Sunday, February 12, 2012

Will we do anything about global warming? Should we?

My colleagues and I often talk about global warming:  both about the science and what mankind can and should do about it.  We are pretty much on agreement about two points:

(1)  Global warming due to human production of greenhouse gases will significantly change the climate of the planet by the end of this century.

(2)  Mankind is doing very little to stop this from happening.   Efforts so far to reduce the growth of greenhouse gases have been ineffective and we are about to conduct a profound experiment--but in this case it won't be in a laboratory, it will be in the environment we are dependent on for our survival.

The Science

The basic science between greenhouse-induced global warming is solid and been known for over a century.  If you put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere you are going to warm the planet.  Just like pulling more blankets over you at night will make your warmer.  Both basic physics and our most sophisticated models are in agreement.
If you think using more blankets will not warm you up, then you are ready to be a global warming denier!
Folks telling you this is not true are either deceiving themselves or unfamiliar with the facts. That includes certain well known politicians.  Although warming is certain, the AMOUNT of warming is not--there is a substantial range of possibilities, and significantly the uncertainties have not been reduced during the past several decades. (As we have learned more, additional uncertainties appear!)

Unfortunately, this global warming business has become politicized.  Sometimes I think Al Gore did far more harm than good;  if he had never injected the issue into the political arena, might we be in a better place now?  Hard to know.   And too many people have confused what HAS happened to what WILL happen.  Global warming up to now has been relatively subtle and roughly of the same magnitude as natural climate variations.  The big action is YET to come, particularly in the later half of this century.  Politicians and a few activist scientists that exaggerated the effects of greenhouse-induced warming on recent climate/weather events have often done far more harm than good by reducing the credibility of the real threat later in this century.

 Not Doing Much to Stop It

Virtually every measure of greenhouse gas concentrations shows an uninterrupted, if not accelerating, rise.  Here is the plot for CO2 from the Mauna Loa Observator--just a steady increase--no hint we are doing much to slow it down.
The use of fossil fuels is steadily increasing, with renewables (wind, solar, geo) in the noise level (see plot).  China is rapidly adding coal-fired power plants, and production of oil and gas is surging as new technologies (e.g., fracking for oil and gas, horizontal and deep sea drilling, tar sands) are allowing us to get at previously inaccessible carbon fuels).  Huge countries like China and India want to join the first world and live the good life as we do.  We have no ethical platform or right to suggest they don't deserve a similar quality of life.  But the energy implications are huge.

Worldwide Carbon Usage:  It is Rapidly Rising
It is clear to me that folks, even very well informed folks, are not willing to change their life styles to reduce their carbon usage.  I have to chuckle sometime about how many climate scientists I know are frequently traveling the world to meetings (and vacations!), knowing the huge carbon hit of jet travel.  If these individuals can't restrain themselves, how can we expect others to?  Buying a Prius and going on distant vacations are simply incompatible.
        And the recent nuclear disaster at Fukashima has crippled the nuclear industry, with many nations turning away from nuclear power--the only real hope for producing massive amounts of energy without causing greenhouse warming. 
      Finally, to make a real difference in pulling back from major warming, we cannot simply stop increasing our rate of burning fossil fuels, but we need to bring it down to roughly 10% of CURRENT levels.  This is not happening.

Bottom line: a wish I could say otherwise, but I think we are committed to major global warming and that nothing is going to stop it, unless we develop revolutionary technical advances or apply absolutely draconian steps to reduce carbon use?   Has mankind ever committed themselves to costly and disruptive restrictions based on a forecast? 

What Should We Do?

First, we need to find technological fixes that will allow us to deal with the problems without unpleasant sacrifices.  Number one would be large investments in science and technology to produce less expensive, competitively price, renewable energy; to better store energy; to produce energy from fusion or to greatly improve fission reactors; or to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in a cost effective way.  We got ourselves into this mess with technology...I think we need technology to get us out. I repeat, technology that will not demand sacrifices.  Don't get me wrong--we need to push wind and solar energy, energy efficiency, etc for many reasons (including health and national security)--but they are not going to solve the problem by themselves, particularly if they are not economically advantageous.

Second, we must prepare ourselves to adapt to a significantly different climate and planet.  To do so, we first need to improve our understanding of the climate system to get a better idea of what will occur (good for my business!).  Then we must progressively make the changes that will allow mankind to tolerate the new climatic regime.  Some examples:

Here in the Pacific Northwest, where precipitation will be similar to (or even a bit greater than) today but snowpack will decline from warming, we will need to build more reservoirs to hold the winter rainfall.  Perhaps these can be built in eastern Washington using Columbia River Water.  Drought-resistant crops should be developed for large areas
Proposed Dam Sites in Eastern WA
of the subtropics where rainfall will decline, and strict standards for construction and reduction of population near coastals vulnerable to severe tropical storms should be effected.  And many more.  Perhaps most important of all is take all steps to reduce population growth, which drives our vulnerability to environmental change and which pushes the demand for more resources.  If world population was a steady 2 billion people, then we would not be talking about global warming.

Third, we may need to consider geoengineering as a last resort.  For example, injecting small particles into the stratosphere could produce a global haze similar to what occurs after major volcanic eruptions.  The result: substantial cooling.   This appears to be technically possible and not excessively expensive (tens of billions of dollars per year...less than one of our current wars).   But messing with solar radiation would influence rainfall

and this would do nothing about ocean acidification, a major problem.  And once we started such an injection program, we would not be able to stop, since temperatures would rise rapidly, with potentially catastrophic results.

In summary, we are about to embark on the greatest scientific experiment in our species history, and our response to it will have a large impact on the quality of life...or the existence of life...of billions.  We must begin massive technological and scientific investments in solutions and should prepare our infrastructure and civilization for a very different climate.


  1. There's one other item that belongs under your first "what should we do" bullet, and that's encourage more people to live in dense cities rather low-density suburbs, by modifying or repealing government policies that encourage car-dependent sprawl.

    Residents of dense, older cities like New York, Boston, Paris, San Francisco etc. have dramatically smaller carbon footprints than the typical American city simply because most of those people can walk to groceries, restaurants and work, and if not they can take a bus or a train a short distance to get there. Many don't have cars (they don't need them) or if they do, they don't have to drive them nearly as much or as far. Because they walk more and drive less, they're often healthier.

    There's a common misconception that America's typical suburban land-use pattern is simply a result of the free market, and therefore any move towards denser housing would be a sacrifice. In actuality, what we have today is a combination of zoning laws that cripple the development of housing in the city, and a forty-year federal urban highway building binge that subsidized far-flung tract housing and scarred cities with ugly elevated interstates that degraded their quality of life.

    It's not a panacea, but compared to everything else on your list, these ideas are pretty cheap and the cost benefit ratio is extremely favorable. Liberalize city zoning laws to allow more density and a mixture of uses (like the old streetcar suburbs now within Seattle), stop building freeways, and start building more mass transit and walking/biking trails.

  2. I would just like to know a couple of things about the global warming and the 390 ppm CO2, or written a different more realistic way, point zero three nine percent(.039%), of our atmosphere. How much is the human contribution, and just how much warming is that equivalent to in real measured provable numbers. Regards,

  3. Thanks, Cliff, for some of the clearest info I have seen so far on this topic.

  4. What are the vertical units in your second graph? I assume some measure of electric power generated from coal, but it would be nice to know for sure. Thanks!

  5. In the last year I've come to the same conclusion. Global warming is not going to be stopped or even slowed in progression. It's simply too heavy a lift for humanity as a whole to act in a unified issue like this. There's too much money in the status quo, too much political corruption to create effective change, and a stunning over abundance of scientific ignorance.

    There will be winners and there will be losers as the Earth warms. For my part, I'm happy that I'm in the Pacific NW; The Warming will impact us, but we won't be underwater.

  6. I wish people around me would understand the "worst is yet to come" concept. I love my family and friends, but almost all of them are global warming deniers, or think it is happening but it is all natural. I'm just not sure how to show them why it isn't simply natural without sitting them through a college lecture on it lol.

    I'm glad to see you mention fusion. It seems that because we don't actually have fusion capabilities (besides H-bombs) yet that people often forget it.

    I've often felt that in the short-term we really need to push solar and wind, and we need to greatly improve our solar technology. Everything I've heard indicates that solar panels large enough to make a difference aren't very cost effective. In terms of wind power I know that the biggest obstacle developers in Hawaii are facing is that people don't want the "eyesores" on their hills. Which just makes me sigh. An island state that has to IMPORT something like 75 or 80% of their energy (i.e. fuel) and they don't want to build wind farms.

    But in the long-term I have always looked to fusion. If we can finally achieve a stable fusion reaction in the next couple decades, we should be able to spread some fusion power plants around by say... 2060? A little late to STOP everything, but it will definitely help in the long-term (looking say 100-150 years into the future).

  7. Well, good article...

    Except, you need to do research on the cost of nuclear energy. The nuclear industry has been crippled for decades by cost overruns. It hasn't been hippies that killed nuclear power and it has not been Fukushima or even Chernobyl, it has simply been that it is not economical to build nuclear power without massive government subsidies, and the costs have continued to climb.

    While people can point to India and China increasing their investment in nuclear power, China is right now trying to increase nuclear power generation from 1% of its generating capacity to 6% by 2020, while the US has 20% of its generating capacity from nuclear power. And China will likely encounter supply shortages of fuel, equipment and manpower in trying to hit its goals, and the problems likely to be encountered in trying to make nuclear power a more significant part of US power generation will be insurmountable and drive costs up astronomically.

    Nuclear power is not a magic bullet, and the problems are simply with the economics. Yes, the magic nuclear pony could save you on paper, but in reality you have to divert enough of your GDP to be able to build it.

  8. Your comments are sensible. I'd arrange your points of emphasis differently: (1) Population control, well, there is no (2).

    As you say, with further study, uncertainty is growing, perhaps as it should be expected for such a complex system moving into unknown territory. Some systems are just chaotic to the core - good luck forecasting the Huskies or the Lakers prognosis for next year, or even next game. We'll always be looking to advance technology, with or without urging from climate scientists.

    Also, I've heard many examples of bad things coming from global warming, but how can one be sure, or even be confident, that the summed effects of global warning will be negative overall? Intuitively, warmth helps crops - if change is inevitably coming, would we rather roast or freeze?

    Eric Steig assures me we could never be headed for an imminent ice age by meddling, but what do we actually know about our fate?


  10. Is the plot with wind/solar/geo noise missing? The only noise in a plot I see is the CO2 graph where the riipple is seasonal absorbption/release of CO2 due to plants growing/dying.

    Cliff, I highly recommend the Do The Math blog for excellent analysis from first principles of our energy options.

  11. Great blog post. This is a start. But more needs to be written--not necessarily here--about the large socilogical, population, and agricultural changes comming.

    It turns out that the deniers get there information from a small set of economists, not scientists. See the material at the information at the National Center for Science Education site ( a history of the source of the deniers' claims. There is a reason that it is called "The Dismal Science." The fact is only half the title is true: it is indeed dismal.

    Politicians are no better. They don't know how to lead, only follow the latest pole results.

    We can't deal with nuclear waste now. They still haven't found a place for the waste from the Manhattan Project. I would be reluctnt to go that direction.

    The real point is to remember that it is the burning of carbon that is the problem. Hydrogen, hydroelectric, wind turbine, photovotaic. There is significant progress in these fields to make things start to happen if ther is political will.

    Biomass, alcohol, methane generation, natural gas, tar sands (which do not belong to us in the first place)involve burnig carbon. And that is the problem.

    Paul Gilding's "The Great Disruption" tells of the "interesting times" ahead.

    We are not ready.

  12. Nobody is mentioning that with the Cherry Point coal terminal, Washington State stands to go from a green, clean energy pioneering state, to becoming the greatest exporter of green house gases in the US, possibly the world. Everyone in this state needs to get in onthis fight to stop the propossal to export 50 million tons of coal per year to China.

  13. "Population Control"

    I hear this again and again in the context of global issues (global warming, resource use, etc), but the issue of population growth is entirely localized to certain regions.

    Europe, Japan, and China are now either at replacement rate or their demographics are shrinking. The United States is growing a bit faster than the birth replacement rate - but that's mainly due to immigration.

    The Asia sub continent and central Africa is where the birth rate shows no indication of slowing. There's very little we (in the western world) can do to change that.

    If you see 'population control' as being the preeminent issue that must dealt with, I suggest you do everything you can to support the education of women. Multiple studies show that the education level of a woman is the single best indicator of how many children she will have. (More education = less kids.)

    (One source:

  14. Thank you Cliff, for a good post on the topic.

    I feel the only way things will be able to change in time is to levy huge taxes on fossil fuels, eliminate all subsidies to the industry, and have an Apollo Mission scale building mission to build nuclear power plants around the world that will replace every single coal-fired power plant out there.

    Aside from political corruption, the biggest obstable is simple money and our monetary system that relies on growth to fund current and future infrastructure projects.

    Basically, one day soon, if we truly want to halt our emissions and build our world into one that is run on as much clean electricity as possible, then we will have to put aside all monetary policy and focus on building.

    Not unlike wartime in the 20th century when industry was converted from day-to-day production to full-on war machine production, so to will our economies have to put everything else aside to focus on moving our countries, every country, away from fossil fuels.

    Deconstruct the interstates... build electrified high speed rail.

    Deconstruct the urban concrete jungle... build electrified urban and suburban mass transit.

    It's the only way.

    I give it a 2% chance of happening.

  15. John Vidale wrote:

    "Your comments are sensible. I'd arrange your points of emphasis differently: (1) Population control, well, there is no (2)."

    This is absolutely correct. The plain facts are that population growth is driving energy consumption and climate change, and that is out pacing any advancements in technology that could counter that unsustainable phenom.

    Right now, the most technically and economically "doable" things involve various conservation measures. A joule saved is cheaper than a joule generated/captured.

    But even that, and all "alternative" energy sources AND all new production from old sources (fossil fuels, nuclear power) put together will not meet future energy demand unless the over-population problem is solved.

    And it WILL be solved! Either by humans in a rational way, or by mother nature in a chaotic and not so pleasant (from a human's perspective) way.

  16. Thank you for the great, informative post, Cliff.

    This is a tangent off one line of your article, but - I've been quite annoyed at the people that fly everywhere yet claim they aren't affecting the environment because they pay for what are called "carbon offsets". Using offsets is not sustainable on a larger scale - it's similar to a Ponzi scheme. It boils down to saying "I want to keep doing whatever I want to do without changing, but I don't want to feel guilty". It's an accounting trick; nothing more.

  17. Thorium Salts & Nuclear power from them using coal as it's source. Seems like the right technology to me. Low carbon emissions and radioactive waste that we know how to deal with. Until then what can an individual do but ride a bicycle when you can.

  18. If you are interested in learning about lower carbon emitting energy possibilities I would highly recommend reading the work that appears on the blog “Do the Math - Using physics and estimation to assess energy, growth, options—by Tom Murphy”
    Professor Murphy has gone through each of the possible replacements for Oil consumption (including Fusion) and has built a good case for Solar as the most viable alternative to fossil fuels in this century. It doesn’t have the critical advantages of high energy density, easy portability and easy storage that fossil fuels have, but it is the only source that appears to have a good practical chance of replacing fossil fuels in the medium term. It is well worth reading the posts that Murphy has written on each of the possible energy alternatives.

  19. Another curmudgeonly comment or two - measures to stem these problems must be mandatory. Asking people to fly less, or turn out lights, or use less coal are next to useless except to keep people's minds on the topic.

    We need mandatory rules from the top, and on an international scale. Sorting our trash at Whole Foods soaks up our energy and gives us a false sense of working on the problem.

    It is incomprehensible to me that we don't agree to curtail population, except that too many people care only about themselves, and Americans set the trend with our profligate waste and sense of manifest destiny.

  20. I agree with your analysis of the problem Cliff. We are not going to solve this politically. It is simply not in our natures to make sacrifices based even on well informed predictions.

    I agree with others that population is the biggest problem by far. The key to reducing population growth is the education and empowerment of women. This should be a high priority.

    I'm also in favor of developing fusion/fission hybrid reactors that can generate power from nuclear waste. New reactors could be built small to serve smaller communities allowing decentralization of the power grid.

    But I don't think we are going to dodge the global warming bullet, the worst result of which might be the steady rise of ocean levels making coastlines virtually uninhabitable for centuries.

  21. Good article, Cliff. I would add to your list the necessary component of education. While we debate from our soapboxes the petty politics of the matter, our kids are looking ahead--at least mine are--at a world increasingly compromised by the continuous C02 belch of the preceding three generations.

    Yes, we need to live by example. We need to develop large-scale renewable energy resources. And we need to consume less. And now. We also need to foster in our schools creative, informed problem solvers who have as firm grasp of human nature as they do of the technical sciences. We need critical thinkers whose thought processes are not limited to their pay-scale or specialization. We need genius at the wheel.

    It is the very next class of graduates who will need to analyse the policies and actions of their predecessors (you and me) in order to begin approaching the problems they will face in a rational, non-ideological manner.

    Fund public education now!

  22. Love your stuff, Cliff, but I think a little more research into those eastern Washington dam sites may be in order. One, Shanker's Bend, would probably never fill because of low average flows in the Similkameen River. It would also flood into Canada on the rare occasions when it would fill up. The other two are pumped storage sites, which would be terrifically expensive to operate.

    Pumped storage may make sense in a few limited situations for peak power demand, but not for storing water for crops. There is already plenty of water storage. What's needed is less waste, and use of existing water for higher value crops instead of things like hay for the Japanese race horse industry.

    All the good sites for dams already have dams built on them. There are good reasons why dams were never built in those places listed on your map, and those reasons are all still valid.

  23. Sir, please choose weather or climate. I hope you choose weather because you are good at writing it up and very credible.

    If it warms as the climate guys predict we will have the weather of Coos Bay or San Francisco or San Diego, and since all interpreters of models predict disaster we know from the predictions that the warmer weather in those places killed everyone due to plague and pestilence and hangnails and crop failure and on and on. Credibility fail on model predictions.

    Your blog, your choice.

  24. Clif, I love your weather Blog, and I love that you write about math in the schools and Climate Change.
    We can only buy what is in the stores for sale, right? We can't buy energy made from alternative sources in a meaningful way because its not being made. We can only vote for the people who run, right? People with meaningful ideas to cope with the impending crisis....are they running for office? The CEO of Exxon-Mobile called for a carbon tax per barrel of oil in the Stockholders Newsletter, The Lamp. He still has his job, but it was touch and go.
    As an individual, I do not have an extra $8-900 dollars a month to buy solar panels and inverters to get ready. There's no room on our lot for a food garden. I do containers, but its a fraction of what we consume. My trucks fuel bill is $240 a month. My income relies on me driving it to my jobs. People actually need my services at their homes and businesses. Where is the retrofit Hydrogen engine for my truck? The government will not solve this. They are NOT the solution. The government has not solved a single societal issue in my lifetime (post polio vaccine).
    When we can grow Lemons, lets make lemonade. All those people who get displaced by Global Climate change are going to move somewhere else.
    That means jobs for those of us already here.

  25. Cliff, yet again you demonstrate that one can be an expert at meteorology and yet have no capability at all in science, politics or education. If you dare look back 30 years, global cooling (not warming) was the Sky Falling religion of the day. Global Warming is so much not settled that it is in significant dispute in peer reviewed journals. For you to posture that it isn't in dispute, when so much else (including basic Relativity) is and has been is pure hubris on your part.

    Man may. be impacting warming. Certainly we're adding atmospheric carbon. Which, again looking back 30 years, was considered a "good thing". Study your recent history. But the actual records over the last 2000 years don't make much of a case for it.

    So the question becomes, how much should we spend, when alarmists fudge "evidence" to build a case rather than sticking to the facts, to solve a problem we not only can't prove is there but that we can't even have a discussion about?

    To a large degree, it's like trying to discuss racism. The alarmist side lacks any evidence but claims to have the high ground. Do an analysis with no fudging - no hockey stick, no discarded data, no computer estimates, and properly adjusted for things like nearby runways (or explain why we should believe that a thermometer on an asphalt runway is equivalent to one in a shaded grove), and you'll have the relevant powers on your side. But for now you sound like a progressive crying wolf, yet again, in a plea for money and political control.

  26. Does the dramatic decline in Arctic ice or the weather extremes around the world of the last two years really square with "Global warming up to now has been relatively subtle and roughly of the same magnitude as natural climate variations."?

    Paul Middents

  27. Good lord, point a finger a Gore is like blaming Copernicus for point out the earth was the center of universe!

  28. Are we at a "tipping point"? Meaning anything we do now would not stop the acceleration that has already begun.

  29. Actually, there is something we (all of "we") can do about this, which is effective, inexpensive and doesn't rely on governments or corporations doing the right thing.

    Freeman Dyson, the same crazy, brilliant mind who designed a functional starship for the US government back in 1957 (really), has now proposed the simple and elegant solution to global warming of planting one trillion trees. Which seems like a lot, except that we have seven billion people on this planet. So if ever man, woman and child were to plant one native tree every two-and-a-half days for just one year, we may successfully remediate anthropogenic global warming.

    If we do not, the consequences are actually quite dire. The middle-of-the-bell-curve predictions from NOAA and NASA right now are for a 6°C global increase in temperatures from 2000 to 2100. That would give Seattle a climate similar to Biloxi Mississippi in another 88 years. But it's actually worse than that.

    55 million years ago earth experienced the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which is the single largest raise in global temperature since the Hadean epoch. During the PETM, global temperatures also rose a total of 6°C, over a 20,000 year period. Seawater became hypoxic, and foraminifera plankton and the food-chains which depended upon them underwent mass extinction.

    The difference now is that we're looking at a 6°C rise in only 100 years, and there's no reason to imagine that temperatures will crest there.

    Or, we can plant trees.

  30. The issue is much more complex than the IPCC doctrine based on proving that man is causing dangerous global warming.

    It is a fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and does contribute to the overall warmth necessary for the living to thrive in suitable environments.

    It is, however, a mistake to assume that CO2 regulates global temperature. Anyone properly acquainted with the role of water vapour, including cloud formation and heat transport, both vertically and laterally, must understand that CO2 is just a minor contributor.

  31. Hey Tony,

    You really need to educate yourself.

    Global cooling was always second fiddle to global warming.

    You good sir have been duped into listening to Fox news, or some politician with no knowledge on the subject.

    Get educated

  32. A few comments.
    First: climate has evolved through countless changes both towards cooling and warming without any devastating "tipping points". Even massive asteroid impacts have caused only temporary jolts in the mostly pleasant climates that have prevailed through Earth's history and all thanks to the fact the we have water. The water cycle functions as a very good thermostat.

    Secondly, Although has a lot of good info, unfortunately their main objective is to keep up the global warming scare. So when you read their stories, use your own brains to decide whether the message "is the truth and nothing else but the truth". I prefer staying sketical.

  33. I think one of the first things we need to do in this attempt to raise cultural awareness is start asking people to do the learning on their own. If you have the time to write the question "What is the relative scale of the human contribution to GHG increase?" then why can't you use a search engine to go find out? The answer to this question is very very easy to find; and yet a lot of individuals seem to think it is someone else's job to go look stuff up for them. While you're waiting for me to copy and paste from the Wikipedia article or the NOAA website or some other reputable source: can I get you some chocolate and a hammock to relax in?

  34. I am mostly a lurker of Cliff's excellent weather blog and an occasional poster in the comment section.

    I have been pretty impressed with the exchange on this topic up to the post of "unknown" - it only took 30 comments for "Fox news" to enter the fray. Anyone for MSNBC :) - it's a joke, please smile at it.

    But, I guess if you take a large enough sample, you will get some "outliers".

  35. Thanks for this post Cliff. I appreciate you stating your position on this topic.

    I think you are emphasizing the most important frame for this issue: it is a grand experiment with a very important laboratory. That is a notion that any scientific mind should be able to appreciate and I noticed that climate deniers have a tough time responding to it. If there is uncertainty, then we should be making the safe bet.

    I think there are relatively simple things we can do, like a climate tax. The challenge isn't really for the whole world to agree on the details. The challenge is for the citizens of the US (and to a lesser extent Europe) to accept that our lifestyles are the ones the benefit the most from fossil fuels and will take the biggest hit with carbon restrictions. That said, it's not like people are going to starve from a carbon tax... maybe just have a little less butter on their bread. And that is just in the short term while we transition the economy.

    So, yeah, we own a prius and vacation in Hawaii. The prius is not going to solve the problem , but it is better than driving a truck (though, I'm not convinced that we shouldn't have just bought a Corolla).


  36. I will be dead by 2050 so I won't know how the climate change story plays out but I feel sorry for my nieces and nephews who will be affected. One question-- as the earth warms, presumably plant growth will increase. As plants take up more carbon dioxide how will that affect the total CO2 on the planet? Could more vegetation sequester more CO2?

  37. Just to pick on Papa and others with rose-colored glasses:

    If there is uncertainty, then we should be making the safe bet. - I think this is the crux of the matter. We don't know that it will be worse due to global warning, but we should take the most promising course, not gamble.

    I think there are relatively simple things we can do ... . ... just have a little less butter on their bread. And that is just in the short term while we transition the economy. - This is not true. The fixes will be painful to enact and will crimp our lifestyles substantially and permanently, especially if population is not brought under control quickly. Already many millions are living in poverty and starving, even if we pretend not to see them in the US.

  38. Sure, vegetation will sequester CO2, but the oceans are any way the most important absorber of carbon dioxide.

    The precautionary principle is being used to the excess, i.e. the money put into carbon trade is just making guys like Al Gore rich, but to no avail for checking climatic variability. Global warming and or probably cooling in the near future will continue no matter what we humans try to do.

  39. Cliff: Sorry, I have to disagree with you.

    The founding work in atmospheric radiation does not elude to the conclusion about increasing CO2 that you give.

    The only way in which the "science" can be correct about increasing atmospheric CO2 is in atmospheres absent of a hydrological cycle that contains water.

    The Emden model demonstrated well that water vapor alone absorbs and emits so much earth IR that it upsets the hydrostastic balance enough to cause auto convective overturn to 8 Km with a 2 Km overshoot. That is a moist adiabatic ascent above 2 Km, so it is obvious that it self corrects the hydrostatic imbalance by releasing latent heat back to the troposphere in exchange for the radiational cooling and creates cloud cover in exchange for the surface temperature enhancement at the ground.

    Adding CO2 will also cause radiational cooling of the troposphere in exchange for any potential surface temperature enhancement, which, in the tropics, added another 5 Km to the tropopause height and gives the correct tropopause temperature.

    It should be apparent that CO2 does not cause enhancement of the water vapor optical depth from this, but, rather, enhances the hydrological cycle, which further mitigates surface warming. And most of this effect has alreay been realized through saturation of the 15 micron band near the Q branch, which had occured in the earth's atmosphere long before we reached preindustrial concentrations of 288 ppmv.

    Any subseqent changes were very small, and if you compare the raditive components by using MODTRAN for CO2 and HARTCODE and the TIGR profiles for wate vapor, you find that the modelingg is wrong. The mean global water vapor optical deph has not increased as projected with rising CO2 and actually declined by .649% of the mean of approximately 2.67 precipitable centimeters. Squaring that with the actual temperature changes of the last 60 years, a back of the envelope calculation only reveals that CO2 radiation was 8.8 % of the actual change or .10 degC of the 1.25 degC claimed by the IPCC. And in my estimate, I also liberally assumed a ground emissivity of 1.

    That is not an absolute answer, but a demonstration that through a moving time continuum, that CO2 is not what is driving the earth's temperature shifts. Water vapor has obviously carried any excess heat load compared to permissible hydrostatics.

    Another convincing argument of this is just to compare the heat required to keep a surface layer of the tropics saturated if it only changed 1 degC from 80 degF, which about equals the clear sky radiation downwell for a doubling of CO2 via the Clasius/ Claypeyron relationship.

    As a meteorologist, I see no evidence that CO2 has or will do much of anything to the earth in the near or distant future. I have zero confidence in modeling. It has been dead wrong and nothing but a curve fitting exercise by tweaking open variables until you get a fit. Hardly very scientific or convincing.

    Chuck Wiese


  40. (Sorry if this appears multiple times; I'm having problems with the comment form.)

    A couple thoughts.

    Re: Boris: While it's true that water vapor is a significant greenhouse gas, it's different from CO2 in that there's an existing mechanism for removing excess water vapor from the atmosphere -- rain. In a sense CO2 is the tail that wags the water vapor dog, though, because warmer air holds more water vapor.

    Regarding the original post, while it seems like particle injection might help -- in a sense we already have done some of it, inadvertently -- wouldn't it reduce crop yields and solar energy production due to lower solar intensity?

  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

  42. Chuck Weise-

    I love how you use models to back up your argument, and then go on to say you have no confidence in the models.

    The rest of your argument is dishonest at best and shown to be false by numerous peer reviewed papers.

    Otherwise publish your findings and prove the rest of the worlds scientists wrong.

  43. I am pleased to see Cliff address climate disruption directly and hope he will do so with more regularity as new information becomes available.

    There are some astute comments here and some good links to relevant information. Here is another: in which Naomi Klein explores the power and people behind the denial movement. Just as I would argue that carbon pollution is symptom of a dysfunctional global economic order, she makes a strong case that the politics of those resisting the fundamental changes needed to address the problem are an expression of a plutocracy who recognizes that a legitimate response to climate change means the end of their reign. More importantly she makes the point that the real denial crisis afflicts the mainstream environmental community who cannot or will not admit that the plutocrats are correct. We cannot reverse, or even slow the impending crisis through a revised "green" version of our growth + consumption economic model. A few comments here have focused on population. It's not the net increase in humans that is driving carbon pollution, it's the transformation of billions of those humans into the kind of ravenous resource consumers previously only found here in the wild west.

  44. Regarding Global walming: First, I wish to go on record as a staunch opponent of geoengineering, specifically, of putting any type of high altitude haze (or, as some have suggested, space reflectors) up there. Beyond what it would do to the views, it would, as you say, Cliff, become an addictive solution, and this would not help ocean acidification, a major part of the trouble. And, it would hurt solar energy! Cure pollution with more pollution? No way! We must develop solar, wind, and fusion, and we MUST curb world population growth (by peacefull means, of course). Even many environmental groups are currently gun-shy about saying this- It seems to be politically incorrect.

    If we can't stop global warming by controlling our emissions and population we deserve to stew in our own juice!

  45. Dear "unknown": Using MODTRAN and the HARTCODE database and programs are not GCM's or general circulation models. They are basic programs but accurate in detail of calculating the changes in radiation components of the constituents that are important to this claim of CO2 warming. They do NOTHING else by themselves. They can be thought of as super calculators in solving the radiation transfer equation at very specific resolution, such as LBL code.

    My using them is hardly contradictory, and shows clearly that over time, there is a problem with GCM's and the claim that they can accurately forecast climate.

    As to me publishing anything, the claims I make come from already accepted and peer reviewed literature that constructed the founding work done in atmospheric radiation years ago that demonstrated that clouds, water vapor and the hydrological cycle of the earth are what regulates the IR radiation budget and ultimately controls the surface temperature.

    Claims that rising CO2 causes global warming are not established facts. They are claims made by those who constructed GCM modeling and are at odds with the expecations knowing the thermodynamic properties of water, it's radiating properties as a cloud and vapor and earth hydostatics. This combination allows it to control the earth IR radiation budget, not CO2.

    There has not been ONE single paper published in cliamte science today that has refuted the founding work. Just a lot of maybes and to date unprovable suppositions and speculation.

    By the way, if you care to criticze another, hiding in anonymity gives you little credibility. Identify yourself, please!

    Chuck Wiese

  46. Complete and utter nonsense, Chuck.

    From skeptical science:

    An enhanced greenhouse effect from CO2 has been confirmed by multiple lines of empirical evidence. Satellite measurements of infrared spectra over the past 40 years observe less energy escaping to space at the wavelengths associated with CO2. Surface measurements find more downward infrared radiation warming the planet's surface. This provides a direct, empirical causal link between CO2 and global warming.

    Do you need me to start linking you to papers next?

    Mike in Seattle

  47. As it happens Kyoto is up for renewal in 2012. It will be interesting to see what happens. The topic of "emissions trading" is on the agenda, and will probably be very well represented by the big business elite. After all, hydroelectric dams which lay waste to entire river valley ecosystems in the third world are referred to as "clean development mechanisms" under Kyoto, an accord authored by big business, providing a way for people to think they care about the environment without actually making any sacrifices. My guess is that trading carbon credits (or pollution quid pro quo) is a foregone conclusion given the current financial milieu of hucksterism. In the end, it will be ok to pollute, especially if it can be commodified and hence gamed by the top dogs. And even better if they can get those pesky third world peoples off of their ancestral lands, so rich in natural resources, in the process.

    Often alluded to as a new fiat currency, and quite possibly the next sub prime bubble, carbon credits are expected to eclipse both gold and oil, possibly becoming a 10 trillion dollar market at maturity according to Richard Sandor, founder of the Chicago Climate Exchange ("CCX") and often called the "father of carbon trading". But Sandor is also a pioneer in the area of derivative financial instruments, credited with having "brought derivatives to the agricultural, insurance, and utilities sectors." What a coincidence.

    Speaking of derivatives, another popular proponent of the "market approach" to combating pollution and global warming is Blythe Masters, who is "widely credited with creating the modern credit default swap." According to Bloomberg: "Masters says banks must be allowed to lead the way if a mandatory carbon-trading system is going to help save the planet at the lowest possible cost. And derivatives related to carbon must be part of the mix, she says. Derivatives are securities whose value is derived from the value of an underlying commodity -- in this case, CO2 and other greenhouse gases."

    Derivatives ... and the largest commodity market the world has ever known. What's not to like?

    entire article here -

  48. Lots of opinions every where I look..and books too. As a scientist I do not buy that humans are to blame or that we can even fix it. And I would have to calculate from the raw data before I believed it. Seeing charts/graphs really have no meaning...I've seen too much fraud in scientific data over the years in my profession (although it is not related to climate issues). I am glad we can have this discussion in a free world. Thanks for being there!

  49. Chuck Wiese:
    you say:

    As a meteorologist, I see no evidence that CO2 has or will do much of anything to the earth in the near or distant future

    Do you think your background as a meteorologist allows you to dismiss the issue of ocean acidification? And just to show you deal with facts and not opinions could you state what you know (not what you think) about the loss of arctic ice volume (annual minimum) over the last three decades?

  50. Mike in Seattle ( Unknown):

    Your statements are not impressive or proof of your assertion.

    A reduction in OLR at the specific wavelengths measured from space around the 15 micron band of CO2 by itself does not prove that there is surface enhancement of the greenhouse effect going on with respect to changing the temperature. It is more complicated than this because of the hydrological cycle.

    A better comparison would be a measure of the total OLR over all of the wavelengths of the earth's emission, particularly, emission from clouds and the top of the water vapor height. If you look at these, it makes your claim that my comments are "utter and complete nonsense" look quite foolish.

    Consider the recent paper by Davies and Molloy on 10 year changes in the mean cloud height of the troposphere as measured off of the Terra satellite system:

    The mean change is about 40 meters lower than it was in 2000. In a standard atmosphere using a reasonable mid point like 5 Km, near where the effective earth temperature radiates from, a 40 meter decline in radiating height from there increases the OLR by about 1 Wm-2, considering clouds are perfect radiators in the IR. That equals the decrease in OLR near 15 microns in carrying CO2 from 312 to 389 ppmv, which according to MODTRAN decreases OLR by 1.1 Wm-2 using a mid latitude summer profile. No greenhouse enhancement going on here.

    As far as IR downwell radiation, that is a function of all of the constituents present in their specific concentrations and the actual vertical temperature profile from a sounding. I'd love for you to show me a paper that can sort out any measurements that can identify what part of the total emission was from increased CO2, considering the absorption coefficients of concern are so low that a vertical integration to TOA is necessary to complete the absorption part of the problem. This is far more complicated than computing the 15 micron absorption around the Q branch of CO2 that absorbs surface radiation completely within a few hundred meters from the ground.

    Your claim that downwelling IR from increased CO2 is radiating the earth's surface to a higher temperature is another unproven claim to date.

    Chuck Wiese

  51. Chuck,

    Let me know when you get published so we can be sure to tell the worlds most brilliant scientists including Cliff Mass how wrong they were.

    Until then either acknowledge what the peer reviewed data says and stop trying to confuse this already complex issue.

    Your banter about Lack of research on co2 shows your lack of education in depth on atmospheric sciences and climatology.

    You may confuse some, but you aren't fooling anyone who knows what they are talking about.

    Now do you want me to start linking you to research or are you going to spout more nonsense?

  52. In defense of Gore, he worked very hard to include people of all political persuasion, including 'the Newt". It likely is true that he has been persuaded by those climate scientists who think that the situation is more serious than the 'middle'. I am in my 8th decade, and at this point I suspect I will live long enough to see serious effects from global warming. Ten years ago I thought it would be my grandchildren who would live to see it.

  53. "Everyone in this state needs to get in onthis fight to stop the propossal to export 50 million tons of coal per year to China."

    Right. They are going to source the coal from somewhere, the only question is where. Same with the tar sands. Would you rather see the well-paying jobs go elsewhere, all else being equal?

  54. I agree that "stopping" global warming (or climate chaos, as i like to call it) is both an impractical and improbable response. We need to focus on creating a more resilient, adaptive society. You suggest the solution is in modernist style centralized massive investment in infrastructure, but any infrastructure on a scale large enough to power the global economy in its current state of wanton excess and profligate waste will necessarily result in negative outcomes (social, environmental), you can't extract that much energy from any system without imbalancing the energy flows within the system. the real problem lies in your phrase "economically advantageous." I assume you mean "make rich people richer" not "reflect the true cost" If we we put serious effort into pricing products and lifestyles according to their true cost to the planet and one another, we would see rapid shifts in how we live, which is the only response to the current instability in all of our global life support systems which will create a more resilient, adaptive society that can absorb catastrophe and chaos without degenerating into a lower energy state, or in social terms, a state of panic, famine, hunger, war, violence. Technological, centralized solutions are brittle. They require vast interconnected infrastructures that collapse if there is a disturbance at any point in the energy flow. Food supply system: 7 days away from riots and a month away from cannibalism in most urban areas. Simply swapping the energy sources that feed juice into the world's power sockets will not solve anything. The debate about renewables is a red herring. We need to change the way we live, and how we consume, the everyday objects we interact with, the houses we live in, the landscape we tend. Population growth is not the problem, there are millions of acres of prime farmland sitting under lawns, waiting for us to get hungry, there are comfortable, richly rewarding methods of living that require 1/1000 of the energy. all we have to do is choose them, or be forced to choose them. we're running a global energy deficit, any way you look at it, and the bill will come due.

  55. Sigh. The world as we know now will be unrecognizable in 100 years. Yes, zero population growth is the highest goal, but to change the rate of increase will require three generations, starting right now. Not going to happen.

    "Technology" will not save us. That's what got us here. Instead of "energy indepencence" we need massive energy use reduction, but who really wants that? Fusion, fission, solar and wind require massive subsidies and still will only provide 20% of current energy use. Nuclear waste products still have no repository and we're still trying to deal with waste products from 60 years ago.

    There have been 3 great extinction events in earth's history, and another one in which the human species barely survived. The 5th one is coming up. I'd be worried, along with concerns about earth-orbit crossing asteroids.But we're too busy living whatever life we have and amassing "wealth" to worry about the future.

    Greece is the current poster child for the inability to come to terms with just one country's fiscal reality. What would it take to get the developed nations to recognize the world's environmental reality?

  56. Folks, it's Cliff's blog, so he can write as he wishes, and he leaves comments open, so he invites our perspectives. If it's about science, then Chuck Wiese's comments are an important contribution, because objections by reasonable people are the very stuff of science. Respect objections, not consensus or cherished beliefs.

    There is no question in my mind that climate "science" has been highly politicized. Data have been tampered with, software models manipulated, peer review, and critical publications manipulated, scholarly articles suppressed by organizations and individuals with a lot to gain by pushing their agenda.

    You may love that agenda, and feel it is the moral thing to love, regardless of what supports it. Fine. Your expression of support is there for all to consider. But when science is politicized in this way, with millions in research dollars and reputations and political power riding on reported claims, we are left with assertions to trade, while the science itself remains largely an unknown of what drives the long-term cycles we observe in the record, and what is happening in the short term, and what of that is "natural" and what is us.

    When I sort through the published record, I see that CO2 increases appears to follow temp increases, not drive them. I see that cloud cover has more to do with temperature than CO2. It appears that CO2 is being used to impose energy policy, but its increase is not a reliable indicator of future temperature, let alone any regional climate characteristics that might attend a temperature change.

    This likely will not change your worries about changing regional climate--which we should all be thoughtful of--but it should keep us, regardless of firmly held beliefs, open to the thought that it's not well established stuff, as science goes, and we have more unknowns to deal with than advocates of "warming" are ready to allow.

    Cliff looks at the information around, sorts through it, and feels strongly about a position. Good. Chuck has a different view. Better. That's where science happens, not in consensus. Not in our beliefs or morals or fears. Take the unknown along with what you want to hold as true, and you have a good place to start the discussion.

  57. First off Gerry, show us proof of data that has been tampered with. You can show software , peer review tampering. The world is waiting.

    2nd- Scientists dont back something up because they think its "moral"

    This would never stand in the face of scrutiny, and this is more a reflection of why YOU believe what you do, then any scientist.

    3rd-Show me the scientists who are getting rich off of global warming.

    The big money would be if someone could prove that this WASNT happening.

    Also- the only thing a scientist likes more than making a discovery... is proving another scientist wrong.

    4th- Chucks view is a basic misconception, and his claims are refuted by DECADES of research on Co2 and many peer reviewed publications.

    You obviously have some interest in the subject, but you are very misinformed.

    If you really want to understand what is going on you are going to have to dig deeper.

    Anything else means that you will remain uninformed, not knowing enough to talk intelligently on the subject.

    Mike in Seattle

  58. Cliff looks at the information around, sorts through it, and feels strongly about a position. Good. Chuck has a different view. Better.

    This is the sort of nonsense keeping Americans from gaining a clear, cold view of our current straits. While I'm not a climate scientist, I see in Chuck all the signs of a crank -

    (1) detailed, obscure arguments in broad but wispy terms that only confront a small minority of the evidence,

    (2) taking normal scientific arguments as a sign of abject ignorance rather than the usual path forward,

    (3) claims to be an "outsider" but at the same time being a highly qualified expert, who just can't get published, and

    (4) statements of certainty that most others are dead wrong and misguided or corrupt, while we all know this is a complicated problem.

    Also, reading the horrendous spelling and grammar of some of his posts, it is clear objecting is more important to him than communicating ideas.

  59. @bruce:

    if you think urban density is sustainable, please tell me what happens where there's no more fuel to ship in all the food and supplies people use. please tell me where millions of people get clean water from when it's no longer piped in from some far off place. please tell me what happens to all the sewage and trash when it's no longer exported or treated.

    urban density makes sense, in a 1900's population context. unfortunately, that concept was based on gasoline.

    the only realistic chance at achieving "sustainability" is for a bunch of people to die, people moving away from cities, and learning to reconnect with the land and treat it like it's all they have. because it will be.

    unfortunately, there are not many places in the US that you can live off the land as an individual anymore. the water's contaminated, everything's paved over with concrete or asphalt, and virtually all of the native species have been wiped away in favor of green lawns and non-native trees.

    plus, when all the coasts and cities flood, where do you think the people will migrate to?

  60. All,
    I read through the comments by a C. Wiese that many of you have discussed. Quite honestly, they make no sense to me. I passed them on to members of my department who are experts in radiation and global atmospheric circulations....they felt they were without merit. Well maybe he is far ahead of us all. I have asked him to write his theories in a paper and submit them to a journal.

  61. Gerry Barnett (above) states that Chuck Wiese's comments are important since "objections by reasonable people are the very stuff of science" and then laments how political the agenda driven climate science has become.

    This overlooks the political agenda of Wiese - seen at this link with a Tea Party candidate from Oregon

    and his inclusion in a recent event in Portland which not only dismissed the CO2 as a factor in global warming but also dismissed the warming itself

    overlooking melting glaciers, reduced sea ice, temperature records and responses by plants and animals to a warming climate.

    If you want to portray Wiese as someone who has not politicized his agenda then urge him to not be part of politician's video. A Google search of his name with "warming" demonstrates that he has identified himself with a specific political point of view.

    If you don't believe the world is melting, then talk to those in the military and industry who are gearing up to deal with an ice-free Arctic

  62. No and No. Much of today's human psychosis is the arrogance that we carry. Just look at the size of the earth and how much of that area we inhabit in any more than infinitesimal numbers, and it's easy to see how truly insignificant humans are in our world. The oceans, earth and sun will do what they want. Besides, years of poor leadership have left us bankrupt and we cannot afford to do anything, even if it made sense. Global Warming / Climate Change is the same old wealth transfer scam for the gullible.

  63. Great post Cliff.

    Some of the responses astound me. How can people at the same time be fascinated in and knowledgable about the weather but wilfully ignorant about climate and global warming.

    The idea that adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will cause warming is very well established science. The uncertainty is only about the magnitude of the effect, not that the effect exists.

    But science will never tell us what we "should" do about it. (Although it can inform us about the effect of chosen actions.) Many of the proposed "solutions" to global warming seem to threaten cherished ideals like "economic growth", "the free market", "small government", "freedom from regulation" etc.

    For those who feel threatened by the proposed solutions to global warming it seems like the simplest course of action is to deny that the problem exists. Thus the sad sight of otherwise highly intelligent people contorting themselves to deny basic science.

    I tend to agree with Cliff that the scale and uptake of proposed "solutions" to reduce GHG emissions is inadequate, so we are commiting ourselves to a good deal of warming over the next centuries.

  64. Liberal Seagull,

    Water vapour is more than just a significant greenhouse gas, in fact it is a most crucial regulator of weather and climate. In fact without water vapour, clouds and precipitation the entire weather machine would vanish.

    That water vapour is removed from the atmosphere is just one of many heat distribution processes keeping Earth's atmosphere inhabitable.

    The amount of warming that a meagre 25% increase in CO2 in the atmosphere since industrialisation began is very limited compared to all the other very effective natural processes adjusting our temperatures.

    The fact that man cannot influence the amount of atmospheric water vapour is the reason that CO2 from fossil burning, etc. has become the culprit for IPCC, although it should be the essence of life.

  65. Whether you call other observers' positions rubbish or not, nature has not followed the predictions of many climate models, which cannot account for such basic things as cloud cover, and use single reporting stations to estimate and weight the temperatures of vast regions. The temperature record itself suffers from poorly sited and variably calibrated recording equipment.

    Pulling signal from these things to construct a "global temperature" is tremendously complex, the changes for confirmation bias and faulty assumptions tremendous, and testing hypotheses regarding causal mechanisms extremely limited. Add in the climategate software and publication manipulations (yes, I've read even the code files), and the problems with popularizing organizations misreporting and repeating erroneous claims, and there's good reason to discuss and challenge what is being reported and explained, without impugning the belief systems, training, credentials, or cognitive function of anyone.

    For all that, why is a global temperature average, constructed with many "corrections" and adjustments, and with potentially unreliable indicators such as tree rings, the indicator of choice for climate change, rather than, say, humidity or precipitation or prevailing wind direction? Even if one can show a change in a "global average temperature", how does one reason to regional climate, where one has to make preparations and actually live life? A global average temperature carries no information about what the Pacific Northwest climate will be. Only time will tell if any models have predictive, let alone explanatory, value. For all we know, the polar regions could warm up from an average of -14C to -9C and we'd cool off by 4C at the same time. It would be "global warming" but the effect could just as well be for us a little ice age.

    In the 1970s, climate scientists worried about the coming cold. Now some worry with a great deal of moral and political energy about coming warmth, with predictions of badness rather than, say, growth and prosperity. It is acceptable to worry, but worry isn't science, nor is using last year's or the last 30 years' time series to predict next year's chaotic local events, or the next 30 years averaged and called climate.

    Believe what you wish, but I'd say, don't dismiss minority voices out of hand, especially in a social forum such as this. Nothing much is riding on anyone's beliefs. Cliff, who I truly admire for all he is doing for weather prediction and math curriculum, favors warming, and works in a department with folks who have staked their scientific reputations on it, but he also has a reputation built on science, and that means, if and when he sees disconfirmation of various claims that now are made to appear certain, he may well change his conclusions, and to do so would be entirely scientific for him (and the rest of us).

  66. The "Unknown" author is typical of the problem with these discussions. He buys into the religion, castigates anyone he disagrees with, ignores minor details like Europe's climate shifts in the previous couple-thousand years, insults liberally and then after dismissing all alternate data, claims no alternate data exists.

    Global warming may be happening. Recent evidence is unclear. If it is, it may be due to human activity, but then you have to explain away previous shifts in climate (see above paragraph.) But none of that can be discussed, yet, while "researchers" are fudging papers and evidence and slandering each other with wild abandon. Given the absolutes the climate crisis zealots preach in, you would expect them to have clarity and confidence in their data. Currently they have neither. Maybe 2014 will be different, but in 2012 "warming" is still seems to mostly be a political ploy.

  67. Global warming may be happening. Recent evidence is unclear.

    It is happening. Some details are debated, but the warming is clear and follows scientists' expectations.

    If it is, it may be due to human activity

    Human activity is clearly related to some climatic changes, specifically the ones known to warm.

    but then you have to explain away previous shifts in climate.

    No one doesn't - climate shifts in the past could have resulted from a wide variety of possible explanations, which do not necessarily have ANY relation to changes in the recent past.

    "researchers" are fudging papers and evidence and slandering each other with wild abandon. Given the absolutes the climate crisis zealots preach ...

    Attacks ad hominem reveal that this poster is starting with the assumption that the scientists are conspiring frauds, not with a search for the right answer.

  68. To All who will listen:
    Since the Global warming debate has started, where has the money and power gone?

    Global warming directly benefits the very scientists that have 'discovered' it. Global warming gives them and their families job security. who can blame them for touting the line? many have invested their lives in this study and without it would not have a job.

    Governments have implemented new TAXES on the people they govern for the sake of global warming. Governments are also able to give out billions of dollars to 'Green Energy' because of global warming. The idea of population control, which governments love because it gives them more power, is now more easily impressed on the people.

    These are just a few simple examples that i personally have noticed over the last few years. Whether or not GW is real is irrelevant; People need to acknowledge that there are some very strong motivations for GW to be portrayed as fact even if it is not.

    To believe in GW is to have FAITH in the government and those scientists who report it is real. No one can deny that both of these parties directly benefit from the GW discussion. if GW is proved to be false scientists will lose millions in grants and the Gov will lose a huge amount of control.

    Thanks for keeping an open mind.

  69. Gerry,

    Spreading the lie about global cooling in the 1970's?


    You do know that the vast majority of papers done in the 70's were about global warming right?


  70. Some interesting comments here, some more open minded and resolution oriented than others. No need to be specific. As has already been pointed out by one commenter, attacks ad hominem are wasted energy. And as Cliff pointed out, astutely I think, is that the politicization of this issue may have crippled it, which is a shame. So I think an honest, resolution oriented approach has to make an attempt at objectivity, meaning we will have to leave our pom-poms at the door, if possible. But the truth is, if we have not been able to find any evidence opposing our personal preconceptions about global warming, then we haven't looked very hard. The "believers" vs "deniers" language surrounding this issue is highly dubious for starters. When people are more interested in maintaining a certain worldview than anything else, this is a clear indication that they have been convinced, for whatever reason, not to bother thinking. And when pop-pom waiving replaces thinking, we have a real problem.

    The trappings of scholarship are being used to put a scientific veneer on BOTH sides of this issue. Big energy firms funding polluter friendly studies are not the only ones guilty of this. There are even larger interests behind the carbon market, which is is widely recognized as having the potential to eclipse even gold and oil, becoming the largest commodity market in existence. Furthermore, the administration of it could give some global, bureaucratic entity the power to control all global industry. This movement, in its current form, is a classic, rhetorical Trojan horse. It smells of a sophist. It reeks of a "better safe than sorry" vaccine profiteer. The eschatological, soap operatic manner in which it is routinely discussed is eerily reminiscent of the end times scenario, urging adherents to fall into a sort of dogmatic slumber where "believing" is the most important thing. This ought to be setting off bs detectors all around. If the movement is going to do any good at all, it will have to reconcile the very inconvenient truths hiding behind it, particularly the ushering in and administrating of what could easily become the largest commodity market the world has ever known.
    ( )

    Corruption in national governments, as well as global, intergovernmental, bodies like the UN, is pretty widely acknowledged or, to be sure, it's not exactly a secret. It isn't at all surprising to find this trend carrying through to our National Academies, which routinely liaise with other learned societies and government policy makers, also playing an important organizational role in academic exchanges and collaborations between countries. No doubt the US National Academies possess the credentials, and therefore the potential, to provide the valuable service of forming legitimate, scientific consensus on important issues, as do the national academies of other countries. Instead, they are being used to advance the usual realpolitik and oligarchic agendas.

    ( )

    Citizens who genuinely care about the environment, as many do, would like to see a legitimate effort here, not a fake, corrupt one, rife with obvious ulterior motives, and curiously constructed scientific study panels whose findings are a foregone conclusion from the outset. The truth is, most of us have some sensibilities about "global warming" that are progressive and some that are conservative. Too bad we have largely been sold on the maladaptive notion that we must choose one, which in effect keeps public opinion (genuine public opinion ... ) out of the discussion. But then that's the point.

  71. I usually find myself the target of attacks because I am a little skeptical about the merits of global warming. A local weatherman where I live was given a huge amount of negative press after answering a question from a reporter about global warming. All he said was that he was a little skeptical but went on to say that its good to see so many people out there changing their behaviors to save the planet. I'm with the weatherman. I don't really think its as threatening as some scientists say it is but I have no problem doing small things to help the cause anyway. Those are just my 2 cents. Thanks for letting me share them.

    Scott Cimini

  72. Every day cars release about 4.5 million tons of co2 around the world and people still think that has no effect on the climate? If we are filling the atmosphere with millions of tons of gas a day whether its co2, hydrogen, anything gas other than nitrogen (since our atmosphere is 78% nitrogen) there is probably going to be an impact on the environment. The earth is not used to this much co2 being released in the air. I would rather not wait and see what happens in 50 years and instead act on this issue now.

  73. This comment has been removed by the author.

  74. Cliff: In e-mail exchanges with you, I have asked that you and Dr. Ackerman explain why it is that my comments "make no sense". My opinions and my "ideas" were established in the founding work done with respect to atmospheric radiation and taught and most major universities in the 1970's.
    I am not ahead of anyone. But I do think modeling has leaped far ahead of the founding work with either very different assumptions, or a failure by those like Dr. Ackermman and yourself to acknowledge the severe limitations that come from attempting to model the earth's climate.

    The only thing that separates the founding work ( "my ideas" ) in todays world is climate model construct, which can easily be shown to be in major error with respect to forecasting temperature vs. CO2 concentrations.

    I trust that you will respond to my request in the near future.

    Chuck Wiese

  75. Chuck,
    Your ideas are a complete mash-up for me of incongruous ideas. Radiation theory is now a mature subject...there is no debate on the influence of CO2 and water vapor in infrared radiation. So I have no idea about what your point is about that. If you have a point, you need to write it up in a coherent paper and statement. If you think the atmospheric community is going the wrong way, TELL US SPECIFICALLY WHERE THE SCIENCE IS IN ERROR. What in the world do you mean by "climate model construct"? Regarding "founding work"--whatever that is---the study of radiation is now well beyond it. We can do line by line simulations over the entire spectrum that compares well with observations. What more can you want? Again, please write up your ideas in some kind of paper. Please!...cliff

  76. Mike in Seattle ( Unknown):

    You claim you can't understand how putting 4.5 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere per day wouldn't be affecting the climate.

    If you want to look at this problem in terms of global CO2, last yaers peak at Mauna Loa, HI was 389 ppmv. That is eqiuvalent to a fee air mixing ratio of .595 gKg-1 of CO2. If it is "evenly mixed" throughout the atmosphere as assumed, there is roughly 1.24 E-10 ppmv/tonne of CO2.

    If you wipe out the entire USA annual emmissions listed as 5.46 billion tonnes per year and is
    18.1% of the global total listed here:

    you would only reduce the free air concentration growth by roughly .68ppmv from the annual increase of 2.5 ppmv per year, and annual global emissions of about 4.5 ppmv, the difference taken up by the global oceans.

    This emission reduction task would be impossible to ever achieve, even if the 18% is spread arround the world. We are second only to China in emissions according to the stats. Think about it. Eliminating USA emissions entirely would mean stoppoing all transporation, coal electricity and fuel use, including natural gas or any wood combustion. So unless the oceans cool off, CO2 will continue upwards for a spell regardless af ANY emission reduction strategy.

    And since the fee air concentration is what is loaded into climate models for the expected temperature result, it is apparent then that no matter what we do, the earth is about to undergo a very large and damaging temperature rise, apparently caused by the earth itself. Make sense? Of course not!

    This ought to make anyone suspicious of the accuracy of these models and the claim that they can predict the future climate or that CO2 sensitivity to temperature is anywhere close to correct.

    Chuck Wiese

  77. Cliff: There is no debate about water vapor, CO2 and cloud absorption of IR radiation or the accuracy of LBL code. I never said there was.

    The ongoing debate that far too many claim is indisputable and "settled science" is the effect that CO2 has on the earth's temperature in the presence of water vapor and the earth's hydrological cycle.

    I think you are siding with those and modeling construct that claim water vapor has a positive feedback with respect to atmospheric CO2. The founding work suggests otherwise, and I don't believe there is any proof that the atmosphere is acting in the manner in which the modeling projects it to.

    The difference in outcome of the expected results is huge if this is true.

    I have not written up my last presentation I gave to the AMS, but I used the founding ideas along with convincing evidence that modeling has not been correct in it's assumptions. There are many other recent papers that support this including the one I already referenced here, that showed a declining tropospheric cloud height over the last decade.

    What sort of write up would you like to see? One that uses and points at recent studies ( that have accesss to data that I don't ) and perhaps summarize all of them? I'm not sure quite what you mean.

    What would it take to convince you that cliamte modeling is on the wrong track and cannot do what is claimed?

    Chuck Wiese

  78. Cliff Mass Weather Blog said..

    To Cliff and those entwined in the global warming hype, I warmly recommend a new book at that deals with the issue in a very clear and concise manner.

    The issue of radiative transfer is beautifully described by one of the authors Alan Siddons.

  79. I hate to argue science with you, but I have a very hard time accepting some of your words right off the bat... "greenhouse-induced global warming". It has been proven through ice records going back 450,000 years (and you should know the science behind this as well) that this is quite contrary to reality. Rising greenhouse gasses (at least the one of major concert with regard to the whole GW argument, CO2) is CAUSED BY warming temperatures, NOT the other way around. Basic science (and logic) says that an EFFECT does not CAUSE the CAUSE. To believe and state so is bad practice, based in bad science. Period.

    It's 2h 45m long, but just watch this

    Youtube: watch?v=MCW2GrySwf0

    Particularly Chuck Weise's presentation. I'll admit, his math went a bit over my head at times, but Cliff, you shouldn't have any trouble wrapping your head around it.

    Supplemental slideshow presentations are available on the Oregon AMS website.

    Now, this does not mean I believe we should continue polluting our planet per status quo. I whole-heartedly believe we should stop defecating in our living room!

  80. I see no qualifications of Chuck Wiese, the "meteorologist", to try to lay to waste the consensus opinion of international climate scientists.

    I see that he wrote one paper in 1978 on "The solubility of aroclor 1254 in seawater", and one paper in 1988 on "A simulation-model for mechanized log harvesting systems". Or maybe he didn't even write those.

    He says he builds instruments, and has a 25-year-old undergrad degree in meteorology from OSU, yet claims to understand the "foundations" of climate science so well that if the experts can't see what he is trying to say, they must have forgotten what he learned decades ago.

    It's sad that his undocumented, outdated, and unlikely ramblings can gain an audience in an argument about such a complex, thoroughly modeled, and thoroughly measured system as the Earth's climate.

  81. And I suppose had I read all the comments before posting one of my own, I'd have seen that Chuck Weise himself has already commented. My bad!

  82. John Vidale said...
    I see no qualifications of Chuck Wiese, the "meteorologist", to try to lay to waste the consensus opinion of international climate scientists.
    John, leave your religion out of it. Many of us here are "real" scientists - such as physicists - and consider the mere concept of "consensus" in science to be a sign of the Spanish Inquisition in the making. Look at physics over the last 40 years for an example.

    To the contrary, there is no such thing as a climate "scientist". Maybe a climate "researcher", or "librarian", but not scientist. And they don't all agree; there are way too many examples of "deniers" being attacked for what they said in such a brutal way that the near-cessation of such disagreement is more a tribute to the success of your closed-minded McCarthyism than to any desire to find the truth.

    Accept alternate viewpoints and study them. Only then can the truth first be found and second be propagated and believed. And if your current view happens to the one that winds up proven... you should be encouraging such efforts rather than engaging in vicious witch hunts.

  83. Tony,

    Do these comments from Cliff not raise at least a small red flag in your mind?

    Your ideas are a complete mash-up for me of incongruous ideas. ... So I have no idea about what your point is about that. If you have a point, you need to write it up in a coherent paper and statement.


    I read through the comments by a C. Wiese that many of you have discussed. Quite honestly, they make no sense to me. I passed them on to members of my department who are experts in radiation and global atmospheric circulations....they felt they were without merit.

    Chuck Wiese doesn't write papers, has minimal formal training, and is dead certain that he is right. I have decades of professional experience with cranks, if not with climate science, and Wiese shows all the symptoms.

    My path to climate enlightenment does not go through trying to glean more from Chuck's writing than can Cliff and his colleagues, who I respect. It would take me many years to get to where Cliff and his eminent atmosians already are on climate.

    But more to the point, I am posting because I am dismayed that many posters would read his emanations and feel informed enough to repeat his jabberwocky. Questioning global warming, questioning evolution, questioning the age of the Earth - I'd like the American populace to better discern what is and isn't known from science.

  84. John Vidale: Would some of these comments by a trained, well published physicist and radiation expert, Dr. Ferenc Miskolczi, written to Cliff Mass raise any red flags in your mind?

    "What you people bring into the discussion is your ancient radiative transfer knowledge and your belief on how the climate system works. In this sense it is not much different from what the IPCC or some other "recognized" scientist like R. Pierrehumbert, G. Schmidt, A. Lacis, ect. say."


    " When there is an issue related to the global warming and the cO2 greenhouse effect,you people ( Mass, et. al ) tend to talk about different things, most preferably about the stochastic components of the climate system, like clouds or hurricanes or referring to climate models. Climate models are expensive toys which are trying to simulate and reproduce the real infinitely complex climate with some of your ad-hoc parameters. Climate models have no "skill" and it is not a surprise that all of them fail the test of reality. Gavin Schmidt keeps repeating that the climate is deterministic, but never demonstrated that the atmospheric humidity field ( the most important GHG ) has any deterministic behavior."

    and: " To make statements about the greenhouse factor, G, and the CO2 greenhouse based global warming without having the slightest knowledge on how much the total atmosphere absorbs and emits is lunatic. So far, all my calculations show that atmospheric absorption minus top of atmosphere ( TOA ) emission is constant and the normalized value is 1/3. It is very unfortunate that you people do not want ( or are simply not able ) to compute the atmospheric absorption. There is no published accurate computation of total absorption or emission in the Science or Nature or JQSRT in the last 60 years. And you cannot get very far with Ramanathan and Trendberth (mathematically wrong) greehouse formula. (see for example their book of Frontiers of Climate Modeling)"

    and : "I highly value the work of Chuck Wiese who is amoung the few who understand the greenhouse effect and is willing to argue and present publicly his opinion which is against the mainstream opinion."

    Mr. Vidale, I note that you are a Ph.D. seismologist and part of the University of Washington faculty.

    I trust that as a trained scientist yourself, that you should respect the scientific opinions of others until such time as you can prove that they are wrong. I see no proof has been offered by you. But you do seem anxious to degenerate your "opinions" into personal attacks. That raises a red flag in my book because it seems to point at some sort of narcissistic driven insecurity from you that has no bearing on the discussion.

    Chuck Wiese

  85. WELL-PUBLISHED physicist and radiation expert, Dr. Ferenc Miskolczi?

    I think you are prone to hyperbole, if not wholesale delusion.

    These 4 are his ENTIRE opus of first-authored papers according to Web of Science. No second-authorships. Twice as many as on your CV, but only 1 paper in the last 15 years, and only 1 paper since he has started to work on climate, and that issue was specifically edited and reviewed by global warming deniers.

    The 1 climate paper has only two citations, one disagreeing (entire abstract - This commentary is meant to show that several relationships derived in Miskolczi (2007) are debatable and, in my opinion, based on untenable physics.), and 1 from an Arno Arrack, also in Energy & Environment, who has no other papers.

    This is not a well-published expert.

    Miskolczi Ferenc M.
    Times Cited: 2

    Surface radiative fluxes in sub-Sahel Africa
    Miskolczi F; Aro TO; Iziomon M; et al.
    Times Cited: 12

    Times Cited: 6

    Times Cited: 8

  86. John Vidale: It is obvious that being "well published" means quantity to you independent of quality.

    Dr. Miskolczi was not employed in academia for the bulk of his career, where it is expected that a certain number of papers be published on average.

    His work was not about teaching as much as it was development of radiative transfer algorithms used at NASA Langley in the NPOES OMPS ozone retrieval and aerosol retrieval in the O2 band. He also developed retrieval algorithms for the temperature and water vapor bands for the ADEOS II instrumentation and the inter calibration algorithms for the CERES- AIRS satellite for earth infrared measurements and his primary function as a scientist at NASA was to research the spectral greenhouse effect in the FAR IR region.

    The paper he published concerning the saturated greenhouse effect was a summary of what he discovered during his lifes work at NASA. It is obvious that it has profound implications for what "mainstream climate science" has claimed about the effects of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere. He has developed a mathematical theory from the paper whose formulations are currently being tested, but irrespective of this, the real data in his paper is damning to "modern' climate science" claims about CO2.

    In reality your subterfuge is just another masking of coming up empty with anything of relevance to this discussion.

    One paper with this physical significance ( that actually ties nicely to the founding principles ) that throws "modern climate science" on its ears is far more valuable than 100 papers published that are "mainstream" but simply reinforce the "consensus dogma".

    Einsten's singular paper on general relativity threw physics on it's ear and revolutionized ALL of the older work and led to the atomic age.

    Your comparisons are silly and meaningless in terms of real science but typical of "group think" mentality.

    Chuck Wiese

  87. All,
    Chuck Wiese and some other "skeptic" types like to quote Dr. Miskolczi. There is quite a number of analyses of his work (several found at the website found below). Essentially his work is without merit and is inconsistent with observations. I read through quite a bit of it and the criticisms of Miskolski are compelling. He has NOT published his work in any major journal and his work is not cited in the literature..cliff

  88. Chuck,

    You claimed your most notable adherent Dr. Miskolczi was "well published". So I simply pointed out his lone climate paper is in a dicy journal, with only a single approving citation from a fellow who is similarly unwell published.

    Your comparison of Dr. Miskolczi with Einstein (note correct spelling) and the dawn of the atomic age is ludicrous.

  89. Actually, we have the technology to solve the CO2 problem ready to build if the oil/coal companies and politicians would allow it. It's called the Integral Fast Reactor and it will 1. Burn up (recycle) the spent nuclear fuel we fear, 2. Never melt down due to the laws of physics 3. Proliferation resistant, a vast improvement over current nuclear power plants, 4. Is modular (cheaper) built by GE Hitachi who call it their PRISM reactor. It worked flawlessly for 20 years at the Argonne National Lab in Idaho but was shut down in 1994 by Clinton because of political expediency. The UK is looking at it right now to turn their stockpiles of plutonium into safe energy. More info at and

  90. Cliff: Your references to discredit Miskolczi and claim his paper is "without merit" are a bit over the top. "Science of Doom?" Who are they and where is their credibility established?

    Real Climate's response isn't surprising. They even claim he made elementary algebraic mistakes that someones "sophomore physics class" would expose. That was several years ago and they never followed through.

    I've read all of the critcisms, Cliff, and none are convincing because the counter claim demands that the ideas must become an exact mathematical abstract that can give a precise calculation. You know full well that climate models do no such thing and parameterize many functions to simply and reduce time steps in spite of the parameterization being derived from more precise physical equations. It isn't possible to ever do what this crowd claims and is disengenous for them to demand something that none of them do in practice.

    Jack Barrett's criticism is a good example of someone eager to discredit the paper without obviously taking the time to even understand the definitions that are used to derive the formulations. He claimed the St/Su relationship had a value too small compared to ratios from MODTRAN and other programs he had used. This is silly, because the IR transfer program used by Miskolczi was one he helped develop and has a much higher spectral resolution and was identified as HARTCODE.The global data was splined and parameterized to develop the equations needed to compute tau, and since that is dimensionless, there is no physical requirement that it match another program, as long as the calculated tau means the same thing in terms of the radiation fields.

    He then goes on to criticize, claiming that if CO2 goes up and impinges the 10 micron window, St must fall, and therefore Su must decline by an equal amount to maintain the constant tau, which goes against radiation physics. This statement is just as ridiculous because it fails to realize thae Su is converted to the outgoing longwave radiation by way of the calculated transfer function, f, and Su(f)= OLR. There is no magic bullet that automatically assumes that OLR remains constant if the opacity from CO2 is increased, that is assumed in the simultaneous solution of the new relations with the new finite optical depth assumption made in the Eddington equation solved for a semi-grey atmosphere and assuming Tg = Ts or the surface temperature and ground temperature in a thin layer at the surface are equal. The expectation from the simultaneous solution suggests that as CO2 goes up and St decreases, that atmospheric upwelling radiation defined by Eu will increase through the transfer function recomputation of the water vapor optical depth and compensate to maintain the constant tau.

    You say I should meet with Fu and Ackerman to get the real facts. Miskolczi has offered to meet with them as well to discuss the impirical facts of his measurements that he used to define the relationships in his paper. Perhaps we could all meet. I am open to hearing from Ackerman or Fu but I am not interested in hearing about claims that cannot be proven without some measurements. Dr. Miskolczi would be valuable to such a discussion. His radiation measurements from HARTCODE are very precise and compelling.

    Chuck Wiese

  91. John Vidale: Your comprehension seems poor to me because I never compared Miskolczi to Einstein. I brought up Einstein to show how silly of an assumption it is to compare the number of papers someone published to how "qualified" someone might be to offer an opinion and be scientifically correct.

    Quantity does NOT equal quality in the publishing arena and in no way demonstrates the absolute mastery of a subject by anyone.

    Miskolczi was not employed in academia, the requirements are different. "Well published" to me speaks more to quality of someones work and I believe Miskolczi's work is profoundly important to what mainstream AGW claims about CO2 and temperature, and it is backed up by accurate radiation calculations of the FIR and MIR spectral regions, of which he derived some new relationships with.

    Chuck Wiese

  92. If you think using more blankets will not warm you up, then you are ...