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December 28, 2006


Oh no no no it was too cold

Because scientists have concluded that carbon dioxide from power-plant and vehicle emissions is helping drive climate change worldwide, putting polar bears on the endangered species list raises the legal question of whether the government would be required to compel U.S. industries to curb their carbon dioxide output

Couldn't sun activity have anything to do with climate change? Only 10,000 years ago there were glaciers in Wisconsin. And now they are gone.

All because of the old American Motors plant in Kenosha? No I don't think that manufacturing plant was that old.

Couldn't sun activity have anything to do with climate change?

Get thee to the scientific literature.

Despite being generally liberal, scientists are not that stupid to overlook the obvious.

Dave, while everyone but the anti-evolutionists who believe in a 6000-year-old Earth knows that temperature change happens at times regardless of human activity, there are two factors that make this kind of claim sound ridiculous.

1. No reputable scientist now argues that the rate of climate change we are now experiencing has any likely source other than the vastly-increased carbon dioxide emissions wholly due to the human species free use of fossil fuels. The only scientists who take an opposing position are those who are paid by the oil industry to say things like "sun activity", etc.

2. Even if it were true that the recent climate changes could be linked to events that we have no control over (sunspot activity, pink unicorns, etc), it is certainly true that the vast increase in carbon dioxide emissions (due to the burning of substances containing carbon dioxide that had been locked down in the earth since the Carboniferous Period) can be guaranteed to have had an effect on the climate - and that is something we do have control over as a species.

What is being argued here is that "Perhaps what we're doing - burning fossil fuels - isn't the whole reason for climate change. Maybe there's another reason. That other reason might be something we have no control over. Therefore, we needn't stop burning fossil fuels, since that hypothesised "other reason" would continue even if we stopped."

When you have only $100 to last you to the end of the week, and expenses you cannot control will take $25 of it, does it make sense to you to live as extravagantly as possible, blowing $750 and ending the week $675 in debt, or would you think it sensible to try to spend only the $75 you have left?

The people who argue that maybe sunspots cause global warming seem to be arguing that since you can't control the expenses that took $25, there's no point trying to live within your means - go ahead and max out your credit cards, Dave, who cares you don't have the money?

The people who argue that maybe sunspots cause global warming seem to be arguing that since you can't control the expenses that took $25, there's no point trying to live within your means - go ahead and max out your credit cards, Dave, who cares you don't have the money?

This reminds me of the poverty/get-a-roommate discussion, but with the ideology swapped...

I, too, am delighted by the idea of a roomful of climate scientists simultaneously smacking their foreheads and exclaiming, "The sun!! Why didn't we think of that?"

I, too, am delighted by the idea of a roomful of climate scientists simultaneously smacking their foreheads and exclaiming, "The sun!! Why didn't we think of that?"

This is like tax planning, where the general rule is if the plan is something someone in high school could have thought up, it doesn't work.

I favor doing nothing about global warming. I favor doing more about world peace than I do Florida and polar bears.
I favor doing more about Darfur than smokestacks. And I favor doing more about the assault on American freedoms than I do the Kyoto protocols.

Pick your own fight and contribute in the ways you know how.

Kindlingman, what do you think will happen to the people now living in the areas that will be under water? Could there possibly be a connection between global warming and world peace? Large displacements of people tend to cause strife.

Pick your own fight and contribute in the ways you know how.

some of us can do many different things during a single day!

Well atleast the Democratic leaders in the Senate are already hard at work... nice use of our tax dollars.

WASHINGTON - Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will miss the state funeral for former President Gerald Ford at the Capitol Rotunda on Saturday night, opting instead to lead a delegation to South America with an expected stop at the Machu Picchu Inca ruins.

Other senators making the trip are Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Robert Bennett, R-Utah, and Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

nice use of our tax dollars

we're spending $1,500,000,000 per week, in Iraq.

This is a nice Feel-Good gesture by the Busheviks that will probably do little, I'm afraid. They're probably counting on getting good press for something that basically affects only Alaska. Somebody said this could be cited in, say, licensing power plants in the Midwest, but I'm sure that somebody on K Street in Washington will have a loophole the size of the St. Louis Arch waiting for them.
A more comprehensive aproach would be to revise our national energy policy, which can now be summed up as: "We dug up most of our oil and burned it, so we need to get busy and dig up the rest of it and burn that, too!"

Good grief. Does this mean that Ted Stevens will need to appropriate another $300 million to lengthen the Bridge To Nowhere?


"If this picture was taken from a boat, these bears might have been dying."


"All because of the old American Moters plant in Kenosha?"

Clearly those three bears are cavorting. I know cavorting when I see it. In fact, I think Hilzoy is overcounting the bears so she can say later that three bears drowned, when anyone with two eyes, one of them closed and the other squinting, can see that what we have here is a rare example of a three-headed polar bear on vacation in the Far Tortugas. If I had a shotgun, I'd collect this specimen for the Smithsonian, but I'd get a picture of me with one foot on its grizzly hump declaiming on the beauty of this creature, but let's hurry it up because rotting polar bear makes lousy soup.

Besides, why should the polar bears complain? Pack ice? I'll show you pack ice! Right out in front of my driveway, with more to come, and I practically rip my muffler off on the stuff everytime I leave the house. They can have the pack ice and the glaciers. But, nooooo, there they cavort.

I think they've been looking into the sun too long and the resulting spots before their eyes cause blindness and they lose their way.

Obviously, the world is suffering from a misallocation of ice and snow. The incentive system must be off kilter. Those guys on Mt. Hoo, who are a lot deader than the three-headed polar bear, found more glacier than they could handle. Why don't the bears go to Mt. Hood and quit upsetting my environmental equilibrium, which consists of a narrow view from a small window?

Think of the seals. Up until now, they've poked their heads up innocently and so cutely through those holes in the ice only to be torn to bits by those predators who have the audacity to camoflage themselves with the background. Now the seals have a chance. They can see the bears coming.

Dick Cheney is pro-seal. I'll bet nobody knew that. Unless the seal happens to be sitting on an oil-shale deposit. Then the bear lobby gets invited to the Lincoln bedroom. Not to mention the seal-fur lobby. Cute is its own reward.

Ten thousand years ago when American Moters made those leaky crankcases, Rush Limbaugh told us that if the glaciers receded it would create jobs and raise the standard of living. Then the unions arrived and Limbaugh convinced the glaciers to come back so we could break the unions.

Think locally and while you're up, light my cigar, get me a beer, turn my bag of rice to prevent settling (over there, next to my bed) and then get away from me.

Mt. Hoo
Well, it's near HooWhoville, but I believe the name is actually Mount Crumpit.

"Mt. Hoo"

I meant Don Ho. Have you ever tried to climb Don Ho? He was steeper than most people think.

This is a nice Feel-Good gesture by the Busheviks that will probably do little, I'm afraid

Actually, the proposal could have incredible teeth. There's a reason that the ESA is known as the bulldog of environmental statutes -- small, but never lets go.

ok, time for some heavy sledding.

Power plants are licensed by FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC, as a federal agency, has an obligation to comply with section 7 of the ESA. Section 7 requires that the action agency (here FERC, but more commonly the Army Corps) to "consult" with the USFish and Wildlife Service on the impacts of its action (issuance of a license) on listed species.

[deep breath]

When the FWS receives a request for consultation, it prepares a "biological opinion" on the impacts of the project. The bio. opinion must conclude that the project (along with cumulative impacts of other projects) either causes "jeopardy" or "no jeopardy".

[another deep breath]

A no jeopardy opinion allows FERC to proceed. A jeopardy opinion requires the FWS to propose "reasonable and prudent alternatives" to the project which will result in a no jeopardy determination.

[last deep breath]

The ability of FERC to ignore a jeopardy opinion, the relationship between the ESA and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) which requires FERC to prepare Environmental Impact Statements, and the various kinds of lawsuits which can be brought to challenge this mess are beyond the scope of this comment.

put simply, once the polar bear is listed under the ESA, various federal agencies will become deeply involved in minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

never fear, Jonah Goldberg has the solution.

The real question is, who ate more paste as a child, Jonah or Jeff Goldstein?


No, it's who stopped eating paste more recently, if at all.

Couldn't sun activity have anything to do with climate change? Only 10,000 years ago there were glaciers in Wisconsin. And now they are gone.

The other day we get Viet Nam canards -- and now this?

By the way, there is little scientific support for the notion of variances in the output of sun energy has been causing recent climate change Nature.

A brief lesson about paleoclimatology -- long term glacial cycles over the last several million years (and perhaps for as long as 20 to 30 million years) are believed to be tied to three factors -- the variations in earth's position in space known as Milankovitch theory, plate tectonics and feedback loops. There are other possible variables -- here is good article listing all of them. (earth-sun geometry, interstellar dust, solar ouput, volcanic emissions, mountain building, continental drift, atmospheric/ocean heat exchange, surface reflectivity, atmospheric reflectivity, atmospheric chemistry).

Milankovitch theory posits that variations in how much sun energy is being received in various places on the earth are affected by known astronomical variations in earth's orientation in space. There are three separate cycles: variations in the shape of earth's orbit (eccentricity -- more or less elliptical); variations in the degree of tilt (axial -- 21.5 to 24.5 degrees); and variations in the orientation of the tilt (precession -- the orientation of the north pole moves in a large circle from Polaris to Vega). The three separate cycles all have different periods: eccentricity, 100,000 years; axial tilt, 41,000 years; precession, 23,000 years. They sometimes reinforce or work against each other, which makes correlating their effect to climate complicated -- scientists debate the extent to which each has an impact. This theory was first proposed in 1842 -- it has become widely accepted in recent times because other technology has enabled scientists to measure how much ice was present in past environments by measuring the ratio of O16/O18 in ocean sediments and ice cores. There is a strong correlation going back a million years.

At present, only precession is in the glacial mode, with tilt and eccentricity not favorable to glaciation.

Plate tectonics defines why these variations have such importance -- Earth has an asymmetric distribution of landmasses, with virtually all (except Antarctica) located in the Northern Hemisphere. (Antartica's positioning over the South Pole is also believed to have significantly cooled overall global climate for the last 30+ million years). Effects which favor cooling in the northern hemisphere have a far more disparate impact than the reverse.

What actually drives the big shifts in climate change based on the above factors are feedback loops (albedo, conveyor, and many others that are still being discovered and understood). Global CO2 induced warming is scary because it is believed that it will trigger powerful loops causing major changes in a short amount of time. One such example if the retreat of Artic sea ice -- as more melts, more heat is absorbed in the Arctic system accelarating the melt. No ones knows what to expect from the loss of Artic sea ice, but the anticipation is that a lot will be gone within the next 50-100 years causing what type of ripple effect in other feedback loops?

We are in effect the mice in our own laboratory experiment where the outcome is uncertain, but we do know that there will be drastic changes.

My fundamental concern is that we are performing an uncontrolled experiment, one with potentially disastrous consequences. The odds on a disaster may be small (I personally think the odds are unknown, we just don't understand the earth's climate in enough detail), but I don't think anyone can reasonably say they are non-existent. There's several facts that are hard to dismiss:
(1) The CO2 concentrations are higher than they've been as far back as we have records, about 600,000 years.
(2) CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
(3) Anecdotally, every indicator I'm aware of points to higher temperatures. I guess if you look hard enough, you might be able to find something that shows lower temps.

Given the above, all the inaction on GW is at the very least self-centered and greedy, and may turn out to be ill-advised, even extremely ill-advised.

Perhaps this thought has gotten through to Bush, and he is allowing/encouraging the polar bear designation, so he can claim to his business supporters that he had no chance but to take action.

The other day, two days after the blizzard of 2006, I stupidly stopped at the mall and found myself stuck for two hours in ice and snow gridlock in the parking lot because those in charge didn't spend enough money (tax or otherwise) to plow the place in a reasonable amount of time.

While sitting there (engine off and saving fuel to avoid the hypocrisy of buying gas from Iran who we might have to bomb so I can leave the engine running while sitting in traffic) surveying the scene I observed: a woman in the next care sobbing for 15 minutes into a cell phone; a guy in a four-by-four trying to go around everyone else and getting his truck hung up on a snowdrift underneath of which was one of those concrete islands they put in parking lots for your manuevering pleasure (he got out coatless, mouthing the f-word and starting scooping snow by hand off of his fenders and the rest of us watched, entralled at justice's bland pleasures); and, get this, the mall Santa Claus, grimly clutching the steering wheel, staring straight ahead for minutes at a time, nary a reindeer in sight nor an effective nod of the head.

The next day, at the grocery store, I saw a family of fat people pounding just a little too hard on the glass cooler doors behind which the milk is housed, but the milk was gone, except one stack of it visible in the back. They wanted to know what the hell was going on that they didn't get their stinking skim milk .... now!

Meanwhile, the pet food aisle was stocked like a Renaissance banquet.

So, I thinks to myself, if we awake one morning to the realization that the cute polar bears are extinct, and the water lapping at the bottom step is salt water, and the milk cows are off their feed in Vermont because of impacted sweat glands, I rue the day the estimable merican population
considers the fact that George Bush and company were merely pleasing their political base to postpone active measures on ameliorating CO2 accumulation by ignoring the science.

I have a feeling we'll be reading of Americans eating each other out of spite, not because we taste good, but because the damned gummint didn't do anything because we din't want the gummint to do anything, because the sobbing lady, and the guy who cut in line, and the grim Santa Claus, and the fat family figured the gummint would just screw things up and steal our money and regulate us and give jobs to pointy-headed liberal scientists who we will eat when we get done dining on Rush Limbaugh, who convinced us of all the above so George Bush could get elected and cut our taxes so we could buy more skim milk at the store, which isn't there in time, the damned unions.

Two things: (a) Bush didn't do this as a feel-good measure. He did it because his administration was sued.

(b) "I favor doing more about Darfur than smokestacks." -- Desertification caused by, among other things, global warming, is one of the precipitating factors in various fights in Africa, of which I believe Darfur is one. (Nomads moving in search of grazing land, as their old grazing land turns to desert. The people who have traditionally owned or grazed the land they moved to getting annoyed. Etc.)

I have a feeling we'll be reading of Americans eating each other out of spite, not because we taste good,

Ah, but think of the wonderful crunchy and screaminess!

According the historical cycle, we're due to end this 10-20 thousand interglacial cycle real soon now and slide into the next ice age. Looks to me like we at a local peak. The local trough before it was the "Little Ice Age", the local peak before that was the "Medieval Warming Period".

The little squiggles at the right edge of the graph are what the panic is all about, specifically the 2 degree celcius difference between that Little Ice Age and the present.

DaveC, unlike, say, the modern history of Vietnam, I have no background, or training (self or otherwise), or particularly great knowledge of climate science, so I know I'm not competent to discuss global warming in debate. Thus you'll note that I've never issued an opinion about it, anywhere.

You, obviously, know more than I do. I bow to your knowledge and wisdom.

Could you discuss your training (self or otherwise) or education or primary sources of knowledge that give you significant expertise in this fairly complex topic, please, which thus make your pronouncements on it worth listening to, unlike mine?

Who are, say, 5 of the top ten experts in the field? What are the three main texts of recent years? What was the most important advance in the science in the past decade? Which are your two favorite journals in the field, and how do you feel one compares to the other?

No googling, or checking the internet or books: off the top of your head, purely, please. I assume that since you are qualified to make pronouncements about the field, that elementary questions like this are a breeze.

As the world's largest bear and as an object of children's affection as well as Christmastime Coca-Cola commercials, the polar bear occupies an important place in the American psyche.

I have studied the Coca-Cola commercials, perhaps not as extensively as others. Glad to see that you're back, Gary.

Gary, what i've read (at Sci. Am. and RealClimate -- to be upfront about my sources) suggests that DaveC is correct; absent the radical increase in the release of anthropogenic CO2, we could conceivably have been heading into a cooling cycle.

which is, in a way, even scarier. As the graphs DaveC links to point out, cooling cycles are not a monotonic drop. We could, in the next hundred years or so, see the non-anthropogenic forces start working in favor of, not against, increased global warming.

According the historical cycle, we're due to end this 10-20 thousand interglacial cycle real soon now and slide into the next ice age.

No one knows this.

A lot of good data has developed concerning climate history over the last million years. What it indicates is that over short periods of time (a thousand years), there is very little trend and that it is highly variable. There are long term ups and downs (over several thousand years), but punctuated with lots of fluctuations. The full range from cold to warm exceed anything experienced in recorded human history (5,000 years) -- the fluctuations that we are seeing now over the last several hundred years are small in relation to the maximum extent of change that has occurred -- maybe we are starting a warming trend that will dwarf all past trends in human existence, and override a pending ice age (which may not naturally show up anyway for thousands of years).

For example, no one really knows what caused the little ice age -- its just a minor anomaly. Scientists argue about whether it was worldwide or not (probably at least over northern hemisphere). And some say that it was the norm -- the anomaly that needs to be explained is the warm periods before and after it! No one agrees on what "normal" is.

Your link is to the Vostok ice core data which plots a very smooth trend and probably unique to its location -- here is the worldwide model that is the average of data from many sources and methods. Link (Figure 5 -- the graphs are crude -- but this is a very good article summarizing the science.) The worldwide trend is much more chaotic. much clearer timelines at bottom of page

The Vostok data did not record most of the variations in Northern Hemisphere weather noted from Greenland ice cores. Link. That is one of the problems with trying to build accurate global climate models -- local variations are extreme, and what is the "average?"

On geologic time scales, the existence of ice ages (a period of ice sheets coming and going, as has been experienced during the last two million years) are themselves rare. Prior to the current ice age epochs, the last one was 300,000,000 years ago.Link (Figure 6). Maybe human change will end the current ice ages permanently.

What is clearly not known is just how much impact is caused by the large increases in CO2. Scientists speculate that CO2 variation is the big factor in massive global climate change Link -- see discussion under Long Term Changes.

There is no decent data to determine the true significance of large CO2 increases to date (and ongoing future changes) -- the past million years do not show similar fluctuations in CO2 in order to get a clue. The science is that many millions of years ago (100+), the CO2 level has been much higher and the earth much warmer because of that, except for the last great ice age 300,000,000 years ago.

We are conducting a large experiment with the environment we live in, and should expect drastic changes caused by CO2 induced warming.

It's not everyday something like this happens.

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