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Climate Update

I have followed one interested trend in the Climate Change debate, but not another until recently. The trend I have followed? Beginning with the First Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and running through the Fourth Assessment Report, economists have tried to estimate the expected damages due to expected future warming. While it is clear that the potential damages could be large, one thing that has come out of this work is that the expected economic damages have been falling over time. In other words, as we assemble better information about what warming might likely occur and how it might affect our physical systems, and as the planet becomes richer, the damages that are going to be caused by sea level rises, spreading of disease bearing vectors, changing water cycles and crop cycles, and other damages are expected to be less severe than initially thought.

The more recent trend I have been following has been the complete corruption of decency within the climate research community and the shenanigans that have occurred in putting together the IPCC reports, in the journal peer-review process, and in the way people make explicit and ugly attempts to slander people who raise questions in the area. So I’ve spent time in the actual science. And one thing that has become pretty clear is that the same trend we see in the estimated economic damages has been showing up in the actual physical damage estimates – at least in terms of how much warming we are likely to see. A new paper in Geophysical Research Letters shows that when you use the actual 160-year temperature record as a basis for predicting future warming, the range of expected warming is lower than in earlier IPCC estimates. Here is a brief summary:

Projections of 21st century warming may be derived by using regression-based methods to scale a model’s projected warming up or down according to whether it under- or over-predicts the response to anthropogenic forcings over the historical period. Here we apply such a method using near surface air temperature observations over the 1851–2010 period, historical simulations of the response to changing greenhouse gases, aerosols and natural forcings, and simulations of future climate change under the Representative Concentration Pathways from the second generation Canadian Earth System Model (CanESM2).

Our analysis also leads to a relatively low and tightly-constrained estimate of Transient Climate Response of 1.3–1.8°C, and relatively low projections of 21st-century warming under the Representative Concentration Pathways.

For those not familiar with the science, what this is assuming is that atmospheric CO2 levels double from current levels (from about 390ppm today to something north of 750ppm). With no mitigation efforts and the likely expected path of emissions, simulations target this data somewhere in the second-half of this century. Note that we are being told that we need to get CO2 concentrations to stabilize are far smaller levels than that to avert catastrophe. So, the high end of the new estimates, based on the actual temperature record (i.e. not subject to the estimation difficulties and research shenanigans with the temperature reconstructions that was the real spark behind the hockey-stick debate) is that a doubling o CO2 concentrations may at the high end increase “global temperatures” (whatever that means) by about 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit. The new economic estimates based on these temperature changes have not come out yet, I eagerly look forward to them.

5 Responses to “Climate Update”

  1. Tyler says:

    Climate change is a major problem as the world population continues to increase and people use more and more energy (cars, phones, laptops, refrigerators, etc). However, we need to keep in mind that we have done irreversible damage to our planet and we need to begin taking steps on how to adapt to what is forthcoming. I am not saying we are going to have a catastrophe, but what I am saying is that weather patterns are changing in many different areas around the country. Not to get to deep in this conversation, but New York City has four 50+ degree days in just January alone! I think this must be a foreshadowing of what is happening around the world.

  2. Steve says:

    As wintercow remarked, the estimates for costs, economic and environmental, for “climate change” decrease as we increase our knowledge, Tyler’s comment makes no sense at all. I encourage Tyler to read Julian Simon’s “The Ultimate Resourse 2” which goes into extreme detail on many long term trends and their implications.

    I wonder when “Malthusian” thinkers will ever get tired of being wrong, all the time?

  3. Harry says:

    Let us assume that all the thermometers used in the data from 1851 on were all precise to a tenth of a degree, and were all calibrated to the same precise standard, and were all read in the same way. That is not many thermometers, and one has to expect there were many uncontrolled factors that might have affected each observation. Maybe they had a good thermometer or two at the Franklin Institute, but how many places had good enough instrumentation west of the Mississippi River? I bet zero.

    Tyler begs the question when he speaks of the irreparable harm “we” have done to “the planet” Earth, I assume by burning carbon compounds to fuel capitalist greed. I will grant that people have made messes.it is also possible to exaggerate how dire the circumstances are, depending on whether you live in the Northeast Corridor or a hundred miles west of the Hudson, which is itself cleaner than fifty years ago.

    One does not have to live that long to notice remarkably warm weather during the winter. Any Pennsylvanian golfer knows that there have often been recreational opportunities. We also know enough not to extrapolate these experiences into grand theories.

  4. Harry says:

    Can anybody explain the mechanism whereby another 400 ppm of CO2 has a significant effect? Yes, I know some particles come in and others do not go out, and that has an effect on global warmth. Water vapor also has an effect which logically dwarfs a measly 400 PPM of CO2.

    How come it can get so hot during the day and so cold at night in the high desert? Any particle physist arguing for cap and trade should have to quantify how much warmer you would be if another 400 PPM were in the air over Wyoming.

    Also, if we are talking science and PPM of CO2, exactly how is that measured? Where? When? How? One would expect more CO2 to be present during the winter in Rochester than in the middle of a Cortland cornfield during the summer, assuming the corn and the weeds (organic corn) is breathing it, assuming that a herd of cows has not broken in and are exhaling CO2 plus other greenhouse gasses. Just what controls do the scientists impose in their measurements?

    I am not saying it is folly to attempt to apply technology to explain how the world works. However, scientists are not the priesthood. If the snake comes out of his hole and swims across the river and we get a solar eclipse, we are entitled to ask the priest who proclaims an omen what his theory is about how those events are connected, particularly when the priest says six more people have to be sacrificed.

  5. Rod says:

    Over the years, I have periodically bought a season pass at our local ski area, Bear Creek (formerly named Doe Mountain; the original owners chose the name because they wanted to make a lot of dough in the ski area business — seriously, they told me this), and on winters when I bought my pass early at a discount, the winters were devoid of snow until perhaps March, when we’d make up for a snowless January and February. When I did not buy a pass, or when I decided I’d save the money to ski up north, we’d get lots of snow. At any rate, I conclude that winters in the northeast are influenced primarily by season ticket sales at ski areas that make snow. Maybe it’s the burning of extra diesel fuel to run the water pumps for the snow guns that causes CO2 to rise .0001 ppm that does it.

    Methane from cows might also be to blame for cold weather. When I was a Holstein breeder and producer of milk, we had the worst winters of my lifetime. In December of 1976, I recall having a picnic lunch out in my alfalfa field on a day when the high was around 70. What a delight, I thought — maybe it would be a mild winter. But then in the second week of January, an Alberta Clipper came through and dropped temperatures by 60 degrees in just an hour, sending the weather into a deep freeze that lasted until the second week of February. Nighttime lows were in the 20 below range or worse, and daytime highs were scarcely higher than ten above. We had to take apart all of the water pipes in our barns on a nightly basis, and we watered our heifers and calves by pouring warm water from our milk cooler’s heat exchanger into the mangers. We kept the manure spreader inside the milking barn so it would function twice a day. We could not start any diesel engines, even if we plugged the heaters in.

    That was also the year when the weather people were warning of the possibility that we were slipping into an ice age. They blamed industrialization and CO2 for that, too. Then, when the weather moderated in the 80’s (Springtime in America, as Ronald Reagan would say), they shifted toward warming, with the solution being totalitarian world government run by the concerned scientists.

    If Tyler thinks the world has already been spoiled by capitalism, I encourage him to hang out a while in the Rochester area, where lake effect snows and bitterly cold temperatures will surely cool his anatomy significantly. He could also take a driving trip west and witness the vastness of this country first hand.

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