Category Archives: ClimateChange

Global Warming Versus Global Greening

Climate science. Climate science features highly in my laundry list of reasons for why I no longer consider myself a libertarian. You couldn’t swing a dead cat in libertarian gatherings without hitting a conspiracy fantasist or a climate denier when I left the Libertarian Party in 2008.

I find the phrase knows just enough to be dangerous to be quite apt when it comes to most things climate science. This applies even more strongly to those within the scientific fields than it does to the man on the street who is just trying to get by in life working three jobs and sharing an apartment with 3 other people.

The video (and transcript) below were shared by a friend the other day. I tuned out of watching the video when I realized that the article beneath it was just a transcript of the video presentation. The fact that my friend didn’t believe in anthropogenic climate change the last time I checked influenced my dismissal of the video as Not. Real. Science. There was also the looming risk of being sucked into another conspiracy fantasy to factor into the weight I would give any data found within the article.

Everyone has a bias. Especially people who disagree with science.

My friend insisted that I had to watch the video or at least read the transcript, so I bit the bullet and watched. I’m not making any promises on producing insights that would be accepted by anyone who would deny climate changes, the determinable causes of climate changing, but I’ll give it my best shot.

There is a transcript available at this link.

First off, if I had realized that the video was from the GWPF I would have been a little slower to dismiss it. I don’t write about climate change on this blog very much because, quite frankly, I’m one of the dangerous people. I know just enough about the subject to get myself into trouble and can be (demonstrably have been with other subjects) lead down rabbit holes unless I keep my guard up.

I was slow to buy in to the idea that climate change was a thing because of this, and for a brief time was in the same camp as several of my friends (and the late author Michael Crichton as another example) that climate change was some kind of conspiracy. It wasn’t until I ran across this argument presented on 350.org that I realized just how demonstrable AGW was,

Since the beginning of human civilization, our atmosphere contained about 275 ppm of carbon dioxide. That is the planet “on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.” Beginning in the 18th century, humans began to burn coal, gas, and oil to produce energy and goods. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere began to rise, at first slowly and now more quickly. Many of the activities we do every day like turning the lights on, cooking food, or heating our homes rely on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. We’re taking millions of years worth of carbon, once stored beneath the earth as fossil fuels, and releasing it into the atmosphere.

Right now we’re at 400 ppm, and we’re adding 2 ppm of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Unless we are able to rapidly turn that around and return to below 350 ppm this century, we risk triggering tipping points and irreversible impacts that could send climate change spinning truly beyond our control.

Ice cores demonstrate that throughout human history (several hundred thousand years in fact) CO2 levels have remained low. What CO2 was prior to human history is hard to determine. Hard to determine because discovering clues to that data in geologic strata is hard. However, as this study notes,

The carbon dioxide (CO2) content of the atmosphere has varied cyclically between ~180 and ~280 parts per million by volume over the past 800,000 years, closely coupled with temperature and sea level. For earlier periods in Earth’s history, the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) is much less certain, and the relation between pCO2 and climate remains poorly constrained. We use boron/calcium ratios in foraminifera to estimate pCO2 during major climate transitions of the past 20 million years. During the Middle Miocene, when temperatures were ~3° to 6°C warmer and sea level was 25 to 40 meters higher than at present, pCO2 appears to have been similar to modern levels. Decreases in pCO2 were apparently synchronous with major episodes of glacial expansion during the Middle Miocene (~14 to 10 million years ago) and Late Pliocene (~3.3 to 2.4 million years ago).

I added bold to the important sentence in those findings. If you need help converting meters to feet, it’s about 3 feet to 1 meter. About floor 9 of a beachfront Miami condo for those still not getting the impact of sea level changes in our modern world. Manhattan will eventually be right on the water, which will mean it will take quite a trick to keep water out of those subways in the future.

In any case the speaker, Matt Ridley,  agrees with virtually everything the IPCC concludes are science. The one verifiably true thing aside from these concessions of agreement I heard by the 20 minute mark is that,

“We should take predictions of doom with a pinch of salt.”

Well, that is a no-brainer. I was reading books like ICE when I was in my teens. I was well aware that we were supposed to be caught up in a returning ice age by the time we got to 2000, according to the doom & gloom types, as the speaker goes into in the video (this is a myth, just FYI. A myth that I believed) I never bought into Al Gore’s propositions of global disaster from global warming; but the science is pretty solid as I noted above, and it is just the models which fail to predict outcomes in any meaningful way.

As far back as 2010 I was noting things like this,

Trees in the Eastern United States are growing faster than they have in the last two centuries in response to Earth’s warming climate, a new study finds.

For more than 20 years forest ecologist Geoffrey Parker, based at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center outside Washington, D.C., has tracked the growth of 55 stands of mixed hardwood forest plots in Maryland. 

Parker’s tree censuses over this period have revealed that these forested areas are packing on weight at a much faster rate than expected; on average, the forests are growing an additional 2 tons per acre annually. That works out to the equivalent of a tree with a diameter of 2 feet (0.6 m) sprouting up over a year.

And this in 2014,

Recent research has revealed that trees across the world continue to grow significantly faster than they did before the 1960s, but what’s the cause? Experts from Technische Universität München (TUM) provide evidence and speculation about this mysterious phenomenon in a recent study. 

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, details how the rate of tree growth, particularly in Central Europe, has increased by up to 70 percent over the last few decades. 

These findings were based on an analysis of long term data from experimental forest plots that have been in observation since 1870. The plots of forest were designed to serve as a representation for average soil and climate conditions throughout Central Europe.

I replied with this article in the thread,

Earlier this month, NASA scientists provided a visualization of a startling climate change trend — the Earth is getting greener, as viewed from space, especially in its rapidly warming northern regions. And this is presumably occurring as more carbon dioxide in the air, along with warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons, makes plants very, very happy.

Now, new research in Nature Climate Change not only reinforces the reality of this trend — which is already provoking debate about the overall climate consequences of a warming Arctic — but statistically attributes it to human causes, which largely means greenhouse gas emissions (albeit with a mix of other elements as well). 

The roughly three-decade greening trend itself is apparent, the study notes, in satellite images of “leaf area index” — defined as “the amount of leaf area per ground area,” as Robert Buitenwerf of Aaarhus University in Denmark explains in a commentary accompanying the study — across most of the northern hemisphere outside of the tropics, a region sometimes defined as the “extratropics.” Granted, there are a few patches in Alaska, Canada and Eurasia where greening has not been seen.

Before being pestered into watching the full video, commenting on the full transcript. The greening argument is old news for me. I’ve already looked into it. It is an interesting development. Its full impact is still unknown.

What I found most interesting in the talk was Matt Ridley’s note that most dire projections are based on RCP 8.5. I can agree with him on the lunacy of projecting based on this worst-case-scenario outcome. It just makes you look foolish when your predictions turn out to be so incredibly wrong.

Then he goes off the reservation and never returns.

No renewable energy subsidies? Fine. You first. Get the entirety of the rest of the fossil fuels industry to give up their subsidies and we’ll talk. Worse than being disinterested on the subject of Global Warming or Climate Change (which ever label you prefer) Matt Ridley is invested in coal. Lives and dies by demand for coal. I suggest, as I have about a dozen times, that we either remove subsidies from all ventures, or encourage all sound ventures with subsidies.

Sound ventures. That doesn’t me we subsidize ethanol, which I have never understood being considered a green product. However, creation of wind farms across the windier areas of the world, and solar cells on every rooftop that gets moderate sun are completely reasonable propositions and should be subsidized if other forms of energy production are subsidized.  I can generate electricity and to spare with solar cells on my roof, and that includes charging my electric car. That is a benefit to me and the planet in general.

He also never mentions that while sea level rise isn’t as bad as projected, any rise in sea levels produces larger disasters than we’ve seen in the past, as both hurricane Sandy and Katrina demonstrated. I’m still betting we are surfing through the ruins of Miami long before the arguments about climate change are settled, and I’m willing to bet the current residents of Miami would find that outcome pretty disastrous.

For what it’s worth, The next to last video loaded on the GWPF stream is the one I find most relevant.

This is the problem with modern science. Findings are reported as if they are science by most journalists, when the complete opposite is the case, as the short video goes into. Findings are not science. Findings are discoveries. Duplication of findings is science, the drudge work of science that far too few people show any interest in doing, to the detriment of us all.


With time comes addendum and additional information. After watching the GWPF feed for awhile and tracking the general tone of their reportage, I have to agree with the assessment of others who dismiss them as a nexus of science denial.  The name of the group itself screams of astroturfing and their latest video goes out of its way to defend Breitbart and their unapologetic science denial on the subject of global warming. I was really hoping for a group that I could rely on for reportage that wasn’t gloom and doom on the climate change front, but the GWPF doesn’t appear to be that group.

This episode of Inquiring Minds fits the hopeful bill pretty well.

Even in the face of the triumph of climate deniers and outright economic criminals (the looming election of the OHM) the astrobiologist David Grinspoon sounds a hopeful note for the future, pointing out that we are already moving in new directions climate-wise with or without our governments attempts to influence our behavior. 

Years of Living Dangerously & Katharine Hayhoe

I’ve been watching “Years of Living Dangerously” every week (it’s moving to Monday this week) since it first aired. It’s free for the rest of today on Showtime online.

I like the presentation of the episodes through the eyes of the various personalities (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harrison Ford, Don Cheadle, etc) but I especially can appreciate the careful approach they’ve taken to show just how far climate denial is from the reality of climate change, and taking the time to talk to some of the more vociferous climate deniers, as well as including the wide range of people who want to act to prevent further harm to the climate, including climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.

Katharine Hayhoe was also the featured interview last week on what is rapidly becoming my favorite podcast; Inquiring Minds. Here is a snippet of the blurb from their Soundcloud page;

Why is Hayhoe in the spotlight? Simply put, 25 to 30 percent of Americans are evangelical Christians, and their belief in the science of global warming is well below the national average. And if anyone has a chance of reaching this vast and important audience, Hayhoe does. “I feel like the conservative community, the evangelical community, and many other Christian communities, I feel like we have been lied to,” explains Hayhoe on this week’s episode. “We have been given information about climate change that is not true. We have been told that it is incompatible with our values, whereas in fact it’s entirely compatible with conservative and with Christian values.” 

I highly recommend both the podcast and the show. Give them a try, you may learn something.

(Originally posted here)

Religion/Spiritualism? How about Pragmatism.

I updated my ghost story yesterday because I was engaged in a long running conversation on this thread on Facebook.  Started with a meme image composed mostly of the text “Religion is for people afraid of going to hell, Spirituality is for people who have already been there” can we say “false dichotomy”? I knew that you could.

I’m sticking to my guns on the subject.  Skepticism (and through it pragmatism) is how you live in the real world, not getting sidetracked by all the woo we encounter in our daily lives. If you disagree, prove any of the stuff that skeptics question. Should be easy enough if it’s true. If you know of a medium that you think of as reliable (a mediumship conference being where the image that started the thread was found) I would recommend you send them to The Million Dollar Challenge, or one of the other testing challenges (this is one of the points I’ve changed my opinion on since jotting down my ghost story the first time.  There is a value in exposing the vast number of charlatans out there who prey on the believing. The number is growing, even) They are looking to find someone with a genuine talent, and not someone engaged in cheap theatrics.   Haven’t found anyone yet.

On a related note (in case you are confused on the subject) Climate deniers are not skeptics; they are peddlers of woo as certainly as any charlatan medium who claims to speak to the dead. Deniers in general are not skeptics any more than religious people can be Objectivists; there is a standard for evidence which must be met for a belief to be established as fact in both those systems. Denying science disqualifies you from claiming the label skeptic or the label objectivist.  I only wish I could stop people from claiming labels that they don’t deserve.  The most I can do is pushback against their unwarranted claims, exposing the manipulation behind the curtain.

I don’t embark on this course because I see no value in a good yarn, or the thought-provoking nature of a good parable.  I put the brakes on this journey down woo avenue because, in the end, science is the only method we’ve ever discovered for determining what the truth is. An anecdote (like my ghost experience) remains exactly what it was. You cannot pile up anecdotes and create evidence. You simply have a pile of anecdotes.

Scientists are not altering what is acceptable evidence, or the scientific process. Those that do fall prey to false patterns and charlatans, Randi proved this by recruiting shills into some of the early paranormal studies, demonstrating that a good magician can create the illusion of paranormal activity quite easily.

The problem with any psi phenomenon is that there is no known mechanism which can explain how these things happen. Without a mechanism, there is no basis on which to gather evidence. That is where psi research has been stuck since the 60’s.

The best defense, for the flawed pattern recognition machines that we are, is to remain skeptical. Had I accepted what believers told me back when I had my experience, I’d be deep in the woo now, trying to defend photo and sound anomalies as legitimate signs of paranormal activity (probably desperately trying to prove that rods exist) rather than looking into the machines used to capture this ‘evidence’ and discovering that the machines themselves are the cause of them.

The experiences remain exactly what they always have been. Inexplicable experiences, until we find a mechanism that might cause them. Then they aren’t paranormal experiences anymore. You might say, of your own experiences “I wasn’t hallucinating” and yet it remains entirely possible. The human brain is quite an amazingly adaptive organ. The process of remembering the experience alters the experience in memory. The more times you remember it and recount it, the stronger the memory can become, lending more reality to the images you think you saw. At some point the memory ceases to be a true recollection and becomes a story you tell yourself about the event(s).

Without scientific rigor, there isn’t anything we can say we know.

Common Sense 120 – the Environment again.

Common Sense 120 get’s two posts. Mukasey’s Paradox deals with the first half of the show. This one is about the second half. Dan Carlin continues to talk about global warming, even though polls have shown that Global Warming now world’s most boring topic.

Seriously, I’ve gotten back into my forum addiction of late, and they’ve been beatin’ the dead horse of environmentalism over at Dan Carlin’s forum for quite awhile now.

The news article that inspired show 120’s second half (the source of which Dan won’t reveal) sounds like it was written by the average socialist turned environmentalist. Anyone who can use the phrase culture of growth as a negative is someone whose opinions can be discarded. Sorry, that’s how I feel.

In Dan’s defense, he doesn’t buy into this article either. In fact, the tough question is really about global warming supplanting the real environmental concerns of the average citizen. Cleaner water, cleaner air. Out of control consumption. Let’s deal with the problems we can handle, hope that we won’t have to give up our freedom in order to save the planet. Which is what the promoters of combating global warming are really asking for.


Some examples of the arguments I’ve been in lately.

Quote:
Anyway, just becasue all of these things are true, I don’t understand why this means we shouldn’t begin changes in our society to lower GHG emmissions. Not only do these contribute to climate change, but they also affect health, air quality, and visibility.


Because there isn’t any way to do it with current technologies without top down command and control type scenarios. If you take all the cars off the roadway and force everybody onto buses, the impact on pollution would not be that significant. Studies have show (in Austin, anyway) that it’s not vehicle exhaust that causes the majority of pollution these days, it’s businesses (that gets back to the EPA and the disconnection that was put in place to keep people from being able to sue polluters directly) which are given license to do so. These studies don’t stop the EPA from requiring expensive vehicle inspections, all the same. There is already too much command and control, and it’s not working.

If new technologies emerge (and if gas prices continue to climb, they will) that produce cleaner burning fuels, or transportation options that are superior (read as more convenient) for the individual, then the GHG problem becomes a moot issue. Any attempt to reduce GHG (as the study shows) with current technologies will not yield a net benefit. The developing nations are always excluded from these plans, and the majority of new emissions are going to come from those countries.

We are at a crossroads, just as civilization was at a crossroads in the late 1800’s, when whale oil drove industry, and consumption projections showed that there weren’t enough whales to provide the oil to sustain growth. Some people ran around screaming about the end of the world, proposing scenarios of doom and gloom for the world’s future. Other people went out and developed crude oil as a replacement.

Put me in the latter camp this time around as well.
http://ranthonysteele.blogspot.com/2005/11/peak-oil.html



One of the threads dealt with a news piece over at Fox News. I would have disregarded it, but it’s by an author that I respect that I first ran across at CATO.

And then you get these sorts of responses:

Quote:
Scientific American has an excellent article entitled ‘The Physics of Climate Change” published about a year ago.

One way of viewing the AGW debate is to treat the problem of cost like buying insurance. If we’re incorrect about AGW and all the carbon we are dumping into the atmosphere doesn’t act as a blanket the way the laws of physics have demonstrated it does, we’ve bought insurance we haven’t used. If however, CO2 and other greenhouse gases block reflected infrared light, as is almost certainly happening, we’ll be very relieved to have stated mitigation earlier. Ounces and prevention, you know.

…except that we can never afford the cost of the insurance required. That is the point Lott is actually echoing (rather than the title of the thread) which is the main argument in Goklany’s paper. That even if global warming is occurring (which isn’t proven) and even if humans are causing AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming, which also isn’t proven) that we can’t know for certain that a fractional rise in temperature isn’t a good thing (and we don’t) and that we can’t make the kind of impact that the laymen thinks we can simply by passing laws and sacrificing comfort. That negating human impact on the climate is a pipe dream.

No one is talking about stopping innovation and not having cleaner air, water, whatever. There are too many armchair environmentalists out there who are willing to pay extra for the knowledge that they aren’t hurting the environment. Innovation in these areas will occur anyway. What Lott and Goklany are saying (and I agree with) is that let’s get the best return on investment, let’s only pay for the insurance we need, rather than bankrupt society trying to return the world to a natural state that never existed in the first place, which is the goal of the hardcore environmentalists.

Lott at CATO: http://www.cato.org/event.php?eventid=3996
Indur Goklany’s policy paper What to Do about Climate Change: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=9125

These are the pieces that need to be argued against, if you are going to argue.

…and businesses are innovating all the time trying to catch that elusive environmentalist dollar.

REI, anybody? How about Whole Foods? What about the fact that you can’t find a carpet, flooring or paint manufacturer these days who doesn’t push their recycled low-VOC minimal environmental impact products?

Businesses follow the dollar, and the average dollar is green.


Quote:
Plants indeed use carbon dioxide, but the flaw to your point is deforestation.


From Brown University:

Demand for wood may lead to forest growth, not decline, study says

Increased demand for forest products was a cause of increased forest cover in India during the last three decades, according to a joint study by researchers at Brown and Harvard University in the May 2003 Quarterly Journal of Economics. The finding contradicts the idea that economic development inevitably leads to deforestation.

Not buying the doom and gloom. Not even vaguely.

When I was growing up, we burned our garbage in an ash can in the back yard. The city would come by once a month to collect the ashes and metal, and dump it in a big hole just outside of town. We would go out there with our .22 rifles on occasion and shoot rats. No one ever checked their gas mileage (other than to guess when they’d need to fill up again) and emission controls were unheard of, as were seat belts.

I was a poster child of environmentalism not long after that. Recycling cans and bottles, recycling paper (which has largely proven to be a wasted effort. Paper recycling has a negative impact on the environment) I was chewed out by more than one person at my first office for being too militant about recycling.

Then the government got involved, and the socialists (or statists if you prefer) saw an ‘in’ for their recently discredited political movement, and shifted their focus to pushing for environmental concerns, needing more government to fix the environmental problems.

Global Warming is a socialist’s wet dream, because there is no way to fix it without handing all control over to the state, and relying on the elite to tell us what we can and can’t do. Carbon footprints and consumption monitoring. I’ve refused to call myself an environmentalist since then.

If the only choice I have is between my choice and no choice, I’ll take my choice and the possible end of the world as we know it, for a thousand, Alex.

Common Sense 116 – Voting for Cake & It’s Not the Environment, Stupid

Going through the backlog of Common Sense (with Dan Carlin) episodes that I wanted blog on.

I had to go digg up the article that Dan referenced in the first half of the show, it’s that good:

The big lie of campaign 2008 — so far — is that the presidential candidates, Democratic and Republican, will take care of our children. Listening to these politicians, you might think they will. Doing well by children has now passed motherhood and apple pie as an idol that all candidates must worship.

A moral cloud hangs over our candidates. Just how much today’s federal policies, favoring the old over the young and the past over the future, should be altered ought to be a central issue of the campaign. But knowing the unpopular political implications, our candidates have lapsed into calculated quiet.

read more | digg story

This guy is ‘spot on’ (as the English say) and he doesn’t pull any punches. Not even Ron Paul has had much to say on the subject, because what is there to say? Hey, old people, you’re going to have to give up your benefits? Hey, young people, we’re going to raise your tax rates another 40%? No, neither of these solutions work, and yet one of them will have to be imposed; and sooner rather than later.

The sad thing about the Social Security situation is the same story as the situation with foreign policy. Anyone who’s been paying attention knows the system is “broke and broken” but no amount of pointing this out to the politicians for the last 20 years or so has made any difference.

Bush’s half-hearted attempt to introduce ‘private’ (they weren’t, but that’s what they were referred to as) accounts early in his first term met with such a backlash from seniors and Democrats that I doubt anything will be done to solve this problem. It looks like the ‘third rail’ of the political arena will simply be allowed to ‘go to ground’ (bankruptcy) where it will be effectively be rendered harmless to the politicians who remain. Good luck with that.

The second half of the show involved the introduction of the Tata Nano, and the effect that industrializing the third world will have on the environment.

All the issues in this show are presented as having to do with can people vote against their own short term best interests, in favor of long term best interests of the world as a whole; or at least, a larger group than the single person casting a vote.

As far as Social Security goes; as the population ages, and as the taxes start rising on those who are still working, you will see cuts in benefits to the elderly. That move will benefit the people who hold the power at that point in time, and the citizenry they cater too. No amount of whining by the then shrinking pool of boomers will matter that much. Considering it was the boomers who failed to act when the problem became apparent, I’m not going to shed too many tears over the prospect, even if it’s my benefits that get cut.

However, the case for environmental degradation resulting from third world industrialization is hardly a cut and dried matter. Expecting the rest of the world to stay undeveloped just so that we in America can continue to enjoy massive levels of consumption is building castles in the sky. People are going to do anything to improve their lives, and if that means they need a car, they’ll be buying Nanos. Consequently, we may be growing crops in Greenland again in the near future, and sea levels my rise a few inches. Global warming isn’t what we should be worrying about.

I realize the average person prefers to be scared rather than informed; however, the briefest step back from agreeing to whatever draconian measures the enviro-whackos want to impose on us, will reveal several rational objections that make good arguments for doing something else entirely. Arguments like this one from CATO and Indur Goklany:

The world can best combat climate change and advance well-being, particularly of the world’s most vulnerable populations, by reducing present-day vulnerabilities to climate-sensitive problems that could be exacerbated by climate change rather than through overly aggressive Green House Gas reductions.

read more | digg story

The report is written in college level English, I’m sorry. I’ve listened to the audio, and the average person shouldn’t have a problem understanding that targeting greenhouse gas emissions (what environmentalists are doing when they worry about more cars on the roads) will produce a less positive result than targeting things like Malaria prevention, for example.

So, I wouldn’t ask the Indains and others to forgo buying automobiles; it’s a waste of time anyway. Either individual liberty (the ability to make choices for oneself) leads to long term survival for the species, or the species is doomed no matter how you slice it. Pretending that smart people (read as environmentalists) can save us from ourselves, if we hand our freedom over to them, is just another form of magical thinking.

It won’t work.