GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

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Kernos
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GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby Kernos » 24 Sep 2010, 20:45

http://www.skepticalscience.com/big-picture.html

The Big Picture
Oftentimes we get bogged down discussing one of the many pieces of evidence behind man-made global warming, and in the process we can't see the forest for the trees. It's important to every so often take a step back and see how all of those trees comprise the forest as a whole. Skeptical Science provides an invaluable resource for examining each individual piece of climate evidence, so let's make use of these individual pieces to see how they form the big picture.

The Earth is warming
We know the planet is warming from surface temperature stations and satellites measuring the temperature of the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere. We also have various tools which have measured the warming of the Earth's oceans. Satellites have measured an energy imbalance at the top of the Earth's atmosphere. Glaciers, sea ice, and ice sheets are all receding. Sea levels are rising. Spring is arriving sooner each year. There's simply no doubt - the planet is warming.And yes, the warming is continuing. The 2000s were hotter than the 1990s, which were hotter than the 1980s, which were hotter than the 1970s. 2010 is on pace to be at least in the top 3 hottest calendar years on record. In fact, the 12-month running average global temperature broke the record 3 times in 2010, according to NASA GISS data.Sea levels are still rising, ice is still receding, spring is still coming earlier, there's still a planetary energy imbalance, etc. etc. Contrary to what some would like us to believe, the planet has not magically stopped warming.

Humans are causing this warming
There is overwhelming evidence that humans are the dominant cause of this warming, mainly due to our greenhouse gas emissions. Based on fundamental physics and math, we can quantify the amount of warming human activity is causing, and verify that we're responsible for essentially all of the global warming over the past 3 decades.In fact we expect human greenhouse gas emissions to cause more warming than we've thus far seen, due to the thermal inertia of the oceans (the time it takes to heat them). There are numerous 'fingerprints' which we would expect to see from an increased greenhouse effect (i.e. more warming at night, at higher latitudes, upper atmosphere cooling) that we have indeed observed. Climate models have projected the ensuing global warming to a high level of accuracy, verifying that we have a good understanding of the fundamental physics behind climate change. Sometimes people ask "what would it take to falsify the man-made global warming theory?". Well, basically it would require that our fundamental understanding of physics be wrong, because that's what the theory is based on.

The warming will continue
We also know that if we continue to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, the planet will continue to warm. We know that the climate sensitivity to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 from the pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to 560 ppmv (we're currently at 390 ppmv) will cause 2–4.5°C of warming. And we're headed for 560 ppmv in the mid-to-late 21st century if we continue business-as-usual emissions.

The net result will be bad
There will be some positive results of this continued warming. For example, an open Northwest Passage, enhanced growth for some plants and improved agriculture at high latitudes (though this will require use of more fertilizers), etc. However, the negatives will almost certainly outweigh the positives, by a long shot. We're talking decreased biodiversity, water shortages, increasing heat waves (both in frequency and intensity), decreased crop yields due to these impacts, damage to infrastructure, displacement of millions of people, etc.

Arguments to the contrary are superficial
One thing I've found in reading skeptic criticisms of climate science is that they're consistently superficial. For example, the criticisms of James Hansen's 1988 global warming projections never go beyond "he was wrong", when in reality it's important to evaluate what caused the discrepancy between his projections and actual climate changes, and what we can learn from this. And those who argue that "it's the Sun" fail to comprehend that we understand the major mechanisms by which the Sun influences the global climate, and that they cannot explain the current global warming trend. And those who argue "it's just a natural cycle" can never seem to identify exactly which natural cycle can explain the current warming, nor can they explain how our understanding of the fundamental climate physics is wrong.

There are legitimate unresolved questions
Much ado is made out of the expression "the science is settled." My personal opinion is that the science is settled in terms of knowing that the planet is warming dangerously rapidly, and that humans are the dominant cause. There are certainly unresolved issues. There's a big difference between a 2°C and a 4.5°C warming for a doubling of atmospheric CO2, and it's an important question to resolve, because we need to know how fast the planet will warm in order to know how fast we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. There are significant uncertainties in some feedbacks which play into this question. For example, will clouds act as a net positive feedback (by trapping more heat, causing more warming) or negative feedback (by reflecting more sunlight, causing a cooling effect) as the planet continues to warm?These are the sorts of questions we should be debating, and the issues that most climate scientists are investigating. Unfortunately there is a large segment of the population which is determined to continue arguing the resolved questions for which the science has already been settled. And when climate scientists are forced to respond to the constant propagation of misinformation on these settled issues, it just detracts from our investigation of the legitimate, unresolved, important questions.

The Big Picture
The big picture is that we know the planet is warming, humans are causing it, there is a substantial risk to continuing on our current path, but we don't know exactly how large the risk is. However, uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the risk is not an excuse to ignore it. In fact, the larger the uncertainty, the greater the potential for the exceptionally high risk scenario to become reality. We need to continue to decrease the uncertainty, but it's also critical to acknowledge what we know and what questions have been resolved.
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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby wolf560 » 24 Sep 2010, 21:18

Hello..!!!

Although I agree with everything you have said, I feel that there is absolutely no way to do much about this phenomenon even as a group. This is something we as a race must deal with, but unless we can come together I feel this will continue long after we leave this mortal coil.

The loss of the rainforests is terrible and perhaps something can be done, but it has to be done by Governments not individuals. http://www.rain-tree.com/facts.htm

Hopefully something can be done
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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby willowcrow » 27 Sep 2010, 13:23

Wolf - I disagree. By saying "its to big for any of us to deal with" you distance yourself from the problem. In reality, each of us, and those of us as a group, should be working to enact positive change. We are each responsible, and we each need to take it upon ourselves to reduce our CO2 output and live more sustainable lives.

And each of us can raise awareness of the issue--and how we can combat it. Think about what you can do in your local area, and how you might work with others to enact positive change.

Governments, in many cases in the western world, are elected by us, the people. If we are loud enough, they will listen. If we remain silent, nothing is accomplished.
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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby DJ Droood » 27 Sep 2010, 13:37

Wolf - I disagree. By saying "its to big for any of us to deal with" you distance yourself from the problem. In reality, each of us, and those of us as a group, should be working to enact positive change. We are each responsible, and we each need to take it upon ourselves to reduce our CO2 output and live more sustainable lives.

And each of us can raise awareness of the issue--and how we can combat it. Think about what you can do in your local area, and how you might work with others to enact positive change.

Governments, in many cases in the western world, are elected by us, the people. If we are loud enough, they will listen. If we remain silent, nothing is accomplished.
Well put, Willowcrow.
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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby Kernos » 27 Sep 2010, 16:51

Well put, Willowcrow.
Indeed. I was trying to figure out how to disagree, but could not find the words. Thanks willowcrow.

I think we need to work hard on our politicians who are all short sited. And, I think we need to work on the media. Both groups seem to think the economy is more important than global warming or think the issue is controversial. I watch CNN for news, and global warming and other environmental problems are rarely mentioned. If they are they always 'balance' the expert with some crackpot who knows how to debate.

Those who read history will discover that 1 person CAN make a difference.

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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby DJ Droood » 27 Sep 2010, 16:59

One of the easiest and most effective things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to become a vegitarian....you save lots of money, too.
http://www.earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm
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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby Dendrias » 27 Sep 2010, 17:39

Does "part-time-veggiterrianism" count, as well? I've managed to not eat meat on weekdays for quite some weeks. That was very cumbersome in France.
Second, shifts in diet lower greenhouse gas emissions much more quickly than shifts away from the fossil fuel burning technologies that emit carbon dioxide. The turnover rate for most ruminant farm animals is one or two years, so that decreases in meat consumption would result in almost immediate drops in methane emissions.
The somewhat nasty side of this would be: What will happen to all the cows and the frozen meat? Wouldn't the farmers still try to sell it for some years? How quick could a farmer react and what would be his future profession?
Unfortunately, here in Germany, I have the impression that the farmers' lobby is somehow not very flexible in what concerns the market. They rant about sinking prices (which is partly right), but don't adapt to the situation.

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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby wolf560 » 27 Sep 2010, 20:44

Please do not misunderstand....
I volunteer wherever I can in whatever way possible....

The simple fact is that although I have both solar power and solar heat in my house I am only making a slight difference. That the de-forestation happening all across our planet is nothing you or I can stop regardless of the words or sentiments we may espouse on this board. The corporate "carbon footprint" is MASSIVE and our attempts to fill in the void with our teaspoons are noble but insignificant in the long run. What is needed is for Governments to join in actively doing something about this.

It is the destruction happening on not only a global but corporate scale that is what must change. It is the fact that it happens far from both our borders and our ability to affect anything globally. the fact that we lose a thousand species seemingly overnight as our Rain Forests are stripped for farm lands.

I agree it must be stopped and that we should do all we can.
I disagree that we will make anything more than a ripple in the pond.

I am sorry for disagreeing,
but we fight not for a forest of a hundred trees but for a planet of several billion....
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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby DJ Droood » 27 Sep 2010, 21:39

It is the destruction happening on not only a global but corporate scale that is what must change. It is the fact that it happens far from both our borders and our ability to affect anything globally. the fact that we lose a thousand species seemingly overnight as our Rain Forests are stripped for farm lands.
We can all make an easy individual choice:
Nearly 80 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon results from cattle ranching, according to a new report by Greenpeace.
http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0215-beef.html
A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that for every 1/4 lb hamburger consumed in the US from rainforest beef, about 55 square feet of rainforest was cleared.

And while many fast food chains claim not to use rainforest beef, this claim is simply not substantiated by fact. The USDA doesn't have an adequate system of labeling where beef is from; beef grown in the rainforest can pass through a processing plant in the US and still be labeled as domestic meat.
http://www.examiner.com/environmental-n ... orestation

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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby wolf560 » 27 Sep 2010, 21:54

Interesting piece

I have contributed to several organizations; Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Big Cat Rescue chief among them. Not sure if I will discontinue those efforts but I might split the contributions slightly.

Not sure if I am going to stop having hamburgers though, sorry... :grin:
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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby DJ Droood » 27 Sep 2010, 22:01

Not sure if I am going to stop having hamburgers though, sorry... :grin:
You don't have to apologize to me...I'm only offering an individual perspective. I was at a druid gathering over the weekend and I overheard someone say "I don't care what they are serving for dinner as long as it has meat in it!" In a sense, I agree with you..a shift in attitude and consciousness will probably come too late..it is too ingrained, and I fear we are all just playing "dress up".
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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby wolf560 » 27 Sep 2010, 22:11

Unfortunately I have to agree...

A year or so ago someone asked me what I thought (that was a mistake LOL).
I told them that the next coming Ice Age would solve everything

Talk about hushed silence

Until then I do what I can in the best I know how to do
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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby DJ Droood » 27 Sep 2010, 22:19

Until then I do what I can in the best I know how to do
That is the most anyone can ask of themselves. :shake:
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Re: GLOBAL WARMING: The Big Picture

Postby Merlyn » 28 Sep 2010, 00:51

I agree that the problem is complex and compounded. Left up to larger countries, is the duty to stop demand for products that increase the carbon foot print, from other countries who are quickly assuming the role of 'worst polluter' from those who have for so long.

The nuclear answer is a problem in-itself, as uranium requires mining, refining and transporting, as well as the local danger of a melt down. Solar technology is still lame, as is wind. It is lame if used to make electricity. Wind however is not lame to drive a mill, pump a well and many other direct methods used for centuries.
Solar is much the same, able to heat water, but the tech of solar panels is still behind times, needs to be produced in a way that does not require the expense and cost to the environment. Trees seem to do solar real well, we just have not found it yet.

Global warming, is an understatement. That is the only problem. The earth will react to C02 and cool itself off. However the last time it did that, everything was molten lava...
Can the activity of volcanoes and the resulting sulphur reflect the heat? Is the sun going into an active period too? Will the oceans change currents, resulting in totally different weather across the globe? Could the rains redistribute water so much as to change the landscapes greatly? (This does not even touch on the problems of 02 depletion, killing of the ocean: our first level of food on this planet or the flooding caused my global climate change)

All I can say is yes.. it will.
I agree we are no longer in control as a group, country, group of countries or even a national governance.
To answer to this problem, best I can tell, is to rise to the occasion, develop energy alternatives which are not only C02 free and do not require C02 to make, that they are also more efficient, less expensive or... free.

Not an easy task.. :thinking:

Even if done, we have a price to pay for the past.
And even if done, the earth has already started burning off the pines, just from the heat and storms more than ever before.
Yes, personally I have reduced my carbon use 75% from what I used ten years ago. Not a bad thing. A also agree that with each example we can make we prod change.
Planting trees, helps too. Vegan, Locavore, better still.


Did you know that your Personal Computer uses at 350 watt or higher power supply?
That's a lot more than you thought eh? :wink:
Can you imagine how much electric power is used to relay cell phone messages? http://www.inhabitat.com/2009/09/30/hel ... us-africa/
Helix’s vertical turbines are ideal for powering cell towers and are both elegant and unobtrusive. Not only are they quiet, but they generate enough juice to pay for themselves in six months. That means it isn’t too much of a stretch for telecom companies to invest in them.
Trials of Helix’s wind-powered cell towers will begin in the US and Africa by November, with initial turbine shipments expected to arrive in Nigeria for local telecom company Eltek NSG by the end of October. If all goes well, Helix hopes to expand to other operators in the area and collaborate on hundreds of tower sites in the next few years.
Helix isn’t the only wind company to experiment with cell phones. Ericsson is also working on a design that incorporates vertical turbines into a radio communications tower.
Read more: Helix Wind Turbines Power Cell Phone Towers in US, Africa | Inhabitat - Green Design Will Save the World


Thinking all the time, of a way to change it. Governments however do not know what to do or are unwilling to invest or get the banks they run to invest in this need to replace fossil fuels, develop locally made power that we do not have to pay for. If we look at capitalism in this way I see it is up to us, to make the change for us. They sure as hell are not going to do it for us.


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