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Tilting at Windmills

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June 22, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

NAS WEIGHS IN....In news that will surprise no one except the president of the United States, it turns out that global warming is real:

It has been 2,000 years and possibly much longer since Earth has run such a fever.

The National Academy of Sciences, reaching that conclusion in a broad review of scientific work requested by Congress, reported Thursday that the "recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia."

....Other new research Thursday showed that global warming produced about half of the extra hurricane-fueled warmth in the North Atlantic in 2005, and natural cycles were a minor factor, according to Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a research lab sponsored by the National Science Foundation and universities.

Full details on the NAS report here. I can't wait for the wingnuts to zero in on the temperate language used by real scientists namely that the farther back you go, the less reliable the data. But that's real science for you.

The various temperature reconstructions for the past millennium are below. Note the unanimous agreement that temperatures have increased at an unprecedented rate since 1900.

Kevin Drum 4:37 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (164)

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Comments

Look, homos!

Posted by: George W. Bush on June 22, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure the N. Koreans, Syria, Iraq and Iran had something to do with all this. Codpiece time!!

Posted by: steve duncan on June 22, 2006 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

that the "recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia."

Completely wrong Kevin. The recent warmth is NOT unprecedented. As the National Review points out, there was a Medieval Warm Period in the early middle ages which exhibited the same kind of warmth as now. That you and the so-called "scientists" don't even know about the Medieval Warm Period shows your complete ignorance of the topic of global warming and shows us we should ignore your ignorant opinions on the subject.

Link

"One of the problems with the graph is that its smooth progression through the first 900 years is at variance with established scholarship in the field. We know that there was both a Medieval Warm Period in the early middle ages when the Vikings colonized Greenland and a Little Ice Age in the 1600s-1800s, when the River Thames froze over regularly in London. The graph does not show much variance for either of these occurrences."

Posted by: Al on June 22, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Relax everyone, until we have an exact model that can predict all possible outcomes of any possible action we might want to consider taking, we're just gonna have to sit back and wait for more data.

Unless of course someone mentions WMDs, then we'll be all over it. Global Warming doesn't equal WMDs, does it?

Posted by: cyntax on June 22, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Junk science.

I know of what I speak, as I am a scientist with a Ph. D.

in 'ethnobotany'.

I also wrote so many books.

Including one on wonders of homeopathy.

Posted by: michael savage on June 22, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

It's worth pointing out, too, Kevin, that their conclusion is not only that global warming is real, it has been accelerated by humans.

This is important because the next wingnut talking-point will be, "Well, of course global warming is real. Duh. But it's a natural phenomenon that occurs every so often. Nothing to see here; back to your lives, citizens." In fact I've already seen this one pop up here and there.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on June 22, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Ignore Charlie.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on June 22, 2006 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK


"According to a survey in Time magazine, 85% of Americans think global warming is happening. The other 15% work for the White House." - Jay Leno

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 22, 2006 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

And Al, loks like according to those commies at NOAA you were half right:

    In contrast, the evidence for a global (or at least northern hemisphere) "Little Ice Age" from the 15th to 19th centuries as a period when the Earth was generally cooler than in the mid 20th century has more or less stood the test of time as paleoclimatic records have become numerous. The idea of a global or hemispheric "Medieval Warm Period" that was warmer than today however, has turned out to be incorrect.
Posted by: cyntax on June 22, 2006 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

The National Academy of Sciences produced this data?!

time to cut their funding...

Posted by: James on June 22, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

Al, this is specifically mentioned in the report's opening, which you apparently didn't bother to read.

"2. Large-scale surface temperature reconstructions yield a generally consistent picture of temperature trends during the preceding millennium, including relatively warm conditions centered around A.D. 1000 (identified by some as the "Medieval Warm Period") and a relatively cold period (or "Little Ice Age") centered around 1700.

3. It can be said with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries. This statement is justified by the consistency of the evidence from a wide variety of geographically diverse proxies. "

Posted by: Sandra on June 22, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

cyntax is on it--the "1% policy" only applies to problems that affect the Bush crime-family omerta. If it has a 1% chance of disturbing the Family, then we can drain the nation's treasury and destroy its military in order to attack it. But if it's only the fate of the world...eh. "You've covered your ass now--you can go."

But look--one thing the NAS should have said better:
"global warming produced about half of the extra hurricane-fueled warmth in the North Atlantic in 2005"

If the warmth was "hurricane-fueled", then it would be fueled by hurricanes, i.e. the hurricanes would be the cause of the heat. That's not what they meant.

What they meant is "hurricane-*fueling*" heat--it's the heat that fuels the hurricanes, not the other way around.

Global warming was the cause of the heat. And heat causes the hurricanes. In other words, it was right-wing mendacity and junk science that lost New Orleans. Think that's an exaggeration? We'll never know.

Posted by: b on June 22, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Al, I think that Middle Age warming period was probably being measured with metric thermometers. That and of course there's the 1st Law of Thermodynamics. E=mc2. Bill Clinton. Al Gore is gay. You know (I know you know!).

Posted by: steve duncan on June 22, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Yep Cheney, that one was for you.
; )

Posted by: cyntax on June 22, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

I can't form an opinion until Senator Santorum reports his ice core analysis.

Posted by: sglover on June 22, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK


i bet if you call Philip Cooney, former Chief of Staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality...

he'll tell you its all crap...

you can reach him now at exxon-mobil...

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 22, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK


So does this mean the dinosaurs are coming back?

I'm thinking Al ...

Maybe he's a precursor.

Posted by: 6 on June 22, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Current odds for what the next excuse from the greenhouse denial talking point factory will be:

2:3 It's Bill Clinton's fault.
2:1 Global warming is good for you.
3:2 How can we really know anything, anyway?
16:1 OK. We're to blame. We're sorry. Let's cooperate on a solution without pointing fingers.

Posted by: Stefan Jones on June 22, 2006 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Denial - it's not just for holocausts!

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

"In news that will surprise no one except the president of the United States"

He doesn't read the news, Kevin, remember?

I started writing this as a joke but now I'm just sad.

Posted by: Sam Spade on June 22, 2006 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Eh, it's nothing a little nuclear winter won't cure.

Now watch me push this button.

Posted by: G. W. Bush on June 22, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, be careful with the post titles. I was expecting an opinion on global warming from Nas.

Posted by: Daniel A. Munz on June 22, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

If global warming has anything to do with the decreasing popularity of Billy Joel I can live with it..........

Posted by: steve duncan on June 22, 2006 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

I am all for greenhouse denial.

Why?

Because denial is going to kill the repugs in 2008.
It is going to absolutely "steamroll" them.

In other words: Keep up the good work trolls.

Repeat after me until 2009:

Global warming doesn't exist...
Global warming doesn't exist...
Global warming doesn't exist...
Global warming doesn't exist...

Posted by: koreyel on June 22, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: ".In news that will surprise no one except the president of the United States"

Bush: "There is a natural greenhouse effect that contributes to warming. Greenhouse gases trap heat, and thus warm the earth because they prevent a significant proportion of infrared radiation from escaping into space. Concentration of greenhouse gases, especially CO2, have increased substantially since the beginning of the industrial revolution. And the National Academy of Sciences indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity. "


As an excuse one can only take snarkiness and satire so far.

Kevin is now in the realm of straightforward and shameless lying.

Posted by: a on June 22, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

What's worse "a", improbably denying the obvious or conceding it (as in your Bush quote above) yet declining to do anything about it?

Posted by: steve duncan on June 22, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Bush never said that. Hell, he couldn't even read it.

Posted by: craigie on June 22, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

One question for the righties - Are you saying pollution is a good thing? Yes or no?

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on June 22, 2006 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

How about those Elizabethian hot flashes? Don't see them anywhere on the chart. The 1970's 'Big Chill'? The San Francisco flamers?

(tree rings - n'yuk!)

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on June 22, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Environmentalists were right. Al is wrong.

I take mass transit. I save more money and get to meet people. It feels great. I try to recycle and curb my energy use. When I hear about the problems with pollution, I'm not as guilty as I used to be, and I'm glad I'm doing something. You were wrong about global warming, Al, just like the WMDs, etc etc. Settle yourself with that cold and unsettling reality. And then pick yourself up, learn from it, and move on.

Nya nya nah...nah.

Posted by: Boorring on June 22, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

That's the trouble with you liberal negative nellies - always looking at the glacier as half-melted.

Posted by: ckelly on June 22, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone knows that this is just liberal claptrap from bible-denying "scientists" who are trying to get rich off of federal grants.

The real reason for higher temperatures is that this is just a natural cycle of sunspots causing cows to fart more, densifying the atmosphere which causes volcanos to emit CO2. Lots of real scientists support this, but the anti-business forces that control scientific journals refuse to accept the submissions of papers that prove it.

Global warming will be good for us, because it will open up the northwestern passage that has been blocked for centuries by polar bear attacks, and because the land we lose in the southern US will be more than made up for by the fertile croplands that will spontaneously generate from artic tundra in Alaska and Canada. Environmentalists should be happy about this, as birds will no longer have to fly as far south for the winter so will have more time to do... whatever it is hippies are so happy about birds doing.

Posted by: Mysticdog on June 22, 2006 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

One question for the righties - Are you saying pollution is a good thing? Yes or no?

Yes, they are.

2:1 Global warming is good for you.

They are already saying this...see link above.


Posted by: ckelly on June 22, 2006 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, I think bush did say something like that some time ago. I vaguely recall it and it is his pattern. One time on a sunday afternoon press conference with the ambassador from Luxomborg he tells the truth (global warming is real and man made, Iraq and al-qaeda have nothing to do with each other, my tax cuts will help only the rich). Several times a month for the rest of his presidency he lies with just enough weasel words so that a highly legalistic reading of his words will not quite be a lie ("the british have learned...") while his minions, handlers, and masters tell the lies more absolutely and more frequently.

Then when his lies are periodically exposed his and his apologists finally give up defending the lies they can point to the obscure quote and claim he was right all along.

Posted by: jefff on June 22, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/02/a-new-take-on-an-old-millennium/

Realclimate.org is a great website maintained by climate scientists, who graciously take the time to make their work intelligible to lay people. There is a posting about the current report, but it links to this earlier post in February that contains a graph explicitly identifying the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age. If you click on the graph link to Wikipedia, the data sources used in the graph are all identified in detail, with references. It's nice work.

Posted by: Grandma on June 22, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK
Completely wrong Kevin. The recent warmth is NOT unprecedented.

As the chart accurately shows, it is correct to say that it is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years, and quite possible that it is unprecedented at least as far back as A.D. 900.

As the National Review points out, there was a Medieval Warm Period in the early middle ages which exhibited the same kind of warmth as now.

The "Medieval Warm Period" is, insofar as anything like that appears to have actually occurred, shown on the chart Kevin posted. It's height is the period between, roughly, A.D. 950 and A.D. 1100 or so. The current measurements in the various series now are mixed between about as high up to 0.4°C higher than the peaks in that period, and unlike those past peaks, the present trend is sharply increasing, and increasing at a rate that is itself increasing.

There should be no need to point out that the perhaps-about-as-hot-as-now-at-its-worse-but-perhaps-significantly-cooler peak of the "Medieval Warm Period" was considerably more than 400 years ago.

That you and the so-called "scientists" don't even know about the Medieval Warm Period shows your complete ignorance of the topic of global warming and shows us we should ignore your ignorant opinions on the subject.

That you can't tell than the 1100's were more than 400 years ago and, further, can't read a simple chart which shows that the "Medieval Warm Period" was only maybe roughly as warm as today, and perhaps significantly cooler, shows us we should ignore your ignorant rantings on the subject.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

First step is to set drastic limits on private car use. Increasing the mileage standards and heavy new gas taxes will help with this, along with increasing spending on mass transit. The private car is a luxury society can't afford anymore.

Increased government control of the energy companies is critical, since they are probably what is standing in the way of progress in alternative energies. Nationalization might eventually need to be considered as a last resort.

Mandate solar power in new commercial construction, including private homes above a certain price level.

Ration energy. Electricity and fuel are a luxury in our modern climate, not a right. Penalize excessive use with exceptions made for the poor. Proper levels of use can be decided by non-partisan committees at various levels of government.

Pull the U.S. out of the Middle East entirely. The money saved will pay for new wind and solar power here at home. Put the military to work building renewable energy facilities.

A new government organization with new powers should be created, at the same level as the DOD or other large groups. This organization will be able to cut through a lot of the crap involved in dismantling our current obsolete energy-hog society and putting in place a more balanced civilization. This organization, freed from the political crap that goes on in the legislative branch, will put proper controls on supplies, distribution, and use.

We could call it the "Energy Management and Control Commission," or EMC^2

If such a group had some kind "Czar" in charge, they could do worse than pick Al Gore, who at least knows something about it.

Posted by: Moody on June 22, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, your post is thoroughly confused and misleading.

1. It is not "news" that the NAS agrees that "global warming is real," or even that human activity is contributing to global warming. The NAS has been saying that since at least 2001.

2. The president would not be "surprised" by the "news" that "global warming is real," since he has already publicly stated that he believes it is real and that human beings are contributing to it, and has cited previous NAS reports in support of that belief.

3. The new NAS report that is the subject of your post does not announce the "news" that "global warming is real" or that human activity is contributing to it. The report concerns evidence about how long it has been since the planet was as warm as it has been over the last few decades.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

It is not "news" that Don P, posting as "GOP", is peddling his usual line of scripted, programmed, right-wing boilerplate bullshit.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 22, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Al: As the National Review points out, there was a Medieval Warm Period in the early middle ages which exhibited the same kind of warmth as now.

The National Review also said this:

Global average temperature has risen by about 1 degree Celsius or less since the late 1800s. No serious person on either side of the global-warming debate questions this. Nor do serious commentators doubt that human activity, by increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, contributes to global warming.

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NGIzNWNjYmVhYjE2M2RmNDM2OGM0ODRjN2QwNjE1ODM

The go on to argue for recent warming being more natural than not, but they use throughly discredited science to do so and Think Progress took them to task on that.

And as for the Medieval Warming Period:

There is actually no good evidence that the MWP was indeed a globally warm period comparable to today. Regionally, there may have been places that did exhibit notable warmth but all of the various global proxy reconstructions agree that it is warmer now and the temperature is rising faster than at any time in the last one or even two thousand years. Anecdotal evidence like that above can never tell you a global story.
NOAA presents a whole selection of proxy studies together with the data they are based on and these can be found here: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/paleo.html
Specifically, they have this to say about the MWP:
"The idea of a global or hemispheric "Medieval Warm Period" that was warmer than today however, has turned out to be incorrect."

http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/02/medieval-warm-period-was-just-as-warm.html

A: Bush: "And the National Academy of Sciences indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity."

Bush has backed away from this statement in recent public appearances, suggesting that he is placing his bets that it's mostly natural. He probably decided that when he met with Michael Crichton to discuss the subject (I am not kidding).

Posted by: JJ on June 22, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

What's odd -- and what should be troublesome for anyone who thinks that C02 emissions are the sole or main cause -- is that the current warming trend obviously began in the early 1800s. Virtually all of the lines on the graph show a dip right then, and then a steady trend upwards ever since. Why would that be? Why did the trend start then? Why hasn't the trend changed or accelerated, at least not visibly, with modern C02 emissions? What else is going on?

Posted by: Anono on June 22, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Deja vu? Didn't the Bush administration have the NAS weigh in on this in 2001 (and then try to bury it, distort it, alter it, and delete it from EPA reports in 2002 and 2003)?

"a" is out of step with the party line. That press release is why they canned Whitman. Bush never forgave her for having Blake read it to him over the ear piece.

Posted by: B on June 22, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

Why hasn't the trend changed or accelerated, at least not visibly, with modern C02 emissions? What else is going on?

There are several studies that have detected the "signature" of CO2 as the cause of the warming:

http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=3458&method=full

Posted by: JJ on June 22, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

I can't wait for the wingnuts to zero in on the temperate language used by real scientists

I can't wait for enviro-wackos to ignore the temperate language used by real scientists, especially the language stating that scientists have "very little confidence in findings on average temperatures" before A.D.900.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

It's a clear breakout pattern, Al and Cheney. Don't you ever trade stocks?

Posted by: Bob M on June 22, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

GOP: You take advantage of "the temperate language used by real scientists."

Just because scientists tend to use clinical language does not mean they're not describing dangers.

NASA scientist James Hansen alludes to this in this very good interview he gave yesterday to NPR:

http://www.onpointradio.org/shows/2006/06/20060621_b_main.asp

Posted by: JJ on June 22, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Al: Medieval warm period was accompanied by an increase in sunspot activity. There is no corresponding sunspot activity increase from 1900 on.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 22, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of ignoring the temperate language of real scientists....

There are several studies that have detected the "signature" of CO2 as the cause of the warming:

No, the studies indicate that CO2 is a cause of the warming, not "the" cause of it.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK
What's odd -- and what should be troublesome for anyone who thinks that C02 emissions are the sole or main cause -- is that the current warming trend obviously began in the early 1800s. Virtually all of the lines on the graph show a dip right then, and then a steady trend upwards ever since. Why would that be? Why did the trend start then?

Maybe because of the giant leap forward in industrial steam engines at the end of the 18th Century which made them far more useful, and also enabled practical steam vehicles (both boats and locomotives) from the beginning of the 19th century.

Why hasn't the trend changed or accelerated, at least not visibly, with modern C02 emissions? What else is going on?

Though its hard to be real specific from the chart, most of the curves seem to be rising increasingly fast over the last 200 years; the compression, though, of the that time into such a small part of the graph makes it somewhat hard to eyeball it.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Why hasn't the trend changed or accelerated, at least not visibly, with modern C02 emissions? What else is going on?

Greenhouse gases increase the net flux of energy to the surface. It will take a long time to reach an equilibrium temperature with the current flux. Basically the ocean is a big heat sink.

A pot of water doesn't immediately jump to a new equilibrium when you adjust the dial on the stove for the same reason.

Posted by: B on June 22, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

GOP: Yes, "a" instad of "the". True. This stuff requires precise language and the send button is just a mouse click away.

We had this discussion before though, in a previous thread. If we're really being bastards and trying to eliminate every remote possibility of what's contributing to the problem before we take action, we could do that. But history will not look that kindly on us if we do that.

Posted by: JJ on June 22, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

You think steam engines contributed to global warming? That's an interesting theory. What's the mechanism by which steam contributes to warming? Because it's really hot and steamy?

Posted by: Anono on June 22, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

But history will not look that kindly on us if we do that.

Like I said, the send button is easy to hit. I should have said "history will not look that kindly on us if we do that" unless we're really really really really really really really lucky.

Posted by: JJ on June 22, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: I can't wait for the wingnuts to zero in on the temperate language used by real scientists...

George W. Bush's mental slave, Don P, posting as "GOP" wrote: I can't wait for enviro-wackos to ignore the temperate language used by real scientists...

Here's what the climate scientists who maintain the RealClimate.org site say: "... we have little doubt that keen contrarians will be able to mine the report for skeptical-sounding sentences and cherry-pick the findings."

Obviously they know exactly what to expect from incorrigibly dishonest Bush-bootlickers like Don P, as does Kevin.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 22, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

What's the mechanism by which steam contributes to warming

Umm, how do you propose to create the steam?

Posted by: JJ on June 22, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney, you're shitting us right? Is your vested interest in disbelieving anthropogenic global climate change simply a desire to see annoying liberal environmentalists fall on their face?

Posted by: B on June 22, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

But history will not look that kindly on us if we do that.
Posted by: JJ on June 22, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Who cares about history? The Rapture is coming! It's a nice, cool, 75 degrees in heaven. Guess you satan-loving libs will find out how hot it is in hell.

Posted by: American Fuck on June 22, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

You think steam engines contributed to global warming? That's an interesting theory. What's the mechanism by which steam contributes to warming? Because it's really hot and steamy?

Smarter trolls, for the love of god.

Posted by: trex on June 22, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's post is thoroughly dishonest because it fails to mention:

1. There is no scientific basis for any particular policy to address global warming so whatever George W. Bush decides to do, or not do, about it is fine.

2. Everything George W. Bush says is true, even when he contradicts himself, and especially when he says things that are clearly not true.

3. George W. Bush is the greatest leader who ever lived.

4. Any one who suggests that anything George W. Bush says or does is less than perfect is an enviro-wacko lefty moonbat red liberal commie greenie.

Kevin needs to acknowledge these basic facts in every comment he posts about any subject, or Democrats will never win elections.


Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Again, I present the MIT Climate Wheel (which is out of date, because the latest science makes your sliver of the wheel considerably smaller):

http://web.mit.edu/globalchange/www/wheel.degC.html

Posted by: JJ on June 22, 2006 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

But I do agree that global warming has been overblown. It's not nearly as big a problem as a lot of people are claiming.

Posted by: trex on June 22, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

James wrote:
"The National Academy of Sciences produced this data?!

time to cut their funding..."

I know you were joking but it has already happened. I should know -- I (and sadly a number of others) were laid off last year after NASA decided to not renew long standing relationships (going back to NASA's founding) with the NAS. Additionally many feds simply are choosing to not seek out the opinion of the NAS, knowing perhaps that it will be based on science, so the rumors are further layoffs comes.

If you care about science, you should care about the future viability of the NAS. Who else can give the nation the unvarnished truth about scientific matters free from political biases?

Posted by: HokieAnnie on June 22, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

. . what we don't know is if human causes account for 5% or 55% of the alleged change.
Posted by: Cheney on June 22, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Irregardless of what that percentage is. Should we (humanity) or should we not attempt to do something about it?

Should that something be:
Burn more petroleum?

Or:
Reduce our CO2 output?

Posted by: American Fuck on June 22, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK
You think steam engines contributed to global warming? That's an interesting theory. What's the mechanism by which steam contributes to warming? Because it's really hot and steamy?

I think that the methods used to create steam in steam engines (which generally involved burning wood, coal, petroleum, mummies, etc.) almost certainly led to an increase in anthropogenic CO2 emissions compared to the state prior to the adoption of such engines industrially, and so the fact that the solid warming trend begins with the revolution that made steam engines more generally practical and widely adopted is hardly a problem for those who see anthropogenic CO2 emissions as the primary mechanism behind "global warming".

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney -- just blown away by your intellectual genius on that volcanic eruption frequency comment.

Posted by: B on June 22, 2006 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist,

George W. Bush's mental slave, Don P, posting as "GOP" wrote

SecularAnimist is a lying moron.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

But I do agree that global warming has been overblown. It's not nearly as big a problem as a lot of people are claiming.

Yes, that was genius -- when you're on the ropes, steal someone's handle to try and sow confusion and distract from the fact that you're losing an argument.

Let me be the second to ask today: who let the fifth graders onto the blog?

Posted by: trex on June 22, 2006 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

is that the current warming trend obviously began in the early 1800s


Also the increased use of coal, coal mining, iron mining, charcoal and coke ovens.

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

Why did the trend start then? Why hasn't the trend changed or accelerated, at least not visibly, with modern C02 emissions? What else is going on?

Deforestation? Wasn't Europe once, in the not so distant past, one large forest?

Posted by: Thumb on June 22, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Charlie posting as "Cheney" wrote: what we don't know is if human causes account for 5% or 55% of the alleged change.

That's a lie when Don P says it, and it's a lie when you say it.

The entire point of this report, supported by other current climate science, is that beyond question, the currently observed warming is real, and is not "alleged".

The current unprecedented warming cannot be explained by any unidentified, entirely speculative alleged "natural causes", it can only be accounted for -- and is entirely accounted for -- by human activities, principally anthropogenic emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels.

There are NO so-called "natural factors" that have been scientifically demonstrated to cause any part of the currently observed, unprecedented warming. Any suggestion that there are such "natural factors" contributing to the currently observed unprecedented warming is nothing but conjecture, completely unsupported by scientific evidence.

On the other hand, the warming attributable to increased concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases resulting from human activities, principally the burning of fossil fuels, is entirely sufficient to explain the currently observed unprecedented warming, so there is no need to invoke any alleged, scientifically unproven "natural causes" to explain it.

It is interesting that both of you consistently lie about this, and also both of you now post with new handles and fake email addresses to disguise your identity after being thoroughly discredited as frauds and phonies for the lies that you posted with your original handles of "Charlie" and "Don P".

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 22, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

It's hotter than blue blazes here in central Virginia!

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on June 22, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

There are NO so-called "natural factors" that have been scientifically demonstrated to cause any part of the currently observed, unprecedented warming.

It would be really nice if there were any simple, irrefutable way to decisively eliminate the possibility of solar output fluctuations as a cause.

Posted by: American Fuck on June 22, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK
A new government organization with new powers should be created, at the same level as the DOD or other large groups. This organization will be able to cut through a lot of the crap involved in dismantling our current obsolete energy-hog society and putting in place a more balanced civilization. This organization, freed from the political crap that goes on in the legislative branch, will put proper controls on supplies, distribution, and use.

So, you are proposing a cabinet-level executive branch department that is somehow magically free of "political crap"?

Believing in that is right up there with not believing in global warming or believing in a flat Earth.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

P.S. to cyntax re: WMD - did you ever read this?

"The Sulfur Mustard contained in artillery shells that had been stored for over 12 years, had been found by UNMOVIC to be still of high purity. It is possible that viable filled artillery shells and aerial bombs still remain in Iraq."

Seems totally plausible. I have no difficulty believing that there are artillery shells buried somewhere in Iraq that have active chemical agents in them.

But practically speaking, what can be done with them?

My issue is that if all Saddam had were chemical artillery rounds, that's obviously not worth invading a country for.

Posted by: cyntax on June 22, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

There's still hope for the species,

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article1093522.ece


Making women laugh by "medical clowning" has been found to boost the chances of success during fertility treatment, in a study that appears to prove the therapeutic powers of humour.

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

JJ,

GOP: Yes, "a" instad of "the". True. This stuff requires precise language

It doesn't even have to be precise. Just sufficiently accurate not to seriously misrepresent what scientists are actually saying. The difference between saying that something is "a" cause and saying that it is "the" cause is not a trivial distinction. It's very important. Yet I see this kind of misrepresentation constantly amoung the more rabid doomsayers and scaremongers on global warming.

We had this discussion before though, in a previous thread. If we're really being bastards and trying to eliminate every remote possibility of what's contributing to the problem before we take action, we could do that. But history will not look that kindly on us if we do that.

I don't believe we need to eliminate all doubt about the magnitude of the human contribution to global warming before any action to mitigate that contribution is justified. I do believe the doubts and uncertainties should be clearly stated, and that they matter greatly to decisions about what action to take.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

What really irks me about this issue is how smug the neocons are, that they produce these "CO2 is good for you" commercials. They've been very effective at breaking the brainwashing we've been trying to do, to win people over to our side.

As a consequence, our Liberal plan to brainwash people into thinking that CO2 is bad, to get them to globally reduce the CO2 levels so that we can make Earth more habitable for our communist alien friends, has had a few setbacks. These aliens not only find CO2 to be poisonous (as opposed to humans: CO2 turns human beings into strong, fierce warriors), but their thick-shaggy fur coats are very uncomfortable in all this heat, and it makes them very irratible.

In a very few years, it may be impossible to reverse the trend we tried to start in the 1970's by taking over OPEC and NASA, and launching several satellites with "Petroleum-hiding beams". Soon, the Earth will return to it's natural climate, as documented in the Bible (very warm, desert-like, and inhospitable to communist aliens) - and all our chances to get communist aliens to come down from space and convert all our males to homosexuality will be ruined forever. Won't someone please think of the children?

Posted by: Liberal Strawman on June 22, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

Mysticdog >"...blocked for centuries by polar bear attacks..."

Between bouts of ROFLMAO I must note you forgot about the contribution from polar bear farts...

"The internet can be as informative as the library of Alexandria or as crass as a bathroom wall." - GSD-firedoglake.com

Posted by: daCascadian on June 22, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK
What really irks me about this issue is how smug the neocons are, that they produce these "CO2 is good for you" commercials.

While they are similar in being dishonest, short-sighted, self-interested members of the present Republican coalition, I'm not sure I'd equate the business interest behind the CO2 ads and the foreign policy lobby usually referred to by the label "neocons".

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Making women laugh by "medical clowning" has been found to boost the chances of success during fertility treatment, in a study that appears to prove the therapeutic powers of humour.

Yes, but that only works when they're laughing with you -- laughing at you, not so much.

Posted by: Stefan on June 22, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, never mind. Liberal Strawman managed to push my "not everything bad and Republican is 'neocon' pet peeve" hard enough that I didn't read the whole piece, or who it came from...

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

As we decided on another thread, we will have to agree to disagree - there is no way we can chance global warming happening, so even if human causes account for only 5% of the change we have to do everything in our power to stop it.

Posted by: Stefan on June 22, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist,

and it's a lie when you say it.

SecularAnimist is a lying moron

There are NO so-called "natural factors" that have been scientifically demonstrated to cause any part of the currently observed, unprecedented warming.

As this chart from the IPCC TAR shows, there are a number of natural climate forcings that could be contributing substantially to global warming.

As an example, this 2003 paper, by climate scientists at Britain's Hadley Centre, estimates that one natural mechanism alone, solar forcing, may be contributing up to 36% of the warming attributable to greenhouse gases.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 7:11 PM | PERMALINK

As we decided on another thread, cyntax, we will have to agree to disagree - there was no way we could chance terrorists like al Qaeda getting chemical, biological, or God forbid nukes.
Posted by: Cheney on June 22, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed. Which is why we should have gone after Al Qaeda in Afghanistan before they escaped to Pakistan. Who has nukes.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 22, 2006 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

I don't believe we need to eliminate all doubt about the magnitude of the human contribution to global warming before any action to mitigate that contribution is justified. I do believe the doubts and uncertainties should be clearly stated, and that they matter greatly to decisions about what action to take.
Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

What action?

The only action that humanity is capable of would be to decrease CO2 production.

If we accept that there IS action we could take, then you pretty much have to take it as a given that the cause is increased human CO2 production.

And doubts and uncertainies are clearly stated in any research paper - it's called "Methods" and "Margin of error".

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 22, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Global warming was predicted in the 1930's practically on the back of an envelope. The paper predicted a temperature increase that is only off from the latest global climate models by a factor of 2.

The physical mechanism is simple, well understood, and as unavoidable as gravity. 4.5 billion years of climate record has demonstrated that the greenhouse gases have mediated climate change over and over and over.

The number of hurricanes last year is a trivial footnote. The relatively small observed temperature changes are consistent with global climate models but they don't add much to the inevitibility of the coming change.

Posted by: B on June 22, 2006 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

As we decided on another thread, cyntax, we will have to agree to disagree - there was no way we could chance terrorists like al Qaeda getting chemical, biological, or God forbid nukes.

Cheney, biological or nuclear-- very dangerous things in the hands of terrorists. I agree.

But walk me through a scenario where a terrorist could do more damage with a chemical weapon than with a bunch of ball bearings wrapped around some Semtex.

Posted by: cyntax on June 22, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

As we decided on another thread, we will have to agree to disagree - there is no way we can chance global warming happening,

That ship sailed a long time ago. Global warming is already happening, and would almost certainly continue happening for the next few decades at least even if we could somehow reduce our emissions of CO2 to zero immediately.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK
As this chart from the IPCC TAR shows, there are a number of natural climate forcings that could be contributing substantially to global warming.

The only natural factor on that chart is solar output; every other factor is linked to some form of human activity, as the legend states. So, insofar as "a number" is supposed to mean "exactly one" and "significant" means "at all", your statement is correct.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Unprecedented" as in there was never any Ice Age in all our Earth's billions and billions of years? Besides, I thought "Charlie" = "Don P." = "GOP"? ... Posted by Cheney

Charlie, why are you such an ass? And why do you waste so much bandwidth posting trivial self references, as though anyone gave a shit.

We know who you are, you're Charlie-the-Cheney-man, the Christian zealot who believes that what the world needs now is to "find freedom in slavery to Christ."

That sets you quite apart from the repulsive Don P, reborn as GOP, who lives for cantankerousness because he apparently knows no other form of human interaction.

Why don't the two of you run off and find a quiet place to talk about religion?

Posted by: obscure on June 22, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

osama,

What action?

Action to mitigate or adapt to global warming.

The only action that humanity is capable of would be to decrease CO2 production.

No, there are many actions we could take to mitigate or adapt to global warming. Even actions to reduce CO2 emissions will differ depending on the magnitude and timescale of the reduction.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Similar "charts" at first glance seem to indicate the number of volcanic eruptions are increasing over the last couple hundred years - a more likely explanation is a steady number but better record-keeping. I suspect some of that is at play with global warming as well. Posted by: Cheney

Following the last three major volcanic eruptions sufficiently violent as to send particulate debris into the stratosphere (particularly Krakatoa, St. Helens, and Pinatubo) were followed by cooler winters with increased precipitation in the temperate regions.

What else are you completely clueless about dumbshit?

Posted by: JeffII on June 22, 2006 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

The only natural factor on that chart is solar output;

No, the only factor on the chart that is not linked to human activity is solar forcing. Other factors, such as ozone concentration, are linked to human activities, but that does not mean human activities are the sole cause of those factors.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

Middle ages huh? That would be when humans started smelting copper and poullting the air hmmmm. What you say AL ?

Posted by: Then on June 22, 2006 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

cyntax - I'd much rather take my chances with the ball bearings than VX gas.

Depends.

For example, if you were inside a car with the windows rolled up: VX, not so dangerous.

But that same car would be swiss cheese with the ball bearings and semtex.


Posted by: cyntax on June 22, 2006 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Middle ages huh? That would be when humans started smelting copper and poullting the air hmmmm. What you say AL ?
Posted by: Then on June 22, 2006 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

1500 BC is middle ages?

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 22, 2006 at 7:46 PM | PERMALINK

This is the last thing I am going to say on this thread...

GOP should listen to the Hansen interview I linked to above. Then tell us what he thinks.

Posted by: JJ on June 22, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

Well, of course Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons! Bushs dad sold them to him! Do you numbskull conservatives know or understand any modern history? Sheesh!

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on June 22, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

But walk me through a scenario where a terrorist could do more damage with a chemical weapon than with a bunch of ball bearings wrapped around some Semtex.
Posted by: cyntax on June 22, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

How about; walk me through a scenario where a terrorist could do as much damage with VX as with a van full of Semtex in the parking garage of a highrise office building at 9:30 on a Monday morning.

Up to 20,000 Americans were saved because they had enough time to evacuate the area before the towers came down. Had the 1993 attack succeeded, it would have been far worse, in terms of casualties.

No way is a terrorist going to cause 20k fatalities with any nonmilitary deployment of any chemical weapon.

That ship sailed a long time ago. Global warming is already happening, and would almost certainly continue happening for the next few decades at least even if we could somehow reduce our emissions of CO2 to zero immediately.
Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

So - what's your solution? Continue to let oil execs loot the global economy while we wait for the Rapture?

I asked Cheney what his solution was - he seems to think that the solution is to get Liberals to say they're sorry for impugning the oil execs and business lobby before we talk about what to do.

Whether or not reducing CO2 output will work - should we try? Or give up and wait for Jesus? Come on. Try? Or wait for Jesus? Fix it? Or Pray? Those are our choices. Which is it?

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 22, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

GOP should listen to the Hansen interview I linked to above. Then tell us what he thinks.

Who cares what he thinks?

Posted by: Alf on June 22, 2006 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist,

The current unprecedented warming cannot be explained by any unidentified, entirely speculative alleged "natural causes", it can only be accounted for -- and is entirely accounted for -- by human activities,

This claim is just utter nonsense. Scientists don't know how much of observed global warming is attributable to human activities.

"...it is not known how much of the temperature rise to date is the result of human activities."
--National Academy of Sciences, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

osama,

So - what's your solution?

I don't have a solution. What's yours?

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have a solution.

GOP/Don Pissypants--worthless as usual.

Posted by: haha on June 22, 2006 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

I don't have a solution. What's yours?
Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

Ban petroleum.

Start using something else.

Spend the hundreds of billions of dollars we're currently using to secure oil supplies in the middle-east to research and manufacture an alternative/renewable energy infrastructure. Dedicate a certain percentage of the output of this infrastructure to solar-electric conversion of atmospheric CO2 to a more easily sequstered form, like graphite. Pump the graphite into oil wells, or make automobiles out of graphite epoxy composites - whatever. Get it out of the air until the warming stops. If it gets too cold, just burn a few million tons, repeat as necessary.

Basically - what scientists and Democrats have been talking about for 30+ years.

(I love it how Fox News gives Bush credit for brilliantly concluding that "America is addicted to oil" - what genius).

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 22, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney,

Everything you quote above is very accurate concerning the effects of nerve agent. What's missing is the delivery of the nerve agent to the targets, and this is where the lethality begins to break down.

What are the terrorists going to do with it? Put it in a back-pack bomb and detonate it inside a theatre? Very horrorific to be sure, and it would present a lot of difficulties for the first responders. Would more people die than if the bomb relied on shrapnel? Hard to say. VX is a persistent agent and doesn't vaporize easily so basically anyone who was "splashed" would die, but inhalation wouldn't be that much of an issue. Unlike shrapnel the liquid can't pass through a person to injure or kill someone else, so it would be like setting off a lethal water bomb.

Again, we get back to point that in practical terms, in terms of how one would deploy and use these weapons, the lethality of chemical weapons and high explosives are generally on par with each other.

Posted by: cyntax on June 22, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

"I don't have a solution" is functionally equivalent to "waiting for the rapture"

And Republicans are supposed to be the party of "Protection"?

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 22, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

osama,

[My solution to global warming is to] ban petroleum.

Ha ha ha. Good one. If you ever manage to come up with a serious proposal, let me know.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see, the planet has been around for billions of years (according to Stefan) and the temps have gradually risen now for just over 200 years or less than 2 1/1000's of one percent of that time. Yup, time to panic.

Posted by: Jay on June 22, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

"This claim is just utter nonsense. Scientists don't know how much of observed global warming is attributable to human activities."

Well, GOP, it really doesn't matter anymore, now does it. We're hosed, and that's final, but at least you're master has the answer for all our problems: "Stay the course!"

Yep, Titanic, full speed ahead, Stay the course!

Posted by: sheerahkahn on June 22, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Ha ha ha. Good one. If you ever manage to come up with a serious proposal, let me know.
Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

I'll try, but I think you'll be up in heaven after the Rapture saves you.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 22, 2006 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

From the piece Kevin cites:

Other new research Thursday showed that global warming produced about half of the extra hurricane-fueled warmth in the North Atlantic in 2005...

Emphasis mine. What the hell is "hurricane-fueled warmth"? Shouldn't it be "warmth-fueled hurricanes"?

Posted by: 99 on June 22, 2006 at 8:18 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the development of The Little Ice Age might have been due to the lack of smoke from cooking fires in the Americas thanks to the plagues that wiped out 99% of the population during the 16th century?

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

I can't wait for the wingnuts to zero in on the temperate language used by real scientists

Wingnuts doing something like that? Hmmh, sounds plausible

Posted by: Sir Oolius on June 22, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

The Jun 16 issue of Science has a Perspective: Permafrost and the Global Carbon Budget.

It turns out that the carbon content of permafrost is about 2.6% as opposed to the .15% content of normal soil. Many climate models do not take into account the 900 GigaTons of carbon sequestered in permafrost. (The atmosphere today holds 730 GT of carbon).

As the permafrost melts its carbon load decreases to that of normal soil and much of the carbon goes into the atmosphere.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on June 22, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

99% of the world's population was NOT wiped out in the 16th century: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Population_curve.png
Posted by: Cheney on June 22, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

But thanks to conservative policies, this goal will be reached in the 21st century. Thanks for all your hard work, everyone.

Posted by: American Fuck on June 22, 2006 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

shorter trolls:

It's not clear how many deck chairs are on the Titanic. Nor is it clear if the collision was the captain's fault or just due to normally occurring icebergs. Plus, we're probably not sinking that fast, and on the off chance we are then it's too late anyway.

Plus, easy chairs placed out on the deck are technically not deck chairs, that's just a liberal myth that makes me wonder if we're really sinking all.

Posted by: trex on June 22, 2006 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney,

That's population of the Americas.

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, goody. More Class 5 hurricanes every year.

I think the GOP will decide GCC is a real issue just as soon as a Democrat is in the White House. Then they can demand to know why the Democrats haven't fixed the problem. We can anticipate MSM stories on how the Democratic President has neglected to do anything about GCC, starting the day after the 2008 election.

Posted by: CaseyL on June 22, 2006 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

sheer,

Well, GOP, it really doesn't matter anymore, now does it.

Yes, it matters a great deal.

We're hosed, and that's final,

Ah, right. This is what's called a "faith-based conclusion." Have you met "ban petroleum" osama? The two of you should have a tarot-card reading together.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

'Let's see, the planet has been around for billions of years (according to Stefan) and the temps have gradually risen now for just over 200 years or less than 2 1/1000's of one percent of that time. Yup, time to panic.
--jay

No - it's long past time to be good stewards of the earth. The Boy Scouts have a saying, "leave a place better than you found it". Do you disagree?

I don't know about your mental health, but I don't want my grandchildren living in a sewer that our generation created. That is the point here.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on June 22, 2006 at 9:19 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney: For the rest of you climate experts, what do you have to say about the cycles in these charts:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Phanerozoic_Climate_Change.png

Well at a glance the charts on Wikipedia are covering way more time: 545 million years as opposed to 1000 years. And given that the team of scientists over at the NAS are dubious about going back beyond 1000 years, one does wonder about the accuracy of the Wikipedia chart.

Also the chart doesn't seem to reference CO2 levels so it's hard to know what inference one can draw in relation to previous temperatures and their relation to CO2 levels.

But I'm not a climatologist, I don't even play one on-line.

Posted by: cyntax on June 22, 2006 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney, what are you using for the peak Native American population - a couple hundred million?


Yes, at least. The first explorer to go up the Amazon said something like, 'I think we have discovered, unbeknownst to the world, the greater part of humanity'.

There was a recent study that suggested the population of the Amazon basin was on the order of India, and the population of North America was almost as dense. When deSoto went through the region that is now northern Florida to the Mississippi nearly the entire way was settled farmland.

Think of all the fire and uses of fire populations that size will have had, all the heat and smoke that would put into the atmosphere. When that stopped abruptly, there was a Little Ice Age.

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Probably not half a billion. More like 200-250 million, though it might have been higher. I don't think it's less.

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Holocaust

There were millions of Indians, whose ancestors had arrived from Asia, living in the Americas when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492. Columbus' voyage to what Europeans called the "New World" set the stage for the later European colonization of the Americas, with millions of emigrants (willing and unwilling) from the "Old World" eventually resettling in the Americas. While the population of Old World peoples in the Americas steadily grew in the centuries after Columbus, the population of the American indigenous peoples plummeted. The extent and causes of this population decline have long been the subject of controversy and debate, which became particularly widespread in 1992 during the 500th anniversary of Columbus' famous voyage, with a number of people claiming that the Indians living in the Americas had been the victims of Spanish genocide.

Estimates of how many people were living in the Americas when Columbus arrived have varied tremendously; in the 20th century scholarly estimates ranged from a low of 8.4 million to a high of 112.5 million persons. Given the fragmentary nature of the evidence, precise pre-Columbian population figures are impossible to obtain; estimates are often produced by extrapolation from comparatively small bits of data. In 1976, geographer William Denevan used these various estimates to derive a "consensus count" of about 54 million people, although some recent estimates are lower than that.[1]

Historian David Henige, representing a self-described "minority opinion", has argued that many population figures are the result of arbitrary formulas selectively applied to numbers from unreliable historical sources, a deficiency he sees as being unrecognized by several contributors to the field. He believes there is not enough solid evidence to produce population numbers that have any real meaning, and characterizes the modern trend of high estimates as "pseudo-scientific number-crunching." Henige does not advocate a low population estimate; rather, he argues that the scanty and unreliable nature of the evidence renders broad estimates suspect, and that "high counters" (as he calls them) have been particularly flagrant in their misuse of sources[2]. Although Henige's criticisms are directed against some specific instances, other studies do generally acknowledge the inherent difficulties in producing reliable statistics given the almost complete lack of any hard data for the period in question.

This population debate has often had ideological underpinnings. Low estimates were sometimes reflective of European notions of their own cultural and racial superiority, as historian Francis Jennings has argued: "Scholarly wisdom long held that Indians were so inferior in mind and works that they could not possibly have created or sustained large populations." At the other end of the spectrum, some have argued that contemporary estimates of a high pre-Columbian indigenous population are rooted in a bias against aspects of Western civilization and/or Christianity. Robert Royal writes that "estimates of pre-Columbian population figures have become heavily politicized with scholars who are particularly critical of Europe often favoring wildly higher figures."[3]

Since civilizations rose and fell in the Americas before Columbus arrived, the indigenous population in 1492 was not necessarily at a high point, and may have already been in decline. Indigenous populations in most areas of the Americas reached a low point by the early twentieth century, and in a number of cases started to climb again.[4]

[edit]
Depopulation from disease
The earliest European immigrants offered two principal explanations for the population decline of the American natives. The first was the brutal practices of the Spanish conquistadors, as recorded by the Spanish themselves, most notably by the Dominican friar Bartolom de Las Casas, whose writings vividly depict atrocities committed on the natives by the Spanish. The second explanation was religious: God had removed the natives as part of His divine plan in order to make way for a new Christian civilization. Many natives of the Americas also understood their troubles in terms of religious or supernatural causes. Scholars now believe that, among the various contributing factors, epidemic disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the American natives.[5]

Disease began to kill immense numbers of indigenous Americans soon after Europeans and Africans began to arrive in the New World, bringing with them the infectious diseases of the Old World. One reason this death toll was overlooked (or downplayed) for so long is that disease, according to the widely held theory, raced ahead of European immigration in many areas, thus often killing off a sizable portion of the population before European observations (and thus written records) were made. Many European immigrants who arrived after the epidemics had already killed massive numbers of American natives assumed that the natives had always been few in number. The scope of the epidemics over the years was enormous, killing millions of peoplein excess of 90% of the population in the hardest hit areasand creating "the greatest human catastrophe in history, far exceeding even the disaster of the Black Death of medieval Europe."[6]

The most devastating disease was smallpox, but other deadly diseases included typhus, measles, influenza, bubonic plague, mumps, yellow fever, and whooping cough. The Americas also had endemic diseases, perhaps including a type of syphilis, which soon became rampant in the Old World. (This transfer of disease between the Old and New Worlds was part of the phenomenon known as the "Columbian Exchange.") But the diseases brought to the New World proved to be exceptionally deadly.

The epidemics had very different effects in different parts of the Americas. The most vulnerable groups were those with a relatively small population. Many island based groups were utterly annihilated. The Caribs and Arawaks of the Caribbean nearly ceased to exist, as did the Beothuks of Newfoundland. While disease ranged swiftly through the densely populated empires of Mesoamerica, the more scattered populations of North America saw a slower spread.

Other causes of depopulation
[edit]
War and violence
While epidemic disease was by far the leading cause of the population decline of the American indigenous peoples after 1492, there were other contributing factors, all of them related to European contact and colonization. One of these factors was warfare. According to demographer Russell Thornton, although many lives were lost in wars over the centuries, and war sometimes contributed to the near extinction of certain tribes, warfare and death by other violent means was a comparatively minor cause of overall native population decline.[12]

Empires like the Inca depended on centralized administration for the distribution of resources. The disruption caused by the war and the colonization caused the break of the economic routes.

There is some disagreement among scholars about how widespread warfare was in pre-Columbian America, but there is general agreement that war became deadlier after the arrival of the Europeans. The Europeans brought with them gunpowder and steel weapons, which made killing easier and war more deadly. Over the long run, Europeans proved to be consistently successful in achieving domination when engaged in warfare with indigenous Americans, for a variety of reasons that have long been debated. Massive death from disease certainly played a role in the European conquest, but also decisive was the European approach to war, which was less ritualistic than in native America and more focused on achieving decisive victory. European colonization also contributed to an increased number of wars between displaced native groups.[13]


Indians paying tribute to French in Florida[edit]
Exploitation
Exploitation has also been cited as a cause of native American depopulation. The Spanish conquistadores, the first settlers in the New World, divided the conquered lands among themselves and ruled as feudal lords, treating their subjects as something between slaves and serfs. Serfs stayed to work the land; slaves were exported to the mines, where large numbers of them died. Some Spaniards objected to this encomienda system, notably Bartolom de Las Casas, who insisted that the Indians were humans with souls and rights. Largely due to his efforts, the New Laws were adopted in 1542 to protect the natives, but the abuses were not entirely or permanently abolished. Serfdom existed as such in parts of Latin America well into the 19th century, past independence; it sometimes said to have existed in practice through much of the 20th century, as large numbers of landless labourers were very nearly tied to estates by semi-feudal arrangements.

[edit]
Massacres
Las Casas and other dissenting Spaniards from the colonial period gave vivid descriptions of the atrocities inflicted upon the natives. This has helped to create an image of the Spanish conquistadores as cruel in the extreme. However, since Las Casas's writings were polemical works, intended to provoke moral outrage in order to facilitate reform, some scholars speculate that his depictions may have been exaggerated to some degree. No mainstream scholar dismisses the idea that atrocities were widespread, but some now believe that mass killings were not a significant factor in overall native depopulation. It may be argued that the Spanish rulers in the Americas had economic reasons to be unhappy at the high mortality rate of the indigenous population, since at least some of them wanted to exploit the natives as laborers. In the mid-19th century, post-independence leader Juan Manuel de Rosas engaged in what he himself presented as a war of extermination against the natives of the Argentinian interior; this was not the sole instance of such a policy. [14]

[edit]
Displacement and disruption
Even more consequential than warfare or mistreatment on indigenous populations was the geographic displacement and the disruption of lifeways that resulted from the European colonization of the Americas. As more and more people arrived from the Old World, native peoples were increasingly compelled to relocate and alter their traditional ways of life. These changes often resulted in decreased birth rates, which steadily lowered populations over time. In the United States, for example, the relocations of Native Americans resulting from the policies of Indian Removal and the reservation system created a disruption which resulted in fewer births and thus population decline. Harmful side effects of this disruption, such as alcoholism, further contributed to the decline.[15]

[edit]
The genocide debate
The most controversial question relating to the population history of American indigenous peoples is whether or not the natives of the Americas were the victims of genocide. After the Nazi-perpetrated Holocaust during World War II, genocide was defined (in part) as a crime "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such." Does genocide apply to the experience of the indigenous peoples of the New World?

Some scholars believe that it does. Historian David Stannard has argued that "The destruction of the Indians of the Americas was, far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world." Like Ward Churchill, Stannard believes that the natives of the Americas were deliberately and systematically exterminated over the course of several centuries, and that the process continues to the present day. Stannard estimates that almost 100 million American indigenous people have been killed what he calls the American Holocaust.[16]

Stannard's claim of 100 million deaths has been disputed because he does not cite any demographic data to support this number, and because he makes no distinction between death from violence and death from disease. Noble David Cook considers books such as Stannard'sa number of which were released around the year 1992 to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Columbus voyageto be an unproductive return to Black Legend-type explanations for depopulation. In response to Stannard's figure, political scientist R. J. Rummel has instead estimated that over the centuries of European colonization about 2 million to 15 million American indigenous people were the victims of what he calls democide. "Even if these figures are remotely true," writes Rummel, "then this still make this subjugation of the Americas one of the bloodier, centuries long, democides in world history."[17]

While no mainstream historian denies that death and suffering were unjustly inflicted by a number of Europeans upon a great many American natives, many argue that genocide, which is a crime of intent, was not the intent of European colonization. Historian Stafford Poole wrote: "There are other terms to describe what happened in the Western Hemisphere, but genocide is not one of them. It is a good propaganda term in an age where slogans and shouting have replaced reflection and learning, but to use it in this context is to cheapen both the word itself and the appalling experiences of the Jews and Armenians, to mention but two of the major victims of this century."[18]

Therefore, most mainstream scholars tend not to use the term "genocide" to describe the overall depopulation of American natives. However, a number of historians, rather than seeing the whole history of European colonization as one long act of genocide, do cite specific wars and campaigns which were arguably genocidal in intent and effect. Usually included among these are the Pequot War and campaigns waged against tribes in California starting in the 1850s.

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

cld: There was a recent study that suggested the population of the Amazon basin was on the order of India, and the population of North America was almost as dense.

Cites? India at what time? I've never heard of an estimate much over 100M, and most consider that very high (concensus is around 50M).

Think of all the fire and uses of fire populations that size will have had, all the heat and smoke that would put into the atmosphere. When that stopped abruptly, there was a Little Ice Age.

The Little Ice Age started in the early 1300's - almost two centuries before Columbus arrived in the New World.

Posted by: alex on June 22, 2006 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

How about this 5 million year climate change chart then?

Posted by: Cheney

Hmmm... More volcanic activity resulting in warmer temperatures?

What do you think it means?
: )

Posted by: cyntax on June 22, 2006 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

This is the article from the Boston Globe I was thinking of,


http://www.mongabay.com/external/2005/01_04-globe.html


The manufacture of the terra preta do indio itself on a huge scale may have had a significant emmission impact, like a better kind of charcoal.

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

cld,

Your own source contradicts you. You first put the indigenous population at "at least" a couple of hundred million, but the wikipedia article you quote (and quote and quote and quote) gives a "consensus" figure of only 54 million, and notes that some more recent estimates are lower than that.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 10:04 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm... More volcanic activity resulting in warmer temperatures?

It's worse than that. The temperature fluctuations spanning huge geologic eras in the Phanaerozoic charts he linked to are largely due to continental drift, with a few probably linked to natural catastrophes that brought on mass extinction events.

It's like getting your four year old nephew on the phone and he just wants to talk, so he keeps making shit up about having a dolphin in his swimming pool...and when you tell him that can't be true he keeps interrogating you on why it's not and making up reasons why it could be.

It's best just to say "g'night sweetie" and hang up.

Posted by: trex on June 22, 2006 at 10:08 PM | PERMALINK

Just a reminder that, like the stock market, the climate is affected by a variety of factors. The existence of prior factors which pulled temperatures up or down does not mean we can't look for signal from a particular stimulis. Most important: the theoretical justification for GW, which is the absorption spectrum of CO2. It isn't just about extraction trends from data. Given a theoretical basis for an effect, the burden of proof is on those who say that something else will probably happen.

One thing I think should be looked at more: increase in dew point temperatures, not just temperature per se. I think that would show more effect, since increased evaporation might moderate temperatures but couldn't hide the dewpoint signature.

Posted by: Neil' on June 22, 2006 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

Lost Cities of the Amazon,

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3077413/


alex,

The waning of the medieval warm period gets exacerbated by the loss of population in the Americas, as we see on the chart Kevin posted. The temperature starts to recover with the general settlement of the Americas and the attendent heat pumped into an otherwise cooled off region of the atmosphere, and is then exacerbatd by the industrial revolution.

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

the wikipedia article you quote (and quote and quote and quote) gives a "consensus" figure of only 54 million, and notes that some more recent estimates are lower than that

Charles Mann cites a figure of 80-100 million just prior to the arrival of Columbus that he arrives at by "splitting the difference" between the most conservative and most liberal estimates.

Posted by: trex on June 22, 2006 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, I didn't post the wikipedia article.

Somebody else mis-wrote their handle!


But the article is a good one and says there is a wide variety of opinion on a difficult subject.

Simply consider the scale of effort suggested by the two articles I linked to and consider what size of a population it would take to maintain that.

Posted by: cld on June 22, 2006 at 10:20 PM | PERMALINK

Charles Mann cites a figure of 80-100 million just prior to the arrival of Columbus that he arrives at by "splitting the difference" between the most conservative and most liberal estimates.

Not a terribly scientific approach.

Posted by: GOP on June 22, 2006 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

This thread is illustrative of why global warming is likely to only get worse - self-absorbed people who can't get over themselves, look at things objectively and work together to build a better world.

Sad. This blog is becoming a freak show.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on June 22, 2006 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

Do you have any specific questions about the charts Cheney?

I've worked on several projects on the last 5 million years and key intervals earlier in the Phanerozoic. O18 data is pretty sketchy prior to the Cretaceous, but there is a lot of evidence of very large and rapid temperature fluctuations at 250 Ma and several times in the Precambrian. These correspond to 95% to 99% extinction events and T shifts as large as 40 degrees C. Smaller events during the Cretaceous and at the Paleocene Eocene boundary simply correspond to times when the ocean went anoxic and palm trees grew above the arctic circle.

All you really need to know is that human agriculture coincides with relatively stable temperatures of the last 10,000 years on the following chart:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Ice_Age_Temperature.png

During in that time people of divergent cultures in isolated locations began successfully domesticating animals and plants (rice, maize, potatoes, wheat, beans, sesame, taro, dogs, sheep, llamas, pigs etc.). This renaissance had everything to do with stable climate. And yes the clearing of forests during this interval necessarily affected the atmospheric greenhouse budget.

Posted by: B on June 22, 2006 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see, the planet has been around for billions of years (according to Stefan) and the temps have gradually risen now for just over 200 years or less than 2 1/1000's of one percent of that time. Yup, time to panic.
Posted by: Jay on June 22, 2006 at 8:11 PM

Jay, I'm not sure if your 6th-grade teachers haven't gotten to this part yet, or if you're just a cluck of the purest ray serene, but none of the global warming discussions have a jot or tittle to do with destroying the planet itself. You may (or probably don't) know that the core of this delightful planet is molten. It's been that way for billions of years, too. But we can't live there. The point is, and I'll type this slowly so there's some hope that it will actually penetrate, there's a narrow climate range on earth that is hospitable to HUMANS (and animals and trees and so on, but I'm aware that you don't care about any of those peripheral beings). And if that range is exceeded in either direction, the earth will continue spinning merrily along, BUT WE WON'T BE HERE FOR THE RIDE. Sheesh.

Posted by: CatStaff on June 22, 2006 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting how closely the instrumental readings parallel the tree-ring readings. And just as interesting how close all the readings come together in the last 100 years...

Posted by: Fred F. on June 22, 2006 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

I'm actually pretty sure people will survive global warming. We'll probably even have an industrial society until the thorium 232 runs out. We're pretty inventive. It just won't be that pleasant.

Posted by: B on June 22, 2006 at 11:18 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: visen on June 23, 2006 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

So, you are proposing a cabinet-level executive branch department that is somehow magically free of "political crap"?

Believing in that is right up there with not believing in global warming or believing in a flat Earth.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 22, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

In a Bush Administration, yes, you're absolutely correct. No way in hell. Good point.

Posted by: secularhuman on June 23, 2006 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

"Iraq could have made up to 200 tons of VX and say Iraq never proved its claim that it destroyed all of the nerve agent."

Iraq didn't need to prove this claim. The CIA has known since 1991 that the Iraqi VX was unstable and would deteriorate in a matter of (at most) weeks.

"Iraq also made hundreds of tons of mustard agent"
Almost all of which had been proven to have been destroyed. The paperwork on the destruction of some 55 artillery warheads was missing.

In order to be considered a weapon of mass destruction, mustard would have to be used in massive quantities. In that sense, bullets could be considered WMD. Most experts agree that conventional explosives constitute more of a terrorist threat than do chemical weapons.

Posted by: mcdruid on June 23, 2006 at 5:08 AM | PERMALINK

My ice core data http://www.daviesand.com/Choices/Precautionary_Planning/Closer_Look/index.html

says there was an even warmer period 8,000 years ago.

I do believe we will break that old record ithin 50 years os so.


Posted by: Matt on June 23, 2006 at 6:21 AM | PERMALINK

I find it funny that many of you decide to pile on the bush administration for the problems surrounding global warming and greenhouse gases as though Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld are somehow solely responsible. I think it is worth noting that Asia is becomming a much more industrial area than the U.S. these days. They are also at least partly responsible for this.

Also, let's remember that the Earth is billions of years old and our best evidence is ice core samples from only 600,000 years ago.

Posted by: smitty on June 23, 2006 at 8:15 AM | PERMALINK

unprecedented. As the National Review points out, there was a Medieval Warm Period in the early middle ages which exhibited the same kind of warmth as now. That you and the so-called "scientists" don't even know about the Medieval Warm Period shows your complete ignorance of the topic of global warming and shows us we should ignore your ignorant opinions on the subject.

Link

'"One of the problems with the graph is that its smooth progression through the first 900 years is at variance with established scholarship in the field. We know that there was both a Medieval Warm Period in the early middle ages when the Vikings colonized Greenland."

Problem is that the MWP was localized: tropical fossil coral records show a reverse trend.

See the Cobb 2003b cite in the following paper
http://holocene.meteo.psu.edu/shared/articles/JonesMannROG04.pdf

"and a Little Ice Age in the 1600s-1800s, when the River Thames froze over regularly in London."

This anecdote keeps coming up. The lack of freezing of the Thames in the 19th and 20th century has little to do climate, and more to do with changes in river control.

Look, the Thames had a weir at the location of London Bridge from 1408 to 1814. After replacement of London Bridge in 1830, the weir was removed and the Thames in London stopped freezing. 1962/1963 was the third coldest winter on record since 1659, but the Thames failed to freeze downstream of Teddington Lock.

" The graph does not show much variance for either of these occurrences."'

That's 'cos it's a *global* mean, you idiot.

See
http://holocene.meteo.psu.edu/shared/articles/JonesMannROG04.pdf

or this:

http://holocene.meteo.psu.edu/shared/articles/Goosseetal-CD06.pdf

or this (note lack of MWP in Southern Hemisphere):
http://holocene.meteo.psu.edu/shared/articles/mannjones03.pdf

Posted by: Urinated State of America on June 23, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Just as the theory of evolution is evil because it blatantly contradicts the Biblical story of how God created the earth and heavens all at once, all by Himself, the lie of "global warming" is evil because it blatantly contradicts God's desire for His chosen people, the Americans, to be able to burn as much fossil fuel and emit as much CO2 as they damn well please. As the greatest society in the world, we have been ordained by God to drive SUVs that are as big as we want; it's the rest of the world's responsibility to figure out how to compensate for this. For you liberals to deny this fact is to spit in the very face of God Himself.

Posted by: American Hawk's stand-in on June 23, 2006 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Clearly, if we are to stop the warming, we will have to give up fossil fuels within the next 20 years. We should start building breeder reactors immediately. This is the only politically acceptable option. All of this talk about renewables like ethanol, or solar driven sources like light and wind, as replacements for fossil fuels is complete nonsense; they have their place, but it is simple idiocy to expect energy consumption to actually drop even 25% from now until 2025, and it is far more likely to actually rise 25%. A planet with 6 billion plus people, and rising, either needs to consume more energy, or it needs a declining population. Personally, I think forced sterilizations of men and women, at least in the United States, is the best option, but I am a realist, and I know that will be a tough sell.

Posted by: ScientificRealist on June 23, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Global warming is one of those issues, like smoking bans, that I am suprised has become a political issue.

Nevertheless, I have an open ended question. What do you suggest DOING about it?

Posted by: sportsfan79 on June 23, 2006 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

I hope you've read all of these. A few comments anyway. The CNN headline says "It has been 2,000 years and possibly much longer since Earth has run such a fever." Then the first paragraph tells you that maybe it was this warm 400 years ago. You say "Note the unanimous agreement that temperatures have increased at an unprecedented rate since 1900." In fact, two of the five show declines following 1900, with slow increases starting around mid-century, while the other three show sharp increases since 1900.

Posted by: Alan Vanneman on June 23, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Matt, your Holocene temperature scale is based upon interpretation of D/H values from a single ice core in Antarctica. D/H values are strongly effected by the elevation history of the ice dome, air temperatures, and source D/H composition. In truth it was significantly warmer at Vostok for the entire interval from 12,000 to 8,000 years ago because the surface of the ice sheet was at a lower elevation (due to a thinner ice sheet) at that time. The elevation history of the Antarctic ice sheet is quite complex (and unconstrained) due to a changing balance of precipitation, melting/sublimation, and ice flow. Even if we could attribute the spike at 8,000 yr. B.P. to warmer atmospheric temperatures (than present) at the site, it would be impossible to tell if it was a global signal without confirmation from other cores (i.e. Greenland, W. Antarctica, mountain glaciers).

This is why the envelope of uncertainty around past estimations of global temperature gets larger with age. Constraints on temperature proxies involve larger and larger assumptions.

Posted by: B on June 23, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK
You say "Note the unanimous agreement that temperatures have increased at an unprecedented rate since 1900." In fact, two of the five show declines following 1900Actually, all of them show at least one period of decline "following 1900", but all of them end higher than 1900; that is, the overall course from 1900 is an increase. And, yes at an "unprecedented rate", too, as you won't find any of those series having a greater increase in a similar time frame.

So the statement you are complaining about here is completely correct.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 23, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Alan,

The two curves on the graph that you highlight are from Moberg 2005 and tree rings (Esper, 2002).

Moberg focuses soley on the northern hemisphere and utilized some novel statistical techniques to merge high and low frequency data sets. I'd say the divergence from the instrumental record probably indicates they have some problems with calibration. Regardless the following is from their paper:

There is no evidence for any earlier periods in the last millennium with warmer conditions than the post-1990 period - in agreement with previous similar studies (1-4,7)

Nature accompanies Moberg, 2005 with a news article that includes the following: "it does not weaken in any way the hypothesis that recent observed warming is a result mainly of human activity"

Tree rings are pretty complicated. Width, wood density and hydrogen and oxygen isotopic composition of tree rings can be used to estimate temperature during the growing season. But these parameters are affected by nutrient availablity, precipitation amount, precipitation source, precipitation history, tree size/age, root architecture, etc.

Esper et al. 2002 (where the tree ring data came from), based their work upon 14 sites between 30 degrees N and 70 degrees N. They looked only at ring width. The uncertainty is significant. Some of the sites selected are controversial (bristle cone pines in the sierras) because the growth of trees in the area are known to be significantly affected by precipitation.

If you only care about the last century, don't bother looking at anything but the instrumental record. Everything else is calibrated to it in some way.

What is without a doubt unprecedented is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Current levels are much greater than values measured in Antarctic ice. They are probably unprecedented in the last 10 million years of earth history. The temperature response to this CO2 is simple physics. We are simply watching it in slow motion. We haven't seen 1/20th of the potential temperature change. The subtle hint of change in Kevin's graph can be compared to the tip of a longsword or the point of a bullet gently depressing your skin. Don't worry though. We'll all be long dead before the full consequences of anthropogenic CO2 play out.

Posted by: B on June 23, 2006 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

There's an important point about atmospheric temps: they are but one index to what is happening. We are holding onto energy that we didn't used to. This shows up in lots of ways, not simply in atmospheric temps. Atmosphere can get pushed this way and that way rather easily. A volcano erupts and air temps go back down. Aerosols get pumped into the atmosphere and air temps go down. But due to the presence of CO2 in the atmosphere our little globe is constantly holding onto more and more energy. Most of that extra energy gets sequestered in the oceans.

Oceans are complicated machines. They have currents and layers and channels that interact in complicated ways. As liquids, oceans don't get warm easily and don't cool off quickly the way that gases do. We have been warming our oceans now for over a century and, more drastically, since 1970. Half of all the CO2 that's been put into the atmosphere has been put there since 1970. That's a benchmark to think about.

Another benchmark is the 1990s when we got serious about banning CFCs. CFCs actually acted counter to CO2: it was a cooling gas. Technically, it's a negative forcing. Since the 1990s, when the CFCs started to break down, the atmosphere got real serious about increasing in temperature. It's no accident that the hottest years have come since then. And the oceans take years and years and years to give up their heat.

The point of all this is that these things are real and are large and their consequences can actually be measured. This isn't politics. It's physics. Impersonal, implaccable physics. We're used to thinking of physics as speed of light stuff. Instant revelation. Atomic bombs. Computer switches. The physics of Global Warming, because it's on a time scale of decades and centuries may not seem like physics at all. It seems like toy physics, mockable physics. It's mockable, all right, but in the way that Kevin Kline mocked Michael Palin's steam roller at the end of A Fish Called Wanda.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on June 23, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

B wrote: We'll all be long dead before the full consequences of anthropogenic CO2 play out.

That's not very comforting for anyone who is concerned about the well-being of future generations of humans, or of the many species of non-human sentient beings with whom we share this planet.

And the not-yet-full consequences of anthropogenic CO2 may, and I think probably will, "play out" in ways that are sufficiently destructive as to cause massive suffering in our time.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 23, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Raymond Pierrehumbert, Professor in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, and former member of the the atmospheric science faculties of MIT and Princeton, writes in a comment at RealClimate.org:

... so far we haven't quite gotten to 400ppm CO2, but we'll eventually go to 700 or more without controls. We haven't even seen the full warming effects of that 400ppm yet, because it takes time for the ocean to warm up. So, the striking thing is that it has already gotten to the point that the recent warming stands out from the natural variability of the past thousand years or more, despite the fact that so far we've only experienced the barest beginnings of the warming. That's not just striking. It ought to be alarming.

In my opinion, it is not only alarming, it is outright terrifying.

The point that Professor Pierrehumbert makes, along with the self-reinforcing feedbacks that the "barest beginnings of the warming" are already apparently triggering -- increased heat absorption by ice-free arctic oceans, release of carbon and methane from warming soils, etc. -- is what makes me skeptical of the view expressed by Al Gore and others that we still have some ten years in which to prevent irreversible, catastrophic, runaway warming, and not only "climate change" but a global ecological collapse.

I find it hard to see how we have not already passed the point of no return.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 23, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I probably shouldn't have said "don't worry". If you want a little optimism don't listen to me, go watch Al Gore's movie.

Personally, I'm really not sure if our knowledge is going to help us significantly -- relative to say arctic foxes multiplying rapidly in response to a large arctic hare population or a colony of aspergillus approaching the wall of the petri dish. We'd rather keep fucking, acquiring wealth, and pretending the planet was infinite.

Posted by: B on June 23, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

I find it hard to see how we have not already passed the point of no return.

My training is in paleoclimate, but that's my bet too.

Of course, there are probably some technological solutions involving nuclear bombs that could help reverse things.

Posted by: B on June 23, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist: I find it hard to see how we have not already passed the point of no return.

What's the "point of no return" mean? A point where we've already triggered positive feedback mechanisms that will swamp the effect on future climate of reducing GHG emissions?

In that case the appropriate response would be to buy more Hummers and build coal fired power plants. Don't worry, be happy.

Posted by: alex on June 23, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

alex asked: What's the "point of no return" mean? A point where we've already triggered positive feedback mechanisms that will swamp the effect on future climate of reducing GHG emissions?

Pretty much. I would say it is the point at which the warming resulting from the CO2 we have already pumped into the atmosphere (which will remain in the atmosphere, continuing to cause additional warming, for many decades), reinforced and amplified by the positive feedback mechanisms, commits the Earth to irreversible, extreme warming that will cause catastrophic climate change and global ecosystem collapse no matter what we do after that point.

alex wrote: In that case the appropriate response would be to buy more Hummers and build coal fired power plants.

Although I think we have already passed that "point of no return", I don't know that we have, and perhaps we have not. Perhaps, as Al Gore and others believe, we still have ten years or so to drastically reduce our GHG emissions and prevent irreversible runaway warming and catastrophic climate change.

So I think the appropriate response is to hope that Gore is right, and take urgent, aggressive action to reduce GHG emissions as much as possible, as quickly as possible.

If at some point it becomes clearly, scientifically, irrefutably evident that we have passed that "point of no return" and the Earth's biosphere as we have known it -- not to mention human civilization -- is doomed, then each of us will have to answer for ourselves the question of how one chooses to live when there is no future.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 23, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Some final notes on who's responsible:

1.) Despite denials from market simpletons, Congress/President, because they could have enforced better CAFE standards but didn't. - Republicans

2.) Encouraging births through pro-natalist/anti-contraception,abortion policies like suppressing worldwide birth control policies, the $1,000/year child tax credit (welfare! - for even the upper middle class, no less) etc. - Republicans/Christianists.

3.) General contempt for alternative fuels, conservation, etc. - The Republican & business establishments.

4.) Skepticism against the idea of there being a problem - The rightwingnut/antiscience/market simpleton culture - the radio hacks and their dittohead followers, John Stossel, et al., including idiots posting here.

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