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January 22, 2004 10:29 AM   Subscribe

you think it's been a cold winter in the north east this year?
"For those of us living around the edge of the N. Atlantic Ocean, we may be planning for climate scenarios of global warming that are opposite to what might actually occur."
posted by specialk420 (56 comments total)

 
you think it's been a cold winter in the north east this year?

Yes. Coldest temp ever at our house (-14° F.), which was built 18 years ago. First time a pipe burst in the basement, too, thanks to Mr. Wind and his Chill. Anyway, thanks for the link, which I (sitting a few hundred yards from the North Atlantic Ocean) found very interesting.

I didn't have time to read the whole thing, though, since I must go outside and bring in more firewood because of the -3° temperatures expected over the next few nights. Will return to it later.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:44 AM on January 22, 2004


brrrr. i grew up in northern minnesota - where 20 below was common when i was kid. i just was conversing with a friend how is a very well respected geologist at the university of minnesota ... he's says all his research validates these studies - scenario's presented by woods hole.

www.mpr.org/climate

i wonder what kind of winters my nephew will have when he's my age?
posted by specialk420 at 10:54 AM on January 22, 2004


www.mpr.org/climate
posted by specialk420 at 10:55 AM on January 22, 2004


It's not just the Northeast or those along the North Atlantic.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:12 AM on January 22, 2004


In Wisconsin, we've had colder winters, but now I have roommates who don't deem it necessary to turn the heat up.
posted by drezdn at 11:20 AM on January 22, 2004


We're just living in a little window of warmth anyway.
posted by jfuller at 11:32 AM on January 22, 2004


Last summer was hot. That was evidence of global warming. This winter is cold. That's also evidence of global warming. Of course, if this winter were hot, that would also be evidence of global warming.

From reading the article, here's what else I understand: We don't actually have tools or sufficient data coverage to measure any of this, and our current models are not sufficient to make predictions 10 years into the future. And by the way, the current climate fluctuations are far less than those already recorded in history prior to large-scale human CO2 emissions.

But if the most catastrophic scenarios predicted by the various models, which actually generate conflicting predictions, turn out to be true, then very bad things will happen. Abrupt change is possible, but we don't know how often or why it happens, although there is some "speculation" on its mechanisms.

The reality admitted by this article is that current climate models are not yet capable of making falsifiable predictions about climate change. The article is very carefully worded to avoid making any real predictions or exceeding the very limited boundaries of what has currently been confirmed by scientific method. Like almost all current articles written for a lay audience on the subject, it adopts an alarmist tone about the "potential" consequences without actually advancing a scientific prediction of what those consequences are. The alarmist tone is designed to justify further funding, but if in the end it turns out that the climate doesn't change, or gets warmer, or gets colder, nothing in the article can be proven wrong. The article is careful to maintain scientific rigor through its precise use of qualifiers, but is designed to be easy to extrapolate from by those with a political agenda.

Yes, given the prescientific nature of all current long-term climate predictions, it's definitely true that more research funding is a good idea. But this article simply adds to the increasing evidence that there is no scientific basis for using the phrase "global warming crisis", as so many politically motivated nonscientists have done.
posted by fuzz at 11:42 AM on January 22, 2004


Today in Wisconsin, it is supposed to be -30º F outside today, with the wind chill.

This is, if my memory of winters past serves me, not uncommon for this time of year...

I am still waiting for the national news media to start running around the Mid-West doing stories on how cold it is...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:44 AM on January 22, 2004


"thanks to Mr. Wind and his Chill"

Just a nitpick here, because I was just reading up on windchill the other day. The wind chill factor only affects living things - it is your perception of how cold the air feels with the blowing wind, regardless of how cold it really is. It does not affect inanimate objects. In other words, if the outside temperature is 20F, but the wind chill makes it feel like it's 10 below, the measured temperature of an inanimate object like your pipes will still be 20F. Still cold enough to burst your pipes, though.
posted by starvingartist at 11:59 AM on January 22, 2004


Extreme Cold Forecast in U.S. Over Next 2-3 Weeks "..the coldest 10- to 20-day periods since the winters of 1977 and 1978"
posted by stbalbach at 12:01 PM on January 22, 2004


fuzz knows what he or she is talking about. I would like to add that if this winter were neither particularly hot nor cold, it would also be taken as proof of global warming. The glorious thing about global warming as a conspiracy theory is 1.) that it depends on weather, which is axiomatically changeable and unpredictable, and 2.) all changes in the weather or climate (i.e., all changes in the weather and climate) can be adduced as proof of the theory. You gotta love a win-win argument like that.
posted by Faze at 12:09 PM on January 22, 2004


I am still waiting for the national news media to start running around the Mid-West doing stories on how cold it is...

fucking liberals.
posted by jpoulos at 12:18 PM on January 22, 2004


I feel everyone's pain. It is a frosty 62f here today. Brrr.
posted by birdherder at 12:19 PM on January 22, 2004


The Dominion Christians have it wrong. This isn't the Apocalypse, it's Ragnarok.
posted by homunculus at 12:21 PM on January 22, 2004


Now, to be fair, let's remember that warm winters are proof of the absence of global warming. So are cold winters, warm summers, hot summers, cool summers, and any variation in spring or autumn. The fact that ice ages have existed in the past is also proof that global warming is irrelevant, and so is the periodic absence of ice ages.

...also, anyone concerned about CO2 is a hippie, a communist, some form of terrorist, or possibly just ignorant.

...further, the existence of scientific doubt simply proves that science can't decide anything, except for the minority of scientists that agree with any position I might hold, in which case Science is infallible. Except when those same scientists disagree with a political statement of mine, in which case they're all just Doubting Thomases who should be ignored anyway.
posted by aramaic at 12:22 PM on January 22, 2004


Funny, having just moved from New England to Nebraska (hmm... from N.E. to NE... weird), I was warned to brace myself for the bitter cold winters. It's about 50 outside today. Same yesterday. I haven't seen so much warm winter weather and blue skies since California. Gimme some more of that global warming, baby. 'Cause I'm loving it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:31 PM on January 22, 2004


I thought it was the extremes and swings that proved global warming? We were in the 50s here at the beginning of the month, and 25-35 degrees colder now, give or take. (And anything that'll make summer less disgusting is good in my book--enough heatwaves every year.)
posted by amberglow at 12:34 PM on January 22, 2004


I am still waiting for the national news media to start running around the Mid-West doing stories on how cold it is...

Since moving to ORegon 3 years ago, I have been consistently impressed that every year the regional media feigns complete unprepared shock at the fact that basically the entire western United States catches on fire every summer.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:37 PM on January 22, 2004


The wind chill factor only affects living things

Not exactly. The wind chill affects all things that are exposed to wind and are not at ambient temperature.
posted by trharlan at 12:39 PM on January 22, 2004


We may be close to changing Earth systems irreversibly
posted by homunculus at 12:42 PM on January 22, 2004


armaic, you forgot that science makes baby Jesus cry. You don't want baby Jesus, who died for your and my sins crying do you?

I don't believe everything I hear about global warming, there's an agenda and agendas lead people to exaggerate claims. On the other hand there are simulations that indicate that we may be experiencing global warming and observations that support the simulations. Can weather be exactly predicted 5 or 10 days from now? No, but that's not what they're looking at. Whether the weather tomorrow is bright and sunny or overcast doesn't matter, they're interested in what the long term effects of pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere will be.

To bring in a nice capitalistic analogy. Over the long term if you buy stock in undervalued companies your net worth will increase. I know this, and it's pretty well established though there are deviations from this. You could throw all the computing horsepower in the world at it and wouldn't be able to accurately predict the price of stocks even a few days from now. I'm not going to haul all my money out of the stock market and stick it under my mattress because of this. I've seen simulations of a free market. They don't predict the price of Microsoft or recessions but they do predict that over the long term the stock market will tend to increase.

On a more local level there are obvious signs of mankind's impact on the environment. Large cities such as New York or Los Angeles have their own microclimates. The vast expanses of concrete tend to store heat during the day and release it over night. I'm not saying that's an example of global warming, in fact it isn't, but it's evidence that we can and do change our environment. Something that many conservatives seem to deny.
posted by substrate at 12:53 PM on January 22, 2004


Not exactly. The wind chill affects all things that are exposed to wind and are not at ambient temperature.

Here is what the National Weather Service's FAQ says:

2. Can wind chill impact my car's radiator or exposed water pipe? back

A. The only effect wind chill has on inanimate objects, such as car radiators and water pipes, is to shorten the amount of time for the object to cool. The inanimate object will not cool below the actual air temperature. For example, if the temperature outside is -5 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind chill temperature is -31 degrees Fahrenheit, then your car's radiator will not drop lower than -5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Am I interpreting this wrongly?
posted by starvingartist at 12:55 PM on January 22, 2004


Last summer was hot.
Mild in Dallas, only several days over 100F...which it also has been for Winter. Like a colder winter as nature will kill certain insects.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:56 PM on January 22, 2004


I'm a huge pinko environmentalist, and it always surprises people when I express skepticism about the orthodox opinion on human caused CO2 global warming. For me, there are a number of glaringly obvious problems with the theory, and many scientists (and famously, non-scientists with political motives) that have pointed them out:

1) Feedback loops. If the earth warms and CO2 is increased, then many types of plants can work more efficiently and remove more CO2 from the atmosphere, for example. There are, undoubtedly, positive feedback loops too (such as released methane from arctic peat) but these are some serious variables that haven't been taken into account much.
2) Vapor/cloud reflectivity. Many studies have indicated that if the earth warms, then more clouds will form, which will reflect more sunlight back into space, thus cooling the planet and offsetting the heating.

Additionally, there are causation and irreversability problems:

3) The atmosphere and the climate are famously changeable, fluctuating by ten degrees F within the last 2000 years, which is less than a blink of an eye by geological standards. How do we know that the climate is changing because of what we're doing or not? (Perspective: many of us remember that the big media climate story in the 70s and early 80s was whether we were descending back into an ice age. It's a fashion to speak of global warming, but no more scientifically reliable than to speak of cooling then)
4) How can we change it? Most studies show that the CO2 effects we see now are caused because of, oh, 200 years of industrial revolution activities. It's entirely possible that if there are human-caused greenhouse effects now extant, they're caused by what we were emitting, say, around WWII. We probably can't affect the environment by present behavior either way before 2050 or 2100.

Which isn't to say that efforts to fight CO2 emissions aren't good. The side effects for local environments by reducing these emissions are far better than the global effects: reduced acid rain, smog, petroleum extraction, etc. So let's do it anyway, but don't believe the hype on the warming, because no one knows.
posted by norm at 1:02 PM on January 22, 2004


The wind chill factor only affects living things

It anything that's warmer than the air... such as my house. It has an effect on car engines, too: when it's cold enough and you're driving fast enough, the engine won't get up to its ideal temperature. So in colder climates, people often put cardboard or something behind the grill in the winter, to block some of the wind.
posted by sfenders at 1:13 PM on January 22, 2004


I don't know what more evidence the skeptics need - bush's own EPA stated that global climate change due to man is indeed occuring - this article from the woods hole institute makes it clear that all the consequences of what we are doing to the climatic systems of our little blue planet are not necessarily as they seem, or one would expect.

To make an analogy that the some of the nay-sayers (for lord knows what reason other than the brainstrust in the whitehouse wants to poo-poo the notion of global warming/climate change) might understand ... your people (bush, cheney, condi, ashcroft etc...) had multiple warnings prior to 9-11 which they chose to brush aside (ill provide links if necessary) ... what will it take to get this adminstrations (and the repubs in general) to take notice of, and start providing solutions for this potentiallly catastrophic problem?

the scientific community not only believes but has proven that there is ample evidence that we are making drastic changes to our global climate - and although it is difficult to say exactly what the consequences will be ... it seems certain there will be some dire consequences indeed, and the link above explains just one potential scenario.
posted by specialk420 at 1:27 PM on January 22, 2004


Am I interpreting this wrongly?

No. I'm not contradicting the NWS, either. My pedantic (but not smartassed) comment that The wind chill affects all things that are exposed to wind and are not at ambient temperature, applies to the pipes or radiator as long as they are not the same temperature as the air around them. The presence of the wind will make them cool (or heat, if they are colder than ambient) faster. That's the effect to which I was alluding.
posted by trharlan at 1:30 PM on January 22, 2004


Most studies show that the CO2 effects we see now are caused because of, oh, 200 years of industrial revolution activities.

Humans have been changing the global climate since thousands of years before the industrial revolution ... Beginning 8,000 years ago, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide began to rise as humans started clearing forests, planting crops and raising livestock ... Methane levels started increasing 3,000 years later [this] staved off what should have been a period of significant natural cooling ... The changes also disrupted regular patterns that dominated the 400,000 years of atmospheric history ... "You have 395,000 years of history, which sets some rules, and 5,000 years that break those rules".

And you wanted feedback effects? Our brighter days are behind us. I note that our closest planetary neighbour, both in terms of size and orbit is Venus - a planet with a runaway Greenhouse effect where the oceans have long since vapourised. Venus has the hottest temperatures of any planet, but the least light. The Russian landers there confirmed that even with the sun at its highest point the average daytime light in Venus is like twilight on Earth.

Ohmura's results suggested that levels of solar radiation striking the Earth's surface had declined by more than 10% in three decades ... Records show that over the past 50 years the average amount of sunlight reaching the ground has gone down by almost 3% a decade ... levels of solar radiation reaching parts of the former Soviet Union had gone down almost 20% between 1960 and 1987 ... "The cloudy times are getting darker," says Cohen, at the Volcani Centre. "If it's cloudy then it's darker, but when it's sunny things haven't changed much." ... "If the greenhouse effect causes global dimming then that really changes the perspective," he says. In other words, while it keeps getting warmer it might keep getting darker.

So when some old person tells you that it was brighter and sunnier and generally less cloudy when they were a kid they are probably right. This effect is most pronounced in the temperate zones and has implications for the solar energy industry, agricultural crop growing, and will even begin to affect the earth's average albedo (due to reduced dark plant growth in the northern tunda zones).

I finally note that though cro-magnon speciation occurred around 50KYears ago, human societies did not begin to engage in serious agriculture and city building until we found ourselves in the midst of this prolonged inter-glacial warm period.
posted by meehawl at 1:41 PM on January 22, 2004


specialk420, here's what I'd need before I even thought about "solutions":

1. The climate is changing.
2. The change is caused by mankind.
3. The changes are for the worse.
4. The "solutions" to these changes will not be worse than the problem they purport to solve.


Any policy that the administration would enact will have costs. Costs like lives, dollars, hours of leisure, et cetera. What do you propose that the administration do?
posted by trharlan at 1:41 PM on January 22, 2004


Norm - That's a well written opinion. However, in my opinion, you argument is crippled by an internal inconsistency.

Why - well, for the simple fact that it is known that the Earth's climate does go through fluctuations, becoming at times warm, at times cooler - and sometimes abruptly so. This fact renders your "self quenching" feedback mechanisms far less likely.

"The atmosphere and the climate are famously changeable, fluctuating by ten degrees F within the last 2000 years, which is less than a blink of an eye by geological standards." - Indeed, changes of this magnitude, it is now known, can occur with a decade or even a few years.

"We probably can't affect the environment by present behavior either way before 2050 or 2100." - I hate to say it this bluntly but that is simply absurd. Humans have already altered the composition of the Earth's atmosphere quite significantly.

I believe you meant that human activity cannot alter the earth's climate before 2050 or 2100 - I don't have a clue where you are geting your information on this. Can you cite any sources?

"How do we know that the climate is changing because of what we're doing or not?" - We never know absolutely. However, it is known - beyong any shadow of a doubt (the physics of it is quite simple) that atmospheric carbon dioxide traps heat. Feedback mechanisms could mitigate the warming effect, sure, but as I said (and as you also noticed) the Earth's climate is known to have the capability to fluctuate rather dramatically.

By the way, "Global Warming" is what actually makes the Earth habitable for us. Without our atmosphere the Earth would be, at sea level, approximately 60 degrees fahrenheit colder than it is currently.

You see, the atmosphere traps heat. Good thing, that.

It is not true that "no one knows". Carbon dioxide traps heat. Period. The physics of this is basic. In the absence of counteracting feedback mechanisms which - as I noted - are rather less likely than you claim for the fact that they apparently are ineffective at stopping the large climatic fluctuations known to have occurred in the earth's recent past, warming from added CO2 is inevitable.

Further, it is known now that the Earth's climate is unstable, so it is rather unwise for us to alter basic atmospheric composition given our considerable ignorance of the parameters that govern sudden climate change.

In fact, it is simply dumb.
posted by troutfishing at 1:44 PM on January 22, 2004


I thought it was the extremes and swings that proved global warming?

Is the climate becoming more variable or extreme?

"On a global scale there is little evidence of sustained trends in climate variability or extremes. This perhaps reflects inadequate data and a dearth of analyses. However, on regional scales, there is clear evidence of changes in variability or extremes."

And from a layman's source for science, Earth & Sky:

"James Hansen is one of many scientists nowadays who believe that humans are responsible for present and, probably future, global warming. That's warming above and beyond that caused by the fact that we're still coming out of an ice age. Nearly ten years ago, Hansen testified to Congress that global warming would indeed lead to greater climate extremes. With warmer global temperatures you'd expect already dry places to become even more dry -- which would lead to more droughts, heat waves, and fires. And with warmer overall temperatures, you'd see more evaporation over the ocean and other watery areas. Since increased evaporation would lead to more precipitation, you'd expect to see more flooding, rainfall, and severe storms."

Hansen said, " On the one hand you might see more intense droughts, heat waves and fires, but, on the other hand, you'd also heavier rainfall, greater floods and stronger storms. This makes sense - increased heating of the surface increases the temperature and intensifies drought at times and places with dry conditions. But over the ocean and places that are wet, the increased heating of the surface increases evaporation, intensifies storms driven by latent heat, and causes greater flooding."
posted by moonbiter at 2:04 PM on January 22, 2004


What do you propose that the administration do?

you gotta be kidding right trharlan?


for starters... show a little .. just a little ... leadership on conservation - such a simple thing for them to do ... and good politically. if bush can stand for helping aids victims (subsquently proven to be a ploy as a dime he proposed has yet to reach africa) and prisoners ... why can't he wipe to oil off his boots and talk a little about how conservation would help everyone in this nation and planet except his buddies in the oil companies.
posted by specialk420 at 2:17 PM on January 22, 2004


Not kidding one bit. Okay, he can ask us to conserve energy. I'd bet that you'd remain unsated by this, as it wouldn't accomplish much. What policies would you like the administration to embrace?
posted by trharlan at 2:20 PM on January 22, 2004


thanks moonbiter--it might be false memory, but it seemed to be more seasonable when I was young than it is today
posted by amberglow at 2:38 PM on January 22, 2004


What policies would you like the administration to embrace?

What about something like the Appollo Jobs Report?
posted by iceberg273 at 3:00 PM on January 22, 2004


as it wouldn't accomplish much.

... perhaps you might check the reduction in power consumption in california during their power crisis - when leaders simply asked the populace to conserve and reminded them of ways to conserve.


on the policy front - i would suggest starting with cutting the tax breaks for SUVs and implement the CAFE standards - for starters.


jesus christ. do you have children trhalan?
posted by specialk420 at 4:04 PM on January 22, 2004


perhaps you might check the reduction in power consumption in california during their power crisis - when leaders simply asked the populace to conserve and reminded them of ways to conserve.

Are Californians still using less energy than they were prior to the crisis? Do you honestly think that, if our leaders preached conservation, ad infinitum, that they would effect real and considerable change in the energy consumption habits of the citizenry? I sure as hell don't.

Enforcing CAFE and repealing the not-very-commonly-used SUV deduction would serve to reduce demand for American-made automobiles, and therefore add to domestic unemployment as consumers shun SUVs (which the US makes competitively) for smaller cars (a segment in which foreign manufacturers dominate domestic manufacturers).

Then you get to piss and moan all day about how enemies-of-the-working-man Bush and the Republicans killed General Motors.

jesus christ. do you have children trhalan?(sic)


Nope. But when I do, I'd like them to be looking for jobs in a vibrant, free economy-- an economy that hasn't been hamstrung by growth-killing constraints put in place by cloudy-eyed, hamfisted regulators on the basis of an unproven and controversial theory.
posted by trharlan at 5:46 PM on January 22, 2004


Enforcing CAFE and repealing the not-very-commonly-used SUV deduction would serve to reduce demand for American-made automobiles, and therefore add to domestic unemployment as consumers shun SUVs (which the US makes competitively) for smaller cars (a segment in which foreign manufacturers dominate domestic manufacturers).

Well, who could argue with that kind of logic? Anyway, don't worry about it. All those foreign countries signed on to the Kyoto Protocol. No doubt that will destroy their economies in short order. It's your patriotic duty to burn as much gas as possible. That talk from the president about reducing American dependence on foreign oil was clearly just a ruse.
posted by sfenders at 6:14 PM on January 22, 2004


not-very-commonly-used SUV deducation

Not commonly used? In what state? In California the auto places brag about handing you the paperwork already complete.
posted by aramaic at 6:16 PM on January 22, 2004


I'd like them to be looking for jobs in a vibrant, free economy-- an economy that hasn't been hamstrung by growth-killing constraints put in place by cloudy-eyed, hamfisted regulators

You know, back in the mid 19th Century the Brits were on top of their form: their military hegemony enabled them to construct a world-encircling economic system with London as the centre. By modern standards our level of global trade as a percentage of GNP for developed economies has only just recently reached the same levels of globalized, internationalized trade as the British Empire in the late 19th Century.

Anyway, secure in their system of tariffs, patents, subsidies, and vassal economies forced to buy the output of their factories, their economy failed to innovate.

During the 1880s the US and German economies began a truly explosive growth pattern. Forced to compete with the protected British economy, they avolved as leaner, more productive, higher-technology wonders. The British balance of payments and trade deficits worsened, year after year.

During the truce in the European Civil War, without the military means to force vassal economies to remain within their orbit, the British Empire began its rapid disintegration. By the resumption of full-on hostilities in 1939, the British balance of trade was abysmal - a state of affairs that accelerated even more after 1945.

Anyway, the point is that hiding behind trade barriers, government subsidies, and dirty industries is no way to develop an economy. You risk being swept into the rusty dustbin of history.

One small example I see is the hybrid auto. This has respectable sales in the US, large sales in the EU, and due to the new stringent Chinese fuel economy standards, will be virtually the only way to sell cars en masse into the Chinese market.

How many US car makers demonstrated hybrids in Detroit recently? I couldn't find any - the market is owned by Toyota, Daimler, Honda, and Volvo.

Protecting your smokestack industries and mid-20th century technologies and production standards is a sure route to irrelevence.
posted by meehawl at 6:27 PM on January 22, 2004


How many US car makes demonstrated hybrids...

...that's probably because of the Unions, you know. If it weren't for the union shackles, our friendly free-market overlords would already be selling $5 flying cars that run on water!
posted by aramaic at 6:43 PM on January 22, 2004


trharlan - I'd have to say that you have made a choice to walk away from science and towards the dictates of your ideology.

First of all, if you are looking for policy prescriptions, start with the elimination of the tens of billions of direct federal subsidies (and far more in indirect subsidies) to the petrochemical and nuclear industries.

So you are a champion of the Free Market ? So am I. Let's put our money where our ideology is and level the playing field : eliminate these prejudicial subsidies, at least. It's only fair. Wind Power is poised to take off - it's long term cost per kilowatt hour is rapidly approaching that of coal. It would take off with no Federally subsidized competitors to contend with.

"an economy that hasn't been hamstrung by growth-killing constraints put in place by cloudy-eyed, hamfisted regulators on the basis of an unproven and controversial theory." - trharlan, I've had many polite interactions with you, though we have different political outlooks - so I'll try to say this kindly.

First of all, you are alive by virtue of Global Warming. The Earth's atmosphere warms the earth 60 degrees fahrenheit over what it would otherwise be. This is a fact and - if you reject that, you are rejecting accepted scientific truths on the order of the Earth's rotation around the Sun.

Now what's at issue here a Greenhouse Effect which is enhanced by human activities.

Further, CO2 does exert a "Greenhouse" effect. This is also an issue of rather basic physics. If you reject this, you are rejecting the last century of scientific progress in physics. You may think this an overstatement. It is not. Now, other mechanisms - cloud interactions and so on - may conveniently counteract this warming effect : but probably not.

It would behoove you to learn the basics of the debate though, for your skepticism on this is an embarassment which undercuts your other political agendas.

Secondly, you haven't read the linked article, I'd have to say. Are you afraid of what science has to offer ? Truth is not so bad, believe me.

______________________________________________

One final point - does your business - or the business you work for - carry insurance ? Drop it. it's a crazy waste of money which is based on unproven, pie-in-the-sky risk-analysis assesments which are spun by agenda driven scientists.


Not.
posted by troutfishing at 7:00 PM on January 22, 2004


Here it is in a nutshell. Global Warming made simple : the Earth is always absorbing heat - in the form of sunlight - and also radiating that heat back out into space. Earth's atmosphere has the net effect of keeping the Earth, on average, about 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it would otherwise be.

The Greenhouse Effect is what makes the Earth habitable for human life - and the most severe extinction events known of in the Earth's past have resulted, in fact, from a runaway feedback loop by which increased snow and ice cover reflects more heat back into space - and that, in turn, leads (up tp a point) in increased snow and ice cover. This is the now famous (among climatologists) "Snowball Earth" scenario.

So it is a very good thing, this Greenhouse Effect!.....up to a point.

Now what really is at issue is the "enhanced Greenhouse Effect" which is resulting from the human release of carbon, into the atmosphere, to boost atmospheric carbon to levels not seen in several hundred thousands of years (at least).

[ About volcanoes - Volcanoes spew carbon when they erupt, of course. But vulcanism is sporadic, while the human "volcano" erupts day in, day out, year after year. And in the short term, volcanoes also have a cooling influence for the soot and sulfur dioxide they launch into the atmosphere - which both blocks sunlight from getting to the Earth's surface (the soot) and reflects sunlight back into space (the sulfuric acid which results from the breakdown of sulfur dioxide). This sulfuric acid and soot precipitates out of the atmosphere fairly quickly - in several years. ]

But let's be clear on this - the Greenhouse effect of carbon (and other Greenhouse gasses such as methane) has been known for at least a hundred years.

Molecules of "Greenhouse" gasses trap escaping heat momentarily before they re-emit that heat energy. So these gasses have an insulating effect.

The physics of this have never been in question - they are extremely basic.

So the ONLY way that these Greenhouse gasses would NOT have the net effect of raising the earth's temperature would be if they triggered atmospheric mechanisms which counteracted that warming effect.

Increased cloud cover is the mechanism most often cited, but few specific mechanisms for this possible counteracting effect - you could call it the "Global Warming Self-quenching Effect" - have been proposed. One such theory has, however, been advanced by Jerry Lindzen, of MIT (a respected researcher in the field of climatology - meaning that he publishes peer-reviewed research in the field). But there is one major objection to the "Self-Quenching" hypothesis :

It is known, from reconstruction of the Earth's past temperatures, that the earth has been both warmer - at times, and cooler - at other times than the current average temperature of today. Sometimes, in fact, temperature shifts are rather rapid. So this throws the "self-quenching" mechanisms into doubt, to some extent.

So that's about it. Computer generated predictions of how much the Earth will warm in the next century are speculative, of course. Climatic interactions - between clouds, land and sea, snow and ice, animals and plants, and so on - are fantastically complex. Climate modelling is at an early stage, yes. So the current climate model predictions are provisional, of course. But - barring potential nonlinear mechanisms which Global Warming could trigger, and which most likely would be bad to catastrophic for industrial civilization - there is little doubt about the direction the Earth's climate is currently headed in. Warming.

_______________________________________________


Except for this little problem - sudden climate shifts.

Warm, cold, warm, cold......Oh, those pointy headed, waffling scientists - saying one thing, then saying another. Can't they make up their minds?

If I hear this riff one more time, I'll throw up. It's a talking point turd excreted from the rectum of Exxon-Mobil and refried so many times that it no longer even stinks. It's become petrified.

__________________________________________

Let me make it simple.

We are warming up the atmosphere and changing the Earth's climate. But - at a certain point, scientists have discovered, the atmosphere and climate can have a seizure.

A warm climate, given the correct nudge, can turn suddenly cold.

To go into the reasons for these seizures - well, we'd have to listen to the pointyheaded, agenda driven scientists.

They are pretty good at ennabling cool consumer products, yeah. BUT....when they get into politics, watch out !

So I guess I can't tell you about these climatic seizures.

Oh well.

Go back to sleep.
posted by troutfishing at 7:24 PM on January 22, 2004


trharlan - You could start with the disocvery of, and world reaction to, the Ozone Hole.
posted by troutfishing at 7:27 PM on January 22, 2004


First of all, if you are looking for policy prescriptions, start with the elimination of the tens of billions of direct federal subsidies (and far more in indirect subsidies) to the petrochemical and nuclear industries.

Absolutely. I'm a libertarian, troutfishing, not a Conservative. Your policy prescription is one that any sane American can get behind. Will you throw in repeal of the Energy Policy Act of 1992, so we can have low-pollution nuclear power, too?

And where do I "reject" scientific fact? I read the article prior to posting. I'll paste a few tidbits:

Evidence has mounted... that humans may be

There is a strong chaotic variation of properties with a quasi-period of around 1500 years.

The best known example of these events (happened) about 12,000 years ago.

A whole volume that reviews the evidence for abrupt climate change and speculates on its mechanisms was published recently.

Our limited knowledge of ocean climate on long time scales...

Model calculations indicate the potential for cooling of 3 to 5 degree Celsius.

They are... comparable to the Little Ice Age, which had profound effects... during the 16th through 18th centuries.

Whether the pathway for propagation of climate change is atmospheric or oceanic, or whether changes in oceanic and terrestrial sequestration of carbon may globalize effects of climate change, as suspected for glacial/inter-glacial climate changes, are open questions.

Whether or not the latter will happen is the nexus of the problem, and one that is hard to predict with confidence.

Besides needing believable models
that can accurately predict climate change, we also need data that can properly initialize them. Errors in initial data can lead to poor atmospheric predictions in several days.

For the ocean, our data coverage is wholly inadequate. We can’t say now what the overturning circulation looks like with any confidence and are faced with the task of predicting what it may be like in 10 years!

Our knowledge about past climate change is limited as well.

Progress needs to be made on both better data and improved models before we can begin to answer some critical questions about future climate change.


So, yeah, I read the article.

I resent your charge of "ignorance"--I do not dispute that increased CO2, ceteris paribus, causes the "greenhouse effect". I believe that we cannot state, with any degree of certainty, the magnitude of our involvement in atmospheric and climatological change, we cannot know whether these changes are beneficial or detrimental, and I have no business telling anyone how to set his thermostat, what to drive, where to live, or how to live.

You, on the other hand, appear to be willing to restrict freedom and kill people (and if you don't think that fast economic growth kills fewer people than slow economic growth, the charges you hurl at me are merely projection), because you take one deductively reasoned fact and induce your way to the brink of catastrophe.

While I own insurance, I don't advocate wielding the coercive power of the state to influence you to make the same decision.

I wholly agreed with your policy prescription, troutfishing, but my disgust with the position taken by the Green left stems from its fervor to accept conjecture as fact, and to gloss over (or avoid altogether) any kind of cost-benefit analysis regarding the draconian regulations they propose. But, then, how can one perform a cost-benefit analysis when consensus cannot be reached on the benefit side of the equation?
posted by trharlan at 8:22 PM on January 22, 2004


As an aside, I think there is some confusion here over a greenhouse effect, and "The Greenhouse Effect."

...that CO2 has a greenhouse effect is indisputable. It's simply a matter of basic chemistry. Whether or not The Greenhouse Effect exists may be more debatable.
posted by aramaic at 9:02 PM on January 22, 2004


Nope. But when I do, I'd like them to be looking for jobs in a vibrant, free economy-- an economy that hasn't been hamstrung by growth-killing constraints put in place by cloudy-eyed, hamfisted regulators on the basis of an unproven and controversial theory.



posted by specialk420 at 9:17 PM on January 22, 2004


theory

[n] a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena; "theories can incorporate facts and laws and tested hypotheses"; "true in fact and theory"

unproven and controversial theory

if you actuallly do care at all about this issue ... rather than simply echoing the party line ... i suggest you check the mpr links and listen to larry edwards presentation.
posted by specialk420 at 9:41 PM on January 22, 2004


"You, on the other hand, appear to be willing to restrict freedom and kill people: - trharlan, I didn't say anything of the sort. Since I haven't mentioned anything other than the elimination of subsidies, you'd be guessing about my program to deal with Global Warming.

But, since you stoop to this level....

I happen to know that you personally fed Oolong's dead body into a meat slicer, so that you could eat that bunny for lunch!
posted by troutfishing at 9:44 PM on January 22, 2004


trharlan - BTW, did have you encountered my take on Julian Simon ?

Julian Simon was a genius. But, in his obsession with the white whale of Erlich, Simon lost perspective on the larger point that, sure, the market will provide substitutes. And it will, short of a catastrophic system collapse. However, this process would amount to, precisely, the replacement of the natural world with human artifice.
posted by troutfishing at 9:51 PM on January 22, 2004


troutfishing-- I was wrong to put words in your mouth.

Additionally, upon a reread, my post was more vitriolic than was justified. So I'm sorry for that-- though I commend you for your injection of levity.

I took a week off from the blue week ago, and I think it's time for another break. I'm wound a bit too tightly of late.
posted by trharlan at 9:55 PM on January 22, 2004


trharlan - I have a pretty thick skin. Global Warming (and sudden climate shifts) is a touchy issue for me too.

A lot of this touchiness springs from my alarm at the extent that humans are altering basic Earth processes (such as the carbon cycle) and concern about the fact that the Sudden Climate Shifts (or "surprises", as some scientists put it) are now considered quite likely - concern about this has risen to the highest levels of the scientific establishment, the US National Academy of Science. (which also takes Global Warming quite seriously)

"Most climate-change research has focused on gradual changes, such as the processes by which emissions of greenhouse gases lead to warming of the planet. But new evidence shows that periods of gradual change in Earth's past were punctuated by episodes of abrupt change, including temperature changes of about 10 degrees Celsius, or 18 degrees Fahrenheit, in only a decade in some places. Severe floods and droughts also marked periods of abrupt change.

A new report from the National Academies' National Research Council says greenhouse warming and other human alterations of the climate system may increase the possibility of large, abrupt, and unwelcome regional or global climatic events. Researchers do not know enough about such events to accurately predict them, so surprises are inevitable."
- from "Abrupt Climate Change : Inevitable Surprises" (2002), a several hundred page report published by National Academy Press available for free online which - as part of the National Academy of Science - prepares such reports to brief the US Congress on scientific matters considered to be especially topical.
posted by troutfishing at 8:27 AM on January 23, 2004


Here is the NAS on Global Warming. Here are some related titles

"Last summer was hot. That was evidence of global warming. This winter is cold. That's also evidence of global warming. Of course, if this winter were hot, that would also be evidence of global warming. ....Abrupt change is possible, but we don't know how often or why it happens, although there is some "speculation" on its mechanisms......current climate models are not yet capable of making falsifiable predictions about climate change.....Like almost all current articles written for a lay audience on the subject, it adopts an alarmist tone about the "potential" consequences without actually advancing a scientific prediction of what those consequences are. The alarmist tone is designed to justify further funding, [ emphasis mine ] but if in the end it turns out that the climate doesn't change, or gets warmer, or gets colder, nothing in the article can be proven wrong. The article is careful to maintain scientific rigor through its precise use of qualifiers, but is designed to be easy to extrapolate from by those with a political agenda. " (fuzz)

Fuzz - you are asserting that Woods Hole has an agenda. But you certainly do ! You start your comment with a know-nothingness which is belied by your previous comments on Global Warming from other threads. You know better. "Abrupt change is possible, but we don't know how often or why it happens" - this is a rather egregious distortion. The whole discussion about Abrupt Climate Change arose when improved scientific methods allowed for a more precise reconstruction of the Earth's past temperature record. Shifts once thought to have occured over hundreds or even thousands of years were found to, in some cases, to have happened within a decade or even several years. You know this. Why the obfuscatory distortion ? Further, there are several promising theories about the mechanisms which drive Sudden Climate Shifts which correlate rather strongly, it turns out, with changes in salinity in the areas of the North Atlantic where the thermohaline downwelling which drives thermohaline circulation occurs. Saltiness may be the tail and not the dog, sure. But you assert a level of ignorance in this field which is wildly overstated, in my opinion. Why ? I think you know better on this as well.

All scientists have agendas, sure. You have one as well, and so do I. And so do the business interests which spend quite considerable sums of money to confuse the American public about Climate Change (AKA Global warming) .

You've told me that you are working as a scientist or with scientists. Yet your contempt for science - marked especially by your continual (on this and other posts) assertions of bias on the part of scientists studying Climate Change - maskes me wonder :

You wouldn't work for These folks, would you?

Just kidding.

Meanwhile, I thought you knew that the Falsifiability Principle was not so monolithic as that - according even to Popper himself. It does not always apply. For example, we are inside this "experiment", and further - Falsifiability may not be a proper test for science which studies nonlinear phenomenon.

"....it adopts an alarmist tone about the "potential" consequences without actually advancing a scientific prediction of what those consequences are." - I find past examples of Sudden Climate Shifts, such as the Younger-Dryas sudden shift to be rather alarming.

You don't find the possibility of a climate shift of up to ten degrees Celsius within a period even as short as several years to be alarming ? You must have had an especially bad time in a war or something, I don't know. I find this quite alarming.

I also know that you know that your charge - that the Woods Hole scientists are not making any predictions - is disengenuous - because you have that level of scientific literacy necessary to know better.

You know that they would not do that for a number of reasons, including the fact that there are no comparable climate regimes which they can refer to ( computer modelling is NOT the only predictive tool in their kit ) to make reasoned guesses as to how the Earth's climate, which is KNOWN to be an unstable system which can shift rapid between (currently) at least three different major climate patterns, will respond to Global Warming.

You are, I think, purposefully occluding the critical points here :

1) Earth's climate has been shown, only very recently, to be unstable.

2) We humans are now giving it a considerable shove.
posted by troutfishing at 9:24 AM on January 23, 2004


thanks for the links trout... i'm with you on concern about this issue - it looks like it is going to be an incredible mess we are making of our wonderful little planet for the next generation, if not our own. check the mpr links up top ... a little difficult to follow the unedited presentation - but incredibly good stuff/science - well ominous but good.

as for trharlan - you know what they say about leading a horse to water ...
posted by specialk420 at 9:26 AM on January 23, 2004


Tonight on Now: Debating "Global Warming"
posted by homunculus at 12:06 PM on January 23, 2004


ohh. good catch homunculus. i finally became a member of my local pbs station in light of my addiction to and support of the excellent programs: NOW and FRONTLINE
posted by specialk420 at 3:15 PM on January 23, 2004


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