14 Truths of Global Warming

Rebutting Sarah Jones, The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and Chris de Freitas.

First let me note that I thing the post by mindfulmomma was useful in filling in the gaps surrounding carbon offsets. I’m happy to see a simple and engaging amount of information being presented. (thanks for the link to the Consumer Guide to carbon offsets)

So far as Ms Sarah Jones goes, let’s first start by saying the “The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change” run by Sherwood, Keith, and Craig Idso is a biased organization in part funded by Exxon Mobil and the Western Fuels Association. Chris de Freitas although stating he is an “agnostic” on climate change has been involved in publishing a research paper that stated the climate hasn’t changed in 2000 years, which resulted in half of the editors resigned in protest. A critique was posted which forced the editor-in-chief to review the journals editorial process. Beyond this Chris de Freitas sits on the Scientific Advisory board of the Friends of Science Society which admits to getting some funding from big oil and is not a friend of good science.

The fallacies posted in the comments is a verbatim copy of Debunking Modern Climate Myths written by Sherwood, Keith, and Craig Idso which has a single citation of Chris de Freitas. In general I suggest you read the Physical Science Basis [of Climate Change]: Summary for Policymakers document written by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC which is heavily peer reviewed and considered authoritative, but for clarity I will put the point by point work up here. No one has done a point by point rebuttal of this particular paper, however I found two de-bunkings of the more popular anti-global warming myths, One and Two.

Truth 1: Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing at alarming rates.

There are several methods that have been used to sample the rate at which CO2 has been entering the atmosphere one of which is the Antarctic core drilling[#1] which gives a history for nearly a million years of earth history of CO2 levels. Until the industrial revolution the levels have never exceeded 300 parts per million (or 624 gigatons of CO2 [#2]) in the atmosphere, as of 2007 Mauna Loa Observatory reported levels near 384 ppm [#3] (or 799 gigatons). Edging towards a 100 ppm increase above the previous record for a nearly million years is fairly alarming.

Truth 2: Humans are big players in the global carbon cycle.

As noted, before the Industrial revolution levels of CO2 were below 300 ppm, and after the widespread use of large amounts of coal and other petrol the amount raised to 384 ppm. The correlation between humans and the carbon cycle is unmistakable. Further there it is possible to deduce how much of the CO2 in the atmosphere is from fossil fuels based on the ratio of various Carbon isotopes [#4]that are present and these levels are a distinctly human made increase.

Truth 3: There is a close relationship between changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature.

The reason some believe that there is not a correlation between temperature and atmospheric CO2 is because of an ice age that happened 450 million years ago[#5]. During this period CO2 was 8 to 20 times higher then today and yet the earth fell into an ice age. It’s not yet fully understood why this is happened, however current theories indicate it’s possibly due to the positions of continents and the creation of the Appalachians [#6][#7]. (As a note[#8] the earth is 4-5 billion years old and multi-cellular life is 1 billion years old) 450 million years ago is a long time, time enough for the continents to shift and new mountain ranges to form (such as the rockies [#9] ) which means that the past million years of data is the most relevant to us as it’s the most similar to our current weather patterns and continental positions. As noted in Fallacy 1 during the past 800,000 years there is a distinct correlation between temperature and CO2 levels. [#10] There is uncertainty in our current prediction models this given the distant history, but the probability of a useful correlation between temperature and CO2 seems very likely when you consider the other data that verifies our models, such as our current observed increase of CO2 and the observed increase of recent temperature as well as the proxy data from tree rings that fits.

Truth 4: Global temperature has increased over the past two decades.

Even Sherwood, Keith, and Craig Idso admit that there has been a increase in temperature over the last two decades, although they write it off as an urban heat island effect. However temperatures during the 1940s were just as high as two decades ago in the 1980s so what we are actually dealing with is temperature dip[#11] during the period between the 1940s and 1980s. Effectively the increase went on hiatus due to a reduce amount of sunspots (meaning a lower amount of solar output/solar heating) [#12], an increase in sulfur dioxide due to volcanic and industrial activity which cause global dimming [#13 pg600], and this checked the upward motion of the temperature temporarily so the trend cannot be explained by an increase of urban heat islands. Indeed, studies concerning the urban heat island effect [#14 pg244] indicate that the urban heat island effect [#15]is very unlikely to be influencing increasing urbanization [#16].

Truth 5: Satellite data support IPCC claims on observed and projected global warming.

Sherwood, Keith, and Craig Idso refer to a discovery in 1992 that, based on satellite data and weather balloon data[#17], the lower atmosphere between 10 and 50 kilometers was cooling rather then warming, however several thing were discovered in the last several years. There was a drift in orbit[#18] of the satellite which was monitoring tropical temperatures, weather balloon data was tainted by direct sunlight[#19], and the satellites were measuring both the (cooling) stratosphere and (warming) troposphere as a single figure[#20]. With these corrections the data actually does match the IPCC claims[#21].

Truth 6: Global climate trends during the past century are very unlike those of the past.

At least 7 various core drillings[#22] give us a correlation of ice[#23 ] from around the world between 800,000 and 100,000 before today. Further we have trees from both sides of the planet spanning back between 60,000 and 10,000 years. Matching these ice cores and trees[#24 ] gives us a base line which we can add the collected data of the modern era and see the last century is distinctly different then the past. The last century of data is distinctly higher[#25 ] then any period in the past including Medieval Warm Period/Medieval Climate Anomaly, the Little Ice Age, and now the Modern Warm Period and is therefore unlike anything in the past.

Truth 7: There are not reliable forecasts of future climate.

According to the IPCC, the majority of climatologists agree that important climate[#26 ] processes are imperfectly accounted for by the climate models but don’t think that better models would change the conclusion. Global Climate Models are capable of reproducing the general features[#27] of the observed global temperature over the past century, in fact since the IPCC’s first report in 1990, assessed projections[#28 pg13 ] have suggested global averaged temperature increases between about 0.15°C and 0.3°C per decade for 1990 to 2005. This can now be compared with observed values of about 0.2°C per decade, so the models have been verified and indeed may be conservatively estimating the amount of warming[#29 ] that might occur.

Truth 8: Significant anthropogenic global warming is underway.

Sherwood, Keith, and Craig Idso depend on de Freitas saying warming isn’t occuring, see fallacy 4. There is warming occurring, also they claim it is natural, refer to fallacy 2 and note taht is it is man made. Third although this is trivial, I’d like to point out that anthropogenic[#30 ] means “of or relating to the study of the origins and development of human beings” and last time I check an urban heat island effect is a man made effect. I’ll also point back to fallacy 4 concerning their write off of the heating as a heat island effect.

Truth 9: Global warming will produce a rise in sea level.

Actually there is data indicating that there is arise in sea level[#31 ][#32 pg7] as well as predicted sea levels[#33 ]. Further the most recent study[#34 ] of the ice on the pole indicates that although there has been an increase in snowfall at the poles, there is also a net loss of ice.

Truth 10: Global warming will result in more extreme weather events.

There is clear evidence[#35][#36] that on a regional scale changes are becoming more variable and extreme, however it is still uncertain beyond anecdotal evidence[#37] whether or not the weather events are directly related to global warming. Various aspects of weather are being linked[#38] to global warming and the evidence is still mounting[#39][#40][#41], however the most sane way to think about it was expressed by Jean Jouzel, a IPCC climatologist who represents France, “Are the extremes really changing[#42]? It’s not so simple, because by definition, the extremes are rare events, and to come up with statistics, some hindsight is needed,” he added. Meaning that we need time to understand if the extreme weather and gobal warming are related (time which might devastate us if we wait for this answer).
While extreme weather events may be in question, long-term changes have been observed[#43 pg8] at the regional, continental, and ocean basin scale. There is also observational evidence for an increase of intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since about 1970 which correlates with tropical sea temperatures. Whether or not the weather is becoming more extreme it has started to change dramatically in the last century.
It’s also worth noting that the insurance industry has taken note of the increases in weather related devastation and have started to act upon it by building their own prediction models of catastrophe #44], improving state regulations[#44], and educating people about climate change[#45][#46].

Truth 11: IPCC’s predictions are reasonable.

As noted in Fallacy 7 the predictions are becoming verified and may indeed be conservative. Given however, that the IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) has over 40 scenarios[#47] covers a variety of possible worlds it seems strange to indicate that all of the predictions are unreasonable. They make comments concerning CO2 output and methane and as noted in Fallacy 1 we have a track of current CO2 output[#48 ] in the world and we also have tracks on the Methane output. Although methane has indeed dipped, this has now been accounted for partially due to increased drought[#49]. Modeling is not perfect, but taking even the most conservative predictions (none of which include the Kyoto protocol) based on static 2000 levels of CO2, we would be in for .6°C of warming[#50 pg13] by 2100 (remember we’ve seen ans observed amount of .2°C[#52]). These predictions are all reasonable “what ifs” which should help guide us in making a decision, but even if we ignore predictions and look at the here and now as well as history then we need to reduce the current green house gas levels.

Truth 12: Observed temperature trends are those predicted by climate models.

To quote the IPCC[#53 pg 2 ] “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” which is what matters here. Observed global warming is matched by current climate change models[#54] and as noted in Fallacy 7, the observed values are matching predicted values.

Truth 13: There is a consensus that greenhouse induced climate change is a major threat.

to quote the Washington Post[#55]

The scientific consensus is clearly expressed in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Program, the IPCC is charged with evaluating the state of climate science as a basis for informed policy action. In its most recent assessment, the IPCC states unequivocally that the consensus of scientific opinion is that Earth’s climate is being affected by human activities: “Human activities . . . are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents . . . that absorb or scatter radiant energy. . . . [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.”
The IPCC is not alone in its conclusions. In recent years all major scientific bodies in the United States whose members’ expertise bears directly on the matter have issued similar statements.

Further Scientific magazine[#56] publish a related study by Naomi Oreskes:

…by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change.”
The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

Beyond this the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report which was written by 450 lead authors with 800 contributing authors and reviewed by over 2,500 scientist from 130 different countries.[#57] According to Wikipedia there are currently 37 public figures[#58] (not all are scientist) who are dissenting for various reasons including conflicts of interest (i.e. being paid to dissent). If you take into consideration the peer-review process and if you realize that a scientific theory that withstood the test of time means that it’s a laymen’s practical fact, then what you have is a small percentage of people who are possibly paid to dissent against a growing body of modeling, research, and proof that global warming is a real threat.

Truth 14: The threat of human-caused climate change justifies taking the action proposed in the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol.

Sherwood, Keith, and Craig Idso indicate the consensus is that the Kyoto’s impact on would be imperceptible and a study by an NCAR scientist [#59]indicates that on it’s own Kyoto’s effect would between 0.11°C and 0.21°C degrees, so concerning Kyoto impact they are, with caveat, actually right. The caveat is that Kyoto was is intended as an initial substantive step towards reducing green house gases.
Current projections (see Fallacy 11) are between 1°C and 4°C degrees of a global temperature increase as of 2100AD. This amount is also imperceptible on a scale of boiling water (0°C degrees being freezing and 100°C being boiling). Consider though some of the long-term changes that have been observed with just .2°C: Arctic sea ice has shrunk, westerly winds in the mid-latitudes have strengthened, extreme temperature changes have become wide spread with fewer cold days and less frost, there has been an increased tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic, the permafrost layer has shrunk in size and in temperature, more intense droughts have occurred and all of this has occurred with far less then 1°C of observed change. The loss of life that many of these caused and there economic impact is far greater then the possible cost of the action proposed in the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.
Sherwood, Keith, and Craig Idso imply that Kyoto could harm our economy and that this is the reason it is not justified. In rebuttal, there are two points that are worth thinking about: One, that even if the current weather patterns stay the same (assume static levels) then what we have observed will cost our economy billions of dollars in weather and ocean related damages not to mention the increase of heat related deaths, increased energy costs due to cooling, increase food costs, increased disease, etc., etc.
In 1998 there was an estimate[#60] that weather changes based on a conservative estimate of the IPCC projections will cost approximately %1.3 of the United State’s GDP, so %1.3 of of our current 13.774 trillion dollar GDP is 179 billion dollars. The estimated cost of Kyoto ranges from 77 billion to 400 billion[#61] which will come down as economies of scale ramp up as well as other factors. So we must consider damages of 1.3% (or 179 billion) and rising, or somewhere between .8-3% (77-400 billion) and falling?
Second business are actually beginning to realize they can make money[#62] off of kyoto style greening, and lots of it. The likes of GE and DuPont are getting in on the game and stand to make billions. The less energy you use, the more money you save, the more your shareholders like you.
The reality is that kyoto is the beginning of a long term investment of a portion of our GDP to mitigate the loss from weather changes, however kyoto will itself be offset (an may indeed be a positive force on our GDP) due to creative greening enterprises.

I’d also like to note that while it might be feasible to ignore some of the effects of global warming for a period given that the effects of warming are delayed, it is also straining credulity to believe things have not changed and will not change. Ignorance and denial of nature doesn’t actually change nature’s course, only understanding and action will have an impact.

Other links:

It is feasible to see a collapse of the the deep ocean currents due to a increase in sea temperature and the related saility change (given the sea is the heat sink of the planet).

Kyoto protocol damage estimates in GNP/GDP

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