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Hot air and junk science

From: Steve Landon, Gilberts IL:

I do plan on seeing "An Inconvenient Truth" to know the other side of the story. However, I have been following the topic myself a bit and have learned quite a bit at:

Here are the "take home messages" at the end of the article (in case you don't wish to spend the time reading it):

+ The temperature effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide is logarithmic, not exponential.

+ The potential planetary warming from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide from pre-Industrial Revolution levels of ~280ppmv to 560ppmv (possible some time later this century -- perhaps) is generally estimated at less than 1 degree Centigrade.

+ The guesses of significantly larger warming are dependent on "feedback" (supplementary) mechanisms programmed into climate models. The existence of these "feedback" mechanisms is uncertain and the cumulative sign of which is unknown (they may add to warming from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide or, equally likely, might suppress it).

+ The total warming since measurements have been attempted is thought to be about 0.6 degrees Centigrade. At least half of the estimated temperature increment occurred before 1950, prior to significant change in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Assuming the unlikely case that all the natural drivers of planetary temperature change ceased to operate at the time of measured atmospheric change, then a 30% increment in atmospheric carbon dioxide caused about one-third of one degree temperature increment since and thus provides empirical support for less than one degree increment due to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

+ There is no linear relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide change and global mean temperature or global mean temperature trend -- global mean temperature has both risen and fallen during the period atmospheric carbon dioxide has been rising.

+ The natural world has tolerated greater than one-degree fluctuations in mean temperature during the relatively recent past and thus current changes are within the range of natural variation. (See, for example, ice core and sea surface temperature reconstructions.)

+ Other anthropogenic effects are vastly more important, at least on local and regional scales.

+ Fixation on atmospheric carbon dioxide is a distraction from these more important anthropogenic effects.

+ Despite attempts to label atmospheric carbon dioxide a "pollutant" it is, in fact, an essential trace gas, the increasing abundance of which is a bonus for the bulk of the biosphere.

+ There is no reason to believe that slightly lower temperatures are somehow preferable to slightly higher temperatures - there is no known "optimal" nor any known means of knowingly and predictably adjusting some sort of planetary thermostat.

+ Fluctuations in atmospheric carbon dioxide are of little relevance in the short to medium term (although should levels fall too low it could prove problematic in the longer-term).

+ Activists and zealots constantly shrilling over atmospheric carbon dioxide are misdirecting attention and effort from real and potentially addressable local, regional and planetary problems.

* * * *

Luckily, either way, we don't have to make a decision either way tomorrow. However, we do need to set a sustainable direction soon. At the very least I think we need to make choices that reflect the things we do know -- that with more people we will be producing more carbon dioxide wither through breathing or burning things for energy. As scary and distasteful as it is, I believe nuclear to be the best choice in the end. We recently passed the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl incident and that keeps us cognizant of the very real risks, but the truth is that it is the one technology that we currently have at our disposal that fits our needs.

Even those that hope to replace gasoline and other fossil fuels with hydrogen must realize that there needs some sort of energy to fuel the change of water to hydrogen. Nuclear in addition to other sources such as solar, wind, and capturing the energy of the tides is the best choice.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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