Global Warming is Accelerating Faster than can be Naturally Repaired

It appears the Earth’s climate has the ability to naturally regulate atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Historic records extracted from ice cores show quantities of CO2 have varied widely in the last hundreds of thousands of years. This evidence appears to support the global warming critics view that current observations of the human-induced greenhouse effect is actually naturally occurring and the effects of carbon on the climate is over-hyped. However, a new study shows that although carbon dioxide levels may have been larger in the past, the Earth’s natural processes had time to react and counteract global warming. The current trend of industrial emissions has been far more accelerated than any historic natural process, natural climate “feedback loops” cannot catch up to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

More bad news about the outlook for our climate I’m afraid. It would appear that the carbon dioxide emissions we have been generating since the Industrial Revolution have increased too rapidly for the Earth’s natural defences to catch up. This new finding comes from the analysis of bubbles of air trapped in ancient ice in Antarctica, dated to 610,000 years ago.

Long before man started burning coal and oil products, the Earth would naturally generate its own carbon emissions. The main polluters were volcanic eruptions, sending millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Surely this had an effect on the state of the climate? Apparently so, but the increased levels of carbon dioxide produced by individual eruptions could be dealt with naturally over thousands of years. The climate wants to be in balance, should one quantity increase or decrease, other mechanisms are naturally triggered to bring the system back into equilibrium.

These mechanisms are known as “feedback loops”. Feedback loops are common in nature, should one quantity change, production of other quantities may speed up. In the case of the carbon emission from volcanic activity, levels of the stuff appear to have been controlled by a natural “negative feedback” loop (akin to a carbon thermostat, when carbon dioxide levels were too high, another process was triggered to remove the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere). However, the sustained atmospheric input of industrial burning of carbon dioxide by human activity has dwarfed historic volcanic carbon output, overwhelming any natural negative feedback mechanism.

This new study is published in the journal Nature Geoscience and carried out co-author Richard Zeebe. In an interview at the University of Hawaii, Zeebe comments on the climate’s ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: “These feedbacks operate so slowly that they will not help us in terms of climate change […] that we’re going to see in the next several hundred years. Right now we have put the system entirely out of equilibrium.”

Zeebe and his team noticed that the levels of carbon dioxide and atmospheric temperature correlated, rising and falling together. “When the carbon dioxide was low, the temperature was low, and we had an ice age,” he said. His study states that in the last 600,000 years the carbon dioxide levels have fluctuated only by 22 parts per million. Since the 18th century, human activity has injected 100 parts per million. Humans have increased the quantity of carbon dioxide 14,000 times more than any natural process is capable of doing. This increase has negated any chance for the climate to naturally bring carbon dioxide levels back down to pre-industrial levels in the short term. If we were to stop all emissions tomorrow, it would take the planet hundreds of thousands of years to recover naturally.

Sadly, we’re not even close to slowing carbon emissions. Only last week, the US reported that carbon dioxide levels were up 2.4 parts per million during 2007 alone. The future is bleak for the planet balancing back into its prehistoric atmospheric carbon equilibrium…

Source: Reuters

53 Replies to “Global Warming is Accelerating Faster than can be Naturally Repaired”

  1. Hi Rusty,

    I would love to cover a scientific study that proves the human impact on global warming is minimal. Unfortunately there are very few peer papers that have done this. I think we need to consider other possibilities, but many papers that study solar influences, cosmic ray/cloud cover mechanisms and historic cycles state that the human influence is far higher than any other explanation.

    I was slightly excited about the possibility that there is an extraterrestrial reason why the planet is warming up. Solar irradiance variations have been cited as a possible reason why Venus, Mars and other planets are experiencing warming too (for a rundown see:, but again, there isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest this is what is happening on Earth.

    Griffin’s remarks were a personal opinion, which he is entirely within his rights to voice, but there is simply no study that supports his view that hasn’t been debunked.

    I’d be open to review and report on studies that prove otherwise, but if they are out there, they are very hard to find (and you could blame the media/governments/institutions for burying the evidence against human emissions, but again, this would be hard to prove).

    Thanks for your input, Ian 🙂

  2. Thanks Dave Flinton, you stopped me from writing a long, drawn out explanation as to why I report on the human influence on global warming. There is so much evidence pointing the finger at us, that we are the cause of global warming. I was taught this many years ago in school in lessons about the carbon cycle. My childhood logic knew this was the case, and my logic now tells me this is the case. Does anyone remember the days of pre-green taxes and pre-carbon credits that global governments denied the effect we were having on global warming? Back then policy makers saw it as a threat to the economy – they ignored the science. Only when they realised a way of making some cash out of global warming, suddenly there is no government figure who will deny the human impact on global warming.

    We need to be weary that just because “untrustworthy”, “greedy” and sometimes “stupid” heads of state believe in the greenhouse effect doesn’t make it any less real, it just means they can see a way of making some quick money. Sad, but true.

    And to Cynthia, I love prairie plants too!

    Ian 🙂

  3. As global warming results in the death of millions or billions of people for various reasons the amount of CO2 those people wouldl have generated will be eliminated. The CO2 levels will fall. The animals that would have been raised to feed those people will not be needed so the methane producion will also be reduced. So once again the system demonstrates its ability to regulate itself. What do we do when the CO2 levels begin to fall to new lows? There won’t be enought oil to burn to replace the CO2 and prevent the next ice age. Are there any other sources of CO2 we should be looking into for future needs?

  4. Please, just for a token appearance of a balanced approach, can we please have stories once a week /month/year that disagree with the global warming theories? There are “studies” that have conclusions that do not fit the GW theoretical models. Please consider posting some…

    Before he was slapped up-side the head (again) for not getting with the program, NASA’s Michael Griffin dared to ask the question:

    ” I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change. First of all, I don’t think it’s within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.”

    So do I, this is scientific madness…

  5. Oh, but as for Al Gore, I for one totally support his efforts. He has brought global warming to the forefront of the political agenda, so kudos to him. I’m sure he’s profited from this, but personal gain to one side, at least he’s making people debate the issues.

    Right, back to space…

    Ian 😀

  6. Rusty,

    ‘Balance’ is appropriate when the different sides of an argument have equal (or at least comparable) merit. That is not the case with global warming. The scientific consensus is in (yes, it is):

    There are numerous flaws in Griffin’s statement, not the least of which is the fact that humans are already changing the climate, a ‘decision’ that has been taken by the developed (broadly speaking) world during the last century or so, the decision to be taken now is how we stop making/undo those changes.

  7. I do not think that this article considers all of the evidence. There is studies and observations that equally supports that we are heading towards an Ice Age or another Dalton minimum.

    For example:

    1. Evidence in support of this theory has come from pictures obtained from the US Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, which showed no spots on the sun, thus determining that sunspot activity has not resumed after hitting an 11-year low in March last year.

    2. According to Australian astronaut and geophysicist Phil Chapman, this might have caused the world to cool quickly between January last year and January this year, by about 0.7C. “This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record, and it puts us back to where we were in 1930,” said Dr Chapman.

    3. Do a search on google for the Dalton and Maunder Minimum.

    4. Also check out this relating it to the lack of sunspots since the end of the solar minimum last year. Seeing as the sunspots have not returned…a year later

    5. There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that 2007 was exceptionally cold. It snowed in Baghdad for the first time in centuries, the winter in China was simply terrible and the extent of Antarctic sea ice in the austral winter was the greatest on record since James Cook discovered the place in 1770.

    Good luck out there, this just goes to show that no “evidence” is a complete picture of our world. It is entirely too complex to sum up in just a few or even many observations and in the short time that we have even been studying it.

    Overall I’m hoping for just a global medium, somewhere between an ice age and a greenhouse effect.

  8. It takes data from centuries of measurement to see a trend in climate change. If we were to burn all the natural gas, all the oil reserves, and then 1/3 of all the coal in an orgy of fossil fuel burning, we would double the amount of greenhouse gas. Plants still use this for fertilizer. We would get more plants. This is only a 0.9 increase of CO2. C4 plants respond by absorbing more carbon dioxide. They release more oxygen. But let’s not burn all of this fuel at once. Oil prices are bad enough.

  9. We have had stories about increasing snowfall in Greenland, thickening glaciers in Antarctica, and the recovering ozone hole. If the research is there, we’ll report it. But all of the counter arguments seem to be ideological and not scientific. Al Gore flies in a plane, the Chinese pollute more than us, it’s a liberal conspiracy, volcanoes pollute more than people, people thought there’d be global colling in the 70s, etc.

  10. Hey everyone, I just turned up the heat because the out-of-control global warming here has made it too cold outside again! I’m back with more helpful solutions for the GLOBAL WARMING horror which has descended upon us all. Solution 4538654: End Astronomy! That’s right, no astronomy needed if global warming is out of control anyway. And besides, all those environmentally incorrect computers running, those huge telescopes that have to be maintained and powered at what cost to Mother Earth! Not to mention the irrevocable damage caused when we launch rockets and satellites for the purpose of nothing more than satisfying some group of scientists’ curiosity about something we can’t get to anyway. Astronomy serves no useful purpose and astronomers should all be out planting trees to help the rest of us who are freezing – er, I mean overheating here from GLOBAL WARMING.

  11. Come on, now, there are tons of studies out there that don’t worship at the Algore Church of Global Apocalypse. Have you actually ever tried looking for them?

    Here’s one that blows the so-called “consensus” out of the water:
    “Challenge to Scientific Consensus on Global Warming: Analysis Finds Hundreds of Scientists Have Published Evidence Countering Man-Made Global Warming Fears”,176495.shtml

    It seems that taking the same criteria that were used to get to this supposed “concensus” in the first place and looking at recent published studies arrives at a totally different conclusion. That is, of course, if you haven’t already closed your mind to alternatives, something that real scientists are not supposed to do.

    So while you have every right to put anything you choose on this site, so the readers have the right to go to more objective pastures if they choose.

    I enjoy this site when it sticks to real science, and have called for some balance here in the past concerning global warming. If necessary, I and lots of others will just go to the many excellent alternatives and all the true believers can stay here.

  12. Hey Fraser and Ian,

    While its good to see news about global warming, I think it would be wise to at least talk about the other point of view.

    One reason the artificial global warming crowd (or those who hold humanity responsible for heating up the Earth) are losing (yes, you heard me) their influence is because people often perceive them to be biased, or at least indifferent towards new data.

    If this continues, people will continue to point out examples such as carbon credit hypocrisy (Al Gore, etc.) which leads to nothing being done about the issue as both sides are too polarized to provide any real solutions (which is exactly what has happened to our political system in the US).

    Looking at the other side (or at least inviting an opposing viewpoint) could not only help stir up debate, but eliminate any questions, doubts that people may have regarding the issue.

    Just my $0.02


  13. We are wasting huge, vast sums of money (and we’ve just started!) to fight a ‘problem’ that we can’t possibly stop, even *if* we caused it. Are we so sure that a warmer Earth will be a hellish place? After all, a much warmer past is where so much of evolution took place, leading to fuzzy kitty cats, cute gold fish, and, um, US!

    No one will voluntarily stop breathing, or eating, to slow GW. Virtually no one will voluntarily give up modern conveniences like A/C in the summer or warmth in the winter. So what to do?

    The panicky will say, “Throw money at it!” This seems to be our MO, it will solve nothing, and will further wreck the world economy.

  14. geokstr,

    I was going to argue the same point, but you beat me to it. It is very easy to obtain scientific data/studies that offer counterpoints to Ian’s article. Ian, 600,000 years is the tip of the iceberg, geologically speaking. We haven’t even covered other phenomena such as meteors, tectonics and other actions that contribute to carbon (and go back eons further than the 600,000 year study mentioned in this article). Even the History Channel has reported as much. That takes about as much effort to research as pushing the clicker on your television.


    I could not disagree with you more over your comment “If the research is there, we’ll report it. But all of the counter arguments seem to be ideological and not scientific.” A quick google search (or researching the myriad of documentaries which have been done in recent years) will disprove your comment, and if anything, will simply underscore that there is as much of an ideological bias toward arguments favoring human-based global warming contributions as you perceive from the other side of the fence. There IS good science supporting other hypotheses… I just wonder if you are too biased to see it.

    For the record, I am an avid (if not radical) supporter of ANY reform that will reduce carbon emissions and undo the damage that thoughtless human beings have done. But I’m also a fan of science and would appreciate the opportunity to engage in some good old-fashioned Socratic method…I don’t think that’s too unreasonable.

  15. Suppose both sides of the global warming argument are equally supported by sound logic. That’s a stretch for me, but assume for the sake of argument, that either side has an equal chance of being right. If you accept the best science of the day and believe that mankind will pay a heavy price for the pollutants we have pumped into the atmosphere, then your path is clear. Our course must be altered immediately and with the same dedication and sacrifice our grandparents exhibited during WWII. If we are wrong, and there’s a 50% chance of it, then the earth will be a cleaner, more hospitable place to live. We will be more efficient, more profitable, and more enduring. We may have been wrong, but the cost of our error would not destroy us.

    If on the other hand, you believe global warming is some sort of left wing scare tactic, or just bad science then you could continue live as you are. But remember, at best there’s only a 50% chance your right and if you are wrong, then you will have gambled away your childrens future. Your greed and short sightedness will have cast them into a hostile environment with energy shortages, food shortages and the wars that follow such calamities. Do you really want to gamble with you children and grandchildren and their children? And even if you are right, what will you do when you have stripped the earth of it’s resources. Are you ready to send you grandchildren off to fight future oil wars? Right or wrong, where does your point of view ever pay any dividends?

  16. geokstr,

    The problem with “Hundreds of Scientists Have Published Evidence Countering Man-Made Global Warming Fears” is that there are over 13,000 working climatologists in the US alone:

    Second, the following article published in Science examined the question of consensus objectively in an analysis of over 900 articles published in peer reviewed scientific literature. Of the three-quarters that directly discuss the causes of climate change, ALL OF THEM support an anthropogenic cause. No doubt some dissenting articles exist, but clearly, they are rare in the peer reviewed literature (your reference doesn’t bother to detail sources, and the wording is suspicious in places as well):

  17. I think the solution is to replant the entire midwest in original prairie plants – one of the best carbon sinks available. Certainly when you look at a graph of increased CO2 concentrations over time you will note that they begin to rise in the mid to late 1800’s when basically all the prairie was converted to farmland causing the land to become a net generator of CO2 as opposed to a carbon sink. Yes my friends, correlation does not imply causality, but I love prairie plants. A quick calculation will also reveal that replanting Illinois and most of Iowa in tall grass prairie will be sufficient to meet the Branson challenge for pulling CO2 out of the air. Now if only we could move all the people out od the two states we’d have it made. And we’d have a nice place for dark skies astronomy as well!

  18. I totally agree about publishing both points of view on equal bases. Heck, let’s go one step further: let’s publish all points of view on the theory of gravity as well. After all, I think that all objects actually fall *up*, not down, and all views that counter my opinion are just liberal plots to undermine the sovereignty of the United States!

    OK, seriously, the facts are pretty clear on this, and trying to make this into some sort of lame political argument is just plain silly. I’ve yet to see the multitudes of scientific arguments that warming is somehow false since last I checked, the antarctic ice sheets are falling apart ad all the glaciers on the planet are disappearing. Where are these mysterious studies that show otherwise?

    On a last note, I know a lot of people enjoy making fun of Al Gore (I once had a roommate that loved to do it nonstop), but truth be told he’s done a fair amount of research into this himself. Compared to those that would deny global warming’s existence, he strikes me as a very smart guy.

  19. For those of you who would like to see stories that contradict human-caused global warming, please post links to *peer reviewed* papers. We can use google to our heart’s content and find all kinds of incorrect information. I don’t mean to put words into the mouths of the universtoday staff, but that seems a fair enough measure of legitimacy to me.

    Regarding Al Gore and his use of airplanes as a mode of transport: Assuming he talks enough people into reducing emissions, he is still working up a credit. If he gets one large corporation to reduce their emissions by 10%, that’s probably more carbon than his flights produce. That’s not hypocrisy, that’s getting the message out on a large scale.

  20. I have to agree that the rhetoric on both sides of the global warming debate has become unbearable. People on both sides of the debate are trying to exploit this issue for political gain — it’s pretty obvious how, so I won’t go into that. I have to agree with grndrush that it’s time to restrict articles on this issue to real science, so that maybe Universe Today can recover its good standing among scientists. On top of everything else, articles that make it seem that not only is global warming approaching a crisis point, but that there is nothing humanly possible that can be done about it, are extremely counterproductive, especially because the research — if any — that has gone into them is not cited in a way that readers can readily check. It’s a very important issue — but there’s no sense driving people away from Universe Today by overplaying it, falling back on histrionics rather than real science when it comes to discussing it, and descending into politically and emotionally charged rhetoric about it.

  21. you know what i think, i say we drop this argument completely.
    let’s switch over renewable energy by 2020, and get along our merry ‘ol way through the Universe, shall we?

    and drop politics, also. vote me as supreme-dictator-for-life and i will make space travel as easy as a walk through the park!

  22. I come from the England and there have been figures thrown around that we contribute to 2% of the worlds emissions. Now what the hell is the point of me cutting my emissions down if the millions in my country only contribute to 2% of the worlds overall C02 emissions.
    Also regardless of wether or not we are causing global warming, surely it would be best practice for all of us to cut emissions (Eh Hm China).

    PS. I read the articles on this site everyday out of interest but have never felt the need to comment as i don’t know enough about the subjects. However the fact that a “layman” can quite easily make a valid input on the matter when all these “scientists” are squalbling like children would suggest you are outside of your remit.

  23. Hey Rusty, all the people spewing your line *talk* about “studies” (funny, I ALSO put use quotes when referring to such “studies”) showing G/W to be a myth, but NONE OF YOU EVER refer to the “studies” themselves. Ian’s busy doing real science – and presenting that *science* to laymen (and, even, to not-so-laymen, such as myself). If these *peer-reviewed, reproducible* “studies”, conducted by *respected* scientists, exist in such large numbers, why don’t YOU mention specifically what “studies” you’re referring to? Ian’s busy with *real* science.

    I can remember the good old days (say, 3 weeks ago), when this site was a board for serious discussion. You’ve been “Freep’ed”, Ian. I’ve seen several UT articles at least partially Freep’ed recently, but the majority of comments attached to this article are a downright embarrassment.

    I mentioned UT recently in a very popular forum at the world’s largest political blog, thinking it would bring this site a larger audience – but I assure you THESE idiots (and/or, MUCH more likely, right-wing political partisans), poo-poo’ing G/W, are NOT the ones I brought.

    I won’t quit coming to UT, but I may well quit participating in the comments. IMNSHO, you need to seriously consider moderating comments. Again, this thread is a downright embarrassment to ANY serious scientist.

  24. Looks like the number of scientists who “disbelieve” G/W just got a lot smaller…*because* they found out they were counted amoung the ‘disbelievers’? LMAO!

    122 of the 500 were contacted *yesterday afternoon* (that was likely Monday), and already, 45 “outraged” recipients of said contact have replied, *demanding* that their names be removed from this list:

    It’ll be interesting to see how many more demand to be removed from this list, once the remaining 378 are contacted, and all are given a rational length of time to respond.

    Peer-reviewed, reproducible “studies” by *respected* scientists, Rusty, or others – and please don’t lie about it, either. 🙂

  25. Yael –

    I think you may have missed my line: “…and please don’t lie about it, either.”?

    You don’t “agree” with me, and you know that as well I do. You talk about “trying to exploit this issue for political gain” – while doing EXACTLY that, yourself.

    If you don’t think G/W is a CURRENT crisis, you either aren’t paying attention, aren’t being honest, or have the IQ of the lifeforms that will be left on the planet when humans finish killing themselves off.

  26. Unbelievable.. I have complained many times, albeit in private, that “both sides” should be presented, though I would certainly prefer to see only one…

    So.. where to start..

    IF the planet is actually warming, and even this is debatable, there is zero proof that man is causing it.. What Griffin said is exactly right.. “Who is to say what the “ideal” temperature is??? What about “evolution”?? Wouldn’t we just adapt and evolve??? Nope.. doesn’t fit into the “scheme”

    Until you can explain why we have had more than one major Ice Age, what caused them to form, and what caused them to vanish, and all of this when Man was not involved, there is zero reason to ASSUME Man caused it or Man can correct it..

    Yes.. Venus.. Mars.. Pluto.. etc all have “Global Warming”… Man isn’t even there..

    Take the fact that we have only had satellites examining things for 50 years on a planet 4+ BILLION years old, and you want to tell me the Earth even knows humans are here?? That is mighty pompous…


    it was 40 degrees F when I got up, and hit 80..
    What does a degree matter??

    What about the fact that the weather prognosticator can’t tell me what the weather will be this weekend, but is damn certain what the weather will be in 50 years???

    First it was the “Coming ice age” .. Now it is “Global Warming”..

    PLEASE!.. This is just the latest fad that the do gooder tree huggers have grabbed hold of to try and control the rest of us who bathe regularly and have jobs.. They will never be happy until they trash the free markets and economies and return us to the Stone Ages..

    Why can’t you find anti global warming papers?? Liberals control Academia and if you want funding for your research, you will tow the line..

    It is all hogwash.. I think all things “Global Warming” sould be left off of UT website and left where it belongs.. On a political website..

  27. Moderate the comments???

    Spoken like a true Socialist… Silence anyone who disagrees with the party line..


    “””If you don’t think G/W is a CURRENT crisis, you either aren’t paying attention, aren’t being honest, or have the IQ of the lifeforms that will be left on the planet when humans finish killing themselves off.””””

    Like they say..
    It is one thing to have people THINK your a Moron, but it another to type such tripe and remove all doubt..

    Yep.. The whole topic of Global Warming needs to be removed from the otherwise fantastic Universe Today website..

  28. “Rhetoric”…”Unbelievable”…”Socialist”…”belongs on a political website”…

    “Peer-reviewed, reproducible “studies” by *respected* scientists,” PLEASE!

  29. It´s my opinion (scientific) GW is our fault. Regardless of this and other opinions i read here, the world’s biggest polluters are doing nothing about the fact that… they’re just the biggest polluters… Do we like pollution? Do we think it does us more good than bad? Is pollution “good”? Of course not. And we (the world) are doiong nothing about it… just keeping the “debate” focused on who’s to blame. What idiots we are…

  30. It is worth noting that the UK government no longer actively talk about GW. They now speak about Climate Change. This change appears to have happened in the last 12 months.

    Climate change allows for Global Warming and Global Cooling.

    As long as there are governments throwing money at people to produce a report in favour of global warming the reports will be produced. The UK government are bankrupt financially (and morally) and are not throwing money at people to produce pro GW propaganda any more.

    This has allowed the debate here to develop.

    My daughter came home from school with a fact sheet of terror about ‘man made’ global warming. I sat with her for half an hour and we went through this ‘fact sheet’.

    It explained why carbon emissions were warming the planet and why it was a ‘good thing’ that fuel and taxes should go up to help future generations.

    There was not ONE word to suggest it is (or may be, if you think that way) part of a natural cycle. I did however counter every item with a possible alternative.

    I will not say anything else, except I will not have my children brainwashed with one side of the story.

  31. For dbreit and others who point to Griffin’s question of what the ideal temperature is: It is the current temperature. The problem is not what temperature we have at any one point. The problem is what happens when temperatures change by even a few degrees. Wildlife has to adjust and many species go extinct. Our economies have to adjust and some will fail. Agriculture has to adjust by a huge amount. Every region on our planet has evolved under fairly stable, individual climates. It is the shifting of the climates that is harmful to us.

    If you ignore the damage done to humanity and rest of the living world, then Griffin has a point. But if the temperature rises by 2 or 3 degrees, we pay dearly.

  32. “Regarding Al Gore and his use of airplanes as a mode of transport: Assuming he talks enough people into reducing emissions, he is still working up a credit. If he gets one large corporation to reduce their emissions by 10%, that’s probably more carbon than his flights produce. That’s not hypocrisy, that’s getting the message out on a large scale.”

    The interesting thing to me is that everyone always seems to have a reason (or excuse) for their own energy use but are quick to tell other people to change their habits. In this case some folks are even defending Al when he could do a lot of his work remotely via teleconnect technology on the web or other communications service. Is a handshake or two really worth tons of GHG emissions? Apparently it is!

  33. Cynthia, People pay thousands of dollars to attend benefit dinners with prese former president. Presence of a prominent figure brings people out to listen. Al Gore probably (I don’t know him personally, so probably) does use other technologies. But to get the right people to listen requires statesmanship, diplomacy and personal presence. So, yes, it is worth it.

  34. I use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) every day in my engineering work. It’s a technique to predict the flow of fluid and energy, depending on whatever initial and boundary conditions you use, and is one of the techniques used for global climactic modeling.

    One thing I am sure of (and is everyone who uses CFD) is that my answers are wrong. They are always wrong, because we can’t accurately model many of the effects involved in fluid flow (especially turbulence and phase interaction). No one can accurately model the simple process of stirring a cup of coffee, let alone the motion of air, water and energy (heat) on the whole planet. If we can’t model what’s going on now, how good are our predictions for a minute from now, or an hour, or a day, or a year, or a century? The amount of error likely is simply staggering, and we’re supposed to direct the future of our whole species by models like this?

    By the way, one of the best greenhouse gases is water vapor, shall we reduce that?

  35. Mike, CFD would be at the level of telling what will happen where. But the overall fact that greenhouse gases make the earth act as a greenhouse by trapping heat, is not like the detailed predictions you are trying to make. The devil is in the details, but the fact that additional greenhouse gases will trap more heat is not as hard to predict. Greenhouse gases are why Venus is hotter than Mercury, in spite of the fact that it is much farther from the Sun.

  36. For David Ireland:
    “I come from the England and there have been figures thrown around that we contribute to 2% of the worlds emissions. Now what the hell is the point of me cutting my emissions down if the millions in my country only contribute to 2% of the worlds overall C02 emissions.”

    David, England’s population in 2006 was about 50 million. The world population was 6.5 billion. That means England’s population is about .77% of the Earth’s population. If England is contributing 2% of the greenhouse gases, your per capita contribution is huge! All the more reason to cut down.

    Regarding China, California just signed a pact with the UN to help China find ways to reduce their emissions. China’s emissions are being worked on at many levels.

  37. Ah Kendall, the problem is in the definition of the problem. We don’t know the boundary conditions accurately and can’t correctly define the initial conditions, either. CFD is the what and where, but also the when — we’re talking time dependent simulations here (really hairy computations). We don’t know what other effects will kick off if things heat up (or cool down), so prediction is difficult.

    One of the major problems I have with the whole movement is that it is research driven — but try to get a grant to disprove the global warming theory (ain’t going to happen). In reality, according to the scientific method I was taught, we should be trying with all our might to disprove the theory (hypothesis) rather than proving it, but what grant money is there in that?

  38. Mike, I see what you mean about other processes kicking off (like maybe carbon stores accelerating or new ones being created), but we see the trend in greenhouses gases rising and temperature rising now. While the long term predictions are likely to be inaccurate, the trend is evident and dangerous to be apathetic about. We can’t depend on uncertainty about the degree over time.

    Regarding grant money, my guess is that Shell, Chevron and every corporation that creates or uses fuel on a large scale would fund research. Universities should be eager to make ground-breaking discoveries in either direction. Having left academia for private sector, I can’t tell you what is funded and why. It is evident, though, that academia pursues theories like cosmic rays creating aerosols and solar variability and finds them to be non-contributors or that the evidence is non-compelling (unlike greenhouse gases). Universetoday has reported on studies like these, so they do get funded.

    Thanx for a couple of rational, non-inflamatory posts on the subject. 🙂

  39. I don’t believe that this is the best forum to be discussing whether or not global warm is (or is not) occurring. However I do appreciate Ian’s efforts to deliver information on our planet’s changing atmosphere and it’s impact on the only known biosphere in the Universe.

    He’s done a great job reporting in a balanced manner. What the traditional media (and some that are posting here) seem to forget is that balanced doesn’t mean 50/50. If this forum discusses peer reviewed articles on all topics of astronomy and 99.9% of these articles reporting on climate change show an anthropogenic source of increased CO2 and related climate change then 99.9% of Ian’s reports should reflect that. If Ian used the 50/50 rule the audience may get the (wrong) impression that there is uncertainty rather than consensus about climate change and it’s sources.

  40. You’re welcome Kendall. I think I’m a skeptic mainly because of my engineering training. Reality probably lies somewhere between the extremes (as it always does). I just hope it’s not a case of ‘crying wolf’ which will really bite us (as a society) later…

    Too many people (on both sides) have become ‘true believers’ and don’t even question the basis of the belief any more, and I have a nasty suspicion that they are not as ‘altruistic’ as they seem. As most things have become in our society, it has become impossible for many people to discuss things civilly. If I disagree with the theory, I’m somehow evil/callous/selfish. Everything ends up as a big shouting match and the side with better propaganda (and funding sources) seems to win…

    As to the second article you mentioned (I read it), solar variability is the number one factor affecting the climate — the total solar input to the planet has to be, because it’s the source of all the heat in the first place! If the sun were to suddenly reduce it’s output by 1% (or increase it the same) things could get really bad. It’s something we can’t control, predict or really measure accurately…

    In fact, I wish we didn’t burn so many hydrocarbons, and not really for the pollution/carbon dioxide release reasons. We need those long chain molecules to make stuff (like plastics), and once you burn them, they are gone. Substitutes are going to be expensive (and really energy intensive to make, too).

  41. I don’t know Kendell, I would think that accepting the Nobel Peace Prize via electronic means would have been precisely the thing that Al could have done to drive home his point. But then maybe I’m just more pragmatic and practical than Al.

  42. Good idea, Cynthia. Perhaps, though, he felt there were plenty of influential people to interact with at the ceremony. We don’t know. Still, my point is that he’s working on a large credit that more than makes up for his use of air travel. And that most of his travel is necessary to reduce pollution on a much larger scale than his individual flights.

  43. I think roger nailed it way earlier. The risks due to inaction are much more severe than the “consequences” of going more green.

    No matter when it runs out, one day there will be no more oil. Doesnt it make more sense economically to benefit from new energy business initiatives now? Why not lead the way with new technologies like this country has always done?

  44. The problem with many of the ‘alternate’ energy forms is thermodynamics — they just don’t and can’t produce the energy in the quantities we need, especially anything based on plant growth, i.e. biofuels. Photosynthesis is just too inefficient. Fossil fuels concentrate the accumulated sunshine of centuries.

    Most other types of alternate energy require lots of materials to build the generator (wind power, solar power, etc…) or are very restricted on where you can build them (geothermal). The construction costs (money and energy and pollution) have to be included in the equation when you evaluate if it makes sense to use an alternate energy form. None of the alternates really make thermodynamic or economic sense, except in very limited applications.

    The only energy dense technology that works now is nuclear power. For a given amount of infrastructure (what you build), nothing is better than a nuke, and they make no carbon dioxide when they run. Why aren’t we building as many nukes as we can? Fast breeders even make fuel as they run.

  45. I agree, it’s all about the physics. Either you develop alternatives which may not match the energy content of existing energy sources, or you need to reduce energy use, or both. It seems more like we’re due for a major change in how society is structured in terms of population density, reduced commuting distances, and consumption. I’d assume these changes will happen naturally as the cost of energy increases and the marketplace does its thing. Of course they keep finding more oil so I’m not sure if fossil fuel use will be reduced except by government mandate. And in a democracy where people often vote with their wallets I kind of doubt anything like cap and trade will be successfully introduced in our lifetimes. So my prediction is that most things will basically remain the same for the next 30 to 50 years until a reasonable alternative energy source is developed that is economically feasible as compared to fossil (and nuclear) energy sources.

  46. No matter how many times I hear it, I still can’t believe it.

    If anyone has conclusively proven that CO2 is the sole environmental system contributing towards global warming, I’ll walk to work and picket outside my local CO2 factory. Until then, I’ll remain over-taxed by a government who base their theories on bad data, scientific bullying, public hysteria and alternative economic agenda’s.

  47. Rob said: The risks due to inaction are much more severe than the “consequences” of going more green.

    The trouble is, what some people would like to see eventually happen economically, sociologically, and technologically in response to the global warming threat is drastic and severe. An end to a way of life.

    Two things I’d heartily welcome, however:
    –a combination of widespread plug-in electric cars and widespread new nuclear power plant construction (as long as I can still get a “sport” model with tenacious tire grip, low center of gravity, and tight suspension).
    –a combination of major tax incentives to encourage companies to support telecommuting, technology and infrastructure to enable it, sociological change to make it more socially acceptable, and a loosening of compliance regulations to make it legally feasible (I’d be all over working from home!).

  48. One of the best debates I have ever started, thanks to all
    who DARED agree with me…..


    Have You Been Living with your eyes closed?


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