More on Wright and Global Warming

So I’ve been busy typing replies here

…but now I keep getting a “Blacklisted as spam message” 😦

Here is what I wrote in replies

Comment by John C Wright:

//The problem is that the temperature record of satellite data does not support the Global Warming theory//

Well, no it pretty much does support it. Arguably it suggests that the sensitivity of global temperatures to increases in CO2 is at the lower end of the estimates. That really is about as far as you can stretch skepticism of the AGW hypothesis without turning your back on logic and evidence.

//nor is there enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to make the slightest difference//

Sorry but no. The greenhouse effect is very well established both prior and beyond the debate about AGW. CO2 and other greenhouse gases (such as water vapor) mean that surface temperatures are above freezing on most of the Earth. As a naturally occurring gas in our atmosphere the level of CO2 is tiny but it has an established impact on our planet’s atmospheric planet.

//e temperature changes on Mars and Pluto cannot be caused by human activity,//

Correct and they don’t have an atmosphere comparable to Earth’s and hence whatever Pluto and Mars might be up to (and our data on their temperature variation is much less than what we have regarding Earth) is nothing to do with what is going on Earth. What we can do as far as Earth is concerned is compare variations that could be due to the Sun and the changes that we’ve seen in global temperature. For a section of the 20th century you do find a match – not surprising because the Sun is the ultimate source of most of the Earth’s energy. Yet for the latter quarter(ish) of the 20th century that relationship breaks down as the impact of anthropogenic greenhouse gas starts becoming more dominant. It ain’t the Sun that is the ’cause’ of the change.

//We had a ten year slight rise in temperature in the 1990s, and for the last fifteen years no sign of temperature rise.//

Here’s the thing. The various alternate theories that have been thrown up would have predicted *cooling* in that period. If it was the Sun that had caused the historic rise in temperatures then the recent period of lower solar activity would have meant we’d have all got very chilly in that time. Instead it was a period of historically record breaking high temperatures. Was the rise low to small looking at that specific period? Yes (so long as we ignore the oceans). Was it beyond the level of variation we would expect? No. Lots of 10 yearish, flattish bits in the temperature record – no surprise because nobody has ever claimed that this is a noise free process. Certainly that means there is still lots to find out about the climate but looking at the full set of data the trend is still there and it is still upwards and it still fits best with the hypothesis that it is due to industrial (and related) greenhouse gas emissions.

[I’ve lost the last bit :(]

Reply to Comment by Stephen J.: Wednesday, July 29th 2015 at 1:06 pm |

//1) Is there any way, given current technological limits, to actually reduce GG emissions to the required level without seriously undermining the economic and technological infrastructure that permits modern civilization and modern population levels?//

Probably – but flip that on its head. If we take policy steps only to the point which they don’t *seriously* impact the above and limit emissions only to whatever level we can manage within that framework THEN we would still be reducing the overall impact of global warming. Some cutting back is still better than none.

//2) Is there any way, given current political realities, to practically implement such a reduction without requiring intolerable levels of authoritarian enforcement? (An enforcement that, in practice, would depend on exactly the kind of energy-intensive military that solutions to question #1 would likely render impractical?)//

Sure. That isn’t even hard. Shift to revenue neutral carbon pricing i.e. tax carbon (yes I like taxes – I’m a leftist, see my other reply) but reduce other kinds of taxation proportionate to the amount of revenue received. The net taxation drag on the economy is not increased. Now there are issues with that as a carbon tax would be a flat tax on consumption but I note that flat consumption taxes have been proposed by many on the US right so it isn’t like it is an idea so completely from the left field. Not a solution I’d necessarily advocate as is (but, as I’ve said, I’m a leftist I’m going to support more progressive approaches).

//3) Can either solution be implemented without disproportionate impact on the underdeveloped nations and populaces of the globe?//

Yes – even among highly industrially developed nations some are more carbon efficient (by comparing emissions with GDP or other measures) than others. It is also notable that nations such as the US objected to aspects of the Kyoto Protocols precisely because they made concessions towards developing countries. The historic rise in CO2 has not been due to developing countries. However the economic growth of China and India will contribute more to that growth in the 21st century. Helping those nations grow economically but in a more carbon efficient way will be a challenge but it isn’t impossible.

//4) On what basis can it be concluded that this kind of preventative approach has a better cost-benefit ratio than a mitigating approach of adapting to conditions as they change? Put simply, can we afford to do something that will actually do something?//

I don’t know but it would seem that would push you strongly towards carbon pricing as an approach as you could use it to raise revenue for mitigation approaches (and unfortunately mitigation will cost and will be very big-governmenty  – so if you lean to the right that isn’t a great choice) but allows market mechanisms to help adjust the economy to reduction approaches.
Either way mitigation is definitely not free and mitigation also raises the problems you raise in point 2  – can it be done without increasing authoritarianism. I think the longer we leave things and the more we rely on putting off policy until it becomes an emergency mitigation response in the future the more likely the net effect will be a more authoritarian one.

I’m not an economist but I am interested in what you would propose ASSUMING that the AGW hypothesis is correct and, say, the current IPCC projections are likely in a business as usual scenario. What would you do?

A new reply I haven’t posted yet:

Camestros: The various alternate theories that have been thrown up would have predicted *cooling* in that period.

JCW: Irrelevant. If one theory predict catastrophic rise, and instead the data show a mild decline, that theory is wrong. The state of alternate theories does not change the fact.

Sorry but no. The theory does not predict that over short time scales there will always be substantial rise. Climate science does not say the only factor that can ever have any impact on global surface temperatures are anthropogenic greenhouse gases. That is a straw man parody of the hypothesis. The claim is that long term the increase in CO2 will, ceteris paribus, lead to increase temperatures. The data will be noisy and so it is.

The temperature record post 1998, the so called pause, is not predicted by the hypothesis but is not INCONSISTENT with it. If this ‘pause’ lasted say 30 years with no known reasons then that would be another matter.

Camestros: If it was the Sun that had caused the historic rise in temperatures then the recent period of lower solar activity would have meant we’d have all got very chilly in that

JCW: False. I am not sure where you are getting that idea.

From looking at the relation of temperature and solar activity. There is a great resource called Wood for Trees that is used by people on both sides on the web (i.e. you’ll see it used on Watt’s site etc). You can plot the data yourself and have a look.  Here is a temperature record versus total solar irradiance (normalised so they both fit on the same axes)

Camestros: Instead it was a period of historically record breaking high temperatures.

JCW: False. There was a gradual cooling.

Nope – sorry. I mean you could probably find some period between 1998 and now (or 2000 and now) and define it small enough that the trend line is a bit negative but really overall it was either no trend or a slight up trend. However, your reply isn’t actually a counter argument to what I said. It has been a warm 15 years for the Earth’s surface – even if there was some slight cooling trend (the probably was the opposite) it wasn’t close enough for it to stop the past period from being containing many record beating temperatures.


%d bloggers like this: