Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bad Ideas

As a brief reminder of the last post, the figure above presents reconstructed data on atmospheric CO2 and Earth temperature over the last 600 million years. The CO2 ranges from a peak of 7000 ppm around 530 million years ago to the recent levels around 350 ppm. Meanwhile the global temperature ranges from 22 deg. C to 12 deg. C. Several points are worth noting. First, it used to be a lot hotter than it is now. Second, the temperature varied wildly. And third, the temperature was unrelated to CO2 concentration. Obviously, more significant forces were driving the temperature then, and will assuredly in the future.

Now let's return to the recent past and try to glimpse the near future. The following stylised figure from the recent IPCC report shows the temperature record from the year 1000 to 2000, with predictions for the next 100 years. Or does it? The proxy data from 1000 to 1860 are mathematically flat; the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age (LIA) from the 1991 report are absent. Must be what they mean by stylised proxy data. At least the rise since the end of the LIA circa 1860 is nicely shown as is the decrease from 1940 to 1970. Let's first consider the data from the last century before turning to the projections (the hockey stick).

From a zillion data points, the IPCC concludes that the global temperature has increased by 0.6 deg. C (1 deg. F) over the last century. This seems to be the consensus view. I'd like to point out just a few issues. First, the temperature increase is less than the error bar on the global average temperature baseline (1961-1990) which is 14 +/- 0.7 deg. C.

Second, the temperatures are recorded at thousands of sites, including New York City and Alabany, NY. I mention these two nearby cities to illustrate an issue. Over the century NYC temperature increased 2.5 deg. F (2.5 times the global average) while Albany decreased about 0.25 deg. F. These two cities are only 140 miles apart yet one got much warmer while the other cooled a bit. One has to wonder whether these data jibe with the theory of global warming. In fact it is well known that urban heat island effects dominate the local environment, and the scientists attempt to deduct this false signal from the data. But how well do they succeed? It has been estimated that as much as half of the measured 1 deg. F global increase is accounted for by urban heating.

Other issues are the recent discovery that the thermometers used a century ago were calibrated to read slightly too low; that the largest increase in the century occurred during two early years when the US and Britain were making a change in how they measured shipboard temperatures; and that the global averages are skewed toward Northern Hemisphere regions where the change has been greater. Solar physicists also point out that measured slight increases in solar radiation could account for as much as a third of the temperature increase.

So there are plenty of reasons to debate the scientific findings and interpretations. But I'm not going to bother. Because it is the model projections and the socio-economic policy proposals that are the real issues.

The hockey stick figure above shows the model projections from the IPCC report, ranging from an increase of 1.4 deg. C up to 5.8 deg. C by 2100. It is interesting that the calculation from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) based on the most sophisticated model predicts only 1.1 deg. C but was excluded from the report. The IPCC predicts that the most likely temperature increase, if no steps are taken to slow it down, is 2.1 deg. C by 2100. That is 3.5 times the measured 20th century increase.

And what would the UN and the EU and other international bodies have us do about this potential calamity? Well the Kyoto Protocol is the first step. When this mandatory emissions reduction program was first proposed in the late 1990s the US Dept. of Energy under Bill Clinton estimated that it would cause gasoline to go up between 14c and 66c per gallon, that electric bills would increase up to 86%, coal prices up 153%, the GDP growth to drop to 1.9%, and the yearly average economic cost to the US would be between $77 billion and $338 billion in 1992 dollars. The Senate promptly voted 95-0 to have nothing to do with it.

Now the calculations have been refined. The Business as Usual case from the models assumes an increase of 2X in CO2 concentration and calculates a 2.1 deg. C temperature rise and a 50 cm sea level rise by 2100, if there is no program to cut emissions. But if Kyoto were enforced, and the US signed on, then the CO2 would increase by only 94%, the temperature would increase by 2.0 deg. C and the sea level would rise 48.5 cm. If in addition we all agreed to allow no increase in emissions after Kyoto expired in 2012, then the numbers are 89%, 1.9 deg. C and 47.5 cm rise.

The target that all the internationals seem to like is 550 ppm CO2 (57% increase) theoretically achieved by Kyoto plus a 2% annual reduction of CO2 emission from 2012 to 2100 that would give a temperature increase of 1.6 deg. C and a sea level rise of 44 cm.

And how much is this pathetic result going to cost? Estimates by the British House of Lords say 1 Trillion dollars per year, borne mostly by the advanced nations (read the US). There must be a better idea.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post Bill

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, if you even think for a second that most of the dimwits in here will even bother to read a fraction of what you wrote, you're wrong. Are you preaching to the choir or are you really trying to change minds? If your purpose is the latter, you will fail miserably every time.

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bill...the last 2 posts of yours do not reflect my area of knowledge by any means BUT interestingly I could grasp much of what you are saying. Your explanations are 'relatively' easy to understand. Thanks Prof!

Dori M.

8:55 PM  
Blogger gary daily said...

Bill reports:

“The hockey stick figure above shows the model projections from the IPCC report, ranging from an increase of 1.4 deg. C up to 5.8 deg. C by 2100. It is interesting that the calculation from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) based on the most sophisticated model predicts only 1.1 deg. C but was excluded from the report.”

But the National Center for Atmospheric Research web site at:

reports this!

“Many NCAR scientists are part of a global team studying this problem and its meaning for our planet's future. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change includes more than 1,000 experts from a variety of climate specialties. In their most recent report (2001), the IPCC predicted that increasing levels of greenhouse gases will warm the globe by a significant amount. The most probable range, according to the IPCC, is between 2.5 and 10.5 degrees F (1.4–5.8 degrees C) over 1990 levels by the year 2100. Also in 2001, an NCAR scientist and his colleague estimated a 90% likelihood that the range will fall between 3 and 9degrees F (1.7–4.9 degrees C).”

So, what’s going on? Which NCAR report should we follow? The one Bill reports as "excluded" or the one posted on the NCAR web site?

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definitely feel like I understand the liberal global warming. Great post!

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:43 AM  

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