Climate change “skepticism” relies on the basic idea that since climate change models haven’t perfectly mapped the exact path of ambient atmospheric temperature change, anthropogenic – or human caused – climate change is thus not a real or significant phenomenon; it’s a key, if not central example on the one hand, yet on the other also sits among countless other examples of the very same pattern by almost any means of advocacy that can be concocted and seemingly reasonably presented or believed.
And in so doing, this, as well, once again couldn’t miss what the issue is by a wider mark:
Predicting the exact path of future climate is almost impossible. So the fact we can’t perfectly predict its path on a cumulative short term basis (what models try to do as best as possible), doesn’t have anything to do with whether man is severely impacting climate against our own interests – and particularly that of the world’s poorest, and often those that contributed the least to this problem.
And, if precisely predicting climate wasn’t already difficult enough, it’s been made even more so by a sudden large and ongoing influx of energy onto an already complex and sometimes varying global system of energy and its expression – our climate system.
This new and accumulating addition of energy is a result of a sudden increase in atmospheric levels of long lived heat “trapping” gases: Enough of an increase, geologically speaking, to almost instantaneously raise those levels to atmospheric concentrations not seen on earth in millions of years: Possibly even as long as fifteen million in the case of the “lead” greenhouse gas carbon dioxide; and who knows in the more enigmatic and often very underestimated case of methane, but almost assuredly well above – more than double – what the earth has seen in nearly a million (graph from EPA):
Not only would this increase in the long lived gaseous particles that continually “trap” heat energy almost invariably have to affect – by the phenomenon commonly referred to as climate change – what’s ultimately driven by net energy. But the overall geophysical picture has been heavily corroborative, as some of earth’s other key systems, in addition to our atmosphere, are slowly starting to change in response. And significantly.
Even the long term ambient average atmpospheric temperature pattern alone has been corroborative. And it’s been even though there’s a large lag between this long lived atmospheric greenhouse “energy re-absorbing” gas increase and overall visible (atmospheric) climate impact, as our planet’s ongoing change in re-absorbed atmospheric heat energy continues to have an accumulating effect on its major systems that, along with the atmosphere itself, drive climate. (And, to some extent, along with the sun, when solar output changes. Although in the modern era the effect has been minor in comparison to anthropogenic effect, and for over three decades, in the exact opposite- that is, a “cooling,” direction.)
Thus the now significant and accelerating melt of the ice caps on both ends of the earth; the radical changes in south polar area winter sea ice extent as cold runoff from increasing glacier melt both adds a layer of non saline, colder surface water and insulates it from the slightly wamer water below, and a major shift in the Sourthern Annular Mode wind intensities over many decades past drives more and more of the newly formed ice northward, making room for new winter melt; the ongoing march of dwindling arctic, and truly polar, summer sea ice extent; the slowly increasing signs of change to total northern permafrost and lower glacial areas; the increase in previously long frozen methane gas releases and the attendant warming of long stable sea bed floors; and the rampant pace of world ocean energy heat accumulation.
But with respect to just air temperature alone, which from the vast increases in ocean temperatures should, if anything, have been slightly colder with so much additional net energy going into accumulating long term ocean heat, notice the last few years in the chart just below, representing new global yearly mean highs: With 2015 beating the previous mark by what a larger deviation above the norm than any prior record; and January and February 2016 (not included) both setting records – with February absolutely obliterating the record for hottest monthly anomaly above the norm – as with January (and December, 2015 before that, and October 2015 before that), for any month up until that point ever recorded.
All this has occurred while, more significantly, again, the world ocean continues to gain heat energy – that is, drawing it, and massive amounts of it – out of the atmosphere on an ongoing net basis: And still, this (chart by NASA):
On the other hand, the inaccurately named phenomenon of climate change “skepticism” is the belief climate somehow isn’t being altered in any meaningful way as a result of this sudden yet long term and accumulating energy shift,* and that there isn’t even enough of a reasonable (let alone likely) chance of it to act sensibly mitigate it; or at least stop adding to it.
It’s also usually driven by considerations that have nothing to do with climate change itself, including widespread but likely misplaced economic presumptions. And also often tied to unrelated political ideologies; particularly the most fervent advocacy that in turn has led to a lot of misperception on the issue of anthropogenic climate change, as well as a sort of “self sealing” belief on the issue.
And it’s also a belief – or, in pursuit of that belief, a claim – that anything we observe signaling overall change is largely “coincidence,” because, namely, earth has changed before.
The three current leading candidates for the U.S. GOP 2016 presidential nomination, all somewhat to very far right wing, adhere strongly to this general belief; well exhibited here by Ted Cruz, here by Donald Trump (though he denies that also, despite a consistent, repeated pattern), and here, explicitly, by Marco Rubio.
But the fact that earth has changed before has nothing to do with whether we’re changing it now. And it’s only relevance is to suggest that earth’s climate can and does change.
So dumping a huge amount of additional energy into it our climate system, as we are doing right now, is more likely to have a longer term dramatic effect than if the long term geophysical record suggested that climate was somehow highly static. (Note that in one of the most bizarre “science” papers published in modern times (in the off topic Chinese Journal Science Bulletin), and one of the extraordinarily rare, allegedly vetted papers claiming that climate change is relatively insignificant, a noted group of “skeptics” – simply assumed that climate was very “stable,” thereby directly contradicting a main claim of climate “skepticism” because they needed to in order to create what’s best described as a non geophysical earth related but instead “closed circuit” model that was designed to support their conclusion rather than lead to one. They also, and outlandishly even for a bad high school paper, simply assumed that any increase in atmospheric energy would be instantaneously reflected in climate. This defies the basic reality of earth and its geophysical systems in a way that, to put it charitably, is bizarre.)
A random one hundred year period (say, 1915 to 2015, or the most relevant period in terms of observing the initial signs of our ongoing atmospheric change) also represents only one-forty millionth of earth’s geologic history. So the fact “earth has changed before” wouldn’t be a very satisfying explanation for why it’s changing so much and so quickly now in this 100 year period – particularly in the latter end – even in the absence of any knowledge of our atmospheric changes.**
It would also be pretty remarkable for earth’s oceans, ice sheets, and even ongoing ambient global temperatures, to show the increasingly significant signs of change they’re showing – and in an upward accumulating energy direction just as anticipated – at the same time (a sort of geologic “pinprick” of time) our sudden yet major addition to earth’s “insulation layer” – which changes total net absorbed energy – was somehow not relevantly altering climate.
In short, being able to predict future regional and global climate – as if otherwise almost as easy as a three day local weather forecast – isn’t connected to the question of whether (in a sort of long term, completely uncontrolled, global experiment with, to boot, a major time lag between cause and effect) suddenly and dramatically increasing the atmospheric concentration of long lived energy absorbing molecules is invariably changing the climate and presenting a range of long term climate altering possibilities or severities (risks), and in any event very likely a long term average increase in overall temperature.
But that doesn’t mean scientists, through a solid understanding of the issue and climate dynamics, haven’t been able to come up with models that aren’t useful. And in fact, models haven’t even been that far off overall – and more importantly have been far more accurate than not – even more than previously thought. And for whatever it’s worth, their accuracy in comparison to “skeptic” forecasts, which are predictions of what people want to happen, is absolutely “off the charts.”
Thus the main basis of skepticism – as with essentially all the others – misses what the issue really is. Models aren’t climate change.
Models are supportive. That is, they help further validate and solidify our understanding of the issue, because they have not only been remarkably far from simply meaningless random predictions, overall they have been fairly accurate in terms of projecting relevant ranges; and, though scientists would always like to forecast things exactly before they happen – and continually working on and attempting to do so produces better and better understanding and projections – models realistically are ultimately just an attempt (albeit an important one) to try and approximate or project what’s most likely to happen from that impact, and approximate some range.
One of the grandfathers of serious climate change concern, and vast early knowledge of the issue – James Hansen – was even part of the large team that came up with one of the first powerful set of long term projections based on our ongoing alteration of the atmosphere – back in 1981. (More here.) They’ve turned out to be very accurate; ridiculously so if one believes the ambient temperature signs we’ve seen (forget about the more important and larger upward changes in ocean and ice sheet heat energy accumulation) to be a largely random event, at the exact same geologic time our anthropogenic actions have changed the atmospheric composition of heat trapping gases to levels not seen on earth in millions of years.
For the climate change “skeptic” who is intent on staying a skeptic, this probably won’t matter. But it’s an important part of the issue to be covered, because the confusion over models has played an extremely large role in overall perception – and more impotantly – misperception – on climate change. As this fact, that we can’t predict exactly what will happen, has erroneously served as a main basis for refuting the fact that atmospheric alteration is both significantly affecting climate and more importantly creating a large risk range of potential affects.
It’s a big part of the story of climate change – one that hasn’t received fair or balanced coverage. And covering the relevant arguments and facts herein would help further better understanding on, and assessment of, the issue.
*When the surface of the earth is warmer than the surrounding air, it emits thermal radiation, or heat energy. This energy is of medium wavelength, and it is absorbed and re radiated outward in all directions (and re absorbed and re radiated outward, and so on), very much unlike reflected sunlight, which is short wavelength radiation and passes through the atmosphere unabsorbed.
**The process of anthropogenic limate change”skepticism” seems to also cherry pick out slivers of data to claim that earth isn’t really changing all that much, and even less persuasively: except to the hundreds of millions of people in the United States and Britain alone – including many in regional and national legislatures – who either intrinsically have this belief, or have been convinced of it through a near mountainous avalanche of just such advocacy and misimpression.
Congressional Testifier Judy Curry: The Great “Self Correcting” Mechanism of Climate Change “Skeptics.”
Delusions at their finest. From Judy Curry, a frequent testifier to a generally scientifically illiterate and ideological U.S Congress:
However, the main point is that this group is rapidly self-correcting – the self-correcting function in the skeptical technical blogosphere seems to be more effective (and certainly faster) than for establishment climate science.
Curry includes a few non skeptics in her group. But she seems to be relying on the fact that some of the most ludicrous claims of skeptics are contradicted by other skeptics (as part of the process of believing they are engaging in objective, non results oriented, non advocacy, science), as evidence for her belief sealing assertion that skeptics are “self correcting.”
This sort of phenomenon also goes on at the WattsUpWithThat website that is heavily referenced in the above linked piece: A place where hard core “skeptics,” regardless of the most relevant facts, yet under fervently believed auspices of them, consistently advocate that climate change is either a hoax or trivial.
WUWT is a site that, along with a random smattering of other erroneous information sites, comes up on the first page of most google climate change related searches, and which has an astoundingly high and greatly underestimated influence on broad public perception of an issue that, otherwise, at its core at least is a pretty simple no brainer:
Namely, we rapidly and suddenly changed our earth’s insulation layer to what are geologically unheard of levels relative to the otherwise exceedingly long course of mankind’s evolutionary transition into a species.
And while conditions on earth – e.g, ocean temps, ice sheets and overall albedo – also interact with and affect that insulation layer and help drive longer term climate, the two main direct drivers of long term climate as well as those just referenced earth systems that in the long run also help stabilize and drive climate, are the sun (incoming energy); and earth’s atmosphere – its long term insulation – or, simply put, the recapture of otherwise escaping energy.
So of course climate likely has to change, possibly in (to us) geologically profound ways. And our sudden geologically relevant change to the atmosphere’s long term, and accumulating, recapture of energy presents an enormous risk range of what to us may seem “slow,” but would in fact be geologically very rapid and (again, to us), potentially severe lurches or changes that are probably still hard to fully comprehend or predict.
At the so called “most viewed site on climate science in the world,” the most hard core “skeptics” sometimes wax on about how they are debating and looking at things “objectively” in order to arrive at the best science, while in fact everything under the sun is tried out in order to most effectively advocate for this desired position.
This includes a rigorous assessment of claims to find those that can be sufficiently believed and self perpetuating in order to continue said advocacy and belief under believed guise of the “better science.”
Thus, when commenters therein suggest the idea that carbon dioxide levels have increased is wrong, or the accepted knowledge that the increase is due to anthropogenic activities is in fact wrong, many “skeptics” argue against this. For, they are, after all, “reasonable” and “objective.” (And the ability to recognize that atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen due to clear and specific anthropogenic processes, naturally, “proves that.”)
It is easy to confuse the hell out of the climate change issue, as Judy Curry’s site, along with WUWT and a near endless host of others – and with eloquent language and rhetoric almost always inversely related to the underlying accuracy of what she is really communicating – aptly shows.
And it is so easy to continue to pick apart almost anything under the sun (no pun intended) on a potentially complex issue such as “climate change,”almost all of which misrepresents the issue, gets it wrong, or wildly, almost radically, cherry picks and simply omits anything which fundamentally conflicts with pre determined conclusions drawn and assertions made, that why undermine credibility with what are obviously wacky claims even to the not very scientific?
Even for some, going to the level of simply calling NOAA and NASA outright frauds – while some of the most hard core (and usually not very scientific) Tea Party deniers literally believe this as a way to stay with their beliefs -loses credibility.
That is why in the above post Paul Homewood is looked upon as “reasonable,” and Steven Goddard, for making some of the same ultimate claims about “fraudulent” NASA, not as much, since Homewood “shows” the claims.
As Curry eloquently argues:
..Whereas Homewood more carefully documented the actual problem with the data set.
What’s interesting is that months later later, Homewood struck again. He found some temperature stations in South America (or somewhere) that had been recalibrated. He took out the recalibrations and the temperature rise for the region wasn’t as large.
He did this for a few other carefully selected geographical areas as well.
This set off an even bigger tempest among the real “skeptic” blogosphere, as well as many mainstream news sources either ideologically predisposed to the claim that climate change is all but a bunch of hooey (especially Rupert Murdoch’s ideologically driven empire, and especially Fox New there); confused about the issue; or confused about what actual “balance” in reporting is – thinking it means just parrot what everybody says without the context of relevant facts or why they’re relevant, and sort of split the difference overall. (And thus, on complicated issues, create the ability of any group to change any truth by simply claiming it vociferously and consistently enough, and with enough seemingly logical made up rhetoric in support.)
Homewood’s claims – dismissed too quickly by many who “know” climate change is a big problem and who often assume “everybody else knows it too” and aren’t much influenced by the huge cacaphony of misleading and confused information on a topic that is often poorly understood – helped to further add to the confusion and skepticism on the topic of climate change and man’s inadvertent impact on our long term climate and future climate risk range; even as ice sheets continue to melt, and the ocean gets hotter, precipitation patterns slowly become more generally intense and variable, and long term temperatures slowly continue to rise.
The problem with Homewood’s claim and the ensuing worldwide cacophony that ensued is: The temperature recalibrations weren’t represented as “mistakes,” nor the “find” by Homewood as part of the natural process of science that, aside from observation, esssentially defines it – namely, ongoing learning, adjustment, mistake, correcting, adjustment, refinement, etc.
Instead, they were represented as a “fraud.” Which is itself actually a fraud. (If a fraud can be perpetrated under guise of belief, since hard core skeptics actually believe they are being objective; and in finding ways that help to advocate their desired conclusions, self seal in their belief of those conclusions as well as their objectivity – a classic example of which is the ludicrous post by Curry linked to at the top, and the point herein.)
Temperature station recalibration is incontrovertibly considered good science. If some stations were recalibrated incorrectly, then that’s the mistake, and, as part of the process of science, it should be adjusted, corrected, or improved.
Yet the hard core “skeptic” blogosphere, picked up by much of the mainstream media, and represented basic science – routine recalibrations – to the world, as fraud.
That’s blind zealotry.
But it got worse. Homewood, as well as much of this great “self correcting skeptic community” to which Curry self convincingly refers, also neglected to mention in their constant representations that this “tampered data” (aka routine recalibrations), were not only routine, but also routinely done in both directions – upward and downward. The fact that temperature data was “changed downward” – further presenting the false impression of on its face fraud – was simply omitted as if it didn’t exist, leaving an incredibly false impression.
In essence, some of this “self correcting” skeptic community, led by Homewood, Curry’s Golden Boy for objectivity, apparently – and with zero evidence in support but for desire – broadly and repeatedly represented that routine recalibrations were tampering to raise temperatures. And did so by presenting the case to the world as if temperature station data was never supposed to be changed.
This was done when in fact a) it is considered bad science to simply refuse to recalibrate raw data – and b) such “changes” or recalibration (mostly due to lesser maintained weather gauges) were also and just about as exhaustively done in the downward direction as well.
If it was tampering, or there was credible evidence of it (some disgruntled scientist who thinks the temperature data set isn’t showing the problem and thus pulls a fast one on 100,000 plus climate, atmospheric or geo physical or paleo physical scientists, and the world round the globe, as observational indices over the years world wide, just happen to cooperate by sheer coincidence), then the non fraudulent way to allege such would be to first and foremost represent: 1) that recalibrations are part of science; not implicitly represent that raw data is what is used, so that if the raw data is “changed” it is a fraud; and 2) that the recalibrations or (“fraudulent”) changes were done upward and downward, not just that the changes were done upward alone.
And lastly, though of less import, had no recalibrations been done at all, the possibly erroneous(?) or, in the eyes of skeptics, “fraudulent” total global warming measurements would in total not even be any lower.
So the ultimate conclusion of the three part “scandal” fraud – 1) NOAA fraudulently tampered with data as opposed to recalibrated data (and, if so, with support still largely lacking, but if with support it’s simply part of the scientific process – erred on some of its recalibrations; 2) The “changed data” (again, rather than simply what it is, recalibrated raw data) was only done in an upward direction; and 3) In order to purposefully create the false appearance of a “warming world” – was also, incredibly, false.
These representations were also not just made in non stop rhetoric by politicians, comments, and an endless line of highly frequented blog sites, but in mainstream editorials and articles as well. (Most notably here, where routine recalibrations cherry picked in only the upward direction and represented as something entirely different, were in a major newspaper labeled “The Science Scandal of the Century,” in a bit of irony for the ages.)
An irony that Judy Curry, to perpetuate her own beliefs, seems completely immune to. The same Judy Curry who not long before this still largely unrecognized scandal scandal, self sealingly writes of the self correcting “skeptic” community on this issue, as opposed to the basic process of science, which she finds pales in comparison.
And still without yet coming up with a single shred of evidence, support – apart from rhetoric, hope, religious belief that a chosen God sets aside the basics laws of physics he himself created in order to keep mankind from inadvertently damaging his own interests and too radically altering the Goldilocks climate we and the species we rely upon evolved under, or misrepresentations and wild cherry picking of actual climate science itself – as to how the earth’s long term insulation layer could, as a clear result of specific anthropogenic activities, and almost breathtakingly fast, rise to levels that in Global Warming Potential Equivalent (GWPe) the earth now hasn’t seen in millions of years, and somenow not impact the climate.
While of course also cherry picking to extremes (consistently taking the far end of the far end of all estimates and leaving out other relevant facts entirely, including on Judy Curry’s far too influential blog), in order to claim that the earth isn’t really changing, or ascribe it to some mathematically fantastic coincidence that in this particular 100 year period, increasing and long term consistent signs of general changes exactly in the direction that would be expected, just “happen” to be by some bizarre coincidence.
For climate science can not be literally proven until well after the fact. (If, technically, even then.)
And since skeptics don’t want to accept it for a host of reasons and, often, broad (and often incorrect) presumptions, economic and otherwise, and have turned skepticism into an avenue for advocating against the general climate change “theory” in any seemingly plausible way possible (hence Curry’s piece above, and the delusion of the “self correcting” mechanism), the ironically misnamed”skepticism” perspective and its proponents can in fact continue to cling to that belief until well after the fact, and decades after the changes that represent what many are concerned about, are inextricably set in motion, or have already come to pass.
How a Fiction Novel Helped Bush Shape Climate Policy, and the Attendant Myth of the Self Regulating Earth and Related Climate Change Argument Patterns
THE LATE pseudo climate change denialist Michael Crichton – great author, awful objective scientist – in one sense started it off:
Crichton didn’t just write an influential best seller with extremely bad – but appealing – rhetoric, misrepresentation, and false logic. He greatly influenced presidents with it.
And Crichton’s belief driven interpretation approach – the very opposite of what real science is – led him to the novelish conclusion that climate scientists were not just wrong, but dolty hoax perpetrating frauds or simple idiots; with environmentalists, of course, evil wrongdoers.
This, he established, by a piece so manipulative, and so bad….
…So maniuplative, and so bad…it captivated, among many people, the former President of the United States.
A president who, although he almost never met with climate scientists, nevertheless met with Crichton for an hour to discuss climate change, specifically.
And who, along with many others, moved backward on the issue, while the avalanche of misunderstanding and rhetoric on it – rhetoric that sounds good but is not only egregiously wrong but, even more tellingly, fundamentally misconstrues what the issue even is, simultaneously came into full swing.
And still continues, to this day. Even, in some ways, increasing, and dominating much of the increasingly far right leaning GOP, a good portion of the Internet, and even many ostensibly objective news sources.
At the same time, the great bulk of the U.S. and other Western countries and leading Internet media, for instance, still don’t assess the actual claims of the so called, ironically named, and self reinforcing belief led “skepticism” movement; let alone do so in the context of the actual relevant facts on climate change, nor why, more importantly, the relevant facts are what they are.
The rare – let alone long – Crichton climate change meeting with the U.S President and his insiders wasn’t the only direct influence of the book. The fiction in fact received widespread coverage:
Unfortunately, very little of it placed its outlandish claims and illogical but still today erroneously but almost religiously used belief that because the precise impact of an enormous ongoing geological energy dump can’t be exactly predicted, therefore the fact that major atmospheric energy alteration is in fact changing climate can’t be very significant, into any type of accurate context whatsoever.
On the other end of the spectrum, in fact, the AEI, which numbered a remarkably high twenty alumni among just the Bush Administration itself, even gave Crichton its keynote spot: in a day, of all things – and in a bastardization of the term that would have made Orwell proud (although one, sadly, that was self believed, as all most good Orwellian doublespeak ultimately becomes) – devoted to”Science Policy in the 21st Century.”
Thus at the same time, in its quest for false balance and fear of the far right jumping up and down and calling it even more names, and similarly beguiled by the belief driven rhetoric and fervent self reinforcing belief driven and veiled manipulation in Crichton’s novel itself, and elsewhere similarly passed off as science, most of the media wouldn’t even objectively assess the book in relation to the relevant facts, wasn’t being given the tools to do so, or some combination of the two.
Crichton meanwhile, later showing how “reasonable” he of course was (arguably slightly fooling some otherwise highly laudable climate change reporters, and perpetuating enormous myths of presumption that moving to smarter energy and agricultural practices is not only not growth but some sort of huge cost – here in Crichton’s own words, and borrowing from Bjorn Lomborg – covered here – 558 trillion dollars), also liked to say that of course the phenomenon of climate change is real, it’s just that the earth is “isn’t that sensitive.”
This is a critical point – though rarely covered – because it’s at the heart of much of the misunderstanding, and misinformation that helps feed, support and even increase the self righteous furor and zeal of the ongoing onslaught of appealing sounding climate change isn’t a big deal rhetoric. (Rhetoric that unfortunately, on the outside, many of those concerned about climate change downplay far too much, as if those hundreds of millions that buy it – many influential, and representing even nearly a majority of our U.S Congress today – can’t or don’t actually believe it, failing therein to see the constant patterns – and poor framing – that reinforce widespread belief and self reinforcing ideology, on a complex unprovable futuristic long term global energy pattern integrated issue.)
If the earth “isn’t that sensitive,” why, then climate change can’t be much of a problem. I.e, because,. it…just…isn’t “that sensitive.”
Since it’s in the future, and commingled with the fact that “climate” exists regardless of our actions (our actions just help impact it), the issue – since the earth “isn’t that sensitive” anyway – is then easy to trivialize.
This is something which those who don’t see climate change as trivial continue to often fail to recognize, and thus as a result often frame communications in a sort of either presumptive, conclusionary, evilly motivated, or blaming sort of way that only furthers the needless polar divide over not what to do about the issue, but the very reality of its potent geologic existence and attendant widspread powerful and uncertain long term risk range to the conditions that support our world in the first place.
But the fact is, devoid of specific context and application to the precise atmospheric alteration taking place, as well as the uncertain broad range of ongoing energy risk and effects – something still not being well grasped or, but for “worry,” dispassionately articulated – the phrase “isn’t that sensitive” is not only highly misleading, it’s appealing sounding, ultimately scientifically meaningless, bunk: The sophisticated, slightly veiled version of saying gravity won’t make you fall off a skyscraper when you jump because “it’s just that the pull isn’t that sensitive.”
Which, in turn, and unlike the more complex phenomenon of impact to an already existent and random climate through major long term geophysical energy input changes – is only obvious because we can all independently see and unambiguously feel gravity at work.
While climate change, on the other hand, once again, is a complex global phenomenon of greatly increased net energy impact upon an already open, global, and highly variable system; impossible to fully isolate out over decades, let alone at the moment and in a specific location so that we could somenow know exactly what is going to happen and when, as “skeptics” seem to continually if illogically insist we need to be able to do in order for the phenomenon of major potential impact risk to even be real in the first place.
The nice sounding but meaningless claim is also similar in logic – appealing but fundamentally incorrect – to the idea that climate change can’t be a significant phenomenon because models (though overall they are reasonably accurate, and far, far more so than the mere randomness that would have to be the case if climate change were bunk), can’t tell us exactly what will happen and when.
Which argument, lost in all of the rhetoric, relies upon the ludicrous implication that the concept of “risk” itself (which by definition implies uncertainty) ceases to exist, when we simply don’t want it to.
Though not nearly as obvious, it would be as if counter terrorism experts prior to 2001 warned that flying airplanes into skyscrapers might topple them, but those who didn’t want to believe it convinced themselves that it was unlikely for the jetliners to pose significant risk to skyscrapers merely because without running several tests (which for climate change would require dozens of sister earths and several half century plus periods to test out various atmospheric level changes and account for variance) – and possibly even with doing so – exactly what would happen could not be precisely predicted in advance.
This is exactly what is happening with respect to the climate change issue, and the media is simply not covering it.
The earth is now an ongoing climatic experiment. Of course suddenly changing earth’s basic long term insulation layer impacts climate – it can’t not. And it poses risk of fairly significant shifting, in what would be to us a reasonably long, but in geological terms very quick – time frame (Here’s one such mechanism that gets far too little attention, as we over focus on air temperatures alone, which only tell the most visible, variable, and right now least important part of the story.)
But lack of acceptance of this on the one hand, and poor framing, and blaming, and villainizing, and presumption, on the other, help facilitate this ongoing pattern of arguments that sound great, but, literally, have nothing to do with the issue.
For instance, here’s yet another: Anthropogenic climate change isn’t real because “climate changes”: Probably uttered in no less than a hundred thousand “articles” on the subject, and millions of comments, not to mention multiple “news” channels.
Of course climate changes. (Though frankly the chance of it changing over any single random 100 year period, to the degree it has over the past 100 year period – let alone in exactly the direction climate scientits would expect as a result of our atmospheric alteration, are exceedingly low – and even far lower still when the more significant drivers of future change – major ice cap, ice sheet and ocean changes, are taken into account.)
But that argument is about as relevant as saying that break failure induced car accident risk increase isn’t real because, “car accidents happen.”
In other words, climate change isn’t suddenly recognized because, “Wow, climate is changing, any ideas why?” with then a mad scramble to come up with explanations. Climate change is the more fundamental issue of major long term atmospheric insulative alteration, with the expectation of ongoing, increasing, cumulative effect upon both air temperatures, and more importantly the basis stases systems that help stablize, modulate and drive, earth’s climate (and which represent exactly what, corroboratively, we are seeing).
It’s this way with every single one of the skeptic “arguments.” I.e., a logical sounding tautology once again, that either fundamentally misconstrues the basic issue, or has nothing to do with it.
For instance, here’s yet another: climate change isn’t real becaue “scientists have been wrong before.” (Hence, GOP candidate and far right ideologue Ted Cruz, in an irony that knows few bounds, has likened himself and other climate change “skeptics,” to Galileo.)
But the fact that scientists have been wrong before isn’t relevant to the issue of atmospheric change, or any specific issue, for that matter. What is relevant are the reasons why.
In this case, the relevant reasons, if any, why the overwhelming majority of climate scientists most basic and at this point not even controvertible assessment of the issue, are in this particular case, wrong, and man is not significantly impacting our own climate or presenting a relevant risk range of potentially broad scale future and unpredictable shifting and change.
And, tellingly, all of the reasons offered as to “why” this is reportedly so (i.e, the “basic” science is wrong while coincidentally, the ideologue and often anti science politicians are, of course, right), are not only egregiously wrong, but terribly misconstrue the basic issue itself, so they are not even really addressing the issue, but believe that they are.
When the arguments given to show that “accepted” or widespread scientific knowledge is wrong, have to get the issue itself egregiously wrong in order to do so, it greatly strengthens, not weakens, the accepted knowledge.
(Occassionally accepted knowledge is generally correct, and the accepted knowledge on climate change is still very very generic and basic; and for the most part on this issue only reluctantly arrived at after long term conservative examination given its implications, and overall has underestimated the issue if anything, but of course skeptics have cherry picked what amount to microscopic slivers of the entire picture and amalgam of statements and assessments, to convey the very opposite illusion and belief.)
And this reality – that the arguments as to why the idea of relevant anthropogenic climate change impact and risk is misplaced are not only wrong themselves, but have to continually misconstrue the basic issue itself in order to self support – illustrates that the non acceptance of the basic fact – mankind is changing our climate, likely doing so in a way that poses an extremely counter productive risk range of possible radical (for us) climatic shifts as earth’s net energy balance continues to grow and its oceans and ice sheets accumulate more and more heat energy, changing the fundamental stases systems that both generally stabilize as well as ultimately help drive our climate – comes from a desire that becomes reinforced by a kind of self reinforcing advocacy, rather than the objective assessment of which such advocacy continually self convinces.
And, critical as it is to the issue and – as we continue to respond illogically to it, has so been for years and years – this as well has simply not been sufficiently shown.
And Crichton’s remarkably manipulative, but likely earnestly written novel – a novel that changed presidential perception and helped stall common sense climate change assessment and redress, and in a broader way still does today – is a perfect example; as it gets nearly everything relevant, wrong. (And wrong is a nice word, since the novel’s manipulation of the relevant issue, relative to what is and isn’t actually relevant, is astounding.)
As is, similarly, the more fundamental premise that drove Crichton’s continued dismissal of climate change, along with that of hundreds of millions of other concerned citizens: Namely, the similarly nice sounding idea that, well, climate change really isn’t a big deal, because, shrug, “earth’s not that sensitive.”
This is also, once again, a nice comforting jingle of a phrase that creates the false patina of relevant logic, i.e, once again sounds great, but is meaningless. And is a prhase which, more relevantly, leads to the corrollary, and even more influential idea of the”self regulating,” or “self correcting” mechanism idea.
Climate change? Yawn, snooze: No big deal, because, the earth is “not that sensitive,” and, naturally, is also”self regulating.”Again, a wonderful jingle of a phrase that creates the false patina of relevant logic.
Again, and most tellingly of all on the issue, these are concepts that sound nice; help reinforce what we want to believe, and have in some ways literally helped (erroneously) reshape our perceptions away from what the bulk of professional climate, atmospheric and geologic scientists professionally studying this issue have been increasingly saying for years. But that literally have as much relevancy to the actual underlying issue as the color of your neighbor’s favorite shirt.
The idea is that the earth is ‘self correcting,” as if it’s not a product of the input of energy and physics upon it that in turn supports life, but some sort of independent organism with an end design similar to man himself – a large ball shaped organism hurtling through space designed to support a specific climate rather than just express a climate through the input of the sun, the ball’s rotation, and its insulation layer, etc, and of course not just any climate but one that’s also most preferable to mankind, specifically.
Similarly, famous columnist and long time influential news commentator Charles Krauthammer, who in the past has been to climate change knowledge as a blind person is to sight, wrote an oped arguing why climate change wasn’t a big deal, as a “science friend” explained to him. (It’s a good thing one of the U.S.’s most influential long time columnists has science friends so he can write column after column contradicting climate scientists who actually professionally study this issue, and who, very much unlike Krauthammer, actually have some small clue about it).
Why isn’t it a big deal? Because, as science expert Krauthammer informs the world, of “homeostasis.”
This is like a two year old contradicting practicing physicists. But in our “common sense” rhetoric and little check upon misinformation run amok age, it sounds great.
And it’s, once again, nice rhetoric. Except Krauthammer, as with almost all so called “skepticism” on this issue (but the very opposite of skepticism toward any claim that pretends to know more than climate scientists on the issue, so long as it contradicts climate scientists), is driven by the self reinforcing advocacy to fit “facts” into this desired conclusion. And not coincidentally, got the only two relevant things, backwards.
First, homeostasis in general means balance and a tendency to return toward it. Climate change is an issue precisely because of this: Increase earth’s net energy, and earth will over time respond until a new stases (or balance) is reached, representing the new net energy influx parameters.
The other mistake is even more egregious, and almost past the point of caricature. (Yet naturally the Washington Post published this monstrosity in the name of “false balance” and poor scientific understanding, as if it was simply “perspective.”)
That is, homeostasis most frequently and more specifically, refers to physiological processes: An organism or living body’s self correcting or attempted healing process mechanism, or tendency.
The earth is a ball of several basic elements, and ice. Essentially a ball of rock moving through space. Not a literal, physiological organism which evolved such a homoestasis mechanism since, the better the mechanism, the more likelihood of survival and thus the passing on of genes.
Also, even if earth were a biological self correcting mechanism (“Gaia” – ironic that in illogical but clearly ideology driven antagonism to even the most basic of non partisan objective environmental science Krauthammer would misappropriate the somewhat far fetched or at least more abstract than literal environmetalist concept of “mother earth,” and on top of that, actually make it literal), it would likely self correct by taking steps to lessen the impact of the species that is suddenly radically changing it. Not protect that species.
So the tendency towards balance – whether it be in any system – is that of climate change itself – the earth’s ongoing response to what is now a multi million year change in its long term molecular energy recapture, not a reason for climate change not to be real (which is inane). Or it exists in an organism – not the earth, as a complex physical but not physiological, system itself – and which the earth, at best, only serves as metaphor.
And which, even as semi literal metaphor, likely wouldn’t cause it self correct to “protect us.”
Nor, even more importantly, is there any known mechanism, or even the hint of such mechanism (besides, of course, rhetoric – which can create the hint, and even perceived reality of nearly anything), by which this “self correction to keep climate around what it was when mankind evolved the past couple of million years or less,” so it would stay smoothing sailing specifically for otherwise random said mankind, would happen.
But, naturally, this broader but equally meaningless idea of “self regulation” has become a fundamental foundation, both implicitly and explicitly, in the common discussion; substituting for meaningful and relevant analysis and assessment – while of course sounding just like it. And in most cases serving as yet another means to perpetuate a desired belief while simultaeously causing even wider and again further self reinforcing misunderstanding on the underlying topic.
But again, the idea of “self regulating” earth in response to an otherwise random change in ongoing inputed net energy to earth’s overall earth atmospheric system in any meaningful way for our specific needs and desires, presupposes the earth as some separate biological mechanism charged with overseeing life, rather than serving simply as home to it, and the literal earth organism itself thus not just supporting that life (plausible to some, at least in some sort of abstract metaphor), but specifically favoring human life, and self correcting for it.
This is a fantasy that, regardless, literally has no more support than the more obviously silly notion that alien fairy Godmothers come down each evening while we’re sleeping and re-adjust our earth’s energy balance – as well as set aside the laws of physics that normally guide it – for man’s specific benefit. Thus, making up for man’s mistakes and perpetuating our own ignorances as some sort of “good.”
In short, the problem with the “climate is self correction notion” is it starts from a false premise. That earth is not a ball of rock, but a literal living organism, and more importantly one that thrives and specifically and somehow very purposefully self corrects for the very same climatic conditions that would also right now and again purposefully and specifically favor us – wild coincidence of that aside.
Or, similarly, that it’s a physical system that doesn’t respond to the laws of energy and balance, but adjusts them somehow to achieve a different balance, despite a greatly changing total net input, that is once again, and specifically, similarly beneficial or “stabilizing,” for us.
From the ball of rock that is earth’s perspective, there’s nothing to correct. It’s a reflection of the total net energy input and its atmosphere and the conditions that creates, and physics.
Unfortunately our rhetoric far exceeds our logic, so, helped into full swing by Michael Crichton, among others, we say geologically meaningless things like “self correcting.” And thus find very human, “belief self regulating” ways, to cling to beliefs we’ve come to have, want to have, or have been convinced of.
And given its complex, overall uncertain, long term, and natural system intermingled nature, and a lot of rhetoric (and even well meaning but often counter productive conclusionary alarmism that seems to shriek and tell, rather than illuminate, show, and allow people to reach conclusions), climate change is a big candidate for exactly this phenomenon in more caricatured form even than usual. (And as such serves as a good litmus for how we’re handling things we need to learn to more ojectivel and reasonably and tolerantly assess iun order to ultimately propser, or even survive, as a species, as we continue to gain in our ability to impact the fundamental physical constructs of the world in which we live – both purposefully, and inadvertently.)
So, in this case, the key details that form the atmospheric alteration and net energy balance change to our earth atmosphere system are misinterpreted, then cast aside, because the earth is “not sensitive,” or is “self correcting.” Whereas, again, rhetoric aside, climate isn’t “self correcting” because there’s nothing to self correct.
The earth is a ball of a few basic elements that responds to the net energy input upon it and the laws of physics. And climate is ultimately an expression of that energy; not some sort of design by “Gaia” or otherwise, specifically for man’s benefit, no matter how nice the phrase sounds.
And we’re conducting a nice little open ended uncontrolled long term experiment, by geologically radically (at least from our perspective, and geologic time frame wise), altering the long term chemical composition of our atmosphere.
And instead of having a rational, objective conversation on it, have devolved into rhetoric as belief, under self believed guise of logic, while mamy others simply point fingers, presume the same knowledge or viewpoint, or ascribe “evil” motives to differing – even wrong, but very human, and understandable, as as of yet still not corrected or even sufficiently illuminated – views.
Here’s a great article in the Huffington post about growing food on Mars. At least it seems like a great article, as it appears interesting and informative. Yes, we can live on Mars! (Threshold question is probably being able to first successfully continue to live and improve on earth, however.)
It’s a great article, that is, until we get to these two sentences. Pay close attention:
The carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased from 0.03 to 0.04 percent over the past 100 years. We are only just beginning to study the impacts of this subtle change.
Sure, we could argue in a court of law that this isn’t technically a lie, or even “wrong,” since the rounded off math is accurate enough, and appropriate.
And if the “subtle” term is taken as a very poor synonym (in science terms, anyway), for “small,” and the statement considered devoid of context – and is therefore both meaningless, and misleading – the word itself, as it’s also subjective, isn’t a lie or even technically “wrong.”
But, putting aside the almost ridiculous “just beginning to study” phrase, these two sentences misconstrue and misrepresents the atmospheric CO2 change in just about as profound and fundamental way as possible.
A 33% change to earth’s fundamental insulation layer (what keeps the earth from being an essentially lifeless ball of frozen rock), that also suddenly occurs in what is a mere geologic instant – suddenly changing its long term insulation layer to levels not seen on earth in millions of years – scientifically, is anything but “subtle.”
Perhaps the article was written by a so called climate change “lukewarmer” who’s otherwise scientifically knowledgeable but by ideology or belief confused about the issue.
Or maybe it was penned by one who knows the issue to present a significant and relevant risk range of major climatic change over time, but simply isn’t considering or seeing the message the “subtle change” statement projects to those who don’t have the exact same understanding and thorough knowledge of the issue.
But either way, it serves as example of why there’s so much largely unrecognized confusion on this issue, and even more – and often fervently believed cherry picked misinformation led – misperception of it.
This is a misperception that runs rampant enough so that, while not widely reported or commented on, a majority of polls in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States for example continue to show that barely half – and sometimes not even half – of the representative adult population acknowledges or believes that yes earth’s climate is changing and yes it’s doing so at least in relevant part by anthropogenic caused changes to our long term atmosphere’s chemical balance.
So let’s briefly address what is wrong with those two sentences:
Small has no meaning in science devoid of context. A relatively small amount of the retinol form of vitamin A will kill you.
The vitamin A forms found in plants are essentially converted into A in the body as needed, so you can eat as much of it as you like. But you can’t eat as much real Vitamin A, or retinol, as you like, since while it’s an esssential nutrient for survival, it’s also a toxin that is lethal in still relatively small amounts.
Obviously this is not subtle. Yet any suggestion it is would belie the relevant bio physiological factors, such as the basic relevant dose response curve of human physiology.
So it is on climate change.
And so when, for instance, we hear one time presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann preach out out on the Congressional floor how climate change can’t be relevant because the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is so “small,” humankind has essentially reached the epitome of pure scientific and logical ignorance – uttering a statement that on its own couldn’t be any more irrelevant to the actual issue, yet at the same time appears to have sufficient relevant meaning that from Bachmann, and still today on “real science” climate change websites, comment boards, and in political speech hundreds of thousands of times over, it’s repeated as if some sort of relevant climate change mitigating or refuting, “fact” and not the context meaningless statement that it is.
The bottom line is this: If we’re outdoors and freezing, and a blanket is placed over us, we don’t think of the blanket, which occupies an infinitesmally small amount of the available air space over us, as “subtle.”
It’s not a perfect analogy to our atmospheric change, but it suffices: The long term greenhouse gas composition of the atmosphere is somewhat like earth’s blanket. Take it away, and essentially earth would then itself consist of a perpetually frozen and lifeless or all but lifeless ball hurtling through space.
And that “subtle” amount of long lived thermal radiation trapping gas, which then drives many of the conditions that help to make up our climate and in turn further affect earth’s net energy balance (such as evaporation of water and the ensuing if very short term but ongoing thermal recapture by those molecules, and the earth’s own reflectivity, or albedo, for example), scientifically is almost as non subtle as can be.
It’s the difference between a verdant earth teeeming with life, and one practically frozen solid, on which perhaps a few microbes might exist. Once again, not “subtle.”
The parts per million concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be seen as a “small” number, in absolute terms. But in science, small is very different from subtle. A small amount of coral snake venom is incredibly poisonous. Same thing. Not subtle.
But the real part of the problem with the reference is not the absolute number of molecules, but the reference to the change itself in those numbers as “subtle.”
“Subtle” conveys the idea that having any type of relevant effect as a resulf of this supposedly “subtle” change would almost be unexpected, and a surprise; when it’s not in the least. Change the earth’s long term atmospheric recapture of energy to a geologically significant degree, and the earth almost all but has to ultimately change, and likely over time at least, in the warming direction.
And that was what was first hypothesized many many decades ago. And it is what even outnumbered fear of ongoing ice age type cooling (made popular by an infamous Time magazine article in the 70s) in published paper form by over 5 to 1 over forty years ago, even after fifteen plus years of cooling and the fact that we were in an otherwise very slow earth cooling ice age, and before a veritable avalanche of additional (as well as empirically corroborating) information has been added.
An increase from 300 to 400 parts per million is an increase of 33%. A third is not even subtle in pure number terms, putting aside even the more important fact that pure number terms is not what’s relevant. Yet levels just in the industrial era have even risen more than a third, as have levels of other key greenhouse gases, with the next most important one rising far more. (Underestimated methane has more than doubled, for instance. And while it’s hard to assess levels going back millions of years, it, like carbon dioxide, essentially has suddenly shot straight up- and way up – from otherwise fairly measurable levels dating back trhough about 800,000 years or reliable ice core sampling. That’s very far from subtle as well, and part of the overall impact upon long term climate which the article references – a very key part.)
But far more importantly, that “subtle” change is also a geologically sudden – abrupt – increase of ambient atmospheric carbon dioxide to levels, as best as we can tell, that have not been seen on earth in several million years.
That’s not very subtle either.
That is, in a mere moment of geologic time, our earth’s “blanket” has been changed on the order of millions of years.
That earth’s blanket, after the sun, is the most fundamental component for determining climate on earth.
Again, many of the other components that go into driving climate are ultimately directed by incoming energy – the sun – and energy recapture – the atmosphere’s insulation layer (earth’s “blanket”).
These in turn affect the amount of white snow and ice versus, say, darker tundra or forest, and thus the amount of sunlight hitting the earth that’s absorbed and re radiated as medium wavelength thermal radiation – recaptured by atmospheric greenhouse gases – or reflected as far shorter wavelength sunlight – and not recaptured.
And they affect the amount of evaporation and ultimately water vapor patterns in the atmosphere, thereby indirectly but ultimately driving the concentrations of the single most “important” thermal radiation recapturing gas at any moment – water vapor.
Water vapor is “important” in that there’s so much of it on average it’s normally responsible for the majority of all atmospheric thermal radiation absorption and re radiaion. But not in the sense of ultimately driving climate. This is because water vapor is part of what climate is; an expression of it. That is, it is a reflection of conditions that of course help shape what climate is on an ongoing basis, but is not an underlying driver. Hence why water vapor is highly emphemeral and variable. An ongoing and constantly changing reflection of the climate that in turn becomes part of it because it also plays a key role in energy recapture.
And on climate change, this “climate reflection” of potentially changing water vapor conditions, for us anyway, is an extremely counter productive situation either way: Increased total water vapor only amplifies the overall heat energy recapturing effect and increases the intensity and number of larger precipitation events relative to what the earth’s systems evolved to support over the last few million years (as well, as, compounding the problem, what we built ourselves).
On the other hand, decreased total water vapor (the opposite of what has been so far observed) would only greatly intensify widespread regional changes and in many areas shift over to drought conditions even further – something that even with more precipitation (much wasted with larger intensity events), is already a major part of the relevant risk range of climate change to begin with.
That incoming energy from the sun, and the atmospheric recapture of thermal radiation energy versus reflected sunlight to begin with, which in turn depends in enormous part on earth’s albedo that shapes the amount of sunlight energy simply reflected versus absorbed and then thermally emitted and itself driven by total incoming and then atmospheric recaptured energy, as well as evaporation, in turn drive the energy balance of the earth’s ocean; which stabilizes, and, long term, perhaps drives or at least regulates or modulates earth’s climate as directly as anything else. But again is also a long term reflection of earth’s long term net energy.
And while many factors besides our own caused increased net emissions of greenhouse gases go into shaping those greenhouse gas levels, those factors, along with the oceans, ultimately, are still originally driven by a) the amount of total incoming energy (the sun) and b) the amount of energy that, given what is radiated back off of earth, is not subsequently lost to the atmosphere but is instead recaptured and thus retained to further increase earth’s total retained energy level.
And thus making a geologically sudden change to earth’s long term insulation layer, and the fundamental long term driver which in turn drives other conditions that help create climate and in turn shapes both short term variable and long term atmospheric insulative conditions that shape climate as well, the very polar opposite of “subtle.”*
Complex doesn’t equal subtle.
Saying climate change in one sense can be considered complex is fair.
Saying it is subtle mangles the subject, and further feeds rampant confusion and misperception on it – which, contrary to popular belief, is not simply rectified by telling people that “it’s a problem, so therefore believe us,” or simply assumingi it to be so, and which on balance both only greatly worsen perception on the issue.
Additionally, viewing this issue devoid of context, and in the sense of absolute numbers and fractions, rather than in that context of what those numbers and fractions mean in terms of earth’s recent geologic history, is one of the more fundamental mistakes made in terms of assessing what climate change really is – the impact of long term atmospheric change upon earth’s long term climate, and a broad risk of largely incalculable effects and risks – and perhaps even more importantly, communicating on the subject.
*This is, again, particularly the case when that sudden alteration is on the order of a several million year change, and occassioned in a mere geologic instant. And one that here, also, represents not a microscopically small fractional increase, but over 40% in just the last 150 to 200 years alone: And one that that is also accompanied by an increase of over 100% of the second most important (and underestimated) long term greenhouse gase; one that increased atmospheric warming of the earth’s historically colder surfaces, as well as it’s oceans, are in turn further increasing the long term levels of as well,with potentially if not likely wild ramifications.
Emissions Targets Sound Nice, and are a Way to “do Something,” but they Arbitarily (and Minimally) Address Climate Change
The market imbalance between cleaner (less polluting, and less atmospheric altering), and less clean agricultural and energy practices, has greatly skewed us toward habituation of and reliance upon increasingly counterproductive practices.
This is the basic challenge of production (or market) externalities – increasing as our population, technology, energy use, and potential for impact upon our world, increases.
These externalities don’t come with a price tag, or often even a marker alerting us to their existence (or full existence). So economists, by trying to put a tangible present day cost on intangible, long term value as well as often heavily commingled, hidden, or immeasurable (not to mention imprecise), harms, try to come up with figures or “values” for this cost; but trying to do so is often more misleading than not.
Such absolute cost value assessments also make the erroneous presumption that dollar value is absolute over time. But this can’t be the case. If it were, as total societal dollar value doubled and quadrupled and quadrupled again over time, people’s overall utility and happiness would rise accordingly. Which it does not do, and seemingly can not, do. So dollars are a way of comparing apples to apples, and putting something concrete on our exchange of perceived value. (*And they work a lot better than clamshells.)
Trying to assess the long term commingled harm to the basic quality of our world, opportunity, and health – all things which may not break down quite so much in value over time, as the present day absolute worth of a “dollar” – are like oranges, to the proverbial apples.
So in trying to compare the gain of mitigating pollution, in comparison to the “costs” (which if those costs simply represent a substitution of goods and production choices aren’t even real costs in the long run), sometimes we’re comparing apples to oranges. Even more so when it comes to the more complex, longer term, higher risk range, and unpredictability and completely uncharted territory aspect, of climate change.
That said, the basic problem of production (or market) externalities is real. And to avoid so much unnecessary counter productive long term harm, we have to find a way to sensibly and fairly address those externalities. (Typically done in the form of environmental and health regulations or policies.)
Climate change is a tricky issue. It is so inextricably global, so encompassing, so risk range oriented (a concept, on an issue which also simultaneously presents an almost assured certainty of some relevant impact as well regardless, which a lot of people struggle with). And there is so much ingrained resistance to the idea that mankind could be so fundamentally altering our very world against our own interests, and rampant economic presumption and alarmism over basic energy changes or change possibilities.
At the same time, as positive bonuses, climate change redress, or at least mitigation, would also invariably lower a lot of attendant pollution (and secondary to that, improve overall health, not to mention avoid the worst if indirect health consequences – particularly to the world’s poor – from dramatic climate change over time), as well as improve long term energy security and independence – on national, local, and personal levels.
Also at the same time, there are already many alternatives to our more traditional if more (long term) detrimental agricultural and energy practices, many of which are becoming increasingly cost effective, even without consideration of the fact that almost all of the tremendous, if immeasurable, “real” cost of more harmful practices is not presently – or even remotely, for that matter – integrated into their pricing structure. (And thus, into our decision making – and hence the huge inherent, if perhaps not so obvious, inefficiency.)
So simply capturing at least part of that real long term cost in some sort of market oriented way, along with promotion (but not imposition) of beneficial practices, would likely be enough to cause an even playing field between harmful and non harmful or less harmful practices. And as a result, sufficiently reward personal, business and even power and agricultural company transitions, to radically transform increasingly outdated, but habitually (and presumptively) clung to practices; and not only shortly stabilize total long term atmospheric greenhouse gases, but likely lead to a relevant reduction over a few more decades and thus mitigate what is right now a rather profound risk range of major to radical, if unpredictable, long term climate shifting.
The best way to do this is through some sort of user fee or tax upon long term atmospheric altering practices, most easily achievable through some sort of carbon “tax.” (A simple revenue neutral plan, which would give plenty of motive, business planning certainty and structure, and assistance with transition, is very briefly laid out here.)
On the other hand, the complexities, minor inefficiences, and seeming lack of political appeal of carbon taxation aside, setting emissions targets is a bad idea relative to a carbon tax, for three reasons:
It creates a bit more direct government control. It creates an arbitrary target with little broader market based flexibility to belp achieve the same or potentially far more successful ends, and with lower short term cost substitutions. And it fails to directly capitalize on consumer and business choice and financial motivation as additional means to evolve successful and growth oriented amelioration strategy responses and, ultimately, problem solving or ameliorating patterns, habits and practices.
In other words, and most importantly, it will likely also accomplish far less than a carbon tax, and do so with more potential imposition, real cost, and inefficiencies.
The only things it does do is avoid the seeming lack of political “appeal” for a carbon tax, and set some sort of concrete “target” – albeit, as opposed to doing nothing, a helpful target, one that is also fairly arbitrary, and likely highly insufficient. (And one that’s unduly pessimistic, as we can easily achieve far more by at least correcting some of the present day imbalances and putting the market to work to not only far more efficiently use what we have, but develop more and better ways to do so as well.)
Essentially, we know we need to “do something” (although many “skeptics” argue even with that, though when we don’t blame this human changed cause on humans, many become more accomodating to the idea of some redress).
And overall poor public assessment of and understanding on the issue – the same that has caused us to drag our feet on an amplifying problem for a few decades now – combined with, however, general support for doing “something” regardless of climate change’s supposed “cause,” lead to government decreed mitigation strategies that won’t do much to sufficiently ameloriate the situation, but nevertheless may cause a disproportionate amount of apparent short term cost and burden relative to what’s actually required.
In other words, less overall effect, and more “cost,” at least to the extent the cost is real.
But since some of the cost is being directly dictated rather than market driven, more of it, at least in the short term, likely is real. (With a revenue neutral carbon tax the idea of a cost becomes more illusionary – even if many incorrectly see such spending transitions as the gospel of real harm – since it’s merely a transference of resources and jobs and (human) energy into more benefical practices, and with all of the growth created therein, as real as the alarmist worry over growth “losses” from switching over to better practices.)
This seeming cost burden will of course be lessened by the reality that clean energy sources and better agricultural practices already available, in effect, already make transition over to longer term set targets far more trivial than they seem. And do so without even accomodating for the enormous long term hidden costs and harms of polluting sources and practices that already greatly imbalance our markets and production choices.
For instance, simply switching over a large portion of energy production to solar, all of which adds to GDP and creates jobs and income as much as any other investment and spending, and is no less real, will help make up much if not more of the set targets.
And it would do so in less time than even alloted for such targets to be met. And over such time, or even significantly less time, the transition costs will whittle down to next to nothing, as solar energy, for instance, is already fairly, if not perfectly, inexpensive at this point.
In other words, to simplify, we act as if we have a huge imponderable problem – E.g: “We need energy, too bad the only way to get it is from this black stuff (or gas) from the ground, and there wasn’t this incredible ball of energy up in the sky (for instance) – and if there is, too bad there isn’t a way to harness it.”
Yet that’s not the case. There is a huge ball of energy in the sky, as well as multiple other opportunities, already being ingeniously developed. And that’s without the mother of all performance and innovation – real, rather than abstractly perceived, need. (Need which a carbon tax both creates, and rewards.)
And again there is a way to harness that ball of energy in the sky, for instance – solar power. And, it’s economically feasible, and will over time not only continue to drop in relative price, but whatever costs there are versus different decision possibilities will will simply be integrated into our overall GDP, and facilitate the efficient allocation that is the market based pricing decision structure in the first. (Building codes, for instance, are a pain in the neck, no doubt. But within reason, are necessary. And any power utilizing dwelling roof without solar is simply a poor use of resources. So an appropriately priced building “fee” that’s waived for solar inclusion – motivation is far better than imposition – will make it even nonsensical short term not to take advantage of any such surface just sitting there, pointing to the sky, when installing roofs.)
So it’s not like it’s that big of a deal to simply decrease total net emissions, let alone over many years. Yet we’re addressing this as if it is.
Put simply, the targets are just a way of formalizing a sentiment to “emit less,” which simply moving toward better practices accomplishes on its own. And they make smaller reductions over a long time period, based upon an arbitrary and very static model or expectation of what our markets, and us, are capable of, appear as a somewhat more meaningful goal than they really are.
And they do also nevertheless still set arbitrary constraints to achieve otherwise positive ends that, with proper motivation, and the same or lower cost, and even less restriction on choice opportunity, could be exceeded up to several times over by simultaneously using the market, rather than simply dictating to the market what to do. Which, mild and very “reasonable” long term targets though such new emissions targets may be, is exactly what they do. And it’s exactly what a carbon tax – unappealing as it is to recalcitrant, business anarchy, “there are no such things as ‘hidden’ production cost” organizations such as the Heritage Foundation – does not do.
But more importantly, as most leading climate scientists aptly point out, current expressed emission reduction targets are also completely inadequate for making the kind of impact to our long term atmospheric greenhouse gas levels that sensible and non political, objective, assessment of the issue requires. Namely, stabilizing current levels and then bringing them down to something still far higher than at the start of the industrial period, but substantially below current levels.
In short, use the markets when we can. Setting long term and arbitrary emissions targets that our best scientists on the issue tell us are wholly insufficient to significantly transform the issue, doesn’t do that.
Our short term attachment to “cost,” what’s been part of the huge economic presumption impediment to sensible redress for nearly thirty years now, can also work in our favor rather than against us: by assisting both markets and consumers in their efforts, and rewarding behavior that’s more consistent with movement toward less externally damaging or counterproductive practices and patterns, while simultaneously allowing individual (business and consumer) choice, rather than arbitrary dictate to pave the way.
Moreover, the difference in real hard costs between harmful and non harmful energy and agricultural practices is now relatively moderate. And in some instances it’s slight, if even that. And, if only some of the intangible and often hidden but very real long term negative impacts of our current more broadly counterproductive energy and agricultural practices were somehow integrated into their actual pricing, our markets would shift over, based on the simple motivation of demand and reward.
Right now the balance cuts the other way – as none of the real costs of long term counterproductive practices are integrated. (And thus by comparison none of the “benefits” of cleaner, non or lesser atmospheric altering practices are integrated into their price either.) And so, resistant to change for the noble (and often refuted), idea of broader improvement alone, we think of it as a larger roadblock than it is.
A carbon tax removes that roadblock. And it rewards choice, allows for business planning, and allows us to see how much we can do. Or more precisely, allows us to do what we are capable of.
Doing what we are capable of, consistent with growth and jobs, is paramount on this issue. This is because there are no arbitrary threshold targets we “have to reach” (and scientists who suggest otherwise are speculating).
And by the basic nature of the problem – or challenge – the more we ameliorate, the less the overall long term impact and lower the worse downside risks and their amounts, and the better for us, all.
A carbon tax helps us achieve this without much government dictate, no extra government spending, and with business planning and the reward of choice. And will likely even reduce the need (and clamor for) future draconian measures if and when climate change starts to get out of hand after ice melt rates,”glacial” at first, really start to accelerate, and methane, a gas we’re underestimating, starts to self sustain and more.
In short, it’s the lowest imposition, with the highest return, for a problem which causes many to worry about imposition; and one for which we need, the highest return.
There is multiple misrepresentation and error in mainstream media climate change “refutation” pieces, regarding what climate change actually is, and why it presents a great challenge.
Additionally, “misinformed” climate change pieces are even more prevalent on the Internet and in social media – where most people get much of their information – than in mainstream media sources, and so the claims that comprise climate change “skepticism” remain well more than relevant news, since they have profound influence relative to the facts.
This, in turn, is greatly affecting general public perception on and understanding of the so called (anthropogenic) climate change issue, where a rather incredible gap now exists between what most practicing climate scientists know, and the general public perceives.
The answer to the dilemma is not to say (as some have ill advisedly, and almost anti democratcially- if as with most ideas, with “good intentions”), the media or any sources should simply stop publishing “anti-climate change” pieces and claims. Intelligent conversation – the disparate opinions required for democracy, basic liberty, and good science – require that all views and claims be available.
The answer, for better information and journalism – which better response to the problem (and one similarly needed years ago) requires (just as it required years ago), is to publish and cover misinformed claims, in the context of the relevant facts; which requires showing both the relevant facts and why they are relevant.
This, however, is not being done.
As a result, the striking pattern underlying the misinformation skewing our discussion and perception on the “climate change” issue, is simply not being given the objective, non politically biased coverage, it warrants and requires.
Take for instance pieces by ultracrepidarian Christopher Booker, whom the U.K’s Telegraph continues to publish (with the claims then republished all over the globe), and whose work serves as a striking and influential example.
Several months ago, courtesy of the Telegraph, Booker, among many others, published a few pieces claiming that international temperature data was a fraud – yes, fraud: not “wrong,” but “fraud”-purposefully perpetrated by NOAA and NASA, and with scientific community complicity.
As we’ll see clearly below, these claims are similar to, if – in level of recklessness and error – not even well beyond, the creation of climategate a few years back.”Climategate” itself was a largely made up scandal, created by (illegally) pilfering stacks of private emails, in order to try find something that out of context sounded bad.
Nevertheless, it was a (faux, but widely believed and influential)”scandal” that dominated international climate headlines for two years, and greatly undermined public confidence in climate scientists and understanding of climate change as a result.
Yet on the other hand, the far more real “climate gate-gate” – the scandal of stealing private emails to wildly cherry pick out of context phrases to create an erroneous perception that nevertheless helped to reinforce “skeptic” belief and greatly undermine public confidence in simple general, basic, climate science, and climate scientists – was barely covered.
And in almost the same way, these newest “NASA data tampering” claims now making the rounds worldwide – including in multiple media sources and thousands of secondary Internet sources – offer Booker and other skeptics another rationale to dismiss anything conflicting with their belief:
Namely, the belief that man is not changing earth’s climate: intense, now multi-million year level of atmospheric alteration compressed into an astonishingly short geological time frame, the geophysical record, the risk ranges presented, or the intense, and increasing, record of geophysical signs of beginning change notwithstanding.
Though climate is “sensitive” – in fact this idea is implicitly one of the main skeptic arguments as to why we’re not changing it; because climate changes so easily, it therefore “isn’t us who are changing it now” – this belief is accomplished in large part through the idea that climate is otherwise extremely insensitive.
Specifically, it is sensitive and changes easily; except to man’s influence. In response to man’s influence, instead, it “self regulates,” as if for our specific benefit. And it does so even though it’s not an organism with something to “self regulate,” but a ball of rock hurtling through space that reflects the geophysical forces acting upon it.
Yet when some highly influential AGW denouncers skeptics recently managed to get a paper published in a Chinese science journal (in a piece the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for space studies called “complete trash“), they elected to simply make up and assume the direct opposite of the mainstay – and otherwise irrelevant – “climate changes” skeptic argument.
And thus, they decided to decide that climate barely changes, is very stable, and is insensitive to even major external forcings upon it. So long as, again, those forcings are human caused, that is.
It’s apparently extremely sensitive, however, to anything “natural” that can be asserted, in order to ignore the far more geologically profound – yet man caused – sudden yet multi-million year increase in earth’s long term atmospheric insulation layer.
But that wasn’t all. In addition to ignoring almost all known climate modeling understanding, and neglecting to explain why what was known was “wrong” and they were discarding it, and once again following the same pattern of using any argument possible in order to reinforce an already arrived at conclusion, the authors of the Chinese science journal paper also simply made up the idea that any climate change effect is near instantaneous, which is a preposterous assumption. (It’s the atmospheric alteration equivalent of asserting that because it’s a clear day and the sun is at 40 degrees in the sky, the temperature, wherever we are on the globe, and whenever, will be the exact same, and not a reflection of the long term acccumulation of factors that affect and drive climate.)
All of this, and more, was done in a paper absolutely “riddled with fundamental errors.” And one that, by this same pattern of machinations, naturally, arrived at the pre-determined belief or desire driven conclusion that “skeptic” authors Willie Soon, Christopher Monckton, David Legates, and William Briggs clearly needed to reach.
Booker’s claims also serve as example of the same pattern; that is, of not only practicing outright advocacy to reach a desired conclusion, but advocacy that manufactures claims flatly contradicted by the facts. Even doing so when those claims are wild accusations, which Booker is seemingly fond of. And the Telegraph, and thousands of other if sometimes lesser sources, are willing to repeat as if it’s news or information.
Not, again, the news of what Booker is actually doing – which is more important and yet essentially not covered. But, instead, the claims themselves: with key omissions, mistake, error, fraud, misrepresentation, and zealotry, all un-assessed, and largely ignored.
As for Booker’s claim of NOAA fraud he called the “biggest science scandal ever” – leading to over 30,000 comments on one piece alone – here’s the shocking reality of what was left out: The “data tampering” of which this biggest scandal consisted was routine raw data recalibration from lesser maintained and older weather stations. And not only is there no controversy in science over conducting such recalibrations, it’s considered poor science not to when warranted.
Were some of the temperature recalibrations possibly in errror? Though there doesn’t seem to be much strong evidence suggesting this – and recalibration arbitration is also imperfect – they might have been. But if so, addressing them is part of what science is: the ongoing process of learning, adjusting, correcting mistakes.
Yet a big part of what climate change “skepticism” or far more accurately, disavowal, consists of, is taking the ongoing process of science itself as a basis for arguing that what is known isn’t known either, or is incorrect or worse, or that risk isn’t real if exact outcome can’t be predicted in advance (and if it could it would no longer be “risk,” and the concept would cease to exist). Which arguments, when generalized as on climate chamge, and with the exact same semantics earnestly employed on this subject, could also be used to rhetorically invalidate any and all pieces of knowledge in existence, and make all knowledge – except the knowledge one wants to use to support what one wants to believe – useless or dimissable.
Moreover, Booker and many other hard core climate change disavowers also didn’t suggest the recalibrations were in error, nor add to the possible body of science by suggesting why and offer corrections or improvements therein.
That wouldn’t be consistent with climate change skepticism – namely, finding ways, under the belief of self reinforcing “logic,” to perpetuate the belief of skepticism, and undermine climate scientists and climate science wherever possible. So instead we have, voila, NOAA and NASA “fraud.” “Data tampering.”
And of course, the “Telegraph” – itself driven by ideology and poor climate change “awareness” – published the original claims, giving it some sort of journalistic credibility, along with countless other sources both major and minor giving further credence and global exposure to the claims. (This is not to say that looking at issues such as data recalibration, or even climate change advocacy groupthink or presumption, and of course the various uncertainties in terms of what we know, aren’t valid. But this not what climate change skepticism – a very, very, different, if extremely prevalent, and pronounced, phenomenon – is.)
Most importantly, despite the enormous global influence of the alleged data tampering scandal, most of this story, and the most relevant part of it, hasn’t even been touched by mainstream media, who continue to miss one of the biggest psychosocio cultural as well as climate change stories of the 21st century.
The most relevant part, is that the claims of fraud are not only in error – if not themselves, fraudulent – but in error on every fundamental level, and fit the same broader pattern of self reinforcing belief that constitutes the psychosocio cultural phenomenon of climate change “skepticism” – and one that should be far more accurately called “disavowal.” Because it is not skepticism, but rather its opposite – embrace of almost any idea, claim or assertion that supports the desired or pre determined belief that mankind is not relevantly changing our future climate.
(Note: psychosocio doesn’t mean “pyscho.” It refers to psychology and the psychological and sociological processes culturally at play with respect to this pure geophysical issue of climate change, which nevertheless has not only a lot of passionate feeling surrounding it, but indirect political ramificatinos, as well as a huge amount of economic connection and massive presumption.)
Temperature data recalibration is normal. And it’s considered bad science not to do it. The “scandal of the century” actually, if rather fantastically, refers to precisely this routine recalibration; and which, if done mistakenly or in error, is not being pointed out for correction or improvement as such, and as part of the process of science.
And, even if that were the case, it’s not a fraud, but a suggestion or illustration of mistake in science, which, after observation, is nearly as fundamental a part of science as there is: Yet climate change “skepticism” has literally managed to turn one of the most basic ongoing parts of science itself into a “scandal” – even, in Booker’s eyes, the “biggest science scandal ever.” (Just as climate skepticism managed to turn part of private human communications and routine data problems or imperfections, into the other “biggest science scandal” ever.)
But something else extremely key was also not only left out, but as a result the issue was falsely represented in an even more basic way:
The whole claim rests on the dual assertions that NOAA, NASA and other major parties fraudulently “changed” or knew of fraudulent change to basic temperature readings, using the process of recalibration as the excuse, and pretending that the basic process of recalibration – part of good science – doesn’t even exist. And that, moreover, these changes were only done in an upward direction.
But they weren’t done only in an upward direction. They were done in both directions. But some ideological blogger – Paul Homewood (covered in relation to Booker’s pieces part way down) – cherry picked and cherry picked until he could find seeming evidence to support his theory that climate change isn’t real. And Booker – who directly and extensively relied on this work for both of his major pieces on the issue, that were then in turned picked up by thousands of other sources – turned him into a climate change skeptic star.
And, the ensuing claims of scandal, in addition to falsely conflating basic and normal recalibration or even (if so), basic and normal recalibration error, with “fraud” -let alone “biggest science scandal ever” – falsely informed the world that temperatures were only adjusted upward. This is also patently false; yet also basic to the entire claim as well.
In essence, it’s a two part claim – both are required for the claim to have any merit – and both parts are patently false. And while the former – recalibrations aren’t routine, but fraud – can be an attributed to zealous interpretation – e.g, “your recalibration or recalibration errors (if any) must have been fraudulently done because they don’t support our views but do support the idea of warming!” What can the latter be attributed to?
(Also, while not really relevant, but interesting, had no recalibrations been done at all, total surface air warming would be essentially the same.)
Intentional, or far more likely not, Booker essentially engages in a multiple fraud – the fraud of representing recalibrations as some sort of huge scandal, with no evidence of any deliberate attempt to purposefully manipulate overall global temperatures; the fraud of representing that temperatures were only adjusted upward, when as part of the recalibration process they were adjusted in both directions; and even the implicit fraud of representing that temperature data only suggests a warming trend due to this recalibration.
And he blatantly and rather aggresively “projects” that fraud directly onto others – in this case climate scientists.
So now this month, also courtesy of the Telegraph, and in a clever but also contrived piece of, yes, projection, Booker ironically claims those concerned about climate change (not himself ), “project.” Namely, in that they project their own denial of the true “climate change facts” onto those – such as Booker – who disavow that man is relevantly changing our climate.
In other words, those concerned about climate change – whom Booker seems to like calling warmists, and conflate with prediction of imminent global catastrophe and not just increasing negative climate impacts and relevant risks of potentially major impacts – project out that others, like Booker are “deniers,” when it is they themselves who “deny.”
Not deny the fact that most skeptics largely believe what they say. (Which many climate change advocates unfortunately have a hard time believing or understanding the extensive influence of on popular discussion and assessment.) But “deny” skeptic reality “fact” that mankind’s actions aren’t relevantly impacting our long term climate or presenting a signifcant risk range of so doing.
These projectors include over 97% of the climate scientists who actually and professionally study climate change.
Though of course hard core “skeptics” have a way of rationalizing this away also, saying this fairly broad climate scientist consensus doesn’t exist by substituting in something else for it: Somewhat like a magician does with his hands; “here, see how these aren’t apples,” before, while you’re not looking, switching the bag of apples to a bag of oranges, but with climate scientist consensus. (And which is what famous and also influential climate change skeptic Ross McKittrick all but literally does here.)
What’s remarkable about this is that in labeling non climate change skeptics as “projectors,” Booker is engaging in about as classic a bit of projection as one can: He is projecting his “denialism” (or confusion over, or “disavowal” of climate change), outward onto climate scientists and those concerned about the issue.
But not only that: He is then, irony of ironies, calling it “projection” in others. And then supports his assertion by not only engaging in exactly the same pattern of cherry picking that the article he now attacks originally pointed out as the key pattern of climate change “skeptics” (or “denialism”), but by following a meandering course of prose that has almost nothing to do with climate change.
For instance, much of his article on how climate change isn’t real focuses on sporadic polar bear increases, while omitting the facts that polar bears were being hunted to extinction, and a resulting 1973 treaty signed by the five countries with land in polar bear territory essentially banned their hunting.
And to the extent it does have to do with climate change, his piece on how climate change isn’t real, remarkably misconstrues the issue: Such as, ignoring the fact that arctic ice is only one small component and extremely variable and climate change is a long term phenomenon and only imprecisely predictable, and cherry picking out large increases in arctic ice following an unmentioned 2012 record low that also demolished a record low set only 5 years earlier by almost another twenty percent, and that 2015 just set a record for lowest winter arctic ice extent ever and this summer is again tracking to be one of the lowest on record, to argue that the artic isn’t changing, and thus climate change isn’t real. (Which it would be even if arctic sea ice was the same – as the issue is total global heat energy changes, so what’s relevant is the total picture, including the fact that different regions are changing differently, or even slightly cooling.)
But it does fit a pattern, of, for lack of a better term, “denying it.” Or not getting it. Or not wanting to get it – easily reinforced by the wide spread prevalance of this pattern, and the near avalanche of cherry picked “information” and basic issue misconstruction it creates.
As well as the attendant lack of major illumination – instead mistakenly taking it for granted that this is all “obvious” to everybody – by many climate change advocacy leaders, and our mainstream media. And in the process, not just doing an injustice to decent basic coverage of the broader issues and phenomenon of climate change and our response to it, but missing one of the bigger, and more important, stories of our times.
Last Updated March 4, 2016
CLIMATE change is not air temperatures. Air temperature is one part of the pattern of increased total earth energy that constitutes climate change or “global warming.”
Air temperature is also a very variable part of the total global warming phenomenon. Other key earth systems that are directly affected by climate change – such as oceans, our near polar regions’ enormous ice sheets, and vast expanses of permafrost areas both at the bottom of the sea and atop the land – play a large role in how much air temperatures ultimately increase, and climate changes, and right now are more important than air temperature changes, though dwarfed in coverage and attention by the latter.
What mattters is the total heat accumulation of the earth – oceans, ice sheets, land surface, and permafrost areas, and our oceans can absorb an enormous amount of energy. As can ice sheets, as they slowly warm and start to turn some of their substance into water
So shorter term geologic changes in the general average rate of ambient global air temperature rise is not a “pause” in climate change or global warming, or anything of the sort. (Unless the otherwise misleading term “global warming” only and specifically refers to ambient air temperatures, and ignores the larger, far more complete, and far more important picture.)
It’s a change in ambient global surface air temperature rates; which were volatile (and unpredictable, particularly over shorter periods of time) both before anthropogenic climatec change, and even more so as a result of it.
But even the idea that more general ambient air temperatures have “paused” is itself largely fiction, as the temperature trend into the 21st century and right up to this very month continues, and is now increasing in rate again. As it had as well into the 90s, and as part of what climate change is – high and at least somewhat imperfectly predictable variability: Not this imagined phenomenon of low short term variability, and nice symetrical linear progression that superficial or incorrect analyses, soundbite news coverages, and most so called “skepticism,” implicitly frames it as.
That is, changes in the rate of temperature increase alone are as apt to be occurring as we march forward in time as not, and based upon what climate change is: Namely, a highly variable unpredictable and almost definitively non linear alteration of the climate, as total earth atmospheric net energy accumulates as a result of a geologically significant increase in long lived atmospheric thermal radiation (earth’s “insulation layer”) that’s now occurred in an incredibly short geologic period – an increase now that in the case of carbon dioxide alone has reached atmospheric concentrations that the earth hasn’t seen in millions of years. And not only is carbon dioxide not only not the only gas of concern, another may wind up being as, if not in some ways, more important in terms of the risk of potentially rapid and large shifts or lurches in climate that continue to grow.
Additionally, recent studies further suggest that the short term decrease in the rate of temperature increase alone – changes which, again, based upon what climate change is, are as apt to be occurring as we march forward in time as not – didn’t exist.
Yet adding to the confusion (and a story worthy of attention), even quasi “skeptic” sites – such as the one by this frequent U.S. congressional climate change testifier, scurried to denounce the aforereferenced study. And did so while, naturally, once again completely missing the big picture. (Notice, for example, notice, among other things, the long extensive cherry picking of an unnamed “international journalist” in order to reinforce pre existing, and fundamentally incorrect, framing of the issue.)
But the hiatus re-analysis – the fact that the slight short term average air temperature increase rate either slightly temporarily slowed or didn’t – wasn’t that relevant to the bigger issues we’re presented with.
(Update: Note that while all this misguided fuss about a “pause” was going on, 2014 set a record for the warmest air temperatures globally ever recorded. Only it didn’t last long, because 2015 shattered the mark, setting a new world record, air temperature wise, for the warmest year ever, and shattering the 2014 mark. Then for good measure, January 2016 didn’t just set the record for the hottest global January ever recorded, it also set the record for the highest deviation above the norm, or anomaly, for any month of the year, any year, ever recorded in mankind’s history. Quite the “pause.” And now, from the first set of data in – tropospheric satellite data, February 2016 has not just, one month later, beaten the previous record set in January for the hottest anomaly above the “norm” once again, for any month ever recorded, it smashed it.
On the other hand, the above referenced study suggesting no substantive decrease in the overall rate of increase of globall air temperatures in the first 15 years of this century, does add clarifying information. And it helps refine our body of knowledge regarding the process of climate and, in particular, temperature modeling.
Temperature modeling itself is something, of course, which following the same pattern of both misunderstanding on the basic climate change issue, and widespread “advocacy” against the idea of anthropogenic climate change, is in turn then itself often misunderstood, and even widely misconstrued to fit a pre determined conclusionm and erroneously used to try to refute climate change.
This process of misconstruing future temperature modeling, or projections, is itself, again, part of a broader pattern of trying to reinforce a belief or “view” by any argument possible, rather than the dispassionate, objective assessment it professes itself to be. (Here’s a good example, very similar to what runs rampant on countless “scientific” sites, to some extent among almost half of United States politicians and legislators, and of which there are probably, literally, many millions of similar examples just on twitter alone – itself a great venue for soundbite rhetoric:
Yet this pattern of trying to advocate or perpetuate a desired view by any argument, despite a fair amount of counter productive disbelief about this fact among many who are more accurately aware of the real climate change problem, not only professes itsejf to be objective, but in order to continue belief in its conclusions, also generally believes itself to be objective; and in many skeptic circles, the group – and, presumably, unlike climate scientists – practicing “real science.” By conflating the phenomenon of climate change with air temperature alone, it’s also a pattern which is often inadvertently, if mistakenly, reinforced. (Albeit less so lately now that global temperature records are sudddenly being set at a fairly rapid pace.)
Related to this, and helping to drive some of the misunderstanding that leads to incorrect if believed analyses and rhetoric on the subject, there is essentially a false idea that climate change, even now in its earlier stages, is largely air temperature, and again not the far more important net accumulation of energy that’s slowly affecting earth’s basic energy systems – including of course the ones that drive and shape future climate. This is causing a lot of misunderstanding on what the issue really is, as well as misunderstanding of the fundamental – and, in terms of amount plus speed, geologically radical – long term atmospheric alteration driving it. And it’s leading many to wrongly assume climate change is a sort of quick response to increased greenhouse gases – i.e., they go up, and voila, climate is different.
That’s not what it is.
Increased long term greenhouses gases do immediately absorb and re radiate more thermal radiation emanating off of earth’s various surfaces. But most of that increase in energy retention then goes into slowly re shaping our net earth atmosphere’s energy balance; changing our oceans, and even large swaths of permafrost, hard land surface and subsurface temperatures, ice sheet temperatures, and even ice sheets themselves.
And this, along with the atmospheric change originally driving it, increases not just the amount of potential thermal radiation to be emitted from earth’s surfaces long into the future, but also rehapes the amount of energy even absorbed in the first place, as earth’s albedo – or reflectivity – slolwly changes. And, further amplifying an ongoing process of change until a new stases is reached, long stable stores of carbon also begin to change, and release in the form of additional greenhouse gases – and in a potentially very dramatic way, powerful signs of which we are already beginning to see.
This is a simplification, of course, as ice sheets take energy and translate it into melting ice sheets, and not atmospheric or even ocean warmth.
But these in turn don’t just affect a host of processes, but slowly break down the long term stability of the climate moderating caps, ice sheets, and average global sea ice formation averages and, along with other processes such as permafrost and glacial melt, decrease the amount of solar radiation simply reflected back into space. And which, down the road, will then instead be emitted as much longer wavelength thermal radiation which is then “trapped” by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – increases and all – whereas reflected sunlight isn’t.
Ocean currents change, unpredictably; precipitation patterns change, unpredictably, as total net energy increases, the total potential for both more powerful and intense weather events increases, and both more and more water vapor is potentially evaporated from slowly increasing temperatures, with a warmer atmosphere then capable of retaining far more moisture, leading to unpredictable yet in many regions, likely almost complete shifts in not just volatility and precipitation event intensities, but precipitation patterns and weather patterns.
And so on.
It’s not just air temperatures, but a host of more complex factors, as earth’s system adjusts to the large ongoing increase in trapped atmospheric energy in an ongoing process that will only “relatively” stabilize decades to possibly even centuries after atmospheric levels of long term greenhouse gases have themselves relatively stabilized.
Thus, the goal should be to lower total long term ambient greenhous gas levels at this point, as the world’s leading glaciologists, and countless other experts, strongly suggest. Unfortunately, right now we’re still increasing long term ambient greenhouse gase levels. And, again, as permafrost regions melt and release carbon, and possiblly to likely sea floor methane eruptions start to slowly snowball, we may start to get a significant amount of amplifying help as the future unfolds; not help in reducing long term atmospheric greenhouse gas levels, but in further adding to them.