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Earth NASA Science

Doubling of CO2 Not So Tragic After All? 747

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-the-flame-war-begin dept.
carvalhao writes "The Register reports on a study from NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that claims that new climate models that account for the effects of increased CO2 levels on plant growth result on a 1.64 C increase for a doubling of CO2 concentrations, a far less gloomy scenario than previously considered."
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Doubling of CO2 Not So Tragic After All?

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  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @12:27AM (#34497328)
    A doubling of atmospheric CO2 partial pressure above a water surface will acidify it by approx. 0.2 pH units. (ref. [wikipedia.org])
  • by bunbuntheminilop (935594) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @12:27AM (#34497336)
    If the last century is to go by, I doubt we're going to see an increase in vegetation anytime soon. We've already lost 20% of the Amazon since 1970.
  • by Namarrgon (105036) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @12:48AM (#34497444) Homepage

    1) Is the climate warming or cooling?
    2) Are humans responsible?

    Addressed by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report Working Group I [www.ipcc.ch].

    3) What's going to happen that's so bad we have to "do something about" now?
    4) When is that going to happen?

    Addressed by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report Working Group II [www.ipcc.ch].

    WGI establishes the physical basis of anthropogenic climate change. AFAIK this is has not been convincingly challenged. WGII attempts to quantify the results, which is of course harder to pin down (and included a notorious inaccuracy [skepticalscience.com] or two). This new study will doubtless help refine the WGII predictions further.

  • by spike hay (534165) <blu_ice.violate@me@uk> on Thursday December 09, 2010 @12:49AM (#34497462) Homepage

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101208085145.htm [sciencedaily.com]

    This is a much better summary. Also, the OP misquotes the 2X CO2 value as 1.64. The study found 1.94C, and a decrease of 0.6 compared to the model without the feedback. Even 2.6 is on the low end. With some recent work on cloud feedbacks, 4C is more likely.

  • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Thursday December 09, 2010 @12:51AM (#34497464) Journal
    The first real demonstration of climate model skill was in the 1960's when models predicted the counter intuitive phenomena of stratosphereic cooling. The next significant demonstration was when models in the 80's predicted the phenomena of polar-amplification. Both these phenomena were predicted by models before they were confirmed with observations. As for predicting the global average temprature trend the observations have been well within the error bars of model predictions since the 1970's.

    "You wouldnt get in an airplane designed by model results as crappy as these"

    Hate to break this to you but you already do, climate models work on the same finite element algorithims as any other engineering model does when there is no anylitical solution to the equations. Computers have been doing this type of numerical analysis since they were first invented and took over the job of producing artilery tables. Such methods have revolutionised both science and engineering over the pats 50yrs to the point that no major engineering project would dare contemplate not using them.

    Are they perfect? - Of course not but imperfect certainly does not mean useless, if it did all of science would be useless.
  • Re:Error Bars (Score:5, Informative)

    by TapeCutter (624760) * on Thursday December 09, 2010 @01:47AM (#34497774) Journal
    "The risk assessment has to change because of this paper."

    What is required before this one model can be said to have changed the risk assesment is for all the thousands of other models to incorporate the effect and come up with a combined result that lowers the expected value. This is not impossible but IMHO is highly unlikely.

    Also I quoted something the scientists themselves thought was important enough to put in the abstract, not some jounalist putting their own political spin on the result to make the story more "interesting".

    As for the risk of economic harm, numerous reputable economic studies (such as the stern report) have concluded that delaying any action will significantly increase the risk of economic harm. But I'm sure you can find just as many economic studies authoured by lobbyists at right-wing think tanks that say the opposite.
  • Re: Hopefully (Score:5, Informative)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @02:02AM (#34497828)

    It's happening all right, but I still have my doubts if it is happening due to man or if it's part of some unknown cycle of Earth which is too complicated for us to grasp yet.

    It is of course always possible that something we don't understand is going on, but the physics of greenhouse gasses seems to be quite well established. There doesn't seem to be a lot of need to look farther, unless you just don't like the unavoidable conclusion.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 09, 2010 @02:17AM (#34497902)
    ....You mean the oil industry, right?

    I hope he means the oil industry.

  • by locofungus (179280) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @03:32AM (#34498218)

    I've got a better idea. If an economy of trillions of dollars is threatened by something which has not been proven, then those doing the threatening should bear the burden of proof.

    (Or, as a famous environmentalist once said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.")

    Absolutely. The safety of burning oil the way we do is predicated on adding huge amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere will have no detrimental effect on climate.

    We've known since Fourier and Arrhenius that on its own increasing CO2 will cause the Earth's surface temperature to increase.

    The ball is now in the oil industry's court to prove that there really are feedbacks that will eliminate the negative effects. Unfortunately, the evidence accrues daily that indicates that, if anything, the scientists have been too conservative in their estimations of negative effects.

    Tim.

  • by regular_gonzalez (926606) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @03:33AM (#34498226)
    Just want to verify that everyone who is full-on convinced about the negative effects of climate change is a vegetarian. At this point it's essentially [csmonitor.com] indisputable [time.com] that eating meat -- particularly beef, but all meat due to second order effects aside from methane (increased fuel usage for the additional grain required to grow animals, etc) -- is a significant factor in greenhouse gas production. If every American became vegetarian, the reduction of greenhouse gasses would be greater than swapping out every SUV for an electric car. So, those of you pilloring consumers, government, or industry -- you've already made the switch, right? Cause you wouldn't want to be hypocritical.
  • Re:Mod parent up! (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcvos (645701) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @04:45AM (#34498508)

    What accounts for the new ice-age we are entering, with year-to-year glacial expansion, and London's prospective 3rd white Christmas in a row?

    Glacial expansion? I'm very interested in a link about growing glaciers. My impression is that most major glaciers (other than East Antarctica, obviously) are shrinking.

    Also, keep in mind that London is not the entire world. Amsterdam is also having its second white Sinterklaas in a row (after decades of not even having any white Christmasses), but that means nothing on a global scale. It's perfectly possible for north-west Europe to become colder while the rest of the world gets warmer. Consider that we're at the same latitude as Moscow and Calgary. It's the warm gulf stream that's keeping us warm. Without it, expect an ice age in Europe, despite warming in the rest of the world.

  • by mcvos (645701) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @05:08AM (#34498604)

    And I say that lowering the levels of CO2 will cause fairies to explode into flower scented farts. The burden of proof is on you to prove that it won't happen. Or do you want all the fairies to die?

    Got any evidence to back that up? Proven it on a small scale? Some math that makes any kind of sense?

    Your "proof" that CO2 has anything to do with temperature, is that you took a vote (consensus) on it.

    Only if you look only at the political side of the global warming debate. In science, the warming effect of CO2 is well-established and proven on smaller scales. Please explain why CO2 would behave completely differently on a large scale.

    The biggest problem with the effect CO2 has on global warming is that there are also a lot of other warming and cooling effects, and the relationship between those is not always fully understood. And that's what TFA is talking about.

  • Re:Hopefully (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bongo (13261) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @07:33AM (#34499236)

    The question is, on what is the usual refutation of your point based?

    You know, the one that goes like this: something other than CO2 started the temperature rise, but then, after 800-1000 years, the temperature rise caused a rise in CO2, and from that point on, for the next 4000 years or so, the CO2 caused all the further warming, until, again, something which we don't know, caused it all to drop. Therefore, it is all consistent with CO2 as driver, for as you can see, in those 4000 years (whilst temperatures were rising after CO2 had also started rising), the CO2 caused a great deal of warming.

    IIRC that's the basic refutation. See how that makes sense to you.

  • Re:Hopefully (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @08:23AM (#34499558) Journal

    It's controversial now for a few reasons. First, and most importantly, people are asking other people to modify their behaviour because of it. This means that you suddenly have two groups of people (broadly, investors in oil and investors in 'green' technology) who have a vested interest in the predictions being accurate or inaccurate. These two groups both have a lot larger advertising budgets than any group of scientists, and neither really understands the science, so they manage to drown out scientific claims with claims based on vaguely understood science.

    Another important development is computer modelling. We have quite a bit more data than we had in the '50s, but we have vastly more computing power. The increase in the amount of processing time that we can throw at models is orders of magnitude more than the increase in data that we can throw at them. This means that people are producing very detailed models of chaotic systems based on insufficient data to justify the level of output. If you read the papers that they publish, they talk about error margins. If you just take the pretty pictures, then you get things that look like detailed, accurate, predictions, which then turn out to be false.

  • by scorp1us (235526) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @09:20AM (#34500080) Journal

    Ocean acidification is even more BS than global warming.

    We know atmospheric CO2 was hundreds of times higher when this planet had corals and shellfish. Our oceans are alkaline and it would take a tremendous amount of acid to change them just 0.1.

    Ocean acidification is even less studied than GHG. It didn't even exist until a year or two ago.

  • by tbannist (230135) on Thursday December 09, 2010 @01:14PM (#34503982)

    1. Regardless of whether you like the term climate change or not, and whether or not your paranoia is justified, climate change is still not a slogan.

    2. 2010 is on track to be the warmest year on record. I'm not sure how this plays into your claim that temperatures are falling. In fact, as I understand it, the 10 hottest years on record are (in order): 2010*, 1998, 2005, 2009, 2003, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2001. That list doesn't look much like "temperatures are falling". In fact, NASA [nasa.gov] is predicting that 2012 will likely displace 2010 as the hottest year on record.

    3. Carbon taxes would not allow the skimming of profits to private funds and banking cartels. As a "tax" it would be going to governments. Cap and trade, on the other hand, would most definitely result in profit form private enterprises. In fact, I dare say, the whole idea of cap and trade is based on the idea that is better from private industry to profit than for the government to profit from the production of CO2.

    4. We should be skeptical of all claims, not just those of people we disagree with. Many of your views, in particular, seem to be wildly out of sync with reality. A little more healthy skepticism of the people who you agree with might help you back to some views grounded in reality.

    5. This is a perfect example of why debate has to eventually end. If you dismiss anyone who disagrees with you as a fraud or con artist then there can only ever be one satisfactory end to a debate. Now imagine there is at least one person who thinks the same way as you on the other side. The debate is now eternal, regardless of the merits of the arguments.

    6. You might like to look at some the temperature graphs. The line is still trending upwards. It's true that 1998 and 2005 were the top 2 warmest years on record. However, the average global temperature for 2009 was virtually the same as the temperature of 2005. We expect to see warming and cooling cycles related to El nino and El nina effects. The next year that is likely to experience similar conditions to 1998 is expected to be 2012.

    Yes, weather events do kill people every year, however, climate change is making many natural disasters worse and the greatest threats aren't from freak weather conditions but from changes systematic changes in agricultural areas. If once fertile areas are rendered minimally fertile due to repeated flooding, droughts, and pest migrations, it will likely take years (at best) to replace them. War and famine triggered by climate change represent the biggest threats from climate change. It is in our best interest to carefully consider what the consequences of each action is, including the consequences of inaction.

    * As 2010 is not yet done, in theory there still remains a chance that it will be the second or third warmest year on record.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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