The Brutal Logic of Climate Change

That's behind a paywall, Tyrian. What was the gist?

Edit - just google "ny times the conversion of a climate" and you'll get the story of Richard Muller. He founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which was designed to test (and, he and others hoped, reinforce and bring respectability to) the assertions of climate change skeptics that the surface temperature record was flawed. That would mean that the whole issue was inflated by bad data. He and his team were highly touted by prominent skeptical scientists and bloggers as being thorough, accurate and unbiased. They were going to set the record straight once and for all.

...Right up until they issued their preliminary results, which showed that the surface temperature record is accurate; surface temps are increasing faster than the IPCC asserts; and most of the temperature increase is due to human activity. Cue skeptical blogosphere meltdown.


Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off). In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions.

The historic temperature pattern we observed has abrupt dips that match the emissions of known explosive volcanic eruptions; the particulates from such events reflect sunlight, make for beautiful sunsets and cool the earth’s surface for a few years. There are small, rapid variations attributable to El Niño and other ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream; because of such oscillations, the “flattening” of the recent temperature rise that some people claim is not, in our view, statistically significant. What has caused the gradual but systematic rise of two and a half degrees? We tried fitting the shape to simple math functions (exponentials, polynomials), to solar activity and even to rising functions like world population. By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice.

Just as important, our record is long enough that we could search for the fingerprint of solar variability, based on the historical record of sunspots. That fingerprint is absent. Although the I.P.C.C. allowed for the possibility that variations in sunlight could have ended the “Little Ice Age,” a period of cooling from the 14th century to about 1850, our data argues strongly that the temperature rise of the past 250 years cannot be attributed to solar changes. This conclusion is, in retrospect, not too surprising; we’ve learned from satellite measurements that solar activity changes the brightness of the sun very little.

How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.

Reproduced without permission from the New York Times, July 28, 2012

Robear wrote:
Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.

And THAT'S the problem! They simply didn't make their model smart enough! What we really need is something in between this oversimplification and the overcomplex rubbish that the climate scientists push out!

/Climate sceptic.

It's more complicated than that, Duoae.

(At this point I expected to cite one of Anthony Watts' polemics about Dr. Muller and the BEST project, but to my utter shock, he's got the site locked down with a "major announcement" coming at Noon Pacific today. Hmmm. Wonder what that's about? Two hours to find out, I guess. wattsupwiththat.com )

I've never seen him do this before. He says it is related to his ongoing work; he has several long-running projects going at any given time. We'll see.

dotearth blog on Richard Muller and the recent papers, as well as skeptical responses by researchers like Judith Curry. It's speculated that Watts is involved with this somehow. Maybe he's going to publish Curry's analysis?

And round and round we go...

Robear wrote:
It's more complicated than that, Duoae.

(At this point I expected to cite one of Anthony Watts' polemics about Dr. Muller and the BEST project, but to my utter shock, he's got the site locked down with a "major announcement" coming at Noon Pacific today. Hmmm. Wonder what that's about? Two hours to find out, I guess. wattsupwiththat.com )

I've never seen him do this before. He says it is related to his ongoing work; he has several long-running projects going at any given time. We'll see.

IMAGE(http://bigfatskinny.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/twitter-bird2.png)

Watts, Steve McIntyre, Dr. John Christy and Evan Jones are releasing a paper that claims that the siting of many land stations in the US has created a spurious doubling of the warming trend. It has not yet been accepted for publication, but they are hopeful. Basically, they are directly challenging Muller and NOAA and other scientists.

Obviously, this says nothing about the other data sources that confirm the NOAA figures, or the anthropogenic origin of much of the warming. It's an argument about the magnitude of the warming, made with an eye towards discrediting the "mainstream scientists". Yawn.

Satellite data shows a .4 degree C rise 1982 - 2009 (UAH/RSS datasets); Watts claims .15 degrees C 1979 to 2008 based on ground stations. It's worth noting that there have been numerous studies done to check the data by calculating without "badly sited" data sources, and those supported the standard claim. I think Watts et al will be shot down on this one.

Oh, sorry about the paywall. Slashdot linked directly to the story this morning and I was able to read it without trouble.

Robear wrote:
Watts, Steve McIntyre, Dr. John Christy and Evan Jones are releasing a paper that claims that the siting of many land stations in the US has created a spurious doubling of the warming trend. It has not yet been accepted for publication, but they are hopeful. Basically, they are directly challenging Muller and NOAA and other scientists.

Obviously, this says nothing about the other data sources that confirm the NOAA figures, or the anthropogenic origin of much of the warming. It's an argument about the magnitude of the warming, made with an eye towards discrediting the "mainstream scientists". Yawn.

Satellite data shows a .4 degree C rise 1982 - 2009 (UAH/RSS datasets); Watts claims .15 degrees C 1979 to 2008 based on ground stations. It's worth noting that there have been numerous studies done to check the data by calculating without "badly sited" data sources, and those supported the standard claim. I think Watts et al will be shot down on this one.

Wait, wait. Let me get this straight. Watts et al. have decided that the land-based stuff has said that it's essentially x2 of what it actually was.... but we have space-based info basically putting paid to this idea before it's even off the ground...........

Double ewe Eee Tee EFF?!

Well, he's been working on this for years. He trusted Muller to use his data to take down all the arrogant, lying scientists, but Muller switched sides. So really he's got little choice but to either stick by Muller and accept his results, or double down on his own stated beliefs. At least when he does the latter, he won't lose his reputation, his income and his supporters.

Skeptical Science has a response to the recent Watts et al paper on ground station siting and it's effects on temperature measurements in the US.


In its current form, the Watts paper contains little in the way of useful analysis. There are too many potential sources of bias which are not accounted for, too many apples-to-oranges comparisons, and they cannot draw any conclusions about urban heat influences until their data are homogenized and other non-climate influences are removed.

The primary conclusion of the paper, aside from not being supported by the analysis, is simply implausible. The CONUS surface warming trend proposed by the Watts paper appears to be inconsistent with the satellite observations, and overall global trends in raw data do not differ dramatically from those in the adjusted data. Comparing raw to adjusted data globally shows a rather small difference in long-term trends; far smaller than a factor of two.

The flaws we have identified entirely compromise the conclusions of the paper. Ultimately Watts et al. assume that all adjustments are 'spurious' unless due to urban heat influences, when in fact most of their identified discrepancy likely boils down to important adjustments for instrumental changes, TOB, and other influences they have not accounted for in their analysis. Watts et al. attempt to justify their assumption by asserting "well sited stations are adjusted upward to match the already-adjusted poor stations," but this is simply not how the homogenization process is done.

Good thing they did a pre-review release, eh?

Warming over the oceans and lakes is presumably not due to urbanisation.

CO2 emissions in US drop to 20-year low:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/...

Petroleum Deliveries Lowest Since September 2008; Weakest July Demand Since 1995

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/what-r...

This is what I was talking about when I said the recession would dramatically curb our consumption of fossil fuels and production of greenhouse gases. And I think we have a long way to go, so there will be considerable destruction of demand to come. This obviously does not rectify the issue of burgeoning economies, like China, but they are also on the cusp of their own economic troubles.

Except that the cause is not just the recession - that's the important thing. The biggest reason is that power companies are switching en masse from coal to cheaper natural gas. We're actually on track to meet what would have been our 20 year Kyoto commitment - and all without the CO2 reductions destroying the economy, as we were warned by the Steve McIntyres of the world.

This also means that it's a change that's accessible to other countries as well. And it should put paid to the argument that cutting CO2 automatically damages economies.

Robear wrote:
This also means that it's a change that's accessible to other countries as well. And it should put paid to the argument that cutting CO2 automatically damages economies.

Well, it's accessible to other countries just as long as they exempt fracking companies from clean water regulations, turn a blind eye to what they're pumping into the ground, and accept the occasional earthquake where there shouldn't be earthquakes.

What percentage of natural gas actually comes from fracking, in the US? And which benefit is more important - clean water in some communities, or lower CO2 nationally? I'll point out that coal is not exactly helping the environment, either...

Robear wrote:
What percentage of natural gas actually comes from fracking, in the US? And which benefit is more important - clean water in some communities, or lower CO2 nationally? I'll point out that coal is not exactly helping the environment, either...

According to the DoE, it accounted for 30% of all natural gas production in the US in 2011 (PDF). That was up from 2% in 2001. Projections have it reaching 64% by the end of the decade.

So what's more important: a decade or so of artificially low energy prices and temporarily lower CO2 emissions or clean water? I'd go with clean water. That's because once all those fracking companies pump millions of gallons of chemical slurry, the composition of which they legally don't have to ever disclose nor test for safety, into the rock surrounding aquifers we're f*cked. That water will be permanently contaminated. And when the gas production slows or ends, we're back to coal.

We have actual clean energy that we can use now: wind, solar, bio, nuclear, and more. Why should we be betting on an industry that only exists because it bypassed every meaningful EPA regulation?

And, as far as it fracking only affecting "some communities, you might want to check a map. It would actually affect large chunks of the country.

IMAGE(http://static.ewg.org/reports/2011/fracking/eia-shale-gas-map.jpg)

Let me be clear - I'm not a big supporter of fracking. But most of the supply of natural gas does not come from that. We could simply stop it, and still be well ahead of the game. But we won't.

We have to deal with these companies, and most of them are not going to adopt solar or wind, because their money is invested in the ground already, and the only way it's value will be realized is to extract it's resources. Coal causes more damage during extraction, I believe, and also causes more damaging air pollution. Given that these companies are not going away, if you ban natural gas fracking, it *will* be replaced by coal. I'd prefer that we require that the liquids used be carefully vetted and controlled, and that they pay to mitigate the damage.

But we're at the stage where we don't have good choices yet. So which way do we go? I say the way that nets out to do less damage, even if it's not the ideal option. Take that time and develop alternatives, save the coal as a strategic resource to be used for other purposes that don't involve burning it.

Robear wrote:
Let me be clear - I'm not a big supporter of fracking. But most of the supply of natural gas does not come from that. We could simply stop it, and still be well ahead of the game. But we won't.

We have to deal with these companies, and most of them are not going to adopt solar or wind, because their money is invested in the ground already, and the only way it's value will be realized is to extract it's resources. Coal causes more damage during extraction, I believe, and also causes more damaging air pollution. Given that these companies are not going away, if you ban natural gas fracking, it *will* be replaced by coal. I'd prefer that we require that the liquids used be carefully vetted and controlled, and that they pay to mitigate the damage.

But we're at the stage where we don't have good choices yet. So which way do we go? I say the way that nets out to do less damage, even if it's not the ideal option. Take that time and develop alternatives, save the coal as a strategic resource to be used for other purposes that don't involve burning it.

Most of the supply doesn't come from fracking *yet*. It went from effectively nothing to a third of all natural gas supplies in less than a decade. And that added supply of gas from fracking increased the quantity of natural gas available, which lowered the price of natural gas, which made it a more attractive fuel source, etc., etc..

That works out wonderfully well until the supply of fracked gas dries up and then the price of natural gas goes back to being highly volatile and everything companies have done to take advantaged of cheap natural gas gets abandoned for the next cheapest, and much dirtier, energy source.

Fracking is being portrayed as an energy silver bullet, which is why it should be immediately doubted and questioned. It only makes sense if all the unproven projections come true and it has no additional environmental impacts are discovered like it's so-called experts claim. But if there's one thing that is true in the world, it's never to believe anything that comes out of the mouth of an industry spokesperson. Their job and the job of everyone associated with their industry depends on them lying.

OG, I agree with you about fracking. I don't like it. However, consider the points I raised. What's your alternative to carry us through until we get a new infrastructure in place?

Robear wrote:
OG, I agree with you about fracking. I don't like it. However, consider the points I raised. What's your alternative to carry us through until we get a new infrastructure in place?

The question is: will new infrastructure even be put into place? They had plenty of time with coal and petroleum, yet no inroads have really been made. Will this just be another excuse to continue the status quo until it all happens again, but without any other alternative to bide the time?

ZaneRockfist wrote:
Robear wrote:
OG, I agree with you about fracking. I don't like it. However, consider the points I raised. What's your alternative to carry us through until we get a new infrastructure in place?

The question is: will new infrastructure even be put into place? They had plenty of time with coal and petroleum, yet no inroads have really been made. Will this just be another excuse to continue the status quo until it all happens again, but without any other alternative to bide the time?

I see your point Robear, and would agree with you but for one thing: if we ruin our aquifers via fracking-generated contamination, the consequences of that could be seriously dire. Yes, that's a big "if", but I'd put the severity of the consequences right on par with those of global warming.

I don't know what the best answer is. Some mixture of the two risks, but I don't know what mixture is "safest".

Robear wrote:
OG, I agree with you about fracking. I don't like it. However, consider the points I raised. What's your alternative to carry us through until we get a new infrastructure in place?

What's the alternative?

Just look at what Germany did. They more than quadrupled the amount of energy they get from renewable sources last decade, from 6% in 2000 to about 25% for the first half of this year. What did we do? We increased the amount of energy we got from renewables a whooping 33% over roughly the same period of time, from 9% to a little over 12.5%.

We actually have good choices in carbon free energy. We're just not making them, at least not fast enough anyway.

But things like fracking are preventing energy companies from making intelligent decisions. Instead, they are just following the path of least resistance. Rather than spend money to improve their facilities so they can meet the tougher EPA guidelines for burning coal, they're simply retrofitting their plants to burn natural gas. And that decision was made all the easier by the dramatic drop in natural gas prices brought about by fracking.

As more electrical plants switch over, the demand for fracking will skyrocket and I find that terrifying because we have no idea of the environmental issues that will cause. The fracking industry is simply growing too fast and it has managed to exempt itself from practically all regulation and oversight. That's a terrible combination. This is definitely a case for preferring the devil you know, which is coal.

The real issue is that we don't have a national energy policy where we can hash out these issues instead of relying on thousands of energy companies making decisions based solely on what's cheapest now.

And what's cheap now is natural gas. Of course just a decade or so ago gas-fired electricity generation was relegated solely to peak demand times because natural gas was so expensive.

Maybe this has been posted already, but it seems to be related to the current conversation. It's rare that you see much optimism on the subject.

DanyBoy wrote:
Maybe this has been posted already, but it seems to be related to the current conversation. It's rare that you see much optimism on the subject.

The thing is, I am extremely optimistic that even in the worst case scenarios that could humans could adapt quite readily; however, adaptations requires rational actors. The last few years of my life have shown to me that people aren't rational. They are as irrational as they can be. So even when presented with viable alternatives that work now, they won't accept them because they are too stuck on previous lifestyles and habits. And so they will do whatever they can to cling to that even if it means destroying themselves to do it. Never mind the fact that the people controlling the energy generally couldn't give a crap about being egalitarian or the well-being of their fellow man, so there will be tremendous suffering for no reason other then greed and irrational behavior.

As encouraging as that is, we don't have 50 years to implement those changes.

Now, that said, I really like this guy's plan and the amount of thought put into it. If only we could get this moving pronto. There's no reason we can't start on this now and simultaneously try to determine more drastic measures that we could take to try to mitigate climate change.

ZaneRockfist wrote:
The thing is, I am extremely optimistic that even in the worst case scenarios that could humans could adapt quite readily; however, adaptations requires rational actors. The last few years of my life have shown to me that people aren't rational. They are as irrational as they can be. So even when presented with viable alternatives that work now, they won't accept them because they are too stuck on previous lifestyles and habits. And so they will do whatever they can to cling to that even if it means destroying themselves to do it.

I think financial incentives help people act more rationally. And by incentives, I really mean increasing the cost of energy sources that emit CO2 or that otherwise don't have a place in our overall energy strategy (such as just switching from one fossil fuel to another slightly less polluting fossil fuel). This can be accomplished by a carbon tax or simply adding more state and federal taxes to an energy source.

Just look at gasoline prices. So far the magic number for gas has been around five bucks a gallon. As long as it's under that level, people don't think much about it (outside of complaining about the cost). But raise it to $5 a gallon and people suddenly start acting very rationally: they get rid of low MPG vehicles or drive them less; they consolidate errands; and otherwise drive less. People can be rational actors, they just need to be properly financially motivated.

Very good series of 7 videos (3-6 minutes each, or so) covering the lines of evidence for climate change, anthropogenic warming and other commonly questioned phenomenon related to it. From the National Research Council, which is part of the National Academies of the United States.

I just saw this diagram, best animated gif ever:

IMAGE(http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics/SkepticsvRealists_500.gif)

http://www.skepticalscience.com/grap...