Thursday, December 10, 2009

Last Full Day in Portland, Maine

It's windy and cold, but the sun is out and at least is isn't raining/snowing/sleeting/hailing/meatballs. I ventured out briefly for some more picture-taking and to visit the house that Longfellow grew up in. It was a contrast to the house I saw Tuesday; much more of a family home rather than an exercise in showing off. Both are fun to wander around in, but for completely different reasons.

I promise that some day I'll find something on the web that catches my eye that has nothing to do with climate. That day isn't today. Sorry. We have a good article on hockey sticks and how they fit into the big picture. Short version: the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the worst predictions being made today and yet we still have polar bears and penguins. The Medieval Warm Period was just one of several temperature peaks in the last 10,000 years, which in turn is a brief warm interlude in the norm, which is COLD. Colder than anything that any New Englander or Michigander has seen in all of recorded history. The author's conclusion is something I've been saying in various ways since the 1970's:
In other words, we’re pretty lucky to be here during this rare, warm period in climate history. But the broader lesson is, climate doesn’t stand still. It doesn’t even stay on the relatively constrained range of the last 10,000 years for more than about 10,000 years at a time.

Does this mean that CO2 isn’t a greenhouse gas? No.

Does it mean that it isn’t warming? No.

Does it mean that we shouldn’t develop clean, efficient technology that gets its energy elsewhere than burning fossil fuels? Of course not. We should do all those things for many reasons — but there’s plenty of time to do them the right way, by developing nanotech. (There’s plenty of money, too, but it’s all going to climate science at the moment. :-) ) And that will be a very good thing to have done if we do fall back into an ice age, believe me.

For climate science it means that the Hockey Team climatologists’ insistence that human-emitted CO2 is the only thing that could account for the recent warming trend is probably poppycock.

Which according to Al Gore makes the author (as well as myself) a holocaust denier, a moon hoaxer and in league with those trying to reanimate Hitler. Science is so much easier when you can simply demonize anyone who disagrees with you. And cut off their funding.

Now another view on why we won't do any of those sensible things:
...the immediate costs of doing something about the issue are so high, and so unendurable, that very few people in positions of influence are willing to stick their necks out, and those who do so can count on being shortened by a head by others who are more than willing to cash in on their folly.

Anyone who doubts this is true need only read Jared Diamond's discussion of Easter Island in Collapse. While there are arguments to be made against Diamond's particular narrative, there can be no doubt that the island's inhabitants suffered a collapse in no small part because of the massive destruction of the natural resources carried out by the very people who depended on those resources for survival.

And I would like to point out that if you do read Greer's complete post, there are statements he makes that I don't entirely agree with. I do believe would could have an industrial society without the use of fossil fuels strictly from a technology/engineering standpoint, but because of the political realities he describes, we won't. But in the end, can't and won't pretty much land you in the same kettle of fish, so it's more of a quibble than a disagreement.

(And it is entirely possible that I have misread and/or misunderstood Mr. Greer and we are, in fact, in agreement. If so, please disregard the previous paragraph. I think that should cover the CYA, as it were. Moving on.)

And to wrap things up, Jerry Pournelle asks what I think are perfectly reasonable questions of anyone on any of the numerous sides of the climate debate:
Please tell me how to determine (1) the temperature of the Earth in 1895 -- what operations do I go through to generate that figure, (2) the same for the year 2000, and (3) exactly how to decide what weights to give the ground temperature at Santa Monica airport, undersea temperatures at various latitudes, stratospheric temperatures, and other measures to generate this single figure of merit.

Does anyone know how this is decided?....

Given that the figures of merit are calculated properly, what was the warmest year of the 1901 - 2000 period? Were any adjustments made to the method of determining the single Earth temperature or were the same operations used for each given year? If the generation of the global temperature was adjusted or refined, how, and why?

These are elementary operations. The formulae can be published in a single book, but I haven't seen that book. The data can't be much larger than a couple of gigabytes. The multiple factor equation can't be that large -- a thousand weighted factors? I presume it is linear, meaning that it's a few seconds calculation, and the program to do it can't be much more than a few hundred lines of FORTRAN. The climate models may be incredibly complex -- more so than the Model of Doom that was so popular in the 1980's -- but an explication of their flow charts and some measure of the sensitivity of the outcome to given input elements can't be that difficult. I have never seen any such thing or even a reference to one, but I may not have spent sufficient time on it. Still, I can't find students who have been told where to find such an explication....

The point here is that we are dealing with decisions that allocate trillions of dollars and have enormous effects on global economies. We do so with what amounts to suppression of actual debate on the science involved. That was the importance of Climategate: that the peer review system itself is being manipulated. That's no surprise, since it has been happening for generations....

To the best of my knowledge things haven't changed a hell of a lot since the mid 1990's, when the consensus was that all the modelers saw warming coming at an increasing rate, and the data gathers said at best "maybe" and many said "we don't see it yet," and a few more courageously said "we don't see it at all."

I'd also like to see a more public debate on just how we determine what is the optimum CO2 level, and why that of 1900 is considered what we would really like to have. CO2 levels are measurable; engineering to achieve those levels can at least be studied for reasonable costs and cost/effectiveness of those measures as opposed to the costs of carbon taxes. No one seems very anxious to do any of those studies.

Again, all very reasonable. One would think answering these sorts of questions would be elementary, but merely asking them makes one an enemy of all human kind in the mold of Pol Pot. This is not science. This is politics. Which is why Greer's analysis is as depressing as it is spot on.

And that's probably enough good cheer and sunshine for one day.

No comments: