Dr. Richard Lindzen (left) and Dr. Michael Mann (right) have radically different views of the latest IPCC report. (Click for credit.)
The 2013 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been partially released. The final version of the Summary for Policymakers is out, and the unedited complete report is also available. This report is supposed to help us understand what the scientific community says about climate change and whether or not people are responsible for all or part of it. The report says that warming of the climate system is “unequivocal” and that “Human influence on the climate system is clear.” Unfortunately, the scientific community seems rather split on whether or not the IPCC report is reasonable.
I think that the latest IPCC report has truly sunk to level of hilarious incoherence. They are proclaiming increased confidence in their models as the discrepancies between their models and observations increase…in attributing warming to man, they fail to point out that the warming has been small, and totally consistent with there being nothing to be alarmed about. It is quite amazing to see the contortions the IPCC has to go through in order to keep the international climate agenda going.
On the other hand, Dr. Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, wrote:
Climate change is real and caused by humans, and it continues unabated. We will see far more dangerous and potentially irreversible impacts in the decades ahead if we do not choose to reduce global carbon emissions. There has never been a greater urgency to act than there is now. The latest IPCC report is simply an exclamation mark on that already-clear conclusion.
Both Lindzen and Mann are recognized experts in climate science, they both have a long list of impressive contributions to the field, and they have radically different opinions when it comes to the IPCC report. Which one of them is closest to being correct?
I doubt that you’ll see this reported in many news outlets, but way back in 2007, Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski, a research professor in the Department of Oceanography at the Naval Postgraduate School, stated that based on his research, the Arctic would be ice-free by the summer of 2013. His prediction was based on a “high-resolution regional model for the Arctic Ocean and sea ice forced with realistic atmospheric data,” and he thought it might be a bit conservative. In fact, he said:
Our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer is not accounting for the last two minima, in 2005 and 2007…So given that fact, you can argue that maybe our projection of 2013 is already too conservative.
Well, as you can see from the graph above, Dr. Maslowski’s “too conservative” prediction has failed miserably. Not only is there ice in the Arctic, there is significantly more ice than there was in 2012. Now, of course, the amount of ice is still way below the average, but it is also way above zero, the prediction that Dr. Maslowski thought might be “already too conservative.”
This map shows the extent of permafrost in the Arctic. The dark purple represents glaciers, while the lighter purple represents nearly continuous regions of permafrost. The other colors represent less continuous regions of permafrost. (Click for a higher resolution image from the USGS.)
The earth’s polar regions have large amounts of permafrost, a thick layer of soil underground that stays frozen throughout the year. It has been suggested by climate alarmists that as the earth warms, this permafrost will begin to melt, and that will lead to disastrous consequences. Why? Well, there is a lot of organic material in this permafrost, and it doesn’t decompose much, because decomposition is slowed significantly due to the soil being frozen. As the permafrost thaws, decomposition will increase, and that will lead to a significant amount of carbon dioxide and methane being released into the atmosphere. The release of these greenhouse gases, of course, will further accelerate global warming. This affect is known as the permafrost carbon feedback, and here is what the United Nations Environment Programme says about it:1
If the permafrost thaws, the organic material will also thaw and begin to decay, releasing CO2 and methane into the atmosphere and amplifying the warming due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions…The permafrost carbon feedback is irreversible on human time scales. Warmer conditions and increased atmospheric CO2 will enhance plant growth that will remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but this can only to a small degree compensate for the much greater carbon emissions from thawing permafrost.
Notice how strongly this is worded. The effect is “irreversible,” and even though a warmer climate will result in more plant growth, this will not come close to offsetting the devastating amount of greenhouse gases released by the thawing permafrost.
Well, the results of a 20-year experiment have been published in the journal Nature, and not surprisingly, they show that the effect is precisely opposite of the nonsense quoted above.
Not long ago, I wrote a post discussing the anti-science views of “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” In that post, I discussed how anti-science it was for Nye to tell people to blindly accept the scientific consensus and stop arguing about whether or not life is the product of evolutionary processes. Well, I recently came across another example of Nye’s anti-science actions. He has no problem lending his name to an experiment that was brazenly faked.
At the 0:47 mark in the the video above, Nye suggests a “simple experiment” to show that carbon dioxide causes global warming. He says to put two thermometers into two identical bottles, add excess carbon dioxide to one bottle, put both bottles under identical heat lamps, and watch the thermometers. Over time, you will see the temperature in the excess-carbon-dioxide-containing bottle rising more quickly than the temperature in the bottle that contains no excess carbon dioxide. The video he is narrating supposedly shows the experiment and its results, proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that carbon dioxide causes global warming.
Now before I start discussing the article that shows that the experiment was faked, I want to make a quick point. I have students do a similar experiment in my award-winning text Exploring Creation with Physical Science. Unlike the one in the video, the experiment I have the students do works for most students, because carbon dioxide does, indeed, trap infrared light and produce an increased temperature in its surroundings. However, the “simple experiment” shown in the video does not demonstrate this, and anyone with a reasonable knowledge of the physical sciences should understand that.
The White-throated Needletail is thought to be the fastest bird on the planet. It is not endangered, but it is rarely seen in Europe. However, an alert went out last week on the Rare Bird Alert Twitter feed, telling bird-watching enthusiasts that one had been spotted on the Outer Hebrides, an island chain off the west coast of Scotland.
The last confirmed sighting of this bird in the United Kingdom was 22 years ago, so understandably, many bird watchers (about 80 according to one source) went to see it. Here is a video that was taken by one of those people:
The joy these birdwatchers felt in seeing this rare sight quickly turned to anguish, however, when the bird flew into a wind turbine and died. While no one caught the actual death on camera, here is a video of the bird after it was killed by the turbine:
On May 20th, Oklahoma City and its suburbs were hit by a devastating tornado. According to the latest news reports, the mega-tornado killed at least 24 people, nine of them children. My prayers go out to those whose lives have been affected by this terrible tragedy. While the situation is clearly an emotional one, we can’t let our emotions get away with us when it comes to understanding the science behind this tragedy.
This is climate change. We were warned about extreme weather. Not just hot weather. But extreme weather. When I had my hearings, when I had the gavel years ago. It’s been a while. The scientists all agreed that what we’d start to see was extreme weather. And people looked at one another and said “what do you mean? It’s gonna get hot?” Yeah, it’s gonna get hot. But you’re also going to see snow in the summer in some places. You’re gonna have terrible storms. You’re going to have tornadoes and all the rest. We need to protect our people. That’s our number one obligation and we have to deal with this threat that is upon us and that is gonna get worse and worse though the years.
She then went on to talk about a bill she has sponsored. It would put a tax on carbon in hopes of moving people to alternative sources of energy so as to reduce the effects of “climate change.” While Senator Boxer’s words are an emotional call-to-arms, they fly in the face of the scientific evidence.
Using the wind to produce energy is considered by many to be an environmental panacea. Consider the words of Greg Vitali, a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives:
Wind energy is better for the environment than coal, natural gas or nuclear energy. Wind turbines operate pollution free, do not add to climate change and use very little water.
At first glance, this sounds reasonable. After all, wind turbines don’t emit carbon dioxide, so they are not contributing to the horrible “global warming” that is supposed to happen this century. They also don’t seem to consume much. They just sit there, twirling in the breeze, making electricity for us to use. It’s not surprising, then, that wind power is the fastest-growing source of new electrical power in the U.S.
As the video above shows, however, wind turbines do have an environmental impact – they can kill flying animals. Of course, a video of one or two birds being knocked out of the air by a wind turbine is no cause for alarm. The real question is, “How often does this happen?” If a few hundred birds are killed each year by wind turbines, you can legitimately say that their impact on bird populations is relatively low. However, a recent study indicates that more than just a few hundred birds are being killed each year by the turbines that produce wind power.
A graph showing Global Climate Model predictions compared to surface temperatures (click for credit).
The Economist recently ran a story highlighting the fact that the Global Climate Model (GCM) predictions upon which most of the fear of global warming is based are not doing well when compared to measured surface temperatures over the past few years. I found the story to be surprisingly balanced and full of a lot of good thoughts. I strongly recommend that you read it if you can find the time, because it gives you a great idea of how little we know about climate science. I don’t want to rehash the article, but I do want to add some thoughts of my own.
If you look at the graph above (which is from the article), you will see the GCM predictions most recently cited by Global Warming advocates. The dark cyan areas represent what the GCMs predict with a certainty of 75%, and the lighter areas represent what the GCMs predict with a certainty of 95%. As you can see, the measured surface temperatures (given by the dark line) are not behaving as predicted for the past several years. In fact, they have already strayed out of the 75% certain predictions and are poised to stray out of the 95% certain predictions. This, of course, is discussed in the article. What is not discussed is that the graph is rather misleading.
If you look at the graph from 1950 to the present day, you will see remarkable agreement between the GCM “predictions” and the measured data. However, prior to 2001, none of those “predictions” are actual predictions. They are a retrospective fit to the already-known data. You see, the GCMs are so oversimplified that they contain all sorts of “fudge factors.” Those fudge factors are varied to produce as much agreement as possible between the known data and the GCMs. Since the GCM predictions shown in that graph were produced for the IPCC report issued in 2007, they represent work done after the IPCC report issued in 2001. As a result, the data that appear on the graph prior to 2002 were all known when the work was started on the 2007 report. This means that all agreement between the “predictions” and the data prior to 2002 say nothing about the ability of the GCMs. It only tells you how well the fudge factors could be varied to agree with the known data.
This graph shows the likelihood of New Hampshire residents agreeing with the statement, "Climate change is happening now, caused mainly by human activities" based on party affiliation and the average temperature. The gray fields represent the error associated with the data.
(The graph is from the study being discussed.)
If you have read this blog for any length of time, you probably know that I am skeptical of the idea that human activities are changing climate on a global scale. I don’t think the data support such a notion. Climate is certainly changing, but that’s nothing new. The data strongly indicate that around 1000 AD, the Northern Hemisphere was significantly warmer than usual; this is generally referred to as the “Medieval Warm Period.” About 650 years later, the Northern Hemisphere was significantly cooler than usual, and that period is often called the “Little Ice Age.”1 The important question is whether or not the changes we are seeing today is unusual compared to events such as those. Based on the data I have seen, my answer would be, “No.”
At the same time, I hasten to add that global climate is incredibly complex, and we are not close to fully understanding how it works or even how to measure it in a detailed fashion. Indeed, there are various methods used to determine the “average global temperature” and how it has changed over time, and they each produce different results. So while I think that the data show there is nothing unusual about the way climate is changing right now, I think a lot more study needs to be done.
Two versions of the same species of coccolithophore - the heavily-calcified one is on the left
(image from the paper being discussed)
A few months ago, I discussed the acidification of the ocean. It is often called global warming’s “evil twin,” because it is caused by rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Unlike global warming, however, the connection between carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and increasing ocean acidity is straightforward and has been confirmed by many observations. Thus, while it is not clear that increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide will lead to global warming, it is very clear that increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide lead to an increase in the acidity of the ocean.
The question is, “How will increased ocean acidity affect the organisms living there?” Many who call themselves environmentalists answer that question by saying increased ocean acidification will produce catastrophic results, threatening many species of ocean life. The reason? Many organisms that live in the ocean have shells made out of calcium carbonate. To make those shells, the organisms use carbonate ions that are dissolved in the seawater. However, as the acidity of ocean water increases, the concentration of carbonate ions in the water decreases. Thus, it is thought that increased ocean acidification will make it harder for these organisms to make their shells. Here’s how one publication from the National Academies puts it1
As ocean acidification decreases the availability of carbonate ions, these organisms must work harder to produce shells. As a result, they have less energy left to find food, to reproduce, or to defend against disease or predators. As the ocean becomes more acidic, populations of some species could decline, and others may even go extinct.
Now if that’s true, ocean acidification is a major problem. Indeed, if several shell-making organisms go extinct, we could be in real trouble.
However, this is a very simplistic way of looking at things. Yes, the availability of carbonate in the ocean will affect how easily shell-making organisms produce their shells. However, there are a host of other factors involved in the process. To single out one factor without considering the others is not very scientific. When all the factors are considered, the picture is not nearly as bad.
You have stumbled across Dr. Jay L. Wile's Blog. Dr. Wile holds an earned PhD from the University of Rochester in Nuclear Chemistry. He is best known for the "Exploring Creation with..." series of textbooks written for junior high and high school students who are being educated at home. He has also just released an elementary science series!You can read about that here.
Red Wagon Tutorials
This site is run by the most gifted teacher with whom I have ever worked. He has live classes that go with my books as well as recorded classes.
Answers in Genesis
While I disagree with some of the theology on this website, the science discussed is pretty solid.
This website contains works from a good mix of young-earth creationists.
This is the blog of Dr. Todd Wood, one of the leaders in baraminology. He covers current topics of interest to young-earth creationists.
This is the blog of Kevin Nelstead, an old-earth creationist geologist. He covers many topics related to the age of the earth and offers a nice contrast to the young-earth writings listed above.
An interesting "think tank" that contains the major players in Intelligent Design
This is atheist PZ Myers's blog. While I disagree with most of what he says, he is a provocative writer. This is one of the few blogs I read regularly. Please note that there is a lot of foul language in his writing. Those who cannot defend their positions rationally tend to descend into such nonsense.