Why Does “Anthropogenic” Matter?

by Dave Schuler on May 27, 2014

As I read this Wall Street Journal op-ed which is an attempt at debunking the claim that 97% of climate scientists believe in catastrophic anthropogenic climate change (human-caused climate change that will have serious adverse consequences) I wondered why it matters whether catastrophic climate change is human-caused or not. Perhaps someone can explain it to me.

I think that whether caused by humans or not catastrophic climate change would require major changes in institutions we take for granted.

My skepticism is more reserved for the policies being proposed.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Cstanley May 27, 2014 at 7:00 am

Can’t read the article behind the firewall but I thought the distinction about anthropogenicism was about C02 as a main driver. IOW, people acknowledging climate change, but expressing skepticism that it has been caused principally by the greenhouse effect.

Dave Schuler May 27, 2014 at 7:40 am

To my mind the question is so what? Will whatever effects occur be less disruptive because they’re not caused by human action? Or it is just easier to get political support (and funding) if people can be convinced that turning down their thermostats will save the planet?

Zachriel May 27, 2014 at 8:15 am

Dave Schuler: To my mind the question is so what?

If anthropogenic greenhouse gases warm the planet significantly (they do), then that means continued emissions will caused continued warming. If humans slow or stop emissions, it will limit the amount of warming. Keep in mind, it’s not the current warming that is the real concern, but projected warming due to continued emissions. On the other hand, if the warming is primarily natural variation (it’s not), then temperatures will probably revert to mean. The evidence strongly suggests humans are having a profound impact on climate.

... May 27, 2014 at 8:28 am

So, if warming is man made, what explains the ice ages and their interruptions?

Cstanley May 27, 2014 at 10:36 am

To my mind the question is so what?

If CO2 isn’t the main driver, then the solutions we need to be looking at are much different than would be the case if it is. I don’t follow the science or the political discussions that closely, but that has been my top line understanding of the idea that perhaps warming (or broader climate change) is real but not anthropogenic.

Like ellipsis notes, we obviously know that climate shifts occurred without human intervention. Wouldn’t it be ironic if it turns out that we’re heading into an ice age and CO2 helps mitigate the cooling?

Guarneri May 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm

“Wouldn’t it be ironic if it turns out that we’re heading into an ice age and CO2 helps mitigate the cooling?”

Yeah, but you can’t tax irony.

“Will whatever effects occur be less disruptive because they’re not caused by human action?”

This is the heart of the matter. Of course not. But “if you don’t know where you are going any direction will do.” We have some just firing their six-shooters in all directions, some, especially left-leaning politicians in need of revenue – any revenue – a/k/a wascally wabbits, with their sights clearly focused on generating tax dollars, and “scientist” piglets focused on grant dollars at public expense and a group just against all things growth. We have precious few with a sober view and/or a steely eyed attitude: “OK, if so, what the eff are we going to do that’s efficacious.”

As for the 97%, we will never know the real number. But we will be able to know the intellectually honest. The 97% refers to those willing to take the position of AGW. In other words, those who believe, believe. Brilliant. But if memory serves, just less than 1/3rd fall into that category. That is, 97% of a third. Close enough for government work. Suppose we grossed that up significantly to 50%, or even 2/3rd. (I’m feeling charitable today) Hardly “settled science.” Better: “wide open for debate.” An awful lot of scientists know that fast and loose hasn’t just occurred in houses of ill repute and aren’t willing to go there.

Those who quote 97% are too ill-informed to have standing, or just shills. If you really believe, you better stop the sky-is-falling warnings of hurricanes and tornado’s right and left, Al Gore’s icebergs gone by 2010, nary a polar bear left, and the Miami Heat having to change their name to the Miami Mermaids. You are losing your audience. Time to put down the bong and Jack Daniels and get serious about non-fossil fuel alternatives with a chance of producing more than 5% of our needs.

TastyBits May 27, 2014 at 2:16 pm

@Cstanley

The authors of AGW were mathematicians, and it is based upon statistics not science. These are the same guys that assured everybody there could be no housing crisis. Thier understanding of science is about a high school level.

In nature, there are feedback loops, and you do not find “run away” anything without a catastrophic event. The dinosaurs may have gone extinct, but it would have taken a long time without an asteroid impact. The “hockey stick” graph was the first indication these guys were clueless.

The Earth’s axis has a wobble like a top as it slows down. This wobble causes the Earth to have a different angle to the sun for thousands of years. The seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth’s axis for the same reason.

As with the seasons, there are ice ages, and these will occur due to the how the Earth works. This cannot be changed. The climate does change hourly, daily, and yearly, and these are due to many factors. One huge factor is the oceans.

The oceans are vast, and they are great at holding heat. As an experiment, fill your bathtub with water and turn on the heater. It is going to take a long time for the air to heat the water, but if you fill the tub with hot water, it will warm the air.

The AGW mathematicians did not understand any of this or any of the other science they jabber on about. In about 2005, their models began to fall apart, but like the housing market mathematicians, they were experts. In the summer of 2010, the AGW models totally fell apart. CO2 had skyrocketed, but the predicted temperatures were not occurring. Each year since, it has been getting worse.

Warming was dropped, and it was replaced with climate change because the warming was not working. AGW is finished, and CO2 based nonsense is dying. The only science is that CO2 is a wonderful life giving gas. Without CO2, life would not exist.

The CO2 levels during the time of the dinosaurs were much higher, and the planet was full of lush green vegetation. This is how the dinosaurs were able to grow so large. The plants provided food and oxygen.

If you are familiar with “Peak Oil”, it has finally gone away. They could not fathom the vast size of the Earth, and many of the people pushing “Peak Oil” are also pushing AGW. Somehow, nobody remembers they were pushing that crap, and they will have a sudden memory lapse shortly.

One thing that you will not see is any actual hard scientist defending any of this. You will hear non-scientist spouting scientific sounding terms or concepts, but none of them can place them into the full context. You will also hear about 97% of climate scientists preferring AWG over Colgate.

In the hard sciences, there is no popularity contest. Einstein’s theories have been validated. String Theory has not been validated. I prefer String Theory, but that is tough. In physics, Einstein is the law until something else is proven to be correct. Science is like a track meet. The winner is the person who crosses the finish line first not the most popular.

AGW has failed so badly that the dire predictions have now been pushed 20 – 30 into the future. The North Pole is not going to melt for a few years, and the polar bears have been granted a stay of execution. You can still buy beachfront property for now.

As the excuses fail, the extensions will get longer and longer, and the excuses will get weirder and wilder. If you have children, you can imagine the excuses – dogs, monsters, space aliens, etc.

Here, CO2 levels are rising, but they cannot find the corresponding heat. Apparently, the dog ate the predicted temperature. They are quietly de-emphasizing the CO2 – temperature linkage, but not everybody has gotten the memo. The problem is that there is no science for CO2 causing climate change without the linkage or with a miniscule linkage.

El Nino, la Nina, and Gulf Stream are three known ocean currents that affect climate changes. There are probably many more we have not discovered, and they all affect the weather through heat. (Remember the bathtub.) The ocean temperature needs to increase, but the oceans are large. Imagine how long it takes to heat a large pot of water, and you begin to see the problem.

The sizes, numbers, and time scales are staggeringly large, and most people cannot fathom how large. The original predictions were years, and they are now decades. These will fail also. If any of their predictions were to occur, it would take a lot longer than any of them could imagine.

If you were to take my earlier comments from years ago, you would notice they are consistent. I expand upon previous points and add new points, but I am consistent. I really do not have anything new to add.

For years, you could not get the Peak Oil enthusiasts to understand that the Earth was far larger than they could fathom, and there was more undiscovered oil than they could imagine. Even as the known world supply was increasing, they clung to the hope that there was a counting error.

I would suggest bookmarking this post and checking it in six months or a year. The science may take time to get out to everybody, but I have time. Science has not been kind to the AGW crowd. The debate is over. AGW is done – “stick a fork in it.”

mike shupp May 27, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Why “anthropogenic” matters. If the argument is made that global warming is caused, or even increased, by human action, then we can leap to the notion that human action might be capable of decreasing, or even reversing, climate change. This makes perfect sense to environmentalists and people who appreciate large collective efforts of many sorts.

If the argument is made that global warming is beyond human control and is not caused by it, then it’s obvious that any money spent or attention paid to AGW is a complete waste, and that the people who profess belief in climate change are at best deluded and more likely leftists pretending to have an excuse for the totalitarianism they would impose upon us for all eternity.

Also, environmentalists are willing to spend tax money on climate related research and mitigation schemes. AGW deniers are generally not; they’re more likely to argue that if climate change is coming, it’s even more necessary that government cease wasteful activities and allow wealth to remain in the hands of those who will be able to use it productively.

Does this bear any resemblance to other arguments we humans have?

Zachriel May 27, 2014 at 5:45 pm

: So, if warming is man made, what explains the ice ages and their interruptions?

As climatologists have discovered, there are many drivers of climate change, including solar irradiance, volcanism, orbital variations, composition of the atmosphere, continental drift, mountain building, variations in sea currents, changes in greenhouse gases, even cometary impacts.

Cstanley: Wouldn’t it be ironic if it turns out that we’re heading into an ice age and CO2 helps mitigate the cooling?

The Earth was expected to enter a cyclical cooling period in about 1500 years due to elongation of Earth’s orbit by the interactions of Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon. This causes expansion of polar ice increasing the Earth’s albedo, as well as causing the ocean to absorb atmospheric CO2, amplifying the cooling effect. This has been postponed indefinitely. See Tzedakis et al., Determining the natural length of the current interglacial, Nature Geoscience 2012.

TastyBits: The authors of AGW were mathematicians, and it is based upon statistics not science.

The theory was founded on basic physics over a century ago. See Arrhenius, On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground, London, Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science 1896.

TastyBits: In nature, there are feedback loops, and you do not find “run away” anything without a catastrophic event.

There’s little likelihood of a runaway effect, however, the anthropogenic forcing includes positive feedbacks.

TastyBits: Warming was dropped, and it was replaced with climate change because the warming was not working.

That’s just rhetoric. Global warming and climate change mean different things, and both terms have a long history in climate science.

TastyBits: CO2 levels are rising, but they cannot find the corresponding heat.

See Levitus et al., World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0–2000 m), 1955–2010, Geophysical Research Letters 2012
http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Levitus2012.gif

steve May 27, 2014 at 6:17 pm

“and “scientist” piglets focused on grant dollars at public expense”

You really think they are getting rich of grant money? Wow! I thought you understood money and at least a bit about academics.

“The authors of AGW were mathematicians, and it is based upon statistics not science. ”

Nope. It includes many specialties. From chemists, especially photochemists early on, to physicists, geologists, biologists, etc. The botanists have written extensively on what happens if CO2 levels go up. Good thing since the pseudoscientists writing fro the skeptics, guys like Ridley, just concentrate on the fact that plant growth might increase. The botanists actually take plants and grow them under those conditions and see what happens.

Mind you, I hope you are correct and this is all a conspiracy. And I hope Drew is right. I could certainly use some money towards the kid’s tuition.

” They are quietly de-emphasizing the CO2 – temperature linkage”

Who is this they? Do you read any real scientists publishing on the issue?

Steve

PD Shaw May 27, 2014 at 6:17 pm

“This makes perfect sense to environmentalists and people who appreciate large collective efforts of many sorts.”

I cannot speak for these people, but this only makes sense if it is a simple problem. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. But if its a complex issue with a variety of contributing factors, the question IMHO should be what is the cheapest or easiest solution.

By analogy, in an earlier thread about the problem of California water shortages, an easy solution was proffered: stop adding more people. Opponents claim water usage and public policy in California have a more complex history and arrangement, and it would be easier to reduce agriculture usage (apparently enough to keep increasing people), or it would be better social policy to do so.

TastyBits May 27, 2014 at 6:48 pm

@Zachriel(s) & @steve

Those who dismissed the hockey stick were mocked. Those who dismissed the mathematical models were mocked. My position has not changed, but the theory continues to move toward my position. I would suggest that one of us is more likely to be correct, and it probably ain’t the one that’s been wrong.

So far, time and science are proving to be with me. For those playing at home, check back in a year. At some point, AGW will get something right through dumb luck, but otherwise, it is modern witchcraft.

You might want to fix your models first. It is beyond stupid making predictions using models that are known to be broken. Well, unless you are Wall Street bankers. Hit the bong a few more times because the party is about over.

Zachriel May 27, 2014 at 7:27 pm

TastyBits: My position has not changed, but the theory continues to move toward my position.

It has? In what way?

TastyBits May 27, 2014 at 8:35 pm

@Zachriel(s)

As a true believer, anything wrong with the theory just proves how right it must be.

For those playing at home, take note:

Hockey stick graph and all predictions – wrong

The polar ice caps have not melted. Various glaciers still exist. Polar bears are not extinct. The coastline has not been flooded. Temperatures have not skyrocketed.

I believe that the AGW crowd now agrees that this was garbage, or did I miss something?

The models upon which these were based are garbage, but we have been assured that the data used to create these models is not garbage. Therefore, the people creating the models are incompetent idiots.

A scientific theory created by incompetent idiots is falling apart, and anybody with a non-genius IQ would call the theory junk science.

I am going to guess that you were a Peak Oil supporter.

michael reynolds May 27, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Steve:

There’s no point arguing with Foxbots like Drew. This has become a faith thing, not a science thing. They have to believe it’s all a hoax or their membership in the club is challenged. Obama believes in climate change therefore Drew can’t. Simple as that.

Zachriel May 28, 2014 at 7:17 am

Quite the laundry list.

TastyBits: Hockey stick graph and all predictions – wrong

The National Research Council Report confirms the basic findings of MBH98 and MBH99. See also Wahl & Ammann, Robustness of the Mann, Bradley, Hughes reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere surface temperatures: Examination of criticisms based on the nature and processing of proxy climate evidence, Climatic Change 2006.

TastyBits: The polar ice caps have not melted.

http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/reportcard/images-ocean/si-fig20-big.jpg

TastyBits: Various glaciers still exist.

Glaciers will continue to exist for centuries, even under the worst scenarios. However, overall glacier mass is shrinking, which could impact fresh water resources.
http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/bams-sotc/2009/global-data-sets/GLACIER_cogley_arithmetic.txt

TastyBits: Polar bears are not extinct.

Polars bears are threatened, and some subpopulations may disappear over the next several decades.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/09/070910-polar-bears.html

TastyBits: The coastline has not been flooded.

Storm surges have been larger, and some islands are threatened.
http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/images/indicators/sea-level-rise.gif

TastyBits: Temperatures have not skyrocketed.

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/global-land-ocean-mntp-anom/201201-201212.png

Dave Schuler May 28, 2014 at 7:58 am

Storm surges have been larger, and some islands are threatened.

This returns to the point of the post. The consequences of islands being threatened will be the same regardless of how much impact human action has on climate change.

Unless we’re prepared to take action to stop it, the climate will change. Our greater problems are political and social.

Zachriel May 28, 2014 at 8:26 am

Dave Schuler: The consequences of islands being threatened will be the same regardless of how much impact human action has on climate change.

If the climate is changing naturally, it will probably remain relatively stable over the next millennium or so, then slowly enter an ice age. However, anthropogenic warming will cause vast changes to the climate in the near term, disrupting agriculture, acidifying the oceans, swamping coastal cities, causing human migration with the resultant political upheaval. It’s not the changes that have occurred or are likely to occur naturally that worry scientists. Sure, there would be climate change regardless of human activities, but human activities will eventually swamp natural climate variation.

TastyBits May 28, 2014 at 8:32 am

@Zachriel(s)

I have no reason to waste time debating debating. I have placed a stake in the ground:

CO2 causes miniscule heat added to the Earth. The heat added through additional CO2 would take tens of thousands of years to have any impact under unchanging conditions. Therefore, CO2 has no impact on climate.

Time is my friend. AGW will eventually come close to this conclusion, but there will be much gnashing of teeth.

The hockey stick was discredited years ago. I am surprised you would still defend it. You are truly delusional.

Zachriel May 28, 2014 at 12:10 pm

TastyBits: CO2 causes miniscule heat added to the Earth.

Even without forcings, a doubling of CO2 will increase global mean temperature by about 1°C. This will cause an increase in atmospheric water vapor, which causes a further increase in temperature. Longer term amplifiers include decreasing albedo due to reduced ice and snow.

TastyBits May 28, 2014 at 5:53 pm

@Zachriel(s)

Blah, blah, blah. I am unimpressed and unintimidated by the scientific crap you throw at the wall in the hope that something will stick. The heat is not materializing, and each year the missing heat continues to increase.

Each year you cannot find the missing heat, you must postpone doomsday, and before you know it, the next ice age will be here. I placed my stake. I await yours.

When politicians and fiction writers are defending your scientific theory, you really should wake up.

Zachriel May 29, 2014 at 8:00 am

TastyBits: The heat is not materializing, and each year the missing heat continues to increase.

The evidence doesn’t go away because you ignore it. See Levitus et al., World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0–2000 m), 1955–2010, Geophysical Research Letters 2012
http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Levitus2012.gif

TastyBits May 29, 2014 at 1:41 pm

@Zachriel(s)

While it is quaint that the AGW crowd noticed that the oceans store heat, it ain’t gonna help them. The heat is hiding in the oceans, and it is going to spring out in 30 years.

Wait, heat is energy, and energy is matter. Maybe there are magic fairies turning the missing heat into matter. Maybe, Solyndra should have used them to make solar panels.

Are you trying to convince me or you? Face it. The party is almost over. Al Gore is long gone, and the fiction writer will be gone soon.

Time. I have it. AGW does not. Tick-tock, tick-tock. Doomsday is coming, but it is not what the AGW crowd envisioned.

In five hundred years, you will be regarded as a savage trying to appease the evil CO2 demon.

Zachriel May 29, 2014 at 3:22 pm

TastyBits: The heat is hiding in the oceans, and it is going to spring out in 30 years.

Oceanic heat tends to cycle every 3-7 years. None of the rest of your comment seems to address the issue.
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/WorldOfChange/enso.php

TastyBits May 29, 2014 at 5:12 pm

@Zachriel(s)

CO2 causes miniscule heat added to the Earth. The heat added through additional CO2 would take tens of thousands of years to have any impact under unchanging conditions. Therefore, CO2 has no impact on climate.

That is my stake. Show me the impact, or find me the heat. Your models have failed you. I am betting that you all are going to hijack the next round of solar activity for CO2 warming.

The only issue is that any CO2 heat linkage is miniscule, and this became apparent to anybody with a few brain cells in the summer of 2010. By 2014, my dogs know that CO2 has nothing to do with increasing temperature, and they ain’t that smart.

Each year it becomes harder and harder to hide the truth. You can make numbers lie, but reality is not so compliant.

Zachriel May 29, 2014 at 8:08 pm

TastyBits: find me the heat

The evidence doesn’t go away because you ignore it. See Levitus et al., World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0–2000 m), 1955–2010, Geophysical Research Letters 2012
http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Levitus2012.gif

Zachriel May 29, 2014 at 8:09 pm

At least look at the graph.
http://www.zachriel.com/blog/Levitus2012.gif

TastyBits May 30, 2014 at 8:19 am

Zachriel(s)

AGW is built upon charts, graphs datasets, mathematical (computer) models, etc., and the AGW crowd has made many predictions and issued dire warnings based upon these. It is time for AGW to produce their predicted results or admit they are wrong.

The last time I followed your links I wasted my time with people who had no clue how private investment worked. This was scary because it was somebody from the Fed.

If the AGW crowd had made the changes more gradual, it would have been harder to disprove, but without an approaching doomsday, nobody would feel compelled to do anything. Plus, Al Gore would have lost a lot of money.

AGW like Peak Oil and Y2K is propagated by people who do not have a clue. Things operate in a larger context, and if you do not understand the larger context, you will often get them wrong.

Zachriel May 30, 2014 at 9:52 am

TastyBits: AGW is built upon charts, graphs datasets, mathematical (computer) models, etc., and the AGW crowd has made many predictions and issued dire warnings based upon these.

You said “find me the heat”. We provided the data.

TastyBits May 30, 2014 at 10:49 am

Zachriel(s)

And so you have. The polar ice caps are mirages. The coastlines are really miles inland, and the sky really has fallen. Is this proof going to hold up any better than anything else AGW has produced?

The amount of heat required to do what you claim can be done in the time frame you specify is enormous. If it being generated without these effects, this enormous amount of heat is having some profound effects somewhere, and these would be detectable.

Instead, AGW enthusiasts have searched for years looking for the “black box” from the downed missing heat, but not to worry, it has been found. Should we get CNN on the case?

As with Peak Oil, time is not your friend. I have gotten tired of trying to convince people like you. Now I untangle the truth those like you try to hide. Each piece of crap the AGW crowd throws at the wall is another strand in the rope that will hang the AGW theory.

Zachriel May 30, 2014 at 3:44 pm

TastyBits: The amount of heat required to do what you claim can be done in the time frame you specify is enormous.

Have no idea what you mean by “claim can be done”. In any case, the amount of excess heat is on the order of 10^23 joules.

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