The Day Before --

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 12:23 AM GMT on February 02, 2007

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There has been an enormous amount of press coverage of climate change in the last couple of years. The coverage has ranged from reports that the US government is suppressing the statements of scientists to reports of predictions of the disappearance of ice in the Arctic Ocean during our lifetimes. Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" is nominated for an Oscar. Friday is the day for release of "Climate Change 2007" by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, http://www.ipcc.ch/ ). Even before its release the report is generating controversy. A few days ago the Associated Press ran a story saying that some scientists think the report understates the impact of melting ice sheets. A local newspaper wrote about the global warming propaganda. "Virtually Certain", "Alarming" -- a web search of the news finds headlines of all sorts, often as the lead for the same story. What is right? What's reasonable to expect?

With all of the news about the melting of sea ice, glaciers in the Alps and Andes, and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, what the IPCC has to say about the ice should receive a lot of attention. Ice is a critical part of the climate puzzle, an important player in water supplies, and one of the most active areas of research. Where there is active research, there is always controversy from competing ideas. But we know much more about how ice melts now than we did even five years ago. We know that large amounts of ice can melt quickly.

The most anticipated pieces of the report will be the predictions of temperature increase and sea level rise. Should we expect refinement in these predictions -- a narrowing of the range? If the lower end of this range is higher than in the 2001 report, then some will say that the situation looks worse. If the higher end of the range is not as high as in the previous report, then some will say that the outlook is better. The real questions, however, are whether or not the predictions and impacts are reliable enough to act on? How do we use this knowledge?

I hope to post a review of the IPCC report this weekend.

--ricky

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24. SteveBloom
12:23 AM GMT on February 06, 2007
Well, Sciento, I suspect you're as aware as I am that most of those denialist talking points have easy refutations. Unfortunately, they're still common currency on certain websites known to receive substantial funding from the fossil fuel industry. Visited any of those lately?

Fortunately for anyone who wants to know the real answers to your points, a special web site section has been developed for just that purpose: How to Talk to a Global Warming Sceptic. Notice that all the articles are chock full of actual citations to peer-reviewed research and actual data. I should add that while the author is not himself a scientist, the contents have been vetted by the extremely well-qualified climate scientists who run RealClimate.

The only one of your points that's not covered directly is #4 regarding trees. Tell you what: Post some scientific citations (with links, please) that back up your assertions and I'll respond. Maybe you could start with a paper showing that the climate effect of fixing of CO2 by trees exceeds heat absorption due to decreased albedo. (Hint: The answer isn't the same for the tropics and temperate zones.)
23. Sciento
4:53 PM GMT on February 05, 2007
WxKIDD wrote:"the burden goes back on you to show me something, anything, else that could be warming the planet. dont just sit there and shoot holes in the accepted theory...give me another hypothesis."
Your own data, going back several millenia, appears to refute your argument that recent human activity is the cause of global warming.
1.Glacial melting, and subsequent re-forming, are a historical feature of the huge variations in temperature that have persisted for centuries - as indicated by geological, botanical, and historical records. These variations are mostly attributed to solar variations. The recent few decades represent hardly a parenthesis in the millenia over which these variations have occurred, so it seems inappropriate to panic at this point.
2. The correlation between CO2 levels and temperature rise is insufficient to make a conclusion about global warming because: a) correlation does not imply causation (Statistics 101), b) the data have meaning only if other parameters are held constant, which was not true in this case because it would be impossible to account for all of the numerous parameters involved. For example, many of the measurements are made at airports, which were built during the mid-twentieth century in rural locations; but as urbanization of the measuring station vicinities occurred, jets replaced propeller aircraft, and air travel exploded, the plant life near the airfields was replaced by concrete and asphalt. This factor could account for local increases in both temperature and CO2 levels.
3. Water vapor is many times more efficient as a green house gas than CO2. Recent studies even indicate that animal flatulence has a greater effect than CO2.
4. GW meteorologists argue that trees contribute to warming, because they absorb heat instead of reflecting it, even though they reduce the levels of CO2. This is a perfect example of the junk science these scientists are handing us. Plants in the sunlight always have a cooling effect, because they convert solar energy not into heat but into potential chemical energy, which herbivorous animals need, and which represents a form of renewable energy. CO2 is a relatively transparent gas, necessary for our survival through the recycling process of plant photosynthesis. In a high CO2 environment plants grow faster, and become capable of handling greater quantities of CO2. This is not just theory, but common experience, which can easily be verified experimentally. I can cite other examples that illustrate the incompetence of “top scientists”.
5.We are told that temperatures measurements for the past hundred years indicate a warming trend, but we know that is not true because they indicated a coming ice age during the 70’s. The warming has occurred over the past 3 or 4 decades. Before that time, homes were, with few exceptions, heated with coal or wood, coal-burning trains spewed smoke and cinders over the landscape (and they were numerous because the interstate system with its trucking revolution did not exist), cars did not have emission controls, factories and mills poured opaque and translucent pollution into the air. These pollutants reflected the sunlight, and kept the air cooler than it is now. I can cite examples to illustrate this fact. GW, if it is exists and if it is truly a problem, can more reasonably attributed to cleaner air than to CO2 levels. One scientist suggested that we solve the problem of GW by introducing a high level of opaque pollutants into the jetstream to simulate volcano eruption.

22. Fshhead
9:45 AM GMT on February 04, 2007
On global warming, the observed change is now unequivocally evident in air and ocean temperatures, melting of snow and ice, rising sea-levels (through thermal expansion) and is a result of human activities. This effect is at least five times greater than that due to natural solar emission variations

That comment was taken right from the latest report...
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
21. cookie100
9:30 AM GMT on February 04, 2007
In all the present furor over CO2 effects on global warming, there has been limited media coverage of other factors. There are indeed other factors, some of which may be driving the warmup far more forcefully - for example the current large increase in solar radiation - it appears other bodies in the solar system are also experiencing simultaneous rapid warming. Canada.com is running an excellent series of articles presenting different climate factors in their series "The Deniers".

Check this link

http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/story.html?id=22003a0d-37cc-4399-8bcc-39cd20bed2f6&k=0

20. SteveBloom
4:16 AM GMT on February 04, 2007
ZRR, first of all there have really only been two glacial periods during the Phanerozoic (the last half-billion years). The present one is currently in a very cold phase (the Pleistocene) mainly characterized by the periodic presence (every 40,000 to 100,000 years starting about 2 million years ago) of extensive ice sheets on the Northern Hemisphere continents. In between these ice sheet invasions are "interglacials" such as the one we're in now (the Holocene). These ice sheet cycles are understood to be triggered by variations in the earth's orbit called Milankovitch cycles (that work mainly by affecting how much sunlight the Northern Hemisphere gets at different latitudes and times of year). Even though the precise mechanism by which the melting and freezing occur is not perfectly understood, the fact that the orbital cycles (which can be calculated with great precision) are a very good match for the several dozen Pleistocene melting/freezing cycles has resulted in a scientific consensus on this point. A recent discussion of some of the issues involved can be found here.

I should note that CO2 plays a major role in all of this, which is one of the reasons why climate scientists are so nervous about so much of it being added to the atmosphere at present. Fifteen years ago Wally Broecker speculated that the Pleistocene glacial epoch (the climate regime in which our species evolved) is in a rather delicate balance that could be easily knocked out of whack by a large pulse of CO2, and famously said "Climate is an ill-tempered beast, and we are poking it with a stick." Unfortunately, all of the subsequent extensive work in paleoclimatology has shown him to be very likely correct.

My personal suspicion (I study this stuff carefully but am not a climate scientist) is that we have already departed the Pleistocene, and now it's just a question of how warm it's ultimately going to get and how rough of a ride it will be.
19. Russell797
3:27 AM GMT on February 04, 2007
It is quite well established that glacial periods and inter-glacials are due primarily to variations of Earth's orbit about the Sun. These Milankovic cycles involve changes in the eccentricity of Earth's orbit with a period of greater than 100,000 years, precession of the equinoxes with a period of 26,000 years and a change in the tilt of rotational axis with a period of over 40,000 years. These cycles "phase up" to create warm and cold periods. These changes alone are all to long and slow to account for the current warming. It is apparent from proxy paleoclimatic records that the degree of current average annual warming over the entire globe is unprecedented over the periods these cycles operate.
18. ZRR
1:33 AM GMT on February 04, 2007
I'm curios Rick on what you think the driving force of climate change was during the many glacial periods of the past. I can't seem to find a scientific consesus related to there cause, and wouldn't understanding that bring climate science light years ahead.
Member Since: August 9, 2006 Posts: 217 Comments: 332
17. WxKIDD
7:14 PM GMT on February 03, 2007
skubaaruba-ice core sampling (drilling of ice cores in the antartic) goes back 2 million years. each time it snows, small pockets of air are trapped within the snow...giving us a good sampling of the atmosphere during that time. what we know:

-carbon dioxide levels have fluctuated between 150-270 parts per million in the last 400,00 years.
CO2 levels
-right now CO2 levels are about 386ppm, or about 110ppm higher than just before the industrial revolution.

The obvious questions for those that dont believe in human influenced global warming....what IS warming the planet? scientists have researched and researched the topic and have mostly agreed on the answer. the burden goes back on you to show me something, anything, else that could be warming the planet. dont just sit there and shoot holes in the accepted theory...give me another hypothesis.

for the rest of us, the questions have moved beyond "is global warming real" to:

1. How much of an effect does increased CO2 have on the atmosphere?
2. What effect will warming have on the ecosystem of the planet?
3. What can we do about it?

Clearly there is a lot of mis-information out there, and there is a continual insistance by those who believe that this is one big lie, that scientists are making this up and have a vested interest in making this seem overdramaticized.

while i wont deny that people hype the issue, my basic question is, who are you going to believe, the vast majority of scientists, or politicians/corporations?

scientists go by data collection and aquisition...and so we look and see whats going on and try to make our best predictions. are we always right? no. but in this particular instance isnt it better to ere on the side of caution rather than take the chance of messing with our ecosystem?

As posted above, 10 years ago, it was debateable, but we now see the melting, the increased heat waves, the droughts happening...isnt it about time to act in a spirit of prudence?
Member Since: December 9, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 63
16. marky48
6:05 PM GMT on February 03, 2007
Good coverage. I've laid out the science in my new novel Warm Front.

Dr. Master's was kind enough to read some of it a few months ago. Now it's in a writing contest here. I invite all to read and vote. The book answers Michael Crichton. Thanks.
15. anvilhead
4:50 AM GMT on February 03, 2007
Welcome to WU rick
Member Since: September 14, 2006 Posts: 128 Comments: 5257
14. Skyepony (Mod)
1:38 AM GMT on February 03, 2007
This is great, having someone in the field. Welcome!

skubaaruba~ Google ice core graphs & research
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37327
13. skubaaruba
1:01 AM GMT on February 03, 2007
We have maybe about 60 years of reliable weather records to use in determining that the Earth is undergoing global warming. This is way to short of a span of time considering the age of the Earth. Maybe human intervention by producing greenhouse gases staved off another Ice Age? Is not that fodder for thought? As the forces in nature here on Earth struggle each day to reach an equilibrium point, what better way for the Earth to be encrusted in ice at one temperature as the equilibrium point? Everyone has seen a negative side of global warming, but maybe if it were not for global warming most of the United States would have the climate of Canada today? Just something for the doomsayer’s to think about.
Member Since: November 13, 2003 Posts: 3 Comments: 34
12. desertdisaster
8:14 PM GMT on February 02, 2007
Hello Ricky & welcome
Thanks for helping us understand what's coming!!!

To link what Dr masters is stating now in his Blog about the IPCC report :
"There is insufficient evidence to determine whether trends exist in small scale phenomena such as tornadoes, hail, lighting, and dust storms." I think that if the following quoted sentence taken from a previous Blog is true;
"GW means more energy in the atmosphere. More energy in the atmosphere means bigger potential differences between highs and lows, warm & cold fronts, and more energy and water available in the atmosphere to amplify those differences."
I think this means stronger climatic events! Small or large-scale! No?

I am already witnessing the new devastating effects of this! Just in 2006 we had 4 events of very localized strong winds doing damage like small tornados Thousands of trees have been damaged in southern Canada by this new climatic phenomenon..

They say “there is insufficient evidence”! to me, there is!
11. Fshhead
10:35 AM GMT on February 02, 2007

Click me!!!!!
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
10. Fshhead
10:33 AM GMT on February 02, 2007
Welcome Ricky!!
I started a blog on global warming about a year ago & I am seeing a few of the people that have kept it going for so long.I will admit that "maybe" my views are a little on the liberal side lol. At the same time I think we have pretty much made up our minds on where we stand with this issue, I really don't think we needed the report to tell us. I am hoping your blog will bring a more subjective point so that the skeptics can't say it's slanted cause your a liberal(personally Patriot comes more to mind in light of current situations).
Thanx & look forward to the updates.....
Member Since: November 19, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 9960
9. LowerCal
6:53 AM GMT on February 02, 2007
Thanks ricky and welcome. I'm looking forward to your review.
Member Since: July 26, 2006 Posts: 58 Comments: 9154
8. NumberWise
4:33 AM GMT on February 02, 2007
Thanks, Ricky. I will look forward to your blogs.
Member Since: October 22, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 1691
7. snowboy
3:17 AM GMT on February 02, 2007
Good first post. The environment has been in the news a lot, because of the increased public interest and concern. 5 years ago, the changes to the earth's climate which were not as obvious. Today, the changes are everywhere, and one has to be oblivious to not notice them.

So the question of major concern to the public is whether it is in fact greenhouse gas emissions causing the changes which people are observing in their climate and environment. Our top scientists using their best models have been saying "YES!". The significance of the IPCC report is that it reflects input from atmospheric scientists from nations around the world..
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
6. weatherboykris
3:10 AM GMT on February 02, 2007
Hello Ricky.Nice blog,I'm looking forward to reading your entries here.
Member Since: December 9, 2006 Posts: 125 Comments: 11346
5. ryang
2:48 AM GMT on February 02, 2007
Hello Ricky.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12413
4. mobal
2:46 AM GMT on February 02, 2007
Welcome Rick

I for one will not put much faith in anything the UN is involved with...But that is just me.

I do look forward to reading your updates, I hope that all sides are represented.
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 482 Comments: 5331
3. Trouper415
1:53 AM GMT on February 02, 2007
Thanks for the article. I and many people greatly appreciate your coverage of this very very important issue.

Thanks
Peace
Patrick
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 637
2. Tazmanian
1:04 AM GMT on February 02, 2007
welcome ricky
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114709
1. ricderr
12:31 AM GMT on February 02, 2007
The real questions, however, are whether or not the predictions and impacts are reliable enough to act on? How do we use this knowledge?



great post aand great job on hitting the nail on the head...i look forward to your review this weekend

Member Since: June 27, 2006 Posts: 670 Comments: 21388

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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.