Sunday, December 13, 2009

A few CAGW remarks

Media coverage of climate change has been ubiquitous over the past week. Some of it, like the video footage on CNN of ice falling into the ocean with the heading "Arctic glaciers melting" I saw at the airport, is silly--average summer temperatures are above freezing throughout most of the Arctic, so every year melting occurs. Accretion happens each winter. The annual net is what's at issue, and I'm necessarily agnostic on it out of ignorance, but the insinuation of such imagery is insulting.

An NPR story illustrates why it is almost instinctual for those on the right to push back against calls for international action to combat climate change. Some excerpts:
Kari Marie Norgaard at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, says even as scientists become more confident that climate change is a serious hazard, public opinion is shifting the other way.

Norgaard: This seems irrational. And in that sense, then it's challenging this basic premise that we have of an enlightened, democratic, modern society.

Harris [reporter]: She dug into that question and found, that as people start to feel overwhelmed by the scope of the problem, they simply turn away from the topic. It's denial - plain and simple.
Or it might be the poor record of predicting future climate conditions, attempts to hide data from potential skeptics, the absence of market signals that would suggest people are taking the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming prognostications seriously (seaside property isn't getting cheaper, but inland property is), or simply the desire for balmier days--humans have fared better in warmer weather than they have in cooler weather, so it's hardly surprising that we prefer it to the cold.

The contrarian view is surely off the mark more often than it is correct--the general functionality of modern western society seems evidence enough of that. But Establishment opinion has been and is blatantly wrong on several counts, like the blank slatist weltanschauung that presumes human populations do not vary in any systematic way and that personality factors like intelligence and conscientiousness are products of nurture rather than of nature, or the bromides about how homes were great investments since housing prices never fall, just to name a couple especially salient to the Steveosphere.

I have a friend doing graduate work in GIS who is certain anthropogenically-driven climate change* is occuring and is bad news. He laments how much of a political issue it has become. Fine, but it's sympathetic news reports like this one that are largely responsible for that. Evolution by selection 'suffers' from the same, but these two particular subjects are exceptions. As Dennis Mangan writes:
One way of looking at a statement like Goodman's [where CAGW 'deniers' are compared to Holocaust deniers] is to ask oneself, do particle physicists, zoologists, chemical engineers, or molecular biologists ever talk like that? Of course, these examples may be less directly relevant to human life, but on the other hand, the scientists in these fields usually feel no need to silence opponents.
Continuing with the NPR entry:
Harris: They're having a field day, right now, with the emails stolen from climate scientists. Skeptics have taken some suspicious-sounding statements in those emails as proof that climate change is a hoax. That's certainly not the view of mainstream scientists, but again, the public doesn't necessarily listen to scientists.

And Tim Wirth, a former Democratic senator who now runs the United Nations Foundation, says people trying to stir up doubt about climate change aren't working in a vacuum. There's a large and well-funded effort to block legislation that could hurt the industries most responsible for carbon emissions.
It has always struck me as curious why people should be expected to be suspicious of the industries that provide the stuff that allows our material standard of living to be as high as it is. It's intuitively difficult to see energy producers or electronics manufacturers as enemies and their critics, who create nothing, as friends.

As the Derb states, the political and economic implications of climate change are huge, but the intellectual stakes are small. Differences are by degree (heh) in interpretation of imperfect and often conflicting data, while the effort and energy expenditures required of lay people to glean something from primary sources are astronomical (if realizable at all). Consequently, I'm nothing more than a curious spectator, and like many onlookers, I wonder about seeming shortcomings in the CAGW narrative.

What about the potential benefits of warming? Around one-fourth to one-fifth of the globe's oil reserves are in the arctic, largely economically inviable at present, but perhaps not in the future if secular thawing continues. Russia east of the Urals is geographically larger than the US, yet its population is less than 5% of ours. Greenland has half as many people as Green Bay does, even though it's three times the size of Texas. We're a long way from people settling in significant numbers off the southern and western coasts, but even these are sparsely populated. Canada's population is clustered along the US-Canadian border. If areas like these become more hospitable, the people who will settle them will come from humanity's more advanced populations.

It seems plausible that if warming becomes more acute as the distance from the equator increases, the effect on human population patterns will be eugenic.

Vehicles are less efficient in the cold than they are in warm weather. Check your car engine's rpm at 60mph when it's 10 degrees outside and compare it to the same when it's 80 degrees--you're engine will be working around 10% harder in the former scenario until your engine is fully heated (and there is also the issue of the fuel wasted letting the car warm up).

Of course, these benefits will be on the margins, since the most extreme forecasts only predict that average temperatures will rise by a few degrees over several decades. I find it difficult to believe that, in contrast, the negative effects of the same climate change will be drastic.

* The assertion that the phrase "global warming" has been replaced with the more all-purpose "climate change" is more than anecdotal. See a graphical representation of the shift over time here.

15 comments:

The Undiscovered Jew said...

What about the potential benefits of warming? Around one-fourth to one-fifth of the globe's oil reserves are in the arctic, largely economically inviable at present, but perhaps not in the future if secular thawing continues. Russia east of the Urals is geographically larger than the US, yet its population is less than 5% of ours. Greenland has half as many people as Green Bay does, even though it's three times the size of Texas. We're a long way from people settling in significant numbers off the southern and western coasts, but even these are sparsely populated. Canada's population is clustered along the US-Canadian border. If areas like these become more hospitable, the people who will settle them will come from humanity's more advanced populations.

You are not the first person to have this idea re populating cold regions of the earht.

John von Neumann in the 1950s suggested we should release certain particles into the air around the North and South poles so that the earth could warm and frigid regions could become habitable by man.

The Undiscovered Jew said...

Btw,

How many degrees warmer was the earth during the Medievel Warming period?

sabril said...

Another red flag is that the solutions proposed for global warming are almost always conveniently consistent with the goals of the anti-Western; anti-White; anti-US crowd.

But anyway, I have studied the issue very carefully and satisfied myself that global warming as preached by the likes of Al Gore; James Hansen; Gavin Schmidt; and so on is almost certainly a hoax.

Obviously I cannot lay out the case in detail here, but I will simply say that the key issue can be described in only one word:

Feedback.

The entire global warming scare is based on the assumption that any warming will start a process which will result in more warming, which will cause still more warming, and so on.

However there is essentially no evidence that such a process will take place or has been taking place. Further, there is plenty of reason to believe that this process will not take place.

Audacious Epigone said...

TUJ,

I'm up for keeping that kind of intellectual company!

I better keep my mouth shut with re: to your question. But this 'meta' graph suggests that average temperatures during the medieval warming period were about where they are today (if the black 'hockey stick' line is disregarded as anomalous/suspicious).

Sabril,

If you've stated your take in a more detailed way elsewhere, I'd be interested in reading it. I've of course come across your commentary in several spots around the blogosphere and always find it to be of value. (Don't take this as an obligation to pen an essay on my behalf if you haven't previously though, please!)

Stopped Clock said...

I wouldnt think it wise to disregard the black line at the end, considering that of the ten it's the only one that indicates direct temperature measurement. If you really want to be a global warming skeptic you have to focus on disproving the relevance of the other nine.

sabril said...

"Sabril,

If you've stated your take in a more detailed way elsewhere, I'd be interested in reading it."

My viewpoint is pretty much the same as that of Warren Meyer who summarized things better than me here:

http://www.climate-skeptic.com/2007/09/table-of-conten.html

FWIW I laid out my case in the earliest 7 postings on this blog:

brazil84.wordpress.com

Starting at 1.0 and going through 7.0.

silly girl said...

It seems to me that there is too much emphasis on whether AGW is happening and too little analysis as to whether there is anything we can do about it.

If there is nothing that will improve the situation, then what?

You know, it is possible to busy ourselves and waste time and effort on something that is pointless.

Maybe we overestimate the effectiveness of any of the planned ameliorative measures.

Stopped Clock said...

Time to install a captcha?

Audacious Epigone said...

SC,

I hate the tedium it requires commenters to suffer, but yes, it's looking like I'm going to have to soon. I've already given up on a few posts like this one.

Sabril,

Thanks for that. What strikes me as most cogent:

So how do you know whether you have a false simulation or a good simulation? The answer is very simple: You test it. You have the simulation make predictions. If most of those predictions come true, then you can start having some confidence in the simulation.

Unfortunately, the simulations which have been used to predict CAGW have not been tested in this way. Instead they are tested by seeing how well they compare to past data. But this is silly. It’s very easy to make “predictions” with the benefit of hindsight.


I don't have the fortitude to tackle that paper now, but the 'abstract' covers the bases. Nothing particularly new, but a good, concise refresher.

SG,

I wonder if the media blitz that has corresponded with the Copenhagen summit is going to further accentuate the waning in concern the public has shown in climate change over the last year or so.

Audacious Epigone said...

Stopped Clock,

... this one.

silly girl said...

After hearing about Chavez's comments at the conference in Copenhagen, I started thinking about the different ways ambitious SOB's profit from becoming dictators:
1) they tax their own people

2) they shake down other countries.

Extracting climate "tribute" uses shame instead of weapons. However, as you point out, once people get to the point of compassion/alarm fatigue, they are less inclined to open their wallets to save the _______(fill in victim).

Audacious Epigone said...

Silly Girl,

Right. The news cycle for the last few days has depicted "developing" countries against "developed" countries, with the former wanting the latter to give more in financial aid to 'fight' climate change.

Devon said...

It has always struck me as curious why people should be expected to be suspicious of the industries that provide the stuff that allows our material standard of living to be as high as it is.

Presuming that anthropomorphic climate change is occurring, there is a market inefficiency/failure at work in that these industries are able to provide such a standard of living for such a price because they don't have to account for the cost of the pollution they're producing during the manufacturing process. Taking that into account, any tax regime that would serve to correct this failure would eat into profits in every industry but those that are perfectly monopolistic and in which consumer demand is perfectly unresponsive to price (companies in such an industry would be the only ones that would be able to pass along the entirety of the increase in the cost of production to consumers). Considering the ambiguity surrounding what kind of tax regime would be put into place and how strict/expensive it would be, then, you would expect any industry that is heavily dependent upon carbon-based production to not want such a regime to be put in place. Thus, you should treat any evidence or arguments they put forth against it with a dose of skepticism.

Anonymous said...

Don't be silly Kaylee. You made a huge impact with your text, more adequate than you possibly think. And About the series ...

J Bonington Jagworth said...

"Check your car engine's rpm at 60mph.."

That had me completely baffled until I realised you were talking about an automatic! Most of us outside the US still change gear manually, I'm afraid, and our gear ratios are fixed... :-)