20 July 2009

Letter the first

Dear Senator Fielding,

I have just read your 3 questions regarding climate change and feel I can answer these for you:

Is it the case that CO2 increased by 5% since 1998 whilst global temperature cooled over the same period (see Fig. 1)? If so, why did the temperature not increase; and how can human emissions be to blame for dangerous levels of warming?

You may have noticed that during the season of Spring that not every day is warmer than the previous day, nevertheless, by the time Summer arrives you can definitely say 'it is warmer now than 3 months ago.' This is called a trend.
Similarly, global warming is a trend. So, although we can happily ignore it for the rest of our lives, future generations will be able to say, 'it is warmer now than 100 years ago.'

Is it the case that the rate and magnitude of warming between 1979 and 1998 (the late 20th century phase of global warming) were not unusual as compared with warmings that have occurred earlier in the Earth’s history (Fig. 2a, 2b)? If the warming was not unusual, why is it perceived to have been caused by human CO2 emissions; and, in any event, why is warming a problem if the Earth has experienced similar warmings in the past?

Global warming is not a problem. If global temperatures increase, for example, to the degree experienced in the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (a period approximately 56 million years ago where average global temperatures increased by 6 degrees over a period of 20,000 years), then presumably we would experience similar effects in the present day (though the most dire global warming predictions do envisage a 6 degree increase happening in less than 1000 years). These could include such things as a wetter, more tropical climate; raised sea levels; and partial extinction of deep-water microscopic organisms. Interestingly, there was an increase in biodiversity during this period, although this did take some millions of years to fully evolve. Such temperature increases will of course cause huge changes to the way humanity lives and survives, but over the long-time scales we are talking about such changes will happen anyway.

Is it the case that all GCM computer models projected a steady increase in temperature for the period 1990-2008, whereas in fact there were only 8 years of warming were followed by 10 years of stasis and cooling. (Fig. 3)? If so, why is it assumed that long-term climate projections by the same models are suitable as a basis for public policy making?

See Answer 1.

I hope this helps you understand more about global warming. I think a good thing to do in the modern world is to listen to the opinions of experts. For example, if you were diagnosed with a rare disease, with few initial symptoms, but with a bad prognosis (e.g. disfigurement and death) you would most likely go to a doctor who has spent many years studying this disease. If the doctor said something surprising such as, 'The disease you have can only be cured by chopping off your index fingers" you would of course ask for a second opinion, but if chopping off you index fingers was the consensus amongst all the doctors you saw, you would most likely conclude that this was what had to be done. The only other options you would have would be to become a doctor yourself and study the disease until you either reached the same conclusion, or found an alternative cure; or to wait and hope that the disease went away or was misdiagnosed.
Similarly with global warming, because the science involved is very complicated, it is a good idea to listen to experts. At present, the vast majority of these experts are saying that global warming is a real threat that we must act to avoid ("you must chop off your index fingers"). Taking action would obviously be distressing, and so, once again, there are really only 2 alternatives to contemplate. You could return to university and study Geography, Climate Science, Atmospheric Physics, Glaciology, Meteorology and all the other disciplines represented by the experts who are currently telling you that global warming is real, until you yourself were an expert. You could then make an informed decision as to whether global warming is a serious issue that must be addressed. Otherwise, your other option is to wait and see if global warming does not really exist (waiting for the disease to go away, or perhaps a misdiagnosis).
Waiting for something to go away, or to be proved untrue, is a bad stratagem when dealing with potentially terminal diseases. You might feel fine for a few years, but then take a turn for the worse, where you can see you are obviously sick, and the disease has not gone away or been misdiagnosed. But when you come back to the doctor he says he cannot help you because the window for successful treatment has passed, or that cutting off your index fingers is no longer enough, and he must now remove your arms.

Anyway, you can see where I'm going with all that, and being a Christian I'm sure you know about Pascal's Wager and have applied the form to the global warming question, et cetera, et cetera

Hope this helps.

Best regards, Scott Howard

P.S. Possibly the reason Al Gore declined to meet with you is that he thought you were a crackpot.

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