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Global dimming is the new global threat
January 14, 2005 7:18 PM   Subscribe

Global dimming. It's official. Particulate pollution in the air has decreased the amount of sunlight reaching the earth. How much? A fraction of a percent? Try 10% globally over the past 50 years. Worse yet, global dimming is thought to be counteracting CO2 and its greenhouse effect, lessening the worldwide temperature increase called global warming. Why's that bad? Because, in the coming decades, particulate pollution is expected to level off, while CO2 emissions are expected to rise strongly, multiplying the effects of global warming as we know it. "That means a temperature rise of 10 degrees Celsius by 2100 could be on the cards, giving the UK a climate like that of North Africa, and rendering many parts of the world uninhabitable." Holy fucking shit! [via kottke]
posted by scarabic (74 comments total)

 
See, Matt? The sky really is falling ;)
posted by scarabic at 7:19 PM on January 14, 2005


So what environmentalists are saying is that no matter what happens to the weather over the next few years, they can blame it on human beings and pollution and continue to get grant money.

if it gets hotter, that's global warming caused by people.

If it gets colder, that's global dimming caused by people.

If it stays exactly the same. that's BOTH of them! Ahhhhh! the sky is falling no matter what, please give these people more money so they can continue to tell you that!
posted by u.n. owen at 7:30 PM on January 14, 2005


but what if we are changing the weather/climate/atmosphere, u.n.? (something most of the civilized world believes to be a fact--see Kyoto.)

why is this about grant money?
posted by amberglow at 7:35 PM on January 14, 2005


Eh.

We're really too busy screwing ourselves out of food to worry about screwing ourselves out of land.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:39 PM on January 14, 2005


I smoke, therefore contributing to the particulate problem. I suppose that I should stop. I don't drive a car though, at least not right now, so perhaps it balances out. Maybe I could smoke a hybrid cigarette?
posted by exlotuseater at 7:44 PM on January 14, 2005


I want to know who funded this research.
posted by salad spork at 7:53 PM on January 14, 2005


Ahhhhh! the sky is falling no matter what, please give these people more money so they can continue to tell you that!

I really hope your post was intended as sarcasm, because your comment is indicative of just how little people understand about climate change. Different types of chemicals have different effects on the climate with different 'gestation' periods. Is that really that difficult to understand, or would you much rather stick your head in the sand?
posted by shawnj at 8:04 PM on January 14, 2005


but what if we are changing the weather/climate/atmosphere, u.n.? (something most of the civilized world believes to be a fact--see Kyoto.)
Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.


There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:08 PM on January 14, 2005


No wonder all the old people need glasses, they don't have bad eyes, the sun is just dimming on them.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:11 PM on January 14, 2005


lessening the worldwide temperature increase called global warming.

I believe they are calling it global climate change these days.
posted by dwordle at 8:12 PM on January 14, 2005


Obviously the work of greedy environmentalists for grant money - there's big money to be made in destroy.. saving the environment.
posted by stbalbach at 8:14 PM on January 14, 2005


See also this transcript of a Horizon program that goes into more detail.

I've heard it said that everything is 10 or 20 or whatever precent dimmer since the 50's, yet that would be only a barely noticable difference to the naked eye. How's that possible?
posted by abcde at 8:16 PM on January 14, 2005


This is a good post about a fascinating aspect of climate change.

There is a scientific consensus that humans are changing the climate. As most scientists will tell you, though, we don't quite know what shape those changes will take, and particulate pollution is a perfect example of why.

These particulates (primarily sulfur dioxide, SO2) exist in their greatest concentration around industrial areas, which means that cities and smokestack hot zones see the largest effects of the cooling or dimming.

Should we just use particulate pollution to mask warming in our cities? Nope. It causes acid rain, it causes terrible respiratory problems that cause tens of thousands of premature deaths every year, and it's a temporary "fix" anyway, since the effect doesn't last as long as the effect of greenhouse gases.

Most important, the uneven warming these gases cause is itself a huge potential problem. Since naturally uneven warming from the sun is what causes wind, many think that further uneven warming caused by patches of particulates could cause superstorms in great frequency and intensity.

This means that climate change isn't as simple as global warming or global cooling, although either or both could be reasonable outcomes regionally. It's possible that different locales could see different effects -- almost surely bad ones, since many species are adapted to their specific homes and may have real trouble changing with the times.

Steve, Crichton's logic turns on itself. If what is relevant is "reproducible results," what happens when a majority of experts produces the same results consistently? If we don't call that a "consensus," it's just semantic quibbling.

u.n. owen, scientists -- not environmentalists -- disagree on what's ultimately going to happen, but few doubt the basic premise that humaninterference is disrupting climactic systems. Many scientists even say that anthropogenic warming could lead (in many different ways) to a new ice age, regional or otherwise.

This might seem counterintuitive, but once equilibrium is upset, there's no telling what direction changes will go. That is not a comforting thought, for us or for nature.
posted by jeffmshaw at 8:19 PM on January 14, 2005


abcde: That's due to the sensitivity curve of the human eye. Basically, the eye is very good at discerning brightness differences in very dark environments. For example, at night, you'll be able to spot a light bulb miles away. But the eye is not very good at telling the differences between the brightness of a million and 1.5 million light bulbs. That'll look almost the same. Especially if you can't see the next to each other for comparison.
posted by sour cream at 8:26 PM on January 14, 2005


why is this about grant money?

Because whores like John Stossel and Michael Crichton are telling people what they want to hear, and being paid handsomely for it.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:30 PM on January 14, 2005


Bad idea to read this and then go watch The Day After Tomorrow.
posted by fenriq at 8:32 PM on January 14, 2005


ARGH.

Would you all care to remind me why I'm wrong in thinking that eventually there's going to be so many differing and wholly accepted, at one time or another *but still in my lifetime*, scientific opinions that the world is just going to turn a neutral beige?

First, we freeze to death.
Next we end up choked in garbage.
So, later we burn to death.
Then we freeze *and* burn to death.
Now nothing happens.

Where does it all end? Science comes full circle. Although the choking in garbage crowd hasn't had much competition for a while.
posted by shepd at 8:46 PM on January 14, 2005


I really hope your post was intended as sarcasm, because your comment is indicative of just how little people understand about climate change.

Not to mention how little they understand the nature of research and working to discover what is true. This kind of ignorance is simply appalling.
posted by rushmc at 9:46 PM on January 14, 2005


You've gotta learn to choke WITH garbage...
posted by Balisong at 9:52 PM on January 14, 2005


S@L, I'm not sure I agree with Mr Chricton's view that science is not consensus. It seems like as you look at potential outcomes of things like global warming there's a shrinking difference between the probabilities of each of those outcomes the farther away in time you go. The probability that at least one of the outcomes will happen approaches one over time, but at the same time which one becomes harder to figure out.
I mean, we're talking about looking for overlaps between huge data sets taken by people in, to them, completely unrelated fields.
Chricton aside, I think it's undisputed that there have been and can be sudden, catastrophic shifts in weather patterns, and there are trends that could cause them.
posted by atchafalaya at 10:05 PM on January 14, 2005


Would you all care to remind me why I'm wrong in thinking that eventually there's going to be so many differing and wholly accepted, at one time or another *but still in my lifetime*, scientific opinions that the world is just going to turn a neutral beige?

Well, you're wrong because science has self-correcting mechanisms whereas ordinary discourse usually doesn't. It doesn't really matter how many scientific perspectives there are on a given issue; sooner or later, a sufficient number of empirical studies are conducted to rule out the vast majority (and in most cases, all but one). In fact, more opinions are generally better, since they raise potential explanations that others may not have considered, and allow new alternatives to be tested. Dissent and disagreement are a pivotal aspect of scientific progress.

Part of the reason people fail to appreciate this is that if anything, the process often works too well: almost no one remembers that many of the 'facts' that seem trivial today were once matters of great scientific controversy. People once held serious debates about where the mass of objects goes when they burn. Today you'd be laughed out of your high school chemistry class for suggesting that it turns into a substance called phlogiston that has negative mass. Same goes for global warming. It's already pretty much a non-issue in scientific circles that humans cause climate change; if the media stopped trumpeting the tiny fraction of scientists who insist otherwise, the whole issue wouldn't seem nearly so controversial.
posted by heavy water at 10:11 PM on January 14, 2005


My dad is an electrical contractor... I think this is good for him...

/still sort of pissed.
posted by sdrawkcab at 10:23 PM on January 14, 2005


I'm going to take the sarcastic responses to this as humor in the face of terror, laughing to keep from crying.

I've heard it said that everything is 10 or 20 or whatever precent dimmer since the 50's, yet that would be only a barely noticable difference to the naked eye. How's that possible?

I had the same thought, but think about it. Whose eye can serve as a reliable frame of reference, within a 10% margin of error, over a period of 50 years? People don't notice gaining/losing weight over time, the growth of trees, and all kinds of gradual processes. Given the amount of time we spend indoors, under electric light, and how vision fades with age, I think this could easily go unnoticed by a single generation.

But that's a tangental conversation, more or less, because the phenomenon is documented by multiple vetted studies! It's reality, my friend!

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus.

Steve, that's just bullshit. All science publication lives and dies by peer review. While the scientific process itself deals with points of measurable fact, scientists as people generally recognize that, as imperfect, partial beings, they are not always able to execute that process perfectly. And so the concept of peer review comes into play. In this case, you've got two completely unrelated units with different methods arriving at the same result. That's got to be more convincing than an isolated study with alarmist overtones. Welcome to the world of science, where things are proven and decided much more quickly than, say, your community church, or... Congress.

Science isn't consensus-contingent in that overwhelming evidence eventually wins out over conventional thinking. But it is a field where most if not all significant findings are pored over by more than one source before being declared valid. The beauty of it is that evidence rules, and scientists don't get as bogged down in centuries-long arguments over points of interpretation, like theologians do.
posted by scarabic at 10:48 PM on January 14, 2005


Would you all care to remind me why I'm wrong in thinking that eventually there's going to be so many differing and wholly accepted, at one time or another *but still in my lifetime*, scientific opinions that the world is just going to turn a neutral beige?

As is easy to do, you mistake human theory and opinion for reality. Some few of those scientific opinions are going to turn out to be right eventually, and the result will almost certainly not be neutral.
posted by freebird at 10:49 PM on January 14, 2005


why I'm wrong in thinking that eventually there's going to be so many differing and wholly accepted, at one time or another *but still in my lifetime*, scientific opinions that the world is just going to turn a neutral beige?

How do multiple ecological disasters cancel each other out? Life can evolve to live under practically any circumstances. I believe it's possible that there's life in other planets' sub-zero methane lakes and rivers. Because life is like that.

But we (and most lifeforms on this planet) are highly-specialized to live in the predominant environment of the past few hundred years. We are not infinitely adaptable. If present trends continue, then life may yet endure, but we may be looking at another 30 billion years of bacterical dominance in this ecosphere. Maybe you don't have a problem with that. I personally think we should be finding a way off this planet and on to other places ASAP. Call it a "growth" strategy. Yeah. That works!

Some folks have raised a fair point that measurements in climate change may not be solely another reason to bemoan the ways and means of the human race. Planetary climate change is natural and inevitable (and ruthless). But bear in mind that those changes take place over millions of years, while we are struggling, it seems, to make it through a few hundred. How pathetic/toxic are we?
posted by scarabic at 10:59 PM on January 14, 2005


The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

Very true. So, let's find one that breaks the consensus by actually proving something rather than massaging statistics because they were paid to by Exxon, and voila!
posted by papakwanz at 11:04 PM on January 14, 2005


See, it's things like this, the total disregard for evidence, The idea that somehow all the scientist in the world are collaborating, even though it's readily apparent that anyone who could repeatably show that climate change isn't happening, that humans have nothing to do with it, well hell they'd be as famous, their results would be repeatable, and everyone who tried their experiment would get the same results, and there would be high-schools named after them and grant money up the wazoo. But this doesn't happen. So ALL climatologists are colluding. Tinfoil hats anyone?

It's the Republicans and their minions fucked up attempts at rationalizing corporate interests like this that makes me proud to be a member of the reality based community.
posted by Freen at 11:06 PM on January 14, 2005


by the way, u.n. owen, as if the cat thread wasn't enough, now I know all I will ever need to know about you. You astonish me by showing great concern for the short life of a single feline while throwing up your hands at the prospect of addressing a century-spanning energy policy that hastens ecological disaster.

Is there any way for me to say this without being impolite? I'm not sure there is. Fuck you and your head-in-the-sand conservatism. What do you hope to gain by ignoring your scientists?

it gets hotter / it gets colder


You're not reading very closely. Your failure to understand a published point of science is *not* equivalent to a disproof of that science. And your fatigue with having to listen to this news and that news about how you're destroying the planet is, in a word, a word I dread to resorting to use: monstrous.
posted by scarabic at 11:07 PM on January 14, 2005


I think both camps in this thread are wrong about science and consensus.

Anyone who thinks evidence will always override the herd should read about, as one example, the history of Established Truth about plate tectonics: I recommend Stephen Jay Gould on the subject. I do tend to think science as a subculture tends to accept these changes more quickly than society as a whole, but that doesn't mean that it's not sorely mistaken about lots of things at any given point.

It's at least as wrong, however, to fall for this "lone wolf standing up for truth in the face of Established Doctrine" business. The scientific community has evolved as an incredible sensory organ of human society and consciousness, with elaborate and effective self-checks and redundancies. While it's trivially correct to say it can still be wrong, when there is so much hard physical evidence that the climate is changing drastically, gathered and analyzed by such a wide range of people, you have to be very dedicated to insist the entire thing is a hoax.

Could we be wrong about the cause? Sure. Could we be wrong about the specifics? Almost surely. Are things going to just continue as they have been for the past few centuries? Get real.
posted by freebird at 11:11 PM on January 14, 2005


Good lord. Why is it that people can't read? The research doesn't point to any ameliorating effect (on global warming) caused by particulate matter (u.n. owen). And Christ, yes these are human-caused phenomena! What I'm tired of - is people who feel entitled to fuck the planet over for a profit. Greed is what is killing us. That, and a "let the market rule" attitude.

For years environmentalists have been called radicals for valuing something other than a profit margin.

But the Pentagon agrees that the biggest threat to American National Security for the next 50 years isn't Al Qaeda or international terrorism - but climate change brought on by gross industrialization.
posted by punkbitch at 11:12 PM on January 14, 2005


And yeah...What scarabic said.
posted by punkbitch at 11:14 PM on January 14, 2005


Incidentally, I worry less about the Bush administration and what US regulations they will roll back than I worry about China, which may have no environmental regulations at all in various areas, and, becuase of their growth ambitions and industrial/commercial priorities, may not have any for a long time. Imagine GWB leading a country 3 times the size with no history of public acountability, freedom of information, no 60s-based environmental movement.... In fact, I agree with Bush's stance that their lack of accountability in the Kyoto agreement was a fatal flaw.

Me agreeing with Bush. It's scary.
posted by scarabic at 11:15 PM on January 14, 2005


Yes, Scarabic, It's true, It is a flaw, but you don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Just because other people do bad things, does not excuse or allow you to do bad things.
posted by Freen at 11:31 PM on January 14, 2005


Yeah. But I think that Bush was more horrified of what Kyoto would do to the U.S. economy given China and other industrializing nations' exemptions. Still, the administration's line is "that the best way to address climate change is through economic growth that at the same time preserves the environment." Therein lies the problem. Our economy is apparently too tied to manufacturing. Given China's immense leaps forward, shouldn't the U.S. begin to put everything it's got into new technologies and abandon manufacturing anyway? This doesn't address the environmental horror that is China and India industrializing the way Europe and the U.S. did.

And, detractors, there are plenty of organizations out there trying to change the notion that "a better way" of life should be modeled on U.S. standards of living. I don't feel I'm being hypocritical. I don't drive a car (no S.U.V.- I bike and take public transport) because I have chosen to live close to work. I am politically involved. I voice my opinions. But of course, I want things to change.
posted by punkbitch at 11:32 PM on January 14, 2005


and to look like a self-righteous ass...
posted by punkbitch at 11:33 PM on January 14, 2005


It's not like we don't have cleaner technologies available, nor an international capitol market for investment. China's got the cheap labor, we have the tech and the capitol. There are ways around this problem. Nowadays, you can have an industrial revolution without giving half your population emphysema. However, they do mean very bad things for the manufacturing industry here in the US.

And we've all seen how industries hate to become structurally irrelevant. (RIAA, MPAA) These days, they try to get the government to legislate a business model for them. Consequences be damned.
posted by Freen at 11:43 PM on January 14, 2005


For those of you on this thread who seem to either a) want to deny the possibility of human-caused climate change, b) have decided that, since human-caused climate change is apparently complicated and difficult to fully understand, it must either not exist or not be worth bothering about, or c) believe, like the creationists, that differences of opinion as to the details of a scientific theory are a reason to throw out the theory, I'd like to ask the following questions:

1) Can you please explain to me why making our planet's atmosphere and surface conditions significantly more like that of Venus will not make our planet's atmospheric and surface climate more like that of Venus?

2) Given that the costs are essentially infinite if you are wrong, can you show, using a standard cost-benefit analysis, why it is still better to do nothing than take precautions which cost a finite amount of money?

3) Given that most grant money in the U.S. comes from either industry or the government, can you please explain why studies showing human-caused climate change is real are a plot to get grant money, considering that most of industry and the majority party in all branches of our current government would benefit if studies showed the opposite?

4) Please show your evidence that the widely-publicized studies showing world climate change are wrong. Alternately, present your evidence that this climate change comes from a non human-caused source, including either the proper steps to prevent it from causing harm to the biosphere or an explanation of why they are not needed.

Thanks.
posted by kyrademon at 11:53 PM on January 14, 2005


Hey, U.N.--

Let's say you and I team up and protect the fragile fossil fuel industry from that evil, over-arching, environmentalist money-machine. The oil and coal industry obviously need our help.

Anything for the underdog...
posted by sourwookie at 12:06 AM on January 15, 2005


Wow - America continues to fascinate - filled with millions of citizens who wear proudly their rejection of greedy, grant-mongering scientists and their secular-humanist "theories" - in effect, rejecting all the advances in understanding that have given them the wonderful technical marvels that they take for granted. Quantum physics isn't mentioned in the bible, it must be evil (I'm exaggerating to make a point, but not by much) - who cares if every electronic doodad we use 20 times a day couldn't exist without knowledge of the strange subatomic world, which we cannot see, but can only infer by a painstaking process of collaborative theory and practice?

Science, mostly, is a very cautious and conservative enterprise, punctuated only occasionally by breakthroughs by mavericks - see Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions for the classic treatment of the "paradigm shift".

The rise of computing power over the last 50 years has led to a new approach to science, namely the exploration of complex systems via computationally intensive simulations. What we've learned is that biological systems, and other dynamical systems like climate, are processes which are always very far from equilibrium. This makes them inherently unpredictible and subject to non-linear effects, in which small scale inputs can lead to very large scale outputs. (Think of ice melting as a non-linear effect: a block of ice frozen to -100 degress celsius can be warmed by 99 degrees without visibly changing, yet going that extra degree warmer causes it to change suddenly and dramatically.)

So the exact effects of CO2 and particulates can only be guessed; HOWEVER: the general effect of perturbing a highly nonlinear, far-from-equilibrium system is quite predictible - it will exhibit wilder, more erratic, more unstable, and, yes, more unpredictable behaviour. More powerful windstorms, longer hotter droughts, bigger more catastophic floods, etc. These are already well documented - the linked items are not "theories" perpetrated by lying money-grubbing researchers. With me so far?

We ain't seen nothing yet. What we've seen so far are only the first few drops to rattle the windowpane - we have only warmed by around a half a degree; various models predict warming of 2 to 10 degrees by the end of this century - roughly speaking, 4 to 20 times worse, with non-linear effects on top of this.

The real heart-rending tragedy of the asian tsunami is how little would have been required in the way of warning in order to have saved untold thousands of lives - in Thailand and Sri Lanka at least. The waves moved toward them for more than 2 hours, in most cases it would have only taken people a few minutes to gain the 20 feet or so of elevation that would have been required to save themselves.

Climate change is exactly like the tsunami - we know it is coming, we know that the results could be catastrophic, and will be if we do nothing. Large areas of the earth, coastal areas and marginal lands supporting millions of people, will become uninhabitable - if we do nothing. And of course, by do nothing, I mean doing exactly what we've been doing. Those willfully obfuscating this issue are very like the functionaries in Thailand who decided against issuing a tsunami warning because they were worried that it would be bad for business. How's business now?
posted by dinsdale at 1:00 AM on January 15, 2005


The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
World climate changes over a long period of time are things which simply cannot reliably be guessed at. The length of time we as a species have been taking reliable, accurate measurements of these things is really quite small. Far far too small to draw any long-term conclusions about.
We simply have no idea what is a "normal" weather cycle, how long different climate change cycles last, or what affects widescale climate change.
Blaming the tsunami, which was caused by an earthquake, on pollution is just ridiculous crap. Stop lying to prop up your cause and maybe people will take you seriously.
posted by nightchrome at 1:18 AM on January 15, 2005


I've heard it said that everything is 10 or 20 or whatever precent dimmer since the 50's, yet that would be only a barely noticable difference to the naked eye. How's that possible?

Try looking through the viewfinder of an SLR camera. By closing down the aperture inside the lens from, say, f/2 to f/2.8 you cut the light reaching your eye with a massive 50%, but you'll barely be able to tell the difference.

The human eye is very good at adjusting to different levels of light, which is why it's possible to see quite well both indoors and outdoors. In my apartment right now I get 0.1% of the light I get if I step out the door, but again, this 99.9% reduction in the amount of light doesn't feel like a big deal.
posted by Cicerius at 1:18 AM on January 15, 2005


Global Climate Change is the new black.
posted by blasdelf at 1:42 AM on January 15, 2005


In ten years, we'll all be talking about a new meme, universally accepted by knowledgable persons everywhere, exept for those old corporate-sponsored fogies with their insistince on global warming's existence.
posted by blasdelf at 1:45 AM on January 15, 2005


Nightchrome: Don't be obtuse. Read what dinsdale wrote. No one in their right mind believes that earthquakes are caused by air pollution. Or do you not understand what a simile is?

As for your horribly hollow straw man:
What is the difference between a faultline that is stable before an earthquake and one that becomes unstable and causes and earthquake? Wanna take a guess? Minor changes that disrupt the equilibrium of the faultline leading to a massive change. What's more, we did in fact know that the Tsunami was coming, we just didn't know when. As we speak there is a giant chunk of rock hanging off of one of the canary islands. If the volcano there erupts, it will most likely plunge into the sea, creating a tsunami that will dwarf the tsunami that killed over 160k people and counting. The last time the volcano erupted was in 1921, the chunk of rock slid a meter or so, but did not fall into the ocean. Next time it probably will. It might not, but it probably will. We know it's coming, we just don't know when. On the Pacific rim, we know there will be tsunami's. We don't know when. Being rational people, knowing that there is nothing we can do to stop an earthquake, we've take precautions and installed a warning system.

The length of time that ice cores from glaciers have recorded climate change is much much longer than anything even remotely resembling Homo Sapiens has been defecating. Are you a climatologist? Are you a meteorologist? Why do you think we don't understand the weather? I do not claim to. I do claim, however, that there are people who do understand the climate much better than i could ever hope to, that they use the time tested scientific method to produce claims about the climate that are verifiable, and that have been verified by many other people who know much more about the climate than I could ever claim to.

These people disagree with you. They have evidence, verifiable, repeatable, peer reviewed evidence, that human beings are causing climate change, the likes of which this planet has never seen before.

Look. If you are a climatologist, or you can find a climatologist who produces evidence like the evidence i talked about above, who agrees with you, then you've got something, and this whole human caused climate change thing was a massive cock-up.

If you continue to believe non-climatologists, and scoff at the results of science, then I fully expect you to believe in the truth of the Time Cube.

Cus the only difference between climate change deniers and that quack, is that, in all honesty, there are more of you, and you're better paid by those who stand to profit from petrochemicals.
posted by Freen at 1:49 AM on January 15, 2005


Let me also note, that there is no atlantic coastal tsunami warning system that I am aware of. However, an eruption at the canary islands would be quite evident, and the potential subsequent plummeting mass of rock would surely not go unnoticed.
posted by Freen at 1:52 AM on January 15, 2005


Fucksocks. Time Cube
posted by Freen at 2:05 AM on January 15, 2005


Believing that global warming does not exist is sort of like believing that evolution does not exist, or that the Sun revolves around the Earth.
posted by caddis at 3:51 AM on January 15, 2005


The part of the program (see the Horizon link above) that surprised me the most was the result of grounding all air traffic in the states for three days.
Quote:
DR DAVID TRAVIS: We found that the change in temperature range during those three days was just over one degrees C. And you have to realise that from a layman's perspective that doesn't sound like much, but from a climate perspective that is huge.

So, stopping air traffic over the states, or western europe say, would cause daytime temperatures to rise by nighttime temps to fall, overnight. Seems like a big deal to me
posted by iain at 4:44 AM on January 15, 2005


And one other thing, the 10% figure for the drop quoted in the FPP is misleading. The figures were 9% in Antarctica, 10% in the USA, almost 30% in Russia, and by 16% in parts of the British Isles
posted by iain at 4:47 AM on January 15, 2005


I want to know who funded this research.

That's logically irrelevant. Either the research stands on its merits or it doesn't; the same goes for any arguments made about the research (once it's either been validated or invalidated). At best, discovering who funded research can lead you to question whether or not the research was biased. Then you (or someone) can dig into it further to see if the research is legitimate. However, as a means of discrediting research--or, conversely, legitimizing it--it is a logical fallacy. I assume that's what you meant so I thought I'd take a moment to clear it up, since a lot of people seem to fall victim to this particular fallacy. If it's not what you intended with your comment, I apologize.
posted by The God Complex at 4:54 AM on January 15, 2005


Quantum physics isn't mentioned in the bible, it must be evil (I'm exaggerating to make a point, but not by much)

Well, the creationists don't like string theory anyway.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:30 AM on January 15, 2005


Your failure to understand a published point of science is *not* equivalent to a disproof of that science.

Exactly.
posted by rushmc at 8:12 AM on January 15, 2005


On the topic of who is funding research, here is a strange coincidence: there are five or six prominent scientists who are vocally skeptical that global warming exists.

All of them have had research funded by, or have otherwise been in the employ of, fossil fuel companies.

But while the skeptics portray themselves as besieged truth-seekers fending off irresponsible environmental doomsayers, their testimony in St. Paul and elsewhere revealed the source and scope of their funding for the first time. [Patrick] Michaels has received more than $115,000 over the last four years from coal and energy interests. World Climate Review, a quarterly he founded that routinely debunks climate concerns, was funded by Western Fuels. Over the last six years, either alone or with colleagues, [Robert] Balling has received more than $200,000 from coal and oil interests in Great Britain, Germany, and elsewhere. Balling (along with Sherwood Idso) has also taken money from Cyprus Minerals, a mining company that has been a major funder of People for the West—a militantly anti-environmental "Wise Use" group. [Richard] Lindzen, for his part, charges oil and coal interests $2,500 a day for his consulting services; his 1991 trip to testify before a Senate committee was paid for by Western Fuels, and a speech he wrote, entitled "Global Warming: the Origin and Nature of Alleged Scientific Consensus," was underwritten by OPEC. [S. Fred] Singer, who last winter proposed a $95,000 publicity project to "stem the tide towards ever more onerous controls on energy use," has received consulting fees from Exxon, Shell, Unocal, ARCO, and Sun Oil, and has warned them that they face the same threat as the chemical firms that produced chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), a class of chemicals found to be depleting atmospheric ozone. "It took only five years to go from... a simple freeze of production [of CFCs]," Singer has written, ". . . to the 1992 decision of a complete production phase-out—all on the basis of quite insubstantial science."


What are the odds?
posted by jeffmshaw at 8:48 AM on January 15, 2005


Can those hoisting up the scam funding theory (if it isn't some sort of humour) provide some links about researchers taking the money and using it for things other than research, such as buying mansions, cars, expensing food from spectacular restaurants, getting pay offs from corporations that want these results, etc? I'd like to know what motives you attribute to these fund scamming alarmists, as it were. Just for a laugh perhaps?
posted by juiceCake at 8:54 AM on January 15, 2005


hey, scarabic! this is an absolutely great potst. thank you.
Unfortunately Friday-evening science talk in Mefi does not happen often, so I missed it last night.

Here is the bottom line (have not gone through all comments above, yet). I work in this field and global dimming is a project I am doing for the next IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) sorry for the self comment. Personaly, I am convinced about the anthropogenic climate change we are experiencing.

However, global dimming is a highly debated issue. Yes, there is evidence from some datasets (land-based measurements mainly) that show attenuation of sunlight at the surface of the earth. But other measurements e.g. satellite measurements do not show such a thing. One needs to look at clouds, aerosol and the amount of water our warmed-atmosphere is holding (to start with) in order to explain if there is a link to global warming or if such trend is natural or even real! Land-based measurements are very problematic and I am not satisfied at all with the analysis that takes place in the article you linked.

My belief is that sensationalism in science (global dimming is the topic du jour) and in particular in climate change has affected the field negatively and I am afraid it is being used to discredit other findings which are not anymore debatable (at least among scientists).

That said, thank you again for bringing this up.
posted by carmina at 9:09 AM on January 15, 2005



World climate changes over a long period of time are things which simply cannot reliably be guessed at.
-- nightchrome

Says who? That's like saying we can't readily guess at the stock market. People do, using educated information, and often are right.

carmina, I thought global dimming is related to how much sunlight reaches the surface. If smog and clouds and humidity reduce that amount, isn't it the same effect? Isn't the concern that we are getting less sunlight the nature of the debate?
posted by stbalbach at 9:37 AM on January 15, 2005


juiceCake -

Your comment betrays a lack of understanding of how funding works. Funding doesn't just include money to conduct experiments; it also either pays the salary of the researchers directly, or pays it indirectly by providing an influx of money to the institution that does pay their salary (and is therefore also often an important factor in whether researchers stay hired or get laid off.) So, yes, they are using it for food, drink, entertainment, etc.
posted by kyrademon at 9:58 AM on January 15, 2005


Having read most of the comments above... I cannot reply to all of them but I will try.

scientific research funding: it is usually granted after an extensive and rigorous peer-review of submitted study-proposals. The panels that decide who gets funded differ every time and it is hard to think that different worldviews are not represented there. Ask around and see how easy it is to get funding from NSF, NASA, NOAA etc if your research is dubious. Of course, many times people will get funded for questionable research but it is hard to see that happening repeatedly, right? That said, I agree we should always question who does the research, who funds it, where it is published and what, if any, conflicts of interest might exist.

Crichton and global cooling and other crap flying around:
this would probably give you a more thorough answer than I can do here.

Regarding what we used to believe, what we believe now and what we had to do meanwhile: the ozone hole -who believed this initially? But finally they did. And they signed the Montreal protocol and now it is kinda better, no? Was it because the relevant industry then was not as powerful as the one we have to deal with now? Um....

And what we all love to beat Bush.

On preview, stbalbach, global warming has variable effect from place to place, given the local feedbacks with aerosols present, cloud and type amount etc. Global dimming as it is put forward in the community is unrelated to global warming, it is certainly not global and it is only really evident at some data records for the most recent part of our time record. Global warming begun with the industrial revolution.
posted by carmina at 10:01 AM on January 15, 2005


u.n. owen -- and you're an editorial writer? (and one who identifies herself as "blue"?) yikes.
posted by damn yankee at 10:05 AM on January 15, 2005


I sympathize with those here who are skeptical of the scientific consensus on global climate change. I mean, the 6,000-year history of the earth really isn't long enough to draw good conclusions from, is it?
posted by uosuaq at 12:14 PM on January 15, 2005


The BBC program is on right now. The argument seems to be that the particles in pollution do reflect light away from the earth's surface, but that the effect on cloud formation is more significant. Particles promote droplet formation in polluted clouds, made of smaller droplets that are relatively more reflective (of heat, and light).

More to come.
posted by dash_slot- at 12:32 PM on January 15, 2005


That transcript linked above is very enlightening:
NARRATOR: Rotstayn has found a direct link between Global Dimming and the Sahel drought. If his model is correct, what came out of our exhaust pipes and power stations contributed to the deaths of a million people in Africa, and afflicted 50 million more. But this could be just of taste of what Global Dimming has in store.

PROF VEERABHADRAN RAMANATHAN: The Sahel is just one example of the monsoon system. Let me take you to anther part of the world. Asia, where the same monsoon brings rainfall to three point six billion people, roughly half the world's population. My main concern is this air pollution and the Global Dimming will also have a detrimental impact on this Asian monsoon. We are not talking about few millions of people we are talking about few billions of people.

...So here we see for the 3 days preceding September 11th a slightly negative value of temperature range with lots of contrails as normal. Then we have this sudden spike right here of the 3 day period. This reflects lack of clouds, lack of contrails, warmer days cooler nights, exactly what we expected but even larger than what we expected. So what this indicates is that during this 3 day period we had a sudden drop in Global Dimming contributed from airplanes.

NARRATOR: During the grounding the temperature range jumped by over a degree Celsius. Travis had never seen anything like it before.

DR DAVID TRAVIS: This was the largest temperature swing of this magnitude in the last thirty years.

NARRATOR: If so much could happen in such a short time, removing just one form of pollution, then it suggests that the overall effect of Global Dimming on world temperatures could be huge...Solve the problem of Global Dimming and the world could get considerably hotter.
posted by dash_slot- at 12:46 PM on January 15, 2005


dash_ this is interesting, thanx for posting. Some of the people in the interview I happen to know and they never sounded so serious before about global dimming as in this interview... 22% dimming of the sunlight, oh, well, I guess we would have noticed!!!
posted by carmina at 1:29 PM on January 15, 2005


I'm glad I have to fit into everyone's preconceived notions of being a liberal in order to join the club.

I fully believe global climate change - specifically, global warming - is happening. But I also think that this sort of thing tends to happen when you're coming out of an ice age. For 90% of recent geological history, there haven't been ice caps. We happened to be not very lucky about when we built our coastal cities - we built them during an anomalous period with fairly large (comparatively) ice caps. Since then, the sea level has been rising. Our fault for being born at the wrong time, sure, but I don't think there's much we can do to prevent it other than to spend our money on making our cities last through it -- instead of spending money on people who can give us a planetary guilt complex.

I'm all for cleaner energy sources but I think the global warming debate actually hurts that. What happens if 20 years from now we learn that the Earth is temporarily cooling back down? At that point, environmentalists become the boy who cried wolf. The reason we want cleaner air and water is so we can have cleaner air and water. PERIOD.

I am for safe, clean nuclear fuel with an eye toward wind power and solar power (global dimming notwithstanding) in the future.

I think that by focusing on doomsday predictions, environmentalists put themselves at a greater risk of not being taken seriously when those predictions fail to come true (this would creat problems akin to people who claim today that we will never run out of fossil fuels, because we haven't the last dozen times people have claimed we would). If they focused on measurable quality of life indicators instead, they'd find themselves a more widely receptive audicence.
posted by u.n. owen at 1:43 PM on January 15, 2005


u.n. owen, it is true that we are coming out from an ice age-although it should be over long ago. It is wrong (scientifically speaking) to say that the temperature change is "natural". Don't confuse the two please. I am sure you have heard about climate models. Well, they show (ok within a margin of faithfulness) that the current warming is anthropogenic. Ice-cores from antarctica also show the same. It is due to the release of man-made substances to the atmosphere. PERIOD that! Did you also object to the fact that the ozone hole was man-made? c'mon now.
posted by carmina at 1:57 PM on January 15, 2005


The difference is, u.n. owen, that the current temperature change is radically faster than any that the planet has every encountered. Why is this? Climatologists have a pretty good answer. If you think they are wrong, that is isn't due to human sources, then you'd better have a better explanation than they do. This most recent revelation, leads me to believe that the situation is perhaps more dire than i previously suspect, however, I'm going to wait a bit for some corroborating evidence. In the meantime, I'm doing everything i can to make myself more carbon neutral. I suggest you do the same.
posted by Freen at 2:33 PM on January 15, 2005


S@L: it seems like you don't really understand much about science.



Results are meaningless without interpretation, especially about something as complex as climate change. Since results require interpretation sometimes interpretation differs. For example a fundamentalist Christian hell-bent on proving creationism might interpret geological formations differently then a trained geologist. That’s why consensus matters. Since I don’t have a million-dollar supercomputer to test out these climate models, or years of spare time to learn the formulas myself all I can do is look at the scientific consensus as a guide. Scientific consensus has been wrong in the past, and it might be wrong again. But it’s more likely to be right then whatever whack-job theories the crackpot minority has divided up among itself.



(btw, real scientists do have a respect for scientific consensus).



In other words, S@L: until you get a PHD in meteorology STFU.
posted by delmoi at 2:50 PM on January 15, 2005


I'm all for cleaner energy sources but I think the global warming debate actually hurts that. What happens if 20 years from now we learn that the Earth is temporarily cooling back down? At that point, environmentalists become the boy who cried wolf.

This is really amazing. Dire predictions might not come true, so if you believe you have evidence of impending disaster, please keep it under your hat for the sake of the scientific community's credibility. Absolutely amazing! If scientists lived by such principles, they'd be of absolutely no use to anyone, nor would their credibility matter at all.

The debate hurts the environment? I know you live in a blood red state where people buy a bigger SUV just to piss of the pointy-headed scientists who say you shouldn't do that, but have you ever stopped to think it's the SUV driver who's the problem?
posted by scarabic at 3:49 PM on January 15, 2005


No acknowledgement of fact can ever do as much damage as its denial.
posted by rushmc at 4:13 PM on January 15, 2005


You don't understand. To these people, the liberals and environmentalists are already the boy who cried wolf. If they started using arguments that didn't rest on end-of-the-world bullshit - I kept an elementary school text of mine that claimed we'd be out of oil in 2000 and out of natural gas in 1995 - they'd get further. Instead, it's like the seventh-day adventists.

"The world's going to end on...exactly this day. Oh shit, no, no, wait, we misinterpreted our fuzzy data from this book full of unreliable information that's difficult to translate into real world meanings. It'll end NEXT YEAR!"
posted by u.n. owen at 10:29 PM on January 15, 2005


Your comment betrays a lack of understanding of how funding works. Funding doesn't just include money to conduct experiments; it also either pays the salary of the researchers directly, or pays it indirectly by providing an influx of money to the institution that does pay their salary (and is therefore also often an important factor in whether researchers stay hired or get laid off.) So, yes, they are using it for food, drink, entertainment, etc.

Well kyrademon, a former girlfriend of mine was, and still is, a med lab tech who regularly conducted research for various companies under orders from those whose salaries were being indirectly paid by various companies to conduct said research. Said funding also had a role in, as you say, creating an influx of money to the the insitution she was a part of. As a result I am entirely familiar with that aspect. However, the implication that the entire thing is a funding scam seems to stretch well beyond the obvious. I won't go into how results of said research were ignored when unfavourable lest I be accused of benifiting from making such a statement and thus my question being only a clever way to deflect the conspiracy theory. Sure it's a definite field, ie. medical versus environmental, but I thought the funding structure might be similar. Your post confirms it.

For example, by stating the obvious, this in no way, answers my question about who (or more precisely perhaps, what corporation(s)) are funding this supposedly scam research and what is the advantage to said funders to create scam research. The entire scam research idea seems to imply a rather large or at least significant conspiracy from which particular people benefit. Who are these people and how is it that they have managed such a widespread scam that has influenced enviromental movements everywhere? Is Coca Cola or Apple planning some sort of look at us, we care about the environment, buy our product marketing campaign?

Is this sort of thing that the scam argument implies or are they simply implying that a bunch of people decided that getting into scam research is an easy way to get a steady paycheck?
posted by juiceCake at 10:55 PM on January 15, 2005


"The world's going to end on...exactly this day. Oh shit, no, no, wait, we misinterpreted our fuzzy data from this book full of unreliable information that's difficult to translate into real world meanings. It'll end NEXT YEAR!"

While I agree that Chicken Little tactics are unscientific and unnecessary, it seems to me that what matters most (by a considerably margin) is that the world (at least the human part of it) might "end," not whether it happens on Tuesday or Thursday next.
posted by rushmc at 8:01 AM on January 16, 2005


juiceCake -

I misinterpreted your previous statement, and I apologize. I thought you were denying the general possibility that a funding source can influence research and conclusions. This is clearly not what you meant.

Reading your second comment, I think we're very much of the same mind on things. I.e., funding sources can influence research, but in the case of research indicating the presence of human-caused global warning, there is no realistic motive for the funding sources to want to do so. On the other hand, there are a number of funding sources which can benefit from research which denies the presence of human-caused global warming.
posted by kyrademon at 10:56 PM on January 16, 2005


You don't understand. To these people, the liberals and environmentalists are already the boy who cried wolf. If they started using arguments that didn't rest on end-of-the-world bullshit - I kept an elementary school text of mine that claimed we'd be out of oil in 2000 and out of natural gas in 1995 - they'd get further.

Not like the naysayers you're talking about ever paid much attention, even before they had any reason to call it "crying wolf." Better to err on the side of caution than worry about damaging your scientific credibility with a bunch of bible thumpers. People who decide to disregard entire fields of study because they don't issue 100% push-button precise predictions are willfully ignorant.
posted by scarabic at 4:39 PM on January 18, 2005


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