L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

01 August 2008 Blog Home : August 2008 : Permalink

100 Months of Mockery

End of worldI've always felt that Global Warming folks (and enviroMENTALists) of all sorts are related to fundaMENTAList religious folks of all stripes, indeed I talked about that in my essay earlier this week. Gaia is just their Goddess and center of their religion the way that Muslims vernerate Allah, Christians Jesus etc. Further evidence emerges in that the crackpot guy with a sandwich board proclaiming "The End of The World is Nigh" appears to have gone all modern and environMENTALly friendly. (No I'm not referring to the woolly headed blog post I nicked the picture from,) I'm referring to the 100 months website and associated werbling.

Allegedly if we don't repent our evil ways and curtail our cardbon dioxide emissions in 100 months time then the human race if not the entire earth is DOOMED! Or so claims the chief green board holder in the Grauniad today:

Time is fast running out to stop irreversible climate change, a group of global warming experts warns today. We have only 100 months to avoid disaster. Andrew Simms explains why we must act now - and where to begin

And he goes on to say:

Because in just 100 months' time, if we are lucky, and based on a quite conservative estimate, we could reach a tipping point for the beginnings of runaway climate change. That said, among people working on global warming, there are countless models, scenarios, and different iterations of all those models and scenarios. So, let us be clear from the outset about exactly what we mean.

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, is the highest it has been for the past 650,000 years. In the space of just 250 years, as a result of the coal-fired Industrial Revolution, and changes to land use such as the growth of cities and the felling of forests, we have released, cumulatively, more than 1,800bn tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Currently, approximately 1,000 tonnes of CO2 are released into the Earth's atmosphere every second, due to human activity. Greenhouse gases trap incoming solar radiation, warming the atmosphere. When these gases accumulate beyond a certain level - often termed a "tipping point" - global warming will accelerate, potentially beyond control.

What I think I understand from the first paragraph is that in 100 months (at most i.e. sometime before 1 Dec 2016) we could start the runaway climate change thing. and the second quoted paragraph is where our greeny starts to explain why. Unfortunately as Tim notes, CO2 is not the most prevalent greenhouse gas either in terms of how much is in the atmosphere or how much greenhousing it does; water vapour beats it on both counts. This is a bit of an embarrassment but it isn't the worst problem.

That would be what seems to me to be the killer issue. If we have the most CO2 in the last 650,000 years then does that mean that CO2 levels were higher before? Err well yes in fact it does. At various points in the dinosaur age and possibly later CO2 is believed to have been much much higher than today and yet we're here in an environment with (relatively) low CO2. So the run-away greenhouse effect probably isn't as irreversable as claimed (see figure 7 in Lord Monckton's aritcle and related text).

Beyond that the models that predict global warming via radiative forcing from GHGs don't seem to be holding up well right now. That same article I linked above also shows the predicted temperature vs altitude/latitude graphs of different forcing mechanisms, shows them combined in 4 different ways and shows how the atmosphere today doesn't actually resemble any of them. One reason for this could be that CO2 is not as evenly distributed at altitude in the way people expected. Anthony Watts has a post about the AIRS satellite detectors where the team writes:

We are still in the validation phase in developing this new product. It will be part of the Version 6 data release, but for now those of us working on it are intensively validating our results using in situ measurements by aircraft and upward looking fourier transform IR spectrometers (TCCON network and others).

The AIRS CO2 product is for the mid-troposphere. For quite some time it was accepted theory that CO2 in the free troposphere is “well-mixed”, i.e., the difference that might be seen at that altitude would be a fraction of a part per million (ppmv). Models, which ingest surface fluxes from known sources, have long predicted a smooth (small)variation with latitude, with steadily diminishing CO2 as you move farther South. [...]

Since our results are at variance with what is commonly accepted by [t]he scientific community, we must work especially hard to validate them.

In other words we can now guess that the reason why the models are wrong is that CO2 is not uniform, hence leading to Garbage In, Garbage Out. And hence if you aren't a global warming true believer, a requirement to get the science right before taking actions that will impoverish the planet.

That kind of logic doesn't deter the true envirMENTAList though and our writer come up with some absolute beauts in the "economically/politically clueless" department.e.g.

In terms of what is possible in times of economic stress and isolation, Cuba provides an even more embarrassing example to show up our national tardiness. In a single year in 2006 Cuba rolled-out a nationwide scheme replacing inefficient incandescent lightbulbs with low-energy alternatives. Prior to that, at the end of the cold war, after losing access to cheap Soviet oil, it switched over to growing most of its food for domestic consumption on small scale, often urban plots, using mostly low-fossil-fuel organic techniques. Half the food consumed in the capital, Havana, was grown in the city's own gardens. Cuba echoed and surpassed what America achieved in its push for "Victory Gardening" during the second world war.

Cuba is one of the worlds less functioning economies. It is also a dictatorship so it can do things like force replacement of lightbulbs that politicians in other countries don't do without getting a certain amount of negative feedback. Somehow one suspects that Cubans grow their own food because they (and their coutnry) are too poor to import it or grow it efficiently. When (not if) there is a crop failire for some reason Cuba is going to starve following in the footsteps of it's fellow communist state - N Korea. It is also
worth noting that Cuba's population density is less thanhalf the UKs (102 vs 246).

And then he proposes a windfall tax on energy companies (who are going to pass this tax onto whom?), a national insulation scheme to enrich polish construction workers and what appears to be a ban on cars with a single occupant. Not to mention a ban on coal power stations, designating some oil as 'nonburnable' and other weirdnesses without suggesting nuclear energy. All very dictatorial but pretty much guaranteed to push the UK into the sort of recession that leads to mass emigration (a la Irish potato famine) or in situ starvation (ditto).

This is the national equivalent of amputating a leg because it might have virulant cancer. When human patients get that sort of advice they ask to see the X-rays and to get a second opinion. Apparently the human race is not allowed to do the same thing. It will be fun to see how things progress over the next 100 months if, as I suspect, the 'science' of global warming proves to have as many holes as I believe it to have.