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Comment Re:Logarithmic (Score 1) 347 347

I know what logarithmic means, but I was countering the conclusion drawn by huckamania:

The effects of CO2 are logarithmic and most of the heating we should expect to see has already happened.

If we have seen 0.85 degrees of warming and can expect 3.2 degrees, then clearly it is not true that "most of the heating we should expect to see has already happened." The reports I cited factor in the logarithmic nature of warming, but also account for the fact that it takes a long time to reach the final temperatures after CO2 concentrations are increased. The delayed warming exceeds the logarithmic effect, and we can expect much more warming in the future than we've seen already.

Comment Re:The thankless job of solving nonexisting proble (Score 1) 347 347

Sorry, I don't feel like it.

That is precisely why I am not arranging the links in the pretty little table you want. I have given sound evidence for my position, and don't care to jump through hoops putting them into the specific format you requested. Grow up and read the articles.

Anyone who has made the least effort to study the Earth's climate knows that (a) we are dumping a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere, (b) higher CO2 concentrations will cause the planet to warm, and (c) significant warming could cause serious harm. My "if" condition is satisfied: there is substantial evidence that people are causing climate change and that climate change could cause significant harm.

At this point, the burden of proof is on you. If you think we should do nothing about climate change, it's up to you to provide evidence to support your position, which you have not done and cannot do. This obligation is especially strong given the serious risks involved. If our ship is headed toward an iceberg, we must steer away, even if it is inconvenient. If you want the ship to keep sailing ahead instead, it's up to you to prove the iceberg won't damage the ship. As you say, put up or shut up.

Comment Re:The thankless job of solving nonexisting proble (Score 1) 347 347

Every one of the links in this thread points to an easy-to-read article referencing a mainstream prediction of temperature trends and later evidence showing that the prediction was right. If you have so little interest that you won't read the articles unless the links are spoon fed to you in a particular format, then there's not much point discussing this with you.

The original predictions cited in this thread were published in Science magazine and several IPCC Assessment Reports. Those sources are at the pinnacle of global peer review and debate on climate change: they represent the mainstream view among climate scientists at the time they were published. They are not cherry-picked studies that happened to turn out right.

If you think it would be easy to retrospectively cherry-pick old studies that happened to be right (or wrong), you will enjoy my challenge to you: please give me one reference to a global temperature forecast published in a peer-reviewed source in the past 35 years that significantly overpredicted global warming. You can refer to the article and its rebuttal using an academic citation, a pretty table of URLs, a fun word game, or any other format you choose.

I would also point out that this debate doesn't even center on the right question, which is: given the evidence we have, what action should we take? If there is substantial evidence that people are causing climate change and that climate change could cause significant harm, then the correct policy is to take action to avoid the harm. The only sound argument for inaction would be compelling evidence that harm will not occur. Do you have that evidence? It's not enough to debate the precise magnitude of the risk. You have to show that on balance inaction can be expected to cause less harm than action. Anything else amounts to hoping the problem will not materialize, and as we know, "hope is not a plan."

Comment Re:The thankless job of solving nonexisting proble (Score 1) 347 347

It seems you partly agree with my point, which is this: climate change consists of a long-term upward temperature trend, with normal weather variation superimposed on top of it. Thus, you would expect a few up years, a few flat or down years, a few more up years, etc. But over several decades, the trend would be upward. And that is exactly what we're seeing, as shown in the link above. i.e., if 2000-2014 contains 13 of the hottest years of the last 130, then it is clearly part of an upward trend on a 2+ decade time scale, even if temperatures jumped up and down a bit within this 15-year period. Further, since climate change is a multi-decade or multi-century process, we can't ignore it just because the world hasn't ended in the first 30 years. The climate has clearly changed, but the biggest changes are yet to come.

I think you misunderstand some statistical techniques when you criticize instrumental precision. Yes, there are measurement errors at individual sites, and there is no way to measure the whole globe's temperature directly. However, two factors make it possible to estimate the long-term global trend very accurately. The first factor is the use of a longitudinal study format, where temperature is measured repeatedly at the same location. This makes it possible to observe the trend at that site very accurately -- i.e., the long term trend will emerge despite small measurement errors on individual days. Second, even if you can't measure the whole planet's temperature at each time step, you can observe that the weighted mean of your sampling sites is rising. If you choose the sites carefully, and observe them repeatedly, you can estimate the global temperature trend with a high degree of certainty; i.e., you can say that even with random errors in individual measurements, there is a greater than 95% (or 99%) chance that the actual temperature increase is within a certain (narrow) range around the number you've calculated.

It sounds nice to us (as a warm-blooded species who mostly live in colder climates than we evolved in) that temperatures are rising more at night and in winter (exactly what you'd expect if you threw a thicker "blanket" of CO2 on the planet), but that doesn't make climate change any less dangerous. It is still a sudden change in the temperature and weather regimes that human and natural systems have adapted to over thousands of years, and a small change can make a big difference. The difference between the last ice age and today is only about 5 degrees C, and we're on track for a 2-3 degree rise from pre-industrial times. I wouldn't shrug it off lightly.

Comment Re:The thankless job of solving nonexisting proble (Score 1) 347 347

Are you just having fun, or do you really misunderstand complex systems this badly?

Here is an obligatory car analogy (OCA): Suppose you hitch a trailer to your car and drive it to work every day. Every day you add another big rock to the trailer. After a few weeks, you think, "hmm, my car is not climbing hills as well as it used to, and I would swear it's overheating more often than it used to." But your brother says "nah, those are just extra-steep hills, and it only overheats on hot days." So you keep adding rocks, one a day. After a few more weeks, you say "I'm sure there's something wrong, and I bet it has something to do with those rocks." But your brother says "no way, your car is faster than ever going downhill, and the overheating is just due to hot weather. Last week the weather was cold and your car didn't overheat at all. You keep telling me the car is going to overheat, but it's always done fine. I'm tired of hearing about it." Your brother is right about the variability, but does that mean you don't have a problem?

Comment Re:The thankless job of solving nonexisting proble (Score 1) 347 347

I don't know which article you're referring to, but honestly it doesn't matter. There is plenty of evidence that the atmosphere is warming, plenty of models that predict or predicted this as a consequence of increased CO2 concentrations, and no credible models that predict otherwise.

I have no idea where you get the idea that "most of the heating we should expect to see has already happened." We are still accelerating our CO2 emissions, and it will take centuries for temperatures to reach their final equilibrium even after we stop. We have seen about 0.85 degrees C of warming already (top of p. 5 here), and if CO2 concentrations reach 2x pre-industrial levels, we can eventually expect something around 3.2 degrees C (middle of p. 1110 here).

Given reasonable grounds to expect serious harm, the correct policy approach is to take action to avert that harm, not to do nothing and hope things will be OK, or to demand exact forecasts of the behavior of a highly variable system.

Comment Re:government science != more money gravy train (Score 2) 347 347

My point was that academia is no gravy train, and people who believe academics are feathering their nests by peddling climate fear are living in a fantasy world. It takes an incredible amount of intelligence and dedication to succeed in one of these fields, and the people studying climate all have easier, more lucrative options open to them elsewhere.They do this work because they believe in it, just as you do your work because you believe in it (I hope). Sometimes there can be academic pissing matches, but those are no different from the intellectual holy wars around operating systems, flavors of Marxism, etc. The remarkable thing is how much agreement there is about climate change.

In climate change research, as in other fields of science, you gain prestige (and grants) by formulating models that accurately explain the available data, and withstand the scrutiny of other researchers. You do not improve your chances by offering extra doom and gloom.

Further, no climate scientist has ever said we'll be dead in 5 years or anything remotely similar. In this case you're the one offering an extreme position to earn extra attention. Scientists generally say that climate change is a multi-decade process, with potentially dire consequences late in the century. The fact that you are not suffering yet does not refute the drumbeat of evidence that temperatures have risen and will continue to rise until we reduce emissions.

Comment Re:The thankless job of solving nonexisting proble (Score 2) 347 347

You might also want to take a look at this post (just came across it with a quick search), which notes that a mainstream projection (in Science Magazine) in 1981 has come in very close to actual warming, but a little lower. Or you could look at this post or this post about projections made in 1990 and 1999 which are also coming out right.

More fundamentally, I'd ask you to take a look at the basics of atmospheric modeling, and point out where you think the mainstream models are wrong. You could start with the American Chemical Society's section on "Atmospheric Warming", particularly the Single-Layer Atmosphere Model and Multi-Layer Atmosphere Model. These are pretty easy to understand, and the underlying principles are at least as well established as the other areas of science we rely on for our high-tech lives. If you can't be bothered to understand the basic physical processes involved, you have no business debating climate science.

Comment Re:The thankless job of solving nonexisting proble (Score 4, Insightful) 347 347

The people doing this work are scientists. That means they work with probabilistic uncertainty bands, not vague measures like "within 80% of the predicted value". They also recognize that you can't make short-term predictions of a noisy system (the Earth's weather) with a narrow uncertainty band. So if anything they have erred on the side of making cautious forecasts -- i.e., things are turning out worse than the thresholds that scientists were willing to go public with (i.e., the lower edge of the 95% uncertainty band around anyone's forecast for a particular year's temperatures will be significantly cooler than their central estimate).

Because of this, no one would have been willing to predict (with high degree of certainty) that 13 of the warmest years since 1880 would occur in 2000-2014. But they have.

I challenge you to show me any global climate model that predicts that doubling CO2 concentrations won't warm the planet, or that shows that we would have had this century's steady increase in temperatures even if we hadn't increased CO2 concentrations. You can pretend there is no connection between CO2 and temperature, but you are the one burying your head in the sand.

Comment Re:I am a Republican voting Conservative. (Score 1) 347 347

I would say that it's actually much easier to prove that we are changing the temperature of the planet than it is to prove that "we are poisoning everything". The most visible toxic problems have been mitigated (at least in the U.S.), leaving a raft of much more contentious issues. I doubt the Republican leadership would go along with a new anti-toxic agenda.

It is also easy to make the case for human-caused climate change, at least to anyone who isn't prejudiced against it. There is no plausible way you can add as much CO2 to the atmosphere as we are doing without causing a significant change in temperatures. And there is no plausible explanation for recent temperature trends without including increased CO2 concentrations in the climate models.

It is also reasonable to expect that sudden climate change could disrupt the natural world. If you take a look at the geographic distribution of ecosystems and agricultural systems, where a few degrees' difference in average temperature results in sharply different species, then the reasonable conclusion is that climate change would most likely cause sharp changes to ecosystems, probably faster than they have historically adapted (it takes thousands of years to establish a thriving Northwest forest; they can't move north in hundreds of years).

A reasonable person would conclude that we should try very hard to address climate change, if for no other reason than the precautionary principle. Hoping CO2 will miraculously fail to warm the atmosphere, or that ecosystems and agricultural systems will miraculously adapt to new temperatures, or that someone will fix the problem later, is not a rational way to plan for the future.

Comment government science != more money gravy train (Score 4, Insightful) 347 347

I am one of those scientists (well, engineer actually these days), and I can say that you've got this pretty far backwards. I am an assistant professor, which means I have 6 years to prove my worth to my university. Part of that proof is that I must raise grants and fund grad students through a Ph.D. program. In fact, grad student support is the bulk of what I request in my grant applications -- my own salary is paid by tuition and legislative appropriations (I do teach classes too after all). But raising grants is currently nearly impossible.

I work on concrete solutions to climate change (e.g., studying how much wind and solar power we can use without cheap storage, or designing home appliances and electric vehicle chargers that can synchronize their demand with the supply of renewable power). Even in these "hot" areas, the funding rate for grant proposals is about 3%. Each proposal takes about a month of intense thinking, writing and document-chasing. Everyone competing for these grants has a Ph.D. from a top school, and the external review process is incredibly rigorous. So I would not call this a gravy train. I do this work because I think that humanity is on a reckless and destructive path, digging up hundreds of millions of years worth of accumulated carbon and poofing it into the atmosphere in 100 years, and because I think we can do better. If I wanted the gravy train, I'd be at Google or Microsoft or Facebook, not writing NSF grant proposals.

Comment Working fusion reactor (Score 1, Funny) 315 315

I already have a working, self-sustaining, exothermic fusion reactor. I made it pretty big, so that the necessary pressure is created by gravity alone. This design produces 400,000,000,000,000 terawatts and is completely maintenance free. It also uses a passively safe design so the reaction can't run away, at least for a few billion years. I managed the containment issues (and the truly excessive power production) by suspending the reactor in vacuum about 100 million miles from any population center. Rather than building a 100 million mile cable, I'm transmitting power wirelessly via medium-wavelength electromagnetic radiation. The reactor uses a simple blackbody emitter to generate the radiation. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to build a good focusing system at the reactor site, so only about 1/10,000,000,000 of the power (50,000 terawatts) actually reaches my potential collector site. However, we only need 13 terawatts to serve our potential market, and really more like 4 terawatts if we can convert the energy to electricity.

Now I'm just working on a system to convert this medium-wavelength electromagnetic radiation into electricity at the collector site. A lot of the fusion reactor designs I've seen use the radiation to boil a fluid to run a turbine. But I'm thinking it would be much cooler to use semiconductors -- maybe use the electromagnetic radiation to excite electrons across a bandgap and create electricity directly? I've got working prototypes of the solid-state converters, and they're already pretty cheap -- I can produce electricity for about 15 cents per kWh. I think with a few more years' work the whole system will be cheaper than coal power (it helps that I don't have to pay for the reactor or fuel). I figure if I cover 0.05% of my collector zone (the Earth's surface) with 15% efficient converters, I can provide enough energy for everyone on the planet.

Comment Name one (Score 1) 291 291

Could you please list one or more of these end-of-the-world scares that had as much scientific consensus as climate change, but turned out to be unfounded? Environmental history has more often been a case of "don't worry about it, don't worry about it" until the resource collapsed -- DDT, Cuyuhoga River, ozone hole, atlantic cod fishing, ...

Comment Obligatory car analogy (Score 1) 291 291

Passenger 1: "You're steering too far to the right -- you're going to go off the road!"

Driver: "No way. The gap between our car and the edge of the road is tiny compared to the size of the whole road. Reducing it won't have any effect."

Passenger 1: "That's irrelevant. If you cross that margin, the car will go off the road!"

Driver: "No way. You and Passenger 2 can't agree about when the car will leave the road. So there's no problem."

Passenger 1: "But we both agree you'll go off the road if you keep going to the right!"

Driver: "Hold on, let me wade into the science here. You say the road slopes down at the edge, and Passenger 2 says it slopes up. Maybe it goes up steeply near the edge. That would slow us down. So there's no problem."

Passenger 1: "But it's just as likely to slope down! If it slopes down enough, we'll accelerate out of control. And no matter how the road slopes, you can't keep driving to the right forever. Eventually you'll leave the road."

Driver: "But I like driving this way. Besides, you guys still haven't agreed about what will happen if we leave the road. Or when that will happen."

Passenger 1: "But surely the smartest thing is just to steer back to the center rather than risk catastrophe?"

Driver: "Maybe we could build an extra section of road further off to the right. Or we could strengthen the car so it keeps running even if we leave the road. You guys should go study that and leave me alone. I like driving this way."

Frankly, Scarlett, I don't have a fix. -- Rhett Buggler

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