Monday, April 21, 2008

Global Warmists

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, climate change

I don't know if I can fairly review the recent volume edited by Joseph F. C. DiMento and Pamela Doughman, titled Climate Change: What it Means for Us, our Children, and our Grandchildren. By the time I'd read half the volume (four of the eight essays) I had marked eight places where I had serious objections, beginning with an unsupported cheap shot at Michael Crichton. I decided on another approach.

If you are sufficiently motivated, please read Cold Facts on Global Warming by T. J. Nelson. Of most significance to me, he demonstrates:
  • A doubling of CO2 from its current value of 0.0368% to 0.0736% will cause at most 1.76°C (3.17°F), with an uncertainty of ¼°C (½°F). Contrast this figure with some of the numbers being published.
  • Taking a straight-line trend through the measured CO2 values for the past forty years indicates that such doubling will take nearly 250 years, not the "50-100 years" we hear about.
  • Doubling CO2 requires much more than doubling the global use of fossil fuels (more like octupling), in the proportions being consumed today. This is extremely unlikely.
  • CO2 is already absorbing most of the radiation of which it is capable.
Let us also remember that water vapor is a much more capable greenhouse gas than is CO2, and that water's longest-wave absorption band competes with CO2's. Water vapor takes part in a negative-feedback mechanism: warmer Earth => more clouds => more solar heat reflected => cooling and rainfall...and so forth.

A word on coastal flooding: Heating the oceans by 1.76°C (in much longer than the next 2.5 centuries) will deepen the oceans by at most a meter. Neither can such a level of heating make much of a dent in the continental ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica. Added rainfall may actually thicken them. This may account for the fact that the expected flooding of the Maldives and similar island nations just isn't happening "on schedule."

This volume is worth reading as an example of the peak of the current "fashionable fear" phase of the global warming debate. The Sixth chapter, by journalist Andrew Revkin is the only essay that even approaches rationality. But little debate is now tolerated; scientists who wish to dissent are silenced or cowed, except for the Emeriti who, being retired, no longer have to scramble for grant money. Much of the dissent thus comes from them.

The volume also exemplifies the transition of the thesis into a belief system, a temporary religion I call "Global Warmism." Such temporary religions gain adherents for ten to thirty years, then fade away, until just a few gadflies remain. I predict that a new fashionable fear will occupy all the headlines and trigger a new cult by 2015 or so. Sic transit timor mundi, and no skin off my nose.

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