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global warming question

2007-10-15 16:27:44.314444+00 by Dan Lyke 13 comments

I have only a rudimentary knowledge of climatology and such, but why do people think that historical evidence of warming preceding CO2 level increases invalidates current climate theories? Basic physics and lots of observed evidence says that when visible light comes through the atmosphere, is absorbed by opaque things (ie: the ground), and then radiates back up as infra-red, that CO2 absorbs that re-radiated energy more than an atmosphere without CO2. You can reproduce that portion of the experiment in a high school physics classroom.

And nobody who's concerned about global warming and climate change that I know of is challenging the notion that a lot of such things happen for reasons that have nothing to do with the atmosphere gas composition: solar variations, other things on the surface that lead to albedo changes, even geothermal activity, certainly actual particles of stuff distributed in the atmosphere.

As I understand it, everyone believes that the problem is that this is the first time when the CO2 increase has preceded the warming, rather than lagging it. So why do those in the "climate change isn't a problem we need to worry about" camp think that reiterating this non-sequiter relative to the current theories think that they're saying anything profound?

[ related topics: Global Warming ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-18 02:15:46.380515+00 by: JT

I've given up on seeking logic in the Global Warming debate. Global Warming is the new religion, people follow it with faith instead of logic. Parents even tried to sue to keep Gore's "An Inconvenient Propaganda Film" out of secondary schools, and even though the judge called some of the information "alarmist" they are still showing it to students.

I really think there is a climate shift. Our little ball of mud has been everything from a frozen wasteland with the north pole in the sahara desert to a molten ball of magma flying through space with no possibility of life existing on it. We're constantly in a climate change, and trying to take corrective actions on a system we can't comprehend using methods we don't understand is playing with fire.

Of course, when I was a kid, the big fear was that we were entering an ice age because of the global cooling trend. Maybe we'll have another year without a summer soon just to throw a wrench into the current projections.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-18 15:54:56.475587+00 by: jeff

Sampling weather data and making comparisons "year-to-year" or even "decade-to-decade" may have some long-term relevance in recent human societal terms, but offers very little long-term data in terms of the overall epoch of the Earth.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-23 20:46:47.921786+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Nothwithstanding long-term empirical data, some alarming measurements and short-term trends have very recently been reported, cited in this article.

The folks in San Diego and southwestern California would probably agree today.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-23 21:27:51.180025+00 by: jeff

As would some geologists in Oregon.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-24 13:41:45.882153+00 by: JT

Jeff, I don't get it. The Santa Ana winds kick up and cause wildfires at the beginning of what's known as fire season. It's called fire season because every year fires start at around the same time. What does this have to do with global warming?

It seems to be along the same lines as when people blamed Katrina on global warming when 40 years earlier, a stronger hurricane named Camille hit the same area and caused even more damage. This isn't cause and effect, this is nature.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-24 14:54:14.571773+00 by: Dan Lyke

Just to keep this year's fire season in perspective, I believe the 2003 fires resulted in over twice the number of structures lost. If you compare to the number of houses built down in those areas, I'm sure there's a huge net gain in houses.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-24 15:46:02.902217+00 by: jeff [edit history]

My comment about the folks in southern California was largely made tongue-in-cheek, but here are some objective comparisons between those fires in 2003 and an article about what is occuring today. And the metrics (they're still growing) associated with the fires of today have yet to be contained to any great degree (hopefully that should start to happen soon). I do think it's important to note that the catastrophic fires of 2003 and 2007 are so close together in terms of time (i.e. same decade, same century).

I watched a PBS documentary the other evening which highlighted in great detail WHY we're seeing larger fires, and more overall acreage burned. A record 8M acres burned last year across the country, and I believe we've already surpassed that total for this year. I'll see if I can find the link to that documentary.

Re: Glacier citation above. Glaciers have cyclically grown and retreated over hundreds of thousands of years, but they've nearly exclusively retreated since the birth of the Industrial Age, and that shrinkage has accelerated in recent decades and even more so in recent years. Whether that's simply another cyclical manifestation is difficult to completely prove at the moment.

I personally have mixed feelings about "global warming." It can be spun in as many different directions as the winds around San Diego. But I do believe that basic empirical data doesn't lie (is not affected by politics), and there is something to be gleaned from it. We're all just not sure exactly what, however. There are many inputs, outputs, and metrics to consider.

Eric--a quick question for you. Has there been a historically accurate and objective way of measuring sea levels? Is there a website with some of these historical measurements, and the methods used to collect them?

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-27 14:27:41.217934+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Once again, this is "short-term" data in epochal Earth terms, but still cause for pause. I had no idea that Atlanta (of all places) was running low on water supplies.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-27 15:32:17.457658+00 by: Dan Lyke

Jeff, Atlanta's been running low on water for years now, they've been sucking it out of the aquifer far faster than it's been replenished, and one of my long-standing warnings to Chattanoogans has been to make sure that that area doesn't just end up to Atlanta as the Owens Valley is to LA.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-27 23:22:09.498064+00 by: Larry Burton

Hey, we'll get that water supply line built by luring the good people in Chattanooga into investing in a maglev train between our airports and use the right of way to bury the pipe. That plan is still being tossed around.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-28 13:28:46.874825+00 by: jeff

Dan--wasn't aware of Atlanta's longer-term water situation (the article spoke of many cities with current water problems). As an aside, doesn't this point even further to a more complex longer-term issue (including climate change), rather than a short-term one (in human civilization epochal terms)?

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-28 13:57:01.807563+00 by: Larry Burton

Jeff, the problem with Atlanta's current water shortage has nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with unchecked development. We just haven't built the reservoirs to store water for the population we have grown to. I don't know whether or not the current drought is due to climate change or if its just one of those cyclical things but I do know that we could have built more reservoirs to have stored up more water than we have and we could have started restrictions earlier than we did. We could have also not encouraged the fast population growth we've had over the past 20 years.

The rumor of a water pipeline from Chattanooga to Atlanta first surfaced about ten to fifteen years ago. People in Chattanooga seem to know all about this conspiracy while people in Atlanta seem to be under informed. When the idea of a rapid transit rail system between Atlanta and Chattanooga was first suggested the conspiracy theorist all decided that this was a cover to get the right of way needed for a water pipeline to suck water out of the Tennessee River and ship it to Atlanta.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-10-29 14:56:36.421593+00 by: jeff [edit history]

I think I may have made a mistake by ONLY citing Atlanta from this article. Many cities and states are discussed, and I'm sure the list is by no means complete.

Despite all of the artificially cheap money being thrown around, American-style suburban sprawl is currently not a scalable economic model in epochal Earth terms.