Stop Worrying and Love the Global Warming

Why, what an unexpected pleasure in the post today. A bank statement, a copy of one of Australia's least interesting magazines...

Galileo Movement flier Galileo Movement flier

...and a leaflet from a bunch of climate-change deniers! The front of which is one spaceship away from being the cover of an Asimov book!

The current Australian Federal government, you see, is proposing a carbon tax, the cost of which to consumers (in the form of more expensive goods and services from organisations that now have to pay for their pollution) will be offset by tax cuts. Various people have objected to this, including this mob, "The Galileo Movement".

The very name of The Galileo Movement proclaims their proud dedication to the popular Galilean version of the association fallacy. They laughed at Galileo, you see, and he was right, so since they also laugh at you, that's evidence indicating that you must also be right.

But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

(It's a bit like a Christian organisation calling itself the Pascal Society.)

The "Patron" of the Galileo Movement is the entirely laudable colourful Australian radio personality Alan Jones. Jones, like most prominent climate-change deniers, is an authoritarian conservative, very wealthy, entirely without any relevant scientific education or perceptible respect for scientists who disagree with his views, and certain to be safely dead by the time the global climate really starts going to hell.

But never mind Alan. On to the "facts" presented by this flier:

* CARBON DIOXIDE IS NOT A POLLUTANT: CO2 is a colourless and odourless atmospheric trace gas. It is essential for life on Earth.

Well, I can't argue with that. Obviously nothing can possibly be bad if it has no odour. And the dose could not possibly make the poison.

I cannot imagine why they bothered putting any more "facts" on this leaflet, having led off with a humdinger of an argument like this one.

* RESEARCH: Studies of data over very long periods confirm that C02 increases came AFTER increases in global temperature. So CO2 could not have CAUSED past periods of planetary warming.

Or, to put it another way, it could.

The little nugget of information that's missing here is that higher CO2 causes warming, but warming also causes the release of more CO2, from sources like thawing tundra. (This is happening, alarmingly rapidly, today.) So CO2 peaks can actually be expected to come after temperature peaks.

Oh, and note that here, the nice Galileo people are saying that scientists are right about past temperature and CO2 levels, though they kind of gloss over what the scientists actually say.

We don't, actually, have very good data on global temperature in the distant past, because nobody was there to record it. We can get a good idea of the composition of the atmosphere many thousands of years ago by sampling air trapped in thick ice sheets, but we cannot get a similarly sharp view of the temperature. We have to use "proxies", like the width of tree rings.

If a climate-change denier's trying to build an argument that relies on old temperature numbers being inaccurate, expect him to have a lot to say about unreliable temperature proxies.

* WARMING: Some global surface warming probably has occurred in the last century. However. despite increasing atmospheric C02, there has been no increase in the global surface temperature since 1998.

...and now they're saying scientists are wrong about present temperatures. Except not really, because they slip in that "since 1998" when they think you're not looking.

Climate-change deniers love 1998, because 1998 was unusually warm. So if you graph global temperature for the last, say, hundred years, you get a peak in 1998 and then it kind of plateaus off. At a temperature well above all previous temperatures.

Heck, the recent-temperatures graph actually goes down in a few places, like after 1940 and around 1990. Pretending that this is an actual argument against climate change, however, is like saying that Apple stock is a bad investment because it didn't do very well in 2008.

* CHINA: China produces the equivalent of Australia's total annual CO2 emissions in less than a month. Its total annual emissions will increase by 70% in the next decade to 10,000 million tonnes. Why should we sacrifice jobs and harm our economy, when our exported coal is being consumed tax-free there?

* REST OF WORLD: The Gillard Government wants to reduce our 1.5% of total global CO2 emissions. Yet China and the USA, the planet's two largest emitters, will CONTINUE TO INCREASE their emissions, together with India and most other countries.

This is the strongest argument available to climate-change deniers, and, notably, is also not actually an argument that denies that climate change is happening. One should not, indeed, expect to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels by reducing emissions from countries that don't emit that much CO2 in the first place. Especially while much bigger CO2 emitters are dramatically increasing their output.

This does not, however, mean that you shouldn't do the right thing, just because people elsewhere are doing the wrong thing on a greater scale. We're all going to have to do the right thing eventually, and rich countries like Australia can afford to be (relatively) early adopters, even if the actual direct effect of our action on the climate will be trivial.

This "why-bother argument" is, I think, analogous to the argument that voting is futile, because your one single vote will almost certainly never decide an election.

But it's not like voting, because reducing CO2 emissions is something that human societies are not very good at doing yet, so having a go at it will help us figure out which techniques work, and which don't. If humans all refused to do something because everybody else wasn't doing it yet, climate change wouldn't be a problem at all, because we'd never have figured out how to light a fire.

* NATURAL ICONS: The governments tax will not make any difference to the state of the Great Barrier Reef or Kakadu ~ both of which are environmentally healthy.

This one's a bit bloody cheeky.

The Great Barrier Reef has indeed pretty much recovered from the last major bleaching event in 2006, and clearly that's not going to happen again. I mean, it's only happened seven times since 1980, most seriously in 2002 and, yes, good old 1998.

Using this same argument, we can conclude that Australia need not worry its pretty head about bushfires any more, either!

(Note also the "I'm all right, Jack" attitude to coral reef destruction; it's uncontroversial that warmer seas correlated with mass bleaching events - which is why unusually-warm 1998 was so bad for reefs - and it's similarly uncontroversial that there are reefs all over the world that are in danger as a result. But as long as our big reef's OK, who cares?)

And yes, the Kakadu National Park does not, at present, seem to be suffering any particular climatic damage. It seems pretty likely that it will, but just because there's a man with a machete climbing in through your window is no cause for alarm. Give the fellow a moment to explain himself.

There are plenty of other forested areas in the world that are currently doing OK, too. I doubt that a lawyer would achieve much success if he argued that his client should be acquitted because, yes, OK, that incident with the machete was unfortunate, but look at all of the people in the world that he clearly has not yet murdered!

The whole point of action on climate change is to do something about it before our national parks dry out or wash away, our farmland blows into the ocean, yet more misery and death is visited upon millions of brown people we don't much care about, et cetera.

* CLIMATE CHANGE: Climate change is a natural phenomenon. It is not due to human activity. The frequency of Australia's floods, droughts, bushfires and cyclones will not be controlled by a new tax.

If this is actually true, then all of the other stuff is irrelevant.

It's sort of kettle logic - "I did not break your kettle! It was in one piece when I returned it! And the holes were already in it when I borrowed it! And I never borrowed your stupid kettle anyway, so there!"

I suppose they could have phrased it as "even if we're wrong about all this other stuff...", but that'd clash a little with their proud dedication to FACTS!, so they're stuck with these arguments that sit strangely together.

But never mind, because this one's no good, either.

CO2 is definitely a greenhouse gas.

CO2 levels are definitely much higher now than they've been for hundreds of thousands of years.

This change is definitely the result of human activity since the Industrial Revolution. The numbers are very bloody clear indeed.

All the deniers are left with is claiming that this CO2 will, for some reason, not do anything. Good luck with that.

* FUTURE: Climate model predictions of dangerous global warming are highly uncertain, as there are no established laws of climate change.

Whoops, there we go - now the scientists don't know anything, again!

It's true that we don't know exactly what climate change will do. Shifting climate will probably make some deserts bloom. Which is all very well if you own the bloody desert, but a bit of a problem if you're trying to farm a place where it doesn't rain any more. And a warmer climate is a more energetic climate with more water in the atmosphere, which most certainly does mean more cyclones and floods, though not necessarily more droughts and bushfires.

You don't need a full and accurate model of everything that might happen for the next hundred years to realise that we're changing the climate in surprisingly large ways. My personal favourite example is the sodding Northwest Passage, which is now navigable every summer. At the beginning of the 20th century, the preferred vehicle for traversing that area was the dog-sled; today, it can accommodate commercial freighters.

But oh, no; climate change isn't happening and if it is then it doesn't matter and if it does then it's not our fault and if it is then there's nothing we can do. You can't prove that any particular natural disaster was definitely the result of climate change; therefore, there's nothing to worry about.

And companies like poor little BHP, trying to somehow survive with only the biggest profit they've ever made standing between them and penury, must not be taxed even a tiny bit more or they'll lay everybody off.

Sheesh.

68 Responses to “Stop Worrying and Love the Global Warming”

  1. Bern Says:

    Hear, hear!

    And don't forget those pesky oil companies, one of which makes almost as much profit in a quarter as BHP does in a year...

    BTW, I think there's more commercial shipping using the Northeast passage, across the top of Russia, including oil supertankers. And the oil companies are doing some serious exploration, looking at drilling for oil in the Arctic circle. You know, in those seas that were covered in an ice cap just a few decades ago, before the warming from burning too much fossil carbon melted it...

    I think both the Northwest & Northeast passages were open for only the second time in recorded history, this year. Maybe the third - all of which would have been in the last four years.

    On the subject of the Great Barrier Reef - I think ocean acidification is regarded as a bigger threat than bleaching from high temps. It'll be a race as to whether some of the low-lying Pacific nations get wiped out by that, or sea level rise. When coral reefs and islands built on ancient reefs start to literally dissolve in seawater, maybe some folks will sit up & pay attention...

  2. Anon Says:

    Of course there is still the fact that the Green movement has basically been the biggest obstacle in the way of solving global warming (and that the carbon so-called tax the government passed probably won't do much of anything to help solve global warming).

    Just had to mention that it isn't just those right-wingers who actually get called right-wingers (as opposed to the ones who think they are leftists) who are completely disconnected from reality.

  3. Tony Mach Says:

    Go around slap the "denier" label on people and show by this that you have left the field of scientific discourse. Call me a denier and I take the liberty to ignore everything you say – I might even call you a fearmongering member of the global warming church. And then you will ignore everything I say. So how do we bridge this gap? You had your sarcastic fun but you are preaching to the believers, you just had a negative effect on reaching me.

    BTW: It is no longer called "global warming", it is called "climate change".

    And if you (or any of those CO2-fearmongerers) would really care the slightest bit about the impact of climate on humans or nature, you wouldn't reduce climate to temperature and CO2 as the single cause. It is my firm conviction that the CO2-argument will mostly (but not completely) fall apart within the next ten years and that will leave a decisive negative effect on preserving nature (see "cry wolf" for reference).

  4. Jono4174 Says:

    Preaching to the converted couldn't possibly serve any useful purpose

  5. Jono4174 Says:

    Or, to put it another way, it could.

  6. quelgar Says:

    Your voting analogy is not a good one for two reasons. First, voting involves virtually no cost, while a carbon price definitely does have a substantial cost. Second, the carbon price election is one where we know in advance that the vast majority (the rest of the world) have voted no. It's not that our vote is small, it's that we already know the outcome and that we can't change it.

    Ok, so these Galileo guys don't make the most cogent skeptical case. But there is a legitimate scientific debate about whether the climate's sensitivity to CO2 is actually what the IPCC says it is.

  7. AdamW Says:

    I reserve a special place in hell for the 'oh, but our CO2 emissions are only 1%, China's are 20%!' type arguments, because it's so superficially persuasive yet ultimately so pernicious.

    As you correctly point out, the problem with it is that it can easily be applied to almost anything, and if taken to its logical conclusion, means that, well, nothing means anything and you may as well just stay in bed.

    This specific form of it has a reasonably easy counter available, though. In this case, as in any case, there must be a single largest emitter. The 'oh, but our emissions are nothing compared to the largest emitter!' argument can be cheerfully wheeled out by people in every single other emitting country, probably (or at least, say, places #3 on the chart and below). But *cumulatively*, the emissions of all those countries whose emissions on their own look like almost nothing compared to the single biggest emitter are actually *higher* than those of the biggest emitter. If you accept that argument for Australia, you accept it for New Zealand, for Canada...you must accept the argument for every country in the world except the U.S., whose emissions are only marginally lower than China's.

    So yes, Australia's emissions seem insignificant next to China's and the U.S.'s. So do everyone else's. But if you add up *all* the 'everyone else's, suddenly you have over 58% of the total...

  8. AdamW Says:

    quelgar: "Second, the carbon price election is one where we know in advance that the vast majority (the rest of the world) have voted no."

    Er, what? You're saying that every other country in the world has decided it will never make any effort to reduce its carbon emissions? Cos that's what it sounds like you're saying.

  9. Wyntar Says:

    I do love how Alan Jones has suddenly found his green side when it comes to Coal Seam Gas in Felton. Just because he was born in Felton suddenly mining companies are bad guys etc etc etc NIMBY for the win

  10. Hewy Says:

    You appear to have left out the paragraph that explains how our climate change problems are solved by an artificial market construct with a European implementation that is plagued by fraud, ineffectiveness, profit windfalls for energy companies, tax evasion, massive volatility of the carbon market, increases in bureaucracy and has provided no measurable effect on pollution.

  11. Anon Says:

    Tony Mach:

    Go around slap the "denier" label on people and show by this that you have left the field of scientific discourse.

    You get called a denier because you deny reality.

    Tony Mach:

    And if you (or any of those CO2-fearmongerers) would really care the slightest bit about the impact of climate on humans or nature, you wouldn't reduce climate to temperature and CO2 as the single cause.

    Well we can't seem to find any other causes, I mean the sun has kept its power output pretty steady the past century (the usual solar cycle variations, but no consistent upward trend) while our orbit around the earth hasn't been changing in such a way as to cause global warming (actually we'd be in slight global cooling if it weren't for extra CO₂) and we haven't done much to alter the albedo of the earth.

    Whilst the weather and climate may be very complex systems (they are) and hard to model (also true) the global mean temperature can be computed from simple physics and depends only on how much power reaches earth, what the Earth's albedo is and atmospheric chemistry (such as concentration of greenhouse gases like CO₂, H₂O, CH₄, etc).

    Tony Mach:

    It is my firm conviction that the CO2-argument will mostly (but not completely) fall apart within the next ten years and that will leave a decisive negative effect on preserving nature (see "cry wolf" for reference).

    More likely is that we'll start to see real and obvious problems caused by global warming around then. Of course many of the people who say we need to solve global warming oppose actually solving it, getting those people discredited is at this point probably more important than discrediting you (mainly because they have more influence).

    quelgar:

    First, voting involves virtually no cost, while a carbon price definitely does have a substantial cost.

    So does requiring industries which make a mess to pay to clean it up (something we don't do anywhere near enough).

    quelgar:

    But there is a legitimate scientific debate about whether the climate's sensitivity to CO2 is actually what the IPCC says it is.

    I've seen some arguments that the IPCC may have underestimated it.

  12. tc Says:


    First, voting involves virtually no cost, while a carbon price definitely does have a substantial cost.

    Don't think argument is a good one either, even for the completely apathetic. i don't vote but i do pay extra for the "green energy". i doubt either does any much of anything, but at least you get a report of carbon saved, something measurable

  13. Anon Says:

    tc:

    Don't think argument is a good one either, even for the completely apathetic. i don't vote but i do pay extra for the "green energy". i doubt either does any much of anything, but at least you get a report of carbon saved, something measurable

    If the green energy where you live is anything like what Australians are able to pay extra for (and still get ~80% coal generated electricity) then I'd tend to say that you are actually more likely to be contributing to the problem (I'm assuming you're not in Australia, mainly because if you were in Australia you be given a choice about whether to vote).

    There's also very serious doubt as to whether the renewable energy the Greens like (i.e. not hydro) even reduces CO₂ emissions when it is backed up with fossil fuels.

  14. Bern Says:

    Tony Mach:

    BTW: It is no longer called "global warming", it is called "climate change".

    From here:

    Its first use was in a 1975 Science article by geochemist Wallace Broecker of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory: "Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?"

    Notice the use of both terms, 36 years ago?

    Just because you've come late to this scientific debate, don't assume your 'arguments' haven't been discussed before. Remember, the scientific discussion about the greenhouse effect has been going on since somewhere around 1824 or so...

  15. RichVR Says:

    Tony Mach:

    Call me a denier and I take the liberty to ignore everything you say – I might even call you a fearmongering member of the global warming church. And then you will ignore everything I say. So how do we bridge this gap? You had your sarcastic fun but you are preaching to the believers, you just had a negative effect on reaching me.

    I care about "reaching" deniers like you in the same way that I care about "reaching" the religious. Not at all. You can't teach those who refuse to be taught. I have better uses for my time.

  16. Alex Whiteside Says:

    "Go around slap the 'denier' label on people and show by this that you have left the field of scientific discourse. Call me a denier and I take the liberty to ignore everything you say"

    Dan may use the word "denier", but then he goes on to provide oodles of evidence for his perspective, culled from the best climate science has to offer. Meanwhile you ignore everything he says and tromp off in a huff. It seems to me that you're the one who has left the field of discourse.

  17. Alan Says:

    I accept that our climate is changing. I also accept man-made gases (CO2, bromochlorodifluoromethane) are major contributors. Sure methane is produced by flatulent cows but there are other sources and it's also harming the atmosphere.

    What sticks in my throat howver, is the concept that Labor's Carbon Tax will solve the problem.

    As it stands, "Big Business" (the bogey man that Labor has traditionally fought on behalf of the poor-but-honest Working Class) will be taxed on the amount of Carbon they produce. They are expected to pay for this out of their profits (yeah, riiiight)

    The price of domestic electricity is already rising drastically. With the new tax, it is predicted to rise further. Just like companies, it would be great for families to reduce consumption - but how? Should city dwellers chop down trees and have log fires - in their apartments?

    Labor wish to be seen as a Generous Benefactor, so promise to give the revenue raised back to the poor (the greatest in population, therefore statistically the group producing the most carbon). Middle class? Screw you.

    What we end up with is a massive bureaucracy, moving money between the poor and Big Business and doing stuff all for the actual environment. Oh well - to paraphrase Sir Humphrey, "What's good for the Public Service is good for Australia".

  18. corinoco Says:

    Bozo the clown.

    Where do I start?

    Well, his house is down in the southern highlands.

    I hear a lot about him as my parents live just down the road. No, their house is not as big, nor do they have 'acreage', nor do they land their helicopter in the back yard.

    Bozo does land his chopper (or his radio station's chopper), and the helicopters of all his mates in the back yard; much to the annoyance of all other local residents.

    Bozo also frequently sets off fireworks during his big parties, especially New Years Eve - during total fire bans.

    So he is not only plays an 'arse-pig' (thank you S. Fry) on radio, he plays one in real life too.

    * names changed to protect against litigious radio 'personalities'

  19. Anne Says:

    One of the most frustrating results of the climate denial noise machine is that it has become very difficult to debate techniques to manage CO2 emissions - carbon tax versus cap and trade versus, I don't know, carbon quotas? Such debates tend to get drowned out by shouting people.

    Technical methods to address climate change are readily available - one could build a solar thermal farm that would supply the energy needs of the Americas rather easily using current technology, for example. And there are zillions of other great ideas for green technology, and lots of ongoing research. They aren't the problem. The problem is getting people to actually spend the money to put these things into practice. And that problem is going to need some sort of governmental/economic solution. Unfortunately, national governments have demonstrated that they are not powerful enough to regulate energy industries, and anyway, we have also just demonstrated that we're really bad at manipulating the global economy to achieve desired results. So this stuff is what we really need to figure out.

  20. steveg Says:

    I'm pissed off Global Warming killed the Next Ice Age. I was terrorised constantly in primary school in the 1970s (in Canberra) by slide shows and film (16mm? 8mm?) about the end of the world. That and dinosaurs. And spiders. And snakes. And magpies.

    I hate magpies more than global warming, though. Any sensible person does.

  21. Bern Says:

    Ah, I see the spambots have arrived...

    [...aaaaaand they're gone! I apologise to anybody who really wanted to see a dozen attempts to sell football jerseys on this page. -Dan]

    Sad thing is, compared to most online discussions about global warming, it's quite polite & respectful... :-/

    Anne: yep, I'm with you 100% on that. If the denial machine wasn't busily trying to persuade people that there is no problem, then maybe we could all sit down and figure out how to fix it.

    Labor's ETS (aka Carbon Tax) may not be the best way to tackle the problem, but we're forced to choose between a party that claims to want to fix the problem, while trying to avoid threatening union jobs in coal mines and other high-emissions industries, and a party that publicly claims to want to fix the problem, while privately denying there's even a problem that needs fixing, and trying to make sure corporate profits are protected.

    The problem with that, is that both mining jobs and corporate profits will need to take a hit. Both will take a hit, whether we take action on GHG emissions or not. Probably a much larger hit if we don't take action, but good luck trying to persuade someone of the projected future economic impact of climate change, when they won't even accept stuff we can physically measure...

  22. alefzero Says:

    What a sad day at dansdata!
    First, a stupid leaflet by agenda-pushing dumbasses rebuked by none other than Dan himself, using a wikipedia-sourced graph drawn by a fifth grader, in MS Paint.
    Then, shock horror, Dan stops just short of proclaiming himself a GW believer. And calls others deniers. Snake oil pours from all orifices, ze goggles do nothing.
    Last but not least, rabid pro-climate-change holier-than-thou zealots driving the discussion down the drain, albeit not using curse words apart from the likes of "denial machine" etc.
    I was lurking here for the witty and funny dismissals of pseudoscience and fraudsters, but this one post made me register and comment.
    IF we don't stop calling each other "deniers", "believers", "pro-change" or whatever else, we can never get to the core of the problem.
    May I please suggest an excellent article by one Mr. Crichton, saying out loud just what I'm thinking? Please read it. Both sides.
    Let the science decide, not religion. I expected something better, from you Dan, and from you, commentards, as well. And I used to get it. Did something else than the climate change?

  23. RichVR Says:

    Your meds, no doubt.

  24. alefzero Says:

    Yes, RichVR, thanks for proving my point. Which didn't get through to you I'm afraid.

  25. RichVR Says:

    Bite me, you ignorant ballbag.

  26. Popup Says:

    Well, ℵ₀, I'll bite. While Crichton does raise some interesting points (notably that consensus doesn't necessarily coincide with scientific credibility), he doesn't actually come up with any alternative theories.

    The fact is that the situation is very complex, and very few laymen are capable of assessing the whole issue. Instead we have to choose which authorities to trust. This is admittedly not an ideal situation, and I wish that there where some readable books for the interested layman to understand the subtleties of the situation. Today all the literature seems to be either dumbed down to 'CO₂ bad=> melting icecaps => baby jesus cries', or too complex for anyone but the most serious scientists.

    For the uninitiated there is only one way of judging which camp to follow:
    -The one with lots of public support from independent organizations, serious journalists and otherwise reasonable people (such as our own Dan...)
    or
    - The one dominated by shrill naysayers, overtly or covertly backed by the petrochemical industry and various political agenda.

    I must admit that I haven't personally waded through the IPCC reports, but I trust that if there were serious discrepancies they'd come to light sooner or later.

    It's true that the treatment of people such as Lomberg (mentioned by Crichton) is lamentable, but if you actually read a bit closer you'll see that even Lomberg has now changed his position on the anthropogenic climate change.

  27. Popup Says:

    And before I get down from my soap box, let me just recommend an interesting book:

    Sustainable energy - Without the Hot Air, by Charles MacKay.
    (Available in its entirety on-line, as well as from the normal sources.)

    It doesn't look at the climate-change issue per se, but investigates instead how/if a modern country (Britain) can supply all it's energy needs from 'sustainable' sources, or if the demand can be realistically reduced.

    Unlike many other books on the subject, it's actually based on proper research¹, and filled with serious numbers. (Presented in a very readable and graphic way.)

    The take-home-message is that

    If everyone does a little, only a little will change.
    We need big changes.

    In the end he recommends large off-shore wind farms, nuclear power, better insulation and electric cars. But primarily that politicians stop arguing and actually do something.

    ¹ The author is after all a physics professor.

  28. RichVR Says:

    Please excuse my previous outburst. But when I'm referred to as a "commentard" I feel that any need to reply rationally is negated. Thanks Popup for being much more rational and engaging the point.

  29. DougCotton Says:

    There is absolutely no empirical proof from any experiment that demonstrates that "carbon dioxide causes warming." It would be simple to prove with two large containers in the sun, one with more carbon dioxide than normal air, and one with 80 pure nitrogen and 20% pure oxygen, but no one dares do this because it won't result in warming. Indeed, theory says heat can be transferred by diffusion from oxygen and nitrogen molecules to greenhouse molecules, the latter being then able to radiate the heat away. So carbon dioxide could also cool. Even if it did "trap" heat, that may just cause a few extra minutes of warmth each day before all cools off at night. The vast bulk of the heat in the Earth's system is under the surface and that dominates in controlling temperatures. The oceans are nothing more than a small glass of water in a large air-conditioned room representing the rest of the Earth. The air conditioner controls the temperature of the water. You can read about how natural variations in core heat control climate cycles at my site http://climate-change-theory.com And if you still think the (pseudo) "science" proves it, check the reasons why it doesn't on my site before posting the same old arguments.

  30. RichVR Says:

    Crap, Dan. They're coming out of the woodwork.

  31. Bern Says:

    Yep, they're definitely coming out of the woodwork...

    I find the comment by DougCotton interesting, because, whaddaya know, people *have* done experiments to prove that CO2 absorbs infrared...
    There are two clear examples that prove this:

    1) this video demonstration; and

    2) the fact that CO2 lasers exist. You can buy them fairly cheaply out of China, I believe. (Yes, they're infrared lasers that you can't see the beam of - image here, or maybe this one from the Wikipedia article.)
    For those that don't know - a substance will absorb energy at the same frequency it emits it, so the fact that CO2 can be used to create IR lasers is proof positive that it can absorb IR.

    On the other hand, I'm sure Mr DougCotton will object that it proves nothing, because I didn't cite an experiment done exactly the way he wanted... but then, I looked at his linked website, and was amused by this explanation of what happens to heat trapped and re-radiated downward by CO2:

    When it returns to the surface it can then warm adjacent air which can rise by convection right through the carbon dioxide.

    Hmm. I'm wondering just how that "warm adjacent air" happens to have no CO2 in it, or how it can "rise... right through" the CO2, without, you know, mixing with it. It seems very, um, improbable...
    The quadratic fit to the last 10 or so years of temp data looks to be a clear example of mathturbation. I'd guess it's the UAH or RSS data, rather than the more comprehensive GISTEMP, which shows a distinct rising trend over the same time period. But even the UAH or RSS data don't fit that quadratic curve when you include 2010 data, you have to truncate it at 2009.

    Of course, any climate scientist worth his/her salt would tell you that 10-15 years is too short a time period over which to observe climate trends, anyway. I'd agree - a linear trend of similar magnitude to the rate of global warming plus random noise of similar magnitude to climate variability will give you decade-plus periods where temps appear to stagnate or decrease, even though you *know* the data is based on a fixed rate of 'warming' (try it yourself, it's not a hard one to do, Excel or LibreOffice Calc is all you need).

    Anyway...

    There's a good summary that goes something like this:
    1) CO2 absorbs IR (this can easily be proven in simple lab experiments);
    2) Thermodynamic theory says CO2 in the atmosphere will trap heat, contributing to the "greenhouse effect" - this is the only reason we're not living on a snowball about 30ºC colder;
    3) Humans emit ~30 billion tons of CO2 each year, of which ~15 billion is absorbed by the natural environment (mostly the oceans). The rest goes into increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere;
    4) Some very complex atmospheric & climate modelling, based on physics, thermodynamics, and other hard sciences, has resulted in models that tell us the CO2 will have a warming effect on the planet. These models are tested by feeding them known data from the past, and seeing if they can reproduce the actual measured temperature (this is called 'hindcasting'). They general do a pretty good job of it, so we have a fair degree of confidence that they're not completely useless (a la "All models are wrong, but some models are useful"). In fact, the basic "more greenhouse gases = warming" can be demonstrated with relatively simple models, although they don't reproduce the real world very well at all;
    5) These complex models include natural effects, like the sun, orbital changes, cloud cover, etc etc etc. They only reproduce reality when human greenhouse gas emissions are also included;
    6) Nobody has come up with an alternate hypothesis that works - and by "works", we mean can identify a natural factor(s) that produces net warming that exactly matches that we'd expect from human greenhouse gas & aerosol emissions, while simultaneously 100% counteracting the forcing we expect from known human emissions, based on physics & thermodynamics.

    Anyway.

    Rant off. :-)

  32. Bern Says:

    [sigh...]

    I typed a lengthy & detailed comment responding to DougCotton's post, and then clicked the "Say It!" button, and it just vanished... :-(

    Instead of trying to reproduce it, I'll just point folks to Skeptical Science's article on the attribution of global warming...
    And just for good measure, here's their rebuttal of the "It's natural" argument.

  33. Red October Says:

    The big problem here is that "Global warming" or whatever they're calling it this week has become far too good of a political football for anyone to let go of. (Aussies, like Americans, know that a football is held in the hands ;) ) There are two sides, one whose argument is "Na na na na na I can't hear you!" and the other whose argument is "It's all man's fault and therefore we must suffer to make it right!" Of course this means assigning blame, and wasting a good deal of time arguing over if man is to blame, and if so, how much, and then, moreover, which men in particular. (I find it funny that an Australian publication points to the US as a larger polluter when here in the US we point to India, China, and Brazil, who outstrip us by far in terms of pollutant output.) This brings up the further problem of anyone who is blamed will try to resist the blame since nobody gets up in the morning and decides to cause environmental damage. What are we, as the "West" supposed to do? Kindly ask India and China to stop developing, because we were much happier when their people ate shit with their hands because that didn't pollute the environment?

    Instead of trying to use half measures and punitive taxes (which won't solve anything; they'll just make things more expensive, which of course, will impact the poorest people the hardest and the people "responsible" for the pollution not at all.) I am at a complete loss as to why all you hear is talk of taxes and regulations, always from the most developed countries (who of course pollute the least), and horrendous half measures like telling people they're using the wrong sort of light bulb or driving the wrong sort of car. Why are we not taking proactive measures that will do an end-run around all this blame, pointless regulation, and silly taxation; say by seeding the upper atmosphere with sulphur, which, according to studies I've read, could entirely halt warming on its own, without the sort of taxes and regulations that people will fight bitterly against.

    Finally, the idiotic resistance to nuclear power (at least in my own country, I cannot speak for other countries but I suspect that they suffer from the same problem to a lesser extent) needs to be put to fucking rest. Nuclear power is clean, safe, and our best possible source for electricity. Sure the waste is concentrated death, but that's just the point. It's concentrated. You can pick it up and move it to wherever it will bother the fewest people and do the least harm. You can't say that about the noxious shit that is pumped out of carbon-based fuel-fired power plants.

    In other words, something needs to be done that doesn't depend on forcing people to pay more money for necessary things or to buy expensive, shitty light bulbs they don't want. Something that doesn't hinge on people accepting blame for something that might be, peripherally, sort of their fault. Something as simple as "The planet is changing from how we've grown accustomed to it; let's stop this in a direct fashion".

  34. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Had alefzero been lurking here a little longer, he would presumably have seized the chance to make a similar complaint when I specifically addressed Michael Crichton's bullshit about climate change.

  35. DougCotton Says:

    In response to above replies, I have made it very clear on both my websites that I fully understand the capturing of photons by carbon dioxide and do not deny such for one moment.

    But there is far more to the issue than any of the above authors appear be aware. All that you are all doing is quoting that standard half-baked "science" that leaves out numerous considerations. Perhaps if and when you have studied both physics and climatology as much as I have you will change your mind(s) especially when the curved trend (drawn by none other than Trenberth himself) continues gaining downward momentum.

    There are natural climate cycles caused by natural processes (not carbon dioxide) and these cycles fully explain all trends for many hundreds, probably thousands of years back. See my main site http://earth-climate.com for more on cycles.

    By the way, at least one author above appears to think the heat builds up in the atmosphere itself. This shows little understanding of the radiation models which assume (but don't prove) that it builds up primarily in the oceans which hold more than 20 times the heat in the atmosphere. Yes some does remain in the oceans in local summer periods, but, as we all know, oceans cool again in local winter.

    In fact, the vast majority of all heat is inside the Earth, and it is natural variations in such heat which must be causing climate cycles by the processes I explain.

  36. RichVR Says:

    Perhaps if and when you have studied both physics and climatology as much as I have...

    Cite please.

  37. RichVR Says:

    BTW, I don't click on links from people that insist upon them. That way lies malware. Prove your expertise in either of your alleged areas of study. Do it here. And try not to babble so much about things that you think you know. What degrees do you have? Are you accredited? If so please provide a link to a site that shows same. Not your personal blag.

    And I have to ask, do you honestly believe that the majority of the heat that affects climate is radiated from within the Earth? Cite please.

    Do you believe that heat builds up IN the atmosphere itself?

    Do you not believe in radiated heat? Infra-red radiation? Do you know of black body radiation? Do you understand that the atmosphere is layered?

    Have you heard of ozone? Do you know how it is created or destroyed?

    Do you understand how the Earth was formed? Do you know how old the Earth is? Do you believe that the Earth was created by a god or gods?

    Are you now or have you ever been a creationist?

    A communist?

    A Bokononist?

    Are you at this very time in a basement? If yes, is it your mother's?

    If not whose? And if not, where and why?

    Please answer all questions succinctly and with footnotes. Otherwise I will ignore you and send evil waves into the the filling you... I've said too much.

  38. RichVR Says:

    Paging Stark...

  39. alefzero Says:

    Okay, to set a few things straight:
    Re Dan: been here, read that. But I wasn't trying to present the Crichton's article for its convenient fact-picking, but for its call for thorough study of the subject.
    Re RichVr, sorry about that, but coming from TheRegister.co.uk, a "commentard" is not an insult and wasn't meant to be.
    I think that Popup summed it up quite nicely - it's all about the camp you follow.
    I say don't follow either - neither the IPCC guys who publicly admitted to "spicing up" the temperature data, nor the guys "yadda yadda I can't hear you and let's pretend there's an infinite amount of oil left".
    And that won't be accomplished by calling people 'deniers'. We've had that a few hundred years ago and it didn't turn out too well, did it.
    Maybe I'm being too much of a devil's advocate in the process. The whole point was that fighting climate change with CO2 tax is bollocks, despite the stupid arguments that were dismantled by Dan, and rightly so.

  40. OrgAdam Says:

    What an exciting debate, and for the most part - quite adult. Unfortunately nutters tend to yell louder than rational people, and hence are heard. If they yell often enough (they can be quite tiresome), their message is heard and believed. I have it on good authority that this is how the bible was invented.

    Love the Bozo analogy BTW.

  41. Woolfe Says:

    In response to the CO2 Tax being bollocks.

    The way I understand the point of the Carbon tax,(and I am a layman) is that pollution is an Externality. "An externality (or transaction spillover) is a cost or benefit, not transmitted through prices,[1] incurred by a party who did not agree to the action causing the cost or benefit. A benefit in this case is called a positive externality or external benefit, while a cost is called a negative externality or external cost". (That was from Wikipedia)

    So pollution is a negative externality, as the cost of production is born by th environment, and therefore by Society as a whole, rather than the individuals and groups producing and more importantly using the products.
    From what I understand from Free Market thinking, this is very bad, as it causes a disruption in the real value of a product, which may give a product an artificial advantage over another product.

    So the Carbon Tax is an attempt by society to put a price on the externality. This will cause the value of the items to change, affecting both producer(who will endeavour to reduce the carbon footprint thereby reduces expenses) and the consumer (who will now be paying the actual value of the product, which may now make alternative products more appealing).

    Yes this will cause grief initially, but there will be positive reactions that come out of it. First by pricing Coal for example at a higher rate, (low carbon producing)renewables become more competitive. This induces more investment in other products, which results in costs of production coming down, and thus making renewable resources a viable and real option.

    My biggest problem with the concept of the Corporation is that it has no Social/Environmental/Political desire outside of the requirements needed to make money. By making something like a carbon tax, you now give the Corporations a reason to invest in reducing their outlay of carbon.

    Clear as Mud hey :-)

  42. Awarru Says:

    What if climate change is all a hoax and we create a better world for nothing?

    Source: (comic) http://i.imgur.com/bZ516.jpg

  43. Alex Whiteside Says:

    I'm noting a popular meme amoungst climate change deniers, where to bolster their rejection of climate modelling they have decided that the only valid science is performed on the bench-top with a simple yes-or-no controlled experiment. I wonder if these people have ever attended a technical scientific presentation - just one - in their entire lives.

  44. Bern Says:

    Hmm, I see my earlier long comment has reappeared. Oh, well.

    alefzero:

    neither the IPCC guys who publicly admitted to "spicing up" the temperature data

    Cite please.

    Unless by "spicing up" you mean "correcting known problems in 250-odd years of incomplete, erratic records taken with varying instruments and methodologies". Yep, that sort of data correction is done all the time.

    Just ask Roy Spencer & John Christy...

    Re the term "denier" - I have no problem calling someone a denier when they claim that human CO2 emissions cannot be a problem. 30 billion frikkin' tons per year. Seriously. That's a Sydney Harbour full of pure CO2 every 20 minutes, of every hour, of every day. And it's been going on for centuries. But then, some of the same people claimed that SOx emissions couldn't possibly cause acid rain (Red October, that's a good reason right there for avoiding that sulphur seeding plan if at all possible), or that CFCs couldn't possibly cause damage to the ozone layer. And, yes, some of the same people claimed that cigarette smoke couldn't possibly have adverse health effects...

    Most climate scientists get their research funding from government grants. They use that funding to investigate interesting scientific questions, and try to find out what the answers really are. They've been working on the greenhouse / climate thing for about 187 years now, and have come up with a fairly good set of explanations for why climate is the way it is, why it's been the way it's been in the past, and what we expect it to do in the future.

    Personally, I'll treat with some considerable scepticism any statements that "it's really not that bad" and/or "it's nothing to do with human activity", when said statements come from people who get funding directly and indirectly from the fossil fuel industry.

  45. Stark Says:

    Lol... Heya Rich....

    I could write several pages back to Mr. Cotton... but I am, much to my chagrin, too busy these days to engage in much of a rebuttal.

    Sufficed to say that Mr. Cotton's BSc in Physics does little to impress on the educational front in this argument and his arguments themselves (from his earth-climate.com site) show a very limited grasp of even basic physics and thermodynamics... which throws the rest of what he says, and his BSc, into serious doubt. Frankly, his site and its arguments are very reminiscent of the varied "perpetual motion" folks that have wandered through Dan's blog now and again. I would suspect, if we checked, we'd find that Mr. Cotton is either a practicing or retired engineer.

    Ah well... his claims about the internal temperature of the earth controlling the atmospheric temperature are at least somewhat entertaining... never mind that if that were actually the case we should see next to no seasonal or diurnal temperature changes and the poles should be a hell of a lot warmer than they are. I also enjoy the oceans being compared to a glass of water in an air conditioned room - must be a very small room or a helluva big glass.

  46. Red October Says:

    Bern: I didn't mean that the sulphur seeding was the best or only solution, just that it's the type of solution we need. People who insist it's not happening and won't look at data are on line with religious crazies; remember what our own Dan has said about them: "You can't reason someone out of something they didn't reason themselves in to in the first place". There is no point in arguing with them or trying to convince them it's happening.

    Then there are the people like me who recognize it's happening but refuse to accept that it's entirely man's fault or that we should suffer a plague of government to fix it (Let me clarify -human action is certainly in part responsible for warming, but I don't think it matters how much is, because that's like arguing over who shot a man while he bleeds out on the ground. If you take all the time to figure out who did it, he'll be dead. Instead we should be rendering aid.) But I do believe that it needs fixing, and with a practical solution, not taxes or regulations. The sulphur idea was just an example of the sort of solution that I believe is called for -one that doesn't rely on forcing individual citizens to take the blame or foot the bill by way of regressive taxes on the people who are already not doing all that much to harm the environment. That's all.

  47. Woolfe Says:

    Hi Red October,

    So did you read the details on the concept of pollution(and thus by extension carbon) as to why the Tax is required to correct a negative externality.
    I didn't provide any direct links, mostly cause its easy enough to find info on externalities and the effect on free market economies just with the judicious application of a little Google-fu.

    The premise is simple, force the market to pay for the cost of carbon, and therefore provide the market with an incentive to reduce their carbon production. Either through more efficient processes or by reducing the cost of alternatives that don't produce as much carbon.

    Someone has to pay. Now don't get me wrong, sure we are going to take a hit, but as you said, we need to stop arguing and talking about it and do something. This is something. Might not be the best, but it is something. What alternative to the tax are you suggesting?

    I'd love to see a proper ETS, then we can actually start making money off the process as well, which will definately inspire smart and ruthless people to get involved.

    Of course an ETS will only work if it is applied properly, the one they bandied around before it got killed essentially gave the biggest producers free reign.

    The West we live in is a Capitalist(kind of) society. Thus the best way to get something done quickly is to monetise it.

  48. Alan Says:

    Externalities and free market economies. Hmmm. Yes, if you force the entire market to pay the cost of carbon, there should be benefits (eventually). Problem is - the entire market won't be paying.
    Never mind the "big polluters" ie. China, USA, India - what about the big Australian companies with enough clout to force a watering down of terms? BHP? Rio Tinto? Anyone watching the mining tax proposal?

    How about some reward for those who maintain a carbon sink? The most obvious being farmers. How much will a farmer be refunded per tonne of grain? Fruit growers? Hey, what about the common homeowner in the suburbs?

    According to Google, Australia produces about 17 tonnes of CO2 per capita. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it?
    But - that's for a population of about 22 million, or a total of about 390 million tonnes. With an area of 7,686,850 Sqare Km, that's about 50,000 Kg per square kilometre, or 50 grams per square metre. Per year.

    A house on (say) 500 square metres is responsible for about 25 kilograms. If you count grass clippings, branches etc. recycled in a standard compost bin, most gardens are already acting as effective carbon sinks. Weigh your home-grown vegetables before eating them (yes, back to farming again).

    Are home owners going to be compensated? Hell, no. In fact, you'd be better off concreting your land (to cut back your water bill).

    This is why I oppose the Carbon tax - in its current form.

  49. Bern Says:

    Red October: actually, it's not like a bunch of people standing around a man bleeding from a gunshot wound. It's like a bunch of people standing around a man with a gunshot wound, with their AK-47s on full auto and their fingers firmly clamped on the triggers...

    The point of emission reductions isn't to repair the damage already done, it's to prevent additional future damage - which is why the 'sceptic' argument that "the temperature wont decrease for a thousand years!" is actually an argument for more, faster action, not none at all.

    Alan: Sorry, I don't buy your "it's only 50 grams per square metre" argument. Sure, smeared over the whole country, that might be the figure. But if your house is only responsible for 25kg, what about the other 90,000-odd kg that the 2 adults and 2.3 children living in it are responsible for?

    Besides - the planetary climate doesn't care if the CO2 is emitted by 10 people who live in an area the size of Africa, or 6.5 billion all squeezed into a single two-bedroom flat in inner Sydney. A ton of CO2 is a ton of CO2 is a ton of CO2. We, here in Australia, are responsible for about 1.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. I'm yet to see any credible argument as to why we shouldn't be responsible for at least 1.7% of the global solution to this mess we find ourselves in.

    Re bio-sequestration: I don't dispute that proper care of the environment will maximise the carbon sunk there. But there are two inherent problems:

    1) it would take your back garden a long time to store enough carbon to cover it in a layer just 1 cm thick. But that much coal, burned in a power station, will only generate enough electricity to run your house for a single day;

    2) you're not permanently sequestering that carbon, it remains in the surface carbon cycle, and it will probably make it's way back to the atmosphere sometime in the next century. Especially if the projections for increased temperature & accompanying drought / flood cycles are at all accurate.

    The fossil fuels that are powering the PC I'm typing this on were sequestered about a hundred and fifty million years ago. The cheapest & most effective way to sequester carbon? Don't dig it up in the first place!

    Trying to re-bury it after you've turned it from a solid into a gas with three times the mass really is trying to push the genie back into the bottle.

  50. Bern Says:

    Oh, Alan: I should say, I agree with you that the Carbon Tax (er, 'Fixed Price period of the Emissions Trading Scheme') will be relatively ineffective if the big polluters are given a free pass.

    I'd much rather see a blanket tax, with zero exceptions and exemptions, and which increments at about 10% a year, compounded. Followed immediately by a ban on construction of any new fossil fuel power stations.

    Ideally, it'd be good to see this implemented world-wide, but I doubt the Americans will ever pull their heads out of their backsides long enough to see the cliff they're driving towards...

    Note: I'm not saying this would be cheap, or economical, or whatever - I'm not an economist, just someone who accepts the advice of experts in the field when they say we passed the safe limit for atmospheric CO2 more than 20 years ago... besides, there's plenty of evidence out there that the right kind of nuclear power plants can be almost as cheap as coal, per MWh generated. And a hell of a lot safer and less damaging to the environment, too.

    Oh, and Stark: don't knock us engineers! Hey, I got nearly 90% in my thermodynamics & fluid mechanics subjects, which I'd say would probably qualify me to discuss climate science a hell of a lot more than the average science student... (the important question: what sort of science degree is it?)

  51. Alan Says:

    Bern, you missed the point. You are still thinking in tonnes per capita, I just converted that to grams per square metre.
    There was a deliberate flaw in my play with numbers, but you missed it: each person in Australia should, technically, own (or be responsible for) 349,400 square metres (349 hectares). Some of that should be forest, and some of it desert - and each has different carbon footprints.

    I had hoped, by using these numbers, to suggest that carbon emissions of a child in school (or a baby) should not be considered equal to a businessman (or football player) regularly jetting between capital cities. Tonnes per capita is as silly as grams per square metre.

    On point (2) I would say the organic waste, collected by my council in the designated waste bin, is indeed being recycled as compost and landfill. I'd be happier if they threw the lot down an old coalmine shaft, but in these days of open cut mining I'll settle for landfill.

    Oh, and I agree: eliminate coal-burning stations. Diesel generators can run small outback towns, but for the rest - nuclear is the way to go. Unless you want to give me that 349 hectares, and enough money to cover it in solar cells and wind turbines...

  52. RichVR Says:

    I always liked fluid dynamics. Until it got heavily into the math area. But I can still figure out the difference between the oceans on Earth and a glass of water. Or have I not done enough studying?

  53. RichVR Says:

    Now paging Doug Cotton... Hello?

  54. alefzero Says:

    Bern, here's one of the many sources on "spicing up the data", among other things. Google will no doubt reveal some more trustworthy ones, this is just a first hit.
    And for the record, I don't deny that the climate is changing, hell no. It is, and has been for the past 4.5bn years. I'm just not sure we can fix it (and not sure that it needs fixing, either).

  55. Anon Says:

    Alan:

    Externalities and free market economies. Hmmm. Yes, if you force the entire market to pay the cost of carbon, there should be benefits (eventually). Problem is - the entire market won't be paying.
    Never mind the "big polluters" ie. China, USA, India

    They can be dealt with by carbon tariffs on imports.

    Bern:

    I'm not an economist, just someone who accepts the advice of experts in the field when they say we passed the safe limit for atmospheric CO2 more than 20 years ago...

    I wouldn't say we passed the safe limit for CO₂ 2 decades ago but instead that we passed the time when we could actually have hope of avoiding large negative effects then (but the anti-nuclear movement wouldn't let us).

    Bern:

    besides, there's plenty of evidence out there that the right kind of nuclear power plants can be almost as cheap as coal, per MWh generated. And a hell of a lot safer and less damaging to the environment, too.

    In many places even existing LWRs (crap compared to MSRs) are already cheaper than coal (and even in Australia which has very cheap coal nuclear isn't that much more expensive (or at least wouldn't be if it were properly regulated)).

    Bern:

    Oh, and Stark: don't knock us engineers! Hey, I got nearly 90% in my thermodynamics & fluid mechanics subjects, which I'd say would probably qualify me to discuss climate science a hell of a lot more than the average science student... (the important question: what sort of science degree is it?)

    As someone who does have a physics degree I'm just going to say that engineers take less than a third of the physics classes physics majors do (or at least the ones who invaded my physics classes did, though the engineers also took statics which is considered scientifically uninteresting and so not usually taught to science students).

    Still probably better qualified than the average biologist to comment on the physics of climate change (though the biologist would probably have a better idea of what a temperature change would do to an ecosystem).

    Although there is a known tendency for engineers to become cranks (only a small minority, but engineers do tend to be over-represented among cranks). Take the Salem hypothesis as an example.

  56. Woolfe Says:

    I love it when someone mentions China as one of the biggest polluters. They are completely correct, they are one of the biggest polluters. They are also the single biggest invester in renewable energy in the world.

    Sure Renewable doesn't mean no pollution, but most current renewables do produce less pollution than burning coal. Reference http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/other-resources/investing-in-clean-power-329295

    I agree with the reward system. I heard an interesting interview with some WA farmers who have started growing a certain type of tree in between all thier fields. They have then been selling carbon credits to overseas interests. It is great for the farmers, as it gives them a steady income even if the crops don't produce.

    But from my understanding that was what the ETS is all about. But again, it will never work if we don't hit the actual polluters. By making them more expensive we reduce our reliance on them.

    And using population per land area in Australia is silly. Huge expances of Australia are not considered "livable" So your numbers are somewhat flawed.

    Again, if you are against the Carbon Tax in its current form, then what is your alternative.

    I personally would like to see Parks, Gardens, and large expances of bushland be positively rated so that it can be used to offset against business etc, thus providing a reason to leave it alone, rather than just bulldoze it.
    Which is ETS stuff as I understand it (I could be wrong tho, as I said Layman).

  57. Bern Says:

    alefzero: seriously? You're quoting Delingpole? The man who freely admits that he never reads the science, he just interprets other interpretations of it?

    You'll have to do better than that...

    Not only that, but it's a 2-year-old article about the "Climategate" emails. I suggest you read a bit more outside the climate sceptic blogs. If you had, you'd already know that there's been not one, but seven separate inquiries into various aspects of that.

    And every single inquiry found that the allegations of scientific misconduct were complete and utter bullshit.

    Oh, except for the fact that the climate scientists at East Anglia were perhaps less responsive than they should have been to FoI requests. But, considering they received more FoI requests in 6 months than the entire university normally receives in a decade, and most of those 'requests' were for data they'd already published, or for data that wasn't theirs to give out, perhaps their lack of enthusiasm is understandable...

    I wont even bother to link to the video of Delingpole getting pwned by Sir Paul Nurse about his 'scepticism'...

    Ah, what the heck. Here it is. :-)

  58. Red October Says:

    Woolfe you ask for an alternative to a tax which I have already suggested in seeding the upper atmosphere with sulphur. While someone has already presented a criticism of this idea (it is not mine; geoengineering is not my field) I believe that geoengineering is where the true solution lies. Taxes will solve nothing, nor will controls on fundamentally good and desirable things (vehicles, electricity, water, goods, etc.). The anthropogenic effects on climate are a by-product of the inevitable advancement of society, any attempt to halt it will be met with harsh resistance.

    We seem to have come to the consensus that we've grown to like the planet as it is, and that it's important we keep it that way. Trying to accomplish this goal by stifling development with taxes and restrictions calls to mind someone trying to stop a balloon from inflating by grasping it in their hands and squeezing. It will contract in one place and expand in another. We need methods that do not rely on taxation and restriction but on positive actions that will facilitate development, not stifle it.

  59. Bern Says:

    The problem with the adaptation-only approach you advocate is this: how do you adapt when climate change may mean your country can no longer grow enough food to feed everyone? When there's either not enough water to drink, or far too much?

    What do you do when a heatwave means everyone not in an air-conditioned space drops dead of hyperthermia?

    How do you adapt to a sea level rise of 60+ metres, and the total collapse of the oceanic foodchain upon which a billion people depend for protein?

    Yeah, sure, they're extreme outcomes, but so is a temperature rise greater than that from the depths of the last ice age to today. And with "business as usual", that's what you're looking at.

    Stating that we have to give up vehicles, electricity, water, goods etc in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a false dichotomy. There are ways of generating electricity that don't involve burning fossil fuels. There are ways of powering vehicles that don't involve fossil fuels. Given the recent analysis that suggests the economic cost of coal-fired electricity is higher than it's market value (and that's *not* including climate change impacts), I'd suggest that we'd be a whole lot better off if we switched to some of those alternatives.

    Yeah, sure, it's going to be expensive. Most worthwhile things are.

    In this case, though, it might mean the difference between climate change that's merely bad, or civilisation-ending.

  60. Woolfe Says:

    As the Doc says prevention is better than cure.

    Teh Carbon Tax etc, is designed around reducing one of the "causes" of the problem, by making it less economically viable, which will in turn drive inovation to modify process to reduce the "cause" or by allowing alternatives that don't produce the "cause" to be able to compete.

    Your solution is actually a fix. It may well be the result that we need something like your solution to prevent mass extinction. However I question whether or not your solution has been particularly well tested. How do you know it won't cause more problems than it solves. How do you know it will even solve the problem.

    NO ONE is saying don't produce electricity, what we are saying is charge correctly for it. This way the "cheap" but dirty process gets charge appropriately for the "dirt" it creates, thus making the expensive but clean process viable for investors. Once there is more investment in Expensive but clean, the expensive part starts to come down as process and technology improves.

    I would applaud today if someone went out and replaced every single coal fire plant with an equivalent modern Coal fire plant. That in itself would reduce the amount of releases into the atmosphere by a significant degree. I also believe that there is a place for Clean Coal in the world, we have to invest in this area as well. The issue with clean coal of course is that it will become more expensive, and thus coal will not be as "cheap" anymore. But again with increased production comes increased efficiency and innovation, which will bring the price down.

    There is no single silver bullet here. It makes sense to move away from Fossil fuels in the long term, because fossil fuels are a finite commodity, we CAN'T advance in the world if all of a sudden our source of electricity drys up, can we.

    Carbon Tax, and the solutions I am suggesting are only part of the answer, they are long term goals aimed at reducing the pressure that is already building. It may well be that we need a "fixit" solution as well in order to solve the entire equation.

    "The anthropogenic effects on climate are a by-product of the inevitable advancement of society," But they don't need to be. There are alternatives to almost everything that is currently causing issues, the problem is it is expensive to change a system that has become so reliant on the old systems.
    "any attempt to halt it will be met with harsh resistance" Resistance is necessary for a society to continue to challenge itself. BUT there comes a time when you have to stop patching the holes, and build a new dam, otherwise the only option you will have is to run and hope to get to high ground.

    Basically the West and the Developing nations like China and India need to stop fighting it and start working toward the greater good, else we all die.

  61. Red October Says:

    Bern I'm not suggesting we just roll with the punches, so to speak, but take an active measure to soften the blows. The idea of using sulphur was just one idea; one that I read in an article. This is not my field of expertise so I can't just pull another such idea out of thin air and expect it to be reasonable, but it serves as an example of the sort of solution we should be working towards.

    I suggest this sort of a solution because it avoids so many of the nasty problems we face trying to abate warming using current tactics of tax and regulation. People don't want to be regulated and can't afford to pay more taxes. They will fight against these things, and they will fight against attempts to pin blame on them. A geoengineering solution doesn't rely on blaming one group or country, and shouldn't be funded by anything but general tax income. It wouldn't stifle development in growing nations or cause economic stagnation in developed nations. And hopefully, it wouldn't be a political football.

  62. Alan Says:

    Dick Smith has gone on record saying the rich should give more to "charity".
    Well, Australia has some fairly empty areas (Simpson Desert, Nullarbor) that could easily become home to solar panel farms.

    Given enough time, they would become profitable. Meanwhile, the loss is a "charity" (ie. tax write-off) AND the rich are seen as developing an environmentally sound electric system.

    Provided, of course, that solar cells aren't made hideously expensive- by the Carbon Tax penalties of solar cell production. Growing silicon crystals at 273 degrees C isn't done with pixe dust, you know. Nor the glass panel on the front, or the aluminium frame, the copper wiring, the ferrite transformers to convert to AC, etc.

  63. Bern Says:

    Red October, I see where you're coming from.

    Geoengineering, though, is likely to be ineffective, and in many cases counter-productive (such as the acid rain consequences of the sulphate idea). The other problem - most of the geo-engineering 'fixes' only last a short time, and need to be continually renewed, while the impacts of CO2 will last for centuries at least.

    I fully agree that taking measures to soften the blows is a good idea. In fact, it's the best idea. And the #1 way to 'soften the blow' of global warming? Not emit so much greenhouse gases in the first place...

    After all, we could always develop better sunscreens, but that doesn't mean reducing CFCs to save the ozone layer wasn't the best option! (thinking back to the "Sunblock 2000" ad parody in Robocop :-)

    Alan - yes, there are carbon tax implications of manufacturing solar cells. The best idea, though, would be to bootstrap the process - build a factory to make solar cells, and then use the cells made there to power the factory to build *more* solar cells.

    There are other issues, though, that make solar PV unsuitable for more than a small portion of electricity generation - at least until someone figures out how to make really big, high capacity batteries more economical! Probably the best "large scale" energy storage is pumped hydro, with about a 5-10% energy loss, and there aren't very many places where that's practicable.

  64. Alan Says:

    If you could convince people to live in a high-rise skyscraper, kept their gardens but put a glass roof over the top, you would be a long way toward building a solar updraft tower (with the chimney formed on a corner of the apartment block).
    Highly inefficient, but hey it's a start.

  65. Jonadab Says:

    > We don’t, actually, have very good data on global temperature
    > in the distant past, because nobody was there to record it.

    Indeed. We have about a hundred years of halfway decent data (more like a hundred and fifty years for certain very limited geographical areas; more like fifty years for remote areas with limited Westernization where most of our data comes from satellites) and another couple of hundred years of really spotty, inconsistent data for a handful of places (notably, England). Before that, we really only know about unusual events (like the time the Bosporus froze) and there are no actual numbers, so the phrase "very little real data" is if anything a generous assessment.

    In other words, we know vanishingly close to absolutely nothing at all about long-term climate patterns. There's a whole lot of abject speculation going on and very little actual science. This is not because scientists are lazy or anything. It's simply because they don't have time-travel devices to go back and collect the missing data. We're collecting lots of data now, so in a thousand years or so (barring some cataclysm that makes it all for naught) we should have a MUCH improved understanding of at least medium-term climate patterns, and possibly some understanding of the long-term ones as well.

    For now, though, everything we know about climate, and for that matter every reasonable educated guess we can make, has to do with much shorter-term patterns, on the order of a handful of years at most, and even at that most of it consists of fairly vague generalities. It's very hard to be precise because we just don't have enough information.

    I can take seriously the climate scientists who say things like "It appears that an unusually warm patch in the southern Pacific ocean can indeed have an impact on weather in the northern hemisphere in the months that follow" or even "There appears to be a relationship between the level of certain gasses in the atmosphere and the mean annual temperature."

    I cannot, however, take seriously anyone who makes specific predictions (one way or the other) about how the climate's going to be different fifty years from now.

  66. Anon Says:

    Woolfe:

    I love it when someone mentions China as one of the biggest polluters. They are completely correct, they are one of the biggest polluters. They are also the single biggest invester in renewable energy in the world.

    Which given that most renewable energy doesn't actually work well enough to be worth using doesn't mean much.

    Though have invested a lot in hydro which is the one really useful renewable and are also spending a lot on nuclear (which is the only power source we have right now that we can be sure will scale to meet our needs).

    Woolfe:

    Sure Renewable doesn't mean no pollution, but most current renewables do produce less pollution than burning coal.

    True, but the fact that a lot of the energy produced by many of those renewables is basically useless does reduce the advantage somewhat (and they still don't do as well there (or in safety) as nuclear, energy density has its advantages, like not needing anywhere near as much steel and concrete).

    Woolfe:

    Again, if you are against the Carbon Tax in its current form, then what is your alternative.

    For a start we should be banning the construction of new fossil fuel burning power plants (but with an exemption if they sequester the carbon) along with remove all bans on nuclear power.

    Then have a fixed price carbon tax applied to everything which emits CO₂ or other greenhouse gases (costed at 100 years CO₂ equivalence or something) along with tariffs on imports based on how many greenhouse gases were released in manufacture with the money to be spread evenly among all citizens (I'd also remove all clean energy subsidies, they shouldn't be needed if you remove the fossil fuel subsidy of not having a carbon tax).

    Red October

    Woolfe you ask for an alternative to a tax which I have already suggested in seeding the upper atmosphere with sulphur.

    Which is most likely to cause more harm than good.

    Red October

    While someone has already presented a criticism of this idea (it is not mine; geoengineering is not my field) I believe that geoengineering is where the true solution lies.

    You want to geoengineer your way out of this mess? One way to avoid negative consequences would be to build a giant filter between the earth and the sun at the Earth-Sun L1 point to reduce the amount of sunlight hitting the planet.

    Another option would be to collect CO₂ from the atmosphere and store it somewhere.

    Both of those are likely to end up more expensive than just not emitting more CO₂ (but I personally can't see us avoiding them, and we may even need to use one of the geoengineering methods which has side effects).

    Red October

    Taxes will solve nothing, nor will controls on fundamentally good and desirable things (vehicles, electricity, water, goods, etc.).

    The actual reason controlling things like electricity won't work is that there'll be a black market and voters aren't going to tolerate it forever. Carbon taxes which are properly implemented could probably find acceptance (maybe this carbon tax even despite being a crappy implementation will end up accepted, especially once it becomes clear to the public that the scaremongering about it destroying the economy is just that).

    Red October

    The anthropogenic effects on climate are a by-product of the inevitable advancement of society, any attempt to halt it will be met with harsh resistance.

    That's a load of nonsense, they're actually a by-product of Luddites demanding we not advance, that we continue burning coal, oil and methane despite knowing how to get energy out of Uranium and Thorium.

    Had it not been for the anti-nuclear movement we'd have mostly solved global warming and be in a much better position to deal with the parts of the problem that were left (since we'd have abundant clean electricity making electric cars clearly better for the environment).

    Red October

    We seem to have come to the consensus that we've grown to like the planet as it is, and that it's important we keep it that way.

    Part of it is that any change is likely to have rather severe negative effects on some parts of the world and that our current civilisation is adapted to the current climate.

    I personally think we've left it too late to avoid having to adapt to global warming.

    Red October

    Trying to accomplish this goal by stifling development with taxes and restrictions calls to mind someone trying to stop a balloon from inflating by grasping it in their hands and squeezing. It will contract in one place and expand in another. We need methods that do not rely on taxation and restriction but on positive actions that will facilitate development, not stifle it.

    There are a lot of people who consider global warming as not something to solve but something they can use to get their idea of how humans should live forced on everyone, we call those people Greens.

    Woolfe:

    NO ONE is saying don't produce electricity, what we are saying is charge correctly for it.

    Some of the more extreme deep ecology people come pretty damn close.

    Woolfe:

    This way the "cheap" but dirty process gets charge appropriately for the "dirt" it creates, thus making the expensive but clean process viable for investors. Once there is more investment in Expensive but clean, the expensive part starts to come down as process and technology improves.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Gen IV nuclear would be able to undercut even Queensland coal (some of the cheapest in the world) without a carbon tax.

    As for the expensive part, why it's expensive depends on the technology and some technologies just won't be getting any cheaper (even if solar panels were free, we still haven't solved the energy storage problem on the scaled needed to make them useful).

    Woolfe:

    I would applaud today if someone went out and replaced every single coal fire plant with an equivalent modern Coal fire plant. That in itself would reduce the amount of releases into the atmosphere by a significant degree.

    It probably wouldn't help global warming all that much (and reducing the cost of dirty power may make things worse, Jevons paradox and all that).

    Woolfe:

    I also believe that there is a place for Clean Coal in the world, we have to invest in this area as well.

    I don't, clean coal is projected even by its proponents to have higher capital costs than nuclear along with the higher fuel costs of coal and then the costs to store the CO₂ and make sure it never gets into the atmosphere (that assumes of course that we're referring to the type of clean coal that is carbon neutral) and you also still get the coal miner deaths and end up with a lot more solid waste (and being composed of toxic non-radioactive materials means it has to be kept safe forever).

    No, clean coal is a dead end, putting money into the sequestration part of it might be worth it as a geoengineering method to remove CO₂ from the atmosphere and store it but to produce electricity it just isn't going to be worth doing (some of the pessimistic estimates are that might take more energy to pump the CO₂ into the ground then you got from producing it).

    Woolfe:

    The issue with clean coal of course is that it will become more expensive, and thus coal will not be as "cheap" anymore. But again with increased production comes increased efficiency and innovation, which will bring the price down.

    It's doubtful it'd ever be able to undercut nuclear (and nuclear probably has a lot more room for improvement than any fossil fuel technology).

    Woolfe:

    There is no single silver bullet here.

    Right now it looks like nuclear is going to have to be that silver bullet anyway because we just don't have anything else (hydro can help but we don't have enough suitable rivers).

    Woolfe:

    It makes sense to move away from Fossil fuels in the long term, because fossil fuels are a finite commodity, we CAN'T advance in the world if all of a sudden our source of electricity drys up, can we.

    We've still got plenty of fossil fuels left, in fact the problem is that we aren't running out of them because if we were running out of them we would have a much better incentive to replace them.

    Though when we do run out it won't be a sudden one day all the power stations are making electricity and the next day nothing is working, it'll take decades to happen and give us enough time to transition to something else (though we should move away from them earlier).

    Only if your country is getting subsided fossil fuels from another country do you need to worry about that kind of stuff (Cuba had a very nasty period just after the Soviet Union fell and stopped giving them oil).

    Red October

    I suggest this sort of a solution because it avoids so many of the nasty problems we face trying to abate warming using current tactics of tax and regulation. People don't want to be regulated and can't afford to pay more taxes.

    That's why you should give the proceeds of the carbon tax back to all citizens equally and given that the poor tend to use less energy than the rich it also makes it a progressive tax, normally an energy tax would be regressive and hurt the poor the hardest (while the rich would barely notice it as they fill up their Gulfstream).

    Red October

    They will fight against these things, and they will fight against attempts to pin blame on them.

    If the carbon tax hasn't destroyed the economy by 2013 I doubt the public will see it much of an election issue.

    Red October

    And hopefully, it wouldn't be a political football.

    Basically everything government does becomes a political football.

    Alan:

    Well, Australia has some fairly empty areas (Simpson Desert, Nullarbor) that could easily become home to solar panel farms.

    They could also be left empty so that the wildlife there aren't affected by anything they don't have to be.

    Alan:

    Given enough time, they would become profitable.

    With enough government subsidy anything could be profitable, even solar power.

    Alan:

    Meanwhile, the loss is a "charity" (ie. tax write-off) AND the rich are seen as developing an environmentally sound electric system.

    Aside from the fact that they won't be doing anything good for the environment. Honestly, feel good tokenism of the sort most renewable advocates want is worse than just continuing to burn coal.

    Alan:

    Provided, of course, that solar cells aren't made hideously expensive- by the Carbon Tax penalties of solar cell production. Growing silicon crystals at 273 degrees C isn't done with pixe dust, you know. Nor the glass panel on the front, or the aluminium frame, the copper wiring, the ferrite transformers to convert to AC, etc.

    Even if solar cells were free you've still got the energy storage problem to deal with and at the scales you'd need that's an unsolved problem (and doesn't look like it's going to be solved soon).

    Jonadab

    I cannot, however, take seriously anyone who makes specific predictions (one way or the other) about how the climate's going to be different fifty years from now.

    Just because you can't take seriously the idea that we can predict what the temperature will be ig we increase CO₂ concentration to a certain level doesn't mean we can't do it (Jim Hansen has already made an accurate prediction).

    Look, whilst the climate is very complex (to the point at which we can't say for sure how much hotter a given city will get, only give probabilities on what might happen) the global mean temperature is actually very simple and is based entirely on the amount of energy the earth gets from the sun, the albedo of the earth and the greenhouse effect provided by the atmosphere.

  67. Bern Says:

    Jonadab said:

    There's a whole lot of abject speculation going on and very little actual science.

    Now this is just pure, unadulterated bullshit. Not to put too fine a point on it.

    "Climate Science" involves more than just measuring temperatures with a thermometer.

    I suggest you go read up on proxy reconstructions and paleoclimatology. You obviously have a lot to learn on the topic.

    The short of it: scientists have spent the past few decades figuring out how the Earth and it's denizens react to climate. It turns out that many of those responses are quite closely correlated to average temperature, to the point where a record of, say, tree ring growth patterns, or isotope ratios in ice cores, or distribution of microfora skeletons in sediments, provides a very useful proxy for local temperature. Sure, it's not as precise as measurements made with a calibrated thermometer. Them's the breaks.

    But it's still science, and it's still data, and it still goes back nearly a million years until we run out of ice cores (which give pretty good data, and have the added bonus of holding tiny bubbles of the atmosphere that was around at the time, giving us a pretty good time history of CO2 levels as well), and further still for some of the slightly less accurate methods.

    This is not because scientists are lazy or anything.

    Oh, good to hear you think that. Because those thousands of climate scientists who have devoted their entire professional careers to things like camping out on the ice sheet in Greenland or Antarctica while drilling an ice core, or spending three months at a time working 24/7 on a ship taking sediment cores across the oceans, or laboriously counting & measuring tree rings, or whatever, would probably be quite offended to be called "lazy".

    After all, they're not like bloggers who casts aspersions on their work because they can't be bothered to actually read enough about it to understand it... (yes, James Delingpole, I'm looking at you)

  68. Alex Whiteside Says:

    The cognative dissonance with which the BEST climate study has been met is genuinely fascinating. You hear about how cognative dissonance works, but now you can watch it unfold in real time:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/10/23/watts-wrote-a-check-he-couldnt-cash/


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