Sunday, December 28, 2008

"Global Warming" --> "Climate Change" --> "All Right, It's Fucking Cold!"

Anyone who ignores the Sun as the primary energy driver in our solar system is a damned fool and should be mocked incessantly.

Anyone who believes a few extra tons of Carbon in the atmosphere can affect global climate is also a damned fool.

Anyone who refuses to acknowledge the fact that, when the Sun gets hotter, our planet gets hotter and when the Sun cools down, our planet cools down, is ten kinds of damned fool and should be beaten with red-hot shovels.

Here's a fun article that in its body sums it up much better than I can, because I get all emotionalistic on the topic.

UK Telegraph Article.

Remember folks, when things heat up, look to the Sun first and last. You can hardly miss it - it's that big burning disk in the sky over your heads that burns your eyes out if you stare at it too long.


cnick said...

In this post you are refuting the hypothesis that carbon in the atmosphere can cause global warming. The basis of your argument appears to be the following:

1. That a "few extra tons of Carbon" could not possibly affect the global climate, and, similarly

2. that because the sun is the primary energy source in the solar system, other factors cannot influence the climate, and finally

3. that because 2008 has been cooler than other recent years, the climate is not warming.

Regarding item 1, the actual amount of global CO2 emissions due to burning fossil fuels is 27 billion tons per year. The total amount of C02 in the atmosphere is about 3 trillion tons. Thus, we are increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by slightly less than 1 percent per year.

I would like to know how you can be so certain that this increase in CO2 levels has no impact on the climate. After all, the periods throughout Earth's history during which the climate was much hotter than today were also accompanied by much higher CO2 levels. Are you really claiming with some level of certainty that a 1 percent per year increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration has no effect on the global climate? How do you justify your claim?

Regarding item 2, obviously without the sun we would be a frozen ball of ice and rock. There is a fallacy in your reasoning, however (the fallacy is that because the sun is our primary energy source, it is the only possible cause of climate change). The trivial counterexample to this argument is to realize what the Earth would be like with no atmosphere: it would be extremely cold! Likewise, if the Earth had no CO2 in its atmosphere, surface temps would be substantially colder. The atmosphere acts as a blanket to trap the heat from the sun so that it doesn't just dissipate into space. The chemical composition of the atmosphere affects how well heat gets trapped. Thus, in addition to the energy source of the sun, the composition of the Earth's atmosphere plays a large role in the average surface temperature. Are you denying this? How?

Regarding item 3, again we have a fallacy. The theory of global warming does not say that every year is warmer than the last. It says that on average the surface temperature is rising. As far as I can tell, the data supports this hypothesis. By your reasoning, the fact that it gets cold in the winter must mean that global warming isn't happening.

Do you have access to some sort of analysis which in fact shows the average temperature falling?

On a more editorial note, the global warming debate reminds me very much of the creationism/intelligent design "debate". People with little or no scientific knowledge who in ordinary circumstances are vey willing to trust the validity of scientific results without understanding them (when flying on an airplane, getting an MRI, using a computer or cellphone, etc) suddenly have all sorts of opinions about the science of evolution or climate change. In America, we have this idea that everyone gets to have an opinion; that's fine, but just because you have an opinion doesn't mean its worth anything. Sometimes the truth is different than what you want to believe regardless of how much you want to believe it or how "emotionalistic" you get.

MeatAxe said...

Your points about science and debate are interesting and well taken. But the give and take over global warming is much more complicated than the evolution/intelligent design debate. In that arena, one side has an arsenal of proven facts, some well tested theories and the fossil record behind it, while the other side has the Bible.

Global warming is a little more complicated. Clearly the earth's temperature is changing and has always done so, and clearly the sun plays a role, as do we. The question is, how important is what we do?

Some other questions I've asked in the past:

What temperature should the Earth be now?

Why are the ice sheets on one side of Greenland growing, and shrinking on the other side?

Why is the South Pole ice sheet growing?
(if you like graphs, you should check this link: )

How accurate are the temperature readings from 100 years ago? 50 years ago?

How accurate are temperature readings now, given that some of them are in cities that are often warmer than the surrounding area? (Google 'urban heat island' and 'temperature inversion' if you want to know more.

Finally, here is a quote from Freeman Dyson on the climate change models:

"I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in. The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

There is no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global. I am not saying that the warming does not cause problems. Obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it better. I am saying that the problems are grossly exaggerated. They take away money and attention from other problems that are more urgent and more important, such as poverty and infectious disease and public education and public health, and the preservation of living creatures on land and in the oceans.... "

Atom Smasher said...


Data on the cooling trend of the last decade or so, corresponding quite well with the decrease in solar activity over the same decade, exist all over the 'net. Here are some:

for you to look at.

And you are absolutely correct to point out the problems with simple correlation (vs. causation, etc.). Anecdotal stories are useless, and a cold winter no more invalidates the concept of "global warming" than a hot winter validates it.

The real problem lies in the fact that the anthro global warming story isn't science. It's a religion. A belief. As you allude to, it is a perfect mirror image of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

But it ain't [i]science[/i] and I have no patience for anyone who acts as if it is. Someone wants to [i]believe[/i] that mankind is somehow affecting the climate of an entire planet, they can go right ahead, but they'd better not claim they have any proof, or scientifically valid evidence. Because they don't. And therefore they can't spend any of my money on their pet ideas.

Also you need to remember how science works. Above you typed

"Are you really claiming with some level of certainty that a 1 percent per year increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration has no effect on the global climate? How do you justify your claim?"

That's not how it works. Anthro Global Warming is [i]your[/i] theory. [i]You[/i] provide the proof that it works. So far there is absolutely zero evidence, modeling, proof, or reason to believe that atmospheric Carbon is a [i]driver[/i] of global temperature. The paleo evidence is in many cases interpreted as showing that increased atmospheric Carbon is a [i]follower[/i] of higher temperature trends, not a leader.

And as a side note, why don't you fucking relax a little? I use words like "emotionalistic" because it amuses me to do so and this blog is my typity playground. If you don't like the way I choose to express myself here than I suggest you stop reading my posts, or at least stop commenting on them.

cnick said...

I am perfectly relaxed. This is all great fun! If you don't like your ideas subjected to scrutiny and criticism, why are you posting them on a public blog with comments enabled?

Now, on to the fun stuff.

The "greenhouse effect", that is, the property of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere by which they absorb infrared radiation, is a known scientific phenomenon which has been verified experimentally in the lab. It really isn't something up for debate and if you think it is, you are, as we say, "wrong."

The real question of the global warming hypothesis is not whether or not the greenhouse effect exists, but whether or not human activities have emitted or will emit enough CO2 to cause a measurable change in the greenhouse effect in the Earth's atmosphere. This question is motivated not by religion but by two basic facts, plus some logic:

1. The greenhouse effect exists.
2. Humans are currently emitting 27 billion tons of CO2 per year, about 1% of the amount in the atmosphere.*

A logical, rational person will ask a question when confronted with these two facts: even if we have not yet caused any global climate change, how much longer can we go on emitting such huge quantities of CO2 without causing any change? In other words, where exactly is the threshold quantity of CO2 beyond which the temperature will actually start rising? If you say, "there is no such quantity - it will never happen," you are contradicting well-established scientific results. Have you done your own lab work to prove your hypothesis? Can you point to an experiment which refutes the greenhouse effect? I didn't think so.

No matter how many times Rush Limbaugh says it, this sort of reasoning isn't religion, it is basic, basic logic and basic, basic science. I know, I know, right wingers like to use ideology to drive science and they don't like uppity scientists using "reason" and "facts" to contradict their ideology. Too bad.

*Dirty little secret: about 1/3 of that gets absorbed into the ocean, thereby reducing any potential greenouse effect. Yay! Except that this CO2 forms carbonic acid in the oceans, raising the acidity and changing the ecology of the ocean (not for the better!)

Atom Smasher said...

See, you're proceeding from the assumption that I am ignorant of what a greenhouse effect is, how it is understood to work on a planetary scale, and what its role is in planetary climate.

Your assumption is wrong.

And because I so dearly want to be included in the ranks of your logical, rational people, I of course agree that asking "what happens when we crank up the CO2?" is a valid question. And it's been answered and so far the answer is "we don't know" and so it's great to keep asking it. I'm all for it. But pretending that it has already been answered with "things get hotter!" is ignorant. None of the data or modeling show, or can show, anything that supports that conclusion.

And why do you feel it is my ideology that is driving my opinions and knowledge of science?

Why do you think I listen to Rush Limbaugh?

Why do you assume that, simply because my conclusions are different than yours, I am less intelligent than you?

Why is that important to you anyway?

Why do you assume that higher-Carbon solution oceans are bad? Or is "different conditions than I grew up with" automatically bad to you? Careful, that's a rather conservative outlook! Are you a closet Conservative? Does that mean I can imply that you're stupid?

cnick said...

It seems you've taken my comments personally, which was never my intent. If you read carefully you'll notice I said almost nothing about you, other than addressing the statements you made. I made no assumptions about you other than that you meant what you wrote in the original post.

You seem to be contradicting that post in your comment above; first you said that carbon in the atmosphere could not possibly affect the global climate, now you are saying that we don't have enough information to say one way or the other. Which is it?

Atom Smasher said...

Put simply, I *believe* that atmospheric Carbon is not a driver of global climate. I *know* that we currently have no evidence that it is, and plenty of evidence that it isn't. I think it's entirely proper to keep asking that question and others so we can push our level of understanding of global climate to a level beyond guessing and simple ignorant panic, which is where it is now.

And I took your posts personally because you made them personal. Instead of acknowledging the evidence I brought to the table, instead of answering the questions I posed to you in turn, you accused me of holding opinions on science that are based on political ideology instead of evidence and logic, and you also implied that you know the source(s) of my supposed ideology.

I have not spent one iota of time wondering if you are smart or dumb, or assuming you are an ignorant hippie or ivory-tower academic. You could be a moron or a genius for all I know or care. So far the opinions you've expressed and that I've addressed merely indicate that you have an incomplete understanding of climate science, geology, and astronomy. Which is fine, most people do.

Maybe you're pretty though. :)

cnick said...

I can't help it if you read things into my comments that aren't there. The fact is there is nothing personal about what I wrote. I never said or assumed you listened to Rush Limbaugh. I never said or assumed you didn't know what the greenhouse effect is. I never said or assumed you are less or more intelligent than me or anyone else. All of these things are absolutely clear from my comments. I can only guess that you took all of those things from what I wrote because you were making assumptions about *me*.

I did not answer all of the questions in your previous comment because it seemed your motivation for asking them was based on the mistaken belief that I was personally attacking you.

From what I have read of your knowledge and beliefs, it appears you are willfully ignoring basic physics and chemistry to support your belief that atmospheric carbon does not affect global climate. I do not claim to be an expert in climate science. In fact, I have never even claimed that global climate is warming or that humans are affecting the global climate!

You asked why increasing acidity of the oceans is bad. Simple: it makes it harder for arthropods, bivalves, and other shelled creatures to grow. This in turns makes less food for other creatures, and reduces the biodiversity of the oceans. Aside from any moral issues of destroying sea life, this would reduce even further our ability to gain sustenance from the sea. If we intend for this to happen, so be it. As an unintended and unacknowledged consequence of our actions, it is inexcusable.

cnick said...

Correction: I did state that the global warming hypothesis "says that on average the surface temperature is rising. As far as I can tell, the data supports this hypothesis. "

MeatAxe said...

I dunno, Nick. He does have a point. You are kinda cute.

cnick said...

DISCLAIMER: No statement in this comment contains any imugnment, defamation, or negative statements about Mr. A. Smasher's character or person; any resemblance to such notions is purely coincidental.


Well folks, I'm off on vacation for a few days - talk to you next week! It's been fun.

Atom Smasher said...

Fine, personality is subjective, and the innerwebs are a poor place for gleaning real meaning. Conversations like this are always better over a beer and a steak anyway.

But, to belabor the real point, I interpret your position to be one of "different is worse", which I don't respect very much. There is no morality associated with sea life - it is a food source or not. If all the orange roughie goes away people that like fish can always eat something else for awhile. And corals (commonly referred to in these sorts of discussions) have experienced many large die-offs in the past. They come back.

In my turn I'll say that if I've given the impression that scientific inquiry is somehow wasteful or pointless, such was not *my* intent. I simply have no respect for the anthro global warming crowd. It's not approached in a scientific manner, and therefore the *belief* that it is happening/has happened/will happen is not scientific.

cnick said...

Pop quiz: Why is the surface of Venus actually hotter than the surface of mercury, even though Mercury is much closer to the sun?

MeatAxe said...

Ooh, this is fun.

I've got one too: If you take cranberries and stew them like apple-sauce, why do they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does?

Atom Smasher said...

1) Shoot the hostage.

2) Nick, I never said the greenhouse doesn't work or isn't relevant, I just pooh-pooh the notion that you have any idea how many molecules of CO2 yields change X on the temperature curve. The whole "runaway greenhouse" idea is a product of Sagan's whole "nuclear winter" bullshit anyway. Earth is NOT Venus.

Akatsukami said...

Pop quiz #2:

A. What is the ratio between the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Venus versus that in the atmosphere of Earth?

B. What is the ratio between the mean temperature of Venus versus that of Earth?

C. Why are these numbers different?

Atom Smasher said...

a) Shoot the hostage again.

Men are not potatoes, and Earth is not Venus. Earth could not *become* Venus barring some incredible event that would "bake" all the Carbon and CO2 in the crust out into the atmosphere, etc.

Venus is hotter and denser because Venus is closer to the Sun and had a different planetary youth and adolescence.

That's why. :)

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