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Earth Day 2012: Top 10 Positive Climate Developments

The scientific findings of the human influence on the climate system have been, and perhaps will always be, a mixed bag. Assuming strong positive feedback effects, and thus a high climate sensitivity, it certainly can be argued that the bad outweighs the good. But if feedback effects are more neutral, the sign of the externality flips from negative to positive given that, on net, a moderately warmer, wetter, and CO2-fertilized world is quite arguably a better one.

Earth Day 2012 yesterday brought forth predictable cries of doom-and-gloom. But there are plenty of positives on closer inspection on the climate front, developments which have undoubtedly spilled over into making the earth a better place for humanity at large.

Here is my Top 10 list of positive climate developments based on the recent empirical data and the latest scientific literature:

10) The growing season across the Northern Hemisphere is expanding;

9) Precipitation has increased across the mid-to-high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere (where most of the world’s crops are grown);

8 ) Higher CO2 levels are leading to more productive plants, including crops such as corn, wheat, and rice …

7) … and contributing to an increasing global output of food products;

6) The combination of the above is leading to a true “greening” of the environment;

5) Global tropical cyclone activity has been declining over the past 20 years and is now near its 40-yr low;

4) The rate of sea level rise has slowed during the past decade;

3) The rate of global temperature rise has remained moderate and likely below the central value of climate model projections for the past 30 years;

2) Evidence continues to mount against high climate sensitivity values.

And, the NUMBER 1 positive climate development for Earth Day 2012,

1) Together, these beneficial trends, along with enhancement of our energy and other technologies, has the net result of increasing public health and welfare. For example across the globe, the life expectancy at birth is the longest it has ever been, and continues to climb upwards.

What great reasons to celebrate (Resourceful) Earth Day 2012!

45 comments

1 Bloke down the pub { 04.23.12 at 6:12 am }

To which I would add that the longer global temperatures fail to rise as predicted, the more hacked off the likes of Mann, Hansen, Jones, Trenberth, et al become. That’s got to be a result.

2 Eddie Devere { 04.23.12 at 7:41 am }

While I realize that you are trying to be funny (or at least ironic) as a way of counter-acting the hype from the other side of the debate, an article like this one doesn’t help solve real problems we have.
It’s easier to poke holes in other people’s climate models than it is to make and to validate one’s own climate model. The questions I have are:
Do you have a model that can explain Bullets#3&#4? Can you explain why the rate of sea level rise is decreasing, or why temperature increases are less than predicted by previous climate models? Do you have a 10-20 yr old model that accurately predicted recent average temperatures? A model that can be used to predict future consequences of GHG emissions into the atmosphere?
What we need is a validated model of future climate as a function of GHG input, and then a model that can predict the economic impact of such climate changes. While it might make you feel better to write an article like this one, it doesn’t help solve our problems in this field of study, which are:
a) Developing technologies to lower the price of electricity (and especially the price of transportation fuels.)
b) Predicting the climate and economic impact of GHG emissions

3 Allan Kiik { 04.23.12 at 9:43 am }

Eddies problem a) is easy to solve – see the picture, here:
http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/7786463/downfall.thtml
After getting rid of wind turbines, you can use natural gas (which now is used for stabilizing wind power) as a low cost transportation fuel.
About problem b) there’s growing amount of evidence for non-existent climate impact from GHG emissions and economic impact is determined solely by improved plant growth.
http://www.co2science.org/data/plant_growth/plantgrowth.php

4 Lionell Griffith { 04.23.12 at 10:13 am }

Eddie,

The point of this article is that the climate IS NOT BROKEN and man is NOT breaking it! A fundamental operative principle is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

We don’t have to understand how the weather system works in detail to know the alarmists supposed catastrophe is not going to happen. It is by the simple knowledge that we are here and that therefore it has not happened in the past 4.5 billion years of the existence of our planet. Stuff changes, use it or lose it, adapt or die, is simply the way things are, always have been, and always will be.

Your problem “a” is easy to solve: get the alarmists, the government, and the environmentalists out of the way and let a free people access, produce, develop, trade, and use the energy resources we have in massive abundance: oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric.

Your problem “b” is not a problem because there is no such thing as a greenhouse effect and green house gasses don’t exist. All you have is a complex non-linear, chaotic system called weather in which your so called GHG emissions have next to no effect beyond the positive ones in the article.

The real problem is the tendency of the political elite, of which you fantasize you are a member, to meddle, nanny, and dictate in an attempt to establish a top down command and control global society. THIS is what is broken. It does not work, never has worked, and never will work. That is if by working you mean a free and productive people creating an ever increasing amount of wealth and quality of life who freely trade values they produce for values others produce.

If, on the other hand, your goal is the destruction of civilization and of mankind, just keep doing what you are doing but I don’t call that working. Only freedom and respect for individual rights works. All else is a black hole of pestilence, poverty, death, and destruction.

5 Dan Kirk-Davidoff { 04.23.12 at 12:59 pm }

Might want to check the ascii files on sealevel.colorado.edu again- they haven’t replotted their figure yet, but sea level has started rising rather dramatically again as we come out of La Nina- we’re up by over 1 cm since the beginning of 2011.

6 cknappenberger { 04.23.12 at 1:37 pm }

Dan,

You are correct that on a closer look, it seems that the good folks at the University of Colorado responsible for the sea level data web site that I linked to need to update the x-axis on their chart so it extends beyond the end of 2011 since they actually report data into early 2012. And yes, the data indicate that the sea level is higher in early 2012 than it was in late 2011.

However, my point about a slowdown in the rate of sea level rise during the past decade is still valid. From 2002 through the end of the record, the rate of sea level rise was ~2.3mm/yr, and from the beginning of the satellite record (late 1992) through 2001, the rate was ~3.3mm/yr.

Clearly, a lot of short period (years to decades) variability is evident in the record, but I think it is fair to say that the rate of sea level rise has slowed in recent years–whether that slowdown reflects decadal variability or a decrease in the longer-term trend is unclear.

-Chip

7 Lionell Griffith { 04.23.12 at 1:49 pm }

Dan,

When the tide comes in, move unless you want to get wet. When the tide goes out, pick up the stranded shell fish and crabs. They are usually very good eating if found still alive.

Now if you can’t escape an ~8 mm rise per year, I suggest you need to learn how to move at least as fast as slime mold. It would also help to learn not to build on a flood plane or a salt flat. If you do, expect to get wet but not because people are diving SUV’s and all the ice is melting because of it.

Things change. Always have and always will. Get used to it. Learn, adjust, adapt or die. It is that simple.

Trying to stop the future is futile. It will happen no matter how much you fear it. The sky is not falling. Things don’t go bump in the night. There is no monster under your bed. It is all a figment of your fevered imagination. Deal with it and get over it. Grow up!

8 Earth Day 2012: Top 10 Positive Climate Developments | Watts Up With That? { 04.23.12 at 2:00 pm }

[...] by Chip Knappenberger on Master Resource [...]

9 Bill Yarber { 04.23.12 at 3:16 pm }

Eddie:

You haven’t been paying attention. Use a 60 year sine curve (30 warming, 30 cooling) and superimpose a 0.6C/century positive trend and you will reproduce 80+% of the temperature fluctuations over the past 160 years. You don’t need CO2 concentrations. You need solar cycles and ocean cycles (ENSO, PDO, AMO, etc) to explain why a 60 year sine curver is so representative of Earth’s temperatures. The positive linear trend is due to the warming from the end of the LIA.

Beyond the last 160 years, you have to factor in some of the 200 and 1,000 year fluctuations identified in geologic and ice core records. Those still need to be better understood.

Skeptics do not deny that the Earth has warmed since the LIA ended 160 years ago, we challenge the theory that CO2 has anything to do with that warming.

Bill

10 David Appell { 04.23.12 at 5:30 pm }

Also, smoking reduces the risk of having to undergo knee replacement surgery:
http://www.livescience.com/15115-5-health-benefits-smoking-disease.html

11 David Appell { 04.23.12 at 5:44 pm }

Regarding #8: References to co2science.org are immediately suspect…. You should look around. For example:

“Global scale climate–crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming,” David B Lobell and Christopher B Field 2007 Environ. Res. Lett.
http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/2/1/014002

“Biogeochemical and ecological feedbacks in grassland responses to warming, Zhuoting Wu et al, Nature Climate Change (2012)
http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/2/1/014002

12 Eddie Devere { 04.23.12 at 5:51 pm }

I think you all are missing my point.
You are all entitled to your opinions.
My point is that if you want to convince other people of your opinions (as far as climate modeling and associated public policy), then you need to develop a detailed model and validate the model.
It easy to scapegoat an enemy (those greenies who want to take your money). Scapegoating has always been easy.
It’s harder to actually develop a model of the climate that actually predicts future climate.
Bill, you can’t just magically add in “0.6 C/century positive trend” without explaining why there would be a “0.6 C/century positive trend.” If you have a working and validated model of the climate, write it up in a paper and submit it to a journal. (There is no conspiracy against working&validated models in academia. You might even win an award if your model helps predict future climate.)

Lionell, you like to state all the time that there is no problem of GHG emissions. Do you have a model that can predict future climate? Do you have a model that can predict the economic impact of GHG emissions? Has your model been validated?
If not, you should focus your time on validating the model in your head rather than stating it over and over again.

What I’m saying is that I sympathize with your arguments (there has been excessive over reach from climate alarmists), but if you want to go mainstream and actually convince people in mainstream America, then you need to do your homework, i.e. develop and validate a working model of the climate.

13 David Appell { 04.23.12 at 5:53 pm }

Regarding #4: See the just published

“World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0-2000), 1955-2010,” S. Levitus et al, GRL (in press)
http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/pip/2012GL051106.shtml

(Ocean heat change is the most best indicator of an energy imbalance such as AGW.) The apparent “slow down” in sea level rise in the last 10 years is a manifestation of a strong La Nina in 2010:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-262

and, sure enough, as the current La Nina is ending sea-level is back on its upward trend:
http://www.aviso.oceanobs.com/en/news/ocean-indicators/mean-sea-level/

http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_hist_last_15.html

http://ibis.grdl.noaa.gov/SAT/SeaLevelRise/LSA_SLR_timeseries_global.php

http://sealevel.colorado.edu/

14 cknappenberger { 04.23.12 at 5:57 pm }

David (#10),

My last Master Resource article “Is the EPA Endangering Public Health and Welfare by Attempting to Mitigate Extreme Weather?” took a look at topic like your smoking/knee surgery and showed that along with high heat (and the risk of dying) comes an almost autonomous adaptation. So that the more experience we have with extreme weather events, the better we become at dealing with them. So much so that the result may be a *net* benefit–rather than a minor offshoot like your knee surgery/smoking link.

-Chip

15 David Appell { 04.23.12 at 6:17 pm }

And along the lines of Eddie Devere’s comment, would anyone here honestly not have scorned Wallace Broecker’s 1975 projection (Science magazine) that 2010 would be about 0.75 C warmer?
http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/files/2009/10/broeckerglobalwarming75.pdf

Yet surface temperatures are now about 0.6 – 0.7 C warmer (depending on one’s dataset).

The data show that climate sensitivity, which is almost certainly (*) bounded below by the transient climate sensitivity, is at least 2.1 C:
http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2012/03/better-way-to-calculate-climate.html

(*) It’s possible that some negative feedback like aerosols or clouds might reduce S_at_equilibrium to be below S_transient, but counting on it would be foolish, especially as fossil fuel aerosols are an undesirable thing in their own right and hopefully (and probably) will eventually be eliminated.

16 Lionell Griffith { 04.23.12 at 6:40 pm }

Eddie,

The models you base your fears upon have failed. The temperature does not track CO2 in ALL time scales except the brief decades were it does track – sort of. Yet you still project that we must suppress technological civilization by eliminating the use of fossil fuels based upon your almost total ignorance of climate drivers. You fear the future because you don’t understand the past. I embrace the future because I and others like me create it.

Remember this, a model no matter how good is not the thing. The thing is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. A model is an approximation at best. Push an approximation too hard and it will fail 100 percent of the time. The thing is what it is 100 percent of the time without exception. The take away from this is to study the thing rather than models.

I do not rely on a gaggle of self appointed rent seeking so called scientists. I rely on the self evident fact that we are here and have a civilization. That means it was and is and will continue to be possible. The same mechanism that brought it into existence the first place can sustain it if it is allowed to function. That mechanism is the mind of man being free to understand and use his life and his environment to his advantage. This is the only thing that has ever worked and the only thing that can ever work. Dictates and oppression never works except to prohibit and destroy. That is not working.

You can take your fears and your fantasies of models and insert them where you have your head crammed. Wake up and look about you and discover there is a universe out there. It is a universe that can be understood and used to great advantage. It is to be respected but never feared.

17 Paul Nevins { 04.23.12 at 9:54 pm }

I can not understand Eddie why you think we need our own models. All of the existing models are failures. Shouldn’t we instead realize that at present climate may be something we don’t understand well enough to model. Just because I don’t have a correct model doesn’t mean the incorrect ones are anything other than GIGO. Science isn’t supposed to be about models it is supposed to be about unbiased data. Which brings up another point, why in the world would we assume that sea level rise was good data when there is so much corruption in other climate data sets.

18 Mike Dubrasich { 04.23.12 at 9:57 pm }

Yes. Longer growing seasons, more rainfall, more bioproductivity, more food for man and beast, more biodiversity, fewer and weaker tropical cyclonic storms — global warming is a good thing.

WARMER IS BETTER.

We should be grateful, regardless of the reason for the warming.

19 Brian H { 04.23.12 at 10:22 pm }

Eddie;
You seem to implicitly accept, or worry that others accept, the Trenberth Twist: the positing of the AGW/GHG hypothesis as the NULL — the default. Unfortunately, it has never run the gauntlet of offering falsification tests (feasible observations and experiments) which would be incompatible with it — and then having those actually checked. It futhermore engages in Omitted Variable Fraud, essentially prestidigitally moving all the variance from real “drivers” onto the one chosen to be “forcing”.

The NULL hypothesis (H0) is that the full suite of natural processes and variance that has always operated continues to do so. The AGW hypothesizers must disprove that, and the best they can manage is computer models that exclude strong drivers from the get-go. Fail.

20 MostlyHarmless { 04.23.12 at 11:43 pm }

Eddie;:

“It’s easier to poke holes in other people’s climate models than it is to make and to validate one’s own climate model.”

Indeed it is easier, and it’s all that’s needed, if there are holes to be poked. In Nazi Germany, hundreds of physicists and mathematicians laboured away to prove Einstein wrong. As he said himself, it was unnecessary – “It would take just one paper”.

By the way, no climate model has been “validated”, and there’s a key letter involved in the discussion of climate models, the letter “s”. There are many models, and no single model is any where near accurate. The modellers (at least the ones who behave as scientists should, and avoid advocacy) themselves admit it. Nothing wrong in that, truth triumphs over hype anyday.

The disconnect comes in averaging model output to get a result. All the models produce different output, so no more than one model can possibly be accurate. The averaging results in that accurate model (which doesn’t actually exist) output disappearing into the averaging process. The result is rubbish.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with models, if used as originally intended they increase knowledge about particular mechanisms in climate.

Checking if they can hindcast is not validation. I can get the answer 2 by dividing 6 by 3 or multiplying 6 by 0.5. The answer’s the same, but if the process should involve division, then the latter method is invalid. Models are “tweaked” to attempt hindcasting, and it’s impossible to use the same parameters to hindcast different periods.

David Appell:

“Biogeochemical and ecological feedbacks in grassland responses to warming”, Zhuoting Wu et al, Nature Climate Change (2012)

They omitted (of necessity, not criticising them) a key component of their artificially created “warmer climate”, and that’s CO2. CO2 which has been shown to mitigate adverse effects of warming on plants. Check it out.

“Regarding #8: References to co2science.org are immediately suspect…. You should look around.”

You mean that the papers they review there are all suspect? Like several you referenced?

21 Annigel { 04.23.12 at 11:45 pm }

@12 No I think it is you missing the point. In a post that basically says climate models are broken, we do not need to create a working climate model to prove that existing models are broken. We compare the output of existing models with the real world, find that the output does not conform to real world data and prove models don’t work. That is how science is done. You don’t prove something doesn’t work by making it work.

It is the position of many that modelling of a complex chaotic system with hundreds of currently unknown and very poorly understood feedbacks is not possible with any measure of success no matter how much you tweak the positive feedback multipliers of some of the values. after all GIGO Garbage In Garbage Out.

You can sum up current models by saying.
1. Tell model that CO2 is a massive positive feedback for temperature.
2. Give it any data you like. the values don’t matter
3. Get a result that tells you CO2 is having a massive positive feedback effect.
The models all point at CO2 not necessarily because CO2 is the culprit, but because we told all the models that CO2 is the culprit.

22 Len { 04.24.12 at 12:37 am }

Climate models have proved, at least now and for the foreseeable future, that future climates cannot be predicted. Real scientific research is needed, at a reduced level from global warming research, to advance our understanding of the physical sustems controlling climate. The recent era of conspiracy, fighting transparancy, and “science” by press release has done imeasurable harm to all science. Therefore, this article is entirely justifiable and a much, much truer statement of the past, present, and probable future climate that all the alarmist Lysinkoism. Thank you.

23 Philip Bradley { 04.24.12 at 12:41 am }

A neutral feedback isn’t a feedback at all.

“enhancement of our energy and other technologies, has the net result of increasing public health and welfare. ”

I read that as ‘enhancements’ resulting from green subsidies etc. Something I’d strongly disagree with. These subsidies have been a collosal waste of money, with many unintended negative consequences. Such as the biofuel subsidies which resulted in vast tracts of SE Asian forests being cut down to grow palm oil.

24 ferd berple { 04.24.12 at 12:54 am }

CO2 economics is all about getting consumers to pay the cost of closing factories in the industrialized west where costs are high and moving them to the 3rd world where costs are low. Carbon trading doesn’t reduce carbon, it only moves where it is produced. Along with it goes the jobs. However, the carbon returns on the wind. The jobs do not.

25 rbradley { 04.24.12 at 4:14 am }

I would like to thank everyone for these comments.

It really helps the debate to have David Appell and Dan Kirk-Davidoff provide links to research that Chip can then review. Thank you in particular.

On the ‘skeptic model,’ I have been told that the microphysics of climate is far too complex to model period. So we can’t have ‘our’ model beat ‘their’ model. Their oversimplified model must be exposed by theoretical disputes and by empirical anomolies.

This (imperfect) analogy may have flaws, but today, and perhaps for more decades, the climate can no more be modeled than the economy can be modeled.

26 Chip Knappenberger: Earth Day 2012: Top 10 Positive Climate Developments | JunkScience.com { 04.24.12 at 7:22 am }

[...] MasterResource Share this:PrintEmailMoreStumbleUponTwitterFacebookDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Climate Change and tagged climate hysteria, dioxycarbophobia, PlayStation® climatology, weather superstition. Bookmark the permalink. ← Obama Administration’s Energy Policy A Boon To Petrotyrants [...]

27 del { 04.24.12 at 8:24 am }

This Eddie guy keeps talking about models.
Let’s talk about observation. Nobody can predict the future. There is no evidence that can be derived from any model, because whatever is being modeled is only a simulation and has not actually happened. Evidence is what HAS happened, not what WILL. One can only prove an equation in this situation… That doesn’t translate much to reality, unless one had every possible observation dating back to, let’s say 4 billion B.C. Junk in=Junk out.. C’mon folks, models are only good out to about 2-4 weeks until the predictive value gets below 50 percent

28 Jon Boone { 04.24.12 at 11:40 am }

Although I can sympathize with Eddie DeVere’s concerns, I enjoyed the commentary of Annigel, Mostly Harmless, Len, and del in their responses to them. Those who expose the limitations of a scientific proposition are in no way obligated to propose a workable alternative: all they need do is show how the model does not meet with observation.

All might benefit from reading the chapter, What is Reality, in Stephen Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design. In it, Hawking discusses the nature of model dependent realism: “the idea that a physical theory or world picture is a model (generally of a mathematical nature) and a set of rules that connect the elements of the model to observations,” thus providing a framework to interpret modern science.

He goes on to say that a model is good if it:

1. Is elegant
2. Contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements
3. Agrees with and explains all existing observations
4. Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not born out.

The climate of the earth seems incredibly complex and complicated, made more so because it does not operate in a closed system and is enabled by nonlinear processes of which we are at best only dimly aware. Climatology is a nascent enterprise; its practitioners, such as they are, should be humbled by their lack of knowledge, which is far behind the facts known about such recent developments as plate tectonics. Just getting to know the dance routines of El Nino/La Nina should be daunting enough.

Betting the fortunes of the earth’s people on dubious claims about coming climate catastrophe, in the process subverting their quest to achieve modern standards of living seems like something out of dystopea, something akin to what Peter Sellers and Stanley Kubrik did with Dr. Strangelove…. At the very least, alarmist climate models are not good models.

29 David Appell { 04.25.12 at 8:55 am }

Lionell, who ever suggested that the temperature should track CO2 in ALL time scales?

And what temperature do you mean? It’s a scalar function of 3 space variables and one time variable. So you need to be specific.

30 David Appell { 04.25.12 at 9:05 am }

rbradley wrote:
…but today, and perhaps for more decades, the climate can no more be modeled than the economy can be modeled.

I don’t believe this (to first order — the answer is complex), but let’s assume for the moment it’s true.

Then, while it may not be possible to model climate to project every twist and turn of climate, science does know this with near certainty: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and more of it creates more of a greenhouse effect. This is based on 150 years of spectroscopy, quantum physics, and radiative transfer theory.

Science also knows, just about as well as it knows anything, that putting a huge amount of carbon into the atmosphere will cause significant warming. It’s happened before (the PETM), it’s happened on Venus, and that hypothesis (if you will) explains observed phenomena in ways that no other hypothesis does.

So putting a thousand or two or three gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere, as we seem poised to do BAU, is going to cause warming. It might be 2 C, which would be serious enough, but it might be 4 C. It might be more. There may well be things no one even expects, and it’s unlikely they’re all “good.”

This knowledge alone is sufficient to begin deviating from BAU.

31 Lionell Griffith { 04.25.12 at 11:08 am }

David,

Stop dropping context. All that proves is that you are continuing to be dishonest in what you call science. Your goal is not to understand or teach but to confuse and misdirect. I usually don’t play with such as you but I will make an exception in this case.

If temperature, any actually and honestly measured environmental temperature you wish, does not track CO2 at all time scales, CO2 is not a primary driver of temperature as you alarmists want to pretend. If it tracks the temperature for what is only moments of geological time, it is not even a minor driver of temperature. The association is simply accidental rather than causal. You need to stop inverting cause and effect.

You can take your fantasy of a global green house and so called green house effect and shove it where the sun don’t shine. The atmosphere cools the globe and distributes the absorbed heat more uniformly over the globe than without it. There is no glass ceiling as in a real greenhouse and space has no temperature. It is simply source and sink of EM radiation. Hence the the earth, atmosphere, space system is not even close to an actual greenhouse.

An actual greenhouse works because it constrains convection. The atmosphere cools because it is an efficient heat pipe between the surface and outer space. Those are entirely two different mechanisms for which “greenhouse” only properly applies to one – an actual green house.

32 rbradley { 04.25.12 at 11:46 am }

David:

Good points, but it is very complex feedback effects that are the difference between positive warming and problematic warming. Neutral feedbacks leave us with about one-third of the climate sensitivity that the IPCC believes is real-world and best guess, right?

From the beginning, working with Gerald North of Texas A&M, I always heard climate models were ‘a decade away’ from being believable. I also heard that the model’s ‘fixed relative humidity’ physics spit out the result of high warming from high positive feedback effects. I was told that this ‘assumption’ was really needed to allow the computers do run given the complexity, and that very complicated cloud microphysics like Lindzen, Spencer, and others believe were problematic to insert as equations in models. Hence no skeptic model.

I will leave this to Chip and you and others to help me with if I am off base.

33 Eddie Devere { 04.25.12 at 4:37 pm }

I am a proponent of using greenhouse gases to warm Mars atmosphere (see a recent post on my website.)
I would never proposed doing such warming unless I was 99.9% certain about the effects of greenhouse gases on the Martian atmosphere. Before heating up the atmosphere, I would make sure that the model I was using was validated.

I think that people keep missing my basic point. We each have a model in our head of what’s going to happen to the future climate as we add greenhouse gases. For some people, that model is simple (i.e. nothing will happen…the climate will continue to be variable.) For some people, that model is disastrous (climate alarmists…of which I am not one.) For other people, that model is some place in between (such as Chip and myself.)
But the point is: none of our models have been validated, and because of that, we all need a little bit of humility..including myself. I don’t have a validated model of the future climate, even though I think that it’s really important to us to develop one.
The problem I saw with the original article was that it was not respectful of Chip to write an article on Earth Day that only discusses the positive aspects of global warming. (Just as it would not be respectful for a global warming alarmist to only list the negative impacts of climate change on the Fourth of July. It misses the point of the holiday.) For some people, Earth Day is a holiday for us to remember to focus on life forms other than just humans., i.e. to lose the human-centered world-view for a day.

For some people who are firm believers of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, this might be hard to comprehend. For those of us who respect Ayn Rand, but don’t believe that the overall goal of life is to pursue one’s one self-interest, we want to study the impact of our actions on other people and other life forms. This includes studying the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the human economy as well as its impact on other life forms on this planet.

34 David Appell { 04.26.12 at 11:39 pm }

Lionel: I don’t discuss with people who accuse those they disagree with of dishonesty.

35 David Appell { 04.27.12 at 11:06 am }

rbradley wrote:
Good points, but it is very complex feedback effects that are the difference between positive warming and problematic warming. Neutral feedbacks leave us with about one-third of the climate sensitivity that the IPCC believes is real-world and best guess, right?

Yes, but feedbacks happen. There are already signs of them — an increase in humidity, a melting Arctic that’s decreasing ocean albedo, some signs of increased methane emissions from the Arctic. There are good physical reasons to expect all of these.

Counting on there not being feedbacks is playing a very dangerous game. And with BAU and with China, India, etc. coming online in the coming decades, we could well quadruple preindustrial atmospheric CO2 levels by the end of the century, which would be delta T of about 2*(1.2 C) without any feedbacks, and isn’t that bad enough already? It’s 4.3 F.

36 David Appell { 04.27.12 at 11:11 am }

Jon Boone wrote:
Those who expose the limitations of a scientific proposition are in no way obligated to propose a workable alternative: all they need do is show how the model does not meet with observation.

This is true in science — for example, if you’re trying to detect the Higgs boson. But the big twist of the climate change problem is that its origin springs from science, but the problem is more than scientific because it has huge implications for society, in a way the Higgs boson doesn’t. So it is completely fair to ask those who claim there are problem with the science what *their* science says.

37 Chip Knappenberger { 04.27.12 at 11:44 am }

David (#35).

A quadrupling of the pre-industrial level of atmospheric CO2 levels would lead to signficant climate change and significant challenges.

I don’t think that we’ll get there by the end of this century, but, as you mention, emissions in China are surging and you’ve got think that India is not going to be that far behind. So, without significant changes to the carbon intensity of the energy production, a quadrupling sometime in the mid-to-late 22nd century certainly seems like a good bet.

So, our goal needs to be to reduce the carbon intensity of energy production (especially in China and India). Already, new technologies, such as fracking, are leading in that direction. But, we’ll eventually need others as well. I don’t know how they will be acheived, but I don’t think that penalizing the American public (to any large degree) until an adequate solution is arrived upon is necessarily the best way to go.

-Chip

38 Jon Boone { 04.27.12 at 3:24 pm }

David Appell asks, “So it is completely fair to ask those who claim there are problems with the science what *their* science says?”

Answer: It is fair to ask but unreasonable to expect a good answer. As I see it, all people concerned with the issue are engaging in the “same science.” For me, for example, the knowledge base required for substantive prescriptive responses to current notions of long range climate performance is so limited, untrustworthy, even primitive, that calls for massive political and economic action echo the cries of Chicken Little. If knowledge of the discipline remains provisional, substantially inchoate, then the responsible answer to your question is, “I don’t know.” Bullshiting to ratchet up a sense of melodramatic urgency in order to get grants or sell media is more akin to Madison Avenue than it is to a fair take on what the data actually show.

Nonetheless, as I’ve often stated here and elsewhere, we don’t properly know what throwing 30 billion + tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually will do. As you say, there may be lots of “bad,” perhaps too much, along with any good. In my book, though, this is non trivial behavior in ways that should invoke the precautionary principle. We therefore should be looking for responsible, FUNCTIONAL means of mitigating this behavior in ways consistent with enhancing our modernity. Sooner than later, we should continue on the path of reducing our carbon combustion practices that began in earnest in the nineteenth century as we transitioned from wood and whales to gas and oil.

39 Mark Heslep { 04.27.12 at 4:26 pm }

Eddie: “Do you have a model that can explain Bullets#3&#4? Can you explain why the rate of sea level rise is decreasing, or why temperature increases are less than predicted by previous climate models? ”

Sure, the standard ‘luke warm’ model: a doubling or CO2 produces a degree C or so of warming (which has widespread scientific support), but all the positive feedback effects (about which there is wide disagreement) are mostly bunk. Or perhaps some of the negative feed backs (clouds) should not have been discounted.

40 David Appell { 04.27.12 at 8:19 pm }

Chip,

But if you admit emitting carbon is bad — as you seem to, since you wrote “our goal needs to be to reduce the carbon intensity of energy production (especially in China and India),” then why shouldn’t affluent Americans already be starting to reduce their carbon emissions by paying the true price of burning carbon, instead of just the market price?

Perhaps all Americans cannot currently afford to pay this, but surely many can, perhaps even most.

And how else will an “adequate solution” (in your words) happen unless carbon is priced at its full price, instead of the subsidized price it currently enjoys due to its negative effects (climate and otherwise) being ignored and so its disposal costs nothing? Such a price will incentivize the R&D needed for noncarbon technologies.

David

41 David Appell { 04.27.12 at 8:26 pm }

Mark, the decreased rate of sea level rise does not look permanent (and if it was, almost all climate scientists would be amazed and disconcerted). Recent data (CSIRO, CU, AVISO, NOAA) shows it back on its old trendline, or nearly so:
http://sealevel.colorado.edu/content/2011rel4-global-mean-sea-level-time-series-seasonal-signals-retained

What seems to have happened is that the big La Nina in 2010-11 took a lot of water out of the oceans and put it on land. That land water is now draining back into the oceans. Here is a nice video clip of Josh Willis explaining this:
http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2012/04/miscellaneous-stuff-of-varying-interest.html

42 David Appell { 04.27.12 at 8:30 pm }

Jon: Thanks for your reply, which mostly I agree with (and the differences aren’t relevant to this discussion).

– David

43 Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That? { 04.29.12 at 9:31 pm }
44 rbradley { 05.01.12 at 7:56 am }

Chip:

You say: “A quadrupling of the pre-industrial level of atmospheric CO2 levels would lead to signficant climate change and significant challenges. ”

The warming from 2x is the same increment we would get from 4x (not 3x), right? The log (not linear) effect is good news, in this regard.

And there are benefits to the higher CO2, not only costs…. The key is how we can use the positives to offset the negatives, since we do not seem to be going nuclear as would be required to significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

45 Brian H { 05.01.12 at 7:58 pm }

rbradley;
Suffice it to say that the more CO2 goes up, the less difference it makes to temperature, and the more green plants like it. (In fact, CO2 levels are already too high to have any impact on temperature to speak of, and plants have greedily eaten themselves into a near-famine. Time for the two-legged ones to set things right by freeing up as much of that trapped treasure as possible!)

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