Thursday, August 27, 2009
COP: Global Warming Blues
I spent my working life as a computer engineer and entrepreneur. I have a long history of tilting at windmills having been involved in numerous causes and crusades during my life. So when my retirement started it was natural for me to look for something to get involved with. I picked global warming. Since I had completed the course work for a Ph.D. in physics I felt that I could deal with the technical side of global warming theory. As a computer expert I though that I would have insight to the giant computer models of the earth's climate that are central to global warming science.I smelled a rat right from the beginning. As a 20-something activist I had a job as the Director of Operations for Zero Population Growth, Inc. ZPG was a 70's environmental organization that at one time had 25,000 members. I knew that professional environmentalism has an ethics problem. Exaggeration promotes contributions.
In my quest to investigate and understand global warming I joined the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society. At scientific meetings, like an anthropologist, I cultivated native informants.
I learned that most scientists don't have a good grasp of the big picture because they are narrowly specialized and don't think about much outside of their immediate interests. The scientists that do have a grasp of the big picture can be divided into global warming advocates, skeptics and the majority of passive observers who play it safe by not taking a position. The global warming advocates have the upper hand and the most power. The skeptics, including quite a few excellent scientists, are marginalized and frankly persecuted. They are whistle blowers. A lot of skeptics are retired. The warmers can't cancel pensions, at least not yet. The most famous promoter of global warming, James Hansen, wants to put his opponents on trial for crimes against humanity.
Global warming scare stories are good for global warming science because the scare stories promote research funding. If it weren't for the scary predictions these scientists would be toiling in a poorly funded and obscure branch of academic science. As the distinguished climate scientist Richard Lindzen noted in an article, fear is more effective than gratitude for inducing financial support.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC is a branch of the United Nations and is very much under the control of climate doomsters. If climate doom were not impending the IPCC would not be necessary, thus it is a bureaucratic imperative that the IPCC predicts climate doom. The IPCC and Al Gore were jointly given the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. The peace prize is given by politicians for political reasons and the 2007 recipients have shown themselves to be accomplished politicians. The history of the Nobel Peace Prize does not inspire confidence. Some of the recipients have been crackpots (Linus Pauling) and others fraudsters (Rigoberta Menchu). Gore seems to me to be a combination of both.
The increase in temperature predicted by the global warming computer models is about 3 degrees Celsius. This isn't very scary, so the promoters of global warming alarmism come up with additional scare stories. For example, there will be more hurricanes, the ice caps will melt, the polar bears will die, the oceans will become acid and kill the coral, and weather will become more extreme. These stories have much less scientific support than the warming theories, and each has been rebutted[i]. Scare stories attract attention and it is much more difficult to refute scare stories than it is to create them. By the time one scare story becomes discredited a new scare story is spread.
A red flag in the global warming debate is the left-right split. Generally people on the left tend to believe in global warming and those on the right tend to be skeptics. The New York Times thinks global warming is settled science while the Wall Street Journal thinks it is greatly exaggerated. If global warming is a science question, why should this be so? The answer is that both the right and the left recognize that global warming has political consequences. The left recognizes that global warming presents an opportunity to increase government revenue via carbon taxes and to justify the taxes as sin taxes. The right recognizes the same thing.
Organized science has relinquished its traditional role as an objective advisor to policy makers and has instead become a lobbyist for its own interests. The interests of big science happen to coincide with the ideological goals of the green movement. The resulting coalition has impressive political power.
The global warming advocates have a campaign of slander against the global warming skeptics. Al Gore calls them people who think the earth is flat and that the moon landing was staged. The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman declares that skeptics are committing treason against the planet.
The science behind the IPCC predictions and the scary claims is incredibly weak, really bordering on fantasy. As I began to understand what the IPCC and the computer climate modelers were doing it dawned on me that the entire enterprise is highly speculative and inconsistent. Certainly great progress has been made in understanding how the climate works in the last 40 years. But that understanding has not reached the point where we can have any faith in future predictions of the effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Since vast efforts and billions of dollars have been invested in huge computer climate models the scientific organizations are forced to defend the usefulness of the models. The way in which the IPCC has utilized climate models to make predictions is really quite comical, although it takes a lot of study and wading through a molasses-like report to get to the point where it starts to seem funny. I have a 40 page article on my website if you would like to know the details.
Kevin Trenberth, no global warming skeptic, is one of the most prominent climate scientists in the world. He is a senior scientist and the Head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). He said this about climate models.
... None of the models used by IPCC are initialized to the observed state and none of the climate states in the models correspond even remotely to the current observed climate. In particular, the state of the oceans, sea ice, and soil moisture has no relationship to the observed state at any recent time in any of the IPCC models. ...
He is confessing that climate models leave a lot to be desired.
Clouds are very important, but it is generally accepted that the treatment of clouds by the computer models is very poor. This is neatly summarized by a few lines from the Judy Collins song Both Sides Now.
I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all
The 20 or so climate models used by the IPCC don't agree with each other as to how much warming would take place due to doubling CO2. The range is 2 to 4-1/2 degrees Celsius. There are perfectly plausible theories, based on observations, not models, that the warming would be far less, from scientists such as Richard Lindzen, Stephen Schwartz and Roy Spencer.
A 3 C degree increase in global temperature is the difference between Chicago and St. Louis. Further the models, if you believe them, predict that the change in temperature mostly will take place at night or in the winter when it is often too cold anyway. Between International Falls, Minnesota and Key West, Florida the difference in annual average temperature is 23 degrees Celsius, 7 times greater than the IPCC's 3 degree predicted change for doubling CO2.
The climate of the 20th century is inconsistent with the climate models and in fact can't be explained within the IPCC framework. The climate of the 20th century is characterized by warming from 1910 to 1940 followed by cooling between 1940 and 1970 and then more warming from 1970 with an apparent cessation of the warming during the last decade. This is illustrated by the graph below.
The attempts to make the 20th century climate consistent with the computer models simply don't work. Explanations that the warming is inhibited by aerosols or heat being diverted to the ocean are very improbable.
Controlling our own carbon dioxide emissions accomplishes practically nothing if the Chinese and Indians don't control theirs. They play along as long as it seems profitable. The Chinese and Indians are like the natives who happily attend church services as long as the missionaries are giving out free dinners.
Green electric power from windmills and solar energy is impracticable. Its expensive and due to the erratic nature of sunshine and wind, solar and wind power must be backed up by duplicate power plants or by energy storage systems that are as expensive as duplicate power plants. It sometimes seems that the advocates of solar power don't realize that the sun does not shine at night. The much acclaimed Kyoto Treaty for the reduction of CO2 illogically does not give CO2 reduction credit for CO2-free nuclear power plants, something put in the treaty in response to green lobbying.
The global warming skeptics should to be given some respect and a chance to make their case. An appropriate solution would the establishment of a B team financed by the government and allowed to present the other side of the argument. If such a B team were established and given respect, in my opinion, the global warming movement would collapse because its foundations would be exposed as being weak and corrupt.
The author has provided a long technical article on IPCC use of climate models to fit the 20th century: Worse Than the Hockey Stick.
[i] Rebutting these scare stories in detail is beyond the scope of this article. Briefly: At the current measured rate it would take 15,000 years or more for the Greenland ice cap to melt and the current melting is probably transitory with greater melting during the early century. Hurricane trends are difficult to measure and the evidence is weak, even according to the IPCC. The website http://www.co2science.org/ has prepared a rebuttal to the acid ocean theory. There are far more polar bears now than early in the century and an ice-free summer Arctic Ocean probably happened 6,000 years ago and the bears are still here. The weather being more extreme is refuted (according to Lindzen) by basic physics because according to the models the poles are supposed to warm more than the tropics reducing the fundamental temperature gradient that drives weather.
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