Saturday, October 10, 2009

Consensus on Global Warming?

(updated and moved to the top)

But I thought the science was settled. There was consensus.

A noted geologist who coauthored the New York Times bestseller Sugar Busters has turned his attention to convincing Congress that carbon dioxide emissions are good for the Earth and don't cause global warming. Leighton Steward is on Capitol Hill this week armed with studies and his book Fire, Ice and Paradise in a bid to show senators working on the energy bill that the carbon dioxide cap-and-trade scheme could actually hurt the environment by reducing CO2 levels.

Perhaps Mr. Steward didn't get the memo.

Update, 10/10/09: The BBC asks, What Happened To Global Warming?

This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

So what on Earth is going on?


Ellen K said...

Congress is too emotionally invested in the belief system surrounding Global Warming to change horses midstream. If they admit GW is a fallacy, their whole plan falls apart. They cannot allow that to happen because it will interfere with their socialist agenda. Cap and Trade along with healthcare are the centerpoints of this agenda.

allen (in Michigan) said...

There's no special investment in global warming. It's just that all expansions of power are inherently attractive to politicians which is to say, attractive to us.

The rejection of some policy that'll increase the power of government is the exceptional case given human propensities and the only way to prevent those expansions is to let our representatives know that those expansions aren't what we want.

Trouble is, that requires a more or less constant attention to the goings on of government and that's a great deal to expect of the citizens of a wealthy nation who have some many more entertaining calls on our attention.

Anonymous said...

I just don't see how you get away from global warming without violating the basic laws of thermodynamics.

Sunlight hits the earth. Some of it is reflected back into the atmosphere, more of less depending on the albedo.

Carbon dioxide blocks infrared rays from escaping into space.

We have increased the levels of carbon dioxide by over a hundred ppm in the last hundred years or so.

How do you increase the heat trapping ability of the atmosphere without warming the earth?

Does that not violate the law of conservation of energy?

That's the way I explain it to my students. Somebody tell me where I am wrong.


Darren said...

There's more to the process than carbon dioxide. Water vapor, for starters.

socalmike said...

Richard - I too am a science teacher, and here's what I tell them. The only way that more sunlight can be trapped is if there is more sunlight. When sunlight is reflected off of clouds, less sunlight gets to the atmosphere.

We are in a cycle of low sunspot activity, which means there is also less solar wind hitting the earth. This solar wind blocks cosmic particles from hitting the earth. With more cosmic particles, there are more nuclei for making clouds. More clouds equals less sunlight getting to the atmosphere. Which means lower temps. This theory was developed by Svensmark in the 80s or 90s, and is looking to be pretty accurate.

You might want to check out some websites like Watts Up With That, ICECAP, Climate Audit, and others. They look into the entire scientific explanations and don't accept the "consensus". And tell your students, as I do, to look at ALL of the evidence, not just the stuff that the MSM prints.

ChrisA said...


You left off the article's conclusion...

One thing is for sure. It seems the debate about what is causing global warming is far from over. Indeed some would say it is hotting up.

I don't know about the Sacramento area, but in the People's Republic of Boulder the conclusion approaches blasphemy.

Anonymous said...

Socialmike, I certainly agree with you that one should look at many different sources of information.

But where are these lower temperatures you are talking about? This summer, June thru August, had the warmest ocean surface temperatures on record and was the third warmest for combined global land and ocean temperatures.

You just can't escape the fact that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere blocks the escape of heat and that heat will be conserved.


allen (in Michigan) said...

You're wrong Richard in your assumption that it's all just so simple - increased CO2 = hotter Earth.

It's an appealingly simple hypothesis and demonstrably wrong. Atmospheric CO2 trails increases in temperature making increasing levels of CO2 a result of global temperature increases rather then a cause.

Of course the real debate isn't scientific. It's political.

The real debate is whether some people have the right to dictate to their fellow human beings by virtue of their self-proclaimed superiority. That's why the debate has moved off the scientific stage to the political/public and why it's gotten so vituperative.

If you're really a teacher then you're already familiar with the dynamic that underlies the debate. You see it every day in school among kids who are trying to assert their superiority over other kids by dint of their marvelous fashion sense, their athletic accomplishments, their disdain of convention or whatever their particular, perceived strength might be.

It's also easy to differentiate between a scientific debate and social jousting. Science is hard work and from time to time results in the humiliating but inescapable realization that your fondly-held beliefs are wrong. If it isn't science you're interested in then you go in with an invulnerable assumption of correctness because what you're really trying to prove isn't whether human activity is resulting in global warming but that you're far more insightful then those who don't subscribe to that belief.

Anonymous said...

1998 was the warmest year on record, driven by the fiercest El Nino ever. Warmest years in recorded history, in order:
1998, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2001, 1997, 2008.

To say that the earth is cooling is beyond reason.


PeggyU said...

... and then of course there's the argument that other planets in the solar system have concurrently increased in temperature, pointing to an external culprit.

Ellen K said...

From what I have read the sea readings are actually lower than they have been in previous years, especially in the south Pacific. But in the real world, it's October and there's 17 inches of snow in Nebraska and some of the earliest snow ever in Denver. It's going to be hard to push through Cap and Trade that will necessarily raise the price of heating oil if the Rust Belt-including Chicago-has a long, cold winter.

Anonymous said...

"We are in a cycle of low sunspot activity, which means there is also less solar wind hitting the earth. This solar wind blocks cosmic particles from hitting the earth. With more cosmic particles, there are more nuclei for making clouds. "

So, conversely, a high sunspot activity means more solar wind, blocking more particles, meaning less clouds? That is, it should be getting way hotter with increasing sunspot number.

This graph does not seem to agreee.

Anonymous said...

Ellen, from AOAA

The June-August worldwide ocean surface temperature was also the warmest on record at 62.5 degrees F, 1.04 degrees F above the 20th century average of 61.5 degrees F.
The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the June-August season was 61.2 degrees F, which is the third warmest on record and 1.06 degrees F above the 20th century average of 60.1 degrees F.


Anonymous said...

That should be NOAA. Sorry about the typo.


socalmike said...

Richard and Anonymous - you are totally proving my point about checking ALL the evidence - you're graph from Stanford is a great example of how one can construct a graph to make it show whatever you want it to show, regardless of the evidence.

Check this out:

This shows many different research papers looking into the sunspot - global temp correlation.

Richard, if you really teach science, you should know about looking at ALL the evidence. If you do, and I certainly am not criticizing you, you will find that there really is no consensus about climate change.

Besides, the climate is ALWAYS changing.

Anonymous said...

"you're graph from Stanford is a great example of how one can construct a graph to make it show whatever you want it to show, regardless of the evidence."

If you're accusing me of taking it out of context to prove a point, here's your context.

You say that cosmic rays drastically affect the weather, but this and this say the contrary, that it has not been very correlated.

By the way, is Stanford's graph wrong? You still haven't explained the dissonance between the graph and your theory.

Are you also saying that Stanford and just about every other major university is wrong about global warming?

Darren said...

Appeal to Authority is a logical fallacy.

When all those universities explain why Mars' ice caps are receding in the absence of SUVs....

Anonymous said...

Martian summer? What have you been hearing?

socalmike said...

Anonymous - did you read Svensmark paper on sunspots-cosmic rays-clouds? If you would read that paper, you'll understand what I am saying, and how the evidence suggests that Svensmark did good science.

Putting all kinds of lines on a graph with all different kinds of scales can show anything. The IPCC and Al Gore have been guilty of that for some time.

I spend a lot of time with my students discussing scientific method. Thinking that the science is "settled" when there is much evidence contrary is not good science.

The bottom line is this: real science is about looking at ALL of the evidence and basing an explanation on the data presented. Since there are so many papers out there that say a lot of different things on both sides, I'd say that there's no consensus.