16 March 2007

Global Warming for dummies

In recent days Channel 4 News aired a documentary called "The Great Global Warming Swindle" that has stirred quite the controversy. At the moment one of the scientists that took part in the documentary -Carl Wunsch from MIT- is accusing the producer of having misinterpreted his views (see comments), which were used out of context. None other than 'global warming über expert' George Monbiot came out swinging in The Guardian in defence of the global warming hype. The progressive neoenvironmentalist forces are -as ever- in defamation mood, trying to undermine the credibility of Martin Durkin -the documentary's producer- and pretty much every person who happens to agree with the views exposed in it. A FOI request (what the F%*& was this guy thinking?) has been attempted into the financing of the documentary, in sum the barking moonbats are in a state of absolute outrage.

This blog has had its share of global warming controversy. Readers and fellow Venezuelan bloggers have taken issue with my opinions on this, arguing that I am immature, petulant, ignorant and generally mocking my capacity to differentiate leftist's bull -vaya redundancia- from reality. It seems that I just can not have an opinion contrary to what the geniuses of the IPCC, the very same ones that have failed to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the current warming trend is attributable to mankind, have already reached. It's the "consensus" what matters; the "belief" of members of a UN panel, heralded as the ultimate truth. Cynically Monbiot opens up his tirade mentioning Galileo, Newton, Darwin and Einstein, as examples of scientists that proved the consensus wrong, when in fact today -thanks to the systematic bombardment of the media- most people believe and support the hysterical claims and "consensus" of Monbiot-like experts and attack independent minds, as those presented in Durkin's documentary.

It is for these reasons that I decided to borrow from fellow blogger Francisco Toro's idea of saying it with pictures and draw a couple of graphs to illustrate my point: I will call it global warming for dummies.

The vertical axis is temperature and the horizontal is time since earth's formation. For this purpose I have drawn a line that represents the fluctuation of global temperature over time, but by no means this plot represents accurately periods of cooling or warming. As geological evidence shows the planet has undergone various such periods, the intention is just to show that it has happened in the past, when yummy mummies driving Chelsea tractors and aviation did not exist. The earth's temperature has increased 0.5 degrees in the last century. Should we be as worried as the global warming fraternity would like us to be? See next graph.

The second graph should be cause of great concern to human kind had it had any relation to reality. The red line shows temperature fluctuation over time. Fact is it has no bearing whatsoever with reality, however in my opinion it illustrates perfectly the hypothesis of the advocates of the end of the world, for they irresponsibly and lacking scientific evidence have already ruled that the current warming trend (+0.5 centigrade) is indeed man made, ignoring paleoclimate records.

The politicization of this issue has resulted in clueless politicians, media, Hollywood types, the Green fraternity, the radical Left and assorted has beens affirming without qualms that it is all our fault. It seems to be an impossible task for most of them to provide coherent explanations as to why this phenomenon has occurred throughout the planet's history, for it throws their ludicrous hypothesis into disrepute. So what better than to ignore the inconvenient? Why this time round the warming is caused by burning of fossil fuels and anthropogenic CO2 emissions when it did not in the past? How come earth's climate has changed to the point where the dynamics that used to influence global temperatures are no longer relevant, or worse have been relegated to sub roles? These are some of the questions I asked myself when I first heard the hype. I remember having thought "since when climate is a fixed and not an ever changing variable?" But hey who am I to doubt the all knowledgeable IPCC right? Fortunately not all scientists agree with the media-driven political imposition of the "consensus."


Ms. Atkinson said...


You didn’t post my response to your last post on global warming, so I thought I would try replying to this one. In both posts you make the same point: that the global temperature changed in the past, that humans weren’t around in the past, and therefore humans can’t have caused the temp changes we are seeing now. This doesn’t follow.

As I pointed out in my previous e-mail and (attempted) post, I am a Canadian graduate student in Earth Science who studies past temp variations and their relationship to biodynamics. (And who as of this summer, if all goes according to plan, will start work in petroleum exploration—no “lefty” biases here!) So, I can comment on your argument.

During most of the Ordovician period (my area of expertise), the Earth was considerably hotter than at present, but at the end of the Ordovician, there was a rapid and short-lived glacial episode that killed about ~85% of species (the Hirnantian Mass Extinction, the focus of my thesis). Both the preceding hot period and the glacial interval can be linked to changes in the geochemistry of certain rocks that allow us to reconstruct changes in the carbon cycle and in atmospheric CO2.

Before the extinction, CO2 levels were ~16x present levels, resulting in global subtropical to tropical conditions and widespread oceanic anoxia. The temp should have been much higher, but the effects of these massive levels of greenhouse gases were offset in part by a reduction in solar intensity. During the Silurian and up to the present temperatures continued to oscillate, as you note, but the important point is that during most or all of these oscillations, changes in greenhouse gas levels can be demonstrably shown to have played a major role.

Check out Berner 1990 (Science) and then follow papers that have cited him up to the present for a good introduction to the science of reconstructing paleotemperature in deep time, if you are interested.

Anyway, this is the point I was trying to make before. The historical temperature record, far from disproving anthropogenic global warming, demonstrates that it should happen, in principle, with an increase in CO2, all other things being equal. Your argument, despite the nice graphs (incidentally, why didn’t you use real ones to show past temps?), simply doesn’t agree with the basic science.

Now the dynamics of climate are complex. Present levels of number of greenhouse gases are known to be elevated above recent historical levels, and this correlates closely with a recent spike in temperature, but there are numerous other variables that factor into temp, which is why the last report of Working Group I gave only a 90% probability that the relationship was causal.

It is now up to policy makers to decide whether this is high enough to act, but to be honest, I really wish I could report the results of my work with 90% confidence. That is as good as it gets in our science. The gold standard. Which is why, dispite planning a career pulling oil from the ground, I strongly support measures to reduce carbon emissions.

Hope this helps clear up your misconception…


Jason Loxton
Dept. of Earth Sciences, Dalhousie University

P.s. You really should change the claim you make about the oceans being the largest source of carbon emissions. As I noted before, exactly the opposite is true. They are the largest carbon sinks. But the quote, in addition to being misleading, makes you look sort of silly to anyone with a basic understanding of the carbon cycle

AB said...

Jason, thanks for dropping by. I did not publish your previous comment for I did not want to continue with a futile debate that's leading nowhere. Your post has not cleared up my misconception, well perhaps it has in pointing out that I wrongly claimed that the oceans are the largest source of carbon emissions instead of having said that they are the largest source of water vapour, which contributes a great deal to the greenhouse effect. See right there and then I admitted I was wrong on something, it isn't that difficult is it?

Now your post only comes to prove my point really, there have been warming periods before, when the causes attributed to man couldn't possibly be blamed. Where I do not agree with you is "...demonstrates that it should happen, in principle, with an increase in CO2, all other things being equal." Are you sure than an increase in CO2 emissions is a cause rather than an effect of global warming? Some scientists have said that CO2 increases actually lag behind temperature rise, so which is it? Further what about your contention "...all other things being equal"? I would have thought that the advocates of the end of the world had already 'established' that anthropogenic CO2 emissions were the unequivocal culprit, so all other things are not equal for in the past this could not be factored into the predicting models.

To conclude I have stated, repeatedly, that I am all up for energy conservation, sensible land use, etc., what I find utterly despicable is the prostitution and politization of science to advance political agendas that have got nothing to do with climate control. Climate as you know is an ever changing phenomenon and to believe that by punishing some industries in developed nations and levying more taxes global climate trends is in any manner going to change is stupid in the extreme.

While UK citizens will almost be punished for their carbon footprint, more than half of the earth's population will carry on with the business of living and trying to develop at an accelerated pace, read anthropogenic causes will not disappear.

I think you should try and take the issue with the experts that appeared in the documentary, for you won't convince me that human presence in the planet is to blame.

Anonymous said...

Alex, you seem to be mixing two debates into one, 1) the science which I think you are misinterpreting and 2) the public reaction, doom and gloom, and the politicization of the topic (which I agree with you on).

BTW, I posted some data in case your interested.


AB said...

Which is the bit of science am I misrepresenting Kensey? Be very specific on this one if you could.

I see that you have taken a keen interests on the subject and have read a few papers. Good. Now you can not pretend ignorance upon the fact that the earth has gone various warming periods in the past when humans were not around. I shall write on your site my disagreements with your views.

AB said...

In case this gets lost in the posting process Kensey, here my reply:

First, like Monbiot you're resorting to an example that does your position no favour, Galilei.

Second, taking today's global warming coverage as benchmark, the issue has not been in the press for decades, as you suggest.

Third, there are no two camps of thought, rather there are the scientists and those who understand the science, and then there are the rest who base their conclusions not on scientific evidence but on political/economic grounds. As you have rightly pointed out, this is not the first -nor will it be the last instance- in which the earth has undergone warming periods.

Fourth, your assertion "Scientists can not prove that global warming is 100% due to human activity, nor can we prove 100% it is a natural cycle of warming and cooling" has no legs to stand on. Indeed scientists can not prove that global warming is a man made phenomenon, but you have undermined the second part of your contention by providing evidence that the earth underwent warming periods -with CO2 percentages much higher than the present ones- in the late Paleocene. If not a natural cycle, what then caused the event in the Paleocene you have described, gas guzzling SUVs? Further "With this said the data shows an increase in global temperatures that correlate with increased CO2 levels and other green house gases, and increased human activity." You have failed to mention that of total greenhouse gases CO2 accounts for ~0.035% towards which anthropogenic emissions count for ~3%. Ergo although there's definitely a warming trend the data does not show that it is due to human activity, thus the conclusion that human activity is causing global warming is not supported by data.

Fifth, you have stated "Ice core samples collected at the Vostok station in Antarctica show that during the past 420,000 years CO2 levels were relatively stable between 180 to 280-320 ppm" and then "From a much shorter time scale, in 1850 the level of CO2 was measured to be ~280 ppm increasing to ~370 ppm in 2000 (figure 3), to 382 ppm in 2006 (Figure 4)" in fact anthropogenic causes have produced -according to ice core samples collected at Vostok station- a total increase of 62 ppm (parts per million). Figure 4 shows 30 sharp increases in the 420 thousand years before 2005 -perhaps you may wish to put red arrows on...

Sixth, global warming, as of today, is a natural cycle. Whether you agree with it or not is entirely irrelevant, in fact your contention is not supported by the data you have chosen to provide. As an aside, Richard Branson is offering £25 million to the person that comes with the solution to global warming. Given that you seem so certain about humans being the culprits of it, perhaps you could cross over from economics and voluntary a proposal...

Seventh, "However, for ~420,000 years the earth exhibited a relatively stable environment except for now." Please define "stable environment" providing examples of stability/instability past and present.

Your conclusion borders on the ridiculous for you have failed to demonstrate a) that CO2 increase is a cause rather than an effect; b) that the total increase of 62 ppm is due to human activity; c) that the 0.5C increase in temperature is due to human activity; d) that the ~0.035% CO2 present in the atmosphere is the cause of the current trend ; e) that the said ~0.035% CO2 has somewhat altered the greenhouse effect and cycle, known to be caused primarily by water vapour.

In sum Kensey, stick to economics mate.

maniac me said...

in my class we're doing a thing on global warming and I think the information on your blog is very helpful for what we are doing. do you have any links or references on your blog that we can look at?