What the media should remember on climate change and the IPCC report


8:44 am - September 26th 2013

by Leo Barasi    


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When the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report is published this week, most UK media coverage will be along the lines of:

Scientists say humans are almost certainly responsible for climate change and the world is on course for unprecedented warming over the next century. But the report reflects a gap between scientists and the general public, with growing numbers saying they don’t believe what scientists tell them about climate change.

If anyone doing interviews about the report is daft enough to be reading this blog, there are a few points I would suggest making.

1. The overwhelming majority of the country do believe climate change is real and the world needs to act to stop it.

Around 9 in 10 people think that climate change is happening – only 6% think it’s some kind of conspiracy*. And only 13% – fewer than one in seven people – say it won’t be a threat to Britain.

To put that in perspective, 18% say they want to get rid of the Queen and make Britain a republic: hardly a mainstream view, yet more popular than climate scepticism.

Those numbers haven’t really changed for the last four years**.

2. The report tells us in more detail, with more confidence, what we can expect to happen as a result of climate change

The two most important climate risks for the UK are flooding and summer heatwaves.

The floods in 2007 are estimated to have cost the economy £3.2bn pounds.

We usually don’t think about heatwaves as a bad thing, but the heatwave we had in August 2003 killed over 2,000 people.

Both heatwaves and floods are predicted to become much more common and more severe.

There are still uncertainties. Science by its very nature is never final and certain. But we know enough now to act.

At this point, you may be tempted to talk about how many degrees the world is projected to warm by. Don’t. 4° warming may sound terrifying to you, but it sounds fine to most people.

3. The question is no longer whether man-made climate change is happening. The question is now: what are we going to do about it?

Countries around the world have pledged to reduce the emissions that cause climate change. Even the countries that have traditionally been slow to act – like China and America – are now saying they will cut back their carbon pollution.

Getting these pledges is an important start, but the world needs to do a lot more to make them happen. That includes us – the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change says we’re not on course to meet our commitment to cut our pollution.

And even if the world does cut its emissions, we’re already on course for some global warming. We have to make plans so we’re ready for it.

In the UK lots of people may wonder if their home will now be at more risk of flooding and if they’ll be able to get insurance. Some people may worry about older relatives and the effect of heatwaves on their health.

What are these risks? Is the government doing enough? At the moment we don’t know because the information isn’t public.

This is what we should be talking about – so we can hold the government to account, to make sure it deals effectively with the most important risks, and spends our money well.

* A poll this month from the UK Energy Research Centre put those who say it’s not happening at 19%. A fair bit higher than the 5% above, but still barely a quarter of the number who say it’s happening.

** In fact, they went down a bit and then came back up. But the overall effect is of no change.

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About the author
Leo is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He manages communications for a small policy organisation, and writes about polling and info from public opinion surveys at Noise of the Crowd
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Reader comments


This article highlights one of the main problem with the climate debate – the spin.

For example, the author says (and gives an evidential link):

“Around 9 in 10 people think that climate change is happening”

But the (origonal) link he gives breaks the data up. Only 56% of the surveys show people think climate change is “real and man-made” whereas another 33% think the climate is changing, but NOT man-made. Those people are now quietly lumped into the first catagory in his description suggesting that an overwhelming number of people think that man-made climate change is happening.

Tha auther then blithely goes on to talk about flooding and heatwaves, again making the asusmption they are both caused by global warming. Flooding especially is hard to make any direct link, as mand made action is probably causing it, but not through AGW but rather through construction – tarmacking over flood plains. Heatwaves make newspaper headlines but the data from the Met Office doesn’t show that suddenly we are experiencing more heatwaves – the mean maximum temperature has only gone up by about 0.5C in 100 years, with the hottest years in 1911 and 1976. By all means play with the data at this link:

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/actualmonthly/

So after making poorly backed assertions, the author now simply states that man-made climate change is happening, and asks us what we should do about it.

As a suggestion, given the IPCC has got their numbers wrong repeatedly, showing warming to be far below their forecasts forcing them to scrabble around looking for explanations as to why, I would suggest we look again at the science and models which so much relies on and try and figure out exactly what is happening before we go and spend huge amounts of money and push huge amounts of people in to fuel poverty.

@ Tyler

So to be clear than, “scrabbling around looking for explanations” in light of unexpected data is a Bad Thing and a sign of intellectual failure, while “looking again at the science” in light of those same data is a Good Thing and a sign of great wisdom. Can you just clear up the difference between the two? It couldn’t be, I suppose, that *they’re the exact same thing* and you’re just trying to put a negative spin on the activities of people who “look again at the science” but persist in reaching conclusions you don’t like?

@ GO

Auother links to data. He then mis-represents that data, and flies about what amount to be little more than scare stories (more floods! more heatwaves!). He then says we, with 90% of people in agreement, need to do more about AGW.

I say look at the data. Then look at the science, which at best has proven to be faulty in its methods (otherwise the predictions in past IPCC reports would be correct, rather than temp rises being well under those predictions). Then when you fully understand the problem (if there is one) decide the most efficient course of action, factoring in other (economic and social) costs.

See the difference?

I’m a bit disappointed the sea levels haven’t risen like we were promised. I’ve always liked Venice, and London would look a lot better under ten foot of water.

@Tyler #3:

Then look at the science, which at best has proven to be faulty in its methods (otherwise the predictions in past IPCC reports would be correct, rather than temp rises being well under those predictions).

No. The figures in the IPCC reports were and are projections, not predictions. Can you think of any reason why projections assuming business as usual so far as emissions are concerned, and over a sufficiently long period that the effect of known natural variation is cancelled out, might over a shorter term not match observations?

And are you aware of the vast amount of science being done studying the slowdown to establish whether it is indeed natural variation as opposed to something more fundamental? Have you read any of it? You might like to read this piece:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/09/on-mismatches-between-models-and-observations/

@ Robin Levett

Definition of a projection:

“An estimate or forecast of a future situation or trend based on a study of present ones.”

So then, a simile for a prediction.

“Can you think of any reason why projections assuming business as usual so far as emissions are concerned, and over a sufficiently long period that the effect of known natural variation is cancelled out, might over a shorter term not match observations?”

Yes, lots.

“And are you aware of the vast amount of science being done studying the slowdown to establish whether it is indeed natural variation as opposed to something more fundamental? Have you read any of it?”

Yes, I was (forced) to study it in the last year of my physics degree at Cambridge.

I suggest you carefully re-read the article you link to. As it says, “It is a truism that all models are wrong”. Pay particular attention to the sections called observational error and model error. As I said in my earlier posts, why do we place so much faith (and spend countless billions whilst pushing energy prices higher) in models which have proved to be at best incmoplete or faulty? Surely it would be better to spend more time studying the science before racing to conclusions – which most pro-AGW proponents seem to have done.

@Richard Carey #4:

I’m a bit disappointed the sea levels haven’t risen like we were promised. I’ve always liked Venice, and London would look a lot better under ten foot of water

Hang around until the date the promises were made for. And I think you’re being unfair; certain parts of London would look better under water, but the river scene from the South Bank looks pretty good. Oh, hang on…

So, Leo Barasi should have written: ‘Around 89 in 100 people think that climate change is happening’

Like many, you see the science of world climate and use Met Office weather data for Britain as ‘proof’ that the scientists have got it wrong.
#6. Do I believe that you studied physics, including climatology, at Cambridge University? – Do I hell.

9. Derek Hattons Tailor

“We know enough now to act”

No we don’t. Even if it is getting warmer the outcome is unknown. Some of the more alarmist outcomes predicted over the past 20 years are already being watered down or dropped. Most sceptics biggest issue is not the science, it’s the conclusions being drawn from it.

The IPCC report is in any event silent on the cessation of warming since 1998 (the sea absorbing the heat is the most likely, but why wasn’t that predicted by climate modelling ?). Ignoring that huge flaw, it has to be conceded that the “upward” (depending on where you start the graph) trend cannot be falsified yet because the goalposts have been moved, again.

@ 8 Ceiliog

No, he should have written that 56 out of 100 think man-made climate change is happening. 33 of 100 think the climate is changing, but not necessarily because of man, given the climate changes naturally without our input.

“Like many, you see the science of world climate and use Met Office weather data for Britain as ‘proof’ that the scientists have got it wrong.”

No, I am using it as evidence to debunk the author’s scare stories about heatwaves and floods.

“#6. Do I believe that you studied physics, including climatology, at Cambridge University? – Do I hell.”

Believe what you want. I have the (two) degree certificates to prove it.

11. andrew adams

#9

The IPCC report is in any event silent on the cessation of warming since 1998 (the sea absorbing the heat is the most likely, but why wasn’t that predicted by climate modelling ?).

I think you’ll find that the report does have someting to say about recent temperature trends. Choosing 1998 as your start point is a bit misleading though as there was a spike in temperatures due to the “super el Nino” of that year, so temperatures in subsequent years were bound to be lower. Even so, 2005 was warmer than 1998 and 2010 warmer still (they were also el Nino years but not of the same magnitude).

Still, it’s true that overall temperatures have been pretty flat over the last few years and this has been attributed largely due to predominant la Nina conditions in the Pacific which has caused ocean warming to be predominate over surface warming. And this is consistent with the models – el Nino and la Nina conditions do arise naturally from the models and individual model runs do predict that there will be periods of several years of flat or even decreasing temperatures even though the long term trend is upwards. What they can’t do is predict when they will occur, but even so it is still useful because it helps us make a judgement about whether recent trends in surface temperatures are sufficent for us to conclude that there is a fundamental gap in our understanding about the long term effects of increases GHGs on the climate, and at the moment I think the answer is still that they are not.

Mark Walport on the Today programme was very impressive on where we are on climate change:

“…some people don’t want to confront the policy decisions, and the easiest way to do that is to say “Ok, well we can rubbish the science”. They can’t do that, the science is absolutely robust. Now it is over to policy makers to decide. And we have got three choices, we can mitigate the climate change, we can adapt to it or we can suffer and the challenge is to optimise that ratio.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03bg4v5 (1 hour 55mins in)

So there we have it, Chief Scientist has said those who rubbish the science can’t, and are only doing so because they don’t want to confront the policy decisions.

Tyler: “As I said in my earlier posts, why do we place so much faith in models which have proved to be at best incmoplete or faulty? Surely it would be better to spend more time studying the science…”

We model data to make projections into the future. Without those the science would be about as much use as a chocolate fireguard (except perhaps for determining blame after the event), because it could say nothing whatsoever about what we should do next.

The guy saying “It is a truism that all models are wrong” is acknowledging that models – being that they can’t take into account all variables in a complex system – cannot provide accurate and infallible predictions for the temperature in a specific year, not saying they’re totally useless. The future can never be predicted; but we can make very good informed guesses. Making out that all climate models ever produced are fraud because they can’t include all variables is silly.

Such an attitude to models generally would also simultaneously invalidate nearly all economics, which I believe you’re quite keen on politicians paying attention to.

@ Jungle

Models are fine, as long as you can back test them and prove they are roughly correct, taking into account they are perfect. That’s all fine, and happens in the normal course of science and economics.

The problem is that climate change models have proved to be mostly wrong, and more damagingly in scientific terms, most wrong in one direction only – predicting too much warming. If there was an even spread of models prediciting too much or too little warming, the errors in those models would be a lot easier to find. As such, surely it would be better to spend at least some more time making sure those models are correct before we take real-world action to fight something that may or may not exist, or be a problem. Even if AGW does exist, you have to think of the effects your actions have.

Take Germany for example. They’ve gone for renewables in a big way. Predictably, energy costs in Germany have dramatically increased. However, not only have energy costs risen, but C02 production has also gone up. Why? Backup generation is always needed. Which is now all fossil fuel driven given Germany is stopping its nuclear energy program. Also, as energy costs have pushed up, more and more manufacturing is taking place in high polluting countries like India and China. The problem has in effect been shifted and amplified.

Now compare to the US. They’ve had a shale gas revolution. Shale gas is relatively clean burning, and with the massive drop in prices the US has experienced, more manufacturing is “onshoring”. Not only has shale directly cut C02 emmissions, but as plants move back from the most polluting Latin American and Asian coutries, you get a double whammy of C02 reduction.

Which brings me neatly on to the economics. Some models work very well in economics. Some are very poor. None are perfect. A lot of economics and finance is actally trying to gauge where the model errors lie, and overlay experience of the real world on top of the model to find what works best. The models are decision making aids, but can be very fallible, and aren’t wholy trusted – yet in the realm of climate science we find huge amounts of trust being placed in models which are trying to project an even more complicated system.

@Tyler #6:

Definition of a projection:

“An estimate or forecast of a future situation or trend based on a study of present ones.”

So then, a simile for a prediction.

You mean synonym. And you’d be wrong.

The science summarised in the IPCC reports does not make “predictions” of the temperature in any particular year. They make projections of the general state of affairs by a particular year.

“Can you think of any reason why projections assuming business as usual so far as emissions are concerned, and over a sufficiently long period that the effect of known natural variation is cancelled out, might over a shorter term not match observations?”

Yes, lots.

Good. Then why are you still claiming that the slowdown in global temperature disproves AGW?

“And are you aware of the vast amount of science being done studying the slowdown to establish whether it is indeed natural variation as opposed to something more fundamental? Have you read any of it?”

Yes, I was (forced) to study it in the last year of my physics degree at Cambridge.

That’s a very long last year you’ve spent at Cambridge. Unless you gradiuated in the summer, you can’t have studied the science now being done at university. Have you looked at the recent science?

I suggest you carefully re-read the article you link to. As it says, “It is a truism that all models are wrong”.

I did.

“All models are wrong; some models are useful” is the reference of that comment.

Pay particular attention to the sections called observational error and model error. As I said in my earlier posts, why do we place so much faith (and spend countless billions whilst pushing energy prices higher) in models which have proved to be at best incmoplete or faulty?

Because they are useful.

Surely it would be better to spend more time studying the science before racing to conclusions – which most pro-AGW proponents seem to have done

What happens to the temperature at equilibrium of a system (in a vacuum) into which you introduce more energy than it is able to radiate away?

You have clearly not read the article to which I referred you with any understanding.

The models embody the best understanding of the science; as the science improves, so do the models – and vice versa. It is not an either/or.

@DHT #9:

The IPCC report is in any event silent on the cessation of warming since 1998

It’s silent because warming hasn’t ceased; the Summary published this morning includes this comment:

Due to natural variability, trends based on short records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not in general reflect long-term climate trends. As one example, the rate of warming over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to +0.15] °C per decade), which begins with a strong El Niño, is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12 [0.08 to 0.14] °C per decade)

and:

The observed reduction in surface warming trend over the period 1998–2012 as compared to the period 1951–2012, is due in roughly equal measure to a reduced trend in radiative forcing and a cooling contribution from internal variability, which includes a possible redistribution of heat within the ocean (medium confidence). The reduced trend in radiative forcing is primarily due to volcanic eruptions and the timing of the downward phase of the 11-year solar cycle. However, there is low confidence in quantifying the role of changes in radiative forcing in causing the reduced warming trend. There is medium confidence that internal decadal variability causes to a substantial degree the difference between observations and the simulations; the latter are not expected to reproduce the timing of internal variability. There may also be a contribution from forcing inadequacies and, in some models, an overestimate of the response to increasing greenhouse gas and other anthropogenic forcing (dominated by the effects of aerosols). {9.4, Box 9.2, 10.3, Box 10.2, 11.3}

(the sea absorbing the heat is the most likely, but why wasn’t that predicted by climate modelling ?).

Because we can’t, yet, predict the flip-flopping between El Nino and La Nina.

@ Robin Levett

*yawn*

Definition of simile:

“The use of such a method of comparison.”

“The science summarised in the IPCC reports does not make “predictions” of the temperature in any particular year. They make projections of the general state of affairs by a particular year.”

Ah yes, that’s a huge difference there. They project by a certain year rather than giving specific predictions for particular years. You really are clutching at straws here, given the point I was making. The IPCC are taking computer models and extrapoltating temperature trends into the future from them.

“Have you looked at the recent science?”

Yes I have, at length. Part of my Masters year was spent working on this stuff as well.

“Because they are useful.”
“The models embody the best understanding of the science; as the science improves, so do the models – and vice versa. It is not an either/or.”

Here is where your fundamental lack of understanding of science comes into play.

Firstly, the models are nowhere near the best understanding of the science, nor do they necessarily improve as the science does. The models available are very much limited by the computing power we have to day, and the ability to describe interactions between different parts of the model. Simply put, the atmosphere is too difficult a problem to put into a model (even in supercomputers) in anything but the most simple fashion. Certainly a lot more complex than the black box radiator problem you are reducing it to above. However, the science of these interactions is much easier to describe on a qualititaive basis.

Secondly, if the models continued to improve as you suggest they do, one would naturally expect a spread around the mean of projections. Instead we find that the majority of models have predicted temperatures to be much higher than observed. This suggests either a systematic problem with the models (likely given their almost total reliance on C02 concentratios and almost total lack of scope for modelling H2O in the atmoshpere, for starters) or a failure of the underlying science.

The IPCC even admit as much when they say

“There may also be a contribution from forcing inadequacies and, in some models, an overestimate of the response to increasing greenhouse gas and other anthropogenic forcing (dominated by the effects of aerosols).”

Either way, it points to the fact that either the models are faulty or the science is wrong, despite what the myriads of people shouting “the science is settled” say.

18. Robin Levett

@Tyler #17:

Talking about understanding of science, and before I come back to the rest:

“What happens to the temperature at equilibrium of a system (in a vacuum) into which you introduce more energy than it is able to radiate away?”

@Tyler

“Yes I have, at length. Part of my Masters year was spent working on this stuff as well.”

Given the context of Robin’s question and the fact that you have previously claimed to be an interest rate trader for more than a decade, I’d like to clarify what you’re classing as recent here.

20. Derek Hattons Tailor

@13″We model data to make projections into the future. Without those the science would be about as much use as a chocolate fireguard (except perhaps for determining blame after the event), because it could say nothing whatsoever about what we should do next”.

I disagree. (BSc Hons and Financial modeller if we’re playing qualification trumps). Science is not about predicting the future or telling us what to do next. It is about observing phenomena, forming hypotheses to isolate causal relationships and then testing that hypothesis. This simple principle has been lost in a sea of hysteria and speculation about causes and outcomes, when what is important is what connects them.
“The science” of global warming is simple: An observed positive correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature. The science therefore says that if CO2 continues to rise then so will temperatures. As GW depends on extrapolating this relationship beyond the known data range it is weakened. As CO2 has not fallen since 1998 the model cannot explain the flat global temperature . This does not rule out GW but anything a model cannot explain, weakens it and lessens its predictive power. The debate about outcomes is not scientific because we don’t know and cannot test what will happen, this is where the politics, the pseudo science and the bullship start.

21. Derek Hattons Tailor

@13 (again, take it as a complement) “Such an attitude to models generally would also simultaneously invalidate nearly all economics, which I believe you’re quite keen on politicians paying attention to.”

Er, economics has the predictive power of flipping a coin and isn’t taken seriously by anyone anymore. It simply livens up PPE courses, and allows the gullible to believe that Ed Balls has the first idea what he’s talking about. 5 Years after the event and economists still can’t agree/don’t understand the last crash, or the one in 87 come to that, or the global depression.

@DHT

“‘The science’ of global warming is simple: An observed positive correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature. The science therefore says that if CO2 continues to rise then so will temperatures. As GW depends on extrapolating this relationship beyond the known data range it is weakened.”

No, that is not the science of global warming. It is not based on an observed correlation, nor does it simply extrapolate that trend forward, it is based on the understanding of CO2 as a greenhouse gas and the impact that has on the Earth’s energy balance (we went over exactly this point in the last post on climate change).

23. PottyTraining

@ post 4

Dear Richard

It may may interest you that the London Thames Basin is actually still sinking after the ice age
– it has feck ALL to do with rising sea levels
(although spun in Media by the lying C.C. perverts to look like this with Thames flood threats).

Why ‘Blondie’ has got it all wrong over third airport out at sea too!

24. So Much For Subtlety

18. Robin Levett

Talking about understanding of science, and before I come back to the rest:

“What happens to the temperature at equilibrium of a system (in a vacuum) into which you introduce more energy than it is able to radiate away?”

That is not what is happening. It is not a valid description of the issue. The Earth is perfectly capable of radiating away much more energy. What Greenhouse gases allegedly do is delay that radiation. They are creating a cache of warmth within the Earth’s atmosphere. Allegedly. Despite no evidence to that end. But it will still radiate into outer space.

@SMFS

“That is not what is happening. It is not a valid description of the issue.”

Yes it is, and yes it is. Greenhouse gas molecules absorb photons with specific energies (photons with energies in the infrared part of the spectrum being of interest here), changing the balance between the energy received and the energy radiated away, resulting in an increase in temperature.

Equilibrium is restored when the Earth reaches a new (higher) temperature at which the rate of radiation emitted to space again matches the incoming rate. This is not a “delay”, it’s a new equilibrium state. As more CO2 is added to and persists in the atmosphere the required temperature to restore equilibrium increases.

26. So Much For Subtlety

25. Andy C

Equilibrium is restored when the Earth reaches a new (higher) temperature at which the rate of radiation emitted to space again matches the incoming rate. This is not a “delay”, it’s a new equilibrium state.

With heat “loitering” in the atmosphere longer. As you admit, the Earth continues to radiate away all the heat. It has nowhere else to go after all. It just takes longer. A photon enters the Earth’s atmosphere, hits the surface, is re-radiated as heat and normally goes straight back out to space. Except some percentage hit one or other GG molecule on the way out. And get re-radiated down, and hence have to start all over again. It takes them longer to make it into space, but make it they do.

As more CO2 is added to and persists in the atmosphere the required temperature to restore equilibrium increases.

How does the temperature restore the equilibrium?

SMFS,

Your understanding of what is happening here is incomplete. An object radiates away energy according to its temperature. If you remove the atmosphere altogether for a moment then Earth receives a given amount of solar radiation, a portion of that radiation is immediately reflected back to space according to Earth’s albedo, but the remainder is absorbed.

This absorption leads to an increase in the Earth’s temperature, which then begins to radiate more energy away, as does any hot object. However, this does not mean that Earth simply cools back down again, because if it did, it would start to radiate away less energy, and there would again be a deficit with respect to the incoming radiation, forcing the planet to heat up again (you’d have to reduce the amount of incoming radiation for Earth to cool). So, to maintain the equilibrium, Earth must maintain a temperature that sees it radiate away as much energy as it receives.

If we now reintroduce the atmosphere, without any anthropogenic forcing, a number of greenhouse gases are introduced. Initially, Earth remains at its pre-atmospheric temperature, but now greenhouse gases are absorbing some of the photons that are emitted by the surface, and therefore this radiation does not make it back to space and the energy in exceeds the energy out once again. Earth’s temperature increases once more, so the radiation emitted from the surface increases, until it once again balances the incoming radiation. This is the useful part of the greenhouse effect, without which Earth would be, on average, about 33 Celsius degrees cooler than it is.

Finally, add in the anthropogenic component, and again you find that more radiation from the surface is absorbed, reintroducing the energy deficit, and temperature rises again, until the temperature is at a level where it emits enough radiation to balance the incoming solar radiation.

@ PottyTraining, 11.37pm September 27

It may interest you to know that when the Greenland ice sheet melts, sea levels around the UK will drop. Sounds counter intuitive doesn’t it?

It is because there is about 15 quintillion tonnes of ice there, which has the gravitational attraction of a medium sized asteroid. Around Greenland itself, the sea level will drop by as much as 100 metres, around the UK by about 2-3. The flip side would be South America and Antarctica seeing a rise of nearly 10 metres, as the water redistributes around the globe due to the change in the gravitational gradient.

The alteration to water levels due to this was proposed as a hypothesis in the 19th century by Robert Simpson Woodward, an American Geophysicist to explain why many ice age lake shores were much higher on the side facing the Laurentide ice sheet. Geological rebound of the crust wasn’t enough to explain it.

It will be an interesting experiment to see what happens to the Ross and Ronne ice shelves surrounding the West Antarctic ice sheet when sea levels rise by that amount too. Will the rise force their breakup, allowing warmer ocean water to lap against the ice sheet, in the process accelerating the demise of WAIS? If that happens, the oceans will redistribute themselves again…

Bozzaport in the Thames estuary would be a white elephant anyway, as the number of flights taken by people, especially business people have been dropping since the takeoff of teleconferencing through Skype and the recession triggered by the financial crash of 2008.

@ Dissident,
Actually no, Heathrow had its busiest ever year in 2012, and Business and other travel is on the increase.

Heathrow’s capacity is insufficient, hence the endless queues of planes waiting to land. We should either expand Heathrow, or discourage flying. Doing nothing will solve nothing.

@ Jack C, 3.52am September 29

Business use of flights is down, because of teleconferencing.
http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317132797054

Do you believe those that want airports to be built, when the Department of Transport’s own projections for passenger numbers by 2030 are consistently been revised downwards every year, from 495m in 2007 to 320m this year. The only way that trend is contradicted, is in the rise of travel for the rich…
http://www.bata.uk.com/wp-content/uploads/WebPaxCharacteristics-2010.pdf

Do you feel sorry for those feckless rich scroungers as they have to que for a few hours perchance? I say didums 😉

Incidentally it is those kind of people who are most guilty of increasing this country’s carbon footprint in the first place, not the majority of us. They are also the people who are most likely to be behind denial of AGW…

31. Robin Levett

@SMFS #26:

As more CO2 is added to and persists in the atmosphere the required temperature to restore equilibrium increases.

How does the temperature restore the equilibrium?

Stefan–Boltzmann – google for it and learn.

I genuinely don’t mean to be snarky, but if you don’t even understand thermodynamics to this level, it’s difficult to see how you can have an informed view on the topic. It is basic to the science.

32. Derek Hattons Tailor

@22 No, that is not the science of global warming. It is not based on an observed correlation, nor does it simply extrapolate that trend forward, it is based on the understanding of CO2 as a greenhouse gas and the impact that has on the Earth’s energy balance (we went over exactly this point in the last post on climate change).

If it’s not based on observation, it’s not science. You are demonstrating my point exactly. You do not understand, or ignore, the real science and resort to spouting obsurfcating nonsense and irrelevant detail, aka pseudo-science. The earths energy has never been “in balance” because it is a dynamic system. Understanding of CO2 is that it increases global temperature, the precise causation is poorly understood, but the higher the concentration of atmospheric CO2, the higher the temperature. Scientists (you clearly aren’t one) call this “a (positive) correlation”.

33. Robin Levett

@Derek Hatton’s Tailor #31:

If it’s not based on observation, it’s not science.

Indeed. But the quarrel was with your claim that the arguments for AGW are based on “correlation”. They are not. They are based on known causation from thermodynamics and radiative physics, both firmly anchored by observation.

And we can observe that the CO2 in the atmosphere is behaving as expected – there is an increasing “notch” in the outgoing energy spectrum at the CO2 absorption re-radiation wavebands.

34. Churm Rincewind

@ Jack C (49): As it seems that the environmental damage caused by laptops and smartphones has now exceeded the impact of air travel, we’re now in the fortunate situation that anyone concerned about global warming can take immediate and positive action simply by abandoning both technologies, rather than by fretting about Heathrow.

35. Derek Hattons Tailor

@28/29. I don’t know the stats but it is curious that projections for travel by air, road and rail are increasing, even as communication becomes easier and cheaper. Some of this must be down to absolute population growth, and some of it to BRIC economic development, nonetheless technology appears to be increasing “the need” for travel rather than reducing it – as was widely forecast 10-15 years ago. Possibly a generational issue with the older workforce, who tend to be in management positions, still attached to commuting and F2F contact ? Maybe it will take until Gen Y get into their 40s before we see a decline ?

36. So Much For Subtlety

30. Robin Levett

Stefan–Boltzmann – google for it and learn.

You have failed to understand what I said. Great. Want to try again?

I genuinely don’t mean to be snarky, but if you don’t even understand thermodynamics to this level, it’s difficult to see how you can have an informed view on the topic. It is basic to the science.

I think you do but that is not the point. I do not not understand the thermodynamics. You have not bothered to grasp what I was objecting to.

Robin Levett

But the quarrel was with your claim that the arguments for AGW are based on “correlation”. They are not. They are based on known causation from thermodynamics and radiative physics, both firmly anchored by observation.

Umm, no. There is a known link between CO2 and absorbtion of CO2 – in the lab. There is no known causation for what we are seeing. We do not know if the warming we have seen is man-made. We do not know if it is CO2 doing. We cannot even be entirely sure it is happening.

So he was right. It is merely a correlation.

And we can observe that the CO2 in the atmosphere is behaving as expected – there is an increasing “notch” in the outgoing energy spectrum at the CO2 absorption re-radiation wavebands.

And yet the world has not warmed for the last 15 years. We cannot observe this and if we did, it would not matter much. Given that we have no idea what was happening 100 years ago.

37. So Much For Subtlety

27. Andy C

Your understanding of what is happening here is incomplete.

Given everything you have said is a rephrase of what I said, I find that an amusing objection.

So, to maintain the equilibrium, Earth must maintain a temperature that sees it radiate away as much energy as it receives.

The Earth has no agency. It does not need to do anything. It does not care if it maintains an equilibrium. You have got this backwards – if the Earth is to maintain any sort of equilibrium, it must radiate away as much as it gets. Which it does. And it would continue to do so no matter how much energy hit it – as long as it was stable. It would just heat up.

Initially, Earth remains at its pre-atmospheric temperature, but now greenhouse gases are absorbing some of the photons that are emitted by the surface, and therefore this radiation does not make it back to space and the energy in exceeds the energy out once again.

Which is precisely what I said. It is loitering longer in the atmosphere.

Earth’s temperature increases once more, so the radiation emitted from the surface increases, until it once again balances the incoming radiation.

You seriously think the amount of incoming radiation has increased?

Dissident

It may interest you to know that when the Greenland ice sheet melts, sea levels around the UK will drop. Sounds counter intuitive doesn’t it?

Oh this is going to be good.

It is because there is about 15 quintillion tonnes of ice there

What is a quintillion? Is that a 1 with 18 zeros after it? Because the Greenland ice cap has about 2.8 million square kilometres of ice. Which I would guess was closer to 2.8 followed by 15 zeros tons.

Around Greenland itself, the sea level will drop by as much as 100 metres, around the UK by about 2-3. The flip side would be South America and Antarctica seeing a rise of nearly 10 metres, as the water redistributes around the globe due to the change in the gravitational gradient.

Wow. Just wow.

38. Robin Levett

@SMFS #35:

There is a known link between CO2 and absorbtion of CO2 – in the lab.

I think you meant “absorption of heat”. And that link holds outside the lab as well.

@Derek Hattons Tailor, 11.43pm September 29

I did state the projections by 2030 regarding air travel. I am in my 40s now, and most people younger than me regularly use ‘new fangled’ stuff like Facebook and Skype lol.

@ Robin Levett, various posts banging against a brick wall

Looks like the attack bot is back. I wonder which sites are on it’s approved list of sources – not that it would ever reveal them. Shall we play the game of figuring them out, and throw them at it, complete with sources. After all science never works with it…

@SMFS

“Given everything you have said is a rephrase of what I said, I find that an amusing objection.”

It’s not even close to rephrasing what you’ve said. You asked a question that showed a fundamental lack of understanding about the subject (a lack of understanding you have actually admitted to in this thread).

“The Earth has no agency. It does not need to do anything…”

I’m fairly confident I never suggested Earth had agency, however it does need to obey the laws of physics. If you change the balance of incoming and outgoing radiation, temperature changes.

“…it would continue to do so no matter how much energy hit it – as long as it was stable. It would just heat up.”

It’s difficult to know how to respond to this. If you hit the Earth with a constant amount of radiation greater than the current amount, it would indeed heat up, until it radiated away enough energy that the incoming and outgoing radiation balance, and a constant temperature is achieved. A system can also heat up if its inputs remain unchanged, but its outputs are altered in such away that outgoing radiation is reduced, by CO2 for example.

“You seriously think the amount of incoming radiation has increased?”

Sigh. Putting to one side the variations in the Sun’s output over time, I’m not claiming the incoming radiation has increased, I’m claiming that *for a given temperature*, increased carbon dioxide reduces the amount of radiation that is emitted to space, this disrupts the equilibrium between incoming and outgoing radiation, and thus the Earth’s temperature must increase, which in turn, causes the outgoing radiation to increase. If the temperature doesn’t increase, incoming energy continues to exceed outgoing energy, where do you think this energy goes?

As you have admitted that you do not understand thermodynamics, do you not think it would be a good idea to go and learn about it? It’s quite important for this topic.

@DHT

Robin already dealt with your attempt to ignore my actual point about correlation, so I won’t address the petty insults further.

“You do not understand, or ignore, the real science and resort to spouting obsurfcating nonsense and irrelevant detail, aka pseudo-science.”

If the balance between incoming and outgoing radiation and its relationship to an object’s temperature is an obfuscatory and irrelevant detail, then we must not be discussing global warming, yet that does appear to be the topic here.

“The earths energy has never been “in balance” because it is a dynamic system.”

That the Earth is a dynamic system does not alter the fact that an imbalance between incoming and outgoing radiation leads to changes in temperature, which was the key point of my previous posts.

@ Derek Hattons Tailor, attack bot

Here is the start of rubbing your noses in the denialist pseudoscience and general lemming like fruitloopery you repeatedly display on this subject. May as well give you the same info, again, that I gave ob/collective. Enjoy…

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markhendrickson/2013/09/20/the-palpable-politicization-of-science-by-global-warming-alarmists/

Ironic, as it is the fossil fuel industry via conservative freemarketeering think tanks that politicised it in the first place! Here are links to the first two that disseminated doubt about the science itself. They have been guilty of peddling doubt about other things like the hole in the ozone layer, DDT, acid rain, second hand smoke from cigarettes, and other things.

http://www.marshall.org/
This one was initially set up during the Cold War to promote Ronald Reagan’s dubious Star Wars concept, and after the Cold War ended found itself effectively out of a job. So it whored itself to various corporations (for example Exxon) as a PR smokescreen that wouldn’t be directly linked to them.

And a link to a now defunct think tank that did the same…
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/The_Advancement_of_Sound_Science_Coalition

“As one tobacco company memo noted: “Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the “body of fact” that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” As the 1990s progressed … TASSC began receiving donations from Exxon (among other oil companies) and its “junk science” website began to carry material attacking climate change science.”
—Clive Hamilton, Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change

Dissident @ 30:

I’m not sure what bits of the links you want me to look at, or how they answer the points I made?

I’ve been away for a couple of days so have missed some of the debate, but let me try to catch up and make a few points.

Firstly, you can’t model the Earth as a black body radiator in a vacuum, which is what Robin Levett is getting at.

Essentially, in the simple example he suggests, the more energy input the more the body must radiate away to stay at equilibrium temperature. If it doesn’t the body will no longer be in equilibrium and should.

The problem with the Earth is that it doesn’t reside in a perfect vacuum. The surface of the Earth (which is where we measure temperatures) has the atmosphere above it for a start, and modelling that is not simple. Then you have solar activity, the main driver of energy on the Earths surface. Add in the variability of the Earth’s orbit, it’s own spin and axis of spin and it gets even more complicated.

Now we can go back to the atmoshpere itself. The “greenhouse” people talk about refers back to the Arrheniius equation – and is NOT a great metaphor for the atmoshpere and how it works. Aside form that, C02 is a pretty poor greenhouse gas, with H2O much better, as well as being in the atmosphere at higher concentrations.

C02 is used in models for a variety of reasons though. It’s mostly man made, it is easy to measure in the atmosphere, it’s concentrations only change slowly and it is fairly uniformally distributed. It’s easy to put into computer models and graph it on your x-axis vs temperatures.

Water is unevenly distributed and the concentrations are changing dramatically all the time. It’s near enough impossible to put into computer models.

Add in the fact that selling water as a dangerous greenhouse gas is politically hard to do and you end up with the fact that the focus tends to be on C02 rather than other “greenhouse” gasses.

As someone says in a post above, there is an observed correlation between C02 levels and temperature. This might be true, BUT correlation does not mean causality, which is much more important in scientific (and AGW terms). When the models can’t predict what is going to happen (and indeed show a systematic error), primarily because they are too simple to model the complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere, let alone that those interations are very poorly understood, should we really be jumping to conclusions?

@ Tyler, 9.29am October 1

You do think you have points. Let’s look at them in detail…

“Firstly, you can’t model the Earth as a black body radiator in a vacuum, which is what Robin Levett is getting at.

Essentially, in the simple example he suggests, the more energy input the more the body must radiate away to stay at equilibrium temperature. If it doesn’t the body will no longer be in equilibrium and should.”

Where do you think the IR radiation from the planet is measured? Here is a hint. Earth observation satellites, which are far above the atmosphere (barring the odd stray atom in the Mesosphere). From that vantage, you can treat the earth and atmosphere as one object, and that is where we are measuring the discrepancy between incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal radiation. Does that help? Would you want an explanation for the word ‘discrepancy’ at all (sorry, cant help that, the attack bot and collective/ob adversely affect my interpretation of other more serious commentators)

“Aside form that, C02 is a pretty poor greenhouse gas, with H2O much better, as well as being in the atmosphere at higher concentrations.”

H2O is indeed a more powerful greenhouse gas, yet it is also a feedback. That is because it easily changes phase from solid to liquid to gas in the temperature range available on this planet. If the average temperature of the planet increased to say 100ºC, H2O would then become a forcing, as at that temperature it will be more likely to stay a gas (basically the oceans start to boil) and its own ability to trap thermal radiation would then increase the temperature still further, with little or no precipitation possible. That is why CO2 is considered a forcing, as it is frankly impossible for it to be anything other than a gas in the temperature range available on this planet. On Mars, which is cold enough for CO2 to be frozen on the ground in polar regions, it is a feedback, in the same way that H2O is on the earth. (On that planet CH4 should be considered the forcing mechanism for global warming, which we may use to our advantage one day)

“Water is unevenly distributed and the concentrations are changing dramatically all the time. It’s near enough impossible to put into computer models.

As someone says in a post above, there is an observed correlation between C02 levels and temperature. This might be true, BUT correlation does not mean causality, which is much more important in scientific (and AGW terms). When the models can’t predict what is going to happen (and indeed show a systematic error), primarily because they are too simple to model the complexities of the Earth’s atmosphere, let alone that those interations are very poorly understood, should we really be jumping to conclusions?”

Please learn the difference between forcing and feedback…
They run and rerun those models thousands of times, and then average the results. That in turn smooths out any random fluctuations (say a super el niño in 1996 instead of 1998, or a string of them in the noughties, or a whole smorgasbord of la niñas, you do get the idea there) That technique is called stastistical analysis. You should be aware of what that is, and unlike in places like high finance, the basic parameters are known in the case of CO2 and its effects, in fact they are grounded in the laws of physics. When are you going to use your self proclaimed BSc to repeal physics? You must be itching to knock the second law of thermodynamics off its pedestal, to say nothing of more esoteric principles like quantum mechanics (oops, to do so, you will have to prove every single transistor in your computer, let alone mine do not work)

Try genuinely using your BSc for something other than buying at £100 and selling at £110 in those glittering skyscrapers, and also research the origins of climate change denial. It wasn’t from scientists who actually study it, it was from corporations that saw scientific evidence that we have made a mistake in our fuel source as a threat to both their profit margins, and stranglehold over our economy. Denial is really part of a propaganda war against you and everyone you know, to keep that economic elite the top dog on the planet.

46. PottyTraining

@ post 30

yes dissident

The rich industrial owners/shareholders profitting in 19/20 century polluting all our rivers and streams/brown sites with lead, cadmium etc didn’t pay one cent towards the cleanup they ‘socialised’ onto the ever suffering UK taxpayer using their useful idiot goons – the GREENS!

It isn’t the first time elites have ripped us all off either – Banks + CITY subsidies for one.

47. Robin Levett

@Tyler #44:

Firstly, you can’t model the Earth as a black body radiator in a vacuum, which is what Robin Levett is getting at.

I’m sorry? To a first approximation, the Earth (including its atmosphere)is a black body radiator in a vacuum.

Essentially, in the simple example he suggests, the more energy input the more the body must radiate away to stay at equilibrium temperature. If it doesn’t the body will no longer be in equilibrium and should.

Increase in temperature? Absolutely. And why won;t the Earth do so?

The problem with the Earth is that it doesn’t reside in a perfect vacuum.

Ahem; 5 particles per cc is a pretty hard vacuum.

The surface of the Earth (which is where we measure temperatures)

One of the places where we measure temperatures – we also measure temperatures at various levels in the atmosphere. The surface is where we live, of course, so itt is rather improtant for us…

has the atmosphere above it for a start, and modelling that is not simple.</blockquote

Which is why models are constantly being refined as we improve our understanding of the processes at work.

Then you have solar activity, the main driver of energy on the Earths surface.

Effectively the only provider of energy to the Earth’s surface. And we can measure TSI pretty accurately.

Add in the variability of the Earth’s orbit, it’s own spin and axis of spin and it gets even more complicated.

On decadal timescales – no. Over centuries and millennia, yes – and orbital forcing is important for explanation of Ice Ages.

Yes science is hard – that’s why we employ people called scientists to study the subject, rather than tobacco salesmen or journalism diploma-holders.

Now we can go back to the atmoshpere itself. The “greenhouse” people talk about refers back to the Arrheniius equation – and is NOT a great metaphor for the atmoshpere and how it works.

Agreed, but this is an irrelevance. We know how the GHE works – absorption and omnidirectiomnal re-radiation. Wd could call it the pink unicorn effect if we liked, and it wouldn’t affect the science one bit.

Aside form that, C02 is a pretty poor greenhouse gas, with H2O much better, as well as being in the atmosphere at higher concentrations.

As Dissident points out, you must distinguish between feedback and forcing. In the concentrations found in the atmosphere, water vapour is indeed a more effective GHG than CO2; but per kg it is less effective.

More importantly, if you put a kg of water vapour into the atmosphere today, it’ll have gone when you look for it next week; it maintains an equilibrium concentration dependent upon atmospeheric temepratures. This means that man cannot drive the water vapour concentration higher by emitting it – only by increasing air temperatures. Pumping water vapour into the atmosphere simply increases precipitation downwind of the emission site.

But we’ve gone through all of this, and you have an MSc in the course of which you should have learned this…

C02 is used in models for a variety of reasons though. It’s mostly man made, it is easy to measure in the atmosphere, it’s concentrations only change slowly and it is fairly uniformally distributed. It’s easy to put into computer models and graph it on your x-axis vs temperatures.

And this is just wrong. The issue for investigation is the effect of anthropogenic increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. It’s not “used in models” because it’s easy – its effects, with other anthrogenic GHGs, are models because we want to find out what effect they have.

Ultimately, the Earth (with its atmosphere) is a system which receives energy from the Sun. The radiation that isn’t reflected away is pretty much all received at the surface. The surface has only one means of dissipating that energy to space – radiation. CO2 and other GHGs slow that process down. We know from basic thermodynamics that that will have the effect of increasing the temperature of the radiating surface until outgoing radiation is in equilibrium with incoming radiation. We also know that in pre-industrial times the GHE maintained the surface temeprature at c30C above what it would be without GHGs; so unless there is something ideal about pre-industrial temperatures such that the overall forcing (with feedbacks) sudddenly changes sign, the obvious efefct of increasing GHGs is to increase the Earth’s surface temperature. If we don’t know, then we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that everything changes at c14C.

48. Robin Levett

Sorry – let’s try that second half again:

Then you have solar activity, the main driver of energy on the Earths surface.

Effectively the only provider of energy to the Earth’s surface. And we can measure TSI pretty accurately.

Add in the variability of the Earth’s orbit, it’s own spin and axis of spin and it gets even more complicated.

On decadal timescales – no. Over centuries and millennia, yes – and orbital forcing is important for explanation of Ice Ages.

Yes science is hard – that’s why we employ people called scientists to study the subject, rather than tobacco salesmen or journalism diploma-holders.

Now we can go back to the atmoshpere itself. The “greenhouse” people talk about refers back to the Arrheniius equation – and is NOT a great metaphor for the atmoshpere and how it works.

Agreed, but this is an irrelevance. We know how the GHE works – absorption and omnidirectional re-radiation. We could call it the pink unicorn effect if we liked, and it wouldn’t affect the science one bit.

Aside form that, C02 is a pretty poor greenhouse gas, with H2O much better, as well as being in the atmosphere at higher concentrations.

As Dissident points out, you must distinguish between feedback and forcing. In the concentrations found in the atmosphere, water vapour is indeed a more effective GHG than CO2; but per kg it is less effective.

More importantly, if you put a kg of water vapour into the atmosphere today, it’ll have gone when you look for it next week; it maintains an equilibrium concentration dependent upon atmospheric temepratures. This means that man cannot drive the water vapour concentration higher by emitting it – only by increasing air temperatures. Pumping water vapour into the atmosphere simply increases precipitation downwind of the emission site.

But we’ve gone through all of this, and you have an MSc in the course of which you should have learned this…

C02 is used in models for a variety of reasons though. It’s mostly man made, it is easy to measure in the atmosphere, it’s concentrations only change slowly and it is fairly uniformally distributed. It’s easy to put into computer models and graph it on your x-axis vs temperatures.

And this is just wrong. The issue for investigation is the effect of anthropogenic increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. It’s not “used in models” because it’s easy – its effects, with other anthrogenic GHGs, are modelled because we want to find out what effect they have.

Ultimately, the Earth (with its atmosphere) is a system which receives energy from the Sun. The radiation that isn’t reflected away is pretty much all received at the surface. The surface has only one means of dissipating that energy to space – radiation. CO2 and other GHGs slow that process down. We know from basic thermodynamics that that will have the effect of increasing the temperature of the radiating surface until outgoing radiation is in equilibrium with incoming radiation. We also know that in pre-industrial times the GHE maintained the surface temeprature at c30C above what it would be without GHGs; so unless there is something ideal about pre-industrial temperatures such that the overall forcing (with feedbacks) suddenly changes sign, the obvious efefct of increasing GHGs is to increase the Earth’s surface temperature. If we don’t know, then we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that everything changes at c14C.

@ Dissident

“From that vantage, you can treat the earth and atmosphere as one object”

In a very simplified form yes, but only the upper atmosphere. NOT the Earth’s surface temperature.

“H2O is indeed a more powerful greenhouse gas, yet it is also a feedback”

H2O has both forcing AND feedback effects.

“They run and rerun those models thousands of times, and then average the results. That in turn smooths out any random fluctuations (say a super el niño in 1996 instead of 1998, or a string of them in the noughties, or a whole smorgasbord of la niñas, you do get the idea there) That technique is called stastistical analysis. You should be aware of what that is, and unlike in places like high finance, the basic parameters are known in the case of CO2 and its effects, in fact they are grounded in the laws of physics.”

The physics you refer to is the Arrhenius equation. It is NOT a good form to use for the atmosphere.

You talk about statistical analysis. If there was no fundamental error with the models you would expect a distribution around the mean observable temperature change. In practice we do not see this, and the models always over-estimate the temperature increases. The conclusion is that there is something wrong with the models – as statistically speaking if they were correct you wouldn’t see all the results on one side of the observable bell curve.

“Try genuinely using your BSc for something other than buying at £100 and selling at £110 in those glittering skyscrapers, and also research the origins of climate change denial. It wasn’t from scientists who actually study it, it was from corporations that saw scientific evidence that we have made a mistake in our fuel source as a threat to both their profit margins”

It’s a masters, not a BSc. Getting funding for science these days is like pulling teeth – unless you work in climate science. Corporations against AGW? Now you are just in the realms of conspiracy theory. Many of the big oil companies are now making huge profits from renewables/clean carbon. Let alone governments charging massive taxes.

@ Robin Levett

“To a first approximation, the Earth (including its atmosphere)is a black body radiator in a vacuum.”

First approximation being the operative here.

“Increase in temperature? Absolutely. And why won;t the Earth do so?”

According to that very smae black body model the Earth would only change in temperature if the energy intensity from the Sun changed…..which assuming you believe in AGW you must see as incorrect – telling us simply why we can’t model the Earth as a simple black body radiator.

“More importantly, if you put a kg of water vapour into the atmosphere today, it’ll have gone when you look for it next week; it maintains an equilibrium concentration dependent upon atmospheric temepratures”

Not true. Water vapour concentrations change all the time, as do their distributions. Which is why water vapour is so incredibly hard to model.

“Ultimately, the Earth (with its atmosphere) is a system which receives energy from the Sun.”

True

“The radiation that isn’t reflected away is pretty much all received at the surface.”

Mostly true.

“The surface has only one means of dissipating that energy to space – radiation. CO2 and other GHGs slow that process down”

Bullsh*t. If all the energy was radiated away, where would the energy come from for, you know, things like life? Huge amounts of energy are converted and stored. Not a simple system.

“And this is just wrong. The issue for investigation is the effect of anthropogenic increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. It’s not “used in models” because it’s easy”

Look at the history of AGW climate science models. Early models focused on ozone and CFCs (when did you last hear about the hole in the ozone layer….). Only later did they move to other greenhouse gasses – and of those gasses C02 and methane are the main man-made ones. They are also the only ones readily accessible to computer modelling. Íf you read through the literature surrounding the models themselves, you will notice how little attention is paid to water vapour, and the reasons. it is near enough impossible to model and is not seen as a dangerous greenhouse gas.

@ Tyler

Try an experiment, with your self proclaimed B(sorry M)Sc

1. Get a glass from your cupboard
2. Pour some water into it
3. Add an ice cube or 2
4. Place a thermometer in the water, measure temperature
5. Hold glass of water in your hand, record temperature at 1 minute intervals
6. Repeat until all the ice is melted
7. Once ice has melted, repeat measurement until you’re bored

What graph will you plot?

We are still on a planet with a lot of ice. Where is the extra heat going?

Another experiment for you.

1. Fill your kettle to the brim
2. Switch kettle on
4. Measure how much power you use
5. Measure temperature in said kettle as above (safely, wouldn’t want those delicate pinkies to get pinker)

What graph will you plot?

We are on a planet that’s covered in rather a lot of water. Where is the heat going?

Tyler,

“Huge amounts of energy are converted and stored.”

Which are then used in respiration, leading to that energy being radiated away.

How many of these people demanding action on climate change and decarbonising the power supply ALSO complain about the cost of electricity these days?

@ Andy C/Dissident

A lot of energy from the sun is stored and converted. The amount directly radiated away is not the same as the amount recieved. This does NOT break any laws of thermodynamics.

This stands to reason. If the amount of energy recieved was equal to the amount radiated, temperatures wouldn’t be changing on the Earth, and AGW would be a moot point. Likewise, life itself would become pretty difficult, given it requires the capture and conversion of energy. As we well know, there is no fixed amount of life on Earth. Finally, when things do die, a lot of the energy those organisms captured in life is stored, in fossilised form, as fossil fuels. Which we then dig up and burn – for energy.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Some of the energy from the sun the Earth recieves does get re-radiated. But NOT all – because it’s a complex system. Yet another reason simple black body or greenhouse examples are so wholly inadequate to describe the Earth and it’s atmosphere.

Tyler,

Based on my previous posts I would hope it is clear that I am aware of the link between temperature changes and radiation, but the tiny proportion of solar radiation that is used by life is ultimately, overwhelmingly radiated away at some level of the food chain, whether these are primary, secondary, or tertiary consumers.

Very little of the energy stored within organisms that die is preserved in the form of fossils, it is mostly decomposed, and thus radiated away in that process. The conditions required to deviate from this process are rare today, hence why our fossil fuels can be traced to the Carboniferous period, and fossilised remains are extremely rare compared with the number of organisms that might otherwise have produced them.

Unless you can demonstrate a new era of large scale fossilisation sequestering energy from the Sun on a scale that explains the reduction in energy being radiated away relative to the incoming amount, as opposed to the expected and observed impact of greenhouse gases, then Robin’s point remains perfectly reasonable.

@ Tyler, 8.16am October 4

The total biomass of the planet is 560bn tonnes. Each year net primary production is about 100bn tonnes, almost entirely from the decomposed remnants of last growing season’s life. The actual figures are available here:
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biomass_(ecology)

The total sequestered each year through various fossilisation processes is approximately a millionth of total biomass, which works out to a total amount of 560,000 tonnes. Let’s be generous to you, a cool million or 2. So a few hundred thousand to a million or 2 tonnes fossilised each year would make such a huge discrepancy between insolation and subsequent re radiation, yet us pumping about a Trillion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere from that 1 in a million fossilisation event over hundreds of millions of years has no effect whatsoever?

Unless, like Andy C asks, you are privy to the earth shattering news that fossilisation rates have skyrocketed. Where? Tell us. Are they the expanding dead zones in the oceans, like in the Gulf of Mexico, just offshore from the Mississippi delta? Something incidentally that we are guilty of, through our bad management of the land…

BTW, did you do those GCSE level physics experiments, or are they too difficult for someone whose brain has atrophied from buying at £100 and selling at £110,?

56. Robin Levett

@Tyler #53:

Real life intervened, but I’ve got time for a quick one:

A lot of energy from the sun is stored and converted. The amount directly radiated away is not the same as the amount recieved

OK, stack the numbers up for us. This page:

http://www.fao.org/docrep/w7241e/w7241e06.htm#TopOfPage

suggests that total biomass use of energy is less than one-twentieth of one per cent of solar energy reaching the surface.

TSI (at the surface) is approximately 120W/sqm; this page:

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/aggi.html

has GHG radiative forcing at 2.873 W/sqm (Figure 2).

So GHGs have effects of the order of 2.5% of surface TSI; total biomass effect is at a level of .05% of surface TSI – any realistic effects of changes in biomass energy absorption are going to be more than two orders of magnitude smaller than GHG effects. Putting it another way, adding 10% to biomass energy absorption would reduce a predicted GHG-caused temperature increase of 1K to 0.995K. Or are my ballpark figures wrong?

So


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