Saturday, April 10, 2010

The CO2 Debate

Here's a bit from Roy W. Spencer, a climate research scientist at the University of Alabama. The following post from Spencer's blog sets up the basis for the debate on CO2:
For instance, if a small energy imbalance leads to a large temperature change, that is called high sensitivity. This is how all climate models now behave, and is the basis for Jim Hansen’s and Al Gore’s fear of a global warming Armageddon.

But alternatively, if a large energy imbalance causes only a small temperature change, then that is called low sensitivity, which is how I, MIT’s Dick Lindzen, and a minority of other climate researchers believe the climate system behaves.
He is honest to admit that as a skeptic he is in the minority camp.

He has a new paper to argue for his position. This post is to announce the imminent publication and to give the gist of the argument -- a kind of the simplified version -- for the lay reader:
I believe that climate researchers have fooled themselves into believing that the climate system is very sensitive. The reason why is related to a real-world complication to the above simplified example: when we compare a warm year to a cool year in the real climate system, we are NOT looking at the equilibrium response at one of those temperatures, to an energy imbalance imposed at the other temperature. That would be a very special case indeed, and it is one that never happens in the real world.

To see what usually happens in the real climate system, let’s return to the example of a pot of water on the stove. Imagine we keep turning the stove up and down, over and over. This will result in the water warming and cooling as the temperature responds to the ever-changing energy imbalance of the system.

Now imagine we have measured both the energy imbalances and the temperatures over time so that we can compare them. If we compare all of the times when the water was warmer to all of the times that the water was cooler, what we will find is that the difference in energy balance between the warmer and cooler temperature states is very nearly the same.

And if a big temperature difference corresponds to only a small change in energy imbalance, this then ‘looks like’ a highly sensitive system…even if the system has very low sensitivity!

If we just turn the stove up once, and then let the system come to a new state of equilibrium, then we really can measure the sensitivity of the system. But if we keep turning the stove up and down, this is no longer possible.

In the real world, the climate system is almost never in a state of energy equilibrium. Chaotic changes in the average cloud cover of the Earth are like the stove being turned up and down, since the amount of sunlight being absorbed by the climate system is “turned up and down” by the ever-changing cloud cover.

As a result, satellite measurements of the Earth energy imbalance will show that there is, on average, only a small energy imbalance difference between warm years and cool years. This gives the illusion of a sensitive climate system, even if the system is very IN-sensitive.

Again, the illusion arises because we try to measure the sensitivity of the climate system based upon a false assumption: that different temperature states of the Earth correspond to a change from energy dis-equilibrium at one temperature, to energy equilibrium at the other temperature. This is almost never the case…yet it IS the only case in which the sensitivity of the system can be measured! Researchers up to this point have been trying to diagnose climate sensitivity from observations of natural climate variations based upon a false assumption.

This issue will be addressed at length, along with theoretical model demonstrations, in our new research paper which has just been accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Go view the original post to see the diagrams.

I'm not an expert, but I find the minority viewpoint of the climate skeptics more credible. It isn't because I have a tendency to root for the underdog. And it isn't because I find the majority view ill-informed and boorish in their attempt to brow-beat people into conformity. It is because the facts and theories as I understand them appear to me to be better handled and argued for by the skeptics.

Oh, and one other factor affects me, I'm only too aware of how hysterical some people get because they have a doomsday mentality, a fascination with "end of days" and some sense that "something or somebody is out to get them". Too many of the most strenuous advocates of global warming strike me as fanatics gleeful in the idea that global warming is a "just reward" for imagined human sins. In short, the global warming crowd strikes me as religious fanatics gleeful that the vengeful "hand of God" will smite the unbelievers.

I get really bothered when the fanatics want to curtail greenhouse gases without doing a cost-benefit analysis and without looking at the tough issues of how to deal with the developing world and their need for industrialization. The most vociferous "environmentalists" strike me as the Marie Antoinettes of today. You know, the French Queen, who upon hearing that the Parisians were rioting because there was no bread, asked "if there no bread, why don't they eat cake?" I get really bothered by the likes of Al Gore jetting around spewing CO2 in enormous amounts to tell others to cut their emissions. I get incensed to hear that he continues to use extravagant amounts of energy to heat his pool, heat his enormous mansion, and run floodlights at night so his neighbors can admire his palace while the is telling the poor of the world to give up any hope of having a live above a starvation level. It just sticks in my craw. He's a hypocrite running an army of fanatics on an issue he doesn't understand.

I may not know enough to be an expert of global warming, but I'm enough of a student of human nature to spot a hypocrite and a fanatic and a serial abuser of the foolish susceptivle to being stirred up into a misguided crusade.

I'll point you at few resources:

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