Friday, August 24, 2012


Chicken Littlism

Here is someone absolutely unknown to me, Duane Elgin, writing at the Huffington Post about the coming Armageddon allegedly to be caused by increased atmospheric CO2.

But first some actual science. This is the asymptotic curve of temperature rise with a doubling of atmospheric CO2. We humans have never been at 0 so the doubling for us is from the agreed upon pre-industrialized 280 ppm to 560 ppm. (We're about 390 now, quite a ways to go to a doubling; and because increased natural gas use has markedly cut the world's CO2 production, it looks like we'll get to 560 ppm around the end of the century). Although some scientists disagree about the actual slope of the curve, no sane scientist disagrees that the slope has already gone really flat, so that the worst case for warming from a doubling of CO2 is about 1.2 degrees C at 560 ppm and around 1.8 degrees C for 740 ppm.

What does 'trans-partisan' Mr. Elgin say:

Indeed, we are now on a nightmare track to raise the Earth's temperature by 6 degrees Centigrade or nearly 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century.

What? How could that be possible? You would have to amplify the CO2 increase in heat by 400% to get to 6 degrees at 560 ppm. Is there anything in the way of actual observation that shows such an amplification. In a word, no. (Even the scientists who are truest believers in AGW say the amplification their computer models show is more in the range of 200%).

Based on a completely hysterical and unsupported statement on amplification, here's Mr. Elgin's list of horribles:

In the past, the Earth's atmosphere was filled with a benevolent and congenial mixture of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and other gases that have enabled life to flourish. We are radically changing the mixture and tipping the Earth into a new condition: The oceans are turning acidic and dying; prolonged droughts and historic floods from weather extremes are becoming the norm; heat waves beyond the tolerance of people, plants, and animals are more frequent; more powerful hurricanes and storms are spreading, tropical diseases are expanding into warmer zones and, eventually, a sea level rise will flood coastal cities around the world and produce massive migrations of people, animals, and plants. A climate crisis of this magnitude will result in massive crop failures, famines, food riots, and the breakdown of societies.

The sky really is falling for this guy and his ilk.

Let's look at each statement.

The atmosphere has been for the last several million years at least (dry volume):

Nitrogen  78.084%
Oxygen    20.946%
Argon          .934%

That totals more than 99.9%. All the trace gasses, some of which are heat trapping, are confined to under .1% and CO2 is the most common trace gas at .039%. Our burning of fossil fuels has allegedly made CO2 rise in concentration from .028% to .039% over two centuries. Any sane person would not think that is much of a change but for Mr. Elgin it is "radically changing the mixture". No, it's not. It's barely changing anything.

The oceans are not turning acidic but remain basic (that is, on the opposite side of neutral from acidic) as they have been for a long time.

There have always been prolonged floods and droughts and heat waves and there is no indication they are "becoming the norm". Just the opposite, the floods and droughts and heat waves were much worse in America and China, for examples, when CO2 atmospheric concentration was much, much lower.

Hurricanes are not becoming more powerful. Cyclonic energy worldwide now is about where it was in the 1970s and well below what it was in the 50s.

Sea level is rising, as it always does during an interglacial, but at a very tiny rate, so that in a century the ocean might be a whole foot higher than at the beginning of the Millennium. A foot of sea level rise is not going to cause "massive migration of people, animals and crops" from the coast or from anywhere to anywhere else, for that matter.

As to the "massive crop failures, famines, food riots, and the breakdown of societies" he predicts, this is the same sort of apocalyptic, end-times hysteria we humans have been hearing for centuries at least and probably since mankind existed. It used to be religiously based and the end-times promised were from an unhappy-with-us God, and not from an invisible trace gas absolutely vital to nearly all life here on Earth.

It never happens. The famines, riots and breakdowns of society are nearly always a fleeting condition caused by extremely bad leadership.

With this sort of constant, exorbitant overstatement by the true believers, is it any wonder that AGW has become about the last thing we humans are worried about over the last decade of chicken littlism?


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