A few days ago, Marc Morano received some credit from a Joe Romm - the cheerleader-in-chief at recent wild orgies celebrating the death of Michael Crichton - for having determined that Steven Chu, the future U.S. secretary of energy, is not quite psychiatrically OK (much like many similar participants of the Poznań conference) when it comes to warmophobia and related disorders.
Related: A fresh interview with Steven Chu about the Day After Tomorrow (in reality), how he wants things to be bad (but not awful) - talk about a wishful thinking, and why architects should paint roofs white so that air-conditioning may be reduced (much like the intensity of light bulbs) and the Earth is cooled down - wow! ;-) Thanks to Willie Soon.Also, a sane person would pretty quickly discard the first recommendation because it came from a woman, as Chu proudly told us. Only about 15% of structural engineers are women and 70% of those got to the field because of affirmative action (before this movement began to be intense 15 years ago, there were about 5% of women in that field), so there is clearly something suspicious going on here, if the first catastrophic testimony comes from such an unexpected source.
A reader or a homeowner may lack the expertise to predict certain things about the climate but he surely understands what it means for the temperature to increase by 5 °C in a few decades - let's say 3 decades. He may quickly learn that the warming caused by the greenhouse effect should be most pronounced in the middle troposphere. After a few minutes, he finds the graph of the mid troposphere temperatures from 1978 to 2008: three decades of data.
He will learn that the temperature increase in these three decades - when the economy was kind of flourishing - is about 0 °C or 0.05 °C. It is completely indistinguishable from the (much higher) annual variations. Steven Chu talks about 5 °C in a few (three) decades which is an estimate that exceeds the reality by two orders of magnitude. That's just like if he is scared to death - and ready to pay $20,000 (or trillions of dollars, in this case) because he has confused a mouse on his garden with a tiger.
All actual data indicate that if there is an underlying trend beneath the noise of the weather data, it is currently less (and probably much less) than 1 °C per century, i.e. certainly much less than 0.5 °C in a "few decades".
But let us follow Steven Chu and confuse the mouse with the tiger, too. Imagine that in a century, the average temperature would jump by 5 °C - like in the most catastrophic projections by the hardcore alarmists (you won't find anything higher than that because with a finite amount of tricks and cheats, it is simply impossible to get your predictions above 5 °C per century: Steven Chu may randomly add additional orders of magnitude to his predictions but I think that above a certain threshold, he simply should be put in the insane asylum).
Would the great grandsons face a burning house? Steven Chu says that the new temperature would take them into an unknown territory. Well, every newborn baby - including our great grandsons - is taken into a new territory when it is born. The open world is so different from the womb! And the initial conditions for its life are defined by the moment of its birth, not by the moment of his great grandfather's birth, as some of the senile great grandparents incorrectly assume! Great grandparents are pretty much irrelevant, especially when it comes to your feelings about the weather today. Just think about your great grandparents. What would they think about the weather on December 15th, 2008?
Does Steven Chu offer a more specific threat in a warmer world? Well, he says the following:
A world average temperature change of 5 °C does not sound like much, but a 5 degree warmer world will be a very different world. In the last ice age, roughly one third of the United States was covered year-round in a glacier.That sounds scary. There is only one subtle problem with the glacier. You would actually need a cooler weather, not a warmer weather, to re-create a big U.S. glacier. A few degrees of cooling could re-create some of the glaciers (it would surely take a long time!) but because the big glaciers are pretty much gone in today's world, a few degrees of warming simply don't have any comparably spectacular effect. The only "qualitative" threshold here is the freezing point of H2O and the bulk of the U.S. is above it.
More seriously, let us academically ask: Would life and a prosperous economy be possible in the year 2108 if the temperature were 5 °C higher than today? Well, we happen to be familiar with different temperatures. Look at the average annual temperatures over the globe:
You see that the average annual temperature ranges from -50 °C to +30 °C, depending on the location. That's about 80 °C of temperature difference between the poles and the equator. Indeed, the idea that the world has a constant or uniform temperature is a wrong intuition forced upon you by your fancy air-conditioning system. ;-)
The difference between the poles and the equator - 80° C - corresponds to roughly 10,000 kilometers. Divide it by 16 and you will obtain 5 °C and 600 km.
So even if the temperature increase were as dramatic as the weirdest chicken little's can fabricate today - and these predictions are at least an order of magnitude above reality - even the most sensitive people and animals could compensate the warming by moving 600 km towards the poles (or cooler areas).
If you take the IPCC projections, the central prediction is about 3 °C only. That corresponds to 300 km or so. By moving from New York to Boston over 100 years, all local effects of the warming can be exactly compensated. Do you think that the difference between the weather in New York and Boston is unbearable? Is it a catastrophe to move from New York to Boston? Is the required speed too fast if you need to get from New York to Boston in 100 years?
More importantly, would someone actually have to move because of the change of the weather? The answer is Almost no one. Most people live in the climate that is much cooler than the average temperature they enjoy most of the time. That's why e.g. the average Americans use more energy for heating bills than air-conditioning bills. In Canada or Norway, the difference is even higher. And they are used to much stronger weather fluctuations, anyway.
The difference between the average people's desired temperature and the average temperature of their environment is actually more than 5 °C. In the Czech Republic, the ultimate average country for many purposes, the average annual temperature is about 10 °C. Clearly, people would prefer a value around 20 °C. Give it up: we won't get enough desired warming by CO2 emissions, at least not in the next two centuries, not even if we assume the most brutal and "stretched" predictions of the future warming.
So you should understand that as long as Czechs approach this "problem" rationally, they are going to prefer warming over cooling and they are certainly not going to pay a lot of money just for a chance to avoid some warming - even if it were a few degrees. Instead, they are paying millions of dollars for their vacations in much warmer countries (by 15 °C). If you look at the map, you will understand that the same thing holds for the bulk of North America and Eurasia.
Would anyone care? You can see that there are warm places on the Earth, too: Sahara, Brazil, India, etc. But there are many other issues we should remember. First, the warming near the equator is going to be slower (the warming near the poles is amplified by the ice-albedo feedback effect). Second, the latitude is not the only coordinate that can compensate for the temperature changes. Altitude matters, too. The lapse rate is over 6 °C per kilometer, so if you move yourself into the hills, the maximum centennial warming may be fully eliminated, too.
If the radical predictions for a 5 °C warming in a century turned out to be correct, some regions such as Siberia could become more pleasant than others - like Australia. Agriculture - and people who depend on it - would probably be shifting correspondingly. Now, is it a catastrophe if some farms would move e.g. from Brazil to Siberia in 100 years?
But if the Russian economy (and other economies) were at stake - and the only threat that would be averted by the "fight against climate change" were a few degrees of warming by 2108 which Russia badly needs, anyway - be sure that they won't join Steven Chu's stupid game. They will happily allow their economy to strengthen as the economies plagued by Steven Chu and his peers would weaken.