Monday, June 15, 2015

A New Study That Will Soothe Those Who Are Alarmed About Global Warming

Introduction 

You probably have heard many times that global warming has 'paused' for the last 15 to 19 years or so. There have been a number of studies dealing with this, and they have come up with dozens of explanations for it. Most scientists usually admit that further study needs to be done, and this is admirable, since no one really knows how to predict climate, in the short term or in the long term.  I will get to the newest study I've found on this 'pause' later on in this post. But now I wish to deal with the terminology that is increasingly being used euphemistically for 'man-made global warming', terms that only confuse the issues rather than clarify them. 

Many scientists and now many people have switched to the term 'climate change' instead of 'man-made global warming'. Of course, the Earth's climate is always changing, so everyone should believe in 'climate change'. Yet, many have switched to this meaningless term. I suspect it is because there's been little or no global warming lately, and so using 'climate change' continues to allow some to alarm us about global warming without having to produce any evidence that it is a significant cause for concern. 

Just so I am clear, I will use the abbreviation, GW, to refer to man-made global warming, because that seems to be what most people mean when they write about 'climate change'.

For example, in one article, the author says that "bottled water contributes to climate change". Really? Does it cool the Earth or warm it? And by how much? Any answer would result in 'climate change'. So that quote contains no information. 

The point of the article was that bottled water uses much more energy than tap water to produce and transport. And that is certainly true. So that quote from the article would have had some meaning if it said "bottled water contributes to anthropogenic global warming". It would have been even been more useful if it estimated how much bottling water contributes to GW. That would have given us some data to decide if it is worth trying to reduce the use of bottled water. (The article did make the useful point that you pay more for bottled water than for gasoline. So test your tap water. If it meets specs, which most municipal tap water does, you can save quite a bit of money).

You might think I'm being picky about the misuse of terminology. But in science, or any other areas that require critical thinking, it is very important to use terms that have a precise meaning. Otherwise, you'll be arguing about terminology and wasting time. If I start reading an article that uses 'climate change' when it really means 'anthropogenic global warming', I have a hard time finishing it, because the author is not being precise.

A New Study


Recently, a new study came out saying that GW didn't pause, but that the Earth has was actually warming for the last decade or two. A number of climate scientists have questioned the methodology used, but here I am going to take the study at face value. Here is a link to it: Global Warming Hasn't Paused. At least take a brief look at the article, so you can see that the intention of the author is to make us more concerned about GW.

One quote from the article says, "Global warming has not undergone a ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus', according to US government research that undermines one of the key arguments used by skeptics to question climate science. The new study reassessed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s temperature record to account for changing methods of measuring the global surface temperature over the past century."

The article has some nice pictures, but the article's author, presumably a science writer, did not write objectively about the research, something we should expect from a science writer, as opposed to opinion pieces.

So let's look at the actual data found by the climate scientists who did this study. What rate of global warming did it find? 

Fortunately, the article actually has the data: 

"The results, published on Thursday, June 4, 2015, in the journal Science, showed the rate of warming over the past 15 years (0.116C per decade) was almost exactly the same, in fact slightly higher, as the past five decades (0.113C per decade)."

Couldn't the author have made the data more understandable by converting these numbers to the amount of warming it yields per century? Let's multiply the number 0.116C per decade by 10. And what does that give us?  A warming rate of 1.16C per century. 

Now is this great news or what?! 

Don't we normally read that the concern is that the global temperature would increase by 8 to 10C or so by the end of the century?

But 1.16C per century? Surly, this is a cause for celebration. Yet the climate scientists who did this study indicated it was a cause for concern.

If this small amount is still of concern to you, keep in mind the following two points:
 
a) No one knows the optimal global temperature for humanity. I've seen one study that claimed a 3C increase would be better for humanity as a whole than the current global temperature. I have no idea if this is correct. But to assume that the current global temperature is the best one is very likely a wrong assumption. That would be a remarkable happenstance. In any case, this is the same rate of warming that has been happening since 1950, and that has had no discernible effects.

b) Therefore, spending money to stop this low level of warming is a waste of money. Any sort of carbon tax, basically a tax on carbon dioxide, will make energy more expensive, and will have no detectable effect on GW. But it will hurt the poor the most, because everyone needs energy. So a carbon tax is not only irrational - it is on the verge of being immoral, because we are commanded to help the poor, not cause more poverty.

I do believe that a tax on real pollutants, such as lead or mercury, is a good idea. It might raise the price of energy a bit, but the poor become ill disproportionately more from such pollutants, because they generally live closer to coal plants, cement plants, and other high-polluting plants than most of us. So a reasonable pollution tax could well have a net positive effect on the poor.

Isn't This Going Against What Most Climate Scientists Think?

I've seen a number of surveys that show that the majority of climate scientists believe that GW is occurring, and is mostly man-made. I actually agree with this. But not because of the survey; rather this is what the data shows.

But all of the data I've seen - and I attempt to read every article about GW that comes out - shows a GW rate of 1C to 2.5C per century. Not enough to be of concern. Some climate models predict more than this, but it will take decades to verify which models make accurate predictions. And it is quite possible that it is impossible to predict climate, just as it is impossible to predict weather more than 7 to 10 days in the future.

 

But Aren't We Giving Off More Greenhouse Gasses?

Yes. And I don't want that to continue indefinitely. So I would fund research into nuclear energy, solar energy, wind energy and other sources of energy that give off virtually no pollution or greenhouse gasses. If we do, I think that within 15 to 20 years, any new energy plants we build in the United States will be environmentally friendly and generate inexpensive energy.
 
Conclusion 

The GW data tells us to stop worrying about GW, and the very small risk it might pose. The inordinate amount of fear we have about GW, is actually harming us. This is because there are literally dozens of problems that are of more concern, and some of these problems are ones that we could actually do something about, in a very cost-effective manner.

And solving some of these problems would make the world a better place for all of humanity.
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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. The views expressed herein are those of the author. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.
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