Science and Global Warming

Discussion in 'Environment' started by Steerpike, Dec 23, 2008.

  1. Steerpike
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    Steerpike VIP Member

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    A few threads on this topic floating around - I thought I'd post something a bit more general.

    It has been correctly pointed out that if you want to be able to assess the issue, you need to read the primary scientific literature and not rely solely on reports by the media. Only by looking at the primary journal articles can you see the experimental methods, the results, and then determine whether the author's conclusions are warranted based on what they present in the paper. Having done peer review and read a lot of primary literature, I can tell you that the author's conclusions are not always justified and are not always as clear cut as the authors pretend.

    If you survey the scientific literature on global warming, you will see that we do not actually know with certainty the extent of the antropogenic versus natural effect. There is evidence that both are at work, but quantifying the relative contribution of each is difficult. The problem is further complicated by the fact that the system we're looking at operates on geological timescales and the direct evidence we have is extremely limited in terms of time. So we use models, indirect evidence, etc.

    It seems to me based on what I've read that it is likely there is an anthropogenic effect at work. My personal view is that it is also likely that natural variation is the primary factor, with anthropogenic forcing a secondary factor.

    The issue certainly merits continued research. What I don't like to see is the politicization of it by both sides, because the end result of that has been for both sides to misrepresent the science. The pro-anthropogenic side tries to tell you it has now been proven that mankind is the primary force behind climate change. That is so far from the scientific reality that it is astounding to hear people say it. Conversely, the people who disagree with the politics of the anthropogenic effect will say there is no evidence for it or that the natural forcings have been proven to be the driving factor in climate change. Also false. We simply do not know yet. Maybe we won't for a long time. We don't even know what all the variables in climate change are, most likely.

    I met a couple weeks ago with a former UN minister and member of the IPCC. He was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize when Gore and the IPCC members won. I asked him point blank whether he thought that we could say with certainty that the anthropogenic effect was the primary cause behind climate change (in other words, whether what Al Gore goes around sayin is actually true). He said 'no,' and pointed out that people are stil working on it and the nature of the problem and the data make certainty difficult (if not impossible at this point - that's my own parenthetical). I agree. Then, he went on to say that politically you had to overstate the case in order to get any traction on the issue.

    He's probably right on that last point. Nevertheless, I don't like it.

    So if anyone tells you it has been proven that human activity is a prime factor in global warming, they aren't being honest with you. They are either misinformed or they are pushing an agenda. The issue is by no means proven with anything approaching scientific certainty.

    The same goes for anyone telling you that mankind is not a factor, or that the natural factors are proven to be the main force. As I said above, we don't have certainty on this issue.

    So I encourage people to think critically when confronted with claims from either side of the global warming issue, and if you have the opportunity, get some of the primary research journals and go through some articles on climate change. Look at the vast amount of information that is out there in support of both natural and anthropogenic factors. And keep and open mind as the science progresses and new findings come in.

    /soapbox
     
  2. Tech_Esq
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    Tech_Esq Sic Semper Tyrannis!

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    And that, my friend, is really the point of my previous thread. The data set is far too limited to make the claims the pro-anthropogenic crowd is making. There are too many variables to control for all of them. And lastly, you don't know what you don't know. We are finding new (even major things like species) things in the earth every day. It is the height of arrogance for one to say they know why the earth warms or cools beyond the most crude, basic reasons.

    Talking in PPM of this or that substance or talking about fractions of a degree in variation of the entire earth's surface over some length of time is just utter ridiculousness. We've only had the ability to make measurements to that degree of accuracy in the relative recent past. We certainly didn't have anything like the kind of global monitoring we have now a hundred or a 150 years ago. Even then, the instruments doing the monitoring we very crude by today's standards.

    I understand what you are saying about the politicization of the issue. Clearly, the primary fault of the politicization lies with the side seeking change. And, as with all political issues, when you have a scarcity of resources, you get politics. The pro-anthropogenic group is seeking fundemental change in global human behavior with profound implications in everybody's every day life. In order that a change that large should be allowed, they should have to carry an extremely high burden of proof. As far as I'm concerned, they have not even begun to meet that burden.

    About all we have now is "everyone" thinks so, therefore it's true. Of course, everyone, including all the leading scientists, once thought the earth was flat. Once thought the universe revolved around the earth. I could go on, but you get the point.
     
  3. Chris
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    Chris Gold Member

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    The North Polar Ice Cap is melting. It has been there for millions of years. CO2 is at the highest level in 600,000 years, which is as far as the Antarctic ice core record goes back. The level of CO2 is accelerating as China and India industrialize. There is evidence that the Arctic methane feedback is starting to kick in.

    You guys can postulate all you want while we use the earth as a giant lab experiment.
     
  4. Tech_Esq
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    Tech_Esq Sic Semper Tyrannis!

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    My point exactly, you don't know the first and you can't know the second.
     
  5. Chris
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    Chris Gold Member

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    I'm afraid that isn't your point.

    But keep whistling past the graveyard!
     
  6. Chris
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    Chris Gold Member

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    WASHINGTON - Before humans began burning fossil fuels, there was an eons-long balance between carbon dioxide emissions and Earth's ability to absorb them, but now the planet can't keep up, scientists said on Sunday.

    The finding, reported in the journal Nature Geoscience, relies on ancient Antarctic ice bubbles that contain air samples going back 610,000 years.

    Climate scientists for the last 25 years or so have suggested that some kind of natural mechanism regulates our planet's temperature and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Those sceptical about human influence on global warming point to this as the cause for recent climate change.

    This research is likely the first observable evidence for this natural mechanism.

    This mechanism, known as "feedback," has been thrown out of whack by a steep rise in carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal and petroleum for the last 200 years or so, said Richard Zeebe, a co-author of the report.

    "These feedbacks operate so slowly that they will not help us in terms of climate change ... that we're going to see in the next several hundred years," Zeebe said by telephone from the University of Hawaii. "Right now we have put the system entirely out of equilibrium."

    In the ancient past, excess carbon dioxide came mostly from volcanoes, which spewed very little of the chemical compared to what humans activities do now, but it still had to be addressed.

    This antique excess carbon dioxide -- a powerful greenhouse gas -- was removed from the atmosphere through the weathering of mountains, which take in the chemical. In the end, it was washed downhill into oceans and buried in deep sea sediments, Zeebe said.

    14,000 TIMES FASTER THAN NATURE

    Zeebe analysed carbon dioxide that had been captured in Antarctic ice, and by figuring out how much carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere at various points in time, he and his co-author determined that it waxed and waned along with the world's temperature.

    "When the carbon dioxide was low, the temperature was low, and we had an ice age," he said. And while Earth's temperature fell during ice ages and rose during so-called interglacial periods between them, the planet's mean temperature has been going slowly down for about 600,000 years.

    The average change in the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last 600,000 years has been just 22 parts per million by volume, Zeebe said, which means that 22 molecules of carbon dioxide were added to, or removed from, every million molecules of air.

    Since the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century, ushering in the widespread human use of fossil fuels, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by 100 parts per million.

    That means human activities are putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere about 14,000 times as fast as natural processes do, Zeebe said.

    And it appears to be speeding up: the US government reported last week that in 2007 alone, atmospheric carbon dioxide increased by 2.4 parts per million.

    The Heat Is Online
     
  7. KMAN
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    KMAN Senior Member

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    I was wondering why the ice in my glass of water was melting faster than it did in 1980.... That damn CO2...

    It's funny how liberals quickly fall right into the humans are killing the planet, manmade global warming theory but are so quick to dismiss the creationism theory when neither one can be proven beyond a shadow of doubt....LOL
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike VIP Member

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    My points work just as well against the people who claim there is no anthropogenic effect, however. The point is, we don't know for sure. We're not likely to anytime soon.

    If you want a better example of scientific dogma and politics supported an erroneous position, look into the Clovis-first debate of decades past in anthropology. Careers of dissenting scientists were ruined, and the dogma was held by all the top, most respected scientists. Unfortunately, they turned out to be wrong, but too many careers had been staked on it for them to admit it.

    One correlation to global warming is that anyone who looked obejctively at the scientific literature of the time would have known there were problems with the 'certitude' of Clovis-first. Similarly, anyone who objectively views the science, what we know or even CAN know, on global warming, will conclude that we can't know for certain whether and to what extent there is an anthropogenic effect. We're best off preparing for both eventualities.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike VIP Member

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    Creation / intelligent design can't be disproven. My only objection to them is presenting them in science class because they aren't science. They can be well-represented in philosophy classes and the like, but if you are going to introduce theories into science classes they should be subject to scientific method. Otherwise it doesn't make sense to put them there.
     
  10. Chris
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    Chris Gold Member

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    The melting North Pole is not a liberal.
     

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