Monday, July 27, 2009
Richard S. Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explains for a popular audience why climate alarmism is a crock, and the motivations behind those who promote it. Professor Lindzen, I should say, is the rare academic who uses his tenure for its supposed purpose, to take controversial positions that threaten his own specialty's conventional wisdom.
So, in 1974, there was "The Coming Ice Age!". In ten years or less, it turned into "runaway global warming".
Now, despite the hype, we have had at least ten or more years of no warming and some cooling, yet, the alarmists are still screaming "runaway climate change!"
Ten years in one direction makes a permanent trend and ten years in another direction has no bearing on the trend?
Whatever science had been associated with this has long gone past science and entered the realm of politics - where only the "political method" is used, scientific method be damned.
A computer model is a hypothesis. When observations contradict the hypothesis, the hypothesis is normally the subject of the scrutiny. Why not in this case?
OT and just curious - What are "greenhouse gasses"? A greenhouse is an artificial construction that purposely retains heat and moisture in order to grow plants year-round. It contains artificial light and heat, as needed. It shields the plants from the extremes of nature and thus produces stronger, greener, larger plants, flowers, vegtables, and fruits. All good things. But, plants "exhale" oxygen. They "breathe" in CO2. What produces the CO2 in a greenhouse?
The primary items in a greenhouse that keeps all of this in is the ceiling and walls. What is natures ceiling and walls that keep all the greenhouse gasses confined?
Interesting article and noteworthy for the reason you cited (Lindzen's respected professorship at MIT).
It seems to me that the debate is not whether mankind is doing things on a scale large enough to cause warming - it is - but on whether warming is actually occurring. That is, the amount of CO2 we're putting in the atmosphere dwarfs the amount caused by non-human processes and is large enough, under certain models, to change the planet's temperature.
If so, we ought to multiply the severity of a future scenario by its probability of occurring to determine our level of concern or alarm. If CO2 emissions were at a pre-industrial level, then our risk of a catastrophic greenhouse scenario (CGS) would be, by definition, at a baseline level, call it B. If CO2 emissions are 10x-100x higher than the pre-industrial level, then the risk of a CGS would be more, call it P. If the CGS is bad / expensive / scary enough, it would make sense to try to lower the odds of it happening by reducing CO2 emissions.
That's the prima facie case for reducing CO2 emissions and I don't think it's unreasonable. The debate is over a) how much bigger is P than B; and b) is CGS $1T, $10T, $100T, or what? And then there's the nationalistic layer of how much of CGS will each individual country have to carry, because it likely will not fall evenly on all countries.
So suppose it were a meteor headed towards Earth and the cost of impact were the same as CGS. Reason would suggest that the amount of money worth spending on deflecting the meteor would be CGS * (P-B), right?
The discussion I've read so far doesn't address the values of CGS or P-B. Instead, ideologues on one side claim that CGS has a value of infinity and ideologues on the other side claim P-B is 0%.
Both positions are self-evidently wrong so I, personally, would love to hear someone's (e.g., Lindzen's) view on the cost of CGS or the probability value of P-B. Perhaps a commenter knows where such information can be found.
Great link TH!
I am always struck how the terminology of religion can be so appropriately applied to the current state of "debate" in climate change. In which the discussion of Global Warming is regular(in the religious sense of the word) and anyone who professes a belief in anything outside canon is an apostate speaking heresies.
Hopefully Professor Lindzen's tenure will shield him from the righteous indignation of the Kyoto Inquisition.
A greenhouse gas is anything in the atmosphere which allows more radiant heat to enter a system than it allow to leave the system. In your every day greenhouse the gas causing this effect is not CO2 but (I think) H20 or water vapor, which is also a greenhouse gas.
The wall of our global greenhouse is the upper atmosphere as held in place by gravity.
Wouldn't it be a better use of our dollars and resources to research into ADAPTING to future climate variations than having the hubris to think that we can control the climate?
Makes too much sense, heh?
I guess it would never work, since it empowers no one.
Pyrus - there's quite a lot of information available on the economic costs of AGW, but the definitive work appears from what I've seen to be that by Professor Nordhaus at Yale university. From what I recall his estimates sit at a cost of around 3% of global GDP in 2100 (not 3% now). There are higher (and hence higher profile) estimates such as those in the Stern report but on examination these turn out to be (a) spurious and (b) derived from Nordhaus' work in any event.
The global warming hysteria is just as powerful as other recent instances of institutional denial. I refer to the power companies' refusal to believe that powerline emissions can cause fatal disease; they also messed with enemies' research grants and the like.
Also the tobacco companies strong belief that cigarette smoking does not cause cancer. It took about fifty years to penetrate that one. I hated meetings at Philip Morris because of the aggressive smoking in the room.
The trick here is not to base long-term and expensive solutions (cap and trade) on scientific myths. Institutional denial is powerful because belief is supported by everything the individual hears and sees, until some very powerful figure (or new institution) blows it away. And is reinforced by the individual's own behavior: why else buy a hybrid car? It's good because it's green. I spent the extra money, so don't tell me that was foolish!
Anonymous 4:39 - thanks!
The good people at http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DATASTATISTICS/Resources/GDP.pdf give a 2008 GDP of $60 trillion and global GDP growth has averaged 3.7% since 1961 according to http://earthtrends.wri.org/text/economics-business/variable-227.html so by 2100 global GDP should reach about $1.6 quadrillion and 3% of that is about $49 trillion.
That's a big number and represents a lot of human misery if it comes to pass. It's about 240 hurricane Katrinas.
OK, so that's got my attention. Now if I only I could get a handle on P-B. Is it a 0.1% chance, 1%, or 10%? Anyone seen any analysis on that one?
A few have suggested that global cooling is more likely to be the problem. The economic effects of global cooling could even more catastrophic than global warming. It would be ironic if we jumped the wrong way on this. Sort of like being whipsawed by the stock market.
Note that Lindzen (article linked to by TH) believes:
"The odds of any specific catastrophe actually occurring are almost zero. This was equally true for earlier forecasts of famine for the 1980's, global cooling in the 1970's, Y2K and many others."
@vk45: Thanks. So that means that I need to multiply $49 trillion by some probability and then multiply some number bigger than $49 trillion by some other probability and add the two products together. That new number is the cost mankind could avoid if it end activities that mess with the weather.
Frankly, if the scientific community is unagreed on what's going to happen to the weather (cooled or warmed) but know that the effect could be large, it seems a reasonable recommendation to curtail activities that increase the likelihood of that large effect.
It's a pity the issue has become politically charged but that's inescapable for an issue of this magnitude.
"That new number is the cost mankind could avoid if it end activities that mess with the weather."
Possibly, but consider:
According to the standard model, excess human CO2 production is largely responsible for global warming.
Suppose the standard model is wrong in one particular--global warming is not the problem--global cooling is.
Then, if we increase our CO2 production (an SUV in every garage) we might be able to save the day.
So 'messing with the weather" might become the solution to a problem (global cooling) that mankind may not have created.
1. The IPCC says the temperature rose by less than a degree in the past 100 years.
2. A major part of the support for Man Made Global warming is Mann's Hockey Stick theory, which has been
disprooved (wrote code and witheld data to produce required result.
3. Human CO2 output is .28 percent of total output.
4. Is there any independant verification of Professor Nordhaus's research. Does he factor in the benfits of increased temperatures.
The moment I realized Lindzen was full of it was about 13 years ago. In response to a survey of a dozen prominent climatologists, he was the only one who had acknowledged virtually zero error bars in his estimate of future climate change. All but him acknowledged that they could be wrong.
The guy's only major and accepted climate contribution that I'm aware of is regarding atmospheric tides, something that has little to do with climate change.