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Global Warming. Some truths.

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  • Global Warming. Some truths.

    Thursday July 27, 2006

    It is amusing for an old atmospheric physicist to recollect that in the late 1970s, as a result of a one-degree cooling trend, many of the same activists who are now advocating all sorts of measures to avoid the global warming catastrophe were at the forefront of saving us from the next ice age.

    We were told by Newsweek in 1975 that scientists "are almost unanimous in the view that the cooling trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century".

    And governments were vilified for not immediately adopting measures such as covering the Arctic with soot to produce ice melt.

    The predicted catastrophe has remained - just the direction of the temperature change has reversed. It must be wonderful to be so certain about such complex issues that you can tell the world's governments how to save their citizens from catastrophe.

    The fundamental laws of radiative transfer were discovered in the 1890s, and it was clear by the end of the century that what would come to be called the greenhouse effect (more than 95 per cent caused by clouds and water vapour) had elevated the earth's surface temperature by more than 25 degrees and continues that process.

    Rather than being a problem, it keeps us out of a permanent ice age.

    Worldwide attention was drawn to the catastrophic global warming hypothesis when the American Environmental Protection Agency claimed that as the atmosphere warmed, ocean levels would go up 8m. This caused great panic in low-lying countries, including Pacific atolls.

    The school-level error in physics in their analysis was that much of the ice predicted to melt - including nearly all the Arctic - was already floating and that, according to Archimedes (250 BC), when floating ice melts there is no change in ocean level. The result was the predicted increase in ocean depth was nearer 25cm than 25 feet (7.62m).

    A mantra of the 1980s was that the Amazon rainforest was the "lungs of the world", absorbing huge amounts of carbon dioxide, and that destruction of this forest would cause the promised catastrophe.

    I was involved in a Nasa-sponsored experiment in the 1980s to measure gas fluxes into and out of the Amazon rainforest. Walking through the forest, it was apparent that there was no accumulated vegetable debris on the ground which prompted the question as to where it had all gone - until you sat down on a log and got bitten by a huge variety of insects whose main occupation was eating fallen vegetation.

    The experiment went on to prove that the Amazon rainforest did, as expected, absorb a lot of carbon dioxide, but that it ejected an equalamount of carbon as carbon dioxide and methane.

    Methane is a stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, so the net effect of the forest is to add to the greenhouse effect (New Zealand's cow flatulence is not even close).

    The important unresolved problem is that as carbon dioxide produces a modest (maybe one degree) temperature rise, this will put more water vapour in the earth's atmosphere through increased evaporation.

    The difficulty is that low clouds have a cooling effect whereas high clouds cause extra warming, so the relative amounts of high and low clouds produced will determine whether we have a problem.

    The models are largely unhelpful in this regard since this ratio is often assumed or calculated crudely. What is needed is more modelling and field work, supported by careful analysis of the time evolution of cloud statistics and their heights, as observed by satellites. This painstaking work is under way, but results are preliminary.

    My concern about the present situation is not that we may or may not reasonably expect catastrophic global warming. It is that anyone who has the temerity to try to discuss the issue will be the recipient of ad hominem attacks designed to shut down the debate - essentially because, even if the disaster is not imminent, it ought to be because it forces governments to move on a green agenda, some parts of which, in my view, are legitimate and some less so.

    An example of a move to suppress debate was Greenpeace's attempt to prevent a visit to New Zealand by Professor Richard Lindzen, an eminent Massachusetts Institute of Technology meteorologist and one of the first to point out and analyse the cloud problem, because it would "undermine efforts to protect the earth's climate by promoting sceptical views on global warming".

    This is nothing other than a modern version of medieval book-burning that in effect shuts down science.

    We are running out of fossil fuels. In addition, burning fossil fuels have elevated air pollution levels in many cities, causing the premature death of at least 100,000 people a year.

    These are excellent and entirely credible reasons for developing alternative renewable energy sources. It could also be sensible to divert the huge amount of money New Zealand is likely to have to pay under our Kyoto Protocol obligations to local development of renewable energy sources including biofuels, tide, wave and wind energy systems.

    This might even result in exportable technologies.

    * Geoff Austin is professor of geophysics at Auckland University.

    Give that man a Beer. Someone that talks some sense for a change.
    Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
    Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.

  • #2

    Was listening to NPR yesterday (Talk of the Nation? But it wasn't science friday...)

    The "latest" theory is Global Dimming.

    That we're not actually getting as warm as expected because all the pollution is reflecting more sunlight, so the amount reaching the surface has gone down by 1% -- affecting the evaporation rate for water, the primary greenhouse gas, since photons actually hitting the water are even more effective than warmth in knocking water into vapor.

    So one side theory says as we clean up the pollutants, *then* we'll really, really for sure see Global Warming kick in.

    Global climate remains something we don't understand well enough to reasonably predict.

    Hey, that doesn't mean we shouldn't reduce CO2 emissions, just for good practice. Well, at least move away from fossil fuels that are re-introducing CO2 that was removed millenia ago from the atmosphere.

    And certainly there is much more focused research on other things that has definitive relationships -- sulfur dioxide --> acid rain; release of mercury into the environment due to burning of coal, etc that sure, we should limit those emissions due to specific and known affects.

    Local TV station had a special on weather on last night...touched on GW briefly, mentioning it would raise sea levels around Boston by 2-3' over the next 100 years. (Corresponds to the mistake the author cited in water level increases)

    Big whoop...If we as a society can't figure out how to build a 3' high sea wall, we deserve to walk around with wet feet.

    Like the Aucklander points out..."Global Warming" is being pushed mostly as a convientent excuse for an environmental agenda.
    Last edited by Dalmatian190; 07-26-2006, 06:49 PM.


    • #3
      Big whoop...If we as a society can't figure out how to build a 3' high sea wall, we deserve to walk around with wet feet.
      I know a few people who would be better employed as stakes for said sea wall than what they are currently doing.
      Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
      Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.


      • #4
        What gets to me is that we only have data from the past hundred years or so that actually tells us anything. We just dont know much about the Earth's cycles. Rocks can only tell us so much about ice ages. For all we know there could be some kind super storm that regularly kulls off half of the world's population every 10,000 years or so.

        What gets to me the most is the way that certain topics you HAVE to believe what people think. Global warming is one good example but others are the creation of the universe and the theory of evolution.

        Why is it that people believe in the fickle theories so die-hardly? When it comes down to it; we really dont know. We dont know how the universe was created and we dont know how we got here. The bible is just as believable as the current accepted theories. Why cant people be content with saying 'We dont know yet'?

        I hate people.
        "There are only two things that i know are infinite, the universe and human stupidity. And im not so sure about the former."

        For all the life of me, i cant see a firefighter going to hell. At least not for very long. We would end up putting out all the fires and annoying the devil too much.


        • #5
          A bit of Apples & Oranges on the evolution v. creation.

          One is a product of the scientific process, and generally holds up well over time and multiple tests -- from the Galapagos, to fossils, to DNA divergence testing.

          The other is a religous belief.

          No sense arguing one over the other, they are what they are and belong in their own domains.

          The Creation v. Evolution debate as it plays out in the U.S. currently however is very relevant -- because you have a bunch of people with environmental beliefs bordering on religion who are trying to wrap their world view in pseudo scientific language. Kind of a lot like the creationists.


          • #6
            So we should call them "Mentalists" then?
            Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
            Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Dalmatian190
              One is a product of the scientific process, and generally holds up well over time and multiple tests -- from the Galapagos, to fossils, to DNA divergence testing.

              The other is a religous belief.
              Holy **** - You mean they found the missing link? Oh, they didn't? Then get back to me when you have proof to back up your science.
              I am a complacent liability to the fire service


              • #8
                I was just reading an article on this the other day, and now for the life of me cant remeber where.

                The jist was this :

                One explanation for "global warming" is that the earth is cooling from within, thus radiating heat outward. The reasoning if I remeber correctly was that erath was once a huge fire ball - and at some point the crust was formed trapping heat within the earths crust etc....

                If I find the article I will post the link.
                Warm Regards,
                Shawn Stoner


                • #9
                  What's the missing link?

                  There is no missing link that I'm aware of.

                  In the scientific method, I don't think there ever has been one.

                  The onus is not on supporters of evolution to "defend" their position.

                  If you believe in creation, fine.

                  If you want creationism to be considered a scientifically explainable phenomena, make a hypothesis, predict an outcome from the hypothesis, and then conduct an experiment which performs as predicted and can be repeated. When you can do that, you can talk science.

                  Natural Selection and Evolution work within that scientific framework...and have for 150 years even as knowledge has increased and tools improved.

                  You don't have to explain how or even understand why something works to be scientifically valid -- for example, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. We don't need to know the how...just that explain the phenomena, make a hypothesis what will happen, and experimentally demonstrate it.

                  Unless God decides to help you, you're going to find it impossible to experimentally demonstrate creation. So it necessarily remains relegated to religous belief rather than scientific methods.

                  Global Warming...is science that is still developing in a very complex situation. We've gotten pretty good at describing natural selection and have a variety of tools like fossils, DNA, and isolated populations or populations that have evolved during the last few generations to not only study but also have physical samples. The climate doesn't remain static -- it doesn't have DNA to study of differentiation over time, it doesn't leave things as discrete as bones (although it does leave some traces), and it doesn't act in isolation to watch how things react to different conditions. It also has had only a fraction of the scientific resources applied to it that biology has over the last century. Many individual phenomena do have good science, but that doesn't mean we're anywhere near being able to reliably predict the interaction of all of them.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ChicagoFF
                    Holy **** - You mean they found the missing link?

                    I dont know if George is the missing link but hes old enough maybe know him!
                    Warm Regards,
                    Shawn Stoner


                    • #11
                      The only question I have about all of this:

                      What did we do to cause all the cycles of heating and cooling before any of this. I imagine it was our fault somehow that all the other Ice Ages happened. The earth seems to have a pretty bad track record when it comes to keeping the temperature regulated.
                      "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin


                      • #12
                        Scientists want climate commission

                        Thursday July 27, 2006
                        By Errol Kiong

                        A group of scientists is urging the Government to form a royal commission to investigate climate change.

                        In an open letter to MPs, the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition believed the public was being given "incomplete, inaccurate and biased information" about the effects of greenhouse gases.

                        "This information is often tainted by the emotional arguments of the environmental movement and seldom stands up to objective scientific analysis," the group said.

                        The coalition, which includes former MetService chief meteorologist Dr Augie Auer, wants an independent royal commission which would, among other things, examine the credibility of climate change models, and review the diplomatic implications of not aligning climate change policies with Australia and the US.

                        Acting chairman, energy consultant Bryan Leyland, said it was important the Government's policies on climate change, which were being reviewed at the moment, be founded on valid scientific evidence, "rather than on the questionable projections of flawed computer models and discredited temperature assessments".

                        "Costly mistakes have already been made. Our commitments under the Kyoto Protocol may cost the nation over $1 billion more than originally estimated. We cannot afford to make such mistakes again.

                        "The present misinformation circulating about global warming resembles the recent hysteria surrounding genetic modification."

                        He cited an example of the United States House Committee of Energy and Commerce's "discrediting" of the Mann hockey-stick graph, which projects a rise in global temperatures. The Mann report is widely cited as evidence of global warming.

                        The coalition believed the Government relied too heavily on advice from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to develop its global warming policies. It quoted a recent Wall Street Journal editorial which said, "climate research often more closely resembles a mutual-admiration society than a competitive and open-minded search for scientific knowledge".

                        But Niwa scientist Dr David Wratt, who is also a bureau member of the IPCC, said the IPCC's advice comes with "amazing scientific input" from the world's top climate scientists.

                        The IPCC report due next year would be a better way of getting an overall assessment of climate change science than a royal commission, he said.

                        Climate Change Minister David Parker rejected the proposal for a Royal Commission, saying that "by far the majority" of climate scientists in the world agreed there was no longer any doubt the climate was changing due to human activity.

                        "It is now a matter of how quickly it changes, not if or when."

                        Even if climate change wasn't occurring, policies would still make sense.


                        Well David parker would reject it wouldn't he. He would be out of work then wouldn't he.
                        Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
                        Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.


                        • #13
                          Amazon rainforest 'could become a desert'

                          1.00pm Sunday July 23, 2006
                          By Geoffrey Lean and Fred Pearce

                          The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate, alarming research suggests.

                          And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early asnext year.

                          Studies by the blue-chip Woods Hole Research Centre, carried out in Amazonia, have concluded that the forest cannot withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without breaking down.

                          Scientists say that this would spread drought into the northern hemisphere, including Britain, and could massively accelerate global warming with incalculable consequences.

                          The alarming news comes in the midst of a heatwave gripping Britain and much of Europe and the United States.

                          Temperatures in the south of England reached a July record 36.3C on Tuesday.

                          And it comes hard on the heels of a warning by an international group of experts, led by the Eastern Orthodox "pope" Bartholomew, last week that the forest is rapidly approaching a "tipping point".

                          The research - carried out by the Massachusetts-based centre in Santarem on the Amazon river - has taken even the scientists conducting it by surprise.

                          When Dr Dan Nepstead started the experiment in 2002 - by covering a chunk of rainforest the size of a football pitch with plastic panels to see how it would cope without rain - he surrounded it with sophisticated sensors, expecting to record only minor changes.

                          The trees managed the first year of drought without difficulty.

                          In the second year, they sunk their roots deeper to find moisture, but survived.

                          But in year three, they started dying.

                          Beginning with the tallest the trees started to come crashing down, exposing the forest floor to the drying sun.

                          By the end of the year the trees had released more than two-thirds of the carbon dioxide they have stored during their lives, helping to act as a break on global warming.

                          Instead they began accelerating the climate change.

                          The Amazon now appears to be entering its second successive year of drought, raising the possibility that it could start dying next year.

                          The immense forest contains 90 billion tons of carbon, enough in itself to increase the rate of global warming by 50 per cent.

                          Dr Nepstead expects "mega-fires" rapidly to sweep across the drying jungle.

                          With the trees gone, the soil will bake in the sun and the rainforest could become desert.

                          Dr Deborah Clark from the University of Missouri, one of the world's top forest ecologists, says the research shows that "the lock has broken" on the Amazon ecosystem.

                          She adds: the Amazon is "headed in a terrible direction".

                          - INDEPENDENT
                          Psychiatrists state 1 in 4 people has a mental illness.
                          Look at three of your friends, if they are ok, your it.


                          • #14
                            What we have in the world is global uncertainty. We are either going to exist or not. We are ither going to have a world environment that is going to upchuck and quit or we will do ourselves in. Theories are educated opinions.


                            • #15
                              When Dr Dan Nepstead started the experiment in 2002 - by covering a chunk of rainforest the size of a football pitch with plastic panels to see how it would cope without rain - he surrounded it with sophisticated sensors, expecting to record only minor changes.

                              How do people earn doctoral degrees these days anyway?

                              "Hey, let's take a rain forest, take away the rain, and let's hypothesize only minor changes will occur!"

                              Has he not ever left something down on his lawn for more than a couple days in his life?


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