Sunday, July 16, 2006

Global Warming Doc. pt 1

A few years ago there was a commercial on TV. It showed a very old man sitting with legs folded, a long beard, holding a cup of yogurt and crying. Someone sticks a microphone in his face and says something like "Oh ancient one, why are you crying?" He responds "For 125 years I have been eating that other yogurt."

Yes it was a cutsie-pie commercial but when one sees something like that one should try to look upon it with at least a slightly critical eye. You might even say if something had kept you alive for 125 years, there is no way you would switch. But is that a valid line of reasoning?

It's obvious that the commercial did not claim that the 'other' yogurt kept him alive for 125 years. That is an assumption I made based on two side by side facts, a certain brand of yogurt and longevity. Should I have inferred that one caused the other? Of course not. There was no direct connection, only circumstantial evidence.

That is what Mike's Eyes were looking at tonight, July 16th, as I watched the Discovery Channel's documentary "Global Warming: What You Need To Know" hosted by Tom Brokaw, a lot of circumstantial evidence but no direct connection as I had hoped. Nevertheless, I settled in and focused a critical eye on the major talking points which are in angle brackets. My comments follow those.

>Global warming is the gradual rise of the earth's surface temperature, thought to be caused by increased emissions of greenhouse gases (the "greenhouse effect"), specifically from human activities.<

I would agree with that, especially the phrase "thought to be caused" for that is where the state of the science is. Not proved but thought to be caused by man. In April of this year 60 scientists sent a letter to the Canadian PM asking for a review of the science behind the Kyoto treaty. They said in part:

"The study of global climate change is, as you have said, an "emerging science," one that is perhaps the most complex ever tackled. It may be many years yet before we properly understand the Earth's climate system."--from National Post article Via the Enviro-Truth website.

>The sun provides the Earth with the heat it needs to support life, but a drop of only 1/10th of 1% of the amount of the sun's energy reaching the earth can spawn an ice age.<

If this is true, and since ice ages mean death while warmings do not, shouldn't we be trying to warm the planet in some way so as to at least postpone the next ice age a little longer? Just a thought.

>The average temperature in the U.S. in 2005 was almost one degree above the 1895-2004 mean, which will make 2005 one of the 20 warmest years on record for the country. This was from preliminary data from NOAA<

What is meant here by "on record"? Does that mean 1895-2004 as previously mentioned? If we go back to 1895, that is only 15-45 years after the estimated end of the Little Ice Age 1850-1880. So naturally the planet is going to warm as it pulls out of an ice age with subsequent years being warmer than previous ones. Each new high of course a new 'record.'

>Of the top 20 hottest years on record, 19 have occured since 1980.<

This is probably true and not surprising. The planet started warming around 1880, cooled from 1940 to 1975 and has been warming since 1976. That's 30 years. So it's no mystery that 19 of the 20 hottest years occured then.

>Computer models suggest that average global surface temperatures will rise between 2.5 deg F and 10.4 deg F by the end of this century, a rate much larger and faster than any climatic changes over the past 10,000 years.< From NAS.

This I take issue with because I don't think the science has evolved enough where we can attribute predictive powers to computers just yet. They are not crystal balls and cannot see into the future. I think the temptation for some scientists to treat models as an automatic form of knowledge is great. Senarios coming out of computers are not hard evidence and should not be treated as such. In my op-ed "Models of Doubt" at Opinion Editorials.com I wrote in part:

**At the website of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) their section on global warming said "There is much need to refine our understanding of key natural forcing mechanisms of the climate, including solar irradiance changes, in order to reduce uncertainty in our projections of future climate change." (3)

One paragraph later "Climate models are constantly improving based on both our understanding and the increase in computer power, though by definition, a computer model is a simplification and simulation of reality, meaning that it is an approximation of the climate system."**

Yes the models are getting better but we've only been using the technology we have for about 35 years now. That is just not long enough to accumulate sufficient knowledge about our climate system. New info and studies are coming in every day virtually faster than modelers can feed it into their computers. The botton line, we don't know enough about our climate to give computers predictive powers of any import.

>There was the claim that many scientists believe that temps are rising so fast, the earth's climate may reach a threshold--the tipping point--when there will be nothing we can do to 'undo' global warming.<

The words 'believe' and 'may' indicate pure conjecture and we need to treat that claim as such. In other words, ignore it. In my amaturish studies of climate change I have learned that the Earth has been warmer than now before and came back to ice.

At the website of Paleoclimatology is this: "So far we have had around 15 to 20 individual major advances and subsequent retreats of the ice field in our current glacial epoch. The last major advance of glacial ice peaked about 18,000 years ago and since that time the ice has generally been retreating (albeit with some short term interruptions)." So we've had 15 to 20 coolings followed by warmings. In other words, the climate works in cycles, back and forth like a pendulum. The small amount of CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere isn't going to stop this pendulum. According to The National Center for Public Policy Research's website The Global Warming Information Center:

"There are many indications that carbon dioxide does not play a significant role in global warming. Richard Lindzen, Ph.D., professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the 11 scientists who prepared a 2001 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on climate change, estimates that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would produce a temperature increase of only one degree Celsius. In fact, clouds and water vapor appear to be far more important factors related to global temperature. According to Dr. Lindzen and NASA scientists, clouds and water vapor may play a significant role in regulating the Earth's temperature to keep it more constant."

The documentary devoted time to presenting anecdotes from around the world as evidence of global warming. Of course anecdotes are not proof of anything. At best their value is only that of circumstantial evidence. Regional events cannot and should not be extrapolated to the entire globe. Besides, these only show that the planet may be warming a bit, something I'm not disputing. They do not show that said warming is all man's fault. But lets focus on a few of these.

>In 1980, sea ice covered nearly 1.7 billion acres of the arctic, about the size of the United States. In the last two decades alone, the Arctic has lost an area roughly the size of Texas. If the melting continues at this rate, computer models predict that by 2060 there will be no ice at all during the Arctic summer.<

It's the last sentence: "If the melting continues at this rate.." Is there any evidence the warming will continue? No. Just those future-predicting computer models. Is there any evidence the melting will eventually stop? Yes. The historical record.

It is true that the melting could keep going until all the ice on the planet is gone. But so what? It has happened before and did not result in a cataclismic disaster for living things. From the Paleoclimatology website:

"For much of Earth's history, the world has been ice-free (even at the poles) but these iceless periods have been interrupted by several major glaciation periods (called glacial epochs) and we are in one now. Each glacial epoch consists of multiple advances and retreats of ice fields. These ice fields tend to wax and wane in approximate 100,000, 41,000, and 21,000 year cycles. Each advance of ice is popularly known in the press as an "ice age" but it is important to note that these multiple events are just variations of the same glacial epoch. The retreat of ice during a glacial epoch is called an inter-glacial period and this is our PRESENT DAY CLIMATE system.."

>One hundred years ago, there were more than 150 glaciers at Glacier National Park in Montana. Today there are fewer that 30.<

Well, 100 years ago was 20 to 50 years following the Little Ice Age so it stands to reason that as the planet warms up (from natural forcings) there will be fewer glaciers today than back then. Yes the planet is warming up ever so slightly. That's what it is supposed to do when coming out of a little ice age.

>The Patagonian glaciers at the Southern tip of South America have lost 10% of their ice in the last seven years.<

Again, anecdotes like this mean little. What happens regionally is not evidence of global happenings. So glaciers are melting. So what? Others are growing. From the editor of the Science and Technology Magazine, Laurence Hecht, is this article in which he says in part:

"Since 1980, there has been an advance of more than 55% of the 625 mountain glaciers under observation by the World Glacier Monitoring group in Zurich. (From 1926 to 1960, some 70-95% of these glaciers were in retreat.)"

According to Mr. Brokaw's logic, this should be evidence of global cooling. Of course it isn't and neither is warming of Patagonian glaciers evidence of global warming.

Also, the idea that this warming is "unprecedented" and faster than before is in error. The historical record is replete with evidence of sudden and abrupt climate change. From this NOAA website:

"Abrupt changes in climate can occur at many time scales, and while usually they are abrupt warming events, sudden cooling can occur as well."

To be continued.

2 comments:

Myrhaf said...

Interesting analysis, Mike. George Reisman puts up a lot of good stuff on environmentalism at his blog, too.

Looks to me like the environmentalists are trying to scare people into sacrificing for the collective. Sacrifice or destroy the planet!

If public schools taught children to think instead of indoctrinating them with New Leftist ideology for 12 years, the ecology movement would just be fringe fanatics and not as widespread as it is.

Mike N said...

I agree about the schooling 100%. I'll have to visit Reisman's blog more often.