The OC Blog Back Issues Our Mission Contact Us Masthead
Sudsy Wants You to Join the Oregon Commentator
 

“I Broke the Dam.”

Let me start this post by stating that I am a firm believer in the theory of anthopogenic global warming.

I’m a bit more sketchy on the currently prevalent trend of trying to tie everything into global warming and generally trying to frighten the public into supporting certain political movements. We’ve been told repeatedly that there is a strong link between global warming and the intensity (and, depending on who’s doing the talking, the frequency) of hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons worldwide.

A new study, however, disputes that, claiming that there will, in fact, be a decrease in the number of hurricanes though there may be a “modest” increase (~1-2%) in the power of such events. Of course, the devil’s in the details, and climate change models are only that — models. Some models give weight to certain factors and others do not, and they all have their failings. Only the most dishonest scientist would tell you that his model is definitive.

Most people, however, aren’t scientists, and both sides of the global warming debate have a vested interest in supporting whichever model “proves” their side is “right”. So expect to see this study adopted by global warming skeptics as evidence that global warming is rubbish (or at least not anthropogenic) with the same zeal that past studies have been utilized by environmental groups to advance their agenda.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is to distrust anyone in the global warming debate who claims that such-and-such study “proves” a damned thing. Chances are that most partisans on both sides have probably never really looked at any of the science or bothered to learn much further than what Al Gore said in “An Inconvenient Truth”. Sadly, the issue has long since passed into the hands of those who’re just informed enough to use “global warming” and every study that comes out about it as a cudgel with which to batter their political foes rather than treating it as an important scientific question. Much like the results of the anti-nuclear hysteria of decades past, I fear that the current atmosphere of partisanship re: global warming will eventually leave us in a much worse position than we are today.

  1. CJ Ciaramella says:

    “Mclovin, I’m sorry I blocked your cock.”

  2. Vincent says:

    Actually, here is a rather useful graph of data collected from the Vostok Ice Core (note that it is read from right to left, so the present is on the left side of the graph). As you can see, it’s all very cyclical, except for the fact that around 10,000 or so years ago, CO2 starts going down and then abruptly shoots way up again. This is correlated with temperature, which, rather than decreasing as it does in each of the previous glacial/interglacial periods, fluctuates at a relatively higher level than it does anywhere else on the graph.

    Here is another graph showing roughly the same thing, except that it’s comparing two different ice cores and “ice volume” (and I’m not quite sure just what that’s referring to).

    Ruddiman’s thesis is that the “Anthropocene” is responsible for the temperature not rapidly decreasing as it has done previously, but, due to human activities, has maintained itself (due in large part to that great rise in greenhouse gases, which is evident from the spike in CO2).

    I don’t mean to imply that human activities are 100% the cause of anything climate related. Obviously they are not. And you’re right to say that we cannot predict the future. Permafrost, etc., however, has covered much, much larger parts of the planet (like, the bulk of Europe) during other fairly recent epochs, and its disappearance does not seem to have caused any catastrophic effects.

  3. Chris Holman says:

    It is a common problem, for me anyway, that a lot of academic science looks to the past as a key to the future. This assumption is, or could be anyway, quite fantastic in its ability to distort. In other words, we cannot predict the future. Ruddiman may be right about what he’s saying, but farming is pretty recent for humans ~12,000 years old or so, and as far as we know the permafrost and other carbon sinks that are now melting and releasing gases were frozen for a LONG, long time until geologically lately.

    The offset of a cooling period by human intervention via Industrialization or whatever is an interesting theory though!

  4. Michelle Haley says:

    No comment.

  5. Vincent says:

    Michelle: Always with the cocks with you isn’t it?

  6. Vincent says:

    I think the interesting thing is that, at least going by past climate cycles, we should be in the midst of an ice age right now. William Ruddiman points to early human activities like rice farming and such as being significant factors that were releasing massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere long before the advent of the Industrial Revolution. According to the data I’ve seen, methane levels were in the process of declining from their previous peak (which would’ve resulted in another ice age) when they quite suddenly changed direction and started increasing again, which staved off the cold period. He calls the period the Anthropocene, and though there are some problems with the (relatively new) theory, I think there might be something to it.

    If he’s right, it would also suggest that some level of anthropogenic greenhouse emissions are actually beneficial for maintaining a climate suitable for agriculture and living. The interesting question then becomes “how to we strike that balance”?

  7. Chris Holman says:

    Even GCM super-computers cannot accurately recreate everything that goes on in the weather, climate, atmosphere, etc. So, you’re right. The predictions are always only as good as the underlying assumptions. You never hear about the assumptions though.

    What I find ironic in this sort of thing is how positions flip around.

    When people want to cut down trees in a section of forest, liberal arguments tend to focus on the inability of science and statistics to accurately portray what happens across scales in an ecosystem. Conservative (read: pro-business of tree cutting) arguments tend to point to statistical analysis and science to support what they say will happen when the trees are cut.

    When it comes to Global Warming the opposite occurs. Liberals point to the science and computers and Conservatives point to their inability to show what is going on at different levels and then draw causative connections between inputs, outputs, et al.

    There are A LOT of things that inform the debate on global warming. This is good. Where people go wrong is when they use these things to feed their speculation. Also, nearly every time you read about Global Warming the predictions that are covered are the WORST possible scenarios yet they are discussed as if they’re exactly what’s going to happen….next week.

    Human involvement in the situation is obvious with the increase in gases since Industrialization. However, what is often neglected is that it’s no longer human actions that are causing the most trouble. Rather, we have likely warmed things up ‘enough’ so that natural processes have taken over and now massive carbon sinks (i.e. permafrost) are releasing gases at rates that mankind can only dream of.

    Lastly, and more importantly for me, is this notion that humankind is somehow separate from nature. That because we are more able to manage our environment than almost any other creature on the planet, we are somehow ‘not’ natural. I would argue that the opposite could be and likely is true. Namely, what humans do is indeed natural and nature responds to it as it would any other actor. Of course, as I said, we have more power to influence the environment. So, if people want to argue that we’ve got more responsibility to act responsibly as well, I’m cool with that.

    There’s a warming lag at play though. We could stop emitting greenhouse gases completely and ‘nature’ would still be emitting millions of metric tons of methane, CO2, etc.

    There’s also the old adage: “There is your side of the story, my side of the story and then there’s the truth” Although, that saying is a bit inconvenient…OOOOH….yeah, I just made a bad pun. Whatever.

  8. Michelle Haley says:

    Way to cock-block my post, Vincent! At least you posted something of value, I suppose.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.