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Another Wrinkle in the Climate Story

The climate story is turning out to be more complicated than green zealots have claimed. A new report published yesterday in the journal Natural Geoscience is challenging the scientific consensus on how fast the Earth is warming.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that the climate would warm by between 1°C and 3°C over the next 50 to 100 years. Yesterday’s study revised those numbers significantly, suggesting a much lower increase of between .9°C and 2°C. The researchers remain confident that the world’s climate will eventually hit the catastrophic levels predicted by the IPCC, but a slowdown in warming over the past decade (attributed to the oceans “storing” more heat than predicted) has made the short-term outlook much less dire than initially feared.

Slower warming is good news for Gaia; as one of the study’s authors told the FT“[t]he fact that we are saying those high-end responses are looking less likely means we are more confident we are not in a world where the 2°C goal is completely unattainable.”

But this revision is bad news for alarmist greens, who are finding that once again, their exaggerated claims turned out not to be true. This, in turn, is bad news for their less alarmist peers, since green scaremongering is the leading cause of climate skepticism. Add this to the impracticality, and in many cases sheer absurdity, of green policy recommendations and it’s clear why this movement keeps punching well below its weight.

We aren’t taking sides on the data here, but it’s worth noting that even the greens are hemming and hawing about just what the science actually means. The safest conclusion: we still have a long way to go before we really understand the earth’s climate, but the risk of serious and unwelcome climate change should encourage us to move quicker and faster on common sense policies—supporting telework, for example—that would accelerate the world’s transition to a post-industrial, information-based economy. This shift is good in itself, and is exactly what we should be doing even if climate weren’t an issue.

[Earth image courtesy of Wikimedia.]

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  • Loader2000

    Most of our efforts should be common sense strategies to reduce unnecessary fuel usage (like telecommuting) AND the development of viable alternatives to fossil fuel. What this news tells us is that we probably have another 20-30 years to really get efficient solar panels and perhaps even come up with other game changing energy technologies that will make the whole issue of fossil fuels moot (LENR?). Furthermore, with 20-30 years, we can probably do it without massive government subsidies picking and choosing which ‘green’ company receives money, based on political connections (as opposed to technological promise). There will be a solar energy revolution soon enough. As soon as solar panels are cheap (and efficient) enough to reliable make your money back in 5 years, every Walmart, Target, CVS pharmacy and school and commercial building will start putting them on their roofs, not out of sense of duty to Gaia, but out of common sense investment acumen. This will be an energy game changer and it is at most 10 years away. Combine this with all the new technologies being developed for nuclear energy and other energy advances, I think we will be okay with regard to climate. Energy is everything. Once energy is cheap enough, will can desalinate almost unlimited quantities of water from the ocean, pull carbon directly from the air, and build huge, muti-story hydroponic farms that could dramatically reduce the amount of arable farm land we need. There is a lot to be hopeful about.

  • Kavanna

    Even the new estimates (0.9-2.0 C) are too high by a factor of three, at least.

    • Luke Lea

      The best climate sensitivity estimate that I’ve seen (how much temps will rise with a doubling of C02) is around 1 degree centigrade. I rely on Lubos Motl for this kind of information, which is also I think in accord with Richard Lindzen’s estimate at MIT:

  • DiogenesDespairs

    fact is, there is global warming, but the contribution of human-generated
    carbon dioxide is necessarily so minuscule as to be nearly undetectable. Here’s

    dioxide, considered the main vector for human-caused global warming, is some
    0.038% of the atmosphere[1]- a trace gas. Water vapor varies from 0%
    to 4%[2], and should easily average 1% or more[3] near
    the Earth’s surface, where the greenhouse effect would be most important, and
    is about three times more effective[4] a greenhouse gas than carbon
    dioxide. So water vapor is at least 25 times more prevalent and three times
    more effective; that makes it at least 75 times more important to the
    greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide[5]. The TOTAL contribution of
    carbon dioxide to the greenhouse effect is therefore 0.013 or less. The total
    human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide since the start of the
    industrial revolution has been estimated at about 25%[6]. So humans’
    carbon dioxide greenhouse effect
    is a quarter of 0.013, works out to about 0.00325. Warming of the Earth by the
    greenhouse effect is widely accepted as about 33 degrees Centigrade[7]
    or 59 degrees Fahrenheit. So the contribution of anthropogenic carbon dioxide
    is less than 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or under 0.1 degree Centigrade. Global
    warming over the last century is thought by many to be about 0.6 degrees

    that’s only the beginning. We’ve had global warming for more than 10,000 years,
    since the end of the last Ice Age[8]. Whatever caused that, it was
    not human activity. It was not all those power plants and factories and SUVs
    being operated by Stone Age cavemen while chipping arrowheads out of bits of
    flint. Whatever the cause was, it melted the glaciers that in North America
    once extended south to Long Island and parts of New York City[9]
    into virtually complete disappearance (except for a few mountain remnants).
    That’s one big greenhouse effect! If we are still having global warming – and I
    suppose we should presume we are, given a 10,000 year trend – it seems highly
    likely that it is still the overwhelmingly primary cause of continued warming,
    rather than our piddling 0.00325 contribution to the greenhouse effect.

    even that trend-continuation needs to be proved. Evidence is that the Medieval
    Warm Period centered on the 1200s was somewhat warmer than we are now[10],
    and the climate was clearly colder in the Little Ice Age in the 1600s than it
    is now[11]. So we are within the range of normal up-and-down
    fluctuations without human greenhouse contributions that could be significant,
    or even measurable.

    principal scientists arguing for human-caused global warming have been
    demonstrably disingenuous[12], and now you can see why. They have
    proved they should not be trusted.

    idea that we should be spending hundreds of billions of dollars and
    hamstringing the economy of the entire world to reduce carbon dioxide emissions
    is beyond ludicrous in light of the facts above; it is insane. Furthermore, it
    sucks attention and resources from seeking the other sources of warming and
    from coping with climate change and its effects in realistic ways. The true
    motivation underlying the global warming movement is almost certainly
    ideological and political in nature, and I predict that Anthropomorphic Global
    Warming, as currently presented, will go down as the greatest fraud of all
    time. It makes Ponzi and Madoff look like pikers by comparison.

    [1] Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition 
by Michael Pidwirny Concentration varies
    slightly with the growing season in the northern hemisphere.

    [2] ibid.

    [3] HALOE
    v2.0 Upper Tropospheric Water Vapor Climatology Claudette Ojo, Hampton
    University; et al..
    See p. 4.The 0 – 4% range is widely accepted among most sources. This source is
    listed for its good discussion of the phenomena determining that range. An
    examination of a globe will show that tropical oceans (near high end of range)
    are far more extensive than the sum of the earth’s arctic and antarctic regions
    and tropical-zone deserts (all near the low end). Temperate zone oceans are far
    more extensive than temperate-zone desert. This author’s guess of an average of 2% or more seems
    plausible. I have used “1% or more” in an effort to err on the side of

    [4 NIST
    Chemistry Webbook, Please
    compare the IR absorption spectra of water and carbon dioxide. ]

    [5] Three quarters of the atmosphere and
    virtually all water vapor are in the troposphere. Including all the atmosphere
    would change the ratios to about 20 times more prevalent and 60 times more
    effective. However, the greenhouse effect of high-altitude carbon dioxide on
    lower-altitude weather and the earth’s surface seems likely to be small if not

    [6] World
    Meteorological Organization

    [7] National
    Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
    The estimated 90ppm increase in carbon dioxide, 30% above the base of 280 ppm, to a recent reading of 370 ppm,
    equates to just under 25% of present concentration, the relevant factor in
    estimating present contribution to the greenhouse effect.

    [8] Oak
    Ridge National Laboratory

    [9] New
    York Nature – The nature and natural history of the New York City region.
    Betsy McCully

    [10] Global Warming: A
    Geological Perspective John P. Bluemle
    This article, published by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency,
    is drawn from a paper by the author in Environmental
    Geosciences, 1999, Volume 6, Number 2, pp. 63-75. Note particularly the
    chart on p.4.

    [11] Ibid.

    Wikileaks: Climatic
    Research Unit emails, data, models, 1996-2009,_data,_models,_1996-2009.

    and, more diplomatically:
    Et al.


    What initially troubled
    me was the aberrant behavior of the climate research unit at East Anglia
    University, which has been the main data source for AGW arguments. They initially
    refused(!) to reveal their algorithms and data on the grounds that they were
    proprietary(!!). They responded to critics with ad hominem attacks and efforts
    to block their publication in scientific journals. Now, as I am sure you know,
    this is not how one does honest science, in which you PUBLISH your data and
    methodology and invite critical comment to ferret out error or oversights. It
    took the now-famous Wikileaks “Climategate” to pry loose the data and
    expose their machinations. Yet despite the devastating blow these revelations
    should have to their credibility, the AGW “cause” has taken on a life
    of its own.

    Fundamentally, the argument seems to rest
    on a logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc – after this, therefore because
    of this. We see a rise in temperature and a rise in (principally) carbon
    dioxide, and therefore advocates argue one must have caused the other. It does
    not necessarily follow at all. There can be other causes entirely behind both
    phenomena, and as you see above, almost certainly there are. Beyond that, I
    have encountered numerous assertions of fact that cannot add up given the
    physical properties of water vapor and carbon dioxide yet go unchallenged.
    One-sided arguments proliferate and people arguing the other side are frequently
    denounced as being employed by business interests rather than rebutted on the

    In sum, I have not come lightly to the
    conclusion that the AGW argument as it applies to carbon dioxide is largely
    untrue and certainly does not account for more than a very small, nearly
    negligible part of the phenomena we are seeing. The implications of widespread assertions
    of and belief in such an untruth are staggering, and potentially enormously
    destructive. It is unwise indeed to let oneself be stampeded in this matter,
    and stampede is clearly what many have been and are trying to induce.

    I can understand politicians behaving this
    way; a carbon tax or carbon trading regime would allow enormous revenues (not
    to mention power) to fall into their hands. I can understand
    “Progressive” ideologues; it logically leads to enormous expansion of
    government power over industry, the economy, and the daily life of individuals,
    which they regard as a good thing. I understand zealous environmentalists; they
    want to shrink the size and impact on the environment of modern civilization.
    But responsible citizens need to put aside such considerations.

  • Charles R Harris

    but the risk of serious and unwelcome climate change

    What risk? Sure, a meteorite could crash into your bedroom tonight, are you going to sleep in the basement just to be safe?

  • Luke Lea

    For a more balanced view of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) we should weigh the positive effects as well as the negative. For one thing C02 is a primary plant food. More of it in the atmosphere increases agricultural productivity in a hungry world, something that is already happening. Secondly, if the temperate zone moved a few hundred miles north there would be a lot more habitable real estate on our crowded planet earth, as a quick look at the globe will easily confirm.

    • skhpcola

      Our planet is not crowded. I’ve been in Europe, the middle east, and I live in Florida. I’ll be travelling tomorrow to Georgia. In each of those places, there are miles upon tens upon damned near hundreds of miles of mostly nothing. The ages-old Malthusian clarion call about over-population is simplistic, at best. At worst, it justifies mass murder and energizes morons to engage in self-parody, such as the ‘tards that started the VHEMT.

      • skhpcola

        And notice that the most strident of the “we’re over-populated!!1!” crowd never volunteer to start the process. The entire farce is just another leftist scheme to gain control and kill off opposition to their dystopian Marxist desires. No doubt that these are credentialed, uneducated folk.

        Beg pardon if I seem combative. That meme is particularly annoying to me. Over-population is a chimera, masquerading as a cause…it is not. It is just another ploy for increased power of the state.

  • Icepilot

    Nenana River Ice Breakup latest on record –

  • Corlyss

    With ideological friends like the IPCC, the greens don’t need many enemies but they sure have a talent for cultivating them with their overreach, their hyperbole, their hysteria, and, yes, their anti-scientific religious conviction that man is a serious threat to a planet.

    • hro001

      The IPCC is not merely an “ideological friend” of the green dreamers; in too many instances for comfort it has been a purveyor of the “green scaremongering [that as WRM notes] is the leading cause of climate skepticism”

  • Isaac Ohel

    I would suggest that a carbon fee is a “common sense” policy. It would accelerate the move to cleaner sources such as natural gas and eventually solar. If it is fully refunded to the public, it should not hamper the economy.

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