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Mike,

Personally I don't think that "catastrophe is about to ensue" although I do think anthropogenic climate change is a serious issue for the longer term. For the nearer term I think we can adapt to the changes that are in the pipeline, and indeed we're going to have to because some further change is probably already inevitable.

Much of the issue is about impacts on people and how fast we can react to changes - as you say, when you look at long-term states of the climate, the Earth has seen much higher CO2 than today and been considerably warmer, and life as a whole didn't come to an end. But equally, rapid climate changes in the past have led major shocks to the system which were bad for individual life forms and even whole species or groups of species. So evidence from the past suggests that the climate can change enough to have big effects, and while this can of course happen naturally, it also (in my opinion) it makes sense to not increase the chances of this through our own influence. Of course this also has to be offset against the direct consequences of minimising our influence! I personally don't really think there is strong evidence for major "catastrophic" upsets in the near future though.

Jul 30, 2011 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Chris Huhne's latest propoganda. I wonder where he gets these Idea's from eh!

It is a compelling picture, and one supported by a growing body of evidence.
Arctic sea ice is melting. Since 1900, global sea levels have risen by more than eight inches.

Severe droughts are now twice as common as they were in 1970.
Research suggests human action doubled the risk of the 2003 European heatwave.
And climate change made the autumn 2000 floods in the UK about twice as likely.

Every major scientific institution in the world concurs: the Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences, the Academie des sciences. Change on this scale cannot be explained by anything else.

There is no computer model of world temperature and climate that can explain what has happened without greenhouse-gas induced global warming. None.

http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/opinion/2095836/chris-huhnes-art-science-climate-change-speech

Jul 30, 2011 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

The BBC sticking up for sceptics, against an ex UEA scientist who calls non concensus scientists sceptics, non scientists deniers and the whole 1% who are not on board lunatics. 12 mins in.
Trenberths missing heat taken out of context in the 'leaked' emails.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00j2bgs/One_Planet_China_green_champion_at_home_but_looter_abroad/

Utter pratt!

Jul 30, 2011 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Richard
Once again, thankyou for taking the time to explain.
I am still trying to puzzle over why, when the CO2 content of the atmosphere is pretty close to the lowest it has been for 300 million years we are expected to believe that catastrophe is about to ensue. You talk about positive feedbacks but there are those who say the feedback is equally likely to be negative and neither the "Plussers" nor the "Minussers" in this argument appear to be able (or willing) to do other than assert. This is not the empirical evidence that I would be looking for before I told government "the sky is falling" and I was obliged to spend trillions of dollars/pounds/euros on what seems very likely to be a non-problem and to alter totally the lives of everyone on the planet on the basis of sophisticated guesswork which only the last 30 years of technological development have enabled us to even start thinking about.
I refer, of course, to your supercomputer which like my Commodore 64 (of blessed memory) is only as good as the program. The only difference is yours can churn out the garbage several million times faster!
On the other hand I do see a number of people -- some with scientific qualifications and some without -- who have the ear of government and are using their access to push a very definite socio-political agenda. If we could move them out of the way and leave the field clear for some genuine scientific activity that is more open to hypotheses other than those that pre-suppose a certain outcome then we might not be having this battle.
Even RealClimate, to which BBD directed me, admits that the the initial warming discovered by the Vostok cores was not caused by CO2 and that the rest "could" have been and that the "probable" sequence of events was as they describe it.
But they then go on to talk about the "heat-trapping" properties of CO2 and I ask what heat-trapping properties are so special to a gas that represents barely 0.004% of the atmosphere that the whole of civilisation has to be up-ended to combat it.
Only I can't ask that question of the majority of climate scientists because if I do they, unlike you Richard and a few others, scream "heretic", "denier", "oil company shill" at me. And that makes me quite upset and even more determined that one day I will find out why they are so insecure in their beliefs that they behave like that.
Meanwhile, have a nice weekend ((;¬)

Jul 30, 2011 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Jul 30, 2011 at 6:12 AM | Brownedoff

Whoa, scratch this:

Also:

DECC top brass salaries - Ninety two (92) persons at a cost of £55,942,592.

http://tinyurl.com/43llgkg

That is just the Sir Humphries - how many minions and at what cost?

Obviously, money well spent.

More research needed.

Jul 30, 2011 at 7:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

Jul 29, 2011 at 9:29 PM | Pharos

More:

"DECC Science Advisory Group
Terms of Reference and Code of Practice"

9 mentions of "adviser"

1 mention of "advisor"

http://tinyurl.com/4xhb74q

Also:

DECC top brass salaries - Ninety two (92) persons at a cost of £55,942,592.

http://tinyurl.com/43llgkg

That is just the Sir Humphries - how many minions and at what cost?

Obviously, money well spent.

Jul 30, 2011 at 6:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate, with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

BBD Jul 29, 2011 at 12:29 PM

I have just downloaded your references. 281 pages.

This bureaucrat stays one.

So, questions:

(1) How much of this is the subject of informed controversy?

An insignificant amount/Half/Most/All?

(2) How far does this get us towards understanding whether global warming can be significantly ameliorated by effective worldwide political action, carbon budgets, carbon capture and the like?

Not very much/quite a lot?

(3) If quite a lot, then how much can global warming be so ameliorated?

Insignificantly/measurably but small/significantly/totally?

And a comment:

While this sort of science seems a reasonable basis for people like Phil Jones to base what they do on, it seems wholly irrelevant to paleoclimatologists. Are they all amateurs?

Jul 30, 2011 at 6:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

BBC and the review of BBC science coverage.

Newswatch - iplayer - 29 July 2011 at 8:45pm on BBC News channel.

Segment starts at 5m 45 sec.

Jul 30, 2011 at 5:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

Just to add to BBD's response to Mike:

You (Mike) are right that CO2 rise can result from temperature rise, but this is as well as temperature rise following CO2 rise, not instead. Both can happen - it can be a feedback.

In El Nino years, when the world is typically a bit warmer, the annual CO2 rise is faster - and it's slower in La Nina years. Similarly, when a major volcanic eruption has temporarily cooled the Earth through injecting aerosol into the stratosphere, there is a slowing of the CO2 rise (this happened after Mt Pinatubo in the early 1990s). There is evidence that warmer temperatures can increase both plant and soil respiration, leading to the land carbon balance (photosynthesis vs.respiration) being tipped more towards respiration and hence a net increase in CO2 going to the atmosphere. So if longer-term warming is happening for other reasons - like orbital changes - this can result in rising CO2 and hence a positive feedback on the warming.

How do we know that the general long-term CO2 rise is anthropogenic and not natural? The simple answer is that there is more than enough CO2 being produced by human activities to account for the measured CO2 rise. Fossil fuel burning is producing somewhere in the region of 8 gigatonnes of carbon in CO2 per year, which is enough to increase atmospheric CO2 by about 3.5 parts per million every year. However, atmospheric CO2 is actually only increasing by about 2 parts per million every year (this varies from year to year, for the reasons I describe above). This is known as the "airborne fraction" of emissions. So where is the extra anthropogenic CO2 going? Back into the biosphere and oceans - plants growing better under higher CO2, ocean waters absorbing it, forests re-growing after temporary deforestation. Yes the natural world does produce a large flux of CO2 to the atmosphere (through respiration etc) which is much larger than the anthropogenic flux, but this is more than compensated for by the even larger natural uptake of CO2.

So the anthropogenic CO2 flux is a small compared to the large natural fluxes, but it matters because the natural fluxes should otherwise cancel each other out. The input we are making to the system (CO2 emissions) is larger than the actual response of the system (changes in CO2 concentration), suggesting that the system is buffering itself against our input to some extent, but not completely.

Jul 29, 2011 at 11:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

I've just tried to take a look at biased bbc's blogspot post, and the url is banned from here at Gatwick South Terminal departure lounge!... As I wait - family in tow - for our delayed flight to Chavos, or was it Kavos?

Jul 29, 2011 at 10:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustin Ert

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