How could such a tiny increase in temperature cause the end of the world?

LA writes to A. Zarkov:

How can it be that the entire theory of global warming rests on an increase (or a supposed increase) of 0.8 degree Centigrade over the last 157 years, as indicated in the graphs used by the global warming theorists? How can the difference between things being stable and things going into global catastrophe be so tiny?

A. Zarkov replies:

It is not correct that the entire idea of global warming rests on an increase of 0.8 C (degrees Centigrade). That’s a necessary, but not sufficient condition, or, more specifically, it’s a needed fact in the alarmist chain of logic that leads to global catastrophe. The temperature rise is supposed to establish the link between warming and CO2. Given that link, the climate scientists can then make predictions using computer models that predict from 1.5 C to 4.5 C for a doubling of CO2. An increase of 4.5 C would be a lot—8.1 degrees Fahrenheit. That amount of warming could conceivably lead to the kind of irreversible and catastrophic effects given in that list by the Potsdam Institute. The increase is also supposed to provide a validation of the model by using the model to back predict what has already happened. If global temperature has not increased at all over the last 100 years, that would be a real problem for the alarmists. It would break the link. It would mean industrial development has little to no effect on the earth’s temperature.

Is a 0.8 C increase enough to establish the link? That’s a more difficult question, but the alarmists say it does.

I hope that answers your question.

LA replies:

Thanks. Let me state my understanding of what you’ve said the theory says, to see I have it right.

Global average temperature has risen by 0.8 degree Centigrade since the mid 19th century, and this change has been driven by X amount increase in atmospheric CO2. This correlation establishes what I’ll call ratio Y between CO2 increase and temperature increase. Further, CO2 has continued to rise at a certain rate, and in the near future it will have doubled over what it was at some base year (say 1990 or some other recent year). Based on ratio Y, the projected further doubling of CO2 means a further temperature increase of between 1.5 Centigrade and 4.5 Centigrade. 4.5 Centigrade is 8.1 Fahrenheit. An 8.1 degree F rise in global average temperature is a catastrophic increase that will destroy civilization as we know it and even the world as it’s existed since the end of the last Ice Age.

A. Zarkov replies:

Yep, you have it, if “near future” means a 100 years or so. I think the major catastrophe is supposed to be sea level rise. Another major worry is that a massive melting of polar ice would dump fresh water into the ocean and change ocean water salinity leading to a breakup of the Gulf Stream making Eastern Seaboard and Europe much colder. In other words, global warming might make big parts of the world colder, hence the name “climate change.”

LA replies:

You wrote:

Yep you have it if “near future” means a 100 years or so. I think the major catastrophe is supposed to be sea level rise.

But haven’t they been saying the disaster is imminent, within 10 or 20 years?

LA continues:

So, to repeat what is understood by people who follow the issue, but it’s worth putting it all together: not only is the warmists’ historical record of global average temperature based on information from the recent and more distant past that is highly questionable in light of CRU’s manipulation of adjusted data and the disappearance of the original data so that their current adjusted data cannot be checked; but their entire future catastrophic warming scenario depends upon a supposed correlation between a projected atmospheric CO2 increase and a global atmospheric temperature increase that may be entirely false.

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Phil M. writes from Georgia:

Another problem is looking at variables related to climate change and making simplistic conclusions. For example Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth stood before that huge graphic reproduction of ice core temperature and atmospheric CO2 and said: “There is one relationship that is far more powerful than all the others, and it is this. When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer.” That statement denies other process variables and thermal dynamics. A careful study of the data shows that rises in carbon dioxide lag the temperature rises, which negates Gore’s argument. Unfortunately, the layman is not exposed to these details and the lag is difficult to see. [LA replies: I think you’re overstating the problem somewhat. The counter-AGW argument, that CO2 increase is a result of, not a cause of, temperature increase, has been made innumerable times by warming critics, mainly at conservative magazine and websites. It’s accessible to anyone who reads. Obviously it’s not accessible to people who limit their reading to the New York Times or USA Today. But that’s true of all non-liberal truths.]

Nevertheless, high school chemistry easily invalidates Gore’s claim. The vapor pressure of carbon dioxide over water is dependent on the temperature of the water. As water temperature rises, the distribution of CO2 between oceans and atmosphere shifts, so there is more CO2 in the atmosphere. Thus, water temperature determines the atmospheric pressure of CO2. Atmospheric pressure of CO2 does not determine temperature. This is equilibrium thermodynamics. Just like when the temperature of carbonated soda pop increases when the pop is warmed, the pressure of the CO2 in bubbles increases. Does anyone seriously believe that raising CO2 pressure over the pop is warming it?

Larry G. writes:

How could such a tiny increase in temperature lead to global catastrophe?

Short answer: it can’t.

This website follows the issue and has a lot of good information:

The long term graphs show that the increase in temperatures over the 20th century are just part of a normal up and down cycle. The earth was recovering from a “Little Ice Age” that had lasted several hundred years previously. (Remember Valley Forge. Remember the Delaware River was nearly frozen over during Washington’s crossing.) Temperatures were even higher than now during the Medieval Warm Period, when the Vikings settled Greenland and grapes were grown in the north of England. As for carbon dioxide, it tends to rise hundreds of years after temperatures rise, not before or coincident with temperature rises.

The whole thing is very complicated, I don’t understand much about it, and scientists don’t understand the whole of it. What we do know is that the climate “scientists” fudged the data using computer programs to make it look like an unprecedented rise in temperatures was occurring. They also accomplished this by cherry picking the data, using data from only three unusual trees to construct the late 20th century data. It’s a scam conducted by scientists with a political agenda.

Read through “Watts Up With That?” and, despite the jargon, the outlines of the issue will become clear. (Note: There are a lot of posts going back many months.)

MBS writes:

Here is a video that is 87 minutes long, it explains many areas of global warming.

Rick U. writes:

Here’s a good article from American Thinker yesterday which is a pretty good re-cap of the Climategate issue.

Morgan writes from England:

I think you may thoroughly enjoy this tour de force by Monckton

It’s 43 pages, but once you start it reads like a novel. Time will fly.

Rick U. writes:

The other issue to remember in this whole global warming err climate change debate is that CO2 is a trace element comprising only about 0.038 percent of the total atmosphere. The argument that adding 100 parts per million of CO2 to the atmosphere since 1880 due to human activity will warm the climate obviously denies or ignores the economies of scale involved in the entire atmospheric system—not to mention the Sun’s role in the system which is not considered or is modeled as a constant by the IPCC “scientists.”

Here is another article on the subject which basically points out that the climate system is much too complicated to model to any degree of certainty due the enormous variables involved. In typical liberal arrogance the Man Made Global Warming crowd ignores the complexity of the natural system, and insists that they can centrally plan and correct a “problem” far beyond the capability of humans. While out of one side of their mouth they proclaim there is no God; out of the other they side they profess to play God. Hence, even if it were true that climate change is occurring I doubt very seriously there is anything humans could do to stop it.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 07, 2009 08:01 AM | Send

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