Sunday, 6 July 2008

Denying Man Made Climate Change

When someone called Tom Harris, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project and Manhattan Declaration signatory issues a challenge for me to attack the message and not the messenger, it should be time to wave around the mountain of evidence of man made climate change which he refutes. Instead, let's keep it as simple and straightforward as possible and deal with facts.
Climate change is happening, that much we agree on but where we differ is just how the alarming amount of Carbon Dioxide got there.
Picture a timeline in your mind and let's go back 800,000 years. Analysis of Antarctic ice shows us that at no point in the past 800,000 years did levels approach today's carbon dioxide concentrations of around 387 parts per million (ppm).
These studies indicate that atmospheric CO2 levels were around 260 – 280 ppm immediately before industrial emissions began and did not vary much from this level during the preceding years.
In the Ice core, the fastest increase seen was 30 parts per million over a period of approximately 1,000 years. In recent times we have seen a 30 ppm increase in just under two decades.
What this tells us is that over the last 200 years, something has increased carbon dioxide by 30%-40% to levels unprecedented in the 799,800 years that went before.
It really does not take a genius to look back at what has been pumping the CO2 out since the 1800s.
Global Carbon emissions from Fossil fuels in 1800 equaled 0 million tonnes. Today it equals almost 9000 tonnes with power generation (41%) and transportation (20%) being the chief culprits.
And there we have our timeline stretching back 800,000 years with CO2 in the atmosphere keeping at a steady 260-280 ppm until the early 1800's and then suddenly shooting up to 387 ppm at exactly the same time the Industrial Revolution stuttered into being and we started burning fossil fuels. Is there seriously anybody still ignorant enough not to see this, know where the blame lays and realise that we have to change our ways drastically if we are to avert a disaster?

Earth Policy Institute
Antarctic Ice Analysis
BBC

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

To start with, a good challenge to you, Lucy, would be to get my position correct. As I already explained, I am no longer with the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, my last day with them being at the end of February.

I agree with your plan for you to change tactics and attack the message, not the messenger. I accept your apologies.

So, here we go:

Luci: "it should be time to wave around the mountain of evidence of man made climate change which he refutes."

Me: "righto, as long as you allow me to 'wave around the mountain of evidence against catastrophic man made climate change.'

Luci: "Climate change is happening, that much we agree on but where we differ is just how the alarming amount of Carbon Dioxide got there."

Me: You have yet to establish a connection between CC and CO2. Besides, why do you think there is an alarming amount of CO2? It is at one of the lowest levels in the last half billion years and far lower than when plants evolved, for example.

Luci: "Picture a timeline in your mind and let's go back 800,000 years. Analysis of Antarctic ice shows us that at no point in the past 800,000 years did levels approach today's carbon dioxide concentrations of around 387 parts per million (ppm)."

Me: So? 800,000 years is a blink of an eye in Earth's history. Note also that CO2 levels in the Antarctic ice cores rose several centuries after temperature rise, meaning it is not causing it; it is caused by it.

Luci: "These studies indicate that atmospheric CO2 levels were around 260 – 280 ppm immediately before industrial emissions began and did not vary much from this level during the preceding years."

Me: Depends on your time frame - 440 million years ago, CO2 levels were 1200% that of today and temperatures were at their lowest point in the last half billion years. At other times, high CO2 correlated with high temp - there is no consistent trend.

Lucy: "In the Ice core, the fastest increase seen was 30 parts per million over a period of approximately 1,000 years. In recent times we have seen a 30 ppm increase in just under two decades.
What this tells us is that over the last 200 years, something has increased carbon dioxide by 30%-40% to levels unprecedented in the 799,800 years that went before."

Me: So? CO2 is neither poisonous nor dangerous to man or beast in any way. It can double, triple, quadruple and we should not worry.

Lucy: "It really does not take a genius to look back at what has been pumping the CO2 out since the 1800s. Global Carbon emissions from Fossil fuels in 1800 equaled 0 million tonnes. Today it equals almost 9000 tonnes with power generation (41%) and transportation (20%) being the chief culprits.
And there we have our timeline stretching back 800,000 years with CO2 in the atmosphere keeping at a steady 260-280 ppm until the early 1800's and then suddenly shooting up to 387 ppm at exactly the same time the Industrial Revolution stuttered into being and we started burning fossil fuels. Is there seriously anybody still ignorant enough not to see this, know where the blame lays and realise that we have to change our ways drastically if we are to avert a disaster?"

Me: So, again. I don't dispute that CO2 comes from fossil fuel power plants and that it has risen 33% since before industrial times. So what? Unless there is a strong correlation with dangerously increasing temperature, CO2 rise is unimportant except as aerial fertilization for plants (crop yield has increased measurably as CO2 rises have occurred - is that bad? Millions are alive now who would not have been if we hadn't increased CO2 in the air, and, if you haven't noticed, there has been no warming in the 21st century (it is cooling now) as Chinese emissions of CO2 soar and now lead the world. Is that bad? Their (and our) pollution may be very bad, depending on the circumstances, but CO2? Come on.

Next points, please.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - I meant to sign the above - it should be signed "Tom Harris of Ottawa, Canada and ED of the ICSC)

Noah "Nog" M. said...

Lucy,

Let's start with a couple of questions:

1) "Is there seriously anybody still ignorant enough not to see this, know where the blame lays and realise [sic] that we have to change our ways drastically if we are to avert a disaster?"

-Like Tom's question: How did you get from "there is man made climate change" to "man made climate change is bad and there ought to be some sort of action taken to halt or undo it"?

2) "Picture a timeline in your mind and let's go back 800,000 years. Analysis of Antarctic ice shows us that at no point in the past 800,000 years did levels approach today's carbon dioxide concentrations of around 387 parts per million (ppm)."

-Again, like Tom's question above: Is 800,000 a large-enough data set for a macroclimatic analysis?

-Tom has asked many of my favorite questions. To throw in a slightly more original curveball question: Do humans or Earth-spawned lifeforms, in the long term, need, Earth, this specific planet? I wonder why we don't spend more resources worrying about how to get off of a rock that's bound to get smashed into uninhabitable bits sooner or later anyways, instead of spending lots of effort trying to drag our stay on Earth out by a few more centuries.

It's one thing to say that "Earth is all we have right now" and another to say "Earth is all humanity will ever have". I don't think B is a good bet.

-Nog

effay said...

I'm going to indulge Tom's call for questions from a neutral perspective, which is to say, from the perspective of someone who does not claim to know the answers to these questions:

-"Note also that CO2 levels in the Antarctic ice cores rose several centuries after temperature rise, meaning it is not causing it; it is caused by it." So what warming period is causing the current increase in CO2 levels?

-I've heard that 98% of atmospheric greenhouse gas is water vapor.

-A year or so ago a guest speaker in one of my classes gave us a copy of the study that originated the 'sun spot theory' for climate change. Since then the only other thing I have heard about this theory is from a subsequent study that showed the solar radiance from the sun spots, which was supposedly how the sun spots were affecting Earth's temperature I guess, did not correlate with temperature increases like the sun spot cycle does. I find it interesting, however, that this study did not, to my knowledge, argue with the correlation between the sun spot cycle and global warming, which looked stronger than any other causal correlation with global warming that I have ever seen. Am I missing something?

And Noah:

-Way to open the door to a massive increase in NASA funding.

Lucy said...

Tom, let's not get bogged down quoting scientists and facts at each other, if you are able to dismiss the overwhelming evidence of the majority of global experts then i could throw facts and quotes at you all week and you won't budge so instead let me ask you what evidence or proof would it take for you to agree that global warming is caused by human activity?

Noah "Nog" M. said...

"what evidence or proof would it take for you to agree that global warming is caused by human activity?"

This is a good epistemological question.

-Nog

Anonymous said...

Lucy says, "let's not get bogged down quoting scientists and facts at each other"

Tom replies: No, facts and the opinions of scientists are the tools of any rational science-based policy decisions.

Lucy says: "if you are able to dismiss the overwhelming evidence of the majority of global experts"

Tom replies: "I am not "dismiss[ing] the overwhelming evidence of the majority of global experts." I am saying I do not believe there is any consensus at all. If you believe otherwise, then it is up to you to show why you believe this. See our first article on http://www.climatescienceinternational.org/ as a sample of why I do not buy into the idea of there even being any "overwhelming evidence of the majority of global experts".

Lucy says, "I could throw facts and quotes at you all week and you won't budge"

Tom responds: "Well, that is certainly an easy out for you since you have yet to bring up much in the way of meaningful facts so far.

Lucy asks: "what evidence or proof would it take for you to agree that global warming is caused by human activity?"

Tom responds: You would have to show how recent warming is different to past warming before humans were around, as a starter.

Tom Harris
ED - ICSC

effay said...

By the way, I'm curious how all you enviro types plan to get a huge country like Russia on board with reducing global warming? I mean, they look to see massive benefits from global warming.