Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Climate science in a nut fragment

with 21 comments

This post is offered for the benefit of recent subscribers and as the result of a self-improvement exercise for me: A few months ago, I published a series of posts under the title ‘Climate Science in a Nutshell’, which started here (on 31 Oct 2011). This was itself contained within a slightly longer series of posts regarding my reading of James Hansen’s Storms of my Grandchildren, which started a few days earlier (on 27 Oct 2011). However, I now hope to go one step further; and reduce the former ‘Nutshell’ series of posts into a single item (about one fifth of the total number of words). [If really pressed for time you can even skip to the footnote, below, for a one-paragraph “nut shaving” (i.e. only 104 words)!]

What follows has been derived from my initial attempts to answer some questions about CO2 consistently lagging behind temperature changes in the palaeoclimatic record, as posed by an Engineer, John Kosowski from Illinois, who came to my blog last Thursday. In so doing, therefore, I found myself doing what I have just said I seek to do here. However one prior explanation is required – namely that a climate or radiative “forcing” is any change in energy imbalance (between incoming solar radiation and outgoing long-wave radiation) that tends to cause an atmospheric and thus a surface temperature change in order to restore that balance (e.g. see Wikipedia). So then, here goes:

Nearly all climatologists would accept that natural climate forcings (e.g. the Milankovitch cycles [i.e. “wobbles”] in the Earth’s axis of rotation) are anything up to ten times weaker than anthropogenic forcings (i.e. the addition of fossilised carbon to the atmosphere through human activity). Without the so-called Greenhouse Effect, the average Earth surface temperature would be about 30 Celsius colder than now (i.e. minus 17 Celsius); and complex life would never have appeared on it. The Earth therefore first created conditions suitable for Life by releasing CO2 from volcanoes and trapping them in its atmosphere. Next, early life forms like Stromatolites converted CO2 to oxygen; with the latter eventually accounting for 20% of our atmosphere before an equilibrium was reached between photosynthesising plants and respiring animals.

Ever since then – and this is the key to understanding everything else – the Earth has regulated its temperature by moving CO2 between its oceans and its atmosphere. If and when a natural forcing would tend to make the planet warmer or cooler (by changing the amount of incoming solar radiation), this would give rise to an imbalance between the incoming solar radiation and outgoing radiation (heat loss). In order to restore this energy balance, it is – and always has been – necessary for the Earth to have more or less CO2 in its atmosphere. This is why, in palaeoclimatology, CO2 changes always lag 200 to 1000 years behind natural temperature changes (interspersed with long periods of relative stability in both). Although not the strongest greenhouse gas (GHG), CO2 is the most abundant and long-lived GHG there is (i.e. water vapour is much more abundant but comes and goes; whereas methane is much less abundant but 23 times more powerful as a GHG).

All natural forcings (Milankovitch wobbles, the precession of the equinoxes, and the eccentricity [i.e. non-circularity] of the Earths orbit) are all predictable and fairly constant (i.e. the Earth’s axis of rotation moves between two angles of inclination at predictable intervals and at a predictable speed). These 3 natural forcings have only been dominant in the last 1 million years (hence all the Ice Ages we have had). Prior to that, other natural forcings such as plate tectonics (i.e. continental collisions, burial of limestone sea bed, mountain building) have caused much greater changes in the CO2 content of the atmosphere (primarily via volcanic activity but also the chemical weathering and erosion of mountain ranges) and greater changes in temperature. However, it must be borne in mind that climate sensitivity to CO2 was lower during the time of the dinosaurs (i.e. requiring greater change in CO2 per unit change in temperature) compared with what it is now.

Finally, then, the most important aspect to understanding why we now have a problem: Complex life on Earth is adapted to the conditions that have existed for at least the last 35 million years (when Antarctica first became glaciated). Life can adapt but only if change is slow (as in the Ice Ages); although early humans were almost wiped out in the depths of the last Ice Age (about 70k years ago). Most critically of all, human civilisation (cities and agriculture) have only been possible in the last 10k years (i.e. since the last Ice Age – characterised by relative temperature and sea level stability).

Figure 18 from Storms of my Grandchildren by James Hansen.

Figure 18 from Storms of my Grandchildren by James Hansen.

We are therefore already in an inter-glacial warm period and, unfortunately, we have now found a much more effective way to change the CO2 content of the Earth’s atmosphere and thereby induce an unnatural temperature change that will eventually restore the unnatural energy imbalance that we have caused. Therefore, there will never be another Ice Age unless or until humans go extinct. Meanwhile, inertia in the climate system means we are now headed for 450ppm or more; and the last time CO2 was that high, it was on average 4 to 6 Celsius warmer. Add to that all the positive feedback mechanisms now kicking-in, and you have the spectre of the runaway enhanced greenhouse effect that we now face.

If you want to know more, read Hansen’s book or failing that:
How does James Hansen sleep at night? and the posts that follow it (especially those in my Climate Science in a Nutshell mini-series) that summarise the book.

Also, if you have not seen it, you should read my subsequent (brief) response to John on the currently-favoured insanity of proceeding to burn all the fossil fuels that we can find here (2nd paragraph onwards).

If I were to attempt to go even further and summarise, in one single paragraph, why everyone on Earth should be concerned about ongoing anthropogenic climate disruption, it would read something like this:

Concern over anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is not based on computer modelling; it is based on the study of palaeoclimatology. Computer modelling is based on physics we have understood for over 100 years and is used to predict what will happen to the atmosphere for a range of projections for CO2 reductions. As such, the range of predictions is due to uncertainty in those projections; and not uncertainties in climate science. Furthermore, when one goes back 20 years and chooses to look at the projection scenario that most-closely reflects what has since happened to emissions, one finds that the modelled prediction matches reality very closely indeed.

UPDATE: I think all would do well to also read the the Comments below (or at least the first 3).

Written by Martin Lack

6 February 2012 at 00:02

21 Responses

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  1. Martin, I think you do a nice job giving an introduction to the science behind the AGW case. Let me, if I may, add a bit to it because I think this is where it gets important.

    The reason that CO2 lags temperature is because temperature increases cause releases of stored CO2 into the atmosphere, but it takes a bit of time. The same seems to be true in reverse, a temperature drop causes CO2 to be absorbed (as I am told by Peter Sinclair and have no reason to doubt). And, the AGW proponents and skeptics both agree on how the greenhouse effect works. According to the IPCC, the effect of doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere is a temperature rise of 1.1 C.[out of date – ML] Up to this point, we all agree. [no we don’t – ML]

    The divergence occurs in your sentence “Add to that all the positive feedback mechanisms now kicking-in, and you have the spectre of the runaway enhanced greenhouse effect that we now face.” [These effects are all now observable facts – ML] This is where there is a divergence in the science. We already spoke of the slight positive feedback related to the temperature causing more CO2 to be released which in turn will cause a slight amount of additional warming. We can calculate that pretty definitively. The IPCC contends that the increased CO2 and temperature are “amplified” by an increase in water vapor such that the effect of the CO2 warming is multiplied by 3. That is how the IPCC model works. This is now the question of the century: what, if any is the amplification effect from the water vapor.

    I did not finish Hanson’s book yet, but I did read his research paper “Global Climate Changes as Forecast by Goddard Institute for Space Studies Three-Dimensional Model” [written in 1988! – ML]. Therein Hansen uses 4.2 C temperature sensitivity:

    Where does he come up with that? From the observed global temperature! Think about how circular this is. He contends that current warming is being caused by CO2, but CO2 alone is not enough. So he picks a sensitivity number that would make CO2 fit. And that is the new model. So what evidence is there that the sensitivity is as Hansen suggests? None! It is a nice hypothesis, but when tested, it didn’t happen. You can see his predictions in his paper. Here is the actual satellite data:

    No worries, that is how the science goes. Suggest a hypothesis, test it, and then if it fails, amend it. But they aren’t really amending it. They are forcing it. So then, if our current warming was being caused as suggested by the greenhouse gas hypothesis, the warming would show up in a certain way. We would be able to measure it in the atmosphere at the source of the greenhouse warming, ie the infamous “atmospheric hotspot.” But no hotspot is being measured. Of course I am interested in what the AGW advocates say about this. I haven’t seen anything yet.

    This is also where my question becomes relevant. If the warming effect of the CO2 were as significant as the Hansen model suggests, how in the world does the Milankovitch forcing overcome it? You told me that it was 1/10th as strong as the CO2 warming effect. But, at every cycle in the Vostok ice core data, temperature reverses itself while CO2 is its highest and rising. What exactly overcame the CO2? Where was the runaway warming? (The “tipping point”?)

    John Kosowski

    6 February 2012 at 01:25

    • John, thanks for getting back on-topic. This is indeed an appropriate place for such comments. I will be brief.

      With regard to CO2/temp time lag, Peter Sinclair and I are right, and so are you; you just worded it better than me (I may have been too brief).

      I think people should accept by now that IPCC AR4 in 2007 was unduly conservative (i.e. optimistic) and is now wildly out-of-date. There is, as I have said before, a great deal of evidence available on the Internet to substantiate this; and to support the view that Hansen is far from being in a minority on either climate sensitivity or sea level rise: A good place to start (because it is a one-stop-shop for all the relevant PDF papers and PowerPoint presentations) is the Wikipedia page for the 4 Degrees and Beyond International Climate Conference (September 2009, Oxford, UK).

      Therefore, it is almost laughable that you should ask me to discuss something Hansen wrote in 1988. Try 2008 instead, that is the work on which his book is based; anything he may have said in the past is now irrelevant. He has been on a journey like all the rest of us. Therefore, as I said – and with all due respect – please stop posting updates on your incomplete and/or out-of-date understanding of the subject, until you have either read Hansen et al 2008 or finished his book.

      Nothing I say here should be taken to indicate that I think I am cleverer than you are. Far from it. However, there is clear evidence to demonstrate (as above) that I am more up-to-date than you are and that, to a greater extent than you so far, “I have been enlightened by the dedicated work of others”.

      Martin Lack

      6 February 2012 at 09:10

      • Forgive me, I did not address 2 of your points:

        1. With regard to the relative importance of water vapour – I believe I have answered that question perfectly adequately by saying, “Although not the strongest greenhouse gas (GHG), CO2 is the most abundant and long-lived GHG there is (i.e. water vapour is much more abundant but comes and goes; whereas methane is much less abundant but 23 times more powerful as a GHG)”.

        2. With regard to tipping points in Milankovitch cycles, there are none. The enhanced greenhouse effect (i.e. anthropogenic climate disruption – ACD) is only now reaching a tipping point because we have pushed the Earth to the edge of its limited ability to regulate its temperature effectively. Again, with respect, by your misuse of terminology at least, you give the impression of being very confused.

        Martin Lack

        6 February 2012 at 09:27

  2. “Therefore, it is almost laughable that you should ask me to discuss something Hansen wrote in 1988.”
    Really Martin? Let’s look at what you wrote: “Furthermore, when one goes back 20 years and chooses to look at the projection scenario that most-closely reflects what has since happened to emissions, one finds that the modelled prediction matches reality very closely indeed.” That is what I did, Martin, I went back 20 years and looked at Hansen’s projection scenario. It didn’t match the data that subsequently rolled in. He overstated it. And, he was using a 4.2C climate sensitivity for the doubling of CO2. Now he is using a 6 C sensitivity, 3 C including only fast feedback processes, ie the water vapor, and another 3 C from slow feedback sources for a total of 6 C. That is from “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where should humanity aim.” Hansen 2008. Yes, I read that one too.

    Can we agree that the climate sensitivity of CO2 alone is 1.1 C? In my summary, I wasn’t even really trying to argue with you, just explain where the two views diverge. I think we agree up until that point, but your confirmation would be very helpful.

    What happens after the 1.1 C sensitivity? AGW proponents say that positive feed back results in sensitivity of 3 – 6C (again from Hansen). Skeptics say that negative feedback actually cuts that 1.1 C in half or so to .5 – .8C. Are we agreed up until that point? What is the evidence for the 6C?

    My honest assessment is that the evidence for the model is “we can find nothing else to explain the current warming.” It seems that it all boils down to positive feedback vs. negative feedback.

    Is there really evidence in the climate record for a “tipping point.” Why didn’t the 6C sensitivity take control of the Milankovitch cycle?

    I ask these questions because positive feedback of the magnitude claimed by Hansen ought to be prevalent in the record. When else in time did the climate go spiraling out of control as the instability of a positive feedback scenario would demand?

    It is the very fact that the past has been stable that dictates a negative feedback system. The record is full of relatively short climate spikes. They happen pretty quickly. Why haven’t they reached tipping point before? Instead, they just reverse and spike the other way. Only to do it again. That to me, really suggests stability and negative feedback. It is also why a .7 C climate change is not unusual.

    I noticed that we both use improper terminology as it relates to the models. Models “project,” they don’t “predict.” [No, you’re still wrong: Although you could say – “models predict based on projections” – ML] I will try to watch that. If you find me misusing other terminology, perhaps you could throw me a bone and let me know rather than just making fun of me.

    Just as a very small side note, I watched a series of youtube videos entitled “climate change” by user “potholer54.” Potholer was anonymous for some time, but released his name, I just don’t have it at the moment. In any event, his series is about the best “myth debunking” series I have seen to date, far superior to the “crock” or skeptical science stuff. The nice part is that he debunks both sides where appropriate, but he is certainly an AGW proponent. I have found many flaws in Sinclair’s work, but I only noticed one in potholer54’s. I also notice that they both take aim at the “low hanging fruit” part of climategate, but don’t get into some of the more troubling issues. That is, kind of a waste of time. Potholer throws Bob Carter under the bus for the way he drew lines on a graph which I thought was pretty straw man as I watched Bob Carter’s lectures as well, and saw no such thing. I am going to ask him about that because I think those debunking presentations lose much credibility when they do stuff like that. However, his was, in my opinion the best so far and had me questioning my own beliefs more than anyone to date.


    John Kosowski

    6 February 2012 at 12:46

    • I don’t care very much for what you did. However, I am very concerned about what people like Dr Patrick Michaels do:
      Pat Michaels: Serial Deleter of Inconvenient Data (17 January 2012).

      I am not trying to make fun of you (but I am losing patience with you, I’m sorry). However, if the truth hurts, it is not my fault. You have my sympathy; I too was once where you are now. If you choose to take offence at any of this; and not look at the SkS (17 Jan 2012) post, that is your decision but if you do not look at it, please do not bother coming back here.

      Martin Lack

      6 February 2012 at 13:01

  3. Martin,

    You will certainly notice that I did not make my own version of Hansen’s prediction, but rather I posted his – linked to the actual research paper from which the original version came. Follow my link to his report and see page 9347. And then I linked the results as a table of actual satellite data. Surprise, surprise, all three scenarios are present. Why wouldn’t they be, since I linked to his own projection?

    Martin, I even know what the three scenarios are. One might even argue that scenarios B and C are not even relevant because they presume certain levels of greehouse gas reductions which have not occurred. But even those over stated the actual observed satellite measurements. Hansen details this in the paper I cited, check it out if you like.

    John Kosowski

    6 February 2012 at 13:42

    • For the record, if you just type your reply into the big box on-screen, your comment will start a new thread. Did you mean to do this? Or are you responding to my reply at 13:01? If it is the latter, you should have clicked on the little Reply at the foot of that comment, because this new thread risks being separated from my 13:01 comment and – hey presto – it is “comment spaghetti” once again!

      However, whether or not you intended to start a new thread or had even read my 13:01 comment, it does not seem to matter. You appear to be on a personal mission to peer review the entire canon of climate science literature. If so, I wish you good luck and godspeed but, as for me, I want no part in it. As I have repeatedly said, I would not dream of presuming that I could do such a thing.

      For me, Occam’s Razor is good enough. The most likely cause of the accelerating positive feedback mechanisms and increased frequency of extreme weather events we now see all point to one conclusion – human activity is disrupting the Earth’s climate (ACD). Neither Solar cycles, cosmic rays, water vapour, nor volcanoes can explain the fact that, since 1850AD (even more so since 1960AD), with one or two pauses due to global dimming, the Earth’s average surface temperature has been going only one way.

      Thus I have no need of alternative explanations; and no reason to suspect any mainstream climate scientist of sloppy workmanship, data falsification, procedural manipulation, or conclusion misrepresentation. I just look out the window or on the news; and I can see that what they said would happen is happening. Therefore, I have a suggestion for you, if you think I am narrow-minded, or unwisely content to respect genuine scientific authority, please do go away and don’t come back.

      However, if you are willing to stop posting long comments detailing all your own research… (I really don’t want to know about it, OK! Can I suggest you submit it to a reputable journal and see if you can get it published – the [not really reputable] Earth and Environment Journal will publish just about anything)… I will be happy to hear from you (briefly if at all possible) once you have finished reading Storms of my Grandchildren. Is that clear enough for you?

      Martin Lack

      6 February 2012 at 14:26

      • Martin,

        Sorry about the reply thing. I noticed that you didn’t even apologize for all but accusing me of fraud in your last post. And, again, it is very possible that I might have been unknowingly influenced by someone else who was engaging in fraud (but in this case I certainly wasn’t), which is why I pay so much attention to alternative views as they will quickly address such errors. I do, however, have hundreds of choices. That is the benefit of the marketplace of ideas. Yeah, the downside is that there will be plenty of crappy ideas out there, but they will be easy to rebut.

        As I said in my first post, this is your blog, you owe me nothing. But, as I depart, consider this as it relates to your cause. If your cause is just to preach your own views argumentum ad verecundiam, and have a platform to ridicule opposing views and people with opposing views, keep doing what you are doing.

        But if your cause is to affect positive change on the world, then the reality is that you will be forced to engage people like me. As far as skeptics go, I will look at the facts and opposing viewpoint as honestly and thoroughly as any you will find. If truth is on your side, it will be found. But, unlike you, I am not going to take anyone’s word for it nor am I going to verify the science of climate change by “looking out the window.”

        John Kosowski

        6 February 2012 at 14:48

        • After the lengths I have gone to to address your questions politely, I think it is a bit rich for you to claim that all I want to do is preach and not listen. It is also a bit rich for you to suggest I have “all but” accused you of fraud! I’m sorry, I missed it, where was that exactly?

          On the subject of the marketplace of ideas (which you appear now to admit exists), you say that the downside to this “is that there will be plenty of crappy ideas out there, but they will be easy to rebut.” Someone like Peter Sinclair would no doubt reply, “well you seem to be finding it hard!” but I could not possibly comment.

          We have no more time to waste, John. That is my belief, and if I can do anything to strengthen the resolve of those who respect scientific authority and can differentiate it from fossil fuel funded propaganda, that is what I am about. I would give it 5 to 10 years and climate change denial will be history. You’ll see! Bookmark this page. Print it out. File it with your solicitor. I care not one jot.

          However, finally, one window you may care to look out of, especially while driving, is the front windscreen of your car:
          “The driver of an accelerating car about to hit a brick wall might well say ‘so far so good’ – but that does not mean that the wall is not there!”, John Dryzek in The Politics of the Earth (2005, page 70).

          Martin Lack

          6 February 2012 at 15:36

      • In a fashion that is, I think, typical of sceptics, John has apparently decided to walk away from this discussion claiming unfair treatment. However, for the record, I feel I was very clear in what I said of my own volition but, when this was met with voluminous questions, my patience was quickly reduced; and my suspicion increased. Furthermore, as its tagline makes clear, this blog is about the politics of the environment not the science: Although I understand it, I am not here to debate the science; I am here to bring clarity to the politics that lies behind its denial. That is why I sought to bring this correspondence to an end.

        As I have said before, so I say again, CO2 is the only thing capable of explaining the warming we have seen over the last 200 years, because CO2 is the only thing that has changed significantly (i.e. increased by 40%) in that time. It is what’s known in science as a “fair test” – nothing else has changed significantly (not the Sun, not cosmic rays, not water vapour, not volcanic eruptions). Therefore, people like John, who are desperate for ACD to be an illusion, will no doubt carry on with their quest to find an “anything but CO2” explanation even though there is none. However, as I said, I am confident that in 5 to 10 years they will have to concede defeat. I for one will not bear them a grudge (well I’ll try not to). I understand the cause of their cognitive dissonance; as we are all human. Indeed, that is the problem: Climate Change – It’s an Inside Job (5 October 2011).

        However, I fear for the children of those who insist on denying what is happening, because they may look back and wonder why their parents were so short-sighted. And yet, and yet, the climate change denial train rolls-on: James Delingpole’s latest offering, a second edition of his Watermelons book, even dares to suggest environmentalists are “stealing your children’s future”[–Reality Inversion Alert!–]

        Climate change deniers never come up with new arguments they just repeat or invert old ones. For someone who does not currently go to any Church, I am remarkably fond of quoting Scripture so, if necessary, please forgive me but, as the Good Book says: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

        Martin Lack

        6 February 2012 at 17:22

      • “John has apparently decided to walk away from this discussion claiming unfair treatment.”

        Oh please, Martin, it is you that have been repeatedly telling me to go away. If I misunderstood, I will be happy to stay. In fact, let’s continue.
        “It is also a bit rich for you to suggest I have “all but” accused you of fraud! I’m sorry, I missed it, where was that exactly? ”
        What, exactly, was the purpose of telling me to read about Dr Patrick Michaels including “but if you do not look at it, please do not bother coming back here.” I took the time to follow your wild goose chase, but it was not relevant to anything we have been discussing.
        “On the subject of the marketplace of ideas (which you appear now to admit exists)…” I never said a marketplace of ideas did not exist. I believe it is you that called it a “fallacy.”
        “one window you may care to look out of, especially while driving, is the front windscreen of your car”
        Martin, we are riding in the same car. That is your problem. If you want to change the direction of that car, you must convince people like me. It is I that have been polite with you. You, on the other hand, “not so much.”
        “Therefore, people like John, who are desperate for ACD to be an illusion, will no doubt carry on with their quest to find an “anything but CO2″ explanation..”
        Nice misrepresentation, Martin. I am determined to get the science correct. Many lives hang in the balance. Getting the science wrong has cost lives before. But I do understand your debate tactic: misrepresent and call names.
        In the discussion on this thread, I was merely trying to get us to the point of disagreement. If we can narrow the focus to the heart of the matter, the rest is not relevant.
        So I assumed that you would agree that the effect of CO2 alone on the planet is 1.1C per doubling of CO2 levels. Just wanted to see if we could get past that.
        Then, the real point of contention becomes whether other factors like water vapor and other non human CO2 lag, experience a positive feedback such that the sensitivity is the 3C to 6C that Hansen contends, or is it more like under 1.1C that the skeptics contend. If we could just agree to that, it leaves me with a whole lot less science to peer review on my own.
        Oh, and thank you for clearing up the misunderstanding that you wanted me to leave. I will stay then.


        John Kosowski

        6 February 2012 at 17:44

        • There was never any misunderstanding. My telling you to go away was very clearly made conditional: You fulfill those conditions and you’re welcome to stay.

          Sorry, I still don’t see how I accused you of fraud, unless by that you mean my being suspicious of your sincerity? I have, however, explained why I may be overly-suspicious of people sometimes (despite the fact that I would prefer not to be so). Pat Michaels, however, is a good example of someone who runs a serious risk of being called a fraudster. I directed you to SkS for that because I think it demonstrates that Hansen 1988 has been proven right (i.e. if you choose the scenario that reflects what has actually happened to emissions since then).

          Marketplace of ideas: A fallacy means “a mistake in reasoning”; it does not mean that it does not exist as an idea. It’s existence is our problem. However, you have consistently denied that it is the problem (more on this tomorrow).

          I have apologised for losing my temper with you. If you want to avoid this in future, please do as I have asked and stop asking me questions I do not feel qualified to answer (even though you do for some reason). Our problem is that you are suspicious of climate scientists. I am not; and I have fully justified my position for not being so. Despite all of my intemperate remarks I have also made it clear that I do not think you a fool. I consider you my equal; you may even be more intelligent than me. Your problem is your clear presumption against accepting what real climate scientists have been telling us for nearly 25 years.

          You failed to quote, or falsify this statement: “CO2 is the only thing capable of explaining the warming we have seen over the last 200 years, because CO2 is the only thing that has changed significantly (i.e. increased by 40%) in that time. It is what’s known in science as a “fair test” – nothing else has changed significantly (not the Sun, not cosmic rays, not water vapour, not volcanic eruptions).” This is why I consider your position to be irrational; and thereby reach the conclusion I did.

          Given all of the above, I do not see any point discussing water vapour, etc.. The average moisture content of the atmosphere may well increased as ACD now takes hold but, because of the inertia in the climate system, this is only just beginning to become apparent. CO2, however has been rising steadily for at least 150 years. Furthermore, what is your insistence that we talk about things other than CO2, if it is not evidence of a desire to find an “anything but CO2” explanation. Seriously, John, with you, I just seem to go round in circles.

          Shall it be more of the same tomorrow, then? I hope so. Cheers.

          Martin Lack

          6 February 2012 at 18:33

      • Martin,

        Quickly, the water vapor issue is not an alternative to AGW, but rather part of it. Of course I could be wrong, but the way I understand it is that human produced CO2 molecules in the atmosphere alone would cause about a 1.1 C rise for a doubling of CO2 levels. The rest of Hansen’s 3- 6C sensitivity comes from the positive feedback affect of both amplification due to water vapor and slowly released GHGs as a result of the initial CO2. So simply, if the positive feedback from these things is true, AGW is a big problem. If there is really negative feedback as the skeptics suggest, then no problem.

        John Kosowski

        6 February 2012 at 21:32

        • It’s late evening here so, briefly, I agree WV is part of the equation but, so is the Sun, cosmic rays and volcanoes. Climate models work best when account is taken of all factors. So the only thing we seem to be left arguing about is the extent to which CO2 is the dominant cause. Yet again, I have to say it, this blog is not about the science of climate change or anything else – it is about the politics of its denial. However the best site is SkS (IMHO). You sound like you need the Advanced Level treatment (as opposed to Basic) – So, knock yourself out: Choose your myth and choose Advanced Level at:

          Water Vapour (currently no. 34 in the myth league table) is here:

          Martin Lack

          6 February 2012 at 21:57

      • Thanks for the SKS site references, they were more helpful than you might imagine. They actually confirmed most things I was telling you:
        From your water vapor link:
        “How much does water vapour amplify CO2 warming? Without any feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 would warm the globe around 1°C. Taken on its own, water vapour feedback roughly doubles the amount of CO2 warming. When other feedbacks are included (eg – loss of albedo due to melting ice), the total warming from a doubling of CO2 is around 3°C” (Note Hanson alleges 3 – 6C). They key point here is that the complete AGW case boils down to positive feedbacks. (Not that there is anything inherently wrong with that, just trying to tighten the focus as much as possible.) Now, I understand that the science itself is not your primary mission, but this concept is seemingly news to you, and your understanding of your own case is now better off having read it.
        I also found more about Hanson’s 1988 errors:
        “As you can see, Hansen’s projections showed slightly more warming than reality, but clearly they were neither off by a factor of 4, nor were they “an astounding failure” by any reasonably honest assessment.” Comparing his projections to satellite data that I cited shows Hanson’s errors were slightly higher in all three scenarios than listed in the skeptical science site, but that is quibbling. Just so you see I wasn’t off base in my allegations as admitted by the sks site. I never said anything like Hansen was off by a factor of four.
        Thanks again for those cites, I probably would still be looking had you not provided them.

        John Kosowski

        6 February 2012 at 23:25

        • There you go then. I did not actually question your numbers (only the conclusion you appear to have already reached – that mainstream climate scientists are not trustworthy). As I am not interested in quibbling over numbers (I switch-off when people start debating tenths of a Watt per square metre or tenths of a degree Celsius), I am very pleased to have been of some service.

          I will now remove you from the moderation queue but, you will be put back there if there is a return to your posting long rambling items full of numbers I have no interest in falsifying. I hope you will not take offence at this as I am merely seeking to be clear and concise; and remind you of the scope of this blog – “a truly biospheric blog about the politics of the environment”: I believe that I understand the science well enough to summarise it for people to whom it may be unfamiliar; but I am not interested in debating numbers and/or ideas lifted from sources I consider unreliable.

          Having said all that, I acknowledge that in some respects, your numbers have proven to be correct. Congratulations! However, you have failed to convince me that my criticism of those who say climate change is not a problem – or of globalised Capitalism – is unwarranted.

          Martin Lack

          7 February 2012 at 06:09

  4. Martin, I’ve nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. I like your blog and thought based on its content you deserved this award. If you choose to accept the Versatile Blogger Award, there are a few things you are required to do, to pass it forward. According to the requirements of the award you need to:
    • Nominate 15 other bloggers
    • Inform your nominees
    • Share 7 random facts about myself
    • Thank the one who nominated you
    • Add a picture of the award to this post


    6 February 2012 at 22:36

    • What a nice surprise, you are very kind indeed! I will try and organise my thought on this today (Tues) in order to publish just after midnight on Wednesday (GMT) or, failing that 24 hours later.

      Martin Lack

      7 February 2012 at 06:24

  5. […] I have run a series of posts on the challenges posed by ecological economics to modernity itself (in 3 parts); as well as Conservatism (N.B. I am a Conservative voter), Liberalism, and Socialism; and perhaps most significantly of all, I have written a great deal as a consequence of reading James Hansen’s extra-ordinary book, Storms of my Grandchildren. For those that have not read it, or any of my posts on it, the best place to start would be Climate science in a nut fragment (6 February 2012). […]

  6. […] As someone once said, “failing to plan is tantamount to planning to fail”: Humanity needs to plan for a future without fossil fuels and, since achieving this goal will take some time, we need to work out a plan of how to get there; and start implementing it. If we wait until we have no choice, climate science tells us we will have no future. This is not environmental alarmism or doom-mongering. This will be the consequence of failing to learn from history – Earth history. […]

  7. […] back to Lack of Environment.  On the 6th February, 2012, Martin wrote an essay Climate science in a nut fragment.  Here’s how that essay closed: Footnote: If I were to attempt to go even further and […]

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