|Don't feel guilty about driving your car29-09-2014 15:08|
|I've been having an ongoing argument with someone about climate change. Here's his scientific argument for doing nothing - is it correct?|
"While there is a variety of types of evidence of the past glacial / interglacial events (including looking at Long Island which was pushed up in front of the last advancing glacier; or looking at rocks in my grandfather's farm), there is absolutely no understanding of the thermodynamic forces that caused these repeated great, and often sudden, global climate changes. Snow has a 10 to 15 compression ratio to form solid ice. Just think, a glacier 1 mile thick would require a snowfall of 10 to 15 miles depth. Talk about your grandfather's winters! And then the oceans worldwide would fall by 325 to 350 feet, putting Philadelphia about 30 or 50 miles from the sea.
My point all along has been that if we don't even know the forces driving the Earth's climate over the last 2M years (let along attempt to express these forces mathematically), then we don't know anything. All the fancy climate models worrying about a few feet of ocean level or a few degrees of temperature are nonsense.
And why are we so worried about CO2? Because that's the ONLY atmospheric greenhouse gas for which there is data for the last 70 or 80 years. Methane from natural deposits or permafrost areas, sulphur from volcanic eruptions, or even water vapor and clouds are much more potent greenhouse gases than CO2. But nobody is marching around about those gases because there is insufficient data to allow alarming mathematical modeling.
The whole environmental movement, however well intended and cloaked in a mantel of protecting good old mother Earth, is rubbish.
And then, discussions of climate change NEVER include the words "world population increase". No environmental issue, climate, whales, rain forests, etc., is resolvable with an exponentially increasing population. Increased population will put increased demand on all resources and increased pressure in deleterious wastes or side effects. Failure to include population pressures or demands is part of the disingenuous nature of the environmentalists arguments.
A second dark ages may lie ahead, don't feel guilty about driving your car tomorrow."
Very unlikely. I would argue that science cannot tell us whether or not we should do anything. That is a value judgement that we have to make on our own. Science provides knowledge about the way the universe works. We have to decide, based on that knowledge, whether some action or inaction is in the best interests of the greatest number, assuming that is our desire.
This statement is false. There is an entire branch of science devoted to the topic of glaciers (glaciology, of course) and the topic of the Earth's ice ages have produced libraries of information. Do not get thrown off track by people demanding proof or proof before action. There are no proofs in the natural sciences and they are not part of the scientific method in its regard. The acid test in this field is falsification: the one black swan. Look up the ice ages in any good text. It should not be surprising that theories there are not completely definitive when the most recent example of the process is 22,000 years old and most orders of magnitude older.
Do not either get thrown off by people insisting that the warming of the last 150 years is simply Earth rebounding from the LIA or as part of the very slow warming that brought us out of the last real glaciation. A look at the data will tell you the contention is nonsense.
Given that those glaciers formed on a geological time scale, that depth is unremarkable. A millionth of a mile is six one-hundredths of an inch.
Like this perhaps?
120 meters = 394 feet
We know a great deal about the forces driving the Earth's climate over the past two million years and beyond and are fully able to express those forces mathematically. For example:
Be that as it may, the level of our knowledge concerning cycles of glaciation has NOTHING to do with whether or not we should NOW be worried about a few degrees of warming or a few feet of sea level rise. The logic "your friend" applies is utter nonsense. Those changes are not the result of glaciation and those changes represent a real and significant threat to hundreds of millions of our fellow human beings.
I'm afraid it is this argument that is rubbish. CO2 has been a subject of interest for several reasons, none of which are noted above. Humans have been putting CO2 into the atmosphere in enormous quantities since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The current rate of accumulation is more than double the rate as recently as 1960 and more than 100 times the rate at any prior time in the last 800,000 years. Since the turn of the 18th century, human combustion of fossil fuels has increased its atmospheric level 43%. That level exceeds the changes in the level of any other greenhouse gas - or global cloud cover - by orders of magnitude. And the life span of CO2 in the atmosphere is dramatically longer than either water vapor or methane, the two most potent GHGs.
CO2 absorbs a band of infrared radiation that is otherwise untouched by any other greenhouse gas. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere increases the amount of thermal radiation trapped in the atmosphere.
Additionally, warming from the greenhouse effect acting on that added CO2 will have the effect of increasing water vapor and methane in the atmosphere.
And we have not even touched on the acidification of the oceans from the solution of CO2 into its waters. This is taking place at a rate again, orders of magnitude faster than at any point in human history including the Great Dying of the Permian-Triassic extinction event which killed over 90% of all marine species. The Earth took millions of years, then, to make the pH changes that we will accomplish in one century.
"Your friend" is remarkably uninformed (or misinformed (or dishonest)). Fossil fuel combustion and deforestation have risen with population and population increases have increased the risk and the impact of AGW to human well-being. The term appears hundreds of times in the thousands of pages of AR5.
Additionally, it IS possible to resolve environmental problems without first getting population increases under check. When was the last time you heard of acid rain issues in the American northeast? How have the quality of America's drinking water supplies changed in the last 50 years? Does our lumber industry still indulge in strip-cutting? Obviously, a drop in population growth would help on all fronts and the increasing demands and waste output of an increasing population is the source of almost every environmental issue. But to even suggest that we should do nothing about these problems because we have not gotten population under control is what is disingenuous - and heinously so. We can act on both and must.
A second dark age may well lie ahead - and we can say that it is irrational, irresponsible and misinformed opinions such as these that will bear a great deal of the responsibility for our failure to prevent it.
Drive your car when you have to. When its time to buy a new car, get the smallest one that satisfies your needs (not your wants). It will burns less gas and lower your insurance. Walk when you can. Ride a bike when you can. Both are good for you. All three are. And that's good for everyone.
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