Tag Archives: CO2

Why a hot year matters more than a cold year or a neutral year

Earth’s systems are already out of balance. The comparative equilibrium we saw during most of the last 10,000 years meant that the amount of ice we had was roughly the amount of ice we were likely to get and keep at our current temperature and greenhouse gas level. When we increased the average temperature, that balance was shifted, and ice started melting in response to the increased temperature of the climate.

The “lull” between 1998 and 2015, which was not much of a lull, still saw accelerating ice melt, permafrost thawing, and sea level rise, because we had already raised the temperature enough to make those inevitable, based on our understanding of physics. Even a year that was down to the 1990 or 1980 temperature level, on average, followed by a return to 2000s temperatures, would have fairly little effect. The melting would have slowed, without stopping, and then sped up again when the temperature returned to the decadal “norm”.

But a dramatically hotter year – like this El Niño year – is a different matter. It injects a bunch more heat into the system, which means faster ice melt, and so lower albedo for the coming year, and more permafrost melt, and so more greenhouse gasses for the coming year, and more water evaporation, and so more greenhouse gasses for the coming year.

A single, unusually cold year, does not do much when we’re still above the temperature at which the current ice sheets formed, but a single hot year can create a spike of warming factors, which will cause even more warming in the years to come.

If we had not been emitting fossil fuels, it’s possible that the dip in global temperatures in the late 1960s/early 1970s would have led to more global cooling, and even an ice age – we’re certainly due for one – but we had already started the slowly accelerating process of global warming. We already had warming momentum, even back then, so we had a temporary cool period, and then when we came out of the 1970s, the temperature skyrocketed.

We’ll have more warming “pauses” in the future. That is a virtual certainty, but unless we re-balance the planet’s temperature budget by reducing greenhouse gases, the planet will just keep warming until it reaches a new equilibrium. Because of feedbacks like the albedo and the melting permafrost, even if we stop emitting CO2 now, the planet will keep warming for thousands of years, and the new equilibrium will be far, far hotter than anything our species has ever encountered.

There are a number of ways we could respond to this, but our best bet is to stop contributing to the problem, prepare for the changes we know are coming, and develop a strategy for deliberately managing the planet’s greenhouse gas levels.


An Excellent Video on Sea Level Rise

This not only talks about using roman fish pens and ancient coral as markers for the rising waters, but also about the relationship between sea level and melting ice in Greenland, which is not what you’d think.

With the so-called Arctic death spiral continuing apace, and methane seeping out of the melting permafrost, all signs point to an imminent acceleration of warming in the Arctic, and that means even faster melting of the greenland ice sheet.

This is not good news, and understanding what the effects of that melting will be is crucial to preparing for those effects.

Symphony of Science – Our Biggest Challenge

Take a break, open this in fullscreen, and turn up the volume.

Will plants and animals be able to adapt to climate change? For many of them, probably not.

One way in which deniers often try to say there’s no reason to worry about climate change, even if it is happening, is by saying that species will just adapt to it, and everything will be just fine. There are a number of other arguments tied up in this one, but only a couple of them are directly relevant to answering this argument. First, there is the question of the scale of the change. If we look at the current temperature, and assume that this is as warm as it’s going to get, then really, there’s no cause for alarm. Indeed, the letter from the Hudson Institute makes the case that in the last ten thousand years we have seen climatic changes like the current one, and in some cases higher temperatures. The article does NOT note that those events were regional, not global, and it also fails to take global CO2 levels into account.

NOTE: The relationship between CO2 and global temperature is not under debate by any reasonable people, and I don’t have space to address that issue here, so if you want to look into that, either send me a note and I’ll discuss it later, or go here and see if you can find your answers. It will have to suffice, for now, to say that the influence of CO2 on atmospheric temperature has been tested, calculated, retested, and confirmed repeatedly from the late 1800’s, through the military’s development of heat-seeking missiles, and is now the field of fourth-grade science fair projects.

So – while regional temperatures, may have risen comparable amounts in the last couple thousand years, what about CO2 levels? Since that’s what’s driving this temperature increase, and we know that when CO2 increases, it takes time for the temperature to rise in response, how does today’s CO2 level compare?

Temperature and CO2 since the last ice age. Data sources: Vostok, Law Dome, Mauna Loa. Continue reading

Discussions with strangers

So one of my hobbies is discussing climate change with people online, mostly on Huffington Post. I do this for a couple reasons. One is that it gives me a reason to keep up-to-date on what’s up in the world, and the other is that it gives me a chance to help provide solid information to those who may have use for it. Not all of my comments are worth reading, but a minority of them are pretty useful, and I’ve found myself going back to refer to them.

The ones that I think are good take a fair amount of time to research and put together, and so I’m going to start pasting some of them here, both for my own future reference, and for the benefit of anybody who might find it useful.

I’ll post the comment I respond to, and the conversation thereafter, along with a link to the whole thread. Other people’s comments will be in a different color from mine.

So here’s the first, without further ado (discussion excerpt below the fold): Continue reading

There’s a pattern here…

There’s a pattern to look for, when dealing with scientists who deny the evidence on climate change or evolution.

It seems that a large part of what they do is looking at other people’s research and trying to poke holes in it. This is work that we need people to do, but deniers don’t tend to do it honestly.

They mis-represent what the research reports actually SAY, and then try to poke holes in their own fabrications. The easiest example is the argument that “random chance creating a human being is as unlikely as a tornado in a junkyard creating a car”. No evolutionary biologist says that species are created through “random chance.”

The other part of this, of course, is that much of what denier scientists do isn’t really research, in the strictest sense.

Armchair scientist

They don’t tend formulate hypotheses on WHY the climate is changing, they just argue with those that DO. Continue reading


Credit to www.Motivationals.org

So, after seven months of no blog posts, I am, once again, trying to get into the habit of regular updates. Like a cat pouncing on an eagle, I shall boldly pounce on this great monster, Climate Change.

Ok, metaphor aside, I’ve been doing good work over the last seven months, I’ve got a novel just about written, and I’ve made progress on climate action both in my professional and my private life. This past week, I helped a community commit to taking action, and now am part of a team working to make that commitment become reality.  Continue reading