Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 27, 2015

What if Professor Harold Hill came to Montana ?

While recently living near Kalispell, Montana, I was a participant in the local arguments concerning the subject of climate change that appeared in the local newspaper called the Daily Inter Lake.  During that period, another frequent contributor was a recent transplant from California named Dr. Ed Berry who I came to regard as a classic Denier of man’s effect on climate.  While he did not know even the basic elements of climate science, it appeared to me that he was able to convince many locals including the newspaper’s Editor that he was an experienced and accomplished expert on the subject. After numerous op ed give and takes with Dr. Berry, I came to believe that there was no point in continuing them any longer in that specific newspaper and instead sent a version of the following letter to its Editor, Frank Miele.  Since I have been informed by Mr. Miele that he will not be running my letter in his newspaper, I thought that I would at least share it with the readers of my blog.  The remainder of this post shows that letter slightly modified for this format.  

Do credentials matter at the Daily Inter Lake?

Whenever I manage to get a Letter published at the Daily Inter Lake concerning the problem of global warming,  I can expect to see it promptly followed by another from the Dr. Ed Berry of Bigfork in which he does his best to negate the effects of mine. Therefore, I was not surprised to see such a letter recently (on March 22) run again right after mine (on March 17).  All of this is fair, of course, if one accepts the notion that any person’s view on a given subject merits as much exposure as another. So now I suppose I could take the option of pointing out in scientific detail in yet another letter, why Dr. Berry’s comments are scientifically out-of-bounds and downright silly.  In that process, however,  I suspect that the general public might not know the science well enough to clearly see which one of us is full of it and might simply come away with the impression that the science of man-caused global warming is, indeed, still not settled.  This, of course, is the goal of the deniers of man-caused global warming and I decided not to play that game in this instance.

Then upon watching the 1962 classic “The Music Man” with my grandchildren last weekend, a more appropriate response occurred to me.  In that movie, Professor Harold Hill is shown doing his thing – selling musical instruments along with uniforms and promised instructions for River City’s new “boy’s band”.  Professor Hill  is, indeed, a thoroughly likeable and superb salesman – even though he also a total fraud who knows next to nothing about how to play musical instruments.  Nevertheless, his message is in resonance with the dreams of the good folks of River City and they fall for it. The locals made one obvious mistake, however. They certainly should have checked out Dr. Hill’s credentials.

The Professor claimed that he was a graduate of the distinguished Gold Medal Class of ’05 of the Gary Conservatory, Gary Indiana. Turns out, the town of Gary, Indiana, did not even exist until 1906, but only Marian, the librarian, figured that out and by then, she had fallen in love with the Professor.

So what does this have to do with Dr. Edward X. Berry’s presence in Kalispell, MT?  The movie suggests that instead of just taking a newcomer’s word that he is an accomplished climate change physicist, why not check out his credentials. Is this person really what he claims to be or is he just trying to sell “good news” concerning a grave threat to mankind.  For that purpose, I have looked for a professional resume of Dr. Berry’s that would list his contributions to the science of climate change and came up with zip. If one does professional level research in any area of science, the job is not done until all the paperwork is in and in inspecting the trail Dr. Berry claims to have been on, I have found no such paperwork – only what I perceive to be scientific nonsense – such as that displayed on his personal website at edberry.com.

Dr. Berry’s path through science can be seen in the Bio section of his website.  In it you will see that he attended two graduate programs in physics, one at Dartmouth and another at the U of Nevada, Reno in the early 1960’s. Both of these programs were in their infancies at that time with limited offerings and no established reputations. Coming from one of our country’s most prestigious universities, Cal Tech, where he suggests that he was taught by likes of two-time Noble Prize winner, Linus Pauling, one might have expected such a Cal Tech graduate to have been placed in one of the top, instead of the bottom, graduate programs of the  USA.  It would appear, therefore, that this Cal Tech graduate was not well regarded by the faculty of  Cal Tech – to be accepted into good graduate programs, an applicant needs to have received good grades and good recommendations.

It is also possible, of course, that a scientist could be a late bloomer and spring to life after his undergraduate and graduate studies. When that happens, however, the accomplishments of that person would still be evidenced by a string of peer-reviewed papers describing his work during that productive period.  Look again at Dr. Berry’s Bio referred to above.  There is no such record of professional activity and accomplishment even after the year 2001, when Dr. Berry states that he began to focus entirely on the specific issue of climate change. If I have missed something of relevance in Dr. Berry’s resume, I would be pleased to be informed of it by any interested party.

Enough said – perhaps you can see why the “The Music Man” reminds me of the considerable influence Dr. Edwin X. Berry has apparently had on the media of that relatively isolated region of Montana known as the Flathead.  Even Dr. Berry’s method of instruction reminds me of Professor Hill’s whose “think system” consisted of humming  Beethoven’s Minuet in G. By this method, the Professor said, “you don’t have to bother with the notes“.  And by that method, “you can talk, you can talk, you can talk, talk, talk – you can bicker, bicker, bicker, talk, talk, talk, – all without having to know the territory!”

So how will this story eventually end, I wonder. Will Dr. Berry’s limited background be appropriately exposed so that he retreats back to Sacramento where he would be forced to watch the sea level rise in his own front yard or, as in the movie, will he be saved by a respected local official who has fallen in love with him. While I don’t know of any librarians in the Flathead who are likely to play that role, I do know of a local newspaper Editor who might continue to try. It would be quite a setback to Editor Miele, I suspect, if he lost the spiritual leader of the local Denier’s Band.

Eric Grimsrud,  Liberty Lake, WA,  April 26, 2015.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 20, 2015

Will we be trying Solar Geoengineering soon?

We are  now aware of a relatively simple way to compensate for the warming effects of our increasing levels of greenhouse gases.  It is called “solar engineering” and is accomplished by blocking a portion of our incoming solar radiation.  A simple way to do this is to mimic very large volcanic eruptions that inject sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere.  Once there, SO2 molecules go on to form particulate matter and these particles increase the reflection of incoming solar radiation back into outer space.  Most of these sulfate particles will stay in the stratosphere for a year or two. Thus, a continuous flow of SO2 added to the stratosphere  via high altitude aircraft could established any level of light reflection and cooling desired.  And this scheme could be adopted with relatively little cost.

So will we be using this scheme any time soon? Since the answer to that question might soon  become affirmative, it is imperative that we carefully consider and be prepared for any potential problems that might accompany this scheme.  Most of the anticipated problems will fall into one of two types – one concerns the science involved and the other, the politics.

Concerning the science, the questions are of the “unintended consequences” nature.  For example, will these added sulfate particles have any effect on the ozone layer of the stratosphere?  We need a healthy ozone layer in order to screen out incoming ultraviolet radiation.  Also, what will be the effects of this scheme, if any, on local weather and precipitation patterns?  So far, scientific “experiments” have only been done via computer models but that research has been encouraging.  Another advantage of this scheme is that the sulfate particles could be removed by natural processes whenever we wish by discontinuing SO2 injection.  A great deal of additional research concerning this scheme is presently underway as we consider using it.

Even if the science continues to look satisfactory, however, a great deal of thought concerning the politics involved must also be considered.  Some of the anticipated problems will revolve around the question of “what is the right temperature for the Earth?”  One’s answer to this question is likely be depend very much on where you live.  High latitude countries of the  Northern Hemisphere are likely to prefer higher temperatures than those closer to the Equator.  Pakistan, for example, is in urgent need of lower temperatures and lower sea levels while Russia is not.  If we find that local weather patterns are affected by SO2 injection, then some countries might have to endure more sacrifice than others for the good of the entire planet.  Requests for international compensation in the form of financial assistance and/or population relocation would be sure to follow.

David Keith of Harvard University (formerly at the University of Alberta in Calgary) is a leading expert in the field of geoengineering whose work I have followed for many years. Through his interactions with all regions of the world, he is well aware of the political as well as scientific issues that will have to be faced if we pursue this scheme. Thus, I found his recent Washington Post opinion on this topic to be most informative.  You can see it at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/whats-the-right-temperature-for-the-earth/2015/01/29/b2dda53a-7c05-11e4-84d4-7c896b90abdc_story.html

Upon reading about this and other geoenginering schemes, one is initially inclined to say “no way!, we should not do untested experiments such as these on the only planet we have”.  On the other side of that argument, however, is the equally sobering thought, “what other choices do we have?”   Even if we halted all greenhouse gas emissions today, we still can expect to experience extensive warming and degradation of existing civilizations during the next several centuries.  In addition, CO2 emission rates continue to increase every year so that the background level of CO2 increases about 2 ppm per year.  By mid century, our atmosphere will contain well over 470 ppm CO2 if we continue on our present course.

Thus, we presently find ourselves between a rock and a hard place.  In retrospect, of course, we should have listened to James Hansen’s testimony to Congress way back in 1988  (see that testimony at http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/ClimateChangeHearing1988.pdf ).  We did not heed his warning, however, and have still not heeded it 27 years later – as CO2 emission rates continue to rise.  Oh what a web we weave in our mindless pursuit of  short-term wealth.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | April 13, 2015

Deniers are now denying their denial

Organizations representing the Business-as-Usual / Fossil Fuels interests of America have begun to change their stance on the issue of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) – by acknowledging the prevailing view of climate scientists that mankind is causing global warming. Therefore, they are now distancing themselves from the pseudo-scientific “experts” they used to point to for “proof” that the science behind AGW was not yet settled. These organizations include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute, both of which have previously funneled a lion’s share of funding to denial efforts.  For additional details concerning these apparent changes of attitude, see Dana Milbank’s recent Wa, fshington Post op ed at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/climate-change-deniers-are-in-retreat/2015/04/06/942eb980-dc9f-11e4-be40-566e2653afe5_story.html?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

An obvious question then arises – why would these Business-as-Usual fossil fuel interests do this? Have they suddenly become scientifically smarter? Have they suddenly grown a conscience with respect to the future welfare of humanity?  Are they really now willing to admit that fossil fuels should be left in the ground?  Pardon my skepticism, but I doubt very much that any of these altruistic thoughts are driving their altered views.  A far more likely reason is that these organizations now realize that the American public has become too aware of and concerned about the relentless advance of AGW as to believe the scientific non-sense the Deniers have been putting out.  Therefore, the former Deniers know that the challenge before them is to find different arguments that might play better in the public domain while allowing their friends in the fossil fuel industries to continue and even expand their operations for as long as possible.  Thus, I fully expect that the Deniers will be morphing into another species that might more accurately be labeled the “Deceivers”.

So what will the altered arguments of these Deceivers be?  In essence, they will likely argue that continued use of fossil fuels is necessary because, they will claim, alternative sources of energy cannot replace them any time soon.  While that argument does not insult the intelligence of the public quite so much as their previous denial of the problem, it does nothing to solve man-caused global warming and, fortunately, it is also not correct.  Replacements for fossil fuels are available and can be implemented within a decade or two.  The only hurdle we have to getting that done is that age-old one that accompanies all major changes –  some powerful people’s oxen will invariably be gored when major changes are made. But then, that is how free markets are supposed to work, is it not?  For example, the owners of livery stables of America were undoubtedly not pleased when Henry Ford began to turn out affordable cars in the first decade of the 20th Century. But any arguments those blacksmiths put forth at that time were not even remembered in subsequent decades as millions began to benefit from the booming auto industries of the USA.

Another argument the Deceivers are likely to make will concern the scientific term climate “Sensitivity” – which quantitatively indicates how much temperatures will increases with a given increase in greenhouse gases.  The Deceivers will argue that the magnitude of that term is so small that global warming won’t be so bad even as we proceed with Business-as-Usual for a few more decades.  The big problem with this argument, however, is that it is also contrary to prevailing thought within our scientific communities – Sensitivity is not that low.  For this reason, we can expect the Deceivers to continue to carry on the Denier’s past programs for “science bashing” – in order to minimize the public’s trust in science.

So keep an eye out for these altered efforts to prevent forceful action on climate change – they will be coming to your neighborhood soon.  In addition, we will still have some of the classic Deniers around. Surely Senators Inhofe of Oklahoma and Cruz of Texas, for examples, will continue to sing the same old Denier’s tunes while an increasing number of even their fellow Republicans plug their ears in embarrassment.

The goal of the Deceivers will be more subtle than before.  That is, simply to delay action on climate change for as long as possible.  There is, indeed, a lot of “gold in them there hills” – just ask as the tobacco industries.  Unfortunately, the “cancer” associated with deferred action on climate change will attack our entire planet and will prove to be equally detrimental for all and not just the abusers of the substance in question.

Thus, our government has both the right and obligation to stop the growth of this cancer. That is clearly our only hope.  So please keep that point in mind, when you hear the Deceivers complain about “government interference” or “carbon taxes” in discussions of our future means of power production. Only after the playing field has been leveled by the inclusion of a stiff carbon tax can free markets be put to good use. We cannot continue to let our atmosphere be used as a garbage dump free of charge.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | March 11, 2015

GOP Traitors to Science and Country?

In several of my posts on this blog, I have been particularly critical of the GOP because of their Neanderthal take on the subject of climate change and science, in general. Their leadership in Washington DC seems to be proud of their denial of climate change (Senate Environmental Committee Chairman, James “it’s all a big hoax” Inhofe, for example) as well as their ignorance of the subject (Majority House Leader John “I am not a scientist” Boehner, for example).  Unfortunately, their party is now in control of both houses of congress and very well might be selling the future of mankind down the river. They appear to believe that the natural world will unfold in the manner they prefer rather than in the manner science predicts. Note, for example, that in the GOP-controlled state of Florida, it has been declared illegal to use the word, Climate Change, in any of that state’s literature – even though Florida is predicted by scientists to be the state most affected by future climate changes.

To hold such ideas, one must become essentially a “traitor” to the long-held and time-tested concept that science provides mankind with our best understanding of what Mother Nature is likely to do in response to the impacts of mankind. The notion that the GOP has become a traitor of this sort to the general welfare of mankind is additionally evidenced by their recent behavior with respect to other issues currently on the table in Washington DC.  That is, the GOP seems to be trying to set themselves up as a “separate state” with the USA.  This point was most cleverly related by Dana Milbank in his Washington Post column today.  It can be seen at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/republicans-set-up-their-own-breakaway-nation/2015/03/10/1618f6d4-c749-11e4-b2a1-bed1aaea2816_story.html?wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1

The column referred to above is priceless – please have a look and return. While the GOP has not yet suggested abdication from the United States of America, their behavior does bring up memories of our pre Civil War era when the slave states used that threat in order to affect all US policies. After the slave states did abdicate in 1860, they then tried to set up their own independent relations with other countries of the world.  Unfortunately for those defectors, President Lincoln did not  even recognize the so called “Confederacy” to be more than a traitorous faction within the United States of America and dealt with them accordingly. Hopefully, president Obama will have the good sense to follow Lincoln’s example in dealing with this emerging “separate state” for whom Milbank has coined the term “Republicania”.

Hopefully, the GOP of today will also follow the advice of their founding father and will endeavor to solve our national problems and international relations via our existing institutions of government and the individuals who have been elected to serve within them.  Included in those institutions is the Executive Branch, of course, but also our National Academy of Science commissioned by President Lincoln in 1863 to provide advice on issues of national importance. The recommendations of the NAS have been clear on the subject of climate change – as our sitting President knows. The fact that our GOP of today ignores them is shameful and a disgrace to our nation’s reputation.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | March 9, 2015

The missing CO2/warming link discovered!

As most of us know, the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere is now extraordinarily high as shown in the following figure.

Measurements of this sort are commonly referred  to as the “Keeling Curve” in honor of the man who initiated these background measurements back in 1958.  Additional perspective on the significance of these results is provided by the next figure – where the Keeling Curve is shown again (dark data points) along with CO2 concentrations dating back to the preindustrial year of 1700 (these data come from the ice core record).

Yes, our atmospheric CO2 levels have increased from 280 to just over 400 ppm (about 40%) over the Industrial Age.  This excess CO2 has been shown to come largely from mankind’s combustion of fossil fuels. In addition, the complete ice core record shows that our atmospheric CO2 levels had never been above 290 ppm over the last 800,000 years – until the onset of the Industrial Age.

So yes, our present CO2 level is extraordinarily high and it currently continues to increase even further at a rate of about 2.2 ppm per year .

Therefore, the big question before us today is – do we know for sure that the extra CO2 we have shown above is causing a significant amount of warming and if so, how much? While we have had a pretty good idea, to date, of  how much heating will result from our increased CO2 levels, those estimates have come from lab-based experiments and theory along with observations of the recent and deep past. While that enormous body of evidence has been very convincing, it must also be admitted that up to last week science had not yet provided direct measurements of the ground level heating that was being caused specifically by excess levels of CO2. This is why an upcoming research publication in Nature by D. R. Feldman, W. D. Collins, P. J. Gero, M. S. Torn, E. J. Mlawer, and T. R. Shippert, entitled Observational determination of surface radiative forcing by CO2 from 2000 to 2010 is of landmark importance.  It provides the last hard scientific link that quantitatively connects our increasing levels of CO2 to the magnitude of global warming.

So what did these scientists do and what did they discover?  In essence, they very accurately measured the infrared radiation emitted by atmospheric CO2 molecules that is directed downwards back to the Earth’s surface. They did this at two locations, Lamont, Oklahoma, and Barrow, Alaska, continuously over the ten-year period between 2000 and  2010.

In doing so, they found that the extra CO2 accumulated between the years 2000 and 2010 resulted in an increase in this so called “backradiation” of CO2 at both of the measurement locations.  As indicted by the first figure shown above, the extra CO2 accumulated over this ten-year period is 22 ppm.  The magnitude of the additional CO2-induced heat observed over that period was found to be 0.20 watts per square meter. When applied to the entire surface area of the Earth, this amounts to about 0.10 billion watts of additional energy in the year 2010 relative to that of 2000 – due to the extra 22 ppm CO2.

A major point of this paper is that its result is in excellent agreement with the previous predictions of warming by CO2 that  have been based on laboratory experiments and theory – as have been repeatedly reported by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Therefore, our quantitative understanding of the relationship between atmospheric CO2 and surface temperatures can no longer to be called “just a theory” – even though the theory turns out to be correct.  It is also now linked from beginning to end by solid observational science.  Another important consequence of this paper is that it makes clear that the relation between CO2 and warming is that of “causation” and not just accidental “correlation”.  We now know from direct observations exactly how much additional heat is provided to the Earth’s surface with each increment of CO2 increase.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | February 17, 2015

Why neither Walker nor Santorum can become President

Scott Walker is the governor of Wisconsin and is widely viewed to be a leading contender for the GOP’s nomination  for President in 2016.  Rick Santorum is a former Senator from Pennsylvania who was the GOP’s second choice for their Presidential nomination in 2012 and is considering another go for 2016.  The likes of these guys have very little chance of becoming President, however, for one very simple reason.  That reason is that scientific leadership cannot be an optional characteristic for any of our future Presidents and Americans are savvy enough to detect this shortcoming in any candidate.  That is, on average, the general public is not as scientifically challenged as some of their Presidential candidates are.

By their own words, both Walker and Santorum have made their lack of knowledge, trust, and interest in important fields of science very clear.  Sure, we have a few scientific dunces and wingnuts in Congress and at the state levels of government, but in those positions, their influence can be balanced by many others who recognize that science provides our very best explanations of what Mother Nature has done in the past and is likely to do in the future.  Indeed, that function has historically provided the very definition of science and the majority of Americans know that.

My suggestion that Walker and Santorum have a few screws loose in the left side of their brains is clearly demonstrated by their views concerning the origins of life on this planet.  On that subject, most intelligent people today recognize the validity of our theories concerning natural evolution for very good and common-sense reasons.  By our observations of the nuclear clocks (that is, radioactive elements) and fossilized remains embedded in our Earth, we have accumulated an enormous and redundant amount of evidence showing how with the passage of time the fittest of species tended to survive better than others and that the features of these individuals were then carried on to subsequent generations –  within all living species including human beings. In the last decade, advances in DNA analysis have additionally ensured that evolutionary biology will remain the cornerstone of all of the life sciences.

Walker and Santorum do not like or accept those scientific conclusions, however, and, therefore, subscribe to alternate views of the type we used to call “creationism” but now commonly go by the name of “intelligent design”.  No matter what these alternate views are called, they all have the common characteristic of not being “testable” by the normal observational methods and, therefore, lie outside the domains of science. Their proponents simply choose to believe in these ideas for their own personal or philosophic reasons even though they have no connections to the physical realities of our existence.

Let me hasten to add that I have no problem with individuals who harbor these alternate notions of their origins.  I am old enough to have known a multitude of very fine and intelligent people who have held such views –  usually because they were exposed to little else during their lifetimes.  When it comes to picking a President who seeks to preside over the most powerful country in the world in 2016, however, standards and expectations for intellectual awareness and preparedness must be much higher. Claiming to be ignorant just because you have chosen to remain so might get you somewhere within the GOP party, but I am pleased to predict that this attitude will not cut it with the majority of Americans in future Presidential elections.

So why does a candidate’s view of  his origins or even of science, in general, matter, one might ask.  “Plenty” is the obvious answer.  For example, if the question on the table is whether or not we should address climate change, those who harbor some sort of intelligent design scheme will be on a totally different page than the scientists who providing needed insight.  If the news from science is not so good, for example, why not then simply hope for a better outcome orchestrated by the all-powerful “great designer”.

In addition, a candidate’s view of science will have a profound influence on his approach to education.  Specifically, with a President with Walker’s or Santorum’s persuasion, we might expect to see faith-based alternate views on subjects such as  evolution and climate change taught in the science classes of our public schools even though those views have no basis whatsoever in science. This, of course, would erode our youth’s confidence in real science at a time when the future of all countries depends so much on excellence in science and associated technologies.

So finally why, one could ask, might the GOP provide us with such backwards- thinking candidates.  The answer to that question was indicated in their nominating process of 2012.  Of the several contestants in that race only Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney admitted that they thought climate change was occurring and that this was due at least in part to the impacts of mankind.  Huntsman then finished dead last among that intellectually woeful set of candidates and Mitt Romney received a very low level of support from white evangelicals, a traditional mainstay of the GOP.  Thus, it appears that GOP candidates have to either be dumb or play dumb in order to get their party’s nomination.  I genuinely hope that the GOP improves in 2016 by showing more respect for its intellectually astute and honest candidates.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | February 4, 2015

A letter to the Daily Inter Lake

The Daily Inter Lake is the main newspaper of Kalispell, Montana. where I recently lived for several years. While there I noted that the DIL’s editor, Frank Miele, did as much as he could to undermine regional efforts to combat man-caused global warming.  Nevertheless, while I lived there Editor Meile published many of my letters to the editor in which I objected to various stances taken on his opinion page.  Since moving to the neighboring state of Washington, I have continued to read Montana newspapers including the DIL.  Now, however, my responses to what Editor Meile prints no longer seem to be welcomed in his newspaper.  Therefore, I will post my most recent one here.  The brief story it relates applies to many other newspapers, I suspect, of the distinctly conservative persuasion and, therefore, should be of general interest.

Hi Frank,

I noted Thomas Sowell’s column and the cartoon you picked to go with it in your Feb 3 issue of the Daily Inter Lake and must reprimand both of you for indulging in this scientific misrepresentation.  For the benefit of others, that column and cartoon can be seen at  http://eeditions.shoom.com/doc/daily-inter-lake/03feb15dil/2015020301/#4 .

In that column and cartoon, the question is asked “if we could not more accurately predict the magnitude of the recent storm in NYC, how can we predict the climate change we might experience 100 years from now?” Really, Frank, haven’t you learned the answer to that one yet?  While I suspect that you are just playing stupid for the financial welfare of the fossil fuel boys of Montana, here we go again – having to explain the obvious in order to ensure that the public sees through your deception.  

If you understood just a bit about “weather” versus “climate”, you would know that local weather is very much more difficult to predict than long-term  global average climate changes. Local weather prediction is done via the science of  meteorology  which requires complex models in order to include the multitude of variables involved.  Its object  is to predict how the existing heat of the Earth is spread via its atmosphere and oceans. Because of its great complexity, the weather expected even tomorrow at any given location is often in large error.

The science of global climate change, however, concerns changes in the total heat content of the Earth over time and this is largely determined by only three relatively well-understood variables. These are:  the solar flux at our position in our solar system, the albedo (refection of incoming sunlight) and the insulating effect of the greenhouse gases and clouds. Of these three variables, the last one listed has changed remarkably over the Industrial Age due primarily to large increases in carbon dioxide and methane in our atmosphere. By tying weather uncertainty to that of energy balance, I think you and Mr. Sowell are being intentionally devious –  I find it difficult to believe that you don’t know better.

Thus, I suspect that the intent of your cartoon and Mr. Sowell’s article was simply to spread “doubt” concerning our scientist’s ability to predict the detrimental effects of long-term global warming by your inappropriate use of the large uncertainties associated with weather predictions.  The “info” Sowell provided only concerned the recent storm in the NE and from that you naughty boys suggested that long-term predictions of global warming are suspect!  

Frank,  neither of us is so stupid as to not know what’s going on here, but one of us is sufficiently devious as to allow it to go forward.  How long must the issue of global warming be on the front pages of our newspapers before the Editors stop publishing and promoting the most worn-out and infantile  misrepresentations of  it?

Eric

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 25, 2015

Funny perhaps, if the last one wasn’t so tragic

2015 Toon 3

The age-old anti-science arguments such as those shown above have typically come from the well-established, well-healed portions of society – whether those influential folks found their voices in the churches, commercial organizations, or governments of their times. So why have the rich and powerful among us so often been the most scientifically backwards? Wouldn’t you expect them to have greater access to new ideas and intellectual developments than the rest of the population? This contradiction of expectations obviously has a lot to do with the fact that the rich and powerful generally made themselves rich and powerful via the financial systems in which they lived and learned to dominate. For these prosperous folks, great changes were often not welcomed because of the possibility that those changes might alter the business-as-usual games they had learned to play so well.

We have a clear example of this phenomenon today, of course. If the rich and powerful of the USA were to agree with essentially all of our professional scientific organizations that the combustion of fossil fuels poses a major threat to human civilization, that change of attitude would ensure that most of our remaining fossil fuels would be left in the ground, as they should be. This obvious and essential solution to our global warming problem is unlikely to happen any time soon, however, because of the enormous wealth our rich and powerful would thereby forfeit. “What’s this?”, they would say, “leave our black gold in the ground? – Never!”  For this financial reason alone, the rich and powerful will do anything required – including declaring all-out war on science – to become even more rich and more powerful by the continued extraction and use of our enormous reserves of fossil fuels. For this purpose, they will also become or pretend to become scientifically illiterate in order to allow a continuation of  their business-as-usual life-styles without having to explain themselves. “Gosh, I’m not a scientist – let the scientist argue about it” they say as they continue to ignore what those scientists have already told them – for the last 10 years.

As the cartoon above shows, this has happened throughout history whenever smart people (known as “elitists” by the dummies) learn new things about the world in which they lived and this will continue to happen for at least the next two years as that last fellow shown in the cartoon above holds forth to his GOP peanut gallery (that is Senator Inhofe, is it not?). Senator Inhofe is from the oil-rich state of Oklahoma, and provides scientifically childish books, op eds, and speeches on the subject of climate change for his scientifically brain-dead comrades within the GOP. He has thereby become the in-house scientific “expert” for the GOP and has recently been appointed Chairman of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee.

Therefore, because of the urgency of the climate change problem we must redouble our efforts to contest the great power of the rich, powerful, and scientifically illiterate during the next two years. We don’t have time to simply wait until these “fossilized brains” of the GOP die off.

Thanks go to Skeptical Science for their “Toon of the Week”.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 22, 2015

The Litmus Test for global warming

The most commonly used measure of global warming, to date, has been the average of temperatures measured over vast portions of the Earth’s land and ocean surfaces.  The main reason why this measure has been used so extensively is that it is relatively easy to obtain – we live on or regularly travel over those surfaces.  Thus, direct temperature measurements of this type go a long way back – to 1880 and beyond. The latest compilation of such measurements between 1880 and 2014 was shown and discussed in my previous post.

Nevertheless, surface temperatures measurements do not provide the very best and most direct indicator of global warming. This is because only about 3% of the total increased heat of our planet goes to those surfaces described above.

A much better measure of changes in the Earth’s heat content is provided by the changes in the heat content of our oceans – where more than 90% of the increased heat goes.  With that introduction to its importance, I will refer you to the figure shown below recently provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the USA.

Ocean heat content data to a depth of 2,000 meters, from NOAA.

This figure shows the total heat content of our oceans measured from the top down to a depth of 2000 meters relative to the arbitrarily chosen reference year of 1978 during the period from 1956 to 2014.

This graph clearly shows that the heat content of this large portion of the total oceans has increased greatly over the 60-year period of measurements and has continuously increased every year over the last 25 years. These data clearly put to rest the often heard but erroneous claim that we are presently experiencing a “hiatus” of warming.  The heat content of the Earth has been increasing continuously over the last couple decades and is sure to continue to follow the same trend in the coming years if we proceed with business-as-usual energy policies.  Only the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions can cause this trend to level out and then, many years later, begin to return to pre-industrial levels. All of this will take some time, of course – what is slow to heat up is also slow to cool off.  Since a major portion of our future heating is already in the pipeline due to our already elevated and long-lived level of CO2, it is imperative that we begin to aggressively cut CO2 emissions immediately. Given that fact, our current search for ever more sources of fossil fuels is nothing short of madness and abject stupidity.

Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 18, 2015

Gosh Senator Inhofe, 2014 was awfully hot!

I wonder what the Deniers of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) will say about the recently released average global temperature for last year. Turns out that 2014 had the highest average surface temperatures ever recorder by standard direct methods over the last 130 years. The figure below shows that data for both annual and decadal averages. For a more detailed explanation of data, see http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/01/16/3612351/noaa-nasa-2014-hottest-year-on-record/decadal-avgs.png (1080×797)

Since the Deniers I am now wondering about are never constrained by either facts or scientific knowledge, I am sure they will come up with something – such as a return to  ”but these temperature increases were not caused by either mankind or the 40% extra CO2 he has added to the atmosphere”. They will say it is due, instead, to natural forces, right? In which case these natural forces apparently laid dormant for several thousands of years and then decided to kick in coincidentally just as the Industrial Age began in about 1850. And never mind the fact that there have been no natural changes over the Industrial Age that could account for these temperature increases.

I could go on and on about why the Deniers of AGW are either complete idiots or scientific prostitutes – servicing the needs of the fossil fuel industries – but will not do that again here because we now have this new figure shown above that is worth thousands of words. Also note in this figure how silly is the oft-heard claim from Deniers that surface temperature have now stopped rising and that we are presently in a “hiatus” of temperature increase, right? Furthermore, the Deniers claim that there is no need to fear even greater temperatures as we go forward with our Business-as-Usual practices, right?
The reality and imminent threat of AGW is now so apparent that one wonders where the Deniers of it are now finding any refuge and isolation from the obvious. The answer to that question appears to be within the set of GOP Senators and Representatives now in Congress.. Last I heard, the subject of climate change was not even included as an area of concern in the GOP Platform. To be in good standing within that group, one is advised to be a staunch Denier. With these folks now in the majorities, our two congressional houses are the only governmental organizations in DC that thinks this topic should be ignored. Even our military branches hold the opposite view.

So for your amusement, if nothing else, stay tuned for the “explanation” of the figure shown above that is likely to be offered by Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma. Amazingly, he is both a first rate and proud Denier of AGW and now the Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee! Senator Inhofe appears to be a Denier for both of the reasons I cited above. That is, he is, perhaps understandably, a prostitute for the fossil fuel corporations of Oklahoma and the book he has written on the on the subject of climate change shows that he is a scientific retard. If he were alive today, I think Oklahoma’s favorite son, Will Rogers, would modify one his most famous quotes to “we have the dumbest Congress money can buy”.
So, if you happen to know or have access to one of our elected GOP Senators or Representatives, please show him or her the figure shown above. And if required, please also help that elected official understand the meaning of its contents. If what I just said appears to be a bit condescending to the GOP, so be it. The GOP must be literally forced, it appears, to recognize and acknowledge that science provides our best means of predicting what Mother Nature will do in response to the impacts of mankind – and then behave accordingly.

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