“Their” reality, and the REAL reality

Back to global warming, and the following astonishing article. (Thanks to Jim Woosley for the link) The world has never seen such freezing heat

I was reading comments on one other article about global warming—in which the sad state of the global warmists increasingly frayed argument was being discussed—and one snarky young thing said, “It isn’t global warming anymore, you idiots, it’s the Global Climate Crisis!”

‘Scuse me?

We have three options here.

Option One is that the world is faced with dangerous overheating, which would be proven by steadily rising temperatures worldwide, steadily decreasing glaciation worldwide, and steadily rising sea levels worldwide. We do not have that triad in place—for every location that has warmer temps, there’s another with colder temps, and the falling average temperature the past couple of years makes global warming a hard sell.

Oh, and we would also have worse hurricanes every year than the year before. I’ll pause while you consider the hurricane seasons of the past couple of years.

The “global warming is caused by humans theory”, if true, would show a measurable, steady increase in temperatures, dangerous weather, and rising sea levels everywhere, all the time. Increases would necessarily be small, but they would be observable.

We do not have this.

Option Two is that NOW the world is faced by dangerous overcooling, which would be proven by steadily falling temperatures worldwide, steadily expanding glaciation worldwide, and steadily falling sea levels worldwide. We don’t have THAT triad in place either.

Again, for it to be true, we would see small, incremental, MEASURABLE changes everywhere.

So I’m going to define Option Three for you now, since the folks selling the panic phrase Global Climate Crisis fail to define this crisis.

Option Three—Global Climate Crisis—means that we will have rising temperatures around the world, followed by falling temperatures around the world—all going on at the same time—with storm systems, hurricanes, tornadoes and so on happening somewhere all the time. The ice caps and glaciers will expand, and then retreat, and then expand, and then RETREAT!!!! (Oh, God, whatever shall we do?)

The other name for the Global Climate Crisis?


It’s the end of the world as we know it.

Here’s everything else I’ve written on this particular subject.

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By Holly

Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and indie-publish my new ones.

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14 years ago

Okay, I’ll behave now. Back to our regularly scheduled discussion.

(Holly, you will find that I am prone to occasional outbreaks of wacky humor and what my students term “randomness.”)

14 years ago

*cocks eyebrow*

Fascinating. Thank you, Jim. Coming from you, that means a great deal. I AM exerting considerable effort.

(Oh, and incidentally – He’s dead, Jim. You get the tricorder, I’ll get his wallet. We really must learn to put our security in some color than red. It draws entirely too much attention. Then again, logically, it IS better than having the command crew shot at.)

14 years ago

Don’t sell yourself short, Steph. You’re doing a very good imitation of Spock (not just here 🙂

14 years ago

Thank you, Holly, and you’re more than welcome. This looks to be an interesting discussion. I don’t have Jim’s SPECIFICITY of expertise, but I do have expertise, and that over a surprisingly broad range of subjects. (Spock was my hero, growing up. Seriously. Okay, so I’m a geek. Deal. LOL)

14 years ago

Hi there. I’m new to the board. Jim is a friend of mine and he suggested I come by, tempting me with this thread. Allow me to briefly introduce myself.

I’m Stephanie (Steph) Osborn, former rocket scientist, current math/science tutor (elementary to college levels) and SF novelist. I have degrees in 4 sciences and worked in military and civilian space programs for 20+ years. I worked Shuttle and Station, and had a friend aboard Columbia when it went down.

The statement on “consensus science” is entirely correct. The prevailing view is determined by consensus, but science itself is not generated by consensus. The scientific method defines science. Reproducible results determines science. The statement that the greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus is also true. Breakthroughs in science occur when someone is willing to “think outside the box” (Shroedinger’s or otherwise), trace that thought to its ultimate conclusion, and then determine if that conclusion is verifiable and reproducible.

Let me also point out that, climatologically speaking, 100 years of data points is actually a pathetically small database compared to the Earth’s climatological history and covers very little. Certainly not enough to determine a statistically significant long-term trend, let alone distinguish one cause from another. (Think about Carl Sagan’s “existence of the universe compacted into a year” and you have maybe a fraction of a second on New Year’s Eve, here. Although I may be going back before some folks were born, and revealing my age in the process, in using that analogy.)

There is at least as much evidence to suggest that the oceanic salinity equilibrium cycle has as much to do with current short-term trends as anything that mankind can do; and plenty of evidence to indicate that said equilibrium cycle is capable of absorbing the amount of variation we are seeing and shifting the vector in the other direction. A sine wave, if you will. Demonstrable, proven, with evidence in many different places, including ice caps, sea floor sediments, and ancient coral reefs.

Unfortunately, we never seem to hear about that, and other such equilibrium cycles of which the planet is possessed.

As for worldwide trends, certainly the DEGREE of variation would depend on the location in the world. But in order for there to BE a worldwide trend, the variations all have to be going in the same direction, regardless of size. Unfortunately, they aren’t.

As to why a government – or any other organization – would want to perpetrate a “crisis” mindset, just as a suggestion, consider this thought: He who controls the power supply, controls the economy and the people. Gasoline taxed to the heavens? We don’t travel. We stay where we’re put. We eat what we’re given. We work where we’re told.

Now combine that concept with the mindset of handouts to the poor (and let us not get into the argument about why some of them are so), and bailouts to the rich corporations, and we see a distinct redistribution of the economy. And not a particularly pretty one.

14 years ago

Michael Crichton’s essay on global warming makes some great points about consensus science I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.
Go on and read the full article for more detail and backing arguments.

14 years ago

“I think that the program was managed as a windfall for certain politically-connected corporate farms that got out of hand.”

That sounds hideously plausible.

“the data just simply DO NOT support the contention that manmade activity has a dramtic effect on global climate, much less that we’re marching to a global-warming induced doom.”

The data is like that famous picture where some people see the old lady and some people see the young lady. I hope you know the one I mean. Most people see the old lady, and most people look at the data and see global warming.

If the extra carbon is coming from the oceans, why are the oceans getting more acidic? Surely you’d expect just the reverse. In fact the oceans have become acidic enough that it’s beginning to affect phytoplankton, which is the base of the marine food chain. Our fish supplies may be in danger. Only “may”. And if we go on overfishing at the current rate, it’s academic anyway.

I think you’ll be surprised to hear that the “bankrupting coal” remark never made it across the Atlantic. I had a bit of a hunt to find it, and then another one to find the uncut version. (I don’t know about you, but when I see a cut version “just found” two days before the election, surrounded by comment supporting the other party, I see a whole forest of red flags go up.) What Obama actually said was that his cap-and-trade plans would bankrupt coal over time, and if they couldn’t sort out the emissions. I think both the caveats are important. He doesn’t say what sort of timeline he’s thinking of, so he could easily be thinking of 2050 or so. Certainly any politician who wants to be re-elected (and he does) would be taking note of how much the cap was damaging the economy and any new scientific data before ratcheted the cap down. If you want to see the uncut video, it’s at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMwBbl6RoIs

The net effect of global warming is that (some) coastal regions become marginally less hospitable — and the fraction of the earth suitable for agriculture becomes significantly greater.”

Er no. It’s far more complicated than that. Take a look at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11655 For example: “A two-decade study of rainforest plots in Panama and Malaysia recently concluded that local temperature rises of more than 1ºC have reduced tree growth by 50 per cent”. A warmer earth also expands the deserts and reduces rainfall in many areas, so that they produce less crops. And more storms means more wrecked crops, although there’s no knowing how much.

Realistic assessments put the worst case sea level raise from warming at less than 2 feet, not the 20 feet that our former Vice President claimed in his self-serving polemic.”

This sounds like the report that “explicitly notes that it was unable to include possible dynamical responses of the ice sheets in its calculations.” They only took a very simple model of how the ice sheet behaves, which predicts much slower melting than what we’re already seeing.

And other realistic assessments put it at “meters” http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19526141.600-huge-sea-level-rises-are-coming–unless-we-act-now.html?full=true

See what I mean about he old lady and young lady?

This article says,

Although some ice sheet experts believe that the ice sheets are more stable, I believe that their view is partly based on the faulty assumption that the Earth has been as much as 2 °C warmer in previous interglacial periods, when the sea level was at most a few metres higher than at present. There is strong evidence that the Earth now is within 1 °C of its highest temperature in the past million years. Oxygen isotopes in the deep-ocean fossil plankton known as foraminifera reveal that the Earth was last 2 °C to 3 °C warmer around 3 million years ago, with carbon dioxide levels of perhaps 350 to 450 parts per million. It was a dramatically different planet then, with no Arctic sea ice in the warm seasons and sea level about 25 metres higher, give or take 10 metres.”

Mind you, I don’t trust Al Gore either. I have the distinct impression that he was casting around for some cause to hitch his wagon to, and found global warming handy. Bear in mind that after the business about him inventing the internet, he’d be looking for something true this time.

Here’s the bit about the Bush administration interfering with climate science. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11074

I hope to be starting a temporary job soon, so I won’t have time to hunt out references then.

All the best

14 years ago


Thank you for the compliment, but please don’t think that Holly hasn’t also been paying close attention to what you write.

I fully concur, and I know Holly does, that efficiency is its own reward in terms of reduced costs.

The first point of difference is the belief that such efforts at efficiency are more than just marginal improvements on a global basis (your friend with the well-lit kitchen notwithsatnding). Consider a standard 60-watt lightbulb; left on 24 hours/day, 7 days per week for a month, at $0.23 per kilowatt-hour it costs about $10 per month to run. But leaving such a bulb off for an extra 2 hours a day saves less than a dollar. If everyone does it, those dollars will add up — but even if the planet is at peril, they won’t save the the planet; the world’s population is growing at just under 0.1% per month. The maximum efficiency that can be saved by conservation will perhaps pay for one year’s population growth; to save more, some must do completely without (and many do, in large parts of the world). By all means, save all you can, and you are to be commended for your personal efforts; but also recognize that personal conservation is limited in its ability to foster global energy efficiency.

The second point of difference comes down to that dispute about “millions will starve.” Such is NOT an outgrowth of intelligently applied conservation measures. But it is a possible consequence of carbon cap-and-trade or carbon taxes to limit the use of fossil fuels in those states that actually pay attention to the restrictions (while those states which ignore them for the sake of continued growth will become even more economically dominant.) I say this in utter sincerity: if the world abandoned the use of fossil fuels today, six billion people would be dead by this time next year — NOT counting the excess killed in the inevitable wars of the available alternate resources. I don’t want that, Holly doesn’t want that, and you don’t want that. But there ARE a few sick, twisted souls who see that as an acceptable consequence of “the protection of the planet,” and some of those are in charge of setting domestic and international environmental policies. Investing new energy dollars into alternative technologies (and I reiterate that nuclear would be the most cost-effective of those, with targeted solar and very limited wind as backup for electrical generations, with a more population friendly biofuels scheme providing most fuel for transportation) while phasing out fossil fuels over a twenty-five year period could be accomplished at a societally-acceptable level of pain. “Bankrupting coal” today (with all other fuels left intact, not a valid assumption under cap-and-trade or carbon taxes) might get half of us there, likely as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the those countries with which we at present have the least favorable trade balances; the rest of use would be left dead. And be for nothing environmentally — since our new “owners” wouldn’t care to spend time debating with any surviving EPA administrators but would just do what they like (see for example the recent reports about Chinese overseers in Ghana and the way the “leaders” of those countries let them treat children scrambling to find something that can be scavenged from first-world wastes).

(And please realize that Holly and I are both responding in part because of our concerns about that now-infamous “bankrupting coal” comment. We both hope that it was “playing to the base” and not a reflection of how the incoming US Administration will address energy policies. I think that the signs are hopeful in that regard; but we won’t know until we see what policies are actually unveiled.)

But, third, read our comments above. Whether 95% is the right number or not (and I believe that it isn’t), the whole global warming controversy is a sham: the data just simply DO NOT support the contention that manmade activity has a dramtic effect on global climate, much less that we’re marching to a global-warming induced doom. The most charitable interpretation is that the natural warming trend since the mini-ice age of the 1700’s has been misinterperted through as-yet inadequate science as the start of the long-term warming trend, and correlated with atmospheric carbon dioxide to presume that it is; whereas that trend is now, equally naturally, reversing. However, without further details, the record of fraud in the global warming/global climate change community is sufficent that I don’t believe charity is an appropriate approach to the problem. However, all of that said, there is no evidence that “global warming” would be as hard on technological civilization as a new mini-ice age (much less a new not-so-mini ice age). Realistic assessments put the worst case sea level raise from warming at less than 2 feet, not the 20 feet that our former Vice President claimed in his self-serving polemic (you realize that he now gets a large fraction of his income from carbon trading schemes, right?) The net effect of global warming is that (some) coastal regions become marginally less hospitable — and the fraction of the earth suitable for agriculture becomes significantly greater. As I sit here with the thermostat on 68 to save energy and money, I wouldn’t mind a bit of global warming this month.

(And note again: the seas absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and release some of it back to the atmosphere when they warm. This cycle has gone on for the entire history of the world before man arrived on the scene; there is absolutely no reason to believe that any increased CO2 correlated with warming is due not to the action of man but to this natural phenomenon.)

In the end, the chance that ‘ending global warming” will result in wide-spread starvation presently rests in the hands of the politican who threatened to “bankrupt coal.” Will he keep that promise — or was it, like most politican’s promises, not worth the hot air in the breath that it was uttered upon? And if he keeps it, will his program be responsive to the needs of all of his constituents, or will he rush into an ill-considered program out of a messianic need to heal the planet. Inquiring minds want to know if he’s an honest politican — and frankly find comfort in any clues that suggest he isn’t.

Finally, your comment about how inefficiently biofuels has been managed so far. I don’t think that the intent was to make them look bad; I think that the program was managed as a windfall for certain politically-connected corporate farms that got out of hand.


14 years ago

“Nicely put. “

Thank you. I don’t write as well as you , of course.

I know there are scientists on both sides of the debate. But the bulk of them think global warming is real. That is what “consensus” means, after all.

The scientific consensus formed in the 1980s and 1990s, and up until about 2005 (when somebody decided that bio-fuels would make great pork) almost all the bullying was on the other side. I’ve been trying to remember details solid enough to check with Google, but as I remember it, the first US delegate to the IPCC who came out and said climate change was probably real was fired as soon as he came home, and the next one came home to unsubstantiated accusations of burglary and pederasty. Nothing to do with the government. Oh goodness me no. And then they made a rule that any government climate scientist who talked to the press without prior permission would be fired.

And then there’s the tabloids, who’ll do anything for a headline and misrepresent both sides. And “Surprise!” makes a better headline than “Further confirmation.”

You seem to be assuming that any attempt to reduce carbon emissions at all would send oil prices through the roof. Have I understood that right?

I don’t think that’s inevitable. Of course it could be done that way, and some politicians are that dumb, but it doesn’t have to be. If someone came along with some wonderful clever idea that would cut carbon emissions without sending the world economy into a worse mess than the current one, would you have a problem with that?

Of course it’s vanishingly unlikely that we’ll find a magic wand like that, but we might get a lot of little ideas. Newcomen’s steam engines (1712) were 0.5% efficient, and modern ones can reach 85-90% efficiency. The point is that this was the result of incremental improvements, most of them very small. That’s why I think we should be doing what we can to reduce carbon emissions in any way that doesn’t starve and freeze people, even if the improvement is tiny. For example, it should be perfectly possible to produce biofuel from the stalk and leaves of the maize plant. (You know, I have moments when I wonder if the current biofuels program was designed to fail, in order to give biofuels a bad name. No evidence, just a gut feeling that nobody can be that dumb. And then I remember – yes they can. But they can also be very devious.) And so on, all the way down to energy efficient light bulbs and saucepan lids and reusable shopping bags. Taken together they should give us more time to shrink the error bars and find out whether the painful stuff is necessary, and if so how much. It would also a) reduce your utility bill and b) reduce the price of oil a little for those who don’t have alternatives. Believe me, I don’t want the price of oil to rise. I live on a small island. A lot of the food is produced locally, but almost everything else is imported. As soon as the cost of fuel oil for ships goes up, the cost of processed food, clothes, exercise books and everything goes up too.

I think that would be rather more productive than assuming it’s all or nothing, and shouting “Oh yes it is!” and “Oh no it isn’t!” at each other like a British pantomime.

14 years ago

Jim, thank you for actually reading what I wrote. I’ll read the article tomorrow.

Holly, the figures I’ve seen suggest that painless ways of reducing waste could cut total use by somewhere between 5% and 20%, depending on what you call painless. Some people are incredibly wasteful. I know a woman who has 1,000 watts of halogen bulbs in her kitchen (20 spotlights of 50W each) which she leaves on all day. She complains that her kitchen is too hot and her electricity bills are huge. I’m not surprised, but when I suggested that she tried switching the lights off when she wasn’t in the room, or removing some of the bulbs, she looked at me as though I’d suggested dancing in the nude at Buckingham Palace. Heck, I’ve visited houses with the heating on and the window open.

I don’t know how much of your utility bill is from cooking with saucepans, but putting a lid on reduces the cost by 75%. Hot air rises. Without a lid you’re constantly heating a fresh lot of air on top of your potatoes.

And I do NOT “consider more people starving in order to get these forms of energy you want to be acceptable losses”. You appear to be determined to believe the worst of me simply because I disagree with you.

Some of them are starving because the incompetent way the US government went about bio fuels pushed the price of cereals up worldwide. (Holly, I agree: we need bio fuels but not from food crops.) Some are starving because the Chinese are eating more grain-fed meat (still a lot less than the USA and EU). And some of them are starving because the local weather ruined the crops. Sadly, there’s nothing new about that. But it does seem to be happening an awful lot more than it used to.

If 95% of scientists are right and Holly Lisle is wrong, then the unabated use of fossil fuel will starve millions more. Of course the science is far too uncertain to put a firm figure on how many. But what percentage probability of staving an extra, say, 10,000,000 people do you regard as acceptable? Personally, 1% would worry me.

Of course this has to be balanced against the cost of bring alternative on-stream. But I think you overestimate the cost of small scale clean power.

Solar water heating is already financially viable where I live, without any government subsidy. They used to have subsidies, which created a market and kick-started economies of scale in the manufacture. Of course there are a lot of places where that doesn’t apply, but I really don’t see what’s so evil about using them where the climate is suitable.

The island of El Hierro in the Canaries hopes to shut down their oil-burning electric station sometime next year. Again, that won’t work everywhere. El Hierro has a lot of wind, quite a bit of sun, and a small population. The climate’s so nice that there isn’t a huge demand for winter heating or air conditioning. And of course most transport will still run on fossil fuels. But if the green stuff will provide 100% of domestic electricity in really favourable circumstances, it suggests to me that the price has come down considerably.

14 years ago


I also invite Shelia to
a) look at the article which lead to the publication of your first note.
b) http://www.nsstc.uah.edu/atmos/christy/2007_Dougless_etal.pdf

14 years ago

Very good points, Holly.

I’ll add one more comment about economies of scale in response to your comment about scaleability.

When a boiler operates, the amount of mass moving through the boiler — coal or oil, and air — is obviously constrained by the volume of the boiler. A bigger boiler, more mass, and hence more energy is produced. But now, think about what you remember about geometry. The volume of a cube which is, say, 1 foot on a side is obvious one cubic foot. The surface area of one side of the cube is 1 square foot, and with six sides, the total area is area is six square feet.

Double the size of each side of the cube. The volume is 2 x 2 x 2 = 8 cubic feet, eight times greater. The surface is 6 x (2 x 2) = 6 x 4 = 24 cubic feet.

Look at that again: volume increases by a factor of 8, surface area increases by a factor of 4.

If this is a boiler, the cost of the metal that goes into making the boiler depends on the surface area containing the volume of material in the tank — the cost of the boiler per mass burned, and hence per energy produced, is reduced by a factor of 2. This principle, generalized, is what creates economies of scale.

However, neither solar nor wind CAN generate economies of scale in this fashion. 1 square meter of solar panel at peak sunlight intercepts about 1 kilowatt of energy and converts approximately 25% of it into electricity (and that is a vast improvement over just a decade ago); there are solar cells today that can do 35%, but they’re not yet quite as cheap as just using 40% more of the 25% cells. Further, that is at peak sunlight; while there are places you can go to get better averages (like New Mexico and Arizona) the national effective average (given cloud cover, humidity, and changing angle of the sun as it transits the sky during day, and of course, night) is 22% of peak. The time averaged energy produced by that square meter of solar cell is 55 watts — not counting any energy lost in storing daytime power until night time. Not quite one traditional 60 watt incandescent bulb.

And if you want to burn 10 light bulbs 24/7, you don’t get to do it with 5 square meters of panel in analogy to the example above; you have to use 10 square meters of panel.

Don’t get me wrong; there are a lot of reasons why you should want to use solar (such as putting the energy on the grid during the hotest part of the day, when it’s most necessary for the air conditioning of industrial processes, rather than trying to store it, an application for which it is ALMOST cost effective if the excess energy can be sold on the grid a well.) But I hope that this illustrates how far solar is from being a total energy solution all on its own.

(Note, I can see a lot more being done industrially using solar powered heat engines rather than solar electricity, but any such technology is ultimately limited in that your capital investment is ONLY returning value when the sun is shining.)

Despite the wild claims being made, wind is even more limited. I don’t think I’ve heard of a single wind project which has been economically viable without government subsidies — except the one that the Kennedy’s blocked because it was visible from their vacation home.

14 years ago

Shelia (and Holly)

Both of you are right in that the climate is complex, and simple responses overlook that complexity (and many other factors as well). And Shelia, you’re right that very few responsible scientists have said given global warming we would all be on a one-way journey to a semi-tropical Florida.

But while few responsible scientists have said this, a lot of global-warming alarmists (including older and now thorougly discredited reports by the International Panel on Climate Change) have in fact said it as if it would be true. For that matter, a lot of scientists whose names appear on the IPCC reports (and who are cited among the “95%” figure you mention) are apalled when they read how the UN bureaucrats have rewritten and misrepresented their inputs to make the problem appear worse than it is.

First, you have to understand that most of what is written about the effects of global warming is based NOT on current scientific measurements or on information inferred from the historical record and by the methods of what is called archaeoclimatology, but by computer models which extrapolate current data into the future.

Second, and I speak as a person who understands mathematics and computer models (though I’ve not actually worked in climate science), virtually every model applied to subject is worse than useless for purpose:
a) CO2 is a very small contributor to the atmosphere. Hence the models directly link a increase in atmospheric CO2 — and a small temperature rise attributed there — both to increased evaporation from the oceans, and to increased release of CO2 already dissolved in seawater from the oceans, neither of which are physically guaranteed; it is the water vapor from that evaporation which causes the bulk of the predicted global warming. In other words, the models are rigged so that “global warming” is predicted no matter what other processes might be causing it.
b) To make matters worse, there are no good theories to describe how cloud formation changes with increased water vapor, so the assumption is that cloud formation doesn’t change.
c) To take matters to the completely unphysical, CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere by absorbing certain wavelengths of sunlight. However, even at pre-industrial concentrations of CO2, absorption is already at 80% at those wavelenghts; it is now pushing 100%. Future increases in CO2 CANNOT cause any further heat trapping.
d) Most of the global warming models are based on the use of “average” temperatures and weather conditions over areas the size of US states. Shelia, you noted the change in weather just across the 18 miles of the island you inhabit; do you think that an average over a square 300 km on a side would give a good representation of weather, or would the inaccuracy in the model swamp the “butterfly” effect. Also, the time step is for the projection is about 6 hours. This is roughly commensurate with the motion of the fastest weather systems across the cell, but it is far shorter than the speed of sound. Any physicist will tell you that accurate modeling of dynamic systems requires that the time step be a fraction of that required for sound to transit the lump of space being modeled; these systems are too coarsely modeled by a factor of 30-100.
e) Last, but certainly not least (and here is the one point where I’m indulging in some speculation), I do have experience with coarse models of otherwise very simple systems. These coarse models are all of a nature that errors accumulate in one direction – that is, large differences get larger. While I don’t know that this is true of the climate models, I do know it is characteristic of some computer models which strive for speed over accuracy, and I would not be surprised to discover that it is a factor for at least some of the models.

I was reading a paper a couple of days ago about the formation of planetary systems from clouds of gas about young suns. Similarly to the way the earth’s surface is segmented for climate studies, the gas is segmented into boxes and the boxes are “flown” under the influence of their mutual gravitation. The article said that moving the position of 1% of the boxes by ONE METER (about a yard) changed the number of planets predicted by the model from five to three (talk about your ‘butterfly effect’), though everything else stayed the same, and I would guess that each box was a lot larger than “the earth, an’ all that’s in it.”

If there is in fact man-made global warming, it probably has more to do with increased evaporation of water due to the distribution of water to desert regions for irrigation, and perhaps to deforestation, than it does to any marginal increase in CO2. But I wouldn’t assume that.

Third, both Holly and TimK have spoken at length about the “crisis” nature of global warming and the economic consequences of suspending the use of fossil fuels. Consider just coal; if we stop burning coal for electricity in the US, without spening years (and hundreds of billions of dollars) building an alternative energy infrastructure to replace what we’re eliminating (under the most economical of assumptions, it would take $250 billon in capital to replace all of our coal with nuclear power; under the licensing regime in place since the 1970’s, it will take 8 times that; and for all the talk about the benefits of solar power, replacing our coal-generated electricity with solar would take about $750 billion dollars, not even including the costs of the batteries to store it for use at night and on cloudy days). That’s NOT fantasy — that is a hard number from a solar power advocate (who only wants to use solar to replace the extra generators that we bring on line to provide air conditioning on hot summer afternoons, an application where it is approximately competitive, with the extra power gratis). That’s about 10 million person-YEARS of labor at $20/hour, much of it construction labor, or a million people per year for ten years (where are they going to be trained?)

And that is if you keep the coal plants running while you build the solar and bring it online . What happens if you shut them down immediately? We lose 40% of our electrical generating capacity. Supply and demand: costs of the remaining power from other sources does NOT increase 40% or even 67%; you’ve probably watched how two or three percent marginal changes in gasoline useage result in factor of two changes in gas prices. Cost from power from all other sources probably goes up by a factor of two; if the coal plants are shut down by carbon taxes, all other current forms of energy (except nuclear and hydro) are also operating with increased costs; the cumulative effect would be a factor of three or more. This bankrupts companies, sends consumers into debt to cook their food and heat or air condition their homes, drives food prices up by 40-50% (both transportation and fuel use by agriculture)…I can’t think of a faster way to literally destroy a moden economy than by outlawing one of its major sources of energy.

For what that’s worth, of course.


14 years ago

Holly, please read what I wrote and not what you wish to think I wrote.

Where did I say “that making oil scarce and expensive would be painless for ANYone”?
I said it would be painless for me to cut my own domestic consumption. I said “If you’re not using it turn it off. Nowhere did I say we should turn off life support. Stuff like turning the light out when you leave the room and putting a lid on a saucepan doesn’t raise the price of oil. If anything, cutting consumption would drop the price, although probably negligibly.

The price of oil is going to rise anyway, because we use the cheap-to-extract stuff first, and recently we’ve been using it faster than we discover new reserves. Quite apart from arguments about climate change, I think it’s a good idea to find alternatives in advance. It takes time to make solar and wind power efficient. If we wait until we run out of oil then people will starve and freeze. They’re starving now.

I didn’t say that you said that the temperature would be the same everywhere. I asked “why would you expect a change in the weather to be exactly the same in places 12,000 miles apart? ”

Your definition of global warming is different from mine. To me, if the average temperature of the planet rises, that’s global warming. I believe it’s most people’s definition, although I may be wrong about that. I haven’t gone round all 6.4 billion of us to ask. Yes, the land has cooled slightly since 1998, but the oceans are still warming, and come the next El Niño, we’ll almost certainly get another spike in land temperatures. See http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14527

According to New Scientist “The 2007 IPCC report halved the maximum likely influence of solar forcing on warming over the past 250 years from 40% to 20%.”

And I suggest you take a look at:

14 years ago

“And part of the solution is totally painless for everyone except the oil companies.”

Holly’s right about this. It wouldn’t be painless for anyone, especially those in third-world countries. The reality is that making fossil fuels difficult to get, thus raising world energy prices, will cause people to die, especially in third-world countries. (I’m not just using hyperbole for effect. That would be a real effect on the margins. People would die who would not have died otherwise.)

WRT gagging the climate change specialists: It is true that governments–including the U.S. government–try very hard to control information. But like controlling illegal drugs, they’ve never been any good at it. Even if they were, I haven’t seen the government trying to gag talk about the “climate change crisis,” because governments love a crisis, because a government can use a crisis to grow its power, and government representatives and executives know this. Even Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel recently said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do things you could not do before.” So with regard to global climate change, if anything, I’ve seen government representatives and executives hyping fear of crisis and downplaying the wait-and-see view. (The wait-and-see approach almost never spurs voters to action, because it does not foment fear, and it rarely will give government representatives and executives more power.)


14 years ago

“…dangerous overheating… would be proven by steadily rising temperatures worldwide, steadily decreasing glaciation worldwide, and steadily rising sea levels worldwide.”

Why??? Why on earth would it be exactly the same the whole world over?

I live on an island just 18 miles across, and we get wildly different weather from one side to the other. So why would you expect a change in the weather to be exactly the same in places 12,000 miles apart? Climate scientists were saying as far back as the 1980s that some places would get colder. Did you expect the ozone hole to form on top of the CFC factories?

You know, I get really irritated by SF novels where the whole planet has the same climate. This is pretty much the same thing.

“we would also have worse hurricanes every year than the year before.”

Why? I’ve never seen a climate scientist claim that the effects would be a smooth progression.

“The “global warming is caused by humans theory”, if true, would show a measurable, steady increase in temperatures, dangerous weather, and rising sea levels everywhere, all the time. Increases would necessarily be small, but they would be observable.”

No. Climate and weather are far, far, far, far too complicated for that. Ever heard of butterfly wings?

What we actually have is a measurable increase in the average of wildly fluctuating levels of temperatures, dangerous weather. There are lots and lots of complicated things, all affecting each other.

The sea level isn’t rising much yet because Antarctica is getting more snow. This was also predicted back in the 1990s. The best guess is that once that stops, sea levels will rise steeply.

Most climate change specialists have spent something like 20 years looking into this, and about 95% of them are convinced that man-made global warming is real and worrying. It’s just that your government has spent the last 8 years gagging them, and giving a megaphone to the other 5%.

In 2007, Exxon posted a profit of $40.6 billion, and Chevron $18.7 billion. (I couldn’t find more recent figures in a hurry.) Do you think they have a motive for putting out disinformation?

And part of the solution is totally painless for everyone except the oil companies. If you’re not using it, turn it off.

14 years ago

I’m with TimK on this one, and Holly’s answer to Soulsky.

I’m currently working on a novel where my main character from an alternate Earth, worried about an impending Ice Age, is here researching how to implement Global Warming on his Earth. The more I look into it, the more ludicrous is seems that humans could impact such a thing.

We would do better to accept that in several hundred to a thousand years or so, we might have a different climate than we do now. And, yes, if one of us needs to toe the line to prevent pollution, all of us need to, developing nation or not. The US has made tremendous strides to clean up our corner of the world since the 1970s, and, frankly, I’m disgusted that we allow the rest of the world to say we’re as bad as they say we are. Chernobyl and China come to mind, but my travels in the Middle East and some parts of Europe have not inspired me to think anywhere else is cleaner than this country. In fact, the opposite appears true to me.

To me, Global Warming is a political farce.

14 years ago

There are actually four separate questions to global warming: 1. Are world temperatures rising? 2. Are humans causing it? 3. Can we do anything to stop it? 4. Should we do anything to stop it?

First, you have to get past #1, which you sort of can, because we have indeed measured a gradual increase in temperature over the past 100 years or so. This is not a steady rise, year after year. It is a long-term trend, like the stock market, 2 steps forward, 1 step back.

But even if one gets past #1, that doesn’t imply #2, which is where many advocates go awry, because science simply can’t tell us the answer. And #2 doesn’t imply #3. And #3 doesn’t imply #4. On this last, if we could do something to stop it, that doesn’t mean we ought to. So what if the waters rise? A Cato Institute paper, for example, pointed out that it would be cheaper to move all ocean-front houses 100 miles in-land than to try to reduce CO2 emissions enough to make a difference.

The “global climate crisis,” as I understand it, comes from the fact that some people fear that global warming will bring upon a new ice age. (Plus, it has the word “crisis” in it, which tends to make ordinary voters act stupid, so that’s always a plus.) It may or may not be a crazy theory. What I do know is that it is pure speculation. Now, if you want to run around shouting about the world coming to an end, that would be one thing. But I choose to do something more constructive.

Anyhow, some evidence suggests that global temperature is largely out of our control, because humans only have a small (if any) effect on it. Most global temperature change is caused by natural causes such as the sun shining. So unless you have a grand plan to block out the sun in order to reduce global temperature, we should probably redirect our efforts toward adapting, rather than panicking.


14 years ago

As the icecap melts, seas will rise, so here in UK we will not be protected by the Atlantic current, so it may well indeed produce ultimately cooler tempratures. Ergo, both scenarios are likely.

Whatever the theories of global warming, it is a FACT we are moving gradually closer to the Sun, ad the Sun WILL one day burn up the Earth, because we are a star of the Sun. However, it will not be in any of our lifetimes, hardly in keeping with panelists paranoia. Perhaps that’s why the Sun’s ultimate destruction of the Earth is less mentioned in the media 😉

14 years ago

I’ll be completely honest, at the risk of becoming “them” (re: “us”). The apologetic lash against the global warming/freezing/climate change/whatever seems always hash. It’s pointing, it’s laughing, and providing links to media to back up these claims.

I read the material. And I wonder ultimately how much media I can trust, second, third, so many hands down the line. Two different groups with very different agendas all giving me just the right information. Yes, there’s data and claims, but they’re on both sides and in mounds and in the blur it devolves once again to “I’m right!” and “No, you’re wrong. I’m right!”

I see you write a lot about the whole movement and give them a lot of crap. And I’m not entirely convinced that it’s true, myself.

But the wholly negative slant of it all bugs me. I mean.

What are these people trying to get us to do? Kill puppies?

Or just take better care of our habitat, maybe. I don’t know. That’s what I’m getting out of it. And that’s a decent outcome for me.

Our planet isn’t fragile, and she’ll get over most things we can do to her, given time. But we do have a significant impact. Do you think even if these claims are false, that studying these things won’t help us learn more about our world? These are the kinds of things I want to hear, in greater depth, from someone who has a lot more influence than myself.

I understand the objections. I’m just growing up into a world where I’m becoming very weary of “ists” and extremely polarized sides and “us” and “them,” and the all out war of ideas.

We’re all people. Who in all earnestness, I hope, want the best for everyone. Even if we suspect the sky is falling. (Every now and then, something does.)

14 years ago

The name “Chicken Little” comes to mind.

In the 70s, the same alarmists were worried about a modern ice age. Everything north of the Mason-Dixon Line was supposed to be under an sheet of ice by now.

Come to think of it, that might not have been a bad idea…. 😉

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