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Archive for the ‘Hard Facts’ Category

A Crude Awakening

Posted by A birch tree on June 21, 2008

One hour and twenty-two minutes of streaming video garaunteed to scare the pants off of you. Great stuff, very well done, but very, very disturbing. Just give it half an hour to hook you.

Peak oil is here. Sky’s fallin’, yo.

A Crude Awakening

Posted in Global Environment, Global Warming, Hard Facts, Humans vs. Planet, Political | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Better Late Than Never

Posted by A birch tree on May 30, 2008

I chose that title only because I’m an optimist at heart.

So it seems that the White House has finally released its most comprehensive Climate Report to date… four years after the deadline. And then only because the court ordered them to release it.

Oddly enough, the report says, yes, there is global warming, yes, it is our fault, and yes, it will have a significant and deadly impact on American lives. There’s a shocker. Would Bush have suppressed it for half his presidency if it had said anything different?

On the upside, at least he didn’t try to stealth-edit this one, right?

There’s a cloud to this, and then there’s a silver lining to this. The cloud is that most of the predictions made back in 2004 have already come true; had we been warned, we might be having a better time of it. The silver lining, unfortunately, is a bit morbid: the report talks about things we’re seeing now, but hadn’t yet seen at the time the report was made. It’s a primo example of the predictive power of properly-applied scientific theory, as opposed to the pseudo-scientific reactionism that opposes it.

If it had come out in ’04, and then we saw the results it predicted, our woefully short national attention span would have completely forgotten that these things were previously forecast, and then came to pass. With the late release, we have sudden attention placed on the report and its predictions while the effects it warns of occur simultaneously.

It’s really hard to call global climate forecasting “junk science” and be taken seriously when such a stark juxtaposition exists, as both prediction and observed effect are lodged in the national consciouness at exactly the same time, ready for anyone with three working neurons and access to Yahoo! News to compare and contrast.

Let’s take a moment to review. The report forecasts:

  1. Increased deaths from heat. Between 1978 and 1999 (19 years), 7421 deaths in the US were heat-related, a median of 274 per year. Between 1999 and 2003 (4 years), 3442 deaths were heat-related, an average of about 688 per year. This one is a “hit”.
  2. Worsening water shortages. If you think it’s bad in Atlanta, you should see the rest of the world. Another “hit”.
  3. Increased electricity demand in the summertime, possibly leading to shortages in the longer term. The peak electricity demand in the US was 12.1% higher than in 2004, and 4.0% higher than in 2005. “Hit”.
  4. Increased wildfires. The number of acres burnt in the last 5 months is already double the 2001-2008 average. “Hit”.
  5. Increasing insect infestations. It’s tough to find accurate data about the US, as this isn’t usually a newsworthy topic, but other countries, like Sweden, are certainly seeing this one. Should I call this one a “hit”?
  6. Increased cases of water- and food-borne disease outbreaks. This is the only one I couldn’t find any supporting statistics on, and more for lack of time than anything else (even though I’m friends with the guy monitoring everyone’s computer time, I can still only ask for a reset so many times in one day).

In the end, Bush may have done more damage to his anti-climate-change crusade by stifling this report for four years than he would have caused had he just released it when the law said he had to. Who remembers anything that was in the news in 2004? We forget major events appallingly quickly around here, maybe as a symptom of a people with such a relatively short history to begin with. But coming out now, just as most of the things it predicted are coming into the limelight as well? In addition to the suspicious-looking skullduggery of sitting on the report until the courts forced him to release it? Ouch.

It’s getting harder and harder to deny that we’re in deep poop. I’m starting to worry if the whole point of said denials is to postpone any significant actions until it’s too late to fix anything, if it isn’t already. I mean, from the time global warming was first proposed in the 1970’s, the forces arrayed against it seem to have been engaged in a delaying action. First, they ignored the idea entirely. Then they said “There is no such thing as global warming.” Now they’re starting to say “Maybe there’s such a thing as global climate change, but it is absolutely not our fault and there’s nothing we can do about it,” and maybe tomorrow it’ll be “Well, I guess you were right, there is global climate change and we did cause it, but it’s too late to stop it now. Oh well!” and all the while the status quo of energy consumption and radical consumption ideology will prevail.

Scary stuff, yo. I’m gonna go hide under my mattress now.

Posted in Global Environment, Global Warming, Hard Facts, Political, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Global Warming Primer

Posted by A birch tree on April 6, 2008

A great synopsis of global warming evidence, courtesy of Infinite Grey over at Mysticwicks. It really needs no introduction or additions. Big thanks to him for doing all that research, and double thanks for his permission to post it over here.

The Global Warming Hype

Over the past decade perhaps longer; global warming has been a bit of a contraversal topic; recently on this forum there have been a few threads devoted to this, and in each case there has been a variety of opinions expressed. Ranging from support of the popular theory to condemnation of of; for a range of reasons – some are valid, others illustrate an acute misunderstanding of how the majority of scientists working the fields of Climate Change arrived to the idea that the most likely cause of global warming is the development of industry. So boys and girls, here is the evidence involved with the theory of Global Warming.

The global average air temperature near the Earth’s surface rose 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the hundred years ending in 2005.

“most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations” ~ IPCC

Natural phenomena such as solar variation combined with volcanoes probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times to 1950 and a small cooling effect from 1950 onward.

Human Land Use.

Deforestation:

66% of CO2 emissions over the last 250 years have resulted from burning fossil fuels, 33% have resulted from changes in land use, primarily deforestation. For those that do not know, forests are not just there to look pretty; plant life act’s like “air scrubbers” or filters, absorbing carbon dioxide and reducing the levels of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Include the instances of biomass burnings that frequently accompany deforestation and you also get aerosols.

Terrestrial Albedo:

The albedo of an object is the extent to which it diffusely reflects light from the sun. It is therefore a more specific form of the term reflectivity. Albedo is defined as the ratio of diffusely reflected to incident electromagnetic radiation.

Which leads to Radiative force, the warming and cooling of an area.

What does this mean? It means Cities collect heat and warm the surrounding areas – due to the large quantities of cement, metal, glass and asphalt.

Livestock and land use:

70% of all land used for agriculture is used for liverstock, or 30% of non-ice covered land. 18% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to livestock and livestock-related activities.

  • 9% of global carbon dioxide emissions
  • 35-40% of global methane emissions (chiefly due to enteric fermentation and manure)
  • 64% of global nitrous oxide emissions, chiefly as a result of fertilizer use

Aerosols:

These little bastards are fun, the villian in so many senerios, small particles or droplets suspended in the atmosphere. They can be responsible for warming AND cooling, but where do they come from? Well here are some the cheif hometowns:

  • biomass burning such as slash and burn deforestation. Aerosols produced are primarily black carbon.
  • industrial air pollution, which produces soot and airborne sulfates, nitrates, and ammonium
  • dust produced by land use effects such as desertification

—-

“Anthropogenic warming of the climate system is widespread and can be detected in temperature observations taken at the surface, in the free atmosphere and in the oceans. Evidence of the effect of external influences, both anthropogenic and natural, on the climate system has continued to accumulate since the TAR [Third Assessment Report].”

There are external and internal phenomena, such as solar variations and volcanic activity; but the evidence suggests that human activity is responsible for the majority of the greenhouse effect.

Evidence for this conclusion includes:

  • Estimates of internal variability from climate models, and reconstructions of past temperatures, indicate that the warming is unlikely to be entirely natural.
  • Climate models forced by natural factors and increased greenhouse gases and aerosols reproduce the observed global temperature changes; those forced by natural factors alone do not.
  • “Fingerprint” methods indicate that the pattern of change is closer to that expected from greenhouse gas-forced change than from natural change.
  • The plateau in warming from the 1940s to 1960s can be attributed largely to sulphate aerosol cooling

—–

THIS BIT IS IMPORTANT

Detection vs. attribution:

Detection of a signal requires demonstrating that an observed change is statistically significantly different from that which can be explained by natural internal variability.

Attribution requires demonstrating that a signal is:

  • unlikely to be due entirely to internal variability;
  • consistent with the estimated responses to the given combination of anthropogenic and natural forcing
  • not consistent with alternative, physically plausible explanations of recent climate change that exclude important elements of the given combination of forcings.

Detection does not imply attribution, and is easier than attribution. Unequivocal attribution would require controlled experiments with multiple copies of the climate system, which is not possible. Attribution, as described above, can therefore only be done within some margin of error. For example, the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report says “it is extremely likely that human activities have exerted a substantial net warming influence on climate since 1750,” where “extremely likely” indicates a probability greater than 95%.

Following the publication of the Third Assessment Report (TAR) in 2001, “detection and attribution” of climate change has remained an active area of research. Some important results include:

  • A review of detection and attribution studies by the International Ad Hoc Detection and Attribution Group[9] found that “natural drivers such as solar variability and volcanic activity are at most partially responsible for the large-scale temperature changes observed over the past century, and that a large fraction of the warming over the last 50 yr can be attributed to greenhouse gas increases. Thus, the recent research supports and strengthens the IPCC Third Assessment Report conclusion that ‘most of the global warming over the past 50 years is likely due to the increase in greenhouse gases.'”
  • Multiple independent reconstructions of the temperature record of the past 1000 years confirm that the late 20th century is probably the warmest period in that time
  • Two papers in Science in August 2005 resolve the problem, evident at the time of the TAR, of tropospheric temperature trends. The UAH version of the record contained errors, and there is evidence of spurious cooling trends in the radiosonde record, particularly in the tropics. See satellite temperature measurements for details; and the 2006 US CCSP report.
  • Barnett and colleagues say that the observed warming of the oceans “cannot be explained by natural internal climate variability or solar and volcanic forcing, but is well simulated by two anthropogenically forced climate models,” concluding that “it is of human origin, a conclusion robust to observational sampling and model differences”
  • Bratcher and Giese observed conditions that “could be an indication of a climate regime shift to pre-1976 conditions.” Bratcher and Giese conclude: “The results presented here do not preclude the possibility that anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases have contributed to global warming. However the results do indicate that the human forced portion of global warming may be less than previously described.”

Ice Core Records:

Ice core record shows that on some occasions temperature starts rising hundreds of years before CO2 increases. Such results confirm that the relationship between CO2 and climate can go in both directions: changes in CO2 concentrations affect climate, while changes in climate can affect CO2 concentrations.

They indicate that he earth had gone through many climate changes over its history, as result of a few natural factors; solar activity, change in orbit, volcanic activity and so on.

But the point is, that since the beginning of the industrial age, CO2 levels greatly exceed the range found in the ice core data. Isotopic analysis of atmospheric CO2 confirms that fossil fuel burning is the source of most of the CO2 increase, unlike during prior interglacial periods.

—–

Reference:

  1. Working Group I: The Physical Basis for Climate Change. IPCC.
  2. (2007) Working Group I: The Physical Basis for Climate Change (Summary for Policymakers). IPCC.
  3. The Kyoto Protocol. UNFCCC.
  4. (2007) Working Group I: The Physical Basis for Climate Change (Technical summary). IPCC.
  5. a b c (2006) Livestock’s Long Shadow. Food and Agricultural Organization of the U.N.
  6. (2007) Working Group I: The Physical Basis for Climate Change (Front matter). IPCC.
  7. Geerts, B.. Aerosols and Climate.
  8. (2001) Working Group I: The Physical Basis for Climate Change (Summary for Policymakers). IPCC
  9. Barnett, T.; et al. (May 2005). “Detecting and Attributing External Influences on the Climate System: A Review of Recent Advances”. Journal of Climate
  10. gavin (2007-08-11). Et Tu LT?. RealClimate.org.
  11. gavin (2007-08-11). The tropical lapse rate quandary. RealClimate.org.
  12. Wigley, Tom M. L.; et al. (2006-05-02). “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere – Understanding and Reconciling Differences (Executive Summary)”. NOAA.
  13. Barnett, Tim P.; et al. (2005-07-08). “Penetration of Human-Induced Warming into the World’s Oceans”.
  14. Bratcher, Amy J.; Giese, Benjamin S. (2002-10-08). “Tropical Pacific Decadal Variability and Global Warming”
  15. Geophysical Research Letters.
  16. Lindzen, Richard S. (1997-08-05). “Can increasing carbon dioxide cause climate change?”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  17. Indermühle, Andreas; Monnin, Eric; Stauffer, Bernhard; Stocker, Thomas F.; Wahlen, Martin (2000). “Atmospheric CO2 concentration from 60 to 20 kyr BP from the Taylor Dome ice core, Antarctica”. Geophysical Research Letters 27.
  18. Fischer, Hubertus; Wahlen, Martin; Smith, Jesse; Mastroianni, Derek; Deck, Bruce (1999). “Ice core records of atmospheric CO2 around the last three glacial terminations”.
  19. Skinner, L.C. (2006). “Glacial – interglacial atmospheric CO2 change: a simple “hypsometric effect” on deep-ocean carbon sequestration?”. Climate of the Past Discussions 2.
  20. Paillard, Didier (2000). “Glacial Cycles: Toward a New Paradigm”. Reviews of Geophysics
  21. Liou, K.N. (2002). An Introduction to Atmospheric Radiation (2nd ed). Academic Press.
  22. Staley, D.O.; G.M. Jurica (1970). “Flux emissivity tables for water vapor, carbon dioxide and ozone”. Journal of Applied Meteorology

—-

So, why do people believe that scientists just make this stuff up? What could there agenda possibly be? There is little money in cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, and little thanks for possibly heralding the end of the world as we know it.

The bigger question I have to wonder, is why some people are so hell bent on insisting that nothing is wrong and our pollution isn’t doing this. Is it personal?

———————————

Tree here, again. That last question is immensely important, and I think there are two prongs to it. The first is profit motive, and the second is personal responsibility motive.

In the first, lots of companies and well-off individuals stand to lose quite a bit of cash if we cut down or eliminate carbon emissions. Setting up a gree power grid, entirely possible according to last moth’s issue of Discover Magazine, would put a lot of people out of business, Big Oil foremost among them. And since Big Oil is a Big Contributor to conservative political campaigns (read: gives out lots of bribes), there’s a lot of people with Big Agendas telling Big Lies and using Big Ridicule to further the goals of Big Oil.

As always, the real science gets lost. A lie can go around the world before the truth can get its boots on, and that’s primarily because it takes three seconds and no thought to say “It’s just a natural warming cycle,” and lots of time, energy, research, and words to say “That’s only a tiny bit of the truth, and is mostly a lie, because x, y, and z, but q, p and r sometimes lead to questions….”

And, well, we live in a sound bit culture. You get two medium-sized sentences to convince an undecided person of any given position, and the first sentence had better be sharp and quotable or nobody will hang around for the second. It had better be witty, interesting, and memorable, and the second line has to cram as many facts as you can get into it without using more than one, MAYBE two commas.

You can put up to two or three other sentences in between them, but that’s kind of pointless because people will only remember the first and last ones, and if you take to long to get to the last one, nobody will be paying attention by the time you say it.

Which makes this blog kind of pointless, since nobody who doesn’t already agree with me will remember anything beyond the first paragraph of any post I make. Oh well. I’ll call it “fighting the sound-bite culture” and get all pretentious about it to make myself feel better.

Tree of Finches – Fighting the Sound-Bite Culture Since 2008!

Posted in Global Environment, Global Warming, Hard Facts | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »