Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Heat and light

Like climate itself, these debates often start with light and degenerate into heat. But here the opposite might be happening. Jim Manzi was good enough to comment on the previous posting, "Climate of Confusion." You can see his comments by clicking on the comments link at the end of the posting. He likes the general thrust of my posting, which I did not expect.

As Manzi says, there's probably less disagreement between us than apparent at first sight, and I have probably exaggerated his acceptance of the IPCC's would-be orthodoxy on the issue. His qualified concern about infrared-active (greenhouse) gases is that they pose a "risk" in the next couple centuries, not a near-certain disaster in the near future.

At this point, the debate becomes an issue of estimating how large and how fast the changes in temperature and temperature distribution might be. We've only discussed some of these issues on this blog, and there's more to come. (The change in temperature distribution in time and space is coming up shortly.) Based on what the blog has exposed so far, identifiable and significant changes in climate due to CO2 emissions are about a century and a half to two centuries off. The size of the change is bounded by what we know from ice cores. As we'll see soon, the most striking thing will be a small but noticeable change in temperature distribution. A little later, we'll see that many of the supposed disasters of "global warming" will not happen - in particular, more frequent and violent major storm systems are out (precisely the opposite will happen), and even the loss of ice volume is open to question.

I can only reiterate my earlier point, that the changes that are probable are not large and, given a one to two century timescale, energy sources and distribution will change anyway and for other reasons. What's needed in the immediate future is to abandon the cult of computer models and move simultaneously in two opposite directions: scratch our heads to understand the important but theoretically hard aspects of climate (clouds and precipitation, especially); and measure and experiment far more in connection to plants, clouds, and oceans, as well as study those ice cores even better.

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At 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It’s funny how things sometimes align.

The attached link is to an article that I wrote for National Review Online a few months that is specifically about the fact that climate models are non-validated and there is good reason to believe that feedbacks are both crucial and not well-handled in the models. The closing sentence calls for better science that can provide “more light and less heat”.

Jim Manzi


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