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Climate change laffs

Written By: - Date published: 1:20 pm, January 15th, 2009 - 33 comments
Categories: climate change, humour - Tags:


33 comments on “Climate change laffs”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    I see that the big problem appears to be soot not C02 according to this NASA study:


    It appears that we get much more bang for our buck with respect to AGW (if true) by cleaning up the soot rather than the C02. Plus there are health side-benefits as well. What environmentally concious person could possibly argue with cleaning up the dirty smoke? This seems much more practical and cost effective than emmission trading schemes and the like.

    Maybe the hysteria about C02 is being misdirected.

  2. There is no ‘hysteria’ about CO2, it is a scientific fact that it traps heat and it is also a fact we are pumping billions of tonnes of the stuff into the atomsphere.

    Soot, which is mainly carbon (note, not carbon dioxide) also has a greenhouse effect. Of course we should reduce it as possible.

    interestingly, back in the 50s when cars and industry burnt fossil fuels a lot less efficently they put a lot of sulfur dioxide and other smog particles into the air that actually has a cooling effect. It was because of this that the Earth’s temperature didn’t rise in the middle of the last century as was expected by the sceintists due to the increasing  CO2 output. As we’ve become cleaner that cooling effect has reduced and global temperuate increase has taken off.

    also interestingly. Soylent Green, the movie made in 1973 and set in 2022 has the temperature hotter than now due to the greenhouse effect.

  3. higherstandard 3

    Don’t forget the CFC effect as well SP.

  4. Con 4

    HS: CFCs are responsible for about 12% of AGW. There’s not much more that can be done now – they are heavily regulated (under the Montreal Protocol) and atmospheric concentrations are falling. Because they are such stable molecules we’ll have to wait for a long while (decades, even centuries for some kinds of CFC) for them to all break down.

  5. tsmithfield 5

    Steve, even if we doubled the amount of C02 in the atmosphere, the effect would be neglible if C02 was the sole cause. However, it is well recognised that AGW is based more around the secondary effects of increased water vapour that is thought to occur due to the small temperature increase caused by C02. However, it is not well understood what the balance is between positive and negative forcings that determine climate sensitivity. This is clear when we compare the worst-case scenario from the IPCC of around 59 cm increase with the predictions of Huber of up to 100 metres increase in sea level:


    It seems clear that there is far to much noise in the models to draw any firm conclusions. Also, it is accepted that endevours such as the Kyoto protocol are going to have negligible effect on AGW (if true) in any case. On the other hand, reducing soot is going to have an immediate and substantial effect according to the NASA report I cited. Since we are in a zero-sum game so far as our financial resources are concerned, it seems a no-brainer to direct our energy into something that is going to have a substantial effect (if AGW is correct) and have a positive effect on the environment generally compared to a dubious strategy such as Kyoto.

  6. Con 6

    The Herald article is interesting. The paleoclimatologists reckon that the world could warm up a lot more than IPCC model’s would have us believe, which is certainly a worry.

    Their archeological evidence is pretty telling. But there is a big difference between the Eocene greenhouse and the modern one. The greenhouse in the Eocene was supposedly cranked up by the result of a sudden release of methane clathrates. When this happens, the amount of methane released can be enormous, and it’s autocatalytic because it causes more global warming which tends to melt more clathrates.

    But our greenhouse is not so methane-driven. I am pretty sure that most anthropogenic emissions are C02 (though methane and CFCs are significant). Maybe in the Eocene there was some specifically methane-related that led to the greater warming? Something to do with cloud formation perhaps … it could be very hard to know.

    In any case, I don’t see why the possibility of cheap reductions in black carbon emissions should absolve us of the need to make (more expensive) reductions in C02 and methane as well?

  7. Con 7


    Since we are in a zero-sum game so far as our financial resources are concerned, it seems a no-brainer …

    Let me just stop you there.

    A “zero-sum game”? Are you serious?

  8. lprent 8

    Con: The question is what caused a state change and released those methane clathrates. Once it starts, it is likely to be a runaway.

    It’d have to either be a increase in temperature or a decrease in pressure or maybe (remote possibility) a change in chemical conditions.

    Look – we’re doing the temperature change right now with our releases of greenhouse gases. We’re also managing to warm the oceans, and warmer water is less dense – ie less pressure maybe. Oh and the chemical composition of the oceans is changing.

    Perhaps all of those things happened in the Eocene and other periods – from vulcanism is most likely. But if anything triggers a state change in the MC’s then we will really start to see a change. Guess what we’re on a path to do just that.

    BTW: The IPCC estimates are the most conservative options from the most established evidence. Most people with some understanding of earth sciences (like me) or climatology consider that they give the best possible option. To date their estimates keep getting worse on each iteration and as the evidence mounts.

  9. T-Rex 9

    Echoing what Lynn says above – the IPCC is essentially hobbled by the requirement to appear “rational and restrained”. There are numerous scientists who are members of the panel on record stating that their actual views are not represented accurately, as the “agreed statement” was watered down to a far less dramatic version of reality to avoid sowing the seeds of hysteria or (more likely) threatening IPCC credibility and allowing opponents to brand them as loonies. It is incredible the damage an oil industry exec can do just by appearing on TV and saying “100m? pfft. You’d have to be an idiot to believe that”.

    You’ll note that their predictions have been becoming steadily worse and more forcefully phrased. Expect that trend to continue.

    People like to believe the safe option much more than they like to sit down with a calculator and work out how much water is in the antarctic icecap.

  10. burt 10

    Steve P.

    It was because of this that the Earth’s temperature didn’t rise in the middle of the last century as was expected by the sceintists due to the increasing CO2 output.

    Can you provide a link for this ? That is a link to show that scientists were concerned about CO2 levels from cars in the middle of last century. I think like the CO2 hysteria being drummed up for political purposes you just made that little bit of BS up to support your assertion that CO2 is the big scary heat up the planet monster you want it to be.

  11. Felix 11

    Antarctic ice cap?

    But that’s at the bottom of the planet. As it melts it’ll drip down, not up.

    You just made that “Antarctic ice monster” up to scare people for political purposes. I saw on youtube that scientists make up stuff too.

  12. vto 12

    ha ha helix. maybe another option is to simply relax and enjoy …




  13. Pascal's bookie 13

    Can you provide a link for this ? That is a link to show that scientists were concerned about CO2 levels from cars in the middle of last century.

    Here’s the context of what steve said …

    interestingly, back in the 50s when cars and industry burnt fossil fuels a lot less efficently they put a lot of sulfur dioxide and other smog particles into the air that actually has a cooling effect. It was because of this that the Earth’s temperature didn’t rise in the middle of the last century as was expected by the sceintists due to the increasing CO2 output.

    (emphasis mine)

    Look at what the ‘this’ burt wants a link for refers to. Go on. I’ll wait.

    Got it?

    Yet he paraphrased it as ” scientists were concerned about CO2 levels from cars in the middle of last century.”

    dishonest, stupid or both?

    the debate continues…

  14. SBlount 14

    How many years must the cooling continue before we admit we were wrong about global warming?

    No statistically significant rise in average temperatures since 1995, and a cooling trend since 2002.

    In this period human caused co2 output has increased 30%+, so clearly there is something with a larger effect going on or we have hit a stable state.

  15. burt 15


    Some interesting reading here.


    So what happened in the late 1600’s ? There is an interesting graph in this article that might provide some answers.


    And if you look at the temperature graphs here there is some interesting correlations that only the most gullible could believe are coincidence.

    Still it’s not trendy to “not be in control” and the human ego is so big that naturally if there is anything changing on earth we must be responsible. If the cause of the change is outside of our control (or even influence) then we don’t get to take the place as being the most important thing on earth when it comes to climate.

  16. SBlount 16


    Agreed, you cannot control a non-linear, complex system. You must observe carefully and humbly manage outcomes as all inputs will have unintended consequences.

    Nobody knows the future except that there will be change, nature will always adjust, but humanity is less flexible and mobile.

    We are approaching the historical maximum interglacial temperature, and temperatures could still go up, or they could go down. We don’t know if solar activity will drive this, or what kind of things might happen at increased co2 levels (as all global warming has eventually become global cooling and vice versa)

  17. RedLogix 17

    How many years must the cooling continue before we admit we were wrong about global warming?

    About 30 would be the generally accepted answer.

    No statistically significant rise in average temperatures since 1995, and a cooling trend since 2002.

    Provide a link and I will demolish it. Warning I work with time trends all day every day.

  18. SBlount 18

    About 30 would be the generally accepted answer.

    There was 30 years of cooling between 1940-1970 during a period of sharply increasing co2 concentration.

    Provide a link and I will demolish it. Warning I work with time trends all day every day.

    I heard it in a debate from Prof Bob M. Carter at the 33rd International Geological Conference.

  19. RedLogix 19

    Very cute. Bob Carter. Autodemolished.

    I did ask for a link, but I found one for you here in this article by Bob Carter.

    The salient facts are these. First, the accepted global average temperature statistics used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change show that no ground-based warming has occurred since 1998. Oddly, this eight-year-long temperature stasis has occurred despite an increase over the same period of 15 parts per million (or 4 per cent) in atmospheric CO2.

    8 years is too short a period compared with the noise and variation in the data. If for example I stated that for the last 30 minutes the temperature in my room here in Wellington was a very stable 23 degC, and therefore there was no such thing as winter… you would conclude I was a total doofus.

    A more complete review is here.

  20. burt 20


    In mid January (in NZ) any conclusion that there is no winter would make you a doofus.

    However have I got this correct, we needed the ETS rushed through under urgency because we needed to act really really quickly on climate change yet 8 years is too short a time frame to make valid observations about climate data.

    Three or four months of cross party consultation would take too long but 30 years is a valid observation period – it’s not about science is it !

  21. Felix 21

    There is an element of “Pascal’s wager” to it.

    If only Pascal’s Bookie were here…

  22. Is it me, or does the polar bear look like hes laughing???

  23. Felix 23

    Ha, he does!

    Somehow I doubt that the guy is laughing though.

  24. tsmithfield,

    congratulations—once again you have me somewhat curious at assertions made.. This time would you please be so kind as to explain what you mean in the use of the following (emphasised) term:

    It seems clear that there is far to(sic) much noise in the models

  25. tsmithfield 25

    Northpaw “tsmithfield,

    congratulations—once again you have me somewhat curious at assertions made.. This time would you please be so kind as to explain what you mean in the use of the following (emphasised) term:

    It seems clear that there is far to(sic) much noise in the models”

    By noise I mean margins of error due to uncertainties in the data. Given that predictions range from centimetres of sea level rise to one hundred metres of sea level rise, then it seems that the noise must be quite high.

    One source for noise is the heat-island effects associated with growing cities. While statistical corrections are made for these effects, it remains questionable whether the corrections are adequate. Also, rural stations have been dropped out over recent years meaning that part of the observed rise has at least in part been an artifact of the distribution of stations rather than necessarily real increases in temperature.

    Here is are several links which show an exchange between a AGW skeptic and believer on the topic that arose from a media interview.


    Another source of uncertainty is the sensitivity of the system to increases in C02. This depends on the balance between positive and negative forcings in clouds which is still not well understood. Here is a peer reviewed article on the subject.


  26. lprent 26

    tsmithfield. The whole system is uncertain – it is inherently complex and chaotic. That is the nature of natural systems. If we had a few hundred years of good observations under a reasonably steady state system we might be able to have a nice predictive model. As it is we have less than a 30 years of good data, less than hundred years of reasonable data, and completely patchy data prior to that. This is in a system that requires hundreds of years to show effects to the full.

    As it is we’re working in a system with limited long-term measurement and where the system is already changing. What is certain is that we are changing the climate, and quite drastically and with uncertain outcomes. The only thing you can be absolutely sure of, is that the effects are underestimated in the IPCC estimates. Effectively we are venus-forming (ie not terra-forming) the earth with no accurate idea of predicted outcomes.

    Unlike what I can see of your level of scientific knowledge, I actually know something about earth sciences. It terrifies me that people like you would be so foolish as to crap in their nest and to want to carry on because they can’t predict the exact outcomes. That is the action of a mindless fool. I can just see you wanting to bring back DDT on the basis that a full causal link wasn’t proved between its use and the long term cumulative effects – we didn’t wait long enough to observe them. The same logic applies as for your pitiful attempts above to do the same thing. By your premise we shouldn’t do anything about birth control either. It isn’t absolutely certain that a child will result from sex

    For instance we currently have no idea if things will get warmer overall or colder in different areas. It depends on ‘trigger’ effects in ocean currents like the Gulf stream with things like fresh water dilution. It is climate change – it probably will involve global warming in the short-term. It will probably involve local cooling, especially in places like northern europe that get a large proportion of their heat from ocean current transfers.

    It is only the accidental comics of the climate deniers who look for simple and known solutions.. Why? I think it is probably because they are quite simple people. In my experience – too simple to adsorb the science even if you tell them in worlds of few syllables…

    If you want to look at major effects (rather than minor (almost trivial) like the ones you mentioned (always favorites of the CC commedians)) , then have a look at the summary in the Economist about the ocean adsorption rates. Effectively the biggest CO2 adsorption system is filling rapidly. I’ll give you a hint – figure out how what volume of CO2 was required to move the pH of the volume of the oceans. The figure out how a rising pH starts to slow the adsorbtion rates.

    Personally I suspect that the calculations are beyond you – prove me wrong.. But I suspect we’ll just get subjected to links to more pathetic attempts at people trying to talk about things they don’t understand.

  27. Tony Norriss 27

    Iprent “It terrifies me that people like you would be so foolish as to crap in their nest and to want to carry on because they can’t predict the exact outcomes”

    You assume that I propose doing nothing. This assumption cannot validly be drawn from what I have said.

    Rather than focusing on the problem of C02, I think there are a lot of smaller problems we should be focusing on that have clear determinable benefits. The sum result will be to deal with the carbon problem, if in fact it is a problem. Let me give you some examples:

    1. Non-carbon based solutions to energy to mitigate the effect of peak oil.
    2. Developing incentive schemes that prevent the burning down of world forests to preserve our environment and prevent extinction of species.
    3. Reducing soot output. As I pointed out above, a recent NASA study shows this would have a much more immediate effect on climate, and also provide considerable health benefits.

    The sort of initiatives mentioned above have immediate benefits for society apart from any carbon reduction and would be much easier to sell. I think most skeptics would agree with these type of initiatives on the basis of their immediate benefits, if nothing else. The sum effect would be a dramatic reduction in carbon output without having to resort to dubious schemes such as the Kyoto Protocol which has carbon reduction as its only goal.

    I think a lot of the skepticism from people such as myself can be laid out the feet of
    the wide-eyed hysteria and deception propounded by many AGW enthusiasts such as Hansen. I think a lot of this sort of stuff is going to lead to AGW fatigue amongst the world population, and the message of the skeptics will become more appealing as a result. This would truly be sad as the issue should be decided on the basis of science, and not a popularity contest. However, AGW proponents have turned this into a popularity contest through scientists mixing science with politics. Unfortunately, if this sort of strategy is relied on, then the wheels of popularity can turn in the other direction, pushing the direction of politics along with it.

  28. lprent 28

    Arggh – how about keeping to a single handle. It is always hard to keep track when people shift around.

    Have a read of the economist article, or even better find the editorial that went with it. C02 generation is proving to not just be a atmospheric problem. In a lot of ways the acidification of the water systems is probably even more likely to cause run-away effects.

    The problem is that at present much less than a third of the generated carbon has been getting into the atmosphere for the 20th. The problem looks like it has been winding up in the oceans from a variety of methods.

    The problem is that is likely cause a widespread shift in a lot of largely unknown systems. For instance it causes de-calcification which releases CO2 from calcium carbonates. That is the kind of thing that is likely to cause run-away effects before shifting to a new equilibrium. None of that is currently factored in the IPCC because the measurements were just re-performed to compare to 1970’s data.

    The simpliest solution is to immediately reduce the emmissions because we simply don’t know the effects  of what we are doing now. It is taking a immense risk to carry on as if the biosphere and geology can continue soaking up the current outputs without hitting trigger events.

    Short-term pallatives are just dangerous bearing in mind the unknown risk levels from what we don’t know. This is one of the few areas that I whole-heartedly agree with teh greens.

  29. tsmithfield 29

    Iprent “The simpliest solution is to immediately reduce the emmissions because we simply don’t know the effects of what we are doing now.”

    Well, I think measures such as eliminating fossil fuels as an energy source would achieve exactly that goal. So would finding ways for reducing deforrestation, thus increasing carbon sinks. However, these types of solutions also solve more tangible immediate problems. They are not merely “short-term palliatives” for the C02 issue. So, I think there are a lot of aspects we would agree on.

    The problem with focussing on C02 as the problem is that it can lead to other fairly speculative solutions such as painting the world white.


    This sort of solution simply churns up lots of resources with little other tangible benefit. To me, this seems much more risky, because, as you say, there is a lot of uncertainty in the chaotic climate system as you say. However, solutions that stand on their own feet, regardless of whether AGW forecasts are correct or not seem to be no-brainers, and should gain acceptance readilly.

    You criticised me previously for not being a scientist. That is fair, as I do not have a degree in a climate-related field. For this reason, I describe myself as a climate agnostic, having reached no firm conclusion either way as I do not see myself as qualified to do so. From my reading I am aware of a lot of spurious stuff on both sides of the debate which tends to make me suspicious with extreme claims.

    I mentioned Hansen, earlier. Here is an example of how his temperature adjustments reflect against Wellington’s temperature record:


    This is typical of temperature adjustment techniques Hansen has used more generally where earlier temperatures are adjusted downwards, and later temperatures are adjusted upwards, producing an apparently artificial warming trend. Sorry, can’t find my link to the article right now.

    This type of behaviour does not enhance credibility on either side. When reading articles on either side of the debate I prefer to see they are based on sound science and well researched.

  30. lprent 30

    Busy pushing code together at present, so I’ll respond later more fully.

    But the real issue is that humans have been treating the biosphere as being effectively infinite for a long time, and that their environmental effects were relatively limited. You maybe could have argued that when the worlds population was less than 1 billion in the 19th century.

    Generally we’re getting quite effective at handling local effects at a national level. The pollution goes up during developmental bursts and gets fixed by affluence. This is much the same as what happens with population and medical care.

    We are still ratshit at handling problems are a global level. It doesn’t matter if it is finance  companies rorting their way around varying legal frameworks, trade disputes of global pollution. In the latter case there is a really depressing track record over time – only the CFC’s stand out as being moderately acceptable.

    We’re now approaching 7 billion and where most people on earth are using far more resources and excreting far more waste than they did prior to 1900. We’re probably going to touch 11 billion by 2050 (which there is a moderate probability that I’ll see – born in 1959 – I’d be 90’ish). It will probably remain at that level for a long time.

    The effects of humanity are getting quite intense in the atmosphere and water systems which are both cross-borders. That will intensify as the population continues to rise and affluence levels spread.

    To say that I don’t give a stuff about exact measurements or pallative techniques would be an understatement. If you look back at paleogeology, the effects of what we are doing to the biosphere are well known and well understood – it makes species at the top of the food chain extinct. The only thing we don’t know is what happens when we do it as fast as we are doing it now.

    Bearing in mind the 20-30 year societal and infrastructure lead times for new technologies (and techniques) to spread. We need the alternates to old technologies being developed now. Rather than having rising states develop on a basis of coal liquidification (a 1940’s technology) for their transport needs and thereby intensifying the problems, we need better technologies going down the engineering path now.

    The developed countries need to be involved in setting up the framework to develop those techs now because they are the societies with
    a) the economic surpluses to do it.
    b) the responsibility for causing the existing level of damage.

    The should do it because if they don’t, then the rest of the world population will go affluent really fast using the existing technologies. That will directly impact on us because our societies are far more suseptible to disruption (essentially any more compex system is far more suscepible to chaotic environments than simplier ones).

    Frankly the CCDs like those comedians in Act should really be forced to do some learning of economics. If they’d bother to look at the downstream effects of affluence and population on the biosphere they’re exploiting using their own economic philosphies, they’d be worth listening to. Instead what we get is wishful thinking based on the idea that it all going to be someones elses problem.

  31. tsmithfield,

    NOISE.. an interesting word which my desktop Collins posits derivation from Latin’s ‘nausea’. Added thereto several strains in respect of definition:
    1. loud shouting, clamor;
    2. sound ie the noise of rain;
    3. any unwanted electrical signal within a communication system

    Nowhere – there or elsewhere – a meaning to effect margin of error.

    Which is why you can now understand I felt impelled to ask you what you meant in your use of the term. In doing so, you will now realise, we have eliminated an uncertainty of communication.

    That said, and taking account your perceptible need to ‘rely on science’ per the exchange/s with lprent I’d like to suggest that in the course of commentary to this particular blog you more than most have shifted very satisfactorily away from denialist’s strategem of deliberately NOISING in rumors rather than reports.

    May this continue to be the case.

    Small added point on peak oil: given greater scarcity, multiple uses and very large human reliance on this basic resource – chemical industry, pharmaceuticals, plastics to name but a few – and greater likely human populations with concomitant needs – to what extent is the replacement of fossil fuels for energy purposes to the positive long term advantage of those selfsame resource providers? Think about it.


  32. tsmithfield 32

    Northpaw: “Nowhere – there or elsewhere – a meaning to effect margin of error.”

    Here is a link to a definition for statistical noise, which is pretty much as I understand it. Margin of error is by definition the result of “noise”.


    Northpaw: “Small added point on peak oil: given greater scarcity, multiple uses and very large human reliance on this basic resource – chemical industry, pharmaceuticals, plastics to name but a few – and greater likely human populations with concomitant needs – to what extent is the replacement of fossil fuels for energy purposes to the positive long term advantage of those selfsame resource providers?”

    As more of our energy is derived from non-oil sources, there will be more oil available for other ancillary purposes such as plastics etc. If this happens incrementally at a sufficient rate then oil should be available for ancillary purposes such as plastics etc for a long time. If the concern is greenhouse gases from burning oil, then it is preferable for oil to be locked up in forms such as plastics etc that does not enter the atmosphere.

  33. tsmithfield,

    thank you for the reply.. for the attempted answer in one part and limited response in another.. Now not to labor this(pun unintended) you wrote: Margin of error is by definition the result of “noise’. which to my eyes and mind states quite clearly that ‘margin of error’ is other than “noise” — not noise itself!

    Use of ‘statistical noise’ in your original commentary might have helped somewhat though I’d hasten to add the term so used would make a nonsense of your two examples in relation to sea-level rise. Else revealed them for what they were—misleading at best and incomprehensible otherwise.

    If I may allow me add that either you specify context in your use of terminology or not use another’s jargon at all without reference or linking to it.

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