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A Crash Course in Global Warming, Part One

All right, I'm going to try to explain both sides of the Global Warming debate. I'll try to be as middle-of-the-road as possible, so spare me any over-arching partisan stuff. Well, enjoy:

Global Warming

In the last few years, the fight over climate change has been reaching a fevered pitch. While many believe that Al Gore's 2006 An Inconvenient Truth was the first time that Global Warming hit the main stream, it was in popular culture before that. Even games like Civilization II, made in the late 90s contained climate change.

Yet, An Inconvenient Truth has stayed as the standard bearer for those who believe in Global Warming, so I will examine some of the claims made therein.

An Inconvenient Truth

First up, the former Vice President claims that the world's glaciers are melting. Well, are they? Yes. It cannot be argued that some glaciers are indeed melting. However, the question of why has not been definitively answered. In fact, looking at the future scientists are not even sure that this trend will continue. What cannot be argued however is that Al Gore over-sensationalized this aspect of his documentary. Whether this was to fool people or to relate how important climate change is is anyone's guess.

Second, polar bears are dying. Al Gore is sure to get emotions running high with his artistic rendering of a polar bear swimming to a single, small block of ice that breaks when the bear finally reaches it. Climate change is killing polar bears faster than they can reproduce and it will only get worse, he claims. So, has the population of polar bears gone down in recent years? Absolutely not. But if the ice caps do indeed melt, then many polar bears will die. For now, however, they're on the rise.

Third, how quickly temperatures will change and how fast glaciers will melt. In this one, Mr. Gore warned of the impending screwed-ness of the world if we didn't stop our over-use of resources that were hurting the environment. Is what he said a possibility? Yes. But no study shows nearly the rate of ice melting as Al Gore predicted. Ranges for his level of apocalypse could be centuries in the coming, not a decade.

Is the Earth Warming?

This, of course, is the trickiest question of them all. Al Gore tried to tackle it, saying that it is at an almost unbelievable amount. The "hockey stick" graph has become synonymous with Global Warming, but is it true? Well, it depends. Without a doubt, Al Gore's predictions have been very, very wrong over the last few years. His fear-mongering about a temperature explosion has clouded real research and has made all climate change believers look like radicals.

So, Al Gore's wrong, but is the world's temperatures rising? Once again, this is a difficult question to answer. Take this absolutely accurate graph. Using a trend line that uses decades to come up with a figure, temperatures on average have risen. But look at this equally accurate graph. If you base the trend line on shorter amounts of time, then yes, temperatures have been going down over the last several years.

To have perspective, one must look at graphs spanning much longer times. As this graph shows, the recent rise in temperatures looks right at home. Whether it is or not, however, is still up for debate.

Incorrect Arguments From Both Sides

Well, I won't be the first to say this and I won't be the last: people who do not believe in climate change are not evil (necessarily). With data that is as skewed, unknown, and opinionated as this, anyone who says that those against Climate Change are "deniers" are dead wrong. I'm looking at you crazy liberals.

On the other side, those who say that people could not possibly change the environment are also wrong. An explosive example is the testing of the first nuclear weapon... Scientists actually thought that a single bomb could ignite the atmosphere. That would raise world temperature more than half a degree or two. With 6.5 Billion people on earth, we can change anything we want.

Well, that's it for part one. Please stay tuned for part, two, where I will cover Climate Gate, intense weather, and CO2.

Cross-linked at Jumping in Pools


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Comments (28)

If you are looking at the e... (Below threshold)
Rance:

If you are looking at the effects that humans are having on the warming ( or lack thereof) of the earth, then the 2000 year graph way not be very relevant. The big upswing in the burning of fossil fuels didn't start until after the industrial revolution.

If you believe that CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat and causes the earth to warm, then looking the amount of carbon that has been taken out of the earth and converted to CO2 has got to cause you some alarm.

If you don't believe that CO2 traps heat, then you probably feel we don't have anything to worry about.

If you believe tha... (Below threshold)
iwogisdead:
If you believe that CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat and causes the earth to warm, then looking the amount of carbon that has been taken out of the earth and converted to CO2 has got to cause you some alarm.

It's nowhere near that simple. CO2 is not a pane of glass. It absorbs certain wavelengths of sunlight. The fraction of CO2 compared to the other "greenhouse" gases in the atmosphere, particularly water vapor, is tiny. The fraction of the existing atmospheric CO2 that human activity causes is also tiny, very, very tiny. It's hard to imagine that such tiny fractions could make any difference, when water vapor is still out there, greenhousing away.

But the more important point is that there are no sunlight wavelengths absorbed by CO2 that aren't also absorbed by water vapor. All of those wavelengths are absorbed. It is believed that if all the CO2 were eliminated (including naturally occurring CO2), the existing water vapor would absorb the wavelengths not otherwise absorbed by CO2. In other words, elimination of all CO2 would make no difference in the "greenhouse" effect.

"Scientists actually though... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

"Scientists actually thought that a single bomb could ignite the atmosphere. That would raise world temperature more than half a degree or two."

Big problem with that statement is that it didn't happen. So how does scientist being wrong about what disastrous effect man will have on the environment end up being proof that man can have a disastrous effect will on the environment?

Saying something like "absolute accurate graph" doesn't show a skeptical mind. If the numbers used are cherry pick, flawed and\or manipulated, it is not accurate and highly unlikely to be "absolute accurate" regardless.

There is also debate over glacier melts. Yes they melt but they are being added to also. For example there is a lively debate over wither Antarctica is gaining more moisture or not.

In the end, the data and science is not as accurate or thorough as we need it to be. For the most part it is more speculative than proven science. People are extrapolating "absolute" firm conclusion from flimsy measurements. Calculating very precise numbers from imprecise measurement.

What needs to be done? We need more and longer term measurements and studies. We need quality control in all areas. That doesn't mean silencing the critics on either side. The critics should get air time and their concern should be address not ridicule. We need an open and scientific process.

Unfortunately most of this won't happen. The process has been politicized with money corrupting the process. Too many on both sides have become religious zealots in their beliefs on the subject. They will never consider that they could be wrong.

Been here, done this. ... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Been here, done this.

I call bullshit.

1. Basing global temperature trends on short term statistics is arrogant at best, and dangerously stupid if it's used as an excuse to rejigger the entire world's economy.

2. Claiming that climate change is caused by man ignores climate change prior to man's appearance on the planet, and by major amounts through geologic time. Temperature trends go up, and temperature trends go down. They always have and always will. Thirty years ago, the "scientific consensus" was that we were headed for another ice age, and we were all going to freeze to death in the dark. It was bullshit then, too.

3. The scientific support for AGW is crumbling as we speak. It was biased by "true believers" who started with a conclusion (and a well financed one at that), and then backfilled and cherry-picked data that supported their position. Political hacks like Al Gore seized on this opportunity and have gotten rich because of it. Go read the original text of the Cap and Trade Bill. It starts out with a mea culpa that global warming is gonna kill us all, and that only the American taxpayer can save us, like it or not. It's one assumption heaped on another, and all based on corrupt scientific evidence. But Al Gore is still rich, the UN is still exploiting a phony "crisis" in pursuit of enormous piles of free American money, scientific funding is still flooding one study after another, and Cap and Trade is just waiting to surface again in Congress.

There are only four things wrong with the case for AGW: legitimate, reproducible proof that AGW is actually a fact, reproducible proof that man is the its sole cause, its overstated effects, and the solution. This ain't no History Channel episode of "Life After People". Real people, and their children, are going to have to pay for this little political melodrama. And it's all based on The World According to Henny Penny.

So, fine. I'll play along. As long as you can indisputably prove that bankrupting our economy is the only possible solution to the only possible explanation that there is only one possible cause to a problem that you can prove.

Otherwise, bullshit.

The big problem is that the... (Below threshold)
Ernie:

The big problem is that they say the buildup of CO2 is the cause.
Green House Gases are made up of water vapor, CO2 and other gases. WV is 96% of all green house gases; CO2 is 3%, and 1% for others.
DOE stated in 1998 that man-made CO2 was only 3% of all CO2.
This means that 0.09% of all green house gases are man-made.
Lets say 20% of all man-made CO2 is from the US. The US would only contribute 0.018% of all green house gases. This is close to ZERO. How can this change be affecting the climate?

one simple law makes much o... (Below threshold)
Jeff:

one simple law makes much of this "debate" meaningless ...
The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics ...
a cooler object CANNOT transfer heat to a warmer object ...

Nearly all of our "heat" comes from the sun. Solar radiation hits the surface of the earth and heats that surface. No matter what the % of CO2 is above that surface it will never get hotter than the heat generated by the solar radiation ... NEVER.
That heat, in the form of IR radition which is very broadband is absorbed by the various greenhouse gases at varifing frequencies and those gases get warmer.
But they can never get warmer than the surface that is generating that IR / heat. Since they can never get warmer than the surface they are in contact with they can never raise its temperature in the near term due to the absorbtion of IR radiation and the re-emmission of that energy as IR radiation again.
Yes, warm air can physically move over a colder surface and warm it but that doesn't change the amount of energy absorbed by the planet from the sun.
Yes, if you pumped enough CO2 or Methane or water vapor into the atmospohere you could "slow down" the loss of heat into space but for us folks that live on the ground that won't make us hotter.

Wayne: "What needs to be do... (Below threshold)
Drago:

Wayne: "What needs to be done? We need more and longer term measurements and studies. We need quality control in all areas."

That is what the skeptics have been saying all along, but your side said "the science is settled." Your side.

Wayne: "That doesn't mean silencing the critics on either side."

Only one side of the debate was "silenced" (for awhile): our side. Only one side was doing the silencing: Your side.

Wayne: "The critics should get air time and their concern should be address not ridicule."

Your side was doing all the ridiculing. In fact, your side is still calling skeptics "deniers". Your side.

Wayne: "We need an open and scientific process."

We've always needed "an open and scientific process." Always. It was your side that did not want that. Your side.

Wayne: "Unfortunately most of this won't happen."

This hasn't happened yet because your side tried to us BS "science" to force political solutions on the entire globe. In fact, your side is STILL trying to do this. STILL!

Wayne: "The process has been politicized with money corrupting the process."

Your side has corrupted this entire process. "The science is settled", "we can't affort do wait, we must act now", etc. Your side.

Wayne: "Too many on both sides have become religious zealots in their beliefs on the subject."

Your side has made the assertion and your side never had the facts to back it up. Science REQUIRES those making the assertion to present their evidence, openly, honestly, inviting scientific analysis from objective parties. Your side didn't do that. Your side STILL doesn't want to do that.

Wayne: "They will never consider that they could be wrong."

"The science is settled!" "If it rains, it's GW!" "If it doesn't rain, it's GW!" "If it's humid, it's GW!" "If it's not humid it's GW!"

Your side has offered a non-falsifiable theory. Your side.

And so now, after all the BS has been exposed, after all the crap your side has thrown at the entire WORLD, now, NOW, you "graciously" extend a hand so that we may all now enjoy the blame. For what your side did. For what your side continues to do. For what your side will now doubt continue to do long into the future.

Your side.

No thanks.

This one is on you. And your side.

Deal with it.

<a href="http://www.nov55.c... (Below threshold)
iwogisdead:
<a href="http://brneurosci.... (Below threshold)
iwogisdead:
The entire case for AGW is ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

The entire case for AGW is based on a faulty assumption. It starts with the black body radiation equations, which show that the Earth is somewhat warmer than it should be, so heat must be trapped by the atmosphere. The faulty assumption is that the only mechanism by which the atmosphere can trap heat is by the so-called greenhouse effect. In actuality, greenhouse gases trap heat by absorbing some infrared being radiated from the surface and reradiating some of that energy back to the surface. This radiative insulating effect does not violate the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

The Earth's atmosphere is made up of infrared transparent gases such as oxygen, nitrogen, and argon with some trace amounts of greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane. Water in the atmosphere varies in concentration as well as state (solid, liquid, gas) and makes the full system incredibly complex. No analysis yet devised can fully account of the effects of water in the atmosphere, yet we can determine the role of other greenhouse gases in isolation.

So here's the question that was not asked when scientists first considered how the atmosphere warms the earth. Can an atmosphere made up of only infrared transparent gases trap heat such that the surface temperature is higher than predicted by the black body radiation equations? One of the reasons that question wasn't asked is because science of the time had no knowledge of quantum mechanics.

Anyway, the answer is yes, an infrared transparent atmosphere can trap heat, so the fundamental assumption underpinning AGW is wrong, or at least incomplete. I've talked about the shifting emissivity effect before and an understanding of how this works results in a prediction of upper atmosphere cooling, which has been measured and which runs counter to standard climate models. The shifting emissivity effect also predicts warmer nights and cooler days as CO2 concentrations increase. Thus, CO2 has a moderating effect on temperature with little net change in temperature. However, there will be stronger daytime convection, but it's unclear if that results in a net positive or negative effect.

Bottom line, the science is not settled, it's only getting started.

The graph showing the regre... (Below threshold)
Weatherbot:

The graph showing the regression line going up is somewhat misleading. Yes, if you look at the timeline from 1975 to present you can get that opinion. But, I have done several similar regression lines starting in the 1930's and 1940's and the regression line flattens substancially.

See my analysis of Kodiak, ... (Below threshold)
Weatherbot:

See my analysis of Kodiak, Alaska for 1946 to 2009 as an example. (weatherbot.blogspot.com)

If you believe tha... (Below threshold)
Clint:
If you believe that CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat and causes the earth to warm, then looking the amount of carbon that has been taken out of the earth and converted to CO2 has got to cause you some alarm.

Very few people claim CO2 doesn't cause *any* warming.

The point is the CO2 directly causes only a tiny fraction of what AGW believers claim we are causing -- the vast majority of the warming comes from various poorly understood positive feedback mechanisms that greatly amplify this heat input. The "evidence" for this amplification is that some scientists have managed to construct computer models that with enough tweaking can sort of reproduce the temperature record.

It's the whole last part that "skeptics" like me find unpersuasive.

Of course CO2 in the atmosphere has a warming effect. It's just been vastly overstated.

Some corrections:</p... (Below threshold)
Seth:

Some corrections:

Scientists are sure that the glacier melting will continue, but disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers is likely to be about 2350 not 2035.

There is no census of polar bears, but their population is probably dropping. Of the 19 subpopulations of polar bears, eight are declining, three are stable, one is increasing, and seven have insufficient data on which to base a decision.

It's no longer true that you can produce a downward temperature trend by choosing a short time interval. January was the hottest on record, by the satellite temperature measurements. (Which your graphs are of).

Roy Spencer's graph with the simultaneous MWP throughout the globe is not in line with the general view from the science. There are over a dozen papers in the peer reviewed literature that do a Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction, and none of them show the MWP as likely warmer than current temperatures. (Although some of them have current temperatures within the estimate of the error).

Re the comments:
The direct warming from CO2 forcing in about 1/3rd of the total warming. The rest is feedback, mostly water vapour, but also ice-albedo and others.

The proof for this does not solely rest on models. The climatic response to changes in forcing has been observed following volcanic eruptions, and by analysis of past climate, and from earth-energy balance at the top of the atmosphere.

Human activity has increased CO2 from 280ppm to 380ppm. That's a 35% increase and represents about 900 billion tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere. It's not entirely miniscule.

What is being exposed, as w... (Below threshold)
recovered liberal democrat:

What is being exposed, as well as the phony "science" and all the skewed data, is the disaster it would be to the economy of the U.S. Also, at the center of "Cap and Trade" is Goldman Sachs. Trading "carbon credits" as a commodity would generate trillions of dollars not just billions but, trillions. Wealthy liberals with an agenda is far more of a threat than the climate change they want us to believe in.

Yeah, ">right.<... (Below threshold) Please watch my video... (Below threshold)
Andi Prama:

Please watch my video

It's about climate change, earth catastrophes and our planet as we lives in.
Recent Earth catastrophes - Continental Drift: One huge continent became 2 continents, then 5 (or 6) and then?

Thank you.

.youtube.com/watch?v=j7I_eFoIk64

Seth -Re glaciers ... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Seth -

Re glaciers - you ARE aware that was a single-sourced 'date', by someone who is disagreed with in their profession, right?

http://www.climategate.com/new-scientist-oops-the-glaciers-wont-have-melted-by-2035

Polar bear population is about 5 times what it was in the '50s.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100210101238AA31xrK

Seriously, this shit isn't hard at all to find with Google. Why are you so willing to believe sources that are so easily identifiable as false, or inaccurate, or misrepresenting data?

The direct warming... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
The direct warming from CO2 forcing in about 1/3rd of the total warming.

There's the source of the problem. The concept of "CO2 forcing" is the result of a fundamental assumption that turns out to be wrong. It turns out that an atmosphere made up of entirely infrared transparent gasses can also trap heat and account for the discrepancy between the black body calculated temperature and the measured temperature of the Earth. The term "CO2 forcing" is the badge of ignorance.

The mostly infrared transparent atmosphere is heated during the day by the sun warmed surface through conduction and convection. As convection moves heat higher into the atmosphere it cools the surface. Readily repeatable laboratory experiments show that real green houses are warmer because they limit convection and not because of any infrared trapping. If not for convection, the Earth's surface would be as warm as the inside of a car on a sunny day. That demonstrates just how much heat is being transported into the atmosphere. As anyone who understands high school physics knows, convection stops at night because the surface becomes colder than the air above it. Thus, once infrared transparent gases are heated by convection the heat is trapped as these gases cannot radiate away their heat.

The trapped heat does warm the surface through circulation (wind), and also as the atmosphere gets warmer there's less temperature difference to drive convection, so less heat is transported into the atmosphere during the day.

As CO2 is introduced into an otherwise infrared transparent atmosphere it does have a radiative insulating effect that tends to increase surface temperatures, but it also radiates heat away from the infrared transparent gases in the atmosphere. This increases the temperature difference between the atmosphere and the surface during the day, which results in stronger convection, which cools the surface more. The result is that increasing CO2 warms the surface at night, but cools it during the day. The net effect may be some cooling or some warming, but nothing approaching the magnitude predicted by the current over simplistic computer models.

Note how convection tends to regulate the overall temperature by providing negative feedback to both cooling and warming of the atmosphere. In hindsight it's obvious that such a mechanism existed or the Earth would have boiled or froze long ago. It's almost like the system was designed to provide a relatively stable climate over millions of years.

So if CO2 does not cause climate change, what does? It's becoming obvious that Henrik Svensmark is correct and now we understand why climate follows solar cycles as well as orbital variations and even the Sun's position within the Milky way galaxy. If not for the AGW agenda, science would be much further along.

I can always tell when Stev... (Below threshold)
The New and Improved Steve Green:

I can always tell when Steve Green has visited a thread by the negative dings, even if he doesn't comment.

They're like mouse droppings.

With all due respect, can w... (Below threshold)
thecomputerguy:

With all due respect, can we skip part 2?
I'm sorry, but this article is poorly written, and has some bad factual errors:

It cannot be argued that some glaciers are indeed melting. However, the question of why has not been definitively answered...What cannot be argued however is that Al Gore over-sensationalized this aspect of his documentary.

I'm not sure I get your point here. I think you've just made a simple case error, but I get a headache trying to figure out what you meant to say. Or this gem:

But if the ice caps do indeed melt, then many polar bears will die. For now, however, they're on the rise.

You say that if the ice caps melt, polar bears will die. This implies polar bears live on both northern and southern poles. Do you know this to be a fact, because it's not consistent with the information in the article you linked.

There are other problems too, but the quality of writing doesn't quite rise to the level of me wanting to waste my time to point the rest of them out.

I'm sorry, but from what I see you have a poor grasp of facts. You're doing nothing to clear the air, you're actually making it worse.

When somebody says something like "this is the inconvenient truth", or "I'm going to try to clear the air here", they should be very careful about the rest of the content.

I haven't read wizbang for a while, and I don't recognize this author. My guess is this is a guest author who's trying to bring discredit to conservative blogs by writing nonsense. He'll then go back to his lib blog and link to this crap and say "look how stupid conservatives are". Either that, or the quality of wizbang articles has gotten a lot worse since I've been away.

This implies po... (Below threshold)
This implies polar bears live on both northern and southern poles.
How so?
Rance,I appreciate y... (Below threshold)
SCSIwuzzy:

Rance,
I appreciate your questioning outlook, but I disagree:

If you are looking at the effects that humans are having on the warming ( or lack thereof) of the earth, then the 2000 year graph way not be very relevant. The big upswing in the burning of fossil fuels didn't start until after the industrial revolution.

If you don't look at trends before the industrial revolution (IR), how can you determine what changes might be caused by industry? Only looking at the time between the start of the IR to the present implicitly build in the assumption that IR -1 is the correct baseline temperature, and that the climate system was stable before the IR.

That is one of the reasons people keep asking people like Jones and Mann about the medieval warming period and other periods in the past where historical records indicate that the climate was different than today.

"But if the... (Below threshold)
"But if the ice caps do indeed melt, then many polar bears will die. For now, however, they're on the rise.

You say that if the ice caps melt, polar bears will die. This implies polar bears live on both northern and southern poles. "

How so?

22. Posted by McGehee | February 18, 2010 1:22 PM | Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 1 (1 votes cast)

The implication is that if ice melts at either pole, the polar bears will die. If, for example, ice melts at the Northern Pole, then it would indeed affect polar bears. However, if only the Southern polar ice were affected, then polar bears are not involved. Of course, if the ice melt occurs, it would probably be at both poles, which would affect the bears at the northern pole.

DragoWhen you say "y... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

Drago
When you say "your side" do you mean the skeptics of Manmade global warming side? If you had fallowed my previous post that would be clear. Maybe that is why you would able to take my post and make an argument in support of skeptics of Manmade global warming so well.

Re"Of course CO2 in the atmosphere has a warming effect. It's just been vastly overstated."

As Mac Lorry has already pointed out it is not that simple. Simply applying a simple CO2 heat trapping experiment with very controlled parameters and conditions, to a very complex system like earth's atmosphere will highly likely produce bad assumptions. It is a good starting point that should lead to more and more complex experiments. However to assume and\or absolutely believe a complex system acts in such a simple manner is foolish.

Personally I believe (not absolutely) that CO2 does contribute. Significantly, I don't know. Is Manmade CO2 significant? Not likely. Is there a wide variety of factors contributing? Yes. All of which should be study but please don't give me overstatements and lies.

Bring Me that good old fash... (Below threshold)
914:

Bring Me that good old fashioned springtime heat and a place to lay My weary ass bones!

Your never too goddamned co... (Below threshold)
914:

Your never too goddamned cold to know when You would rather be warmer than the climate allow's You to be.. Damned racist Sun!!

Amen! And Spring is just ar... (Below threshold)
Steve Green:

Amen! And Spring is just around the corner! Woo Hoo - bye 914. Sleep well!




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