climate change

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climate change

Postby Paul Anthony on December 3rd, 2015, 3:47 pm 

I am not a scientist.

As a layman, I struggle to understand the basis for the belief in climate change as a man-made catastrophe in the making. I've perused the discussions here, but the following are questions that still trouble me.

I am told the planet is warming. Satellite data does not confirm this, but ground-based temperature sampling does. I wonder why both sources don’t agree. If the temperature at the surface is rising as a result of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, shouldn’t the temperature in the atmosphere rise?

I live in Gilbert, Arizona, a “bedroom community” with a population in excess of 220,000 people. It is larger than most “large” cities, but pales in comparison to its neighbor, Phoenix, which is a mere 20 miles away. Both are at the same elevation, but on any given day there is a 3 to 4 degree difference in temperature, both day and night. This difference is explained by land use. Gilbert has little industry and more lawns, less pavement. The higher temperatures in Phoenix are the result of something referred to as a “heat island effect”. Even though I am not a scientist, I can understand this.

Average temperatures in Gilbert are much higher than they were 30 years ago. Is this evidence of “climate change”? Not likely, since the average temperatures in Phoenix have risen considerably less. A better explanation might be that 30 years ago Gilbert was primarily an agricultural community with a much smaller population. The rapid growth occurred during the housing boom. This growth was not limited to Gilbert, nor was it exclusive to the US. During this same time period, China converted millions of agricultural acres into cities. This growth has been historically unprecedented - and not likely to continue at the same pace.

The increases in “heat islands” should result in higher surface temperatures. This increase in surface temperature dissipates, leaving little change in atmospheric temperatures, which may explain why satellite data differs from ground-based data. The cause is undoubtedly man-made, but not because of carbon dioxide.

This leads me to wonder if the computer models so often touted are based on erroneous assumptions. Yes, there has been an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, but could it be that it isn't the primary reason for increased surface temperatures? We’ve all heard the expression “Garbage in, garbage out”.

Another thing that confuses me is the concept of carbon dioxide as a pollutant. What comes out of automobile tailpipes is carbon monoxide. Carbon dioxide is something we all exhale. Plants absorb it and produce oxygen, which we need to inhale in order to live. How did carbon dioxide get labeled as a bad thing? Because it's harmful to sea creatures? Okay, but it's still very beneficial to land-based creatures like us.

My assumptions may be wrong, but I hope they don’t appear to be illogical. Can someone who actually understands the science behind climate change claims please explain it to me in layman’s terms? If you are inclined to dismiss this because “the science is settled”, don’t bother. No legitimate scientist would ever say science is “settled”. :)
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Re: climate change

Postby wolfhnd on December 3rd, 2015, 7:40 pm 

There really isn't much to say Paul. Anthropogenic global warming is real but the human contribution to the carbon cycle is still relatively small. Like with all science it is the accuracy and precision of the forecast that make it controversial not so much the basic physics. Anyone who things they can predict in detail how ecosystems will work based on a single change in input is I believe delusional.

I really think we just have to wait and see if the models are even remotely precise and accurate from a scientific point of view. My guess is they are not but some very bright people seem to think they are.
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Re: climate change

Postby vivian maxine on December 3rd, 2015, 7:47 pm 

Some years ago, on a news program, they were predicting another ice age. I can't quote his exact wording but George Will had this to say: This planet has been going through ice ages for millennia and will continue to do so.

I suspect the same applies to global warming. That doesn't mean we should not do our bit to not contribute an excess to the stage but I doubt we can stop global warming.
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Re: climate change

Postby Paul Anthony on December 3rd, 2015, 8:08 pm 

wolfhnd » Thu Dec 03, 2015 4:40 pm wrote: Anthropogenic global warming is real but the human contribution to the carbon cycle is still relatively small. Like with all science it is the accuracy and precision of the forecast that make it controversial not so much the basic physics. Anyone who things they can predict in detail how ecosystems will work based on a single change in input is I believe delusional.

I really think we just have to wait and see if the models are even remotely precise and accurate from a scientific point of view. My guess is they are not but some very bright people seem to think they are.


If the world powers were willing to "wait and see", I wouldn't be worried. My concern is that we may be attempting to correct the wrong cause. So far, it seems temperatures have not continued to rise as much as the models predicted. If the drastic increase in construction during the past 30 years has contributed more to warming than CO2 emissions has, it would explain the rapid rise in temperatures AND why the rise has slowed (as construction has slowed). If this is even half the cause, the proposed solutions will only be half as successful as projected, at best. Considering the cost of the solutions and the devastating effects they will have on the economy, further scientific study would seem prudent.

Has any serious investigation been made into other possible causes?
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Re: climate change

Postby Natural ChemE on December 3rd, 2015, 8:21 pm 

Paul Anthony,

Some of the world's largest oil companies pay me a fortune to solve this problem for 'em, so I'd be happy to provide some professional notes.

However I'm also short on time, so I'll do this a little more piece-wise than normal.

Moderation note: Wiki-approach experiment
The comments that I'm making in this thread are intended to represent the best objective understanding of climate change rather than present my own personal opinions. Therefore, I consider my posts in this thread to generally be public reference rather than my own personal expression.

As public reference, I disclaim ownership to my posts in this thread. I fully invite mods/admins to make edits without notification for any of the following purposes:
  • to correct spelling/grammar/typos, factual inaccuracies (when the mistake is clear), fix broken links or other formatting, etc.;
  • add in links to references sources such as Wikipedia;
  • add related/useful content;
  • or any similar action.
Unless somehow controversial or unclear, edits do not need to be explained or even noted. Also, I consider it to be a noble effort to provide information; I will not be offended in the slightest, but rather appreciate the contributions of editors.
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Re: climate change

Postby Natural ChemE on December 3rd, 2015, 8:38 pm 

Paul Anthony » December 3rd, 2015, 2:47 pm wrote:What comes out of automobile tailpipes is carbon monoxide. Carbon dioxide is something we all exhale.

Short version
Cars emit far more carbon dioxide (CO2) than carbon monoxide (CO). You just hear about the CO because it's way more poisonous.

Long version
Biological matter like fossil fuels - including the fuel that cars run on - is largely composed of hydrocarbons: molecules primarily composed of carbon (C) and hydrogen (H). The simplest hydrocarbon is methane (CH4).

Fires are basically:
    .
The oxygen combines with the fuel as much as possible, releasing energy. Good, complete burning of fuel reduces hydrocarbons to CO2, however incomplete burns can release an intermediate product, CO. This is inefficient; if your engine doesn't go all the way to CO2, you're not getting all of the energy you want out of your fuel.

Worse, the CO is also really unhealthy because it basically destroys your blood. This is, normally your red blood cells weakly bind oxygen, collecting it in your lungs and releasing it to other parts of your body. However red blood cells bind very strongly with CO; they just don't release it! So, when you breath CO, it basically permanently combines with your red blood cells and makes them stop working. This isn't too bad at low doses since red blood cells normally die off like every 100 days or so and get replaced, but breathing too much at once will basically cause a death like suffocation.

For this and other reasons, starting back in 1975 we required cars to have catalytic converters - that box on your car's tail pipe. They catch a lot of the CO that wasn't fully combusted and complete its transition into CO2. This doesn't get you back your lost fuel efficiency, but it does prevent a lot of CO from being released despite increasing CO2 emissions.

Catalytic converters really help us when we're stuck in traffic or any other time that we'd breath in exhaust. Car exhaust is still extremely unhealthy and should be avoided, but at least it's not as bad as it could've been without the converters.
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Re: climate change

Postby Paul Anthony on December 3rd, 2015, 8:50 pm 

Natural,

Yes, I'm aware efforts have been made to reduce CO from tailpipes and why that's a good thing.
The question was, why is CO2 considered a pollutant?

Also, I hope (when you have time) you'll address my concerns about "heat islands" as part of the cause of global warming (Am I still allowed to use that term?)
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Re: climate change

Postby Natural ChemE on December 3rd, 2015, 9:11 pm 

Paul Anthony » December 3rd, 2015, 7:50 pm wrote:The question was, why is CO2 considered a pollutant?

Two different, major concerns with CO2:
  1. it is a greenhouse gas;
  2. it is an acid gas.

Part 1: CO2 is a greenhouse gas
Our atmosphere is like a blanket (or greenhouse). Like a blanket, our atmosphere doesn't fully trap heat; it just slows down how fast we bleed off heat into space.

Like a blanket, our atmosphere's effectiveness at keeping us warm depends largely on three factors:
  1. How thick the blanket/atmosphere is.
  2. What the blanket/atmosphere is made out of.
  3. How much heat we make (mostly from what's stored in the Earth and from capturing sun light) versus how cold it is outside (outer space is really cold).
Greenhouse gases are gases that are relatively good insulators; they're like wool in our atmospheric blanket. A highly effective, space-age wool anyway - it's really good at keeping us warm!

The problem with greenhouse gas emissions - including but not limited to CO2 - is that our atmospheric blanket is getting warmer. We are increasingly shielded from the coldness of space.

Here's a graph showing how greenhouse gases have increased:
    Image

Part 2: CO2 is an acid gas
Pure water has a pH around . But most of the water on Earth isn't pure; it has stuff dissolved in it, like gases from our atmosphere and salts in our oceans.

Some gases make water more acidic when they're dissolved. We call such gases "acid gases". CO2 is a prime example of an acid gas.

Since we're putting more CO2 into the air, we're making water - like rain and in the oceans - more acidic. This increase in acidity leads to relatively acidic rain and modifies the ecosystems in the ocean and such.

Many scientists are worried about the impact that increasing ocean acidity will have on marine life, potentially wiping our a major food supply (fish) humans rely on. Losing a major food supply like fish is a bad thing because Earth's population keeps going up; historically we know that things start getting violent when people start getting hungry. Also, most people dislike starving.

Part 3: CO2 as a greenhouse gas vs. as an acid gas
While many people are understandably concerned about CO2 being an acid gas, the greater concern is global warming. This is, the larger problem is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
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Re: climate change

Postby Natural ChemE on December 3rd, 2015, 9:30 pm 

As a political comment, I'd note that I'm definitely a Right-leaning fellow. As someone who usually votes Republican, it disgusts me whenever a politician on the Right lacks the fortitude to face reality.

Climate change is real, and politicians who deny it are weak in mind and spirit. Real politicians have the strength of character - the basic moral fiber - to face the world for what it is, whatever may come. It's the American way.
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Re: climate change

Postby Paul Anthony on December 3rd, 2015, 9:55 pm 

So far, so good. Thanks, this is interesting.

I knew CO2 was a greenhouse gas, but wasn't aware of the acid issue. I've learned something important - because I like to eat fish, and because a lot of people rely on fish for protein, among other things. Honestly, I've dismissed the hoopla about greenhouse gases because, as anyone who has seen an actual greenhouse knows, it helps things grow. We need more trees and we also rely on plants for food.

We've still got the heat island thing to discuss, but let me add another matter that leaves me scratching my head. Everyone seems really concerned with the possibility of an increase in temperature of a few degrees. You may have noticed there is a difference of much more than a few degrees between winter and summer, not to mention nighttime and daytime. We've survived these temperature variations quite well, so what's the big deal? If a few degrees more could be fatal, why aren't the people in Phoenix dying? They're always a few degrees warmer than us lucky folks who live east of there.
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Re: climate change

Postby Braininvat on December 3rd, 2015, 10:03 pm 

I appreciate your transcending partisanship, NCE, and it's a pleasure to meet Repubs with intellectual integrity.

Great explanations of GHG and global warming. And don't forget methane, a more potent GHG than CO2, released from rice paddies, livestock, organic material exposed by melting permafrost, and coastal methane hydrates. Diesel soot is also a player, lowering the albedo of snowfields and increasing heat absorption. And glacial/snowpack recession helps the warming
by exposing earth that absorbs far more solar heat. With all these effects working together, the potential for rapid change increases.

Paul, a few degrees can speed up many changes including sea level rise. It only takes a few degrees to knock off a lot of Greenland ice cap and the Antarctic cap and deluge hundreds of millions of people. And the degree increase isn't evenly distributed, so we can have temperature differences that unleash massive tropical storms and such.
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Re: climate change

Postby wolfhnd on December 3rd, 2015, 10:25 pm 

Paul Anthony » Fri Dec 04, 2015 12:08 am wrote:
wolfhnd » Thu Dec 03, 2015 4:40 pm wrote: Anthropogenic global warming is real but the human contribution to the carbon cycle is still relatively small. Like with all science it is the accuracy and precision of the forecast that make it controversial not so much the basic physics. Anyone who things they can predict in detail how ecosystems will work based on a single change in input is I believe delusional.

I really think we just have to wait and see if the models are even remotely precise and accurate from a scientific point of view. My guess is they are not but some very bright people seem to think they are.


If the world powers were willing to "wait and see", I wouldn't be worried. My concern is that we may be attempting to correct the wrong cause. So far, it seems temperatures have not continued to rise as much as the models predicted. If the drastic increase in construction during the past 30 years has contributed more to warming than CO2 emissions has, it would explain the rapid rise in temperatures AND why the rise has slowed (as construction has slowed). If this is even half the cause, the proposed solutions will only be half as successful as projected, at best. Considering the cost of the solutions and the devastating effects they will have on the economy, further scientific study would seem prudent.

Has any serious investigation been made into other possible causes?


Keep in mind that the greenhouse value of co2 is not linear and as concentrations increase the relative effect decreases.

My guess is that wait and see is not practical for any politician but science doesn't work within their time constraints. If you were a betting man you would of course go with the scientific consensus but personally I suspect that the models have totally underestimated the negative forcing of clouds and the biological response. Physics and biology often make for strange bedfellows.
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Re: climate change

Postby Paul Anthony on December 3rd, 2015, 10:36 pm 

Braininvat » Thu Dec 03, 2015 7:03 pm wrote:
Paul, a few degrees can speed up many changes including sea level rise. It only takes a few degrees to knock off a lot of Greenland ice cap and the Antarctic cap and deluge hundreds of millions of people. And the degree increase isn't evenly distributed, so we can have temperature differences that unleash massive tropical storms and such.


Just to clarify...I am not denying climate change, or even that humans are at least partially responsible. I'm trying to (A) understand the magnitude, in order to justify (or not) the drastic measures being proposed to slow its progress; and, (B) ensure that the cause has been accurately determined.

Greenhouse gases have increased. Temperatures have risen. A correlation is evident. GHG's can cause an increase in temperatures, but is that the only factor in play? Because if it isn't, then all the measures being proposed will only rectify the situation to the same extent that GHG's are the cause.

I raised the issue of heat islands as one other possible explanation for increased surface temperatures. I have no idea to what extent that has contributed to warming. Has anyone studied this? There could be other factors as well. All I'm saying is, let's not attack the one cause we've identified with such draconian measures as have been proposed unless we are certain that it is the only cause.
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Re: climate change

Postby Paul Anthony on December 3rd, 2015, 10:45 pm 

wolfhnd » Thu Dec 03, 2015 7:25 pm wrote:
Keep in mind that the greenhouse value of co2 is not linear and as concentrations increase the relative effect decreases.



Are you certain of that? If true, that would be good news. But the models predict near-exponential increases, so either (A) you're wrong; (B) I'm misinterpreting what you've said; or, (C) the models are seriously flawed.
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Re: climate change

Postby Natural ChemE on December 3rd, 2015, 10:52 pm 

Paul Anthony,

Climate's a lot like the stock market: experts have tons of disagreements and it moves around wildly, sometimes even with major, long-term deviations from expected normal trends (like recessions, depressions, booms, bubbles, etc.). But at the end of the day, the basic theories are still widely known to be accurate, and we can reasonably estimate how major policies will affect things in the long term.

Right now we're trying to get it under control before it gets too bad, capping the average increase in temperature at around 2°C (3.6°F). If successful, we shouldn't see too many major changes; the oceans will rise, losing land; stuff'll get more acidic and perhaps we'll continue to see species die off; extreme weather events like hurricanes might get more common/powerful; but, overall, the world as we know it will probably still continue to exist. That's the goal.

It's harder to say what will happen if we fail to contain climate change. Overall ice'll keep melting, rain will increase, water will get more and more acidic, etc. Presumably we're not at risk of a mass extinction by baking alive, but that is one possibility; for example, melting glaciers may release huge methane bursts, rapidly warming us.

Taken to an absurd extreme, we can look at our neighboring planet, Venus. Venus's atmosphere is already heavily filled with greenhouse gases. It's basically a hell world - everything's made out of acid, it's hotter than any oven used to cook food (~872°F), and the atmospheric pressure is 93 bar - more than enough to instantly crush submarines.

Overall climate change, if controlled, probably won't be the worst thing ever. But if it's not controlled - say the currently on-going 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in France fails - then we could be facing more serious trouble.
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Re: climate change

Postby wolfhnd on December 4th, 2015, 12:18 am 

Paul just don't let anyone tell you this is simple physics because it is an ecological and chemical system complex beyond imagination. It would also be wise to take the proxy temperature estimates with a grain of salt. The recent use of ships engine intake temperatures to measure the ocean heat sink being a prime example. I'm afraid I'm beyond trusting anyone on this subject.
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Re: climate change

Postby Paul Anthony on December 4th, 2015, 12:45 am 

NCE,

I'm a bit disappointed. You were making sense for a while, but now you sound like the other climate alarmists.
Venus, really?

Earlier, someone mentioned ice melting in Greenland. Do you know why that frozen place is called "Greenland"? Because it wasn't always covered in ice. It used to be green, fertile land. Climate changes. Always has, always will. Instead of destroying our economic base in a futile effort to stop it, maybe we should spend more on adaption.

But just as New Orleans was rebuilt - still below sea level - we will stubbornly continue to live in the wrong places while ranting about the dangers of the fossil fuels that have made living as we do possible.
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Re: climate change

Postby Natural ChemE on December 4th, 2015, 12:50 am 

Natural ChemE » December 3rd, 2015, 9:52 pm wrote:Climate's a lot like the stock market: experts have tons of disagreements and it moves around wildly, sometimes even with major, long-term deviations from expected normal trends (like recessions, depressions, booms, bubbles, etc.). But at the end of the day, the basic theories are still widely known to be accurate, and we can reasonably estimate how major policies will affect things in the long term.

For comparison, here's the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 1896 to recent:
    Image.
Note that this is a semi-log plot which helps to hide variations (since variations distract from reading the overall trend). If plotted regularly, it'd look less clean.

And the temperature deviations from 1880 to recent from NASA:
    Image.
Note that the human contribution to global warming is largely a result of mass adoption of industrialization (think cars, coal-fired power plants, etc.), so global warming's effects aren't really meaningful before 1950-ish.(Note below) In fact they're still relatively weak even today - it's the fact that they're regularly consistently growing that we're concerned about.
    Note:
      See this figure (the lower half) for fossil fuel burning over time. Note that fossil fuel burning really steps up around 1950, and the resulting total flux (which is the net amount that goes into the atmosphere, considering all sources and sinks) does the same.

Anyway, my main point is that some folks have pointed out that temperatures haven't increased too much since 2000, which looks to be true on the above plot. However, despite the fact that the DOW looks like it's done pretty much the same thing, smart money's still on investing.

Weird deviations from basic trends happen when we're dealing with really complex systems like the stock market and climate. Experts can debate them - what economist doesn't have an opinion on why the market has its ups and downs? - but the fierce arguments between economists doesn't mitigate the fact that there's widespread agreement on a lot of the basics.
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Re: climate change

Postby Natural ChemE on December 4th, 2015, 1:11 am 

Paul Anthony » December 3rd, 2015, 11:45 pm wrote:I'm a bit disappointed. You were making sense for a while, but now you sound like the other climate alarmists.
Venus, really?

I'm disappointed too. I stated that Venus was "an absurd extreme", noting it to point out what a world covered in greenhouse gases looks like, after explaining that we're trying to cap global warming at a mere 2°C.

There's something dishonest in you when it comes to this subject. I want to understand what would make an otherwise reasonable person deliberately misread something so badly.
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Re: climate change

Postby Natural ChemE on December 4th, 2015, 2:12 am 

Braininvat,

Thank you! Honestly I feel that the perception that this is a partisan issue is one of the most toxic, self-destructive beliefs Americans hold.

At some basic level, our political debates should be about how we as a society operate. Republicans are typically more pro-market-forces and should probably support more free market control of climate, e.g. cap-and-trade, while Democrats might opt in favor of government-selected regulatory limits. Or, better yet, both sides will come to a commonly agreeable system.

But the basic description of Science should be outside the arena of politics. It's stupid that we're conflating the two. And both sides are playing into it:
  1. Some Republicans are part of the problem because they're denying the facts. I think that they're just cowardly. They know that some Democrats will probably do the I-told-you-so thing, and they're giving into that pressure rather than acting on their own initiative in the interest of their constituents as a true leader should.
    • Some Democrats are part of the problem because they're the ones doing the I-told-you-so thing, seeking personal political gain at the cost of actually moving toward a real solution. They know that they're warding off bipartisan support and thus actually contributing to climate change denialism, but despite its harmful effects, their political posturing helps them.
    Thankfully some people are better than this. President Obama's definitely been a good leader in his collaborative temperament. He's not trying to score political points by reinforcing partisanship, but rather he's focusing on fixing the actual problem.

    I suppose that it's up to us as voters to start holding our politicians responsible. On the Republican side of things, people want strong, decisive leaders - however the climate change deniers are pathetically weak in character. They may fear public reprisal for apparently admitting to having been wrong in the past, but if anything, any Republican politician who steps forward to support climate change legislation should be hailed for their strength and leadership.

    I just hope that we have some strong Republicans. I'd really be disappointed if I threw my political lot in with a bunch of wusses.
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    Re: climate change

    Postby Gregorygregg1 on December 4th, 2015, 3:44 am 

    Natural ChemE » December 3rd, 2015, 6:11 pm wrote:Many scientists are worried about the impact that increasing ocean acidity will have on marine life, potentially wiping our a major food supply (fish) humans rely on. Losing a major food supply like fish is a bad thing because Earth's population keeps going up; historically we know that things start getting violent when people start getting hungry. Also, most people dislike starving.


    ChemE, An observation: it appears you are failing to see loss of biodiversity as at least as important as loosing a food source. It is not only people we need be concerned about, but the rest of Life on the planet as well. We are only a small part of a much larger picture.
    We become too narrowly focused and loose sight of the larger picture. Humans cannot dismiss other species as unimportant because we do not directly benefit from their existence. Without the web of Life, humans can't continue to exist.
    As for humans, coastal populations are already experiencing more flooding during more intense storms. We are currently seeing much aerable land lost to prolonged drought and crops lost to violent weather. With large populations feeling the pinch of hunger, there will be mass migrations to areas where food is more abundant. Climate change will likely lead to a more violent world. There are many more unpleasant consequences of global warming than loss of your favorite seafood. We can't wait until things get worse to begin addressing climate change in an aggressive manner. This means it must be a political matter. I suggest it will require an epiphany for a lot of people.
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    Re: climate change

    Postby Gregorygregg1 on December 4th, 2015, 4:12 am 



    I know we have different perspectives on politics, but perhaps I can tell you where I'm coming from. I am not a climate scientist. I am a Biologist, but there are good sources of information on the subject of climate change. Try NASA or NOAA or The Union of Concerned Scientists.

    Paul Anthony » December 3rd, 2015, 5:50 pm wrote:As a layman, I struggle to understand the basis for the belief in climate change as a man-made catastrophe in the making. I've perused the discussions here, but the following are questions that still trouble me.

    I am told the planet is warming. Satellite data does not confirm this, but ground-based temperature sampling does. I wonder why both sources don’t agree. If the temperature at the surface is rising as a result of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, shouldn’t the temperature in the atmosphere rise?


    The heat in the atmosphere is rising. The rise is buffered by the expansion of the troposphere. The troposphere does not absorb much heat from the sun. Instead it is heated from contact with the earth which absorbs a lot of energy from the sun. The troposphere is also the part of the atmosphere where mixing occurs. Hot, Less dense air going up; cold, more dense air going down. This mixing keeps the temperature of the troposphere relatively stable. This is why global warming is not strongly reflected in atmospheric temperature measurements which are usually averages. Greenhouse gasses don't permit the Earth to radiate heat back into space. Instead the heat is absorbed by the greenhouse gas molecules and radiated back to the Earth speeding up the circulation in the troposphere to disperse the energy. Instead of warming up, the troposphere is expanding and becoming more turbulent. This means more violent storms drouth and flooding. Melting of the land ice makes populations along coastlines vulnerable because a few inches of ocean depth translates into a lot of wind and tide driven water. Loss of ice cover from large areas of land and water results in an enormous increase in heat absorption since land does not reflect solar radiation nearly as well as ice.

    Paul Anthony » December 3rd, 2015, 5:50 pm wrote:I live in Gilbert, Arizona, a “bedroom community” with a population in excess of 220,000 people. It is larger than most “large” cities, but pales in comparison to its neighbor, Phoenix, which is a mere 20 miles away. Both are at the same elevation, but on any given day there is a 3 to 4 degree difference in temperature, both day and night. This difference is explained by land use. Gilbert has little industry and more lawns, less pavement. The higher temperatures in Phoenix are the result of something referred to as a “heat island effect”. Even though I am not a scientist, I can understand this.

    Average temperatures in Gilbert are much higher than they were 30 years ago. Is this evidence of “climate change”? Not likely, since the average temperatures in Phoenix have risen considerably less. A better explanation might be that 30 years ago Gilbert was primarily an agricultural community with a much smaller population. The rapid growth occurred during the housing boom. This growth was not limited to Gilbert, nor was it exclusive to the US. During this same time period, China converted millions of agricultural acres into cities. This growth has been historically unprecedented - and not likely to continue at the same pace.

    The increases in “heat islands” should result in higher surface temperatures. This increase in surface temperature dissipates, leaving little change in atmospheric temperatures, which may explain why satellite data differs from ground-based data. The cause is undoubtedly man-made, but not because of carbon dioxide.


    Given the rate of population growth, what leads you to believe the phenomenon will slow?
    The heat trapping properties of carbon dioxide and methane have been known since the 1800's.
    Carbon dioxide is just one of the heat trapping gasses for which human activity is responsible along with methane, nitrous oxide and water vapor. The level of carbon dioxide has risen steadily since the beginning of the industrial revolution. According to NASA it is currently at the highest level in the last 600 million years.

    Paul Anthony » December 3rd, 2015, 5:50 pm wrote:This leads me to wonder if the computer models so often touted are based on erroneous assumptions. Yes, there has been an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, but could it be that it isn't the primary reason for increased surface temperatures? We’ve all heard the expression “Garbage in, garbage out”.

    Another thing that confuses me is the concept of carbon dioxide as a pollutant. What comes out of automobile tailpipes is carbon monoxide. Carbon dioxide is something we all exhale. Plants absorb it and produce oxygen, which we need to inhale in order to live. How did carbon dioxide get labeled as a bad thing? Because it's harmful to sea creatures? Okay, but it's still very beneficial to land-based creatures like us.


    Carbon monoxide is the result of incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. Most of what comes out of a car exhaust is carbon dioxide and water vapor. Carbon dioxide is indeed harmful to sea creatures. Carbon dioxide dissolved in sea water acidifies the surface waters.
    H2O + CO2 = H2CO3 carbonic acid. If it were not for the oceans acidifying, there would be far more CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Paul Anthony » December 3rd, 2015, 5:50 pm wrote:My assumptions may be wrong, but I hope they don’t appear to be illogical. Can someone who actually understands the science behind climate change claims please explain it to me in layman’s terms? If you are inclined to dismiss this because “the science is settled”, don’t bother. No legitimate scientist would ever say science is “settled”. :)


    You are correct, the science is not settled, any more than the science behind genetic engineering or jet propulsion is settled. 95% of peer reviewed climate journal articles on the subject of climate change agree. Statistically, this is the upper end of agreement on anything. It doesn't get any better than that in science.
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    Re: climate change

    Postby Natural ChemE on December 4th, 2015, 5:03 am 

    Gregorygregg1,

    Honestly I'm not too concerned about moderate, controlled global warming like that the world leaders are currently meeting to establish. To put it into perspective:
    Image.

    For a timeline:
    Image.

    The current trend should result in warmer climates, greater rainfall, and higher CO2 levels - all of which would seem to be very good for plant life, e.g. as in the polar forests back in the Cretaceous period (though obviously not to that extreme).

    I get that sea levels would go way up and sink lots of places. Apparently the highest sea level change under extreme global warming would be about 400 meters, or 0.4 km:
      Image
    Apparently that'd sink about 45% of Earth's land,
      Image,
    while opening up a lot of places currently too cold for most life. Plus the shallow-sunken land areas could form really neat aquatic environments like reefs.

    Basically I'm not seeing global warming as an existential threat even if it does go big in the long-term. Our technology's just progressing so freakin' fast. I'd just like to see sensible controls established in the short-term such that we don't suffer shock effects. For example, while I suspect that we can grow food quite well on a warmer Earth, a rapid climate shift could result in famines and such in the near-term.

    Also, I am concerned that we'll inadvertently trigger a major extinction event since we're still not sure exactly what causes them, noting that global warming may've been a cause.
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    Re: climate change

    Postby doogles on December 4th, 2015, 6:36 am 

    Paul Anthony » Thu Dec 03, 2015 3:47 pm wrote:I am not a scientist.

    As a layman, I struggle to understand the basis for the belief in climate change as a man-made catastrophe in the making. I've perused the discussions here, but the following are questions that still trouble me.

    I am told the planet is warming. Satellite data does not confirm this, but ground-based temperature sampling does. I wonder why both sources don’t agree. If the temperature at the surface is rising as a result of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, shouldn’t the temperature in the atmosphere rise?

    I live in Gilbert, Arizona, a “bedroom community” with a population in excess of 220,000 people. It is larger than most “large” cities, but pales in comparison to its neighbor, Phoenix, which is a mere 20 miles away. Both are at the same elevation, but on any given day there is a 3 to 4 degree difference in temperature, both day and night. This difference is explained by land use. Gilbert has little industry and more lawns, less pavement. The higher temperatures in Phoenix are the result of something referred to as a “heat island effect”. Even though I am not a scientist, I can understand this.

    Average temperatures in Gilbert are much higher than they were 30 years ago. Is this evidence of “climate change”? Not likely, since the average temperatures in Phoenix have risen considerably less. A better explanation might be that 30 years ago Gilbert was primarily an agricultural community with a much smaller population. The rapid growth occurred during the housing boom. This growth was not limited to Gilbert, nor was it exclusive to the US. During this same time period, China converted millions of agricultural acres into cities. This growth has been historically unprecedented - and not likely to continue at the same pace.

    The increases in “heat islands” should result in higher surface temperatures. This increase in surface temperature dissipates, leaving little change in atmospheric temperatures, which may explain why satellite data differs from ground-based data. The cause is undoubtedly man-made, but not because of carbon dioxide.

    This leads me to wonder if the computer models so often touted are based on erroneous assumptions. Yes, there has been an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, but could it be that it isn't the primary reason for increased surface temperatures? We’ve all heard the expression “Garbage in, garbage out”.

    Another thing that confuses me is the concept of carbon dioxide as a pollutant. What comes out of automobile tailpipes is carbon monoxide. Carbon dioxide is something we all exhale. Plants absorb it and produce oxygen, which we need to inhale in order to live. How did carbon dioxide get labeled as a bad thing? Because it's harmful to sea creatures? Okay, but it's still very beneficial to land-based creatures like us.

    My assumptions may be wrong, but I hope they don’t appear to be illogical. Can someone who actually understands the science behind climate change claims please explain it to me in layman’s terms? If you are inclined to dismiss this because “the science is settled”, don’t bother. No legitimate scientist would ever say science is “settled”. :)


    Good day to you Paul Anthony. I saw your OP just before I went to work this morning when I began to type this. Just as I am about to post it now, I see that there has been a vigorous number of contributions since them, but a quick reading suggests that most of the contributors have followed the usual precepts.

    Apologies if this statement has misrepresented anybody.

    I’m not a climatologist, but I regard myself as an eclectic scientist. I’ve taken an interest in this topic for some years now. Like you, I’ve not felt comfortable with the stories I’ve been fed. In such cases I attempt to trace belief systems back to their origins.

    I’m just pleased that we now have such a thing as the World Wide Web and that we can now check on these things ourselves. The following is what I have been able to ascertain.

    As you say, the ‘heat island’ effect is now widely recognised; the notion was apparently formed in the mid-nineteenth century after Fahrenheit developed the mercury thermometer. Early measurements suggested that the city of London was 3 degrees F warmer than the surrounding countryside.

    Since those days, thermometers have been set up all over the world to monitor ‘near surface’ temperatures and a standard wooden structure called a Stevenson Screen has been used to house those thermometers, their subsequent replacement temperature-sensor devices, and other meteorological recording devices. These ‘Screens’ are standardised worldwide with legs 1200 millimetres off the ground. So we talk about ‘near-surface’ recordings.

    I personally blame an atmospheric scientist named James Hansen for the poor science associated with our understanding of this modern ‘climate change’. As a young postgraduate, he gained an exceptional reputation by correctly predicting the degree and time period that the local atmospheric temperatures would change after the eruption of a volcano called Mt Agung. He added to this reputation by predicting that some of the clouds over Venus could theoretically be composed of sulphuric acid droplets; a subsequent satellite probe confirmed this to some extent. They appointed him as Head of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

    With this formidable reputation, he subsequently collected the temperature data from as many weather stations as possible distributed 1000 km apart over the globe (He did apply a number of theoretical checks and balances in his methods). But when he analysed the data circa 1978, he published his findings that there was ‘global warming’, a very unscientific and emotion-filled choice of terminology. As you know, the term has stuck. It would have been better to have concluded that ‘the temperature sensors at near-surface level have shown slightly significant average increases over the last 100 years’.

    Without doing any basic experiments himself to support the statement at the time, he added to this poor science by expressing the opinion that these increases were due to increases in greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As you are aware, once again his notion has stuck. Experiments during the 19th century had shown that carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane all absorbed infrared energy, but as far as I can find, nobody since then has shown that these (then called) ‘greenhouse’ gasses actually hold the heat.

    James Hansen urged that the United Nations set up an international panel to monitor and advise on this ‘global warming’ and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established. This body seems to have done everything since then with the aid of thousands of scientists to perpetuate the belief that ‘global warming’ is a reality and that the increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide are the main culprit.

    Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations by the way are still increasing annually world-wide at an almost linear rate and it distributes fairly evenly all over the planet to the point where the concentrations are almost the same all over the planet. Contrary to your understanding, it is a significant part of car exhaust fumes. As one example, this site https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exhaust_gas gives some figures for passenger cars in the USA in April 2000, extrapolated to annual gross weight emissions – Hydrocarbons 77 Pounds, Carbon Monoxide 575 Pounds, Nitrogen Oxide Compounds 38 Pounds and Carbon Dioxide 11,450 Pounds. So you can conclude that carbon dioxide emissions represent a high proportion from car emissions.

    I’ve no doubt that long term analyses would show that the average near-surface increases in temperature recordings would show a correlation with the increases in car exhaust emissions of carbon dioxide. But that does not necessarily mean that it is the problem to be addressed.

    I’m also pleased that Tony Abbott here in Australia decided to retract the legislation to impose a carbon tax. I believe it’s a ‘La-la land’ measure based on nil evidence and would be harmful to our economy.

    In fact, at a partial global level, some countries have already been parties to a failed pilot experiment on attempts to reduce carbon emissions - in the form of the Marrakesh Accord 2005. This failure has not yet been recognised publicly by anybody, but you can check for yourself if you look up Marrakesh Accord and then look up Average Annual Carbon Dioxide Concentrations separately as keywords (Use either Mauna Loa or Cape Grim figures for the latter). This Accord was signed by 37 States (or Nations) plus the EEC in an Accord to reduce carbon emissions by 5% in the period from 2009 to 2012.

    You will see that the progressive annual increase in carbon dioxide concentrations continued unabated. I regard this personally as a failed experiment. (Hopefully no-one will start making excuses to the effect that the countries concerned could have encountered a variety of circumstances that prohibited them from meeting their commitments or that a couple of other non-signatory countries produced more emissions than the others could compensate for). It failed. And that’s that! I would have expected a fractional reduction, but my calculations suggested that the 2012 concentrations exceeded those that would be expected without a ‘pilot experiment’.

    And I believe that any attempts to control climate by controlling the greenhouse emissions from machinery and manufacturing will also fail.

    I would like to upload a correlation graph of World Population increases correlated against Cape Grim Annual Average carbon dioxide concentrations, but I have to admit that I’ve found the method of uploading JPEGS on this site very unfriendly. There seems to be no way of checking that the upload is in place before submission.
    I have a graph that shows the correlation between Annual World Population increases (World Bank) and Average Annual Carbon Dioxide Concentrations with a correlation coefficient equivalent to that of inches to feet. Because of this (I’m open to anyone stating that I’m wrong), but I believe that if the ‘modellers’ of climate change substituted ‘WORLD POPULATION’ instead of ‘ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXIDE CONCENTRATIONS’ in their modelling, they would come up with exactly the same forecasts they are publishing now.

    I’ve spent maybe 10 years researching for myself, every aspect of this ‘Climate Change’ and I’ve concluded that there is a slightly significant increase in the average annual near-surface recorded temperatures from the world wide Stevenson Screens, but the real figure is not as high as the IPCC is accepting if we take into account the wide variations that have occurred due to micro-ecological changes in the recording sites, and the relocations of Screens to high energy areas such as airports.

    I could be wrong, but I BELIEVE THAT POPULATION INCREASE PER SE IS THE FACTOR WE SHOULD BE ADDRESSING.

    Stop and consider for a moment whether the increased metabolic energy of animals per se could be having a direct effect. Double the population means double the energy produced from each of our bodies, from each of the extra pets we acquire, from each of the extra food animals we need to farm to keep us alive, from each of the extra houses we build along with their extra heating and air conditioning, cooking and lighting and house machinery (lawn mowers, generators), with all of the extra cars we drive, from all of the extra manufacturing of our food and white goods industries required to produce our consumer goods, and freight, plus anything else I’ve omitted.

    Almost all of the activities above produce more carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. These are highly correlated by-products of population growth and have to my mind been erroneously confused as being the cause of our minor significant increases in near surface air temperatures.

    There are a number of other reasons why we should be addressing population growth, but that’s a matter for another time. It will take a much bigger effort to slow down population growth rates and although China was game enough to implement such a measure, I have doubts that any other government has what it takes to do such a thing.

    Paul Anthony, I hope I’ve covered the matters you’ve addressed in your OP. I haven’t mentioned satellite temperature figures, but I’m fairly sure that they have recorded slightly significant average temperature increases.
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    Re: climate change

    Postby Paul Anthony on December 4th, 2015, 1:35 pm 

    Gregorygregg1 » Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:12 am wrote:
    Given the rate of population growth, what leads you to believe the phenomenon will slow?


    Thanks for your response. Although you have dismissed the heat island question, you are the only poster to even address it!

    The building boom wasn't driven by population growth. It was the result of political action. It proved to be economically unsustainable, which is why it has slowed. There has been a corresponding slowing of temperature increase at the same time. I am well aware that correlation does not prove causation, but I also don't believe in coincidence.

    As to the correlation/causation conundrum, the same could be said about CO2 and warming trends. The Earth, in its long history, has been much hotter than this - and much colder. Humans didn't cause all of those shifts.

    But if humans are capable of altering the climate to such a great degree, consider this: Not terribly long ago (in my lifetime) scientists were predicting another ice age. Maybe human activity prevented that. How well would we survive an ice age? What would we be capable of doing to prevent one?
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    Re: climate change

    Postby Braininvat on December 4th, 2015, 2:06 pm 

    Living in South Dakota, I will confess that my emotional engagement with the issues of GW-as-threat has sometimes been rather reluctant. But gradually I've learned that what might be freaking wonderful in SD isn't so great elsewhere. (and will we welcome termites here? presently, western SD real estate does not have termites, and house inspections do not check for them, so the shrinky-**** weather does have its pluses) I, too, have wondered if we may potentially thwart an Ice Age and if this unintended planetary engineering would be something that we could someday get a better handle on. But until we do, I think NCE's data is persuasive that there will be some pretty unpleasant effects at certain locations, effects that will march in much faster and more destructively than the millimeter-a-day creep of a glacier. Residents of New Orleans or the Maldives might concur.

    As both NCE and I have pointed out, CO2 is not the only player in the game. (I don't think UHI, Urban Heat Island, is a major player, and haven't seen any evidence that its miseries go beyond the local type - but would be interested in any contrary evidence of course) Whatever the results, do we really want long-established glaciers receding, liberating big bursts of methane, and just watch with a "let's see what happens now" attitude?

    As for population, not all effects of population are global warmers. For example, grassland loses heat more rapidly than forests, so conversion of S. American rainforests into grasslands by the growing populations down there could conceivably contribute to a cooling effect. I don't think that will be a major player, overall, but you never know. More likely, the vast amounts of carbon stored in rainforests will be released into the atmosphere and again, add to the warming trend.

    And Doogles makes the point that it's not just what we do, but how many of us do it. And that will become key as China and India continue to develop and its billions of citizens want something more akin to the American Dream, with more meat in their ovens and more cars in their garages and more electricity-sucking gizmos in their houses.
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    Re: climate change

    Postby Paul Anthony on December 4th, 2015, 2:23 pm 

    Natural ChemE » Thu Dec 03, 2015 10:11 pm wrote:
    There's something dishonest in you when it comes to this subject. I want to understand what would make an otherwise reasonable person deliberately misread something so badly.


    I apologize. I realize you were giving an extreme example, and I understand you didn't mean it as a prediction. But some have been predisposed to make extreme claims. Some would have us believe the situation is that dire. And I'm tired of the scaremongering tactics of those who confront any who dare to question it as "deniers".

    I am concerned that we are charging forward with plans that will destroy civilization nearly as badly as would the threat those plans are intended to thwart. I question whether that effort will be effective, or just futile - while costing us our lifestyles and our economy. I'm cautious. (That's how I've managed to live this long).
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    Re: climate change

    Postby Gregorygregg1 on December 5th, 2015, 1:12 am 

    Paul Anthony » December 4th, 2015, 11:23 am wrote:
    I am concerned that we are charging forward with plans that will destroy civilization nearly as badly as would the threat those plans are intended to thwart. I question whether that effort will be effective, or just futile - while costing us our lifestyles and our economy. I'm cautious. (That's how I've managed to live this long).


    Being cautious is exactly why you should be supporting aggressive policies to transform our planet from one relying on nonrenewable fossil fuel energy sources, often imported from unfriendly nations, to cheaper, renewable, solar, wind and geothermal sources. Wouldn't it be a good investment in the future of our children and grandchildren to make those changes now for national security reasons if nothing else? Given that there is evidence that there is a probability that the Earth is warming, for whatever reason, and there is always the off chance that 95% of climate scientists might be right about greenhouse gasses and the catastrophic effects of an increase of a few degrees globally on drought, flooding and violent weather events, why not wean ourselves off coal and oil? What have we got to loose if we replace them with cheap renewable energy sources?
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    Re: climate change

    Postby Paul Anthony on December 5th, 2015, 2:11 am 

    It sounds great when you say it that way. Lies usually do sound good.

    The alternative sources of energy you speak of are not "cheap", nor are they anywhere near sufficient for our current consumption. But I shouldn't accuse you of lying. Maybe you just don't know any better.

    The US has more than enough fossil fuel reserves to allow us to be energy self-sufficient, especially when combined with nuclear energy and the little bit that can be practically provided by geothermal, solar and wind.

    But don't expect to replace fossil fuels unless you think we will all return to the 18th century willingly.
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    Re: climate change

    Postby wolfhnd on December 5th, 2015, 8:26 am 

    "Reports Of The Death Of The Global Warming Pause Are Greatly Exaggerated"


    http://www.thegwpf.com/reports-of-the-e ... W8waH.dpuf


    I don't know if it is true or not but it does seem that recent papers on the pause in Global Warming do seem to have been rushed to come out before the Paris Climate Change Conference. The use of engine intake temperatures is especially disturbing as surface temperature can change rapidly.
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