## Friday, January 14, 2005

### Kyoto will turn Europe into desert by 2100

The articles about the global climate are frequent on this blog - there are many reports in the media. This one is pretty interesting: it is now argued by some British scientists who were featured on BBC ("Horizon") that the fossil fuel cuts - such as those planned by the Kyoto protocol - will cause or accelerate the global warming because of reduced production of SO2 and similar by-products that otherwise cool down the atmosphere. Parts of Europe, if the Kyoto-like strategies continue, will become desert by 2100. ;-)

The statement is supported by an interesting comment that the solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface decreased roughly by 20 percent during the last 50 years. This sentence itself sounds very suspicious to me because I don't know how could have people measured the solar power above the atmosphere 50 years ago. Cannot this decrease of solar energy reaching the Earth be simply a real decrease of solar power, an effect argued to be important by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas, Harvard's leading astro-climate scientists?

What about the proposed 10 degree heating resulting from removal of the aerosoles? Of course, I am skeptical about these statements as much as I am skeptical about the "conventional" fearmongering - especially if someone proposes a theory in which two large contributions with opposite signs are supposed to cancel each other. Nevertheless these examples demonstrate how different conclusions one obtains depending on the choice which effects she emphasizes (in this case, the cooling effect from aerosoles). One must take all effects that are likely to be important into account before she makes her conclusions.

I am always amazed by the apparent lack of rational thinking of those who propose various policies based on this kind of science. If we really knew that the UK would become another Sahara by 2100, we would try to stop it - and there would definitely be more intelligent algorithms to do so than to reduce the civilization as such. For example, if the aerosoles were as powerul as they say, we would simply double or triple the SO2 emissions. We could easily burn the coal in areas with no population - e.g. we could build the power plants at various small islands. Today, the concentration of SO2 in the atmosphere obviously does not cause any significant problems, except for the industrial zones where it may be too concentrated.

Different problems have different solutions. The people who propose "cutting the industry" as the universal solution to all problems - cooling or warming - are simply stupid people, and I think it is very important to emphasize that they are stupid because they often like to picture themselves as intelligent scientists.

I wonder what those who believe in "scientific consensus" will think about this new theory of global dimming and how they will manage to preserve their consensus. Will they believe the new paradigm? On one hand, it is a step towards the global cooling theory once again, which is a heresy according to the new global warming religion, but on the other hand, it contains the "chance" that the temperatures will grow 10 degrees by 2100 if we remove the aerosoles, which seems as an even "better" religion than the previous one, better by 4-8 degrees. :-)

1. "Today, the concentration of SO2 in the atmosphere obviously does not cause any significant problems, except for the industrial zones where it may be too concentrated."

Huh?

Ever heard of "acid rain"? It tends to fall *far* from the industrial zones where the SO2 is produced.

2. I not only know what are acid rains, but I even grew up 50 miles from the region that was affected by acid rains most in the world - namely along the border of Czechoslovakia and East Germany.

It is not true that acid rains were ever significantly affecting the planet globally. They were affecting the forests roughly 50 kilometers from the power plants etc. The forests suffered a lot.

The situation today is very different and the forests have almost recovered - already today. I was talking about the present, and today the acid rains are not a big issue anywhere. Certainly a smaller issue than England transformed into a desert. ;-)

3. Hi Lubos,

I have been reading your articles regarding Global Warming with some interest. Now I am not an expert, but I am aware that models can only give a range of predictions regarding the global warming issue, dependant on input data and biases of the modelers. What I am interested in then is technical.

What exactly in the Global warming MODELS do you particular disagree with? I do not mean silly talk by either PRO or ANTI global warming factions, actually what is the specific variables that are MISSING from the global warming models. Also give reasons why they should be included.

I say this because when I checked criticisms of Global Warming on the Web by Climatologicists (I use the term to cover Atmospheric physicists to Ocean dynamicists), It appears that their main concern to be Statistical variability in Sunlight.

Now, if Dimming is proven to be correct, then it appears to me that this variable has been correctly downplayed by the pro global warming people, as the amount of sunlight hitting the earth surface is largely (in the MODERN WORLD) determined by particles in the air.

Also, there appears to be an anomaly in regard measuring temperature as measured temperature on the ground is different to what is measured by satellites (Temperature measured in Atmosphere is cooler than on the ground). Now this anomaly appears to be cleared up if dimming is true, as larger and denser clouds will naturally be cooler than the Earth, with the Oceans acting as a water bath.

Kind Regard

An Amateur Mathematician

4. Dear Zelah,

what exactly do I disagree with concerning particular climatic models? I'm not sure whether it is the models themselves that one can disagree with. It's the alleged importance of the conclusions based on these models that one can disagree with simply because the models have too many problems to be trustworthy in any sense - more than just pure guesswork. There are just too many unsatisfactory features of these models, but let me enumerate a couple of basic points:

* the models ignore all non-atmospheric influences acting on the atmosphere, such as the oscillating solar activity

* the models don't treat correctly the overwhelmingly most important greenhouse gas, namely water vapor - a significant portion of the greenhouse effect is about the formation of clouds and dynamics of precipitation. It's not known how these things depend on various other concentrations and variables.

* the models don't study other greenhouse gases too well - for example methane produced by termites which is more important than the CO2 from breathing of all humans

* the models don't describe correctly the vertical convection; in fact, they approximate the surface of Earth by one point which is certainly not legitimate

* the models underestimate all possible kinds of feedback mechanisms - for example a faster growth of trees in an environment with higher CO2 concentrations

* the models systematically neglect all possible special events that are important for the climate in the long term - including the volcano activity and even the earthquakes

* the models don't account for the majority of important gases in the atmosphere as the incident with the aerosoles mentioned in this article demonstrates

* the models make incorrect assumptions about the development of the human civilization in the future

* the models don't explain correctly the CO2 sinks - for example North America is very likely a CO2 sink, as one can measure by the CO2 concentration being larger on the East Coast

* most of the models are zero-dimensional and many of their creator believe that one can get reliable predictions about the global climate without understanding anything about local weather - which is not true.

* finally, the models reflect more political bias of their creators rather than reality

I am surprised by your formulation "if dimming is correct, then it has been correctly downplayed by the warming people". If it's indeed correct that the aerosoles are so essential, and the reality will be by at least 100% different than what they were predicting, how can someone in the Universe say that the importance of this effect was "correctly downplayed"? Have you lost your mind? If someone neglects things that change the results by 100% or more and she still claims that she can do predictions, then she is a crackpot that should certainly not get another penny as a scientist. I hope that Bush will be able to identify the global climate charlatans working on these models that could help him to reduce the budget deficit a little bit in February.

Best
Lubos

5. Hi Lubos,

Thank you for your outstanding reply! I agree completely that more research needs to be done and that BOTH sides of the debate have to move to the centre (i.e. we do not know enough) like you.

Just to clarify a point regarding 'downplaying sunlight variable'. Most of the predictions regarding GW were made with models created some 20 odd years ago. Now, 20 years ago computer technology and indeed climate science was far more primitive. Therefore, to have models that scientists could interpret, variables that lead to wild variations were artificially constrained. Obviously the world has moved on, but I still believe that those earlier models give a sound basis for science to move forward. (i.e. future models must explain anomalies provide by previous models due to perturbative analysis).

I must point out that GW was the mainstream position of climatology until only recently The change in consensus is due to new data emerging!

Kind Regards

An Amateur Mathematician

6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7. Lubos - still getting your science from TV, I notice, and still citing stories that contradict your argument. From the BBC article you cited: [the global warming threat is worse than previously thought]...That is unless we act urgently to curb our emissions of greenhouse gases. ..

Your critique of global models to a previous poster is correct in some points but wrong in others. If I get a chance I will detail later.

Also, one of the stories cited pollution as providing more condensation nuclei for water drops. This is probably not correct - cloud condensation nuclei are abundent in the atmosphere - it's ice condensation nuclei that are relatively rare. If you spend some time out in the southwest, at least, you will see many days when most of the cirrus clouds start as aircraft contrails. This kind of high cirrus is probably effective in dimming the Sun, but is not likely to be much affected by ordinary pollution from factories and cars - their particulates stay in the troposphere.

8. Some point by point responses (Lumo in italics)

* the models ignore all non-atmospheric influences acting on the atmosphere, such as the oscillating solar activity... that is certainly no longer correct, if indeed it ever was.

* the models don't treat correctly the overwhelmingly most important greenhouse gas, namely water vapor - a significant portion of the greenhouse effect is about the formation of clouds and dynamics of precipitation. It's not known how these things depend on various other concentrations and variables. ... Everybody in the business understands how crucial water vapor is and a lot of effort goes into making the models as good as possible in that respect. The models aren't perfect in that or any other respect.

* the models don't study other greenhouse gases too well - for example methane produced by termites which is more important than the CO2 from breathing of all humans ... I don't think this is true. Methane has been considered extensively, as have the even more potent CFCs.

* the models don't describe correctly the vertical convection; in fact, they approximate the surface of Earth by one point which is certainly not legitimate... One dimensional models are way obsolete. Convection is not treated as well as anyone would like. 85% credit on this point.

* the models underestimate all possible kinds of feedback mechanisms - for example a faster growth of trees in an environment with higher CO2 concentrations ... Standard political argument, but not true of todays climate science. These CO2 effects have been measured in considerable detail, and they are smaller than expected, not larger.

* the models systematically neglect all possible special events that are important for the climate in the long term - including the volcano activity and even the earthquakes Flatly wrong about volcanic activity, though of course we can't predict the big eruptions that really matter very well in advance. Earthquakes are almost certainly a negligable climate influence.

* the models don't account for the majority of important gases in the atmosphere as the incident with the aerosoles mentioned in this article demonstrates... Aerosols are not gases, but again, a lot of effort goes into aerosol modelling, but large uncertainties do exist since tropospheric aerosols tend to be quite transient in the atmosphere. I'll give you 3/4 credit on this point.

* the models make incorrect assumptions about the development of the human civilization in the future...Well, that remains to be seen now, doesn't it? Models are usually run with several scenarios designed to capture the plausible variability, but again, we won't know how good they did till we know whats going to happen.

* the models don't explain correctly the CO2 sinks - for example North America is very likely a CO2 sink, as one can measure by the CO2 concentration being larger on the East Coast ... Your point is correct, but your example and reasoning aren't. Since atmospheric movement in the midlatitudes is from West to East, greater concentrations on the East Coast imply North America is a net source. The big uncertainty introduced by this failure is that we can't reliably predict whether the sequestration of CO2 (mainly by the Oceans) will remain constant, or decrease. Increase would seem least likely apriori, since higher ocean temperatures decrease soluability.

* most of the models are zero-dimensional and many of their creator believe that one can get reliable predictions about the global climate without understanding anything about local weather - which is not true. ... No longer true. Also, most local weather in the midlatitudes is governed by Rossby waves - they resolve most of the variance. We can't predict them in detail very far in advance, but their statistics are well characterised.

* finally, the models reflect more political bias of their creators rather than reality ... Your opinion, of course. My opinion is that your opinion is bullshit.

Overall grade C-. Reduced to a D+ because you have a bad attitude:-)!

Cheers,

Pig

9. Lubos -

This UK Metoffice site has brief descriptions of the (almost all 3D) types of climate models now in use.

10. Hi CIP,

first of all, your lowering of the grade from C- for "bad attitude" proves my last key point - that the models reflect politics. I of course complain against your political bias in grading, and hereby the grade is returned to "A" and you're fired.

I think that your answer indicates that you realize that I am right, even though you try to create mist, combine, and recombine, :-) and therefore there is no need to refine my comments beyond what I've said. ;-)

Best
Lubos

11. Lubos, You said: first of all, your lowering of the grade from C- for "bad attitude" proves my last key point - that the models reflect politics...

Well, if I hadn't been fired, I might mention that your sentence quoted above is a major non-sequitur, since my bias or lack of it hardly reflects on modelers (I am not a climate modeler). That, and the fact that you failed to refute or dispute any of my substantive points, would surely reflect on your grade, if I hadn't already been fired.

But it is your blog.

Cheers,

Pig

12. Don't the aerosols cause ruptures in the lining of the ozone though, along with different gases that are produced by the industry? The ozone layer is what holds in our air so I think the safest procedure would be to not look at global warming as the whole problem (things simply heating up due to the UV rays), but in a light where protecting our oxygen supply and what holds it in our planet would also be the way to look at the situation.

I know a lot of theories on either side are political and propoganda, I just think the whole global warming issue has become a big pecking issue with poking holes in points on the UV rays' effects we often forget to look at things in a hindsight of other problems. At any rate, maybe the changes won't occur tommorow, but I think we should take a straightforward look at our gas emmissions, especially now in the united states with an administration who refused to believe gases cause environmental problems. I think to say europe will become desert like may be a bit radical to assess, but to say that it may cause environmental hazards due to lack of oxygen; different evolutions based on the change of atmospheric conditions and lack of pure oxygen may end up being a larger problem than what we currently think may not be as radical on our current course.

You said that if something were to happen which would involve environmental destruction, we'd do something about it. I'm starting to strongly doubt it. With beaurocracy the way it is I'm sure a falling meteor wouldn't even rattle their gold lined pockets so long as the public couldn't see it -- and invisible gases are the perfect invisible impending meteor.

13. Lumo,

Interesting dance with CIP. I give him an F for not quantifying his points. If he agress vertical convection is not well modeled, what error bars does this introduce into the modelling results? There should be an error for each area he agreed you had made points - thus establishing low or high average or mean error in the models. His claim that CO2 feedback is handled is also without substance. The initial models' handling was so far off what proof or rationale does he have the models have not gone farther afield.

OK, onto your question of sunlight intensity over the last 50 years. Since the late 1970's and early 80's we have had reasonably good satellite measurements of solar flux. Solar radiation effects the power generation on spacecraft, as well as effect a low earth orbiting satellite's ability to maintain its orbit as solar radiation changes expand and contrast the atmosphere. Since the 1990's we have spacecraft like SOHO staring at the Sun 24x7 and more on the way.

What I think you can guess from this (I might be able to verify this hypothesis if I find the time) is the ability to use certain satellite measurements and correlate them to high altitude balloon measurements, which did occur 50+ years ago. The farther back in time the less accurate the extrapolation will be.

In general I agree with you. What the GW community call science would be laughed at in any other field. The only thing you can predict with their models is they will be wrong. When a model can predict months in advance with a reasonable accuracy I will give the nod they have something to build on.

The other problem I have is ascertaining what is natural warming vs warming from man. The earth and its solar system are always exploring new regions in our galaxy, and we can not determine if ice ages and polar magnetic flips (which occur over long intervals) are the result of extra-solar system forces. If the engine behind GW is natural and on a scale we cannot slow down, then the next plan is to adapt. We could spend money terraforming the deserts using desalination plants to more effect than most people understand.

OK, long winded - I have you bookmarked.