An unfortunate rebuttal to those who should be ignored

Only the other day, while blog surfing, I came across a supposed scientific based, Australian blog heavily interested in climate science. Two things about this blog intrigued me; the first was the author’s continuous reference of CO2 as a “harmless gas” and the second was the general defence and appraisal of the industry-minded pollies in the Liberal camp…

Yeah, I know it paints an obvious picture and one, like many other pretenders, that should be ignored. However, as these agents of doubt cloud true sceptical debate with fear and pseudo-science and manage to steal the lime-light for whatever self-serving agenda, one cannot help but comment.

CO2 is an important gas true, but I wouldn’t be so quick to label it as “harmless”.

Another loud-mouth self-appointed expert who is, as far as I can tell, a fear-mongering lout, fuelled on funds from the fossil fuel industry (dig that alliteration!), likes to make a basic point that the CO2 levels are only a few hundred parts per million (edging near 390ppm at Mauna Loa, looking at the ERSL data here). That may be, as he likes to say, a very small amount, however that very small amount is very important to the stable and habitable climate on the planet. It is regarded  as the second most important of the three major greenhouse gases (ie. water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane) and helps to avoid massive temperature shifts over short periods of time (due to Earth’s spin, eg. the massive surface temperature variation of the Moon; due to fluctuations in solar energy output; due to various in distance from the sun etc). Hence, that “very small amount” should not be taken so lightly as this idiot would have you believe and also; relatively small changes to the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere therefore cannot be trivialised. An excellent quote discussing this can be found at here on 350 or bust.

I remember in my youth, the many documentaries on space or on the Earth that I watched regarded the atmosphere as a thin wisp of gas that is seems so fragile yet amazing for its complexity, weather and for the myriad of life that it supports… We have long since known the damage that our dumping in ocean does – I fail to see the difference with our atmosphere.

As for CO2 being a harmless gas; I would more than happily invite this Australian blogger to enclose them self in a small air-tight room for a week or two and see just how harmless this gas can be. Sure, I know that technically speaking, its more that lack of available oxygen rather than CO2 – but this is a point about effects due to concentration differences. As I’ve stated above; there is only a low concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, yet it has a large effect on the climate of the Earth and thus small changes in concentration must equally have large effects on climate equilibrium.

Models are all good and well, but the danger with them is that they are only as good as their assumptions and can only be validated after the event, so I tend to ignore them in relation to climate science (for the sake of my blog). It’s obvious that increasing CO2 concentrations must lead to a more energetic atmosphere and what may come of that is only speculation. Mitigation is probably more or less no longer an option (and convincing people like those mentioned above is very unlikely – they are pro-business until the carbon really hits the fan). Adaptation and improved sustainability are more likely the only steps forward.

We often look at the Native Americans as very aware of their environment, however they too have a history of over-exploitation and one could argue that it was those lessons that in retrospect altered their perspective. Must we, as a global community, endure increasingly harsh lessons to obtain such reflection?

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2 thoughts on “An unfortunate rebuttal to those who should be ignored

  1. Nicely said for the most part.

    I am sorry you underestimate climate models so. They are an indispensible tool for climate science. They really are a remarkable achievement, among the greatest achievements of computer simulation. Their output in prediction mode is something better than mere speculation, though less than certain.

    See http://www.vets.ucar.edu/vg/T341/movies/JanT341/JanT341.html for an example. Note the tropical storm in the Indian Ocean toward the end of the month. This is a realistic representation of a month that never happened, by a program that has no explicit representations of the structures it builds. This is real science, and not a joke.

    Also, while it is too late to avoid some adaptation, it is never too late to start mitigation.

    That said, your analogy to ocean dumping is a good one, and your ideas about real vs fake skeptics also seem insightful to me.

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    1. Please don’t get me wrong; I use and have used many models as part of my studies and since, my career and you are right; they are amazing tools. Many aspects of ecology find models to make excellent predictions and can be used to put forth various strategies for species protection etc.

      However, I guess my main issue with them is their use in the many “debates” over climate science and so I try to down play models as predictive tools regarding future climates. Any model is only as good as its assumptions and background data and I know of a number of examples that have produced excellent results; a great example is the work down for over a century to make predictions about meteorology (it’s not always right, but if they say there’s a good chance of rain, I don’t think many will go for their shorts and thongs (flip-flops).

      So you’re right; I don’t often give models enough respect, but my argument is largely aimed at those who state that the weakness (that they see) in predictions regarding climate change is enough to refute climate change in general. It goes with a lot of what I state; that the average person on the street shouldn’t try to argue the science (because, firstly, the science is good, and secondly, not everyone should to be an expert on any given field), but they should trust the science and argue with the do-nothing policy makers that are making all the noise right now.

      Adaptation must be part of our future; my work largely focuses on changing farming techniques that to date have never been suited to Australian climates and with a changing climate… agriculture and science must work together if we are to maintain food supply at the very least.

      Cheers for the following comments; the climate change skeptics are certainly a mixed bag..
      🙂

      Like

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