What do I think, What can I do?

Posts tagged ‘skeptics’

Snow at home

This week has been unusually cold in the whole Europe, and also for me. I am not used to see all this snow around me, and even if some snow around Bilbao is not strange every winter I do not remember it lasting so long. My memories of childhood remember a friend always asking for snow to avoid going to school as it happened once, but regrettably for him no more in our school years.
Anyway I may be wrong because I do not trust too much my weather memories, nor the memories of people surrounding me, because it is easy to listen many people explaining how extreme has been any weather condition every year. Nevertheless, as I frequently discuss with my wife climate change is not about our vague memories or climate feelings, it is about data, long term and geographically widespread data. For this reason I do not read with much interest the frequent posts in skeptic blogs about cold winter in India, or in Nebraska, or this time in Europe.
The skeptic posts about those freezing temperatures are widespread, here, here, here , and here, as it is cold is not warming. The answer in climate hawks blogs is that more energy in the atmosphere means more extreme weather events and I remember a conference about climate change where the speaker say precisely that, more extreme events in Europe would occur due to changes in wind regimes could be a consequence of higher global temperatures.

I think that it is important to distinguish weather tfrom global climate, wonderfully explained in this video. This winter is not a probe against climate change and it is not a probe of it although matches with some of the predictions. Even having extreme events doesn’t probe anything, the increasing number of extreme events is the key index to check, along with many others.

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Climateinsight author passed away

I try to read several blogs about climate change, climate hawks and skeptics. And the more I read the more interest I have and the more I learn, I hope. Of course, I am a total amateur with limited time, so I read only a small part of the post from the blogs I am subscribed.

However, today I read a post that moved me. The author of climateinsight passed away. I did not know him but I read in this small biography that he was physicist and mathematician and worked in many fields leading him to be interested in the climate change impact on public safety, after that, nowadays retired, he was very active in his blog until recently. I did not read thoroughly most of his posts either (they where prior to my discovery of his blog) but checking them now I think they are a very interesting information source that deserve a good reading.

I hope WordPress maintain them for a long time as a wonderful memorial open to the world. It is interesting to think how the Internet allows a person to continue saying a lot of things for years.

Thanks Allan, for writing.

Proxy, indirect measurements

Proxy. This word has been fascinating for me for a long time. I think I understood more or less the meaning from the first time, but it was quite inaccurate. In this moment I feel much more comfortable to read and use it. A proxy is an indirect measurement of some magnitude. For example in cooking, if you are not able to measure the cooking state or temperature of the turkey you can guide yourself by the time. We use proxies all the time and rely on them very confidently, because they are based on the knowledge of the issue we have.
Proxy measurements are also a source of criticism by skeptics as it is very easy cast a doubt about them. Even more, in some cases they will be right as a particular proxy may be a wrong measurement technique (if you cook pasta in Bolivia, the time measurement is not right, becuase the pressure is low and the boiling temperature changes, OK we have learnt something new about this proxy, its application scope). This is science, learning from errors, getting more reliable data and questioning them and the previous theories.

But even if they are not perfect, proxies are many times the only source of information for many sciences (nobody measured the weight of dinosaurs, or has been close to our sun) and they are one of the fascinating things about science: how indirect measurements, hints in some cases, combine with solid base of science and theories to be proben true or false to get a coherent picture.

Because climate change is not based in a weak proxy, it is based on knowledge of greenhouse effect, many current measurements and many different proxies from the past. And the models are only considered reasonable when they fit those data.

Climate, ridiculously complex but modelizable.

Frequently the problem seem overwhelming but this is the art of modelling: to find the main lines

In a recent post in skeptic blog WUWT, they compile a great number of factors affecting climate to show how complex is to understand the whole picture.

I recognize the merit of this work in a blog. Even if the ultimate goal is to explain why climate models cannot cope with the “ridiculously complex” system.

However, this way, they are implicitly recognising a that they are very far in knowledge and accumulated work from the scientits community that has been working in climate models since the fisrt success in 1956 by Norman Philips or the first General Circulation Model (GCM) in the late sixties. The computer running that model had to be really incredible.

This 50 years work along with the different data is very important for the scientific community understanding of present, past and future climate is critical for the IPCC forecasting.

Of course, those models are far from perfect but good modelers know that you cannot make a perfect model from the beginning. You try with a rough approximation that handles the most critical factors, if you are succesful you go for including more complex aspects always within the capability of your calculation system. You compare with data, with other models results, discuss, get more powerful computers,… And the model is never perfect but it get better and better, sometimes very slowly, sometimes going backwards in some step. A nice explanation for anyone of climate models is here and a more detailed explanation of how to use one here.

The other possibility is to consider is “ridiculously complex” and just enumerate the difficulties because you are not able to reach perfection, but this way we would not have modeled the solar system, the galaxy, the solid state physics that allowed the microelectronics,… Because in this aspect physics and mathematics are very different, mathematics look for the exact solution and physics looks for the main aspects that explain the phenomenon, this way you can reach a reasonable mathematical model that works within its application scope.

Methane Hydrates, energy solution, bombshell or just a beautiful fire?

Figure

Image from Wikipedia

Recently I read in a sceptic blog a post about methane hydrates. They are a huge potential source of methane or natural gas in the bottom of the sea. Their extraction and use as fuel it is not straightforward nor cheap, but some researchers claim they have found a way to do it economically. This wonderful “burning fire” promises a new oil era, a longer one to continue with fossil fuel energy.

It is interesting for me to see the fascination that some feel for fossil fuels or anything that burns. Because in order to find some new energy source they could explain the new possibilities of nanotechnologies in this field or advances in biofuels. All those researches could become real or not , the same as methane hydrates. Yet they have a big difference, they do not emit CO2 and would help us reduce climate change.

And all this if due to climate change some of those methane hydrates do not start to melt just by the higher temperature, something quite dangerous as methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and it would ignite a strong positive feedback. It seems unlikely, fortunately. but it they want to get it all for sure they will have to be fast.

The Skeptics: Why I believe in Climate Change (V)

Image taken from http://www.desmogblog.com

Credibility is very important in any discussion. Sometimes, the different arguments may be convincing but the opinion about the discusser turns the balance. And credibility is not something static as politicians, journalists and many other people know so well. It can be gained slowly, or lost very fast. In my case, I have a lot of doubts about climate skeptics because of important contradictions or even cherry-picking cases I find in their webs. Just one example (maybe later I will show more):

In this post in climaterealists they mention one paper to reinforce their position about the sun’s driving force in climate opposed to CO2. The paper studies the relationship between sun and climate but as read in the abstract of the paper:

In this work the surface temperature anomaly (dTG) and sunspot number (Rz) time series in the period 1880–2000 are studied with wavelet multi-resolution analysis. We found a very low correlation of 0.11 between dTG and Rz in the 11-yr-solar cycle band. A higher correlation of 0.66 is found in the ∼22-yr-band with zero lag correlation coefficient between dTG and Rz. Furthermore, the long-term trend is markedly different between dTG and Rz. This might occurs because of the long-term warming on the last century, which is attributed mainly to anthropogenic effects.

The authors do not consider this relationship meaningful in last century due to anthropogenic effects, i.e., CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

The explanation given in the post and  the paper are clearly contradictory, this is quite embarrassing for that webs credibility. And it is not the only case.

Nevertheless, I believe in climate change mainly for other reasons explained here, here, here and here this is just a confirmation.

The science I understand: Why I believe in Climate Change (III)

I am a physicist by education and work in industrial research so I consider myself at the same time able to understand the physical concepts underlying climate change and not an expert in any way. Because it is very important to say that experts in any scientific/research field are not clever minds that understand the basic theories by magic means, experts are the ones collecting data, working with them, knowing the research trends in the field and debating each other results. And scientific experts publish their work in peer reviewed journals. I have been lucky to publish scarcely in another area but not in climate, regrettably I think this also happens with some pretended “experts”.

But this time I want o walk a little bit by myself, because it is true that finally ones mind needs explanations understandable for himself. There are many evidences, this post from climateprogress is in may opinion quite clear about it, that something important is happening to the world climate, and it is happening fast in geological standards. Because it is not only about measuring temperatures in the land(a frequent sceptik criticism is about temperature measurement failures), it is also about sea level, glaciers, ice extent, sea temperature, extreme climate events,…

So, something is provoking that more energy is in our lower atmosphere, were we live. It could be the inputs, but solar cycles are in the same magnitudes as later centuries. There is no mayor volcano, no asteroid crash. But we are throwing tons and tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and even if some continue having doubts, greenhouse effect was theorized and probed by Arrhenius 100 years ago. It is easy to explain in a simple way: we all emit radiation depending on our temperature, as the sun is much hotter than us its radiation is different from ours and some elements are able to stop suns radiation, whereas some others stop earths radiation like smoke hinders normal light propagation. This way if they stop our infrared radiation we will get hotter. It is the reason Venus is so hot, or the reason to the severe temperature difference between earth and the moon. And the more greenhouse gases the hotter we will get. Of course is more complex, feedbacks should not be forgotten and proven that our emissions are significant enough, but the main idea comes from the XIXth century, and the mechanism, the data and other measurements agree quite well:

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Climate Haws vs. Deniers: Why I believe in Climate Change (I)

Clñimate Hawk logo

I read different blogs about climate change (see links under construction). Some agree with climate change  (they are called alarmist by the deniers and climate hawks to themself) and some deny it (they are called deniers by the Hawks and skeptic to themselves).

OK. I consider myself a climate hawk, a beliver, or alarmist, in deniers language. Sometimes deniers are quite convincing but I am more and more convinced of the urgency of climate change. And the more I read the more I believe the urgency of this issue. Why? I will explain in the following posts my reasons, trying to be sincere and explaining the reasons as well as the feellings. more or less these ones:

  • Becasuse of my feelings (and personal history).
  • Because of the evidence I see in the science I understand.
  • Because of my logic.
  • Because of some social logic.
  • Because of the contradictions of deniers .
  • Because of some examples.

2010 in one figure

I wanted to make a kind of summary of this year, the first year for this blog. It started as a trial, and I still are not sure about my energy to write periodically about climate change. But some post have been produced and some more are in drafts, so fpor the moment I do not give up.

The most direct way to make a kind of summary in this moment was to obtain new data for my climagechangemeter and show them. October was a very encouraging month with steep increments for total appearances and decrements for sceptics. But today this result is going exactly the other way: Scepticism is regaining strength and climate change loosing presence. Anyway those results are weaker than the previous gains so, global output from june is clearly positive. Is this a real index about global opinion? I am not able to say it but considering the moderate success of Cancun and some interesting results as the failure of prop 21 in California we may be getting in the right way.  The more difficult question is, are we driving at sufficient speed?


More spills and $/€ moving arround

One interesting point of view to embrace climate change struggle is the practical one. Instead of less widespread ethic or environmental criteria the practical point of view should be able to reach a wider spectrum of people living their own busy urban life without too much time to worry for far problems (far geographically, socially or in time). Because if this is something that may affect my own small life it is more likely I will find some time or effort to do something or change something in my behaviour, or, at least accept stoically an imposed sacrifice.

This way of thinking was mentioned in this blog before related with BP oil spill. And I have just recalled it after reading news from other not so famous spills. Or the not so far China spill . How much are we paying in many ways for all this spills? How expensive is really the petroleum dependence nowadays?

Sceptics will continue to explain carbon-free economy is too expensive, impossibly expensive. Are they considering all the cost in this moment?  And the future ones? And the risks? And the cost of the risks?

The eternal problem again: actual cost are “easy” to measure, at least some of them, while future ones are difficult to measure or maybe easy to forget.