Climate Change Is Good For You

by Dave Schuler on December 19, 2012

That’s the message of this op-ed from Matt Ridley in the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Lewis tells me that the latest observational estimates of the effect of aerosols (such as sulfurous particles from coal smoke) find that they have much less cooling effect than thought when the last IPCC report was written. The rate at which the ocean is absorbing greenhouse-gas-induced warming is also now known to be fairly modest. In other words, the two excuses used to explain away the slow, mild warming we have actually experienced—culminating in a standstill in which global temperatures are no higher than they were 16 years ago—no longer work.

In short: We can now estimate, based on observations, how sensitive the temperature is to carbon dioxide. We do not need to rely heavily on unproven models. Comparing the trend in global temperature over the past 100-150 years with the change in “radiative forcing” (heating or cooling power) from carbon dioxide, aerosols and other sources, minus ocean heat uptake, can now give a good estimate of climate sensitivity.

The conclusion—taking the best observational estimates of the change in decadal-average global temperature between 1871-80 and 2002-11, and of the corresponding changes in forcing and ocean heat uptake—is this: A doubling of CO2 will lead to a warming of 1.6°-1.7°C (2.9°-3.1°F).

This is much lower than the IPCC’s current best estimate, 3°C (5.4°F).

Honestly, that’s still a bit concerning to me but it does suggest to me that the measures needed to prevent even that relatively smaller increase in average global temperatures should be subjected to cost-benefit analysis.

As I’ve said here any number of times, I think we should stop subsidizing the production of greenhouse gases here. Those subsidies are far-reaching, including policies ranging from ethanol subsidies to highway construction to bailing out automobile companies. I also think that we should be thinking in terms of engineering solutions to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere rather than draconian restrictions on developed countries to prevent them from releasing them.

Note, too, that China’s greenhouse gas production now exceeds ours and is increasing rapidly. The United States and other OECD countries might consider imposing a carbon duty on Chinese products as long as Chinese policies mean that China’s release of greenhouse gases will continue to grow.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimbino December 19, 2012 at 10:28 am

I fail to understand how it is that you and others speak of subsidies that feed global warming without even mentioning the pro-natalist policies that lead to all the breeding.

All world problems would disappear if we just stopped breeding for a couple of generations, and they would be greatly diminished if we just stopped encouraging the breeding monster by our child credits, EITC, food stamps, public education, free kiddy health care, family leave, tax deductions and exemptions for breeding, and so on.

It’s a strange party where you work to double the number of people in the room and give them half as much to eat and drink.

TastyBits December 19, 2012 at 11:21 am

The Earth is presently between ice ages, and no amount of human intervention is going to change that reality. At some point the earth will stop warming and begin cooling. Some scientists think it is close or has started.

In general, a warmer planet is generally a better planet. Crops can grow further north allowing the population a better diet. One downside is that diseases can move further north.

High CO2 levels are not a new phenomenon.

jan December 19, 2012 at 12:35 pm

TastyBits,

Once again you submit reason, logic, and historical perspective into the conversation.

Lightwave December 19, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I think the larger problem is the “scientists” saying the world will be facing 5 C -7 C temperature rises, when all the actual science says the last 20 years of “record temperatures” are in fact part of a cyclical pattern that’s already receding.

The much larger problem is that these “scientists” are still employed.

TastyBits December 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm

@jan

What is amazing is how much those who claim to accept science know so little about it. The scientific method is a refutation of academic agreement, and the academic of the day was not the scientist of today. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton are some of the big names, and because of them, theology, superstition, magic, supposition, folklore, consensus, etc. was removed from the scientific realm.

I wish I had more time to study the workings, but I do have a working knowledge. We know very little, and much of what we know will change. Nonetheless, it is an exciting time. The Earth has been around for a long time, and its formation and development is fascinating. It puts things into a different perspective.

We are ants trying to affect a skyscraper. We may be able to infest the building, but there ain’t nothing we can do to change the building. All else is folly.

Janis Gore December 19, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Human narcissism. And static minds. The world in a hundred years “should” look like it does today, or in 1952, pick your age.

Janis Gore December 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I still think so many questions hinge on our growing ability to measure.

Drew December 19, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Interested parties might want to take a look at recent work conducted at CERN. The jist of it is that solar flares can cause water droplet nucleation in the atmosphere, reflecting away the suns radiated heat. Hence the counterintuitive (and exculpatory argument for the MM warming crowd) that solar flares are negatively correlated with temperature.

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