Climate Change

The Global Warming

Virtually all scientists agree that the Earth has warmed a small amount since the year 1000 or, if you choose, since 1850, when instrumented temperature records became reasonably accurate and distributed in key areas of the world. An increasing number believe that any warming is so small it is indistinguishable from the noise in the environmenal data sets, and that the data have not been properly adjusted for such things as urban heat island effects (are the city temps warmer than the suburbs where you live? Has the city grown since 1850? Have the runways increased near the temp gage at your airport since 1920?), and instrument calibration. This is particularly true of the global data set, even though "urbanization has caused regional increases in temperature that exceed those measured on a global scale, leading to urban heat islands as much as 12°C hotter than their surroundings". Most scientists agree that warming is better than cooling and many believe CO2 provides important enhancements for forests and agriculture, even while also believing we should not be fouling our nest.

Our site makes every effort to present the true science of climate change. When the news broke of the Arctic ice being at its 30 year low in 2007, the same source (U. of Illinois) reported the Antarctic at its record high, but this was not reported in the media. To show the imbalance, as one reads in the popular press, we have created a companion site that presents the evidence for global cooling, just as most newspapers and alarmists present only the science that supports warming. There are many reasons to be cautious about accepting CO2 as the causative agent if there really is warming. This is highlighted by 2 papers published in March 2008. Scafetta and West showed that up to 69% of observed warming is from the sun and Ramanathan and Carmichael show that soot has 60% of the warming power of CO2. They claim both factors are underappreciated by IPCC. Many scientists believe the temperature changes are more dependent on the sun than CO2, similar to the relationship in your home with your furnace. The soot may well explain much of the Arctic melting, as it has recently for Asian glaciers.

It is generally accepted that the Earth has been much warmer than today, for example, in the time of the dinosaurs (the mid-cretaceous period) when the CO2 was 2 to 4 times greater than today (NOAA). More recently, in the prior period between ice ages, just 125,000 years ago, the Earth also was much warmer than today and the sea level much higher - by about 13 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters) (IPCC). The primary driver of the past climate shifts is believed to be orbital mechanics and solar variability, with some contribution from Earth geophysical processes, such as volcanic eruptions. It is also known that mankind's contribution to CO2 is just a small percent (3%) of the total amount and that the total is very small - there is 23.6 times more argon (0.00934) in the atmosphere than CO2 (0.00040135. The Earth's ability to absorb CO2 has apparently been underestimated and the climate models need revision per the 31 December 2009 publication of work by Wolfgang Knorr that shows "No Rise of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Fraction in Past 160 Years" (a seminal study). Lastly, we know that the Earth's temperature and the level of CO2 rise and fall roughly together, but it is not clear (not proven) whether this is cause and effect by either variable. In a first attempt (Hadley-chart) to use a CO2 - based model to predict temperatures, the results are not impressive at all and are exactly opposite observations

The cause of the temperature rise, and therefore the future course, is settled only within the consensus group of scientists. This is based on work of computer modelers, believing their increasingly complex models show the cause is due to man's activities and that there will be increasing temperatures according to how much additional greenhouse gases are emitted. There are many other scientists who are non-modelers, many with backgrounds as atmospheric physicists, climatologists, engineers, meteorologists, and paleo-climatologists, who do not believe the primary cause is mankind, although this could be part of it. These scientists and the people who follow them are often called climate change skeptics. Most of these scientists believe that the sun is at the root of the warming (if any), but that other factors are also at work. To help separate fact from fiction, an explanation of these thoughts is included here, along with links to these materials.

Global Warming?: Time for a Reality Check?

In the prior inter-glacial period about 125,000 years ago, there was no summer ice at the North Pole and the sea level was 15 feet (5m) higher than today. Is this going to happen anyway? Is our temperature just naturally rising and if our own CO2 is helping it along, won't temperature still rise, even when we stop breathing out CO2?

IPCC 2007 reports the prior inter-glacial warmth was driven by orbital mechanics that are not present today. Nevertheless, this prior warmth tells us much about what the true impacts will likely be because nearly all the plant and animal species on Earth now were present then also

Resource alarmists believe we will soon run out of fossil fuels. As soon as this happens, it seems, prices will rise and the CO2 problem will simply go away as plants clear out the CO2, that seems to be getting ahead of their ability to remove it. The GCMs (Global Circulation (or Climate) Models) knew of magnificent petroleum reserves hidden from the prophets of doom, even before fracking came along to delay "Peak Oil". The projection to the end of the century ranges from sharp reductions to zero output of oil and gas. The reserves of coal are much greater and production will peak later. For most coal producing countries, coal output is in steady decline. Shortages will drive prices making recovery of presently marginal sources and types of fossil fuels feasible. But, it is all a matter of time before CO2 production from all fossil sources declines. The upheaval to society will likely surpass even the most extreme visions of global warming impacts. In March 2008, the price of coal had risen 50% over sixmonths, and the upheavel was documented by the Washington Post. In June 2008, BP released its well respected Review of World Energy. This report says "The world has ample resources, with more than 40 years of proven oil reserves, 60 years of natural gas and 130 years of coal." In the subsequent years, we have developed better ways to find and extract fossil fuels and prices have fallen, causing great hardship to producing companies and nations.

The IPCC 2007 Climate Forecast for this Century:

  • CO2 (the most important gas) has risen from 280 ppm to 379 since pre-industrial times and its growth seems to be accelerating. Whether it does or not is the basis for 7 assumptions about future temperatures
  • Temperature increase. For the next 2 decades, 0.2 deg. C (0.4 F) temperature rise per decade, slightly higher later in most models. The models are all different and respond differently to different assumptions. For the end of this century, IPCC provides 7 best estimates (for 7 assumptions) ranging from 0.6 - 4.0 C (1.1-7.2 F). Warming is likely to lie in the range 2-4.5 deg. C (3.6-8.1 F), with a most likely value of about 3 deg. C (5.4 F). Since the 1800s the temperature has risen 0.76 deg.C (1.4 F). The warming is to be greater on land, in high northern latitudes.
  • Sea level rise.For 6 sets of assumptions, the mid-points are about 0.3 meters ( 1 ft.) Since 1850 sea level has risen about 200 mm (9 in.), a little less than 2 mm/yr. More recently the rate appears to be 3.1 mm/yr, now measured by altimetry satellites. (However, we learned on 22 June 2007 that the data were manipulated to achieve this!!). A good explanation is by the late John Daly, whose passing was hailed by the IPCC ClimateGate scientists. In a 2009-published study, the authors used GPS measurement to correct for local vertical movement of the Earth at key tide gages, finding a "global rate of geocentric sea level rise of 1.61 ± 0.19mm/yr over the past century" and with no acceleration.
  • Other attributes.Ocean acidity should rise with reduced ph units of 0.14 to 0.35; hurricanes become more intense, perhaps less numerous; heat waves and heavy precipitation more frequent; less sea ice and snow cover; higher westerly winds in mid-latitudes; more precipitation in high latitudes, less in sub-tropics inland areas.

Impact Assessments Require Trust in the Climate Forecast

My specialty is in impacts assessment (oceans, coasts, fisheries, polar regions), not the science of climate change. However, to determine impacts correctly, one must understand the nature of change and its likelihood to continue. It is necessary to have trust in what the climate scientists tell you is going to happen in the future. In the IPCC structure, the science has been led by the UK and US scientists, and they have used modeling as their primary tool and with CO2 as the primary driver of temperature with some paleoclimate analysis coming later. The Impact Assessments have been led by the Russians, who have had an intense distrust of modeling. They viewed paleoclimatology as the most valid tool: if you want to know what will happen when CO2 rises or the temperature changes, they say to look at the history of the earth. As an American, working with the Russian teams, I was often caught in the middle of both camps. I learned to listen to both views, and continue to do so. In particular, we learned to distrust any science literature or impacts assessment that did not consider all data available, whether modeling, the instrumented record back into the 1800s and/or the paleo and historical temperature reconstructions. If the data are truncated, there is likely an agenda. Many of us have learned, either formally, or informally, how to detect misrepresentation by statistical treatments and graphics.

The probability of warming may be greater, but cooling's mass starvation begs us to plan for both.

How To Tell If an Impact Assessment Is Biased

When reviewing impact assessments, look for bias. Often the authors think only of negative changes. This is not necessarily because of personal agendas (such as to assist animals, clean the air, or reduce the birth rate), but is primarily due to human nature. To guard against having a biased report, one should look for balance. Does the material articulate that things will be different and that there are pluses and minuses? There may well be more of one than another. Sometimes balance is reflected in the amount of text, or graphics made to illustrate impacts and often it is reflected in the number of negative versus positive impacts, the latter often left out completely at the first draft stage. If missing, they tend to be only partially treated thereafter as the authors slowly yield to reviewer comments. Examples of balance:

  • Discussions of increased summer heat waves and deaths should also include the reductions of winter cold waves and hypothermia deaths. Far more people die of cold.
  • Increased costs of home air conditioning need to be discussed in the same context as reduced heating costs
  • Increased mismatches between food availability in ecosystems need to also include reduced energy demands needed to maintain body temperature, such as for marine mammals and the fact that plants and cold-blooded animals usually grow faster when warmer rather than colder. Thus the food of most fish and mammals grows faster when warmer.
  • Discussions of coral reef bleaching need to include the expansion of coral reef habitats.
  • Discussions of agriculture and forestry problems such as regional droughts and changing types of plants must include the expansion of production areas, general increased precipitation, and CO2 fertilization.
  • Discussions of poison ivy becoming more prolific because of wetter environments, warmer temperatures, and CO2 fertilization, should similarly treat agricultural crops and forests.
  • Discussions of polar bear food contraints must include the impact on the seals and other items they kill.

The IPCC Projections do not Comport with Reality

  • CO2 has usually been associated with temperature rise throughout the history of the Earth. It is indeed a greenhouse gas but it operates on a logarithmic function. The Earth's natural processes also contribute, and remove, copious amounts of CO2. Since plants first appeared on the Earth, they have converted nearly all available CO2 to oxygen, fossil fuels, and other longterm removals from the atmosphere. Today 4/100 of 1% (400 ppm) of our atmosphere is CO2. This pales in comparison with other periods in Earth's history. Common IPCC scenarios rely on an increasing supply of fossil fuels, yet we know that this is not possible and that production will peak at some point while prices will again rise. While improved detection and extraction (e.g., fracking) technologies keep pushing back the peak year, it is unrealistic to think CO2 emissions will rise for the duration of this century. Once supplies again decline and demand increases, they will combine to get more coal out of the ground, quicker, but it cannot continue forever. The Earth's ability to absorb CO2 has apparently been underestimated and the climate models need revision per the 31 December 2009 validation of work by Wolfgang Knorr that shows "No Rise of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Fraction in Past 160 Years".
  • The projected temperature rise is unrealistic, given that the USA and global temperatures have risen by less than 1 deg. C in 130 years (revised, NOAA), (or 150 years using the full instrumented data set) during the height of industrial expansion. Even if all this rise is correct, and is attributable to human causes, it is a trivial amount in the natural variation of the Earth, and to suggest the rise would accelerate 5 fold (IPCC best estimate) in this century is incredible. Even after the release of the new data set and procedures by NOAA, which addressed some of the urban heat island issues and dropped the warming 44% (below IPCC 2007), significant other urban heat island issues still remain. There are also issues of calibration as measurement protocols have changed, issues about the design and placement of the temperature stations, and even the strongly held view by many skeptics that this is a natural rise as the Earth recovers from the Little Ice Age (circa 1500-1900).
  • Sea level rise may have increased recently, but other studies have consistently shown no increase. Even if there is an increase, it is in the order of 1 mm per year on top of the 1-2 mm per year that has been happening for the last century, this additional amount is 4 inches (10 cm) over the century. This is not trivial if you are in a low-lying region wrestling with land subsidence, but it is barely more than what would be coming anyway. The late John Daly, whose passing was hailed by the IPCC ClimateGate scientists, shows that the IPCC forecast is the result of modeling errors rather than from actual observations and that local land movement is more important than the relatively low rate of actual sea-level rise. In a 2009- study using GPS measurement to correct for local vertical movement of the Earth a "global rate of geocentric sea level rise of 1.61 ± 0.19mm/yr over the past century" was reported. Their study shows no acceleration and no changes in rate during warm or cold periods of the last 110 years. It is virtually a straight-line rate of increase, independent of Earth's temperature.
  • The other forecasts, such as for hurricanes, rainfall, and snow cover, are not significantly different than under natural variability, and will advance more slowly than the decadal oscillations. In particular, if ocean acidity were a problem for shell formation, it would have shown up already in areas where there are naturally high levels of CO2. It has not. Further, the lead hurricane expert for IPCC, Chris Landsea, resigned over the misrepresentation of data by IPCC .

The Present and Projected Increases are Not Huge

Oceans and coastal zones, the things I know best, have been far warmer and colder than is projected in the present scenarios of climate change. Marine life has been in the oceans nearly since when they were formed. During the millennia they endured and responded to CO2 levels well beyond anything projected. Prior temperature changes put tropical plants and coral reefs near the poles or had much of our land covered by ice more than a mile thick. The memory of these events is built into the genetic plasticity of the species on this planet. IPCC forecasts are for warming to occur faster than evolution is considered to occur, so impacts will be determined by this plasticity and the resiliency of affected organisms to find suitable habitats. Species mixes and distributions will change, just as they always have. Some species will be so disadvantaged they will go extinct and ecological niches will develop that offer opportunities for new species to arise.

The chart is of the Paleo Record. Northern Hemisphere Annual Temperatures from Low- and High-Resolution Proxy Data over the last 2000 Years. The red signifies only the use of the instrumented record, since about 1860.(From NOAA/NCDC).

What Actions Should We Take to Respond to Climate Change?

We should respond prudently to the threats from climate change. These actions should include things that make sense in their own right and which will be important whether the Earth warms or cools in the near future. In the distant future it is a certainty that the Earth will warm beyond what we have today and that the next ice age is waiting in the wings, but not for another 30,000 years or so, according to our present knowledge of solar variability and orbital mechanics (IPCC 2007). If we are concerned about global warming, a guiding principle is to do things that yield a cost savings or are neutral. Overall, we should aim to reduce our cost of goods sold and, at the consumer level, our living expenses, while at the same time "cleaning up our act". What should we do now? See Ways to Improve Energy Efficiency and Energy Sources. (We also have a mixture of half serious and tongue-in-cheek ideas to halt climate change.) All of us should lead by example, and as much as possible, within the market place, while keeping our personal freedoms we hold so dear. One way to check? Look at your household energy consumption. It is reasonable to have it drop one percent every two years for as long as you have been in your house, just from household maintenance, appliance replacement and replacing light bulbs with fluorescents or LEDs when they burn out for a review of safety concerns). All lights on timers, for example, should be LEDs or at least fluorescents. Do we adjust the thermostat for when nobody is home? Is our shower just a little too long? Perhaps the biggest example would be in not begetting more children than is socially responsible. See our list of ways to secure energy sources, improve efficiency and alternative energies.

What Actions Should We Not Take to Respond to Climate Change?

We must respond prudently to the threats from climate change. We live in a global economy, much of it with lower production costs than our own in the developed world. Whether we live in the USA, Japan, Australia, New Zealand or the EU, we know our job losses are draining our countries, making it more difficult to support our retirement programs, health benefits, and even our national defense. We must be careful to not further increase the costs of our products and services. So we --

  • Should not commit to actions that put us at a disadvantage, whether it is the Kyoto protocol or some other vehicle. If we increase our taxes on fuels (e.g., a carbon tax) that are inputs to production and services, we will jeopardize US industry. If a taxing regime is implemented it must separate production uses from consumption.
  • Should not forget that the most valuable things we have are our health, our lives, and our family, and place them at risk by driving, or riding in, vehicles that put them at risk in order to save energy or other costs. If there are larger vehicles where you drive, don't get priorities confused.
  • Should not stop breathing even though it would be one of the most immediate steps to slow CO2 emissions.
  • Should not do things without thinking. There are many ideas that may not have merit. For example, buying local vegetables to reduce transportation costs may actually increase energy use if the far off producer is a more efficient, and this is likely, if its costs are lower even after getting its goods to the local market. Another example is in using biofuels that have a high fossil energy input in fertilizer or machinery, or planting trees to reduce CO2, but finding out they also absorb solar radiation more than what they replace.

What Issues Separate the Consensus and Skeptic Scientists?

There are four elements separating consensus and skeptic scientists. Not all elements are disputed by everyone. The elements are: (1) the amount of temperaturechange since 1850; (2) whether the change is in the range of natural variability or is attributable to humans; (3) the amount of warming that greenhouse gases (CO2 and equivalents) will warm the Earth in the future; and whether for the most likely scenarios, there are more losers than winners and if the change is just different. Underlying these elements are several issues:

  • Reliance on Computer Models. The sophistication of computer models has advanced steadily over the past few years, to the point that many scientists believe the models are able to forecast future changes in climate. Other scientists believe that the outputs, while interesting, do not match the reality of what happened in prior periods of the Earth's history when the temperature was higher and the CO2 levels 2 to 20 times higher than today. Most also believe the Earth system is far too complex, with too many unknown drivers and feedbacks, to enable use of models. One example is the El Niño phenomenon, which is not reliably modeled after decades of study. Another is that there are indications that the models are wrong in the drought predictions in the tropics and subtropics. Paleo data shows that deserts were wetter during prior warm periods and a May, 2007 paper in Nature points out that there is a ~6.5% rise in precip per deg C, while the models only use 1-3%, an error of 3X! in results. This explains better the satellite obs of a greener, wetter Earth (NASA). The models cannot be initialized to current conditions and are unable to correctly incorporate the major decadal scale vents such as the NAO and the PDO, that control our climate in the northern hemisphere (Dr. Kevin Trenberth, IPCC Author).
  • Computer models are too coarse. Everyone knows the models should have finer resolution, but there are computational constraints and staffing constraints to develop models at the regional or even local scale. The skeptics argue that this is part of the overstating of impacts. for example. a mountainous area the size of a large country may have an average height that is barely above sea level. The rain-producing mountains that intercept sea-breezes do not exist in the model and the result of the simulation understates future rainfall for the region. There is also a problem in the use of average temperatures in that they do not capture the difference in density and humidity.
  • The models do not seem correct. The warming of the ocean, the warming of the land, the rise of sea level are all coming in below projections, while much more rain is falling, as the time series grows and even as the models are "adjusted" to reflect the observations, casting their basic premises into doubt. On 22 June, 2007 (Dr. Nils-Axel Mörner) we learned that data were manipulated to create an acceleration in sea level rise. Warming should be detected through an acceleration in the rate of rise and that rise should slow the Earth's rotation. Neither has occurred.
  • Attribution of the warming trend to human activities. The consensus scientists believe their models can replicate reasonably enough the contribution of human-caused greenhouse gases and thus they can be used to estimate future warming. The other scientists believe this is not the case. The reasons vary among the scientists, but the most common ones are: CO2, the target gas, pales in its abilities to impact temperature compared to water vapor and solar variability (not just radiation but also magnetic flux (which controls cosmic radiation and cloudiness) and orbital mechanics). Some scientists believe that CO2 is actually a cooling gasand we need to look elsewhere. Additional factors that some skeptics believe are not adequately considered are the natural contributions of CO2 and other gases that dwarf the human component and the impact of cosmic radiation on the formation of clouds. Also, it is not clear to some scientists whether CO2 increases lead to warming or whether warming leads to CO2 increases. To many skeptics, the over valuation of CO2 as a causative agent, particularly in light of it having a logarithmic function that decreases impact with the amount of CO2, is an indication of a policy agenda meant to deter the use of fossil fuels, not understand climate change.
  • This warming may be natural variability. While most scientists believe that the observed warming is real, some believe that it is so slight that we can't be sure that instrument calibration problems and urban heat island impacts have been dealt with adequately. If not, it has not been for lack of effort. The problems are immense. For example, in 1999, Los Angeles moved its data station 4 miles to an area outside the city that is lower in elevation and nearer the coast, with cooler, drier, and less extreme conditions. Even when a location has not moved, the rising temperatures may reflect the growth of a community, or land use changes, around it. Calibration is daunting for calibrating the instruments themselves. An example is relating sea surface temperatures that were derived from a thermometer placed in a bucket of water pulled from the ocean in 1860, with a continuous stream of data taken from a ship's water inlet much deeper in the water in the 1960s, data from drifting and moored buoys transmitted by satellite in the 1980s, and with satellite data from the very top layer of the surface since the 1970s. Perhaps only time will really tell. Many skeptic scientists believe that the trend line turned in 1998 for the present cycle, while many consensus scientists are quick to point out that we are still having temperatures above average, and in turn, the skeptics claim that there is no real way to compute a global average. Lastly, the best data are from the USA. According to NOAA, 2006 was the warmest year in U.S. records, almost the same as 1936. The skeptics say that if only rural sites are used, the temperature actually falls, indicating that in the US, and probably the world, what has been measured is the growth of cities and the heat they absorb and generate; there is no warming.
  • This warming is largely recovery from the Little Ice Age. The natural rate of increase of about 1 deg F (0.5 C) since the LIA (~1500-1900) has not been removed from the IPCC estimations of temperature rise. The CO2 contribution is negligible or non-existent because there is no credible way to compensate for the sharp cooling from 1940 to the 1970s in the face of the rapid growth of CO2, nor the similar (to present) rise from 1920 to 1940 in the absence of rapid CO2 growth. See for example, Is the Earth still recovering from the “Little Ice Age”?: A possible cause of global warming by Syun-Ichi Akasofu (7 May 2007) . Another difficulty with accepting the temperature rise at face value is the evidence that the start of the use of thermometers in about 1850 comes at the same time as the emergence from the coldest period in 8,000 years.
  • The rate of warming is dangerous. Not so, say the skeptics, pointing out that the rate of warming from 1980 to 1998 has been seen before, and for many parts of the Earth such temperature changes are recurrent, such as when the Atlantic and Pacific and ENSO (el Niño) oscillations change state, causing immediate massive changes in ocean environments of fish, corals, and marine mammals.
  • Sensationalist press not counteracted. The fact that Antarctica is warming in the area nearest Chile gets heralded, but the IPCC science documents show that, as a whole, Antarctica is stable. Flooding of coasts and cities, attributed to warming, is not countered by the IPCC, even though its science document shows no discernible acceleration in the rate of rise, a solid indicator of warming and necessary for prior sea level projections. In November 2016, The Cryosphere journal published a peer-reviewed study by Dr. Jonathan Day showing that Antarctic sea ice extent is unchanged from 100 years ago, as recorded by early explorers.
  • Warming Impacts. Many scientists in the consensus group believe that the IPCC estimates of temperature rise are accurate and the impact from these changes will be bad for the Earth, its ecosystems, and its people. Other scientists, even if accepting the IPCC forecasts, believe that the Earth was warmer before and with higher CO2 levels and that these were among the most ecologically productive periods in terms of speciation and biomass. This contrasts sharply with periods of glaciation, the ice ages, that come and go whether humans have any influence or not. A case in point is my testimony which shows the paleo record tells us that corals were very expansive when the Earth was warmer and CO2 much higher, whereas 3 other scientists testified that corals were in grave danger, even now, due to the high temperatures and acidification of the ocean caused by CO2.
  • An Average Wrong Answer. The IPCC reliance on emission scenarios, and then presenting all the outputs of temperature rise and impacts as if they had somewhat equal probability, leads to an average wrong answer and exaggerated impact assessments.
  • Influence of the Sun. Scientists affiliated with the Consensus believe solar influences are not important to the recent warming and that are actually in the wrong direction (See recent paper by Lockwood and Frohlich). Other scientists believe that the analysis is flawed and that the actual mechanisms through which the Sun affects Earth climate were not used in the analysis (for example, Whitehouse). Many solar scientists believe that most of the Earth's temperature variation is explained by the sun's activity and our proximity to it (Scafetta and West).