Monday, June 29, 2009


Straying From Your Area of Expertise

Noble Laureate in Physics William Shockley, who taught at my school, was pounded by the liberals 35 years ago for making the mistake of noticing that blacks did worse than whites on the Stanford-Binet IQ tests. The kindest words I heard about him back then were from my Greek professor, who quoted Plato about guys who know one thing well not necessarily knowing all things even cursorily (loose translation and a memory misty with time).

Last week, Nobel Laureate in Economics Paul Krugman wrote about Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) deniers calling them traitors to the planet, or something.

Money quote:

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.

The fact is that the planet is changing faster than even pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe — a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unthinkable — can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is, instead, the most likely outcome if we continue along our present course.

Thus researchers at M.I.T., who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees. Why? Global greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected; some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped; and there’s growing evidence that climate change is self-reinforcing — that, for example, rising temperatures will cause some arctic tundra to defrost, releasing even more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Notice that Dr. Krugman uses the plural when he says "ice caps are shrinking". This is just not true. There has been a decrease in the Northern sea ice over the thirty years we have been able to see all the arctic ice cap, but in the south, the sea ice has been increasing in area and extent. Even if Krugman was comparing the apples to oranges of sea ice in the north to the ice fields on Antarctica in the south, which ice fields have also been increasing over the past 30 years, except in the Antarctic Peninsula, which is 2% of the area of Antarctica, he's still wrong. And he's unclear, but the next paragraph is much worse.

It is more difficult to talk about the changing M.I.T. predictions as he does not identify them nor even say if the degree change is Fahrenheit or Centigrade. Sloppy. And wrong. If it is the M.I.T. study I'm thinking about, it is another pre-rigged computer simulation. Next to worthless. It is just as wrong to say that the CO2 is increasing at an unprecedented, high rate. Here's the Mauna Loa graph:

That is about the gentlest acceleration curves I have ever seen. Let's look at the same graph with a Y axis that goes all the way to zero. It looks a little less alarming on that scale, which is why you rarely see it represented that way.

But those errors and falsehoods are not the real reason Krugman is so wrong. He apparently doesn't know the basics. First off, CO2 is not the biggest greenhouse gas. Water vapor is. It does 95% of the warming. Nothing we humans do increases the amount of water vapor in the air because more than 70% of the Earth's surface is water, most of which evaporates in sunlight. Only a few loons blame us for increased water vapor.

The following three gasses really comprise nearly all our atmosphere: Nitrogen--78.08%; Oxygen---20.95%; and, Argon--.93%. That is, 99.96% of the dry atmosphere is not a greenhouse gas.

CO2 is merely .o38% of the atmosphere, but only a small part of that small part is man made. I think it's only 5%, although there is reasoned disagreement regarding the percentage of anthropogenic CO2--so it could be higher, no higher than 30%, but it could be higher.

If I'm right and we humans make only 5% of the CO2 in the atmosphere that means anthropogenic CO2 is only .0019% of the atmosphere, or, said another way, the atmosphere is .000019 anthropogenic CO2. If you were flying from Denver to New York, .000019 of the trip would not get you off the runway. It is a very small amount. Too small to have any measurable effect.

And any increase in atmospheric CO2 after the agreed upon pre-industrial 280 parts per million of CO2 has very little effect on temperature because, at 280 ppm, 95% of the energy the CO2 could theoretically capture is being captured. Doubling the ppm to 560 would only conceivably raise the temperature between one to two degrees centigrade. We are not going to double CO2 by 2100. No responsible scientists doubts the diminishing effectiveness of CO2 or predicts more than 520 ppm CO2 by the end of the century. Right now we're at 385 ppm, a 37.5% rise in the past 130 years. The doubling of the current number, to 770 ppm, won't occur until nearly 2300.

Like a drunk looking for his keys, Krugman stumbles onto the sine qua non to the Warmie theory when he talks about something being self-reinforcing. Because of the limits on what CO2 can capture now, the essential theory of the Warmie alarmists is that the little bit of warming from increased CO2 causes a positive feedback which "self-reinforces" the warming and makes it much warmer, thus spiralling up to extremely hot weather. There is plenty of empirical evidence out there that no such positive feedback exists. There is NO empirical evidence that the little bit of heating from increased CO2, if it exists and if it is even measurable, is causing a positive feedback system.

Finally, the past 450,000 years, through about four ice ages and interglacials, has shown that increased CO2 does nothing, to nothing much, to the temperature. The Vostok ice cores show that temperature goes up or down first and then CO2 follows after either a 1200 or 800 year average delay.

The only things the Warmies can show us to support their theory are necessarily flawed (too simplistic) computer simulations, which are not evidence, not even close.

I'm told Krugman did some great work about foreign trade many years ago, but his knowledge of that subject does not mean that he knows anything about climatology. He doesn't.

It's not even close.


Yeah, I like how the alarmists will tout the opinion of anyone who repeats the gospel of the echo chamber, even an economist, but don't seem to have much time for the likes of, e.g., Freeman Dyson.
Well said, Jed. Dyson has put his toe in the Denier pond recently as well.
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