Saturday, March 10, 2007

Global Warming: a Summary of the Arguments

In this previous post I commented on a documentary that refutes the now 'common wisdom' of man-made climate change, caused by carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning.

Here's a short summary of the scientific arguments in favour of an alternative explanation of the observed global warming, which essentially correlates climate change with solar activity (from Channel 4).


The Arguments

Earth's 4.5 billion year history is one long story of
climate change. This fact is pretty much accepted by those who think global warming is a natural process, and those who think it's caused by man.

In more recent history there has been: a mini ice age in the seventeenth century when the Thames froze so solidly that fairs could regularly be held on the ice; a Medieval Warm Period, even balmier than today; and sunnier still was the so-called Holocene Maximum, which was the warmest period in the last 10,000 years.

Those who think global warming is a natural process point to the fact that in the last 10,000 years, the warmest periods have happened well before humans started to produce large amounts of carbon dioxide.

A detailed look at recent climate change reveals that the temperature rose prior to 1940 but unexpectedly dropped in the post-war economic boom, when carbon dioxide emissions rose dramatically.

There is some evidence to suggest that the rise in carbon dioxide lags behind the temperature rise by 800 years and therefore can't be the cause of it. [editor:
here's an article refuting the 800 year lag]

In the greenhouse model of global warming, heat from the sun's rays is trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If it weren't for these gases, Earth would be too cold for life.

Greenhouse gases trap heat from the sun within the earth's atmosphere. This is the greenhouse effect. Traditional models predict that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases lead to runaway heating.

If greenhouse warming were happening, then scientists predict that the troposphere (the layer of the earth's atmosphere roughly 10-15km above us) should heat up faster than the surface of the planet, but data collected from satellites and weather balloons doesn't seem to support this.

Those who think global warming is a natural process say that the troposphere is not heating up because man-made greenhouse gases are not causing the planet to heat up.

For some people, the final nail in the coffin of human-produced
greenhouse gas theories is the fact that carbon dioxide is produced in far larger quantities by many natural means: human emissions are miniscule in comparison. Volcanic emissions and carbon dioxide from animals, bacteria, decaying vegetation and the ocean outweigh our own production several times over.

Others would argue that carbon dioxide isn't the only greenhouse gas and that human emissions could tip up a finely balanced system.

New evidence shows that that as the radiation coming from the sun varies (and sun-spot activity is one way of monitoring this) the earth seems to heat up or cool down. Solar activity very precisely matches the plot of temperature change over the last 100 years. It correlates well with the anomalous post-war temperature dip, when global carbon dioxide levels were rising.

In fact, what is known of solar activity over the last several hundred years correlates very well with temperature. This is what some scientists are beginning to believe causes climate change. Others feel that solar activity only explains the fine details of temperature change.

So how does the sun affect the earth's temperature? The process scientists suggest is that as earth moves through space, the atmosphere is constantly bombarded by ever-present cosmic rays. As these particles hit water vapour evaporating from the oceans, clouds form in the atmosphere. Clouds shield Earth from some of the sun's radiation and have a cooling effect. [editor:
here's a study refuting the cosmic ray theory in pdf format]

When solar activity is high, there is an increase in solar wind and this has the effect of reducing the amount of cosmic radiation which reaches Earth.

When less cosmic radiation reaches Earth, fewer clouds form and the full effects of the sun's radiation heats the planet.

But is the effect of solar activity really enough to explain away global warming caused by the greenhouse effect? This is still a moot point.



So, am I really any the wiser yet?
Here's one science blogger who classes the documentary as septic tripe, but doesn't in my view present much by way of interesting counter-arguments.

And here's one that
also refutes the 800 year lag, this time quite convincingly in my view. The comments are also interesting, as well as some of the links.

This Yorkshire blogpost is interesting and debunks some parts of the documentary.

Is it safe to say the jury is still out? Many proponents of man-made climate change will argue that the debate is over but others claim it has only just begun. Me and my co-editor Stripy (he's told me this blogging lark is 'a real dog's dinner!') are getting a pointy head from all this argumentation and it appears more digging will be needed to get to the bottom of it. Assuming there is a bottom of course...

Here's the entire documentary via Google video.

And here's Timothy Ball making a fool of himself by blaming it on the US's most imaginary foe,,, the UN! (YouTube).

9 Comments:

At 3:46 PM, Blogger sig94 said...

Cookie sez "Hi," and sent me over here for a look see. I do not believe the global warming theory and feel it is another attempt by the left to entrench socialism; I offer as proof the carbon neutral BS that Gore promotes which does not do a thing to lessen pollution but does draw wealth away from developed nations.

However, I agree as you as the science is far from conclusive. It may be another ten to fifteen years before our knowledge of climate change is mature enough to accurately forecast the weather two weeks from now much less a hundred years.

The hysteria accompanying the climate change advocates is simply a pretext to preclude debate. I've been around long enough to remember the cries of global cooling in the 70's, mass starvation, etc. to distrust the media driven hype.

I enjoyed your blog and will return.
Cheers!

 
At 4:04 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Welcome!

I think we should really avoid politicising the debate any more than it already has been.

Your assertion that "I do not believe the global warming theory and feel it is another attempt by the left to entrench socialism; I offer as proof the carbon neutral BS that Gore promotes which does not do a thing to lessen pollution but does draw wealth away from developed nations." is akin to what I've read on some conservative blogs (paraphrasing): "Climate change theory is a conspiracy to raise taxes for the poor".

It's really nonsense IMHO: assuming for argument's sake, that CO2 does play a part in rising global temperature, then the industry arising (and already pretty geared up) to solve the problem will actually create both jobs and wealth.

As the documentary points out, the environmentalists are also arguing that Africa should not be tainted with fossil fuel based energy. This is tantamount to de facto denying Africa the right to develop and that's hardly a socialist stance. The same is more or less true of China which sits on massive coal reserves.

If at some point it can be proven that CO2 does play a part, I'm all for a US-style technology-driven solution, not a whiny "let's all do our bit" thingy. The technology will create much opportunity, wealth and employment.

Fossil fuels are too cheap, too versatile, too abundant (and actually very clean) to simply not use. We need to find out whether they carry some culpability regards global warming and how to tackle this without throwing the child away with the bath water....

 
At 5:30 PM, Blogger sig94 said...

And for the most part I completely agree with you. Technology, although not always the answer, can certainly contribute in a very meaningful fashion to this and resolve many of the complaints of the activists.

My son-in-law is currently in middle management at a power facility that is converting to wood burning (willow). The plant will be outfitted with scrubbers to remove pollutants and will burn fast growing willow (like a stinking weed it is) that is grown locally only a few miles from the plant.

As I commented in your prior post on the global warming documentary, the problem, as I see it, is this: the argument/discussion had been hijacked. While we certainly can enjoy a good rousing debate here, and I trust we shall, the public arena has been leased for the duration by the leftist activists.

My reaction was structured along those lines for it is this political charging that is directing and driving the debate, not science.

I don't believe that the taxes will be imposed on the poor. Those who are not producing evil industrial flatulence can sell their carbon credits (or pollution credits as we already have on this side of the pond) to those who are polluting. As with any Ponzi scheme, by time the whole rotten mess is uncovered, billions will have been spent and lost in the bureaucratic morass and the only ones enriched will be those authorizing and directing the transactions. Think of it as a "Carbon For Food" scam.

I have also read (and drat if I can find it now) that some scientists are abandoning the fossilized lizard juice notion of how oil is produced. It appears that there is research indicating that oil is a renewable resource that is produced by gases passing through the earth's crust.

All the same, as God commanded us, we are to be good stewards of what He has entrusted us. As far as I'm soncerned, that means to transmit the earth is as good or better condition to the next generation as we received it. As we are not to harm it, we are also not to worship it.

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger Cookie..... said...

Ah good. I see my friend Sig has made your acquaintence. Gert...Sig is much more well versed in this topic than I am....

I thought that the two of you would get some meaningful dialogue going...and it appears I was correct.

Sig was the person who proded this ignorant Cookie into looking closer at the whole "Global Warming" thing...and I'm slowly coming around to the conclusions that the two of you have already discussed.

We both worked togather in another life...and since my background is in Forensic Science(s)...I'm slowly grasping an understanding of what you are both saying....other than that...I'm just an ignorant John Doe citizen...

I'm sure the both of you will find many topics to discuss and debate in meaningful ways in the future....Cookie

 
At 4:38 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Sig:

I think the right rather missed the train by insisting that this would be bad for business, that it would stunt economic growth etc etc. Assuming even that the man-made climate change theory is completely wrong, then an entire industry will be created to chase a phantom, but I can't see how it will negatively affect the global economy worldwide. I am of course not advocating creating such an industry if counter-arguments disprove the current paradigm but it seems the carbon guys have largely won the battle for "hearts and minds" and that is as important (if not more so) in this debate that the actual cold scientific facts.

There are in Britain already hundreds of vacancies in this sector: it's definitely a growth sector and set to continue to grow fast. If I had some money to invest I'd definitely look into carbon securities, carbon futures etc for the medium-long term.

As regards the theories, both have holes in them: carbon doesn't explain the massive, pre-industrial fluctuations of the past but neither does the sun-theory. The cosmic rays scenario seems a plausible hypothesis but it is far from proven and it would appear to me that applying it to the distant past will be problematic, unless this radiation has left some indelible marks in the geological record (I guess that's what they'll be looking for).

As regards God, the only Bible I possess is the one I nicked from a Texas police station (true story), so I'm not well placed...

Cookie:

No-one needs to be an expert to understand the basic hypotheses that are being put forward by both theories. The problem is that some very sophisticated, even creative, mathematical statistics are being used and that is something only the experts can adequately understand.

 
At 5:00 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Please note: a Google video link's been added.

 
At 6:06 PM, Blogger sig94 said...

I never completely bought into the economic argument either, except for that the carbon credit exchange will produce nothing of real value (more like stock markey manipulations rather than goods and services)and will most likely divert capital better used for research and development in other sectors.

What would help enormously is a gifted academic(s) who can translate the formidable technical jargon into layman's terms that would be easily understood by a competent laymen. The idiots of both sides will never get it.

Texas PD? Heh. At least you walked away with something more than a rap sheet. We'll forget the larceny involved as the statute of limitations is only seven years for a misdemeanor.

 
At 6:25 PM, Blogger Cookie..... said...

Forgive the Theft!!! Hell Sig, I was gonna run right on over to GB and make a Citizens Arrest....well...maybe not...

Hey Gert...thanks fer postin the Google link regarding GW...that was an excellent documentary and put many things in proper perspective for me....

BTW...one of things I always have questioned regarding GW were the "natural" temperature changes of the Earth. I have been well familiar with "the little Ice Age"...and the global warming prior to 1930....

Its because of these "irregularities" and contradictions of the GW theory that I began questioning people like Sig and yourself for further info on the topic....

Agin...thanks to both of you....Cookie...

 
At 8:05 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Do you think if I went back now (after 10 years) and said I'd only borrowed their Good Book (because I found it so fascinating), they will buy into that? No?

Oh, well. At least if they arrest me again and offer me a Bible I can say: "Thanks but no thanks. I've already got one of yours..."

 

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