An idiots* guide to what happens when the CO2 affects the WAIS

Written By: - Date published: 2:31 pm, March 20th, 2009 - 61 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags: , , , ,

Drilling history

Drilling history

The preliminary results of a drill by the ANDRILL (Antarctic Geological Drilling) were published in the print edition of Nature this week.

It has shown a history of the previous retreat and collapses of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). The WAIS melt with its vast stores of solid water, and even more in the glaciers on the Antarctic continent itself has the capability to massively change sealevels in metres rather than centimetres.

In January 2006, in a UK government-commissioned report, the head of the British Antarctic Survey, Chris Rapley, warned that this huge west Antarctic ice sheet may be starting to disintegrate, an event that could raise sea levels by approximately 5 metres (16 ft).[4] Rapley said a previous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report playing down worries about the ice sheet’s stability should be revised. “The last IPCC report characterized Antarctica as a slumbering giant in terms of climate change,” he wrote. “I would say it is now an awakened giant. There is real concern.” [5] Note that the IPCC report did not use the words “slumbering giant”.

Hot topic says that ANDRILL

.. drilled a 1,280 metre core from the seabed under the Ross Ice Shelf. It’s the longest and most complete drill core recovered from Antarctica, and was made possible by drilling technology developed by a team at the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington led by Alex Pyne.

The ANDRILL core documents 38 advances and retreats of the ice sheet, and suggests that during the warm Pliocene the key driver could have been the ‘obliquity’ cycle in the earth’s orbit around the sun — a 40,000 year tilt in the Earth’s axis towards and away from the sun that affects the length of summers at the poles. New modelling of the ice sheet2 confirms the link with the obliquity cycle, and suggests that the primary mechanism is melting of the base of the ice sheet by warm oceanic waters — a process that has already started.

The “warm” Pliocene period that the Nature article covers 2-5 million years ago, when the natural carbon balance CO2 levels were about 400ppm. This is roughly the same level that anthropogenic emissions of CO2 are pushing us to as this table from wikipedia shows.

Gas Preindustrial Level Current Level Increase since 1750 Radiative forcing2) (W/m
Carbon dioxide 280 ppm 387ppm 104 ppm 1.46
Methane 700 ppb 1,745 ppb 1,045 ppb 0.48
Nitrous oxide 270 ppb 314 ppb 44 ppb 0.15
CFC-12 0 533 ppt 533 ppt 0.17
400,000 years of ice core data

400,000 years of ice core data

The link between CO2 levels and world temperature levels can be clearly seen in the Vostok ice core left (click for a bigger picture). Other cores from recent geological history show the same correlation.

This is caused by the well established greenhouse effect of greenhouse gases causing thermal retention inside the atmosphere, and the consequent heat adsorbtion by water bodies. This is relatively simple science and can be demonstrated easily in both the lab and in glasshouses (where the glass has a similar effect).

Global fossil carbon emission by fuel type, 1800-2004 AD.

Global fossil carbon emission by fuel type, 1800-2004 AD.

On the chart on the right it shows the causes of anthropogenic CO2 production. This shows the rapid increases since the start of large scale industrial use of fossilised carbon.

Various buffering effects into the oceans and other carbon sinks diminish the amount of CO2 that is retained in the atmosphere. This is shown in the chart below.

Top: Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels as measured in the atmosphere and reflected in ice cores. Bottom: The amount of net carbon increase in the atmosphere, compared to carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel.

Top: Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels as measured in the atmosphere and reflected in ice cores. Bottom: The amount of net carbon increase in the atmosphere, compared to carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel.

It is clear that the buffering by carbon sinks has diminished the amount of CO2 present in the atmosphere, however not by enough. The CO2 levels are still rising.

It is easy to show using isotopic ratios of the carbon and oxygen of CO2 in the atmosphere that most of the rising CO2 is from fossilised carbon. In fact my geochemistry text book from 1980 has all of the evidence (but isn’t online).

A frequent protest from CCD’s is that changes in greenhouse gases through natural mechanisms like volcanoes and the related climate change are normal. Similarly they’d argue that there are external cyclic factors that change climate.

These arguments are both correct and also totally fatuous. They show a clear lack of understanding of cardon cycle processes.

The current output of anthropogenic CO2 emissions is on top of any natural events.  The ‘normal’ carbon cycle accounts for about 95% of the CO2 in the  carbon cycle. However these are balanced for at least the last 10,000 years in that releases into the atmosphere are largely balanced by sequestration into carbon sinks like plants, seashells or oceans. The extra generation by volcanic events caused minor short-term spiking, but was sucked up into a carbon sinks within short time frames. Unfortunately the sustained emissions of anthropogenic CO2 is being put into the atmosphere is in excess of the carbon balance sinks capabilities to adsorb. Consequently the atmospheric and ocean CO2 levels are rising.

The ANDRILL findings should give pause to the Climate Change Deniers (CCD’s) in the sitting select committee looking at how to fulfil our obligations under the Kyoto protocol.  It clearly shows that at similar levels to our current atmospheric CO2 level, there were massive melts in the WAIS. This also releases the brake that constrains the movement of the glaciers behind the ice sheet.

As Greenpeace points out in a rather conservative press release

Publication of the research follows a climate congress in Copenhagen last week, where over 2,500 climate scientists and researchers issued an urgent plea to political leaders to get on with addressing climate change. Key messages from the Congress included statements that:

  • The worst-case scenarios put forward Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (or even worse) are being realised.
  • There is no excuse for inaction.
  • The influence of ‘vested interests that increase emissions” must be reduced.
  • Regardless of how dangerous climate change is defined, rapid, sustained and effective mitigation is required to avoid reaching it.

From my early training in Earth Sciences, I’d have to concur. Irreversible anthropogenic generated climate change is under way. What we are looking at now is if we can start mitigate the effects that will happen within my remaining lifetime.

* John Key and John Boscawen (ACT MP on the select committee on climate change) come to mind after reading this vacuous exchange. Neither appear to understand the issue and think of it as being narrowly political and economic rather than affecting peoples lives.

61 comments on “An idiots* guide to what happens when the CO2 affects the WAIS”

  1. Oh yeah? Well Al Gore is fat. And he has a beard and flies on a private jet. Where’s your answer to that, smart guy?

    • lprent 1.1

      What response is there. Be a CCD* for all I care.

      * defined as sticking your head up your arse to see a brighter future…

      BTW: It is really hard to see how you could have read the post before you commented (3 minutes)… But that is also a standard CCD response, so I guess it fits the persona you were using….

  2. greenfly 2

    Parody.

  3. Stephen 3

    Ha, yeah ol’ lprent must be having a pretty rough day to make that interpretation.

  4. lprent 4

    “parody”

    That’s what I figured – it was exactly the type of remark that someone would make (except funnier), so I did a reply in kind. It was a bit of relief after writing that serious post.

  5. To be honest, we NEED some serious nasty consequences of climate change to hit us and hit us soon. I am convinced that is the only way that nay-sayers will be convinced (ie. when their beachfront properties start to flood).

    The problem is that once we start seeing the effects it might be too late to do anything about it, but I’ve got to the point where I’m cynical enough to truly believe the world won’t achieve anything until the consequences of climate change are too obvious to ignore.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      We’re already seeing the effects the problem is that people don’t experience those effects – they take place over far too long a timescale and can only be seen in decadal measurements. I’m also of the opinion that a lot of the denial about anthropogenic climate change is psychological – some people just don’t like to admit that they’ve screwed up and so deny it.

  6. Ianmac 6

    Iprent: This is the most valuable, science-intense report that I have read in a while. Thanks.
    It is strange that so many are oppositional to the science and answer with political comments instead of the scientific. And the question/answer in the House suggests that Mr Key does not have any scientific understanding. A bit scary for a Leader.

    • lprent 6.1

      Try http://www.realclimate.org and hot-topic (linked in the post and in the blog roll under Other Blogs)

      Those are sites with a serious amount of accessible data.

      This is sort of a brief overview of the CO2 and WAIS issues. I didn’t even touch on the Greenland icecap, ocean current storage, acidification of the oceans, weather change effects, etc etc… As it was, the wordcount was two and half times our usual word count for a post

  7. Snail 7

    Unfortunately the sustained emissions of anthropogenic CO2 is being put into the atmosphere is in excess of the carbon balance sinks capabilities to adsorb. Consequently the atmospheric and ocean CO2 levels are rising.

    The point, the whole point, and the do something about it point.

    Thanks for your effort here, LP

  8. lprent 8

    The problem is that once we start seeing the effects it might be too late to do anything about it

    That is pretty much what I think as well. The effects are rapid in geological terms, but too “slow” in human terms. Unfortunately during the last decade the usual weather and solar cycles have been at the low point – that has mitigated a lot of the extant effects. But we’ve still been getting some quite strange shifts in the weather patterns.

    Problem is that we’re now moving past that, so climate change will be acting on top of the warmer part of the cycles as all that extra energy pours in and gets retained.

  9. >>Problem is that we’re now moving past that, so climate change will be acting on top of the warmer part of the cycles as all that extra energy pours in and gets retained.

    Yes but in a way that might be a good thing. A lot of sceptics say “hey, look 2008 was one of the coldest years of the decade, therefore climate change is rubbish”. Now WE know that last year was comparatively cold due to a lack of sun-spots, but the main point is that to actually get countries to change (particularly ours, it seems) we need the effects of climate change to be noticeable, extreme and in their face. If all the cycles get in alignment with increased CO2 then the effects might be significant enough to actually make people realise this isn’t just fancy science anymore – it’s real.

  10. Chris G 10

    But Redbaiter said its all ‘Fraudulent lies’

    So, there!

    RB’s speculation is above peer reviewed articles.

  11. >narrowly political and economic rather than affecting peoples lives.

    Because on one side we have the economy, and waay over there on the other side we have stuff that affects people’s lives. The above quote is what is vacuous.

    And the Vostok ice core data claims have been debunked thoroughly. It turns out that the temperate change actually preceded the change in CO2.

    • lprent 11.1

      Bullshit. You just don’t understand the science and are spinning a line…

      Firstly – If you want to claim something is debunked, then you need to link to evidence. Otherwise you will be regarded as being just ignorant fool. Please make it something that is reputable rather than another jerk-off CCD site. While you’re at it, explain why it agrees with the other cores from both Antarctica and Greenland that cover parts of the same timescale.

      Secondly – there is no evidence of the precedence – from what I’ve seen there are just fools with a bad habit of reading the lines on a low definition image rather than the data.That is the only ‘evidence’ I’ve seen. On the timescale of the time axis, it is impossible to make the observations that were claimed.

      Thirdly – and assuming you’ve actually thought about it. You are probably just vague about how climate change acts.Read this in the New Scientist. It explains the lag effects. I’d suggest you should study science rather than wishful thinking

      In other words I think you are just another vacuous CCD with lines and no understanding. Prove otherwise if you want to be taken seriously.

      • 1984 11.1.1

        Its not necessarily ‘debunking’ but if you blow the graph up to a viewable size. Its not disputed by any scientist, even RealClimate, that the CO2 increases lags the temperature increase by around 800 years.

        So its a clear case where correlation does not imply causation, as is implied in the posting. Its not that clear cut.

        • RedLogix 11.1.1.1

          This ‘CO2 is lagging the temperature by 800 years’ idea has been explained many times.

          During long cold glacial periods, the atmospheric CO2 content dips very low. No-one has ever argued that climate does have it’s own natural variation on very long time scales, so at some point due to some external forcing (orbital changes being the primary driver) the ice age ends.

          At that point temperature begins to rise, plant and ocean life expands dramatically and the normal carbon cycle accelerates increasing the CO2 content of the atmosphere as a result. This in turn increases the greenhouse effect which is a positive feedback into the temperature rise. In this case the CO2 does lag the temperature rise exactly as you would expect.

          By contrast in the last 100 years humans have been digging up vast amounts of fossil carbon that had lain buried in planet for millions of years and injecting excess amounts into the atmosphere. This is a human-induced forcing on an incredibly short time scale compared to the natural cycles and in this case is driving the temperature rise.

          The ice cores tell us that CO2 and global temperature are mutually dependent on each other; push one and the other will respond with a lag. It doesn’t matter which one is forced, the other must respond.

          • 1984 11.1.1.1.1

            ‘….This in turn increases the greenhouse effect which is a positive feedback into the temperature rise. In this case the CO2 does lag the temperature rise exactly as you would expect.’

            The lag also operates the other way…i.e. CO2 at high point of the cycle, temperature starts to drop….800 years later CO2 starts to fall.

        • lprent 11.1.1.2

          Read the link in new scientist or listen to RedLogix. You’ll sound like less of a fool.. (I’m less patient than RL).

          In essence idiots spilling lines about science that they don’t understand is particularly unimpressive

    • Snail 11.2

      Because on one side we have the economy, and waay over there on the other side we have stuff that affects people’s lives.

      this has to be the very first time that Mr Key and/or Mr Boscowen(refered to in the above matter) have been impliedly described as not people.

      congratulations!

  12. Gareth 12

    Nice overview, lprent.

    For a little added spice consider this: if you express the current atmospheric ghg levels in your table above in terms of CO2-equivalent, it’s (roughly) 450 ppm CO2e. A large chunk of that is offset by the effects of aerosols, bringing the effective forcing back down to around 385 ppm CO2e. The implication is that if we clean up the emissions that are causing those aerosols, we could unleash some rapid “extra” warming. Clean air could be a bad thing… Cleaning up smokestacks means steeper carbon emissions reductions. A delicate balancing act is required.

    • Draco T Bastard 12.1

      heh – I’d forgotten that Catch 22 😀

      Clean up our act and things get worse. Continue as usual and things get worse.

    • lprent 12.2

      The dust issue. All we have to do is initiate a nuclear winter – that will fix the problem….

      Otherwise we could get really dirty and get our citizens to die of pollution related lung disease. That gets rid of the superannuation as well

  13. Bill 13

    Going out on a limb again, but…

    why is ‘everyone’ waiting for government or whichever other agency to ‘do something’?

    We ( ie you and I) drive the cars; run the industries; consume the consumables.

    Are we going to carry on until some perceived authority tells us and legislates for us to not do the things we do? Or are we going to act independently from and regardless of, whichever authority you wish to mention would prefer?

    I guess we find the second option too hard. We will carry on carrying on because as individuals we are as wedded to the insanity of our current behaviour as the ‘movers and shakers’.

    You could tell your boss come Monday that you are altering your actions in the face of the reality of climate change. But you’d probably get fired ’cause your utility would plummet. And your probably not willing to take that hit.

    The thought of the upheaval and the poverty will hold you to your present course where you will lament, but nevertheless rationalise, continuing to jump in your car; partaking in destructive manufacturing processes; consuming and polluting all the while blaming ‘the masters’ for compelling, encouraging, facilitating and perpetuating your current behaviours.

    Am I wildly wrong?

    • lprent 13.1

      We’re already doing it – have been for decades. I worked at home for 11 years and largely use the net or public transport. I avoid power companies with fossil fuel profiles. I do have a wee sports car, but it is extremely fuel efficient (thats what having reduced weight does), and I use drive less than 5k per year. It is simple to reduce your carbon footprint.

      The problem is with deleted like you who are without imagination, who want to drive SUV’s, and generally are more concerned with your luxuries so your kids can’t have them…

      So what are you doing? Don’t you feel better for being a selfish jerk…

      • Bill 13.1.1

        The point I was making was aimed as much at me as anyone. Re-reading my comment I noticed that I slipped into an unfortunate use of ‘you’ half way through rather than ‘we’.

        Anyway, it was meant as an observation, not some holier than thou diatribe which is how you seem to have taken it.

        So let me put it another way.

        In (Borneo?) monkeys are trapped by way of a coconut with a hole containing nuts. The monkey reaches in for the nuts but can’t pull it’s clenched fist out through the hole. Even as the hunters move in, the monkey continues to hold on to the nuts and gets killed. An odd psychological glitch in my mind and one that we suffer from too.

        Of course, I am assuming in the above that the monkey is intelligent enough to know that the hunters are going to kill it in the same way that those of us who perceive climate change to be a reality know that it is going to kill us.

        I don’t drive a car. I own precious few luxuries and am generally conscientious about what I consume….maybe more so or less so than you. But that simply isn’t the point. Dropping one or two nuts or even half of them will make no difference. Dropping the whole lot and getting our respective arses out of the situation is the only action that will suffice.

        Final point. Deniers have an excuse. They are arguably too stupid to even contemplate intelligent action. The rest of us do not have that luxury.

  14. DS 14

    This post is so ironic. It is a blogger referring to his 29 year-old text book, some wikipedia graphs, his interpretation of a forthcoming magazine article, and quoting an organisation that raises 200m USD per year largely on the back of climate change concern which calls for, of all things, a reduction in the influence of vested interests. Yet he can still find readers who say it is ‘science intense!’ And here I was thinking that only people who weren’t on board with climate catastrophism and drastic policy changes adhered to low scientific standards.

    FYI the greenhouse effect is caused by the glass preventing air moving away to counteract the local heating effect of the sun’s rays. This is quite different to your interpretation of gases replacing the glass’ role of blocking radiation. Glass doesn’t block rays and gases don’t suppress fluid dynamics. A trivial distinction? The misleading metaphor hides the fact that the commonly referred to greenhouse effect in the atmosphere is a lot more complex than a simple greenhouse, and using it betrays a limited understanding of the mechanisms the user is trying to describe.

    I could try disputing your post point by point but I don’t have the knowledge to do it convincingly. What I would say to you is that if you believe that science is about constantly challenging hypotheses rather than defending articles of faith, and that climate change is an issue deserving serious attention, then you need to be less bombastic and more thoughtful.

    By all means, refer to greenpeace, the WWF, and the IPCC. Watch Al Gore’s movie and read his books. But also read Larry Solomon’s ‘The Deniers’ a series of interviews with experts in their respective fields who each challenge the conventional wisdom within their own field (Solomon is one of Canada’s most high profile environmentalists). Try reading Essex and McKitrick’s ‘Taken by Storm: The troubled science, policy and politics of global warming’ a review of the fluid and political dynamics of climate change. Try Fred Singers ‘Unstoppable Global Warming’ every 1500 years’ a presentation of an alternative theory… and so it goes on.

    Anybody who does all that with an open mind will likely come to the same conclusion I have -that I am not qualified to pronounce the truth of this matter, and calling people jerk-offs for expressing their view is not going to convince anyone outside a small circle who make up their minds with such simple terms.

    • lprent 14.1

      This was an overview, so I used simple materials to fit in the space.

      Your glasshouse example simply shows that you have no idea about the attributes of visible light (and UV) slowing to lower energy wavelengths on hitting ssolid objects and air particles. This lower energy radiations – mainly infrared are less capable than visible light or UV of getting out through silica glass. The reflect and eventually increase the energy of a particle. You’re describing a secondary effect – the convection of heat thus generated.. In fact I suspect that you are confused and talking about the physics of matter rather than the physics of (mainly) wave form radiation. It is basic physics, and used as example in secondary school classes for how radiation energy levels have entropy.

      So in the end of your rant which was essentially meaningless, what you’re saying is that you have no idea. Go and learn some science.

  15. Gareth 15

    That would be the same Fred Singer who spent years arguing that smoking didn’t cause cancer would it?

    • DS 15.1

      Fail D- the point of my comment is to look at arguments instead of reputations…

      • Draco T Bastard 15.1.1

        When 99%+ of the arguments support AGW then the conclusion I’m going to draw is that AGW is happening and that we should do something about it not say that I am not qualified to pronounce the truth of this matter, . That is just complete BS and really is just sticking your head in the sand. I don’t need to be a climatologist to read the reports and understand the effects that AGW will bring about.

        • DS 15.1.1.1

          You say it’s BS I say it’s embracing healthy skepticism. I dare say you are trusting a lot of people and taking a lot for granted. You would be trusting experts in other fields even if you were a leading expert in one of the many fields that CC science incorporates. Maybe it’s time to consider the ramifications of so much trust. I had a part in writing this piece that ran in several Canadian dailies: http://www.fcpp.org/main/publication_detail.php?PubID=1879

          • Draco T Bastard 15.1.1.1.1

            The whole reason of having experts in many fields is so that we have information about those fields that we can trust. What you’re saying is that you don’t trust those experts. That’s not skepticism – that’s outright paranoia.

          • lprent 15.1.1.1.2

            The problem with your article is that it ignores the ability of engineers to build systems that are not reliant on fossil fuels if they had an incentive.The first ones cost a lot. As the tech gets refined, the costs and prices drop. Because we have currently built a economy based on breaking the carbon cycle balance using stored carbon doesn’t mean we have to stay in that economic model.

            The simple way to get to that is to raise the costs of using fossil fuels. So instead focus on the incentives to produce bad science. Like the tobacco and chemical companies did, and many fossil fuel extractors and companies dependent on fossil fuels do now. I notice that you ignored that side completely.

            You also completely ignored the risk levels in ignoring climate change (as it looks like you’re proposing). Most people who know anything about climate change science think that the last round of IPCC worst projections are now the best projections based on what has shown up over since the time they did their last report.

            Given that it is quite feasible in the established climate change science to have multi-metre rises in sea levels and widespread changes in weather in food producing areas within very few years, the dieback amongst humans could be phenomenal, and the drop in an ability to produce economic wealth could be intense. Moreover, continuing to use fossil fuels to generate economic wealth continues to overload the sinks in the carbon cycle. What happens when we get a large scale volcanic event? Against a background of anthropogenic greenhouse gas using up all available carbon sinks, a large scale event could be catastrophic in the decade following (the immediate effect would be muted because of the dust produced).

            These are all factors that need to enter into the cost/benefit and risk analysis that determines public policy. Effectively it is the risk of changing our carbon cycle behavior now or risk having even worse effects in the future.

            Just as a matter of interest, do you work as a CCD lobbiest in Canada – it is sure starting to look that way to me. If so, why are you on a blog in New Zealand rather than Canada?

          • Snail 15.1.1.1.3

            Ah yes that ‘centre’ for public policy… canadian, even without mention of holle-for-manitoba.. having been a contributor to the item you’d be aware of its now wholly discredited american cousin.. not that you’d mention this.. for credibility’s sake.. no, no..

            welcome to my healthy scepticism(aka skepticism) at the linked item and even so much as your contrib to it.. very business-like… uber businesslike we might say.. so uber-biz that it states Greenpeace came into existence and continues to exist for purely a business opportunity..

            how is ph these days… noted he’d gotten the mps nod.. they being so desperate these days for younger blood to carry on the strain… y’know you could have mentioned the other connect.. the kiwi connect… the Sir RD connect.. pretty sure as I am to those two hitting it off on the speakers’ circuit.. not least.

            and then well, what with what’s been happening in Wtn this past week and all… no mention looks most remiss of you

          • DS 15.1.1.1.4

            lprent,

            Nothing in the column I referenced denies anything you say, there certainly are incentives for various people to both overplay and underplay the threat of climate change. The column was simply an exposition of one set of incentives. Nothing more, nothing less. I find it unfortunate that instead of accepting or challenging the column you chose to ignore it.

            Snail, you’ll have to be a bit more specific… It’s hard to see what exactly you’re trying to say.

            Oh, and as for my identity/nationality/whatever I thought this was a global issue. Suffice to say I have never been paid to advance a specific agenda so I am certainly not a ‘lobbiest.’

  16. Judynz 16

    For crying out loud kick the brain into gear will you.
    If there were REAL fears of global warming we would see real changes happening all around the world.
    We would forget about polluting the universe with lethal toxic weapons that affect area’s for sometimes more than 30 000yrs. Do away with oil based fuels.
    The pollution of the sea’s….most couldnt imagine the official abuses here.

    Stop felling oxygen making forrests that balance CO2….& what about the biggies….The constant barrage of chemtrails spread around the world.
    How often do you hear anyone talk of the wilful damage caused by HAARP type technology & how many of you are prepared to give up your cell phones????

    To mention but a few of a long list. IE poisons from agriculture & medical drugs in water tables.

    Look carefully & you will clearly see this is just another form of mass control… & money making scheme for those hell bent on bringing the world as we know it to its knees.

  17. Gareth 17

    It is also important to examine the credentials of the authorities you cite. In this case, Singer’s track record renders his credibility moot.

    BTW, Singer’s arguments in that book also fail scrutiny. And the tactics of the book’s sponsors in creating a spurious list of scientists who were alleged to support Singer’s “research” was a scandalous misrepresentation of many people’s work, including several notable NZ climatologists.

    Meanwhile, you a get a D- for credulity.

    • DS 17.1

      Credulity is believing without scrutiny. I never said I ‘believed’ (very quaint concept in science) I just said it was worth checking out with an open mind.

      • lprent 17.1.1

        What a charming view of the world. You really have NO idea about how science operates do you?

        In science everything is a matter of belief, because there are no certainties. Specifically the belief in reproducible results based on a theory. Quite simply we are looking at a big universe from a very small planet. Normally science works things through until there is a virtual certainty that a particular action results in a reproducible result based on a theory.

        Despite it being small, earth is quite complex in the interactions – so it is difficult to say with high degrees of certainty that particular reproducable results would happen exactly as expected. However we have a theory (greenhouse effect) that produces reproducible results in the labs, and shows disturbingly similar results when accidentally tested in the atmosphere. You have to assume that the theory is probably correct. Science relies on testing hypothesis to death – lots of them.

        What is interesting is the CCD’s working from belief and using that to ignore the theories and the reproducible results. That is a matter of faith not science. The ‘open-mind’ statement is almost a signature of that type of person. They are ‘open’ to everything else apart from the theories they don’t believe in. So they keep popping up objections to theories (good), giving alternate hypotheses (good) and then ignoring the evidence that disproves their hypotheses (stupid) when it is eventually tested..

  18. RedLogix 18

    DS,

    Singer didn’t just make a genuine mistake about smoking; he took money for years to lie about it.

    Sorry but even you know that when you have caught someone out in a medacious lie their credibility is damaged.

    • DS 18.1

      According to Wikipedia Monbiot couldn’t prove that Singer took money from the tobacco industry, if Monbiot can’t prove it then I doubt he did. And by the way, as I understand it he was mainly concerned about the effects of second hand smoke which is still debatable, as Michael Crichton argued when he was alive.

  19. RedLogix 19

    FYI the greenhouse effect is caused by the glass preventing air moving away to counteract the local heating effect of the sun’s rays. This is quite different to your interpretation of gases replacing the glass’ role of blocking radiation.

    The temperature rise in a real glass hothouse is due to two mutually linked effects.

    The glass roof of a hothouse traps heat energy in the same way that our planet’s atmosphere keeps us warm through light wave transformation, and through convection of the air inside the greenhouse. Solar radiation in the visible spectrum reaches the greenhouse, readily passes through the glass, and gets absorbed by the ground and plants inside the greenhouse. The ground and plants transform the solar energy, and convert it to infra-red heat energy, less of which can escape back out through the glass.

    This excess energy trapped inside the glasshouse causes temperature inside the glass house until the increased the infra-red energy that escapes back out the glass is in equilibrium with the visible light energy entering.

    Along with this light wave transformation, another process called convection helps maintain the warmth inside a greenhouse. The air closest to the ground and plants is warmed by the radiating thermal energy; since warm air is lighter than cool air, it naturally rises. In an open atmosphere, the warm air will eventually reach a height where it will be cooled again. However, the roof in a hothouse traps the air before it can reach this height and cool completely.

    If the glass roof transmitted both the incoming visible light energy and the outgoing infra-red heat energy equally well, there would be no net temperature rise. Without the roof to physically trap the heat energy it would all dissapate by convection. Both mechanisms couple together to make a hothouse work.

    The so-called ‘infra-red green-house’ effect as it applies to the atmosphere is absolutely beyond question. It is basic, elementary physics.

    • lprent 19.1

      Damn I wrote my response, then saw yours. Far more detailed…

      Maybe more science should be made compulsory. DS just didn’t know jack…

      • DS 19.1.1

        Thanks Redlogix, yes, that is the version of the greenhouse I hear most often but I quote: “…Incidentally the greenhouse idea has become so entrenched that you can read textbooks that say greenhouses work by the middle picture. [which shows an effect that supresses radiation but not fluid dynamics] They usually envision some sort of glass with special properties varying by the type of light…” Essex and McKitrick (2007) p128.

        Now, you guys could be right, so could Essex and McKitrick. I frankly don’t have the time to look up the refractive properties of glass for different wave lengths. The main reason for that is that it is irrelevant to my original point anyway.

        The metaphor of the greenhouse makes us think of the atmosphere as a closed system with highly predictable results. Accepting that the majority of the atmospheric ‘greenhouse effect’ is not caused by a physical barrier gives us a much less predictable (indeed chaotic) system. It is a very misleading metaphor.

        I have to wonder from the tone of lprent’s replies if it is not he or she who feels insecure about his or her knowledge. There is a hint of desperation like ‘do I REALLY know how the ghe works? Oh well, just hurl abuse and they will all go away.’

        • lprent 19.1.1.1

          “abuse”

          What do you expect – you don’t offer anything to contribute apart from making a spectacle of your lack of understanding of science.

          You say the greenhouse effect theory isn’t operational in the atmosphere or at least not to the level I described in the post. To date I haven’t heard you put up a single reason why it is not the case.

          You are everything I despise about CCD’s. You sound good to people who have no idea about the scientific process. You sound like a fool to anyone who does. Unlike most people who know science, I’m not nice, so I delight in rubbing your nose in how little you understand. It is part of my public education program for trolls.

          So yeah, you’ll get called on everything until you can front up with something useful or leave. That is the nature of this site. Merely spouting bullshit without contributing to the debate is unacceptable.

          • DS 19.1.1.1.1

            On the contrary, I seem to be the only one who has referenced ANYTHING on how the ghe works.

            I think I know what your real problem is. Your initial post was supposed to be a tour de force of climate science, pulling together the best of your knowledge in the most concise way possible. Unfortunately, right from when you wrote the title referring to people with other views as idiots, it wasn’t so much about enquiry as chest beating. As soon as I pulled you on one little detail, that was too much. You couldn’t bear to just say, ‘that’s interesting, I will check out Essex and McKitrick, maybe that part of my post wasn’t quite right…’

            This is not intended as a personal attack. I think this kind of septic ad hominem (various insults you have hurled at me) is so pervasive it has become the biggest problem in the CC debate. All I’m saying is try considering that people like me may well have good intentions, not be as stupid as you think, and maybe even have a few ideas worth looking into. That be a more scientific and constructive way to have a debate like this, don’t you think?

          • lprent 19.1.1.1.2

            Nope. It was an primer, ie really really basic so people could get an idea of the recent drill by kiwis, and put in context of the CO2 and WAIS. That was all on the title.

            The content isn’t even that controversial, apart from the bit that I clearly labeled as being my opinion at the end. Otherwise you’d have seen our local science geeks tearing into it. It was pitched at a level that would help make some of our less scientific readers get an idea what it was all about and references to more reading material.

            The idiot part of the title was put in there so I could needle two of our local politicians. They have made apparent their abysmal level of understanding of these issues. This is a political blog after all. So they were linked with the asterix in the title. However if you consider you fit the criteria then feel free to join them..

            Personally I’d suggest that you look at your own pysch first before looking at others. I think that you are simply a nutter that accuses others of the flaws in your personality. To date I haven’t seen you bring up a single valid thing to do with climate change. Just a set of diversions and assessments of the motivations of others.

            In other words you still look like CCD troll I picked you for in your first comment in this post

        • Snail 19.1.1.2

          DS,

          do you know how many predecessors you have had..? have you even checked .?

          Can you thus imagine (let alone hopefully realise how hopeless your patronising tone appears) to folks like LP and others here so very well aware of those predecessors..

          as for myself, to an earlier ‘reply’ to one of your comments you infered my lack of clarity.. all of which was entirely understandable from the linked material you had supplied and described as contributing to.. your response (sandwiched among three in one set, so to say) looked very much as if you had no current understanding or appreciation of what that link had presented. To wit, here was a timewaster.

          Prove me wrong, reply to this. And no, not on a presumed basis of yourself being the unique innocent..

  20. I find it very frustrating, there seems to be so much rubbish, and so much claiming that study has been disproved long ago that I really do not know where to start learning about climate change (something I know embarrassingly little about, especially considering my strong family history of science!). Though the alternative dichotomies in the scientific community and media \ blogs is just begging for a thesis!

    The biggest thing I worry about (in my limited knowledge) is the muting effect of the buffering properties of various parts of the enviroment, and how things might change as we approach the limits of this buffering. ‘you aint seen nothing yet’ kind of springs to mind.

    • lprent 20.1

      Probably the most accessible material is on wikipedia (lots of links in the post). Start with something like the “greenhouse effect” or “fossil fuels” or “climate change”. They show what is pretty much the norm in the science community.

      http://www.realclimate.org is also good. In particular it is good at pointing out the available science around tipping points, when either sinks start reducing their capability to accept greenhouse gases, or where a store of greenhouse gases is activated – for instance the Siberian tundra.

      There doesn’t appear (from my reading) to be a good site giving all of the downstream consequences to human civilization from climate change at the scale we’re starting to see now.

      Humans have developed that civilization in the abnormally stable geological period for the last 12,000 years or so. It relies heavily on the planets biosphere remaining roughly the same. We have no idea what is going to happen if it doesn’t. It could go as far as having a major dieback amongst humans. That is the risk.

    • Snail 20.2

      If by “buffering properties” you can be taken to mean overlap twixt different components of environmental study then it may interest to know how trending is one of the reasons probability plays its role.. ie ten facets(components) all moving in the same direction would suggest an overall probability..

      if linking(overlap) comes to bear and the direction remains that ‘aint seen nothing yet’ would take on a greater/lesser significance overall..

      hope this helps..

      the realclimate link is very good with commentaries and specific explanations from scientists seeking public interest also.. well worth a look..

  21. DS 21

    [in response to lprent at 817am]

    Yes, sorry, you’re right. For the record I do know a few things about justified true belief and falsification etc. It was wrong of me to insinuate you use belief in the sense of blind faith. Then again I didn’t have to wait too long until you did the same back anyway.

    • lprent 21.1

      Yeah, but you look like so many other CCD trolls that we’ve had through here, spinning the same old lines. I’ve become quite intolerant, and I give them a lot less room to espouse before I start tearing into their arguments and motivations.

      Hearing the same old crappy lines over and over again, accompanied with links to suspicious ‘authorities’, that you eventually find were pharmacists in their former life (or the like) has a wearing effect. They always demand that you look at their ideas with “an open mind”, but think that real science is suspicious. Unfortunately the net has made it possible for all of those people who used to concentrate on interesting cosmology theories and perpetual motion machines a forum. Most of them wound up hooked on climate change..

      It is pretty much the same with many of the commentators here.. Believe me, you’re getting off lightly. You almost sound like you may be rational.

  22. DS 22

    Well, we’re back to the usual climate change alamist arguments. about the ‘CCD’s’ are inherently bad and stupid people comparable to other maligned scientific groups from the past and worthy of name calling. Brave and clever alarmists have a monopoly on the real science because they are brave and clever because they do the only good science… By now I think you will be able to see if you want to why so many people are skeptical about those who push climate change concern. I’ve had fun 🙂

    PS still waiting for you to look up Essex and McKitrick -the only reference given in our discussion…

    • Snail 22.1

      You’ll forgive me, DS, I’m sure in saying how your seemingly terminal comment amounts to fun—me, too.

      With its two arcanities plus one very big hang-up. When the powers-that-be persecuted Galileo twas future folks like you they had uppermost in mind.

      That’s right, nothing to do with science; everything to do with getting your own way. DS, would you have been a primo in their club! 🙂

  23. Bevanj 23

    “The ‘normal’ carbon cycle accounts for about 95% of the CO2 in the carbon cycle.”

    So our entire filthy species is contributing 5%?

    • RedLogix 23.1

      No that is not a useful interpretation. Probably the original statement was not especially useful either.

      Carbon, whether in the form of CO2 in the atmosphere, dissolved in the oceans, or carbohyrdates/sugars stored in plant materials, or hydrocarbons stored underground, or various forms of methane in peats swamps, or frozen methane clathrates in the deep Arctic oceans…is all 100% participating in the ‘natural carbon cycle’.

      Some of it is cycling fairly quickly, like grass absorbs CO2 via photosynthesis, that is eaten by cows, and the dung burnt for fuel releasing CO2 back into the atmosphere. Those carbon atoms might go round that cycle in a matter of weeks or months. Other carbon gets locked into forms, such as oil deposits that might normally sit undisturbed for millions of years. These cycles are fairly stable, with the sources of atmopheric CO2 and the sinks for it being pretty much in balance. The system usually varies only quite slowly in response to major naturally occuring events such as Ice Ages.

      Humans changed the naturally occuring cycle by digging up huge amounts what is called ‘fossil carbon’ in oil, gas and coal fields, and sourcing that into the atmosphere far faster than the natural sinks could cope. As a result the CO2 content of the atmosphere has risen from around 270ppm to about 380ppm in the last 100 years or so. The rate of this increase continues to accelerate.

  24. Gareth 24

    “PS still waiting for you to look up Essex and McKitrick -the only reference given in our discussion ”

    Before you tempt him – you do know the extent of the criticism of their basic science right? Some quick examples:
    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2005/11/temperature-rex-bites-essex-and.html
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/does-a-global-temperature-exist/
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2004/05/mckitrick3.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2004/10/mckitrick8.php
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Talk:Ross_McKitrick

    McKitrick, the Canadian ECONOMIST is widely torn apart by those people who actually work in climate science…

  25. DS 25

    Gareth,

    I’m sure E&M weren’t right about everything in their book and I’m hardly surprised that various bloggers have attacked them. In this thread I have tried to argue that abusing people on reputation is a poor substitute for evaluating arguments. Unfortunately the links you post relate to bloggers attacking the E&M on completely different topics. This amounts to arguing ‘they were wrong about A so must be wrong about B’ on the balance of probabilities this argument is probably true in the general case, yes, but that’s not good science.

    The implicit argument, McKitrick is a Canadian economist so any book he co-wrote must be wrong about the refractive properties of glass wrt infra red is dramatically weaker still.

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