The Fluid Envelope Print E-mail
Written by by Richard Lindzen   
Friday, 14 March 2008 11:08



[Dr. Lindzen is not affiliated with SPPI]

[Illustrations, footnotes and references available in PDF version]

Source: ECOWorld

A CASE AGAINST CLIMATE ALARMISM

Editor's Note: Our charter to report on clean technology and the status of species and ecosystems seems to always bring us back to one overriding distraction - global warming alarm - and small wonder. We are in the midst of one of the most dramatic transformations of political economy in the history of the world - and nobody is watching. "The debate is over on global warming," goes the consensus, and even if that were a healthy or accurate notion, why has this consensus translated into hardly any vigorous debate over what would be a rational response?

Despite ongoing rhetoric to the contrary from virtually every environmental nonprofit in existence, the United States has been an extraordinarily responsible nation. We listened to our environmental movement; we institutionalized it. On every front there has been huge progress over the past 30-40 years. Our air and water are orders of magnitude cleaner even though our population has doubled. Our landfills our ultra-safe. We have set aside vast tracts of wilderness, rescued countless endangered species. Our food supply is scrupulously monitored. And every year our technology and our prosperity delivers new options to eliminate more pollution and live healthier lives. So what happened?

In the rest of the world there is also reason for great optimism, despite some discouraging challenges that continue to grip humanity. Human population is voluntarily leveling off, so that within 25-30 years the number of people on planet earth will peak at around 8.5 billion - and every time the projection is revisited, that estimate drops. At an even faster pace, humanity is urbanizing - and this voluntary movement is taking people out of the vast and potentially endangered forests and other biomes faster than population increase replaces them. Land is becoming abundant again. So what's wrong?

Technology promises abundant energy within a few decades, using clean fossil fuel as we systematically replace it with solar, nuclear, run-of-river hydroelectric, enhanced geothermal, wind, possibly biofuel. Technology promises abundant water within a few decades, as we learn how to recycle every drop of water used in the urban environment, convert many crops to drip irrigation, and develop massive desalination capacity. So why don't we get to work?

The reason is because of global warming alarm. The bells of warning are ringing so loud that CO2 is all that matters anymore. Want to stop using petroleum? Then burn the rainforests for biofuel. Want to stop using coal? Then forget about installing affordable scrubbers to remove the soot that billows from coal fired power plants across burgeoning Asia - why clean up something that needs to be shut down? Want to save allegedly scarce open space? Then cram everyone into ultra-high density "infill" and destroy every semi rural neighborhood in the western world. Make housing unaffordable, then mandate taxpayer-subsidized affordable housing. And do it all in the name of reducing CO2 emissions.

Today, after reading two documents from the website of the Attorney General of California, "Mitigation Measures," and "Global Warming Contrarians and the Falsehoods they Promote," I became so alarmed at what we are willingly, blindly bringing upon ourselves because of all this CO2 alarm that I contacted Dr. Richard Lindzen, who has already contributed two lengthy articles to EcoWorld, "Current Behavior of Global Mean Surface Temperature," and "Is There a Basis for Global Warming Alarm?" I asked Dr. Lindzen if he still held the views he does. He replied emphatically in the affirmative, and sent me the article that follows. Dr. Lindzen, along with Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., with whom EcoWorld recently published the exclusive "Interview with Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr.," are both internationally respected atmospheric scientists. And both of them, in somewhat different ways, are quite concerned about the overemphasis on CO2.

Anyone who is championing extreme measures to reduce anthropogenic CO2 should attempt for themselves to understand the science. As Dr. Lindzen wrote me earlier today, policymakers such as Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger "can be excused given the degree to which the environmental movement has taken over the professional societies."
"Science" has become the trump card that drowns out reason - what great irony. And the scientific establishment itself has become politicized. And if you read the mitigation measures being proposed, just imagine if there was nothing we could do to affect global warming - which even some of the lead authors of the IPCC studies themselves acknowlege - and see if you want to live in the brave new world we are leading ourselves into by our own gullible noses.

Dramatic and positive global economic and technological developments, along with voluntary and irreversible global demographic trends, are about to deliver us a future where we enjoy unprecedented environmental health, abundance and prosperity. But to do this we need to preserve our economic and personal freedoms. Will the measures being proposed - especially in trendsetting California - fruitlessly combat a problem that doesn't exist, crush economic growth and trample on individual freedom, and rob humanity of this hopeful destiny?

- Ed "Redwood" Ring
The Fluid Envelope - A Case Against Climate Alarmism
by Dr. Richard Lindzen, February 2008

The notion of a static, unchanging climate is foreign to the history of the earth or any other planet with a fluid envelope. The fact that the developed world went into hysterics over changes in global mean temperature of a few tenths of a degree will astound future generations.

Such hysteria simply represents the scientific illiteracy of much of the public, the susceptibility of the public to the Goebbelian substitution of repetition for truth, and the exploitation of these weaknesses by politicians, environmental promoters, and, after 20 years of media drum beating, many others as well.

Climate is always changing. We have had ice ages and warmer periods when alligators were found in Spitzbergen. Ice ages have occurred in a hundred thousand year cycle for the last 700 thousand years, and previous warm periods appear to have been warmer than the present despite CO2 levels being lower than they are now. More recently, we have had the medieval warm period and the little ice age. During the latter, alpine glaciers advanced to the chagrin of overrun villages.

Since the beginning of the 19th Century these glaciers have been retreating. Frankly, we don t fully understand either the advance or the retreat. For small changes in climate associated with tenths of a degree, there is no need for any external cause. The earth is never exactly in equilibrium. The motions of the massive oceans where heat is moved between deep layers and the surface provides variability on time scales from years to centuries. Recent work (Tsonis et al, 2007), suggests that this variability is enough to account for all climate change since the 19th Century. Supporting the notion that man has not been the cause of this unexceptional change in temperature is the fact that there is a distinct signature to greenhouse warming: surface warming should be accompanied by warming in the tropics around an altitude of about 9km that is about 2.5 times greater than at the surface.

Measurements show that warming at these levels is only about 3/4 of what is seen at the surface, implying that only about a third of the surface warming is associated with the greenhouse effect, and, quite possibly, not all of even this really small warming is due to man. This further implies that all models predicting significant warming are greatly overestimating warming. This should not be surprising. According to the UN s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the greenhouse forcing from man made greenhouse gases is already about 86 % of what one expects from a doubling of CO2 (with about half coming from methane, nitrous oxide, freons and ozone), and alarming predictions depend on models for which the sensitivity to a doubling for CO2 is greater than 2C which implies that we should already have seen much more warming than we have seen thus far, even if all the warming we have seen so far were due to man.

This contradiction is rendered more acute by the fact that there has been no significant global warming for the last ten years. Modelers defend this situation by arguing that aerosols have cancelled much of the warming, and that models adequately account for natural unforced internal variability. However, a recent paper (Ramanathan, 2007) points out that aerosols can warm as well as cool, while scientists at the UK s Hadley Centre for Climate Research recently noted that their model did not appropriately deal with natural internal variability thus demolishing the basis for the IPCC s iconic attribution. Interestingly (though not unexpectedly), the British paper did not stress this. Rather, they speculated that natural internal variability might step aside in 2009, allowing warming to resume. Resume? Thus, the fact that warming has ceased for the past decade is acknowledged.

Whether or not someone is a climate alarmistᅠshould have no
bearing on the strength or purity of their environmentalist convictions.
(Read "Global Warming Questions")

Given that the evidence (and I have noted only a few of many pieces of evidence) strongly suggests that anthropogenic warming has been greatly exaggerated, the basis for alarm due to such warming is similarly diminished.

However, the really important point is that the case for alarm would still be weak even if anthropogenic global warming were significant. Polar bears, arctic summer sea ice, regional droughts and floods, coral bleaching, hurricanes, alpine glaciers, malaria, etc. etc. all depend not on some global average of surface temperature, but on a huge number of regional variables including temperature, humidity, cloud cover, precipitation, and direction and magnitude of wind.

The state of the ocean is also often crucial. Our ability to forecast any of these over periods beyond a few days is minimal. Yet, each catastrophic forecast depends on each of these being in a specific range. The odds of any specific catastrophe actually occurring is almost zero. This was equally true for earlier forecasts: famine for the 1980's, global cooling in the 1970's, Y2K and many others. Regionally, year to year fluctuations in temperature are over four times larger than fluctuations in the global mean. Much of this variation has to be independent of the global mean; otherwise the global mean would vary much more.

This is simply to note that factors other than global warming are more important to any specific situation. This is not to say that disasters will not occur; they always have occurred and this will not change in the future. Fighting global warming with symbolic gestures will certainly not change this. However, history tells us that greater wealth and development can profoundly increase our resilience.

Given the above, one may reasonably ask why there is the current alarm, and, in particular, why the astounding upsurge in alarmism of the past 2 years. When an issue like global warming is around for over twenty years, numerous agendas are developed to exploit the issue.

The interests of the environmental movement in acquiring more power and influence are reasonably clear. So too are the interests of bureaucrats for whom control of CO2 is a dream-come-true. After all, CO2 is a product of breathing itself. Politicians can see the possibility of taxation that will be cheerfully accepted because it is necessary for saving the world. Nations have seen how to exploit this issue in order to gain competitive advantages. But, by now, things have gone much further.

The case of ENRON is illustrative in this respect. Before disintegrating in a pyrotechnic display of unscrupulous manipulation, ENRON had been one of the most intense lobbyists for Kyoto. It had hoped to become a trading firm dealing in carbon emission rights. This was no small hope. These rights are likely to amount to over a trillion dollars, and the commissions will run into many billions. Hedge funds are actively examining the possibilities. It is probably no accident that Gore, himself, is associated with such activities . The sale of indulgences is already in full swing with organizations selling offsets to one s carbon footprint while sometimes acknowledging that the offsets are irrelevant.

The possibilities for corruption are immense. Archer Daniels Midland (America s largest agribusiness) has successfully lobbied for ethanol requirements for gasoline, and the resulting demand for ethanol is already leading to large increases in corn prices and associated hardship in the developing world (not to mention poorer car performance).

And finally, there are the numerous well meaning individuals who have allowed propagandists to convince them that in accepting the alarmist view of anthropogenic climate change, they are displaying intelligence and virtue For them, their psychic welfare is at stake.

With all this at stake, one can readily suspect that there might be a sense of urgency provoked by the possibility that warming may have ceased. For those committed to the more venal agendas, the need to act soon, before the public appreciates the situation, is real indeed.

About the Author:

Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology(http://web.mit.edu). This article is reprinted here with permission from the author.


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Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 March 2008 12:14