Tuesday, November 10, 2009

October Was the Third Coldest On Record

Today we get yet another strange bit of data for the global warming crowd. This gives me an opportunity to address a related issue. Recently, a few of my global warming-related posts attracted some negative comments from an astronomer who studies climate on a planetary scale. These can be read here. Some of the highlights are as follows:

"Global warming is a serious issue, even for just a 1 degree rise of temperature. Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet is very worrisome as it most definitely will cause a rise in sea level, up to 7 meters. By some estimates, 1 meter rise in sea level is almost inevitable at this time. Consider, then, that 25% of the world's fertile growing regions are within 1 meter of sea level. Preventing 25% of our loss of food will take a huge effort and amount of money."

"On geological timescales (~400,000 yrs), yes the Earth does regulate climate. Solar luminosity (energy flux) has increased steadily since the formation of Earth yet the climate has been relatively constant. This is due to the Carbon-Silicate cycle which is controlled by biology and geology. So yes, in 400,000 the Earth should resolve whatever damage we cause now. But are you willing to wait that long? We need to do something now, as this issue will directly affect our children and grandchildren."

"I don't believe our planet will be 'destroyed' just that we are not being the best stewards of the resources and Earth God gave us. And we are causing ourselves undo harm. Ironically, the environmental movement was originally Republican and from Biblical teachings, I'd expect Christians to be the most staunch supporters of being 'green'. Materialism (which is a huge part of the Global Warming issue ) is sure not on Jesus' priority list."

"I would also like to mention that before I really understood more about climate science, I was also skeptical of Global Warming. Since it's become so politically charged, it's difficult to look at unbiased reports on it and everyone and their mother has their own opinion supposedly backed by 'science'. Climate is a very complex system, and there are many unresolved questions, such as the amount of predicted warming, the rate the ice sheets will melt etc. But there are a few things that remain sure 1) carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It has in the past, it does so now, and it will warm the Earth and 2) human activity has added substantially to the carbon concentration since the industrial revolution. This is independent from volcanic activity or other non-human sources."

I have not included every argument here, but this makes a good jumping off point for a more public (front page) discussion. Again, I am forced to admit that I am not a scientist and have limited knowledge of climatology theory and research. As such, I depend on others to stay informed on the important and timely issue of global warming. The following sources are representative of those that have influenced my understanding of the science at hand:

Roy Spencer's website and blog - Spencer is a climatologist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and the official climatologist for Rush Limbaugh. He is the author of Climate Confusion.

The Hockey Stick: A New Low in Climate Science by John L. Daly - This is a thorough debunking of a chart made famous by Al Gore's venture into climate cinema.

The Great Global Warming Swindle - This documentary features quite a few scientists who doubt humanity's responsibility for global warming and discuss some of the non-science-related interests pushing the "conventional" view.

I will end this post by stating that, as a Christian, I am also opposed to the wholesale degradation of the earth with which God has entrusted us. I am also more than a little wary of the rampant materialism that seems to be choking our culture. However, I see the theory of man-made global warming as just another attempt by the left, making full use of alarmist scare-tactics, to usurp the rights and freedom of individuals and add yet more power to an ever-increasing government bureaucracy. I oppose materialism on a personal level; I do not wish to see our modern economy to collapse under the weight of arbitrary and onerous carbon limits and regulations. I also do not want our country to cede its sovereignty to the U.N. or any other world entity.

The environmental movement has produced very little of worth to our country, specifically, or to humanity at large. It has all but halted our ability to extract and refine fossil fuels, the life-blood of a modern standard of living. It has committed unspeakable harm to the third world by causing DDT to be banned. Malaria has killed millions since this dubious environmental "victory". Time and again, environmental regulations are used to punish one group while advancing the interests of others. They have kept the developing nations in their place, refusing them the basic tools of modernity, all the while propagating a false sense of guilt to further their aims. From celebrities who decry carbon footprints while flying their private jets to federal regulators blocking any attempt to become energy independent and punishing what little profits are made by energy producers, I simply don't have any confidence in them whatsoever. I believe man-made global warming is a terrible lie designed to destroy our economy and our place as the world's most powerful nation.


Sarah and Maggie said...

Hi Phil,

For those of you who didn't read my posts on the previous entry to this blog, I am the astronomer to which he referred. I encourage anyone to read the actual post as though Phil did a fair job in summarizing my words, it is always best to read everything in context.

I don't have a lot of time this moment as I have a meeting in 30 min, but I did want to point anyone interested in learning about global warming from a scientific perspective to www.realclimate.org. This blog is moderated and run by active climate scientists. They write everything in a very accessible format, and provide links to more in depth articles should you want to learn more.

RealClimate.org for example goes through the hockey stick controversy:



They provide a great introduction to climate in general in their "start here" section:


Also you mentioned the Great Global Warming Swindle, which I watched several years ago when it first came out. After watching it, I looked more into it and found some fallacies they presented. I don't remember where I originally searched, but the magazine New Scientist has some articles on it and some of the fallacies appear to be written in someone else's blog (obviously one should trust the science magazine over a blog, but I think that's where he got his information but again, I haven't looked at this recently):




Also I'd like to refer to the title of this blog for today in that warming effects are not uniform across the globe, and just because there is cold days/months does in no way debunk a general warming trend.

And I would like to thank Phil again for your comments, which have always been respectful and fair.

Philip said...

I think I might continue the discussion by asking a question or two.

I just read and interesting article HERE about how excess CO2 is absorbed into the oceans. What do you think about this?

Also, another blog mentioned that the graph charting increasing CO2 levels is always from the weather station in Hawaii. Do CO2 levels vary across the globe like temperature?

Sarah and Maggie said...

Hi Phil,
Sorry it's taken me a while to get to this as I had a family emergency a few days ago. But here are the answers to your questions.

1. Excess CO2 absorbed by oceans.

The article you linked actually has the answer to your first question, so I'll just copy the relevant section:

Since CO2 is an acid gas, the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 uses up carbonate ions and lowers the oceanic pH. The carbonate ion concentration of surface sea water will decrease by an estimated 30 percent with a doubling of cean has the potential to take up approximately 85 percent of the anthropogenic CO 2 that is released to the atmosphere. As long as atmospheric CO 2 concentrations continue to rise, the oceans will continue to take up CO2 . However, this reaction is reversible. If atmospheric CO2 were to decrease in the future, the oceans will start releasing the accumulated anthropogenic CO2 back out into the atmosphere.

"The ultimate storage place for anthropogenic CO 2 must be reactions that bind the CO 2 in a manner that is not easily reversed."

Essentially, the time scales are too long for our situation. Another source on the Ocean Carbon Cycle says, "The ocean absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere in an attempt to reach equilibrium by direct air-to-sea exchange. This process takes place at an extremely low rate, measured in hundreds to thousands of years."

Essentially it goes back to the thing I mentioned before, on long geological time scales Earth has a great capacity to keep a temperate climate, but these time scales are longer than human ones.

Also from that blog site I mentioned, realclimate.org, they also go into how the ocean becomes less effective as a carbon sink as the concentrations go up in more detail.

The take home message is yes, the oceans due take up CO2 but to get it to the deep ocean where it is really removed from the atmosphere is 1000 years or so. And even then, there is a limit to what the oceans can take in.

2. Can CO2 vary across the globe?

Yes it does vary across the globe, and it also varies seasonally, as seen in the Hawaii chart. However, variations across the globe can't account for 100ppm of concentration increase. Plus there is a global network measuring CO2 concentrations and they all measure increasing CO2. NASA also has a new mission this year that will get a better estimate of global fluctuations in CO2. The poles have the highest CO2 abundance, and so Hawaii is actually measuring values much less than the high end extremes. As well that atmosphere does mix fairly well on month timescales.

Another friend of mine is an atmospheric chemist, currently looking at the global fluctuations of CO2 (so exactly your question). And she sent me a link to her advisor explaining their most recent results on youtube. It's only 1 min 30 secs and sums up your question nicely.


As you can see in their figure on the video, the CO2 levels fluctuate from around 380ppm to 396ppm. So yes, you are correct in that there are global fluctuations, but nothing that would account for the overall increase of over 100ppm that we measure.

Sarah and Maggie said...

(they informed me my comment was too long so here is the 2nd part of it. :) )

I hope these answers have clarified your questions about the carbon cycle. I think it's easier for people to believe that we aren't the problem, because then there is no responsibility to do anything about it. But really the evidences are very solid behind human caused global warming, and it's not really a matter of what you believe or not. It's a matter of the evidence.

Of course there are dissenting views, normally from non-climate scientists, which is good for any scientific study, as all the data must be scrutinized and combed for any other possible interpretation. However the vast majority of climate scientists agree this is a real effect that humans are causing and a real problem. And, speaking as a scientist, we aren't here to scare the population or drive politics by using bad data to achieve some end. Scientists are just curious people who want to know the truth as shown by objective evidence. I think every climate scientist wished the data for global warming weren't so bleak, but unfortunately it is.

I hope you rethink your position on this issue. As a blogger you have an strong influence and I think you can be a strong witness in the Christian community.

Best wishes,

Philip said...

See above. Thanks for your responses.