Climate Change - Yes or No

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Re: Climate Change - Yes or No

Postby Gordon-Loomberah » Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:46 pm

Inspector wrote:...I forgot his exact reposnse, but I think it was along the lines of that when water freezes, it expands, so you could theoretcially assume that as the ice melts, it reduces in overall size and reduces the level of the ocean.


Take floating ice, which has ~1/9 of its volume protruding above the surface, when it melts there is no change in the level of the water. Any ice on land that might melt due to global warming, ie the Greenland ice cap, Patagonian icefields, Himalayan glaciers, most of Antarctica, etc, is going to cause the mean ocean levels to rise.

When ice melts it takes a lot of heat from its surroundings, and if too much of the ice in the far North Atlantic melts it could well shut down the Gulf Stream, a warm current that makes the UK liveable. We've all seen how poorly the UK coped with a serious cold outbreak on the news recently, imagine how it will be if that happens frequently every winter, rather than extremely rarely as it has in recent centuries.

Another theory I have heard is that the ocean being a "carbon sink" and changes in it's temperature affect it's ability to absorb CO2. I haven't read into it enough to know if that is a viable theory.


Yes the oceans are a Carbon sink, but as you add CO2 to the water you are producing Carbonic Acid- which dissolves limestone very effectively in caves. In the ocean it weakens coral reefs and the shells of all the species of animals that have shells. CO2 is less soluble in water at higher temperatures- see how much less of it can be dissolved in a bottle of hot mineral water, compared to a cold one. However, we aren't anywhere near reaching the point where the oceans are saturated with CO2.
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Re: Climate Change - Yes or No

Postby davidh » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:36 am

Discussing any subject that can have political overtones is like having two sports teams each with their own fans - let's call them A & B. If the ref makes a decision in favour of team A, the A fans are more likely to agree with it and think it was fare. However, even if the ref was not biased, the B fans are more likely to get upset and angry and start screaming at the ref, bacause the fans are biased in favour of their team. So it goes in life. People are biased by their existing identity (egalitarian or individualistic) and by their perception of the person conveying the message as either neutral and intelligent, or as biased and stupid.

And this is the problem for climate change scientists: the debate about climate change has been bogged down by politics, when it should be about understanding and communicating the science. Just to top that off, scientists in general are very poor at communicating science.

As someone who teaches research design & analysis, and who also does research, I have some understanding about this. It is hard enough to get many post-graduate students (let alone undergrad students) to understand the interaction of multiple variables in scientific research, partly because when it comes to the analysis, people see it as "stats" rather than as rules of science. It is hardly surprising therefore that people who have not studied research design & analysis at all don't get the science behind climate change.

By definition, any scientific research is analysed using a probability test for the occurrence of any particular event. Rather than saying that the event will happen in the future, or has happened in the past, scientists give a “significance” test for the likelihood of the event. One of the strengths of this approach is that it’s considered good to be sceptical, so that possible weaknesses are explored. Hence, when errors are made, they are automatically corrected. However, this can seem very uncertain to non-scientists who are looking for clear guidance, and also often leads non-scientists to make the wrong conclusion.

Because of these principles, other people who are not climate scientists are able to read scientific reports and find ways to pick holes in them from the critical comments written in the conclusions of the report itself. Unfortunately, no matter how minor these holes are, the significance of an entire report is often undermined in the eyes of the average reader. This is wrong and misleading.

We are at a crossroad ... the very science that gave us modern technology has also driven the problems we face now. Just as the Romans poisoned themselves slowly but surely with lead pipes, we are poisoning our planet slowly but surely.

In psychology there is an effect known as the "boiling frog" (see Martin Seligman's book "Learned Helplessness"). If we do not sense that anything is immediately wrong, we will not attempt to "hop" out of the mess we are in.

As humans wetend to think that we can tell what is happening, and what is going to happen, with climate by checking the weather (I've made this mistake). We all know it is hard to forecast fine resolution local weather accurately suburb by suburb, right? So why would we trust local weather patterns to predict long term global trends?

A good illustration of how wrong it can be to use weather for looking at climate change comes from the 2009/2010 northern hemisphere winter.

The local weather trap: “Local land based weather conditions represent global average climate conditions”, which is similar to, “Short-term weather conditions represent long term climate trends”. Climate change is actually measured by global average temperature across both land and ocean surfaces, and in terms of 30 year trends at minimum. For example, compared to the baseline average global temperature for the 30 year period 1951 to 1980, not only was global average temperature for Dec 2009 up by .58 degrees C, but in January 2010 it was also up by .71 degrees C. Large portions of the northern winter were above average.

See the map at:
http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2010/010510.html

Also see the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies temperature figures at:
http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/table ... s+dSST.txt

Anything we push into the atmosphere that feeds climate change now can be far more significant than individual humans are able to sense on a local basis, or even on a year by year basis. The changes are too gradual for us to realise by our senses alone until it is too late.

I could go on for another several thousand words busting myths that are popular with climate change sceptics, however, here are some in brief:
Sea level change. Check this out:
http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_hist_last_15.html

Or, "global warming only caused by solar activity variations" ... hhmm! Check this out:
http://www.skepticalscience.com/solar-a ... arming.htm
This one shows the redline going up (global average temp) and the blue line going down (solar activity).

If anyone who lives in Brisbane wants to see a presentation about climate change, send me a private message.

Cheers, David
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Re: Climate Change - Yes or No

Postby Tracker » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:32 am

.
Thanks to you, David , for a very thoughtful presentation... .. Where have you been hiding ?

Whilst as a practical person (a true doubting Thomas), I seek physical proof before I will believe, I do concede that change can be incremental, and we may yet to get to see the true manifestations of physical change.
The only instantaneous thought is -- Has it happen in past history, even if for different reasons.

As I did with Al Gore and Lord Monckton (crude representations of the two sides of Climate Change), I am receptive to being convinced.

I am sure that we will be happy to examine all information and decide what is the reality of Climate Change.
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Re: Climate Change - Yes or No

Postby MichaelB » Tue Feb 23, 2010 9:20 am

Tracker, just out of genuine curiosity, what is the reasoning you attach to discounting something having happened in the past for any reason as not being valid evidence of (let's say) current climate change being attributable to human activity?

The planet's climate has changed significantly in the past where some of these "facts" you seek may have occurred, but at those points general conditions may have been such, it's desirable they are avoided in our own slice of time anyway because of what they signified at that point.

For example - lets say Glacier X had pretty much melted X years ago, then regained ice cover. If glacier X is now receding again to a similar degree or worse and in a faster amount of time, and conditions X years ago showed the Earth's general climate was far warmer than what we have come to consider "normal" in our chunk of time, doesn't that then qualify as a fairly solid example that can be put forth of anthropogenic climate change in action .i.e, history repeating itself, but in an accelerated way due to human activity in terms of greenhouse gas emissions?

Not poking any holes here, just asking for the clarification for people who wish to contribute to this thread but are hesitating because of your criteria :) - if you've set unreasonable criteria up whereby it is impossible by any stretch of the imagination or available research to address, then this thread won't go much further :). With tight enough criteria, just about anything can be proved or disproved if it rejects important information by claiming it invalid.

Davidh, thanks for your contribution - just a gentle tap; keep things really friendly :). I know this is a really contentious topic, but any chest thrusting and even slightly aggressive challenges will cause the discussion to degrade. You weren't quite there in regards to your tone in parts, but I just want to head anything off - I've been around a while and know the triggers only too well unfortunately :).
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Re: Climate Change - Yes or No

Postby davidh » Tue Feb 23, 2010 11:34 am

Thanks Michael B. I've edited my comments a little. I can empathise with people who react with emotion instead of their heads to the climate change debate. I'm just as prone to this as anyone, & you have just pointed it out to me.

Re Tracker's comment about past events [warming in the past, I assume] ... there is a rather long winded answer to that, but oh well ... here it is.

“Temperatures might have been higher in pre-industrial times (i.e. over the past 1300 years), so what is the big deal anyway?”
This is what the leaked emails were really all about before Copenhagen last year – predicting effects of past warm periods. In the emails scientists were discussing how the modern tree ring records were showing less strength in their association (correlation) with changes in global temperature, particularly in higher northern latitudes.

What the emails did not explain was that there was still an association ... a positive correlation. What the climate scientists did was substitute the recorded real data in the modern part of long term predictions of global temperature, instead of using the reconstructed data (note: nothing was covered up here). They even explained this in the full pubished article, although it was a bit obscure.

The real problem was in the way the discussion of the data was misrepresented by whoever stole the emails and leaked them (there is a current police investigation about that). The emails were never meant to be the published, and have been taken out of context. As pointed out in "Nature" (page 286, 21st Jan 2010 issue) even if it was warmer in the recent past (i.e. 1000 years), this does not disprove anthropogenic (human caused) modern climate change.

Also, the fact that some of the evidence to support reconstruction of past warm periods was taken from tree-ring climate records may in fact suggest that it may have been cooler in the past at a global average level ... if the modern problems with tring ring data are to be accounted for, the climate scientists relying on tree-ring data may have over-estimated (recent 1000 year) past warm periods. That is why climate scientists are currently scurrying to understand coral reef events associated with previous tree-ring data, so that they can find converging evidence from ocean beds to say whether or not it was warmer in the "medieval warm period" as the older tree-rings were thought to suggest.

And talking about converging evidence, that is also why climate scientists are so worried now, because there is so much converging evidence that says that on average, the entire globe is warming, particularly over oceans, at a time when natural forces and global dimming should be showing a global average cooling effect. Remember that most of the surface is sea water, so that is a lot of warming, even if the ocean warming is in the upper 70 metres or so.

Cheers, David
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Re: Climate Change - Yes or No

Postby MichaelB » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:06 pm

Thanks David, your last post is an example just the kind of tone we need in this discussion from both sides of the fence in order to have a reasonable debate.

When I've read many threads on other forums, it's always been sad to see when participants on both sides have a stack of really interesting points, only to lower the bar with the emotive stuff they kick in.

I would hate to have to zap posts with pearls of wisdom just based on a single line of outburst; so if everything thinks a little about how their message may come across before hitting that submit button, who knows what revelations may develop as a result :).

In the words of the great philosophers from Hahn Super Dry:

"Every call you make affects your man-brand. Keep it premium, gentlemen."

.. and ladies of course too.

Now returning to the sidelines.
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Re: Climate Change - Yes or No

Postby Tracker » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:29 pm

MichaelB wrote:Tracker, just out of genuine curiosity, what is the reasoning you attach to discounting something having happened in the past for any reason as not being valid evidence of (let's say) current climate change being attributable to human activity?


Thanks David - I think you answered the question for me, but in oh so much better'er a way.

As that dumb practical person I am, I have seen records of the cycles, and the suggestions that there have been other periods of high Co2 concentration, and high and low temperature, and without human intervention, auto-correction seems to have taken place, even if some pesky bloody dinosaurs vanished.
... ... (Thank God - Can you imagine stepping in Dino-Poo)
So, silly me thinks that even IF the situation is being caused by mankind, will nature take care of the situation, as mother nature does -"ie.. uses all the resources that are available".
Are there not many botanical and marine types who say that vegetation/plankton etc. will adapt to use even more Co2.

BUT -- We MUST change our ways of life and NOW.. The Earth can't go on this way.. I want change.. I expect change.. BUT -- I don't want irrational panic, because of the industries who will benefit so greatly from that panic, especially if the problems are unproven.


Call me a plank !
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Re: Climate Change - Yes or No

Postby MichaelB » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:37 pm

Folks, just had to delete yet a post that contravened the guidelines for this discussion, which were:

-----
Everyone, I ask for a nice clean debate - stay on topic, no punching below the belt, no spitting, no clawing, pinching, kicking and absolutely no ad hominem type exchanges. If anyone is considering participating in this thread and you're not sure what "ad hominem" is; please read over this page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

Here's a quick example of an ad hominem argument : "You can't believe what X says about climate change, he/she looks like Popeye".
----

It's possible those guidelines were missed, so I'll reintroduce them from time to time.

Oh, in case you were wondering - the post was basically supporting that climate change is occurring.

While I have my own beliefs on the topic, I can assure you I won't take sides when it comes to moderating this thread.

I invite the poster to resubmit with above in mind if he/she chooses.
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Re: Climate Change - Yes or No

Postby Joey » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:06 pm

I actually got to read that post before you deleted it Michael , much along the lines of all these discussions "You must be a fool if you can't see it my way" .

Despite some quite in depth and well written posts there is still factual information to support both arguments , personally I have no problem believing what's real , the only point people on both sides have failed to make clear is reality without beliefs and agenda's being involved.
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Re: Climate Change - Yes or No

Postby davidh » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:06 pm

Thanks Tracker, I've just been reading an interesting article by James Hansen (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; GISS) and colleagues from other leading research centres (see “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” http://arxiv.org/abs/0804.1126 for the abstract). Their argument is complex, with the expectation that the reader understands scientific language. Again, we have the problem of scientists not being able to communicate to the people who really need to hear. As a person who is not a climate change expert (well, I suppose have learned a little about it), I will do my best to convey some of their meaning.

Among other things Hansen and colleagues point out that a warmer ocean means less dissolved CO2, which forces it back into the atmosphere. They talk at length about why we have a problem with CO2 forcing climate change, and they discuss both sides. Of particular interest is the way they discuss the feedback mechanisms inherent to climate change, and they include the effects of CH4 (Methane) and N2O (Nitrous Oxide), with a formula for this. Having read other literature about CH4 and global warming, I think they may have underestimated the loading for CH4. I’ve lost track of the reference for this at present. Hansen used 1.4 for the CH4 loading, whereas others use a higher figure.

They also make some very technical but excellent references to periods of warming and cooling in the past, and draw together the physics of global warming in a well balanced argument.

Another point they ponder is that sea level change by several metres has happened in the past within one century (due to rapid glacial & Antarctic melting from natural climate change forcing), and that if we don’t stop what we are doing we are heading in that direction. Hansen and colleagues say that these previous sea level changes have not been accounted for in many models of global warming due to human caused climate change, which could mean an underestimation of what to expect.

Hansen and colleagues suggest that “below” 350ppm CO2 would be good to maintain our current way of life, but they are not clear about the fact that 300ppm CO2 would be better. For an expose on this see
http://target300.org/
and
http://www.target300.org/350_ppm.html

At present we have passed 385ppm atmospheric CO2, with signs of acceleration instead of reduction.

Hansen and colleagues are clear, however, that 450ppm atmospheric CO2 would completely change the conditions under which modern society has developed, with no surface ice anywhere on the planet, and thousands of years to counter the human part of that.

Hansen and colleagues have written other articles on the albedo (solar reflection) flip effect. This flip effect can happen when a large portion of the globe’s solar reflection changes very suddenly, as with a change in the surface area of white ice sheets, and reduction in forest cover. If such a “flip” occurs, the earth starts absorbing more of the sun’s heat, instead of reflecting it back into space.

BTW: A way to counter albedo reflectance/heat absorption effects in warmer cities could be to paint roofing white, instead of darker colours. A fair amount of modelling has been done on this, but it might not work for cooler cities, because people would turn on more heating (which would create more CO2) to counter the effect of loss of absorption of heat in cold weather.

Cheers, David
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