of balance.

No mention of what evidence there is for a ‘recent spike’ in temperature.  Perhaps he’s thinking of the recent article by Marcott et al that has made a splash and been pretty much discredited.  There was no evidence to support the idea that warming, let alone global warming brought on by burning of fossil fuels, brought on this condition.  Is it remarkable for ice that took nearly two thousand years to form to melt quickly from a glacier?  Also, the notion that the world is “in balance,” is an idea fraught with difficulties:  does that mean the world never changes? changes only a little?  changes slowly, but a lot?  Must not change? for every good change there is a bad change?

Meredith A. Kelly, a glacial geomorphologist at Dartmouth College who trained under Dr. Thompson but was not involved in the new paper, said his interpretation of the plant remains was reasonable.

Her own research on Quelccaya suggests that the margins of the glacier have melted quite rapidly at times in the past. But the melting now under way appears to be at least as fast, if not faster, than anything in the geological record since the end of the last ice age, she said.

That’s from the article.  So, fast melting has happened, and this one is pretty fast, but the cause?  No mention.  And why did it get so warm after the last ice age?

Most of the article is about the study of frozen plant remains that have been uncovered, and what they tell us about past climate and the growth and shrinkage of the ice mass – little to do with anthropogenic global warming.

There is a tid-bit about evidence that bad weather  may have contributed to poor harvests before the French Revolution, and been a contributing factor to the upheaval.  No mention of what sort of bad weather, but it was probably bad winters:  what does that have to do with warming?  He concludes with a mention that the melting of glaciers spells bad times ahead for Andean cities that depend on glacial melt for drinking water.

In the short run, the melting is producing an increase of water supplies and feeding population growth in major cities of the Andes, the experts said. But as the glaciers continue shrinking, trouble almost certainly looms.

Trouble looms!  Always…and how soon?  No mention.  How big are the glaciers?  And of course, there’s that headline.  Doom is around the corner and inevitable.


Rising Tides – Festival of Doom

November 25, 2012

There is a festival of doom in the Sunday New York Times today, with multiple articles on the threat to coastal cities in the USA posed by rising sea levels.  It includes a mournful, fatalistic essay by James Atlas, and a suite of interactive graphics that allow users to see just “what could disappear.”

This quote from one article pretty much sums up the message:

According to Dr. Schaeffer’s study, immediate and extreme pollution cuts — measures well beyond any discussion now under way — could limit sea level rise to five feet over 300 years. If we stay on our current path, the oceans could rise five feet by the first half of next century, then continue rising even faster. If instead we make moderate shifts in energy and industry — using the kinds of targets that nations have contemplated in international talks but have failed to pursue — sea level could still climb past 12 feet just after 2300. It is hard to imagine what measures might allow many of our great coastal cities to survive a 12-foot increase.

A few things to note here:

  • This paragraph assumes that the predictions based on models are all correct, and that the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) hypothesis is proven, “settled science.”  It’s not really that certain.  Or rather, the models themselves display tremendous uncertainty.
  • Also taken pretty much for granted is the fact that humans are not going to give their economy a thoroughgoing overhaul into the world of Green, so we might as well get ready!
  • Unmentioned is the fact that in many places, e.g. NYC, sea level has been rising steadily for centuries.  In NYC, it has been at a rate of about 1-foot per 100 years.
  • The word ‘could’  is used many times:  this paragraph is a worst-case scenario.

I had a professor of Ancient Art once who liked to say, “Civilizations come: Civilizations go…”  In archaeology, ‘civilization’ is synonymous with ‘city’.  Many cities have seen their harbors silt up, their water supplies disappear, their precincts inundated with lava or sea water.  It’s part of history.  Many other cities have survived for millenia by adjusting and changing.  When the writer says “It is hard to imagine what measures might allow many of our great coastal cities to survive a 12-foot increase,”  he is displaying a lack of insight and imagination.  Yes, it would be hard to imagine how our cities could survive direct hits by meteorites either, but that’s not likely to happen.

I would suggest the following scenario as likely:  The climate will change, but most likely not in the drastic way some scientists predict.  Seas will continue to rise where they are rising now, and perhaps in other places as well, perhaps a bit faster, but slowly, over centuries.  Unlike Holland, where inundation brings national catastrophe approaching eradication, most places can adapt slowly, and they will adapt.  People will make decisions, slowly, haltingly, stupidly or with foresight, about when and where it is worth rebuilding.  Change happens even in NYC – most skyscrapers are not built for the ages. Lower floors can be abandoned or ‘repurposed.’  It all takes time, and we have time, plenty of it.  Things will change.  The only impossibility is keeping them just as they are now.

There is a bright side to all of this.  Think of the economic stimulus potential of a huge program to raise local airports and critical infrastructure above the flood level – the greatest ‘shovel-ready‘ public works program in history!


The End is Near, again…

May 11, 2012
 
Just had to parse this one…
 
Game Over for the Climate 
By JAMES HANSEN
New York Times, May 9, 2012

GLOBAL warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening.  That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”[Most scientists agree that the Earth has gotten warmer in the last 150 years, but there is disagreement over just how much, and why.  The IPCC says it is highly confident that 'most' of the observed warming is due to mankind's use of fossil fuels.  If the observed warming is 1 or 1.5 degrees, F, that's 0.5 or 0.75 degrees due to mankind, so what about that other half?  It's not much, anyway.]

If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.  [The game will go on, with us or without us...]

Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk. [Saying that the tar sands contain more CO2 than we have produced throughout history sounds shocking, but could be said about any of the major fuel reserves, coal, oil, natural gas, that are left.  It amounts to saying that if we burn up everything on earth for fuel, we will have discharged more CO2 than in all of human history.  Similarly, there are more people alive today than the sum of all who have lived before.  It's a sound-bite.  Hansen goes on to assume that this will happen quickly, and that the effects will be just as he predicts, although such a thing has never happened before.  He assumes the Doomsday scenario of polar ice meltdown, and ignores the possibility that if his predictions appeared at all correct, that people would stop using fossil fuels.  Right now they have little reason to, if they listen to just him.]

That is the long-term outlook. But near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.  [Hansen has been making predictions for decades.  The only one that is indubitable is that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere did rise.  Will he keep score on these?]

If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically. President Obama has the power not only to deny tar sands oil additional access to Gulf Coast refining, which Canada desires in part for export markets, but also to encourage economic incentives to leave tar sands and other dirty fuels in the ground. [Glad he recognizes that he is being apocalyptic.  If we 'reduce emissions dramatically,' just what will be accomplished?  How much is 'dramatic?'  Has he asked the Indians, the Chinese, and the rest of the developing world?  Most reduction scenarios that are at all technically, politically, and demographically plausible will have minimal impact, if his models are correct. ]

The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather, [according to him, who made the prediction...] as I predicted would happen by now in the journal Science in 1981. Extremely hot summers have increased noticeably. We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change. [Whoa!  That's a claim.  I wonder who he includes in that we can say?  I would like to see the scientists who will sign onto that statement!]

We have known since the 1800s that carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere. The right amount keeps the climate conducive to human life. But add too much, as we are doing now, and temperatures will inevitably rise too high.[They will rise, but how much they will rise is the million dollar question.  His predictions depend on feedback loops that are speculative.] This is not the result of natural variability, as some argue. The earth is currently in the part of its long-term orbit cycle where temperatures would normally be cooling. But they are rising — and it’s because we are forcing them higher with fossil fuel emissions.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million to 393 p.p.m. over the last 150 years. The tar sands contain enough carbon — 240 gigatons — to add 120 p.p.m. Tar shale, a close cousin of tar sands found mainly in the United States, contains at least an additional 300 gigatons of carbon. If we turn to these dirtiest of fuels, instead of finding ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m. — a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control. [Hmm...is the goal to have a climate system that we control?  Then adding CO2 is the way to go!  We cause it, we control it!  I agree, however, that reducing the use of 'dirty' fuels is a good idea for a lot of reasons.]

We need to start reducing emissions significantly, not create new ways to increase them. We should impose a gradually rising carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies, then distribute 100 percent of the collections to all Americans on a per-capita basis every month. The government would not get a penny. This market-based approach would stimulate innovation, jobs and economic growth, avoid enlarging government or having it pick winners or losers. Most Americans, except the heaviest energy users, would get more back than they paid in increased prices. Not only that, the reduction in oil use resulting from the carbon price would be nearly six times as great as the oil supply from the proposed pipeline from Canada, rendering the pipeline superfluous, according to economic models driven by a slowly rising carbon price.  [Here here!  By all means, let's tax carbon and make the cost more closely approximate the real cost, including all the externalities.  I'd love to see it!  We could do all sorts of great things with the money, including fund research on major alternative energy technologies.  At the very least, the result would be a serious drive towards efficiency and conservation.]

But instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true costs, leveling the energy playing field, the world’s governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels with hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This encourages a frantic stampede to extract every fossil fuel through mountaintop removal, longwall mining, hydraulic fracturing, tar sands and tar shale extraction, and deep ocean and Arctic drilling. [Well, here I more or less agree.]

President Obama speaks of a “planet in peril,” but he does not provide the leadership needed to change the world’s course. Our leaders must speak candidly to the public — which yearns for open, honest discussion — explaining that our continued technological leadership and economic well-being demand a reasoned change of our energy course. History has shown that the American public can rise to the challenge, but leadership is essential.[Agree here too, but not with him!]

The science of the situation is clear — it’s time for the politics to follow.  [If it is so clear, then why is consensus presented in terms of statistics based on computer projections that are subject to great uncertainty?  The amount of science that is clear, e.g. that CO2 causes some warming, does not occupy the core of what the policy debate is about, which is basically an assessment of risk.]   This is a plan that can unify conservatives and liberals, environmentalists and business. [Dream on, prophet.]  Every major national science academy in the world has reported that global warming is real, caused mostly by humans, and requires urgent action. [This is flatly untrue and dishonest.  There have been many statements that global warming is real, that humans contribute to it, and that if current predictions are correct, the effects could be serious.  That's a very different statement.]  The cost of acting goes far higher the longer we wait — we can’t wait any longer to avoid the worst and be judged immoral by coming generations.


The Weathermen

March 30, 2010

Maybe you do need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.

Today’s NYTimes:   Among Weathercasters, Doubt on Warming

 Also, see this earlier post by Super Mom:   “You don’t need a climatologist to know which way the wind is blowing.”

Medieval storm period

August 12, 2009

medieval storm

Also on NPR today, I heard a story about scientists reconstructing the record of hurricanes and severe storms over the last millenium or so.  It appears that the record year for hurricanes in 2005 (this season has been exceptionally quiet) is matched only by periods in the Middle Ages.

Aha, I thought!  The medieval warm period, the warm spell that AGW folks try to argue out existence.  If it did exist, it would raise the question of  “Is there anything special about the supposed warming of today?”

And if climate in the medieval period mirrors climate of today in some ways, including storm frequency, it would appear that like causes would be operating in both periods…and there certainly was not massive burning of fossil fuels in the Middle Ages.

Then this, emphasis added:

But the current period of intense hurricane activity differs from the medieval one in an important way, Mann says. Today’s storms are associated primarily with warmer ocean temperatures, rather than the influence of La Nina.

“We believe a substantial part of the reason for that anomalous recent warmth is in fact the human influence on climate,” Mann says.

There is still debate among scientists about the effect of warmer water on hurricanes. And skeptics say it could have been a coincidence that the medieval storms came during a period of warm water and La Nina conditions.

So what is it?  Warm water causes hurricanes, or it doesn’t?  If the medieval storms were during a period of warm waters, what warmed them?  Couldn’t the same thing warm them now?  If the water was warm then, and if the difference is that it’s warm now, isn’t that a contradiction?


Clarity, please

July 29, 2009

thermometer 

 

 

 

From a call for papers I received:

2009 Watershed Science & Technical Conference

Within the scientific community, the phrase “climate change” is replacing “global warming” because Earth is not just getting warmer. It is also changing, and changing in ways that scientists are just beginning to explore.

Sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting and shrinking, plants and trees are blooming earlier and in places where they have never bloomed before, growing seasons are lengthening, polar permafrost is thinning.

The scientific debate is changing as well, moving away from whether and why we are warming, to what effects climate change will have on Earth’s environment, and just what exactly is causing it. Is it simply human output of greenhouse gasses? Is it a natural climatological progression?

To sum up:

  • Scientists are now focusing on “climate change”, not “global warming”. (Climate can cool or warm.)
  • The Earth’s climate is getting warmer, with notable effects.
  • Scientists are focusing no longer on if and why we are warming, but how climate change (warming effects) will affect the Earth
  • Scientists are focusing on why the earth is warming/changing. 
  • Global climate change might be a natural phenomemon or it might be caused by greenhouse gasses (which are supposed to cause warming.)

O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!

June 29, 2009

ozymandias

Ophelia’s exclamation was about Hamlet, but it could have been about Paul Krugman’s latest column.  In it, he waxes positively hysterical about global warming, states that those who don’t accept the hypothesis are “deniers” committing treason against the future generations, and warns that civilization is in peril.  The reader who posted the first comment on the NYTimes website, remarked cogently, after quoting him:

…What you saw [on the floor of the House], instead, were people who have no interest in the truth…

Paul, the tragedy in all of this is that this applies to almost all of the folks on both sides of the debate – including you.

Amen to that.  Krug doesn’t present any evidence, any arguments – he just rants and raves as if the pillar of all-consuming fire is approaching on the horizon.  I share his opinion of most Republican congressmen, but just running a computer model doesn’t make you right.  Is he in thrall to the delusions of his fellow Princeton prof, Michael Oppenheimer?  I never thought I’d see him descend to the same puerile level as Thomas Friedman, but I guess he’s joined that club.  Drunk the Kool Aid, as some remarked.

He did a great service to the nation with his critiques of the Bush gang while so many others were swallowing their lies and looking the other way from their gross incompetence, so…sad, sad, sad.


Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

April 27, 2009

click for more information

An American nuclear sub surfaces at the north pole in 1959.  Not much ice to be seen…

…and from a fairly recent news frenzy:

North Pole Could be Ice-Free in 2008


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