June 5, 2009

Macro Climate Change

During times of universal deceit,
telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
~ George Orwell

Our new administration, in an effort to curb global warming, is introducing a comprehensive "New Energy for America Plan". You can see the plan here:
Part of this plan is to "Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050."
“Greenhouse gas emissions” is Carbon Dioxide. CO2

President Obama was talking about this all throughout his campaign. In a speech in St. Paul on June 3, 2008 he said the following:
OBAMA: "If we are willing to work for it and fight for it and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that ... This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

The argument is that carbon dioxide, released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels, is the principle driving force of climate change. And, by limiting our human output of CO2, we can reverse the warming trend planet wide. This theory was started in 1958 by Oceanographer Roger Revelle and Geochemist David Keeling. You can read the history of the Global Warming theory, how the IPCC was started and how Al Gore got involved as told by the founder of The Weather Channel, John Coleman (highly suggested reading):
As the article mentions, Roger Revelle later urged caution not too arouse too much alarm until more facts are known if the greenhouse effect is important.

Many promoting this theory will show slides such as the one below as proof that as carbon dioxide goes up it leads to higher temperatures:

Such data is highly suspect in my opinion. The first problem is cause and effect. The above graph gives no information as to what caused what. Temperature and ice cream sales go up every summer and down every winter. However, it is not ice cream sales that cause temperature; it is, of course, the temperature that causes the sale of ice cream. So, is a warming planet causing CO2 to go up, or is CO2 causing the planet to warm?

Another problem is correlation vs causation. Just because there is a correlation does not mean there is causation. I will illustrate with the graph below of the stock price of Apple Computers.

Obviously, there is a correlation between temperature and stock price over this 2 year period. Every winter it is high, then falls every summer. But that does not mean there is causation. It would be silly to assume that the temperature drives the sales of Apple computers... and thinking that way would make you lose lots of money because after 06 the correlation falls apart.
The final problem is reliability. Scientists are smart. But I put very, VERY little faith in the ability of us to measure to the exact Parts Per Million of CO2 in our atmosphere thousands and millions of years ago. The number of assumptions and errors are very large. See here: http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/002176.html
A simple Google search will give hundreds of pages of people arguing passionately for and against various aspects of this data. I am not qualified to judge, but clearly there is plenty of controversy, suggesting this is more of a political thing than a scientific thing.

We do, however, have some pretty decent data suggesting that our climate has been going through periods of heating and cooling throughout its history. We have good evidence that sometime around 12,000 years ago America was covered by huge glacier ice. This ice sheet formed the great lakes and calculations estimate it needed to be 2.5 miles thick to do the damage that is seen today. Also, it was not a singular event, but estimates are that 8 or 10 times North America was covered by glaciers and then they receded. The History Channel has a great episode on this, but unfortunately is no longer available on their website. A more cartoonish version is here: http://www.on.ec.gc.ca/greatlakeskids/GreatLakesMovie5.html
Since that time there has been numerous warming and cooling, none of which were as extreme as the ice age: Author Matt Patterson summarizes:

Around the 3rd century B.C., the planet emerged from a long cold spell. The warm period which followed lasted about 700 years, and since it coincided with the rise of Pax Romana, it is known as the Roman Warming.

In the 5th century A.D., the earth's climate became cooler. Cold and drought pushed he tribes of northern Europe south against the Roman frontier. Rome was sacked, and the Dark Ages commenced. And it was a dark age, both metaphorically and literally -- the sun's light dimmed and gave little warmth; harvest seasons grew shorter and yielded less. Life expectancy and literacy plummeted. The plague appeared and decimated whole populations.

Then, inexplicably, about 900 A.D. things began to warm. This warming trend would last almost 400 years, a well documented era known as the Medieval Warm Period. Once again, as temperatures rose harvests and populations grew. Vineyards made their way into Northern Europe, including Britain. Art and science flourished in what we now know as the Renaissance.

Then around 1300 A.D. things cooled drastically. This cold spell would last almost 500 years, a severe climate event known as the Little Ice Age. Millions died in famine as glaciers advanced all over the world. The plague returned. In Greenland, the Norse colony that had been established during the Medieval Warming froze and starved. Arctic pack ice descended south, pushing Inuit peoples to the shores of Scotland. People ice skated on the Thames; they walked from Staten Island to Manhattan over a frozen New York Harbor. The year 1816 was remembered as the year without a summer, with some portions of the Northern Hemisphere seeing nowfall in June.

(Additional info about 1816; Volcanic eruptions added to the already cold weather: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer)
But around 1850 the planet began to warm up yet again. Glaciers retreated. Temperatures rose. This is the warming period which we are still enjoying today. And once again, the warmth brought bounty: The last 150 years have seen an explosion in life expectancy, population, and scientific progress like never before.

The below chart is a reconstruction (again I put little faith in the exact numbers… but general trends I think have validity)

So my first questions jump out at this point. If the earth has been going through oscillations of hotter and colder periods for all known time, then why is the current hotter period anything special? And why, all the sudden, is it caused by humans, and why do we think we can stop it?

Environmentalists and Politicians are using the current warming spell to their benefit. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) uses the last 20 years of data to project a doomsday scenario where oceans rise wiping out island nations and coastal populations, vast extinctions occur, weather is changed, famines occur, etc, etc. (Reminder to read the kusi.com link above to see how the IPCC was started and funded)

As recently as Sunday April 19, 2009, our current Energy Secretary Steven Chu, was giving dire warnings of how island nations may be underwater this century as well as vast amounts of Florida and other coastal states.

The below chart shows the IPCC predictions based on their computer models:

But, unfortunately for the doomsdayers… the earth has been COOLING over the past 5 years or so.

We are also seeing a major decrease in solar activity:

In fact, the Sun has reached its “quietest time” in 50-100 years:

The Sun is the original and only source of heat and energy for this planet (with the exception of the molten earth core). Even fossil fuels are stored solar energy from the past. So as the Sun goes, so do we.

If the sun is decreasing in output, and the weather is cooling, why are the ice caps melting?
Well, recent research is starting to show that they may not be at all. Australia Antarctic Division glaciology program head Ian Allison said sea ice losses in west Antarctica over the past 30 years had been more than offset by increases in the Ross Sea region, just one sector of east Antarctica. "Sea ice conditions have remained stable in Antarctica generally," Allison said.
Keep in mind, melting on a land mass (like Antartica or Greenland) is the only melting that can contribute to ocean rise. The entire Artic and other ice sheets and ice burgs are floating, so if they melt the sea levels will not be affected at all (90% of floating ice is already underwater, when ice cubes melt in a cup, the cup does not get fuller).

In conclusion, macro climate change is nothing new. And certainly there are many more inputs and variables vastly outside our ability to control than burning of fossil fuels. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t curb our use of fossil fuels or that they don’t affect anything at all, but simply reducing our usage of coal and oil is not going to “heal the planet” as our President and others want us to believe. In order to heal you must be sick, the planet warming 0.8 oC on average over the last 100 years does not point to it being sick, it shows that it is perfectly normal.
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1 comment:

  1. Appreciate the reasonable tone and clear presentation of key ideas. While there may be little hope that the true believers will read it and change their minds about the madness, one hopes that it will help readers whose minds are still open to see through the veil of media and political hysteria.