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Can Anthropogenic Global Warming Be Non-Catastrophic?

Charles Barton's picture
Nuclear Green

I am a retired counselor. My father was a nuclear scientist and I have had a life long interest in and fascination with his work.

  • Member since 2018
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  • Nov 9, 2011
The denial of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is the latest right-wing front in its attack on climate science. Science deniers have set up a fall back strategy:
Position 1: There is no evidence that Global Warming is happening.
Position 2: Global Warming is happening but has natural rather than human causes.
Position 3: Global Warming is happening and has human causes, but will not have catastrophic consequences.
it should be noted that positions 1 is inconsistent with positions 2 and 3, and position 2 is also inconsistewnt with position 3. But AGW skeptics often argue more than one of these positions at the same time, thus argue what amounts to incoherent arguments.
The skeptical camp has engaged in an all out attack on Michael Mann, those findings lead to the so called Hockey Stick Graph. The hockey stick shows that something dramatic is happening in global climate, something that cannot be explained without recourse to the AGW hypothesis. One reason why AGW skeptics are so upset by Richard Muller’s Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project findings is that the data verified the Michael Mann hockey stick. Of course independently verifying Michael Mann’s hockey stick has been something of an industry in Climate Science for some time.
Thus not only does the BEST data show that global temperature is increasing, but it establishes that the rate of increase has recently increased. The increase is global temperature thus becomes a problem to explain. The non-Anthropogenic Global Warming model must explain why the global temperature is rising, in light of powerful processes forcing global temperature in the direction of cooling. The first force for cooling is the earth orbital cycles (Milankovitch cycles), which have been trending towards colling for some time, and are expected to continue the cooling trend for the next 23,000 years. The Milankovitch cycles are widely believed by the scientific community to account for the global glaciation cycles.

William Ruddiman attributes the divergence to the early anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions forcing of climate. This process, according to Ruddiman, dates back 8000 years. Ruddimamn points to forrest clearing and early agriculture as important components in global patterns of GHG emissions and atmospheric GHG concentration over the last 8000 years.

Global (solar) dimming is the mechanism that tends to force climate toward cooling. Meinrat O. Andreae, Chris D. Jones and Peter M. Cox argue,

Atmospheric aerosols counteract the warming effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gases by an uncertain, but potentially large, amount.

this in turn suggests unintended consequences for global garbon controls.

Strong aerosol cooling in the past and present would then imply that future global warming may proceed at or even above the upper extreme of the range projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Needless to say, AGW skeptics do not include known cold forcing mechanisms in their account of climate change.
Thus we can and should discount the argument against global warming as unscientific, but arguments against global warming are zombie arguments- an argument that continues to be used after it has failed factual and logical tests. That is the argument is rationally dead, but continues to be employed by people who are not motivated by a high regard for rationality.

Once the reality of global warming has been established, the argument for AGW comes next. These arguments point to past examples of climate variation, the so called Medieval warm period, that was followed by the so called Little Ice Age. These episodes are not adiquately explained by AGW skeptics, and Ruddimamn explains them nicely from an AGW perspective. Of even greater difficulty to the anti-AGW cause is why the cold forcing mechanisms, the Milankovitch cycles

and global dimming are not having a climate effect. Finally the Mann Hockey Stick points strongly to increased atmospheric CO2 as the major climate forcing mechanism. Thus the anti-AGW argument has failed to explain why climate is not cooling rather than warming, while the AGW theory explains both cooling and warming trends over the last thousand years. Thus the anti-AGW argument fails to survive rational tests. This will not stop anti-AGW advocates from employing zombi arguments against the AGW theory.
Thus we find the last refuge of the AFW opponents, the anti-catistrophic argument. The blog faithfully parrots the Koch family line of global warming and energy issues. We know that the current Koch party line has embraced the attack on so called Catistropic Anthropogenic Global warming, when we see the recent play that the concept has received in masterresources. In late October E. Calvin Beisner wrote,

The recent announcement of the results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) Project by project chairman Richard Muller has caused quite a stir. True believers in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) have greeted it as the final nail in the coffin of dissent. Why? Because it concludes—take a deep breath, now—that “Global warming is real.”

As I have noted the reality of the Michael Mann’s hockey stick is also supported by the BEST data, and establishing global warming, places the onus on the Anti-AGW party to come up with a plausible explanation for why global climate is getting warmer, that excludes AGW. Needless to say, Beisner fails to do that. Instead he goes on the attack,

The only thing more stunning and frightening than the idiocy of equating “global warming” with “CAGW” is the failure of so much not only of the public, and not only of the media, but especially of the scientific community—well, okay, the already committed, true-believer “scientific community”—to recognize (admit? expose?) the rhetorical sleight of hand.

Now wait a minute partner, we just witnessed a

rhetorical sleight of hand.

One which came from Beisner, not the “scientific community.” Beisner dies not tell us what he means by CAGW and how he distinguishes it from ordinary AGW and GW. Nor has he indicated what tests should be applied in order to distinguish between AGW and CAGW.
Worst of all Beisner simply ignores evidence that the catistrophic effects of Global warming are already upon us. A recently published paper, Increase of extreme events in a warming world by Stefan Rahmstorf and Dim Coumou, who state,

We find that the number of record-breaking events increases approximately in proportion to the ratio of warming trend to short-term standard deviation. Short-term variability thus decreases the number of heat extremes, whereas a climatic warming increases it. For extremes exceeding a predefined threshold, the dependence on the warming trend is highly nonlinear. We further find that the sum of warm plus cold extremes increases with any climate change, whether warming or cooling. We estimate that climatic warming has increased the number of new global-mean temperature records expected in the last decade from 0.1 to 2.8. For July temperature in Moscow, we estimate that the local warming trend has increased the number of records expected in the past decade fivefold, which implies an approximate 80% probability that the 2010 July heat record would not have occurred without climate warming.

If Rahmstorf and Coumou are correct, catastrophic warming is upon us already.

Last year a catistrophic heatwave and drought struck Russia during the Summer. The record heat was so extreme that words like unprecedented and disastrous are appropriate.

Last week, Rahmstorf and Coumou described their article on Real Climate. They reported finding that between 1979 and 2009 the average Moscow temperature increased by 1.4 C. Winter Warming has increased by as much as 4.1 C since 1880. Thus local warming appears to be following a long term trend.
The 2010 Russian heatwave was far from the only extreme heat and drought event during the last decade. In 2003 an extreme heat wave struck Western Europe, killing some where between 35,000 and 50,000 people. Extreme heat waves returned to Western and Central Europe in 2006 and South Eastern Europe in 2007. The North Central United States and nearby areas of Canada were effect by a prolonged extreme heat event in 2006. Australia was affixed by extreme heat in 2008 and again in 2009. In 2010 not only was much of Russia afflicted by extreme heat, but the heat spread to Eastern China, Japan, the UK and the United States. in 2011 an unprecedented extreme heat and drought event struck Texas and surrounding states. The high Houston average heat for august amounted to a thousand year weather event, while during much of the same period Southwestern Asia was experiencing an extreme heat event with temperatures as high as 126 F (52 C) being recorded during August.
In addition, these heat events have taken tens of thousands of lives. In Russia alone, during the 2010 extreme heat waves, an estimated 56,000 deaths could be blamed on heat related causes. The Russian death tole was twice the number of people who died during the 2011 Japanese earthquake-tsunami event. Huge heat and drought crop losses were reported for Russia in 2010 and in Texas and adjacent area in 2011.
Catistropic Anthropogenic Global Warming ts here. When a hero of the anti-CAGW crowd, Roger Pielke Jr attempted to argue with Rahmstorf and Coumou on Real Climate recently, he was repeatedly clobbered. It is really time for the skeptics to call it a day, unless they are simply in the game for Koch family money.
Charles Barton's picture
Charles Barton on Nov 9, 2011

Ed, Judith Curry is known to carry on disagreements with the overwealming majority of other members of her profession on a number of issues.  The near concensus of her peers is that Curry is wrong on a number of issues.  Curry responds by attributing the majority view to “Tribalism.”  That is not the only possible explanation of the disagreements.  Curry was recently accused by  William M. Connolley of “uncritical use of invalid data,” in a recently published paper, thus her own professional skills perhaps should be assessed.  As for the disagreement between Dr. Curry and Dr. Muller, this may be a matter of interpretation, and since interpretations may involve different assumptions, it is not impossible that both Dr. Curry and Dr. Muller are both correct.  I will thus leave it to others who are better informed than I am to determine.  

Bill Woods's picture
Bill Woods on Nov 9, 2011

When a hero of the anti-CAGW crowd, Roger Pielke Jr attempted to argue with Rahmstorf and Coumou on Real Climate recently, he was repeatedly clobbered.

Pielke has a different view of who won that dispute:

Charles Barton's picture
Charles Barton on Nov 9, 2011

Bill, Pielke view does not conform to my impression of the debate outcome.  Of course i might be mistaken.  He might be correct. but his arguements did not seem to convince anyone.  

Charles Barton's picture
Thank Charles for the Post!
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