Thursday, 13 December 2007

The sky is falling

It's predictions like this that make regular citizens think that climate change prophesiers are eejits.

I think climate change is probably happening, but when the headlines and the bloggerizers begin to shriek about an ice-free Arctic by 2013, you know you've entered the world of sci-fi. It also makes the likelihood of serious and constructive responses, to something that may turn out to be a real problem, just that much more difficult.

Panic now, folks. The Lord Jesus may return tonight, but this apocalyptic scenario is as nothing compared to the reality that the Arctic will be ice-free within minutes.

20 comments:

Jonathan said...

I think a lot of the talk we hear about climate change can get a bit silly and do more harm than good, for many reasons. But this sort of hyperbole is a common problem throughout our culture, not just when climate change comes up, isn't it?

Then again, talk about weather is especially prone to it. Even when climate change isn't mentioned, the long range forecasts always seem to be for "possibly" the coldest winter on record or the mildest, not simply a cold or mild winter. On a smaller scale, we are told whenever there is even a chance of rain, and we are told the extreme predictions when there is a storm wanrning. (The justification in these last cases is fairly understandable, as being prepared for the worst is better than being caught unprepared.)

Anyway, after this morning, I would be happy with an ice-free walk home tonight, unless Jesus does come first!

One Salient Oversight said...

Gordo, your writing has reached new heights. You almost had me believing this post was serious comment! Instead I believe that it was parody!

"Regular Citizens", in context, would include Gordon "I microwave dish wipes for 111 seconds and still haven't completed my Masters in Theology", while "climate change eejits" obviously includes Wieslaw Maslowski, Research Associate Professor, Department of Oceanography, Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Naval Graduate School, Monterey, California, PhD University of Alaska (1994), Postdoctoral Fellow, NOAA Global and Climate Change (1994-1995).

Haha! The parody is reinforced by the bland belief that people would listen to you rather than this guy (a man with at least a decade of climate study behind him, who works for a reputable military institution and a man who predicts an ice free arctic by 2013)! Brilliant stuff. Worthy of Lead Balloons from the old Briefing days...

jpj said...

From what I understand and have researched:
the sun's solar radiation is the largest contributor to climate change (95%)
as opposed to mankind's greenhouse gas emissions (0.2%)

If this is correct, then why bother finding solutions to our effect on climate change.
Why not rather spend our time, money and resources on coping with the inevitable climate change.

My stance:
definitely chase after clean air, clean industry, clean energy...
but don't use climate change as a scare tactic for environmental care.

Peace JPJ

Gordon Cheng said...

And I notice that Peter Hartcher is reporting 2012 as the Day the ice music died.

These people frothing at the mouth about this are nincompoops—assuming that they want to sound the alarm about climate change. We get to Jan1 2012, we look around to see that this prediction hasn't come true, and people who took the whole fuss seriously beforehand start falling away from the cause—not unlike the Jehovah's Witnesses who dropped out after 1977 when the Lord Jesus didn't return, after all.

I'm agnostic on the question of climate change. People who know what they're talking about seem to think that it's happening, by and large, and the wise assumption would be that something is going on. But my view on the right response to it is basically what you've suggested, jpj.

jpj said...

Great comparison with the JW's Gordo!

I hope the obvious over-estimates are challenged by other scientists and reported in the media so that both sides get a say.

Too often we get one-sided arguments from left-field commentators. The Jesus seminar come to mind as good examples of one-sided historical apologetics in the media.

Peace JPJ

byron smith said...

Couldn't help noticing this as well. These alarmist scientists with their degrees and instruments and careful measurements. Bah humbug, I say.

byron smith said...

We get to Jan1 2012, we look around to see that this prediction hasn't come true - actually, it will be September 2013 before this prediction expires or is confirmed.

The article does point out that predictions range up to 2100, but the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) now predicts 2030. There has been ice at the North Pole for the last million years. Even if 2013 turns out to be overly pessimistic, this is still a huge change happening very rapidly. The 2007 minimum was 41% smaller than the average summer minimum between 1978 and 2000 and 27% below the previous record (2005, 2006 was only slightly larger than 2005). Does anyone else find these stats more than a little alarming?

byron smith said...

JPJ - I'm curious, on what have you based your research? The latest IPCC report puts the likelihood of climate change being anthropogenic at over 90%. This is not the number of climatologists who agree, but the agreed level of certainty among climatologists.

jpj said...

Thanks for the challenge Byron.

I'll compile some sites and send them through asap.

Peace JPJ

Jonathan said...

It doesn't matter how well backed up the predictions are with data and models, the fact is that it is always the models with most extreme predictions that are reported. Then, even reasonable scientific statements are usually made more alarmist and/or attached to less relevant facts by the media. It is naive to think that this approach, which probably is needed to catch the attention of some, does not also entrench the cynics.

Perhaps more importantly, when global climate change is used to explain problems that are at least partly caused by other issues such as local land management, some of the necessary solutions are ignored.

Gordon Cheng said...

Couldn't help noticing this as well. These alarmist scientists with their degrees and instruments and careful measurements. Bah humbug, I say.

Byron, what interested me most about your link was when I clicked through and found Bill Gates talking about this.

byron smith said...

What did you find most interesting about the Bill Gates article Gordon?

Jonathan - I agree that climate change can be used to mask local problems. Are you aware of examples?

And I certainly don't trust media reports to give an accurate reflection of the balance of opinion, driven as they are to find conflict and sensation. Nonetheless, the 4th IPCC report speaks of Arctic sea ice disappearing in the latter half of this century and this is not taking into account the extraordinary summer melting in 2005, nor the even more extreme minimum this year. As I said above, the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) now predicts an ice-free Arctic summer around 2030. There are a range of predictions based on different models, but the trend has been to revise the date closer than previously thought. That is, most of the experts in this field think this is a more imminent problem than they did a few years ago.

I thought the BBC report was commendable for at least placing this report within the context of other predictions that stretch out to 2100, with other voices specifically mentioning 2030 or 40.

One difference (of many) between Arctic sea ice shrinking and JW's predicting Jesus' return is that the latter is all-or-nothing. However, in the (fairly likely) scenario of there still being Arctic ice in September 2013, this will not have destroyed all confidence in scientific predictions, because we may well be noticably closer to that outcome than we are at present. Jesus doesn't half come, though the Arctic ice might be half-gone. This might prove one specific prediction wrong, but not the general theory.

RPJ said...

Hey guys, first time I've posted a comment on a Blog, but I did an essay on the effect of the coal industry on economical and environment grounds, question "Grow it or shut it?". I was going to take the easy stance of shut it because that way you don't get ripped apart at university. Anyway what JPJ said about climate change is almost correct. Check this link http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=010405M
Probably the best summary of the research I did.
If you think about it, what are the two main factors that effect global temperature. Its the sun and the systems the Earth has in place to retain heat.
Two things the IPCC does not take into consideration is the sun, and water vapour as a greenhouse gas. The reasoning that IPCC does not take water vapour as a green house gas if because it is not retained in the atmosphere for any long term periods of time so they can't measure it accurately due to fluctuation.
However water vapour contributes 95% of the Earth's greenhouse warming potential (GWP as classified by IPCC). This means that CO2 as a whole contributes between (3-3.5%) of the TOTAL greenhouse warming potential. Meaning, if you do the numbers right (sorry I've lost the numbers in the massive pile of research) you get the anthropogenic potential of the estimate CO2 emissions made by man since 1750 as 0.233% of the GWP which is much lower than the natural variation in the water vapour concentrations. HOWEVER, we have no control over the sun OR the water vapour contributions cas we emmit 0.001% of the total water vapour concentrations.
If you look around the sources you will also find that the CO2 concentration increases as the temperature increases, the temperature rise is not caused by the CO2, rather the CO2 rise is caused by the temperature rise.
Anyway, the guy in the source explains most of it better than I ever could. Just trying to spur you guys on to not get caught up in the hype of the world when there are much more important things to be focusing our attention on. With the money lost to adhering to Kyoto or some other ridiculous "green" scheme, we could make significant changes to the supply of food, clean water and the gospel to those who have no choice in the condition of our lives.
Instead we set ourselves up as God proclaiming that we are the masters of all that is in the world and neglect those to which we have no personal affiliation.
Also, have you noticed that they have changed "Global Warming" to "Climate Change", its interesting to note that they changed its definition when the global temperature actually dropped during one of our most polluting sections of history.
Don't get me wrong, I think that there is going to be climate change, whether we act or not.
But what is the wisest course of action, and where does climate change fit in our priorities of spending?

Gordon Cheng said...

rpj: Yep, the sun and the clouds. I had noticed that climate scientists don't like to talk about them except to dismiss them as relevant factors in their projections.

byron: Bill Gates is inherently interesting. All people with Asperger's type personalities fascinate me. It's also jsut a reminder that even websites like the BBC are really as much in the business of entertainment as of information, especially when it comes to writing headlines. So 2 reasons really, of which the first is primary.

byron smith said...

RPJ: Well done for joining the blog conversation!

Re water vapour, the New Scientist site points out that "water vapour is a feedback, not a forcing". That is, although higher temperatures will lead to more evaporation and so (in general) more warming (with a caveat about clouds - see below), because water vapour only lasts days in the atmosphere (CO2 lasts about a century) and because human activity is only having a very marginal effect on water vapour, this is not the cause of recent changes to climate patterns.

Clouds are complex, because they cut both ways. Depending on the type of cloud, some provide positive feedback through absorbing more solar radiation, others negative through reflecting it. More on clouds here - they are not being ignored.

As for the sun, although sunspot activity is one of a number of natural forcings on global temperates, accounting for somewhere around 20% of temperature changes, this factor does not explain the rises of the last 40 years. See here for more, including this summary: "[...] there is no correlation between solar activity and the strong warming during the past 40 years. Claims that this is the case have not stood up to scrutiny. Direct measurements of solar output since 1978 show a steady rise and fall over the 11-year sunspot cycle, but no upwards or downward trend. Similarly, there is no trend in direct measurements of the Sun's ultraviolet output and in cosmic rays. So for the period for which we have direct, reliable records, the Earth has warmed dramatically even though there has been no corresponding rise in any kind of solar activity."

This is a very complicated field. In order to avoid simply repeating out of date theories and information, make sure you check out New Scientist's 26 most common myths and misconceptions about climate change. Most sceptics are simply repeating discredited ideas.

"Climate change" is broader than "global warming", and includes patterns of precipitation and extreme weather events as well as temperatures.

Gordon Cheng said...

This is a very complicated field. In order to avoid simply repeating out of date theories and information, make sure you check out New Scientist's 26 most common myths and misconceptions about climate change. Most sceptics are simply repeating discredited ideas.

One of the most significant 'myths' that the NS people attempt to bust is about the ability of computer models to predict the future. I just don't think the arguments they've used for this work—ie this myth, at least, is not busted.

These people seem to think similarly.

Gordon Cheng said...

Byron, on a small point:

- actually, it will be September 2013 before this prediction expires or is confirmed.

However, from Hartcher's article:

A NASA climate scientist, Jay Zwally, remarked this week: "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.

An ambiguous and ambitious statement, unqualified by Hartcher. You could even read the Zwally prediction (at least as quoted in the Hartcher article) as referring to August 31, 2011, three-and-a-bit years away.

RPJ said...

Bryon,
Thanks for the New Scientist reference, it does seem to address alot of the content I have read around on the internet. Acting as a filter. It doesn't however address all of my concerns. But then again, if there was a silver bullet for all this stuff, we'd know about it.

It's going to take me a while to sift through all the data considering I have alot more issues in my life than the anthropogenic potential on the world's climate change.

Also, my comment still stands on the benefits of the "green" schemes. The New Scientist articles and relevent links do tend to emphasise the complexity of such issues not related to a single most important environmental factor ie C02 or Sunspot activity. So if we spend insane amounts of money and resources reducing our C02 levels (of only the first world developed nations, which does not effect the total human produced C02) and find that in this particular era there is a different primary source driving climate change then our efforts are in vain and we have prioritised something of little importance.

byron smith said...

Gordon - re timing. Yes, you could read it that way. I was referring to the original BBC article, rather than the Hartcher article.

RPJ - we may find that we have prioritised something of little importance (and thank God if it does turn out to be of little importance!). However, the latest IPCC report says that we can achieve even the most aggressive of their mitigation/adaption models for the cost of 0.12% (that's not 12%) of global annual GDP growth. And this is not to mention the various other benefits of international co-operation, investing in renewable energy and reducing our dependence upon oil, lowering (and smartening) our level of consumption and generally becoming more aware of the ecological conditions of possibility for human civilisation in God's good world.

jpj said...

Just saw this article in the australian

Thought it might stimulate some more debate. Hehe! JPJ