Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Response to a comment

I just wrote this in reply to a comment on an earlier thread, but it got fairly long and I thought it might as well get a post of its own.

John Ham commented on my "Happy Blog Action Day for Climate" post, in quotes below - my responses are after each quoted bit.

JH: "You don't really mean to compare Venus' atmosphere with that of Earth do you?!"
me: Same laws of physics - a useful data point on the scale.

JH: "Of course a doubling of CO2 is likely to raise average temperatures here on Earth on the order of 1 degree C (that's a bad thing?),"
me: That's a GOOD thing? That's the question. So read IPCC AR4 wg2, and Mark Lynas' book Six Degrees: our future on a hotter planet LC#: QC981.8 .G56 L983 2008; ISBN: 9781426202131 -- because it's not just 1C - see below...

JH: "...but all the rest is poorly understood feedbacks, despite what the climate modelers tell you."
me: Not *that* poorly understood -- there is a whole body of scientific literature on feedbacks and the effective climate sensitivity to an initial forcing. The net gain from the combined feedbacks has to be more than zero to account for paleo/historical data and recent satellite results. Royer 2007 in Nature is a good recent entry: Royer 2007
A handy summary of results of over 60 studies estimating the sensitivity factor is at Barton Paul Levenson's climate pages
A detailed book is Understanding Climate Change Feedbacks from the Panel on Climate Change Feedbacks, Climate Research Committees, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, National Research Council of the National Academies.
LC call # QC981.8 .C5 U485 2003
ISBN: 0309090725
Also readable online here (See box on p.19-20 for a good summary of feedbacks and gain in climate sensitivity.) Note: quite technical.

JH: "(They should get out more often so they stop confusing their models with reality.)"
me: They aren't *confusing* the models with reality - they test the models against data from the real world. The point of modeling is to improve our understanding of the behaviour of a complex system. They apply the laws of physics. They readily admit what their models do and don't cover, and what they can and can't replicate. I've been to guest lectures on campus by several top climatologists who refer to their modeling work, and it's clear to me they have their feet on the ground of hard data from the real world.

JH: "Or ocean acidification (a pretty scary term used to describe making the pH of the oceans slightly less alkaline than they currently are, if that were possible): a good look at ocean carbonate chemistry debunks that idea fairly quickly."
me: I've had a good look at ocean carbonate chemistry. There's a chapter on it in this nice 4-volume collection in our UofT science library:
Climate change : critical concepts in the environment
edited by Frank Chambers and Michael Ogle.
LC # QC981.8 .C5 C5144 2002
ISBN 041527656X
Note: quite technical

I also defer to the "alarmist" statement from 155 leading oceanographers in the 2009 Monaco Declaration.

JH: "Is this really how you propose to 'engage the denial'? "
me: Yes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

no decline to 'hide'

The big kerfuffle over Professor Keith Briffa's remark in the stolen emails that he used a 'trick' to 'hide the decline' has set tongues wagging and 'threatens to derail Copenhagen.' I'm up at 3 am to post this because I'm so disgusted with how this is all unfolding.
Let's get a couple of things straight right at the start:
* The only place he says he 'hid' a 'decline' is in that specific graph
* The 'decline' is in a small number of tree-ring proxy indicators
* What he uses to 'hide' this is the 'real temps' - from tens of thousands of thermometers
* There is no decline to 'hide' in the 'real temps' over the past 50 years; these show a sharp increase
* The real temps are far, far more reliable data than the small number of tree ring proxies
* The proxies are indirect indicators, subject to confounding factors like wet vs. dry, recent air pollution and acid rain
* That problem with the tree rings has not been 'hidden' from the public; it is covered extensively by scientists as the 'divergence problem'
* That problem is a single, small wrinkle against an enormous, huge mass of other data showing warming, using direct measurement with thermometers at over 10,000 sites worldwide that show very clear and unprecedented warming in the last 50 years.
* When we want to look at the past 1000 years, we need to use the indirect proxy data from tree rings (and other proxies like corals, stalactites, boreholes, etc.)
* To compare these two types of data on one graph, the scientists found the best alignment in the period where they overlap (since about 1850)
* In the most recent 50 years, the tree ring series diverge from all the others, and this is the only thing that Prof. Briffa chose to 'hide' in combining the graphs.

To sum up, the 'real temps' for the past 50 years don't have any 'decline' to 'hide'; it's simply outrageous that the data thieves are free to spin a worldwide conspiracy from this one unfortunate combination of words in one email, as if 'trick' + 'hide' = 'everything in the IPCC is a fraud!'?

Now once again we're being treated to 'balance as bias' on CNN as Campbell Brown runs a week-long series 'Global Warming: Trick or Truth?' They're putting anti-science politicos from American Enterprise Institute up against top scientists as if they were comparable. Marc Morano, Stephen McIntrye and their ilk are getting national TV time for their scurrilous, slanderous insinuations that one spinnable email means we can just toss decades of research drawing on tens of thousands of data sources.

I looked on the CNN website and they allowed comments on 'Trick or Truth' but the comments are closed already. The real-time user comments that ran live at the bottom of the screen were really weak; I'll have to see if I can post something better as the show continues.

When I look at Marc Morano on national TV, all I can say is: the world is freakin' crazy. The one thing that looks hopeful right now is that the Copenhagen meetings actual sound like they have some momentum toward a deal, and that the Saudi delegation may be isolated in their oil-soaked protests that they want a total do-over of the past 20 years of climate research based on two phrases in the stolen CRU emails.