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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Effects of Climate Change

Posted on 17 August 2010 by gpwayne

This blog post is the Basic version  (written by Graham Wayne) of the skeptic argument "Global warming is good".

Here’s a list of cause and effect relationships, showing that most climate change impacts will confer few or no benefits, but may do great harm at considerable cost.

Agriculture

While CO2 is essential for plant growth, all agriculture depends also on steady water supplies, and climate change is likely to disrupt those supplies through floods and droughts. It has been suggested that higher latitudes – Siberia, for example – may become productive due to global warming, but the soil in Arctic and bordering territories is very poor, and the amount of sunlight reaching the ground in summer will not change because it is governed by the tilt of the earth. Agriculture can also be disrupted by wildfires and changes in seasonal periodicity, which is already taking place, and changes to grasslands and water supplies could impact grazing and welfare of domestic livestock. Increased warming may also have a greater effect on countries whose climate is already near or at a temperature limit over which yields reduce or crops fail – in the tropics or sub-Sahara, for example.

Health

Warmer winters would mean fewer deaths, particularly among vulnerable groups like the aged. However, the same groups are also vulnerable to additional heat, and deaths attributable to heatwaves are expected to be approximately five times as great as winter deaths prevented. It is widely believed that warmer climes will encourage migration of disease-bearing insects like mosquitoes and malaria is already appearing in places it hasn’t been seen before.

Polar Melting

While the opening of a year-round ice free Arctic passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans would confer some commercial benefits, including improved access to energy and mineral resources, these must be balanced against the negatives. Detrimental effects include loss of polar bear habitat and increased mobile ice hazards to shipping. The loss of ice albedo (the reflection of heat), causing the ocean to absorb more heat, is also a positive feedback; the warming waters increase glacier and Greenland ice cap melt, as well as raising the temperature of Arctic tundra, which then releases methane, a very potent greenhouse gas (methane is also released from the sea-bed, where it is trapped in ice-crystals called clathrates). Melting of the Antarctic ice shelves is predicted to add further to sea-level rise with no benefits accruing.

Ocean Acidification

A cause for considerable concern, there appear to be no benefits to the change in pH of the oceans. This process is caused by additional CO2 being absorbed in the water, and may have severe destabilising effects on the entire oceanic food-chain.

Melting Glaciers

The effects of glaciers melting are largely detrimental, the principle impact being that many millions of people (one-sixth of the world’s population) depend on fresh water supplied each year by natural spring melt and regrowth cycles and those water supplies – drinking water, agriculture – may fail.

Sea Level Rise

Many parts of the world are low-lying and will be severely affected by modest sea rises. Rice paddies are being inundated with salt water, which destroys the crops. Seawater is contaminating rivers as it mixes with fresh water further upstream, and aquifers are becoming polluted. Given that the IPCC did not include melt-water from the Greenland and Antarctic ice-caps due to uncertainties at that time, estimates of sea-level rise are feared to considerably underestimate the scale of the problem. There are no proposed benefits to sea-level rise that we are aware of at this time.

Environmental

Positive effects of climate change may include greener rainforests and enhanced plant growth in the Amazon, increased vegetation in northern latitudes and possible increases in plankton biomass in some parts of the ocean. Negative responses may include further growth of oxygen poor ocean zones, contamination or exhaustion of fresh water, increased incidence of natural fires, extensive vegetation die-off due to droughts, increased risk of coral extinction, decline in global photoplankton, changes in migration patterns of birds and animals, changes in seasonal periodicity, disruption to food chains and species loss.

Economic

The economic impacts of climate change may be catastrophic, while there have been very few benefits projected at all. The Stern report made clear the overall pattern of economic distress, and while the specific numbers may be contested, the costs of climate change were far in excess of the costs of preventing it. Certain scenarios projected in the IPCC AR4 report would witness massive migration as low-lying countries were flooded. Disruptions to global trade, transport, energy supplies and labour markets, banking and finance, investment and insurance, would all wreak havoc on the stability of both developed and developing nations. Markets would endure increased volatility and institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies would experience considerable difficulty.

Developing countries, some of which are already embroiled in military conflict, may be drawn into larger and more protracted disputes over water, energy supplies or food, all of which may disrupt economic growth at a time when developing countries are beset by more egregious manifestations of climate change. It is widely accepted that the detrimental effects of climate change will be visited largely on the countries least equipped to adapt, socially or economically.

Note: we're currently going through the process of writing plain English versions of all the rebuttals to skeptic arguments. It's a big task but many hands make light work. If you're interested in helping with this effort, please contact me.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 84:

  1. Dear Skeptical Science;

    This is to thank you for your website. It is making very important contributions. I am the director of Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of
    Climate Change at Penn State University and a successful blog that covers climate change policy issues through an ethical prism. It is ClimateEthics.org. You might be interested to have a look. In any event,
    thanks for your website.

    Donald A. Brown, Associate Professor, Environmental Ethics, Science, and
    Law, Penn State.
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  2. The discussion above is very one-sided.

    It is well known that warmer climates in the last few thousand years generally have net benefits, not negatives. Of course the question depends on relative degree of warming, probably a little warming is good, too much not so good.

    One example from above.

    "glaciers...fresh water supplied each year by natural spring melt and regrowth cycles and those water supplies – drinking water, agriculture – may fail".

    This is only true in some areas. Some places, like the Himalayasand Greenland, with warmer temperatues will experience increased meltwater flows, because more areas are above 0 degrees celsius, which means more water, not less. This is also enhanced by more frequent floods.

    Floods are generally benfifical for argiculture. (That is why eg ancient Egypt was founded on the Nile). Every time there is a flood on the east coast of Australia farmers receive a net benefit. The media only reports on urban areas inundated (which amounts to <10% of such areas), but for example cyclones have been shown to greatly increase agricultural output in Queensland in months/years following a cyclonic depression. (Although they may negatively impact existing crops).

    The list above is too one-sided to be taken seriously.
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  3. Thingadonta: New to the blog and I do enjoy reading all of your comments but I have to say something about your comment about ancient Egypt. Though it is true that the seasonal floods were beneficial to the Egyptians, this was not the case for quite some time in paleolithic Egypt. In fact the Nile valley in Paleolithic Egypt flooded too much to sustain habitation. The Eqyptians didn't get to the Nile until around 7000 B.C.E. and only then it was seasonal. Just a clarification
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  4. Whistling past the graveyard on adjustments spawned by flooding?

    What happens when a flood vastly exceeds ordinary cycles:


    Floods Could Have Lasting Impact for Pakistan

    KARACHI, Pakistan — Even as the government and international relief workers struggle to get food and clean water to millions of Pakistanis devastated by floods, concerns are growing about the enduring toll of the disaster on the nation’s overall economy, food supply and political stability.

    More rains battered the country Monday, adding to the worst flooding in memory and confronting Pakistan with a complex array of challenges, government and relief officials warned. Though they ranged over the immediate, medium and long term, nearly all needed to be addressed urgently for Pakistan to avoid lasting calamity.

    Providing clean water for millions and avoiding the spread of diseases like cholera was the first priority. But there were also looming food shortages and price spikes, even in cities, and the danger that farmers would miss the fall planting season, raising the prospect of a new cycle of shortfalls next year in a country that produces much of its own food.

    “There was a first wave of deaths caused by the floods themselves,” Maurizio Giuliano, a United Nations spokesman, said. “But if we don’t act soon enough there will be a second wave of deaths caused by a combination of lack of clean water, food shortages and water-borne and vector-borne diseases. The picture is a gruesome one.”

    The prospect of immediate hunger combining with long-term disruptions to the food cycle was a chief concern. The situation confronting Maqbool Anjum, 50, a small-scale wheat farmer in Khanpur district, in Southern Punjab, was typical.

    For the time being, he said in an interview by telephone: “We don’t have food rations in our house. There isn’t a single grain of flour with us right now.”

    For the last three weeks, he said, he and his family have survived on bread and vinegared pickles. There was no dry wood to light a fire in the stove. “What we’re doing is breaking off legs from our wooden bed and using that.”

    No one from the government or any relief organization had contacted them. Still, in less than two months, he and his brothers were supposed to re-seed the soil on about eight acres they own for next year’s wheat harvest. That may be impossible now.

    His seeds are lost, as was the cotton crop on part of that land, along with any income it may have brought. Two of his brothers’ homes were destroyed. For the time being he would try to survive on his wife’s salary of $50 a month as a health worker. But the prospect of mounting debt seemed inevitable.

    “It’ll take 3 to 4 years before we can grow anything on our land again,” so ruined was it, he said.

    Of the 4,000 people in his village, half of them also own agricultural land and were similarly wiped out. “Everything’s gone,” he said. “This is the worst rainfall my village has ever seen.”

    His struggle is multiplied by many millions across the country. The floods have submerged about 17 million acres of Pakistan’s most fertile croplands, in a nation where farming is an economic mainstay. The waters also killed more than 200,000 livestock, and washed away massive quantities of stored commodities that feed millions throughout the year.

    Relief workers warned that if farmers like Mr. Anjum missed the deadline to re-seed in the fall planting season, the nation could face the prospect of long-term shortages.


    More

    What was that about "beneficial to agriculture?"

    Pakistan has a fundamentalist insurgency bent on overthrowing the weak government. The insurgency is making public relations hay out of this situation. The government could well fall due to knock-on effects of the flood. The government has nuclear weapons which will change hands if that happens. Good situation?
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  5. Doug, we could argue until the cows come home whether the Pakistani tragic floods are a product of climate change - basically we don't know.

    However, Thingadonta's right insofar as flood plains (not the situation in Pakistan which is monsoonal flooding) are good for agriculture - that's why they attracted human settlement in the first place.

    Could I suggest that we don't subvert John's Plain English project by arguments about the science climate change. As I understand it, all John's trying to do is to 'translate' existing pages into a more accessible format. Inevitably, some of us will disagree with some of the content - some of us may disagree with most of the content. However, we should reserve discussions of the content for the appropriate forum, eg, when a post is made specifically about some new aspect of the science or an old thread is revisited with new data.
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  6. That's a good suggestion, chriscanaris. Perhaps the discussion over the science should be redirected to the actual argument page, rather than this update post. It would be better placed there, in any event.
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  7. I can't believe that there will be absolutely NO benefits, anywhere in the world, as a result of sea level rise. Might not some river ports become seaports?
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    Response: Now that's thinking outside the box :-)
  8. A decision was taken to start a new thread with each 'basic' rebuttal, so I'm going to address a point or two made by Thingadonta:

    Some places, like the Himalayas and Greenland, with warmer temperatues will experience increased meltwater flows, because more areas are above 0 degrees celsius, which means more water, not less.


    I assume you refer to air temperature. This is not what is causing the majority of melting of the Greenland ice cap - it is subduction of warmer sea water, melting of undersea buttresses that hold the glaciers in place, and some surface water that trickles down through fissures in the ice called moraines.

    This is also enhanced by more frequent floods.

    Two things. Glaciers are shrinking. If glacier mass balance is consistently negative (80% display mass loss according to the WGMS) then the amount of spring melt water is going to be reduced, so less is available downsteam at lower altitudes.

    Secondly, more frequent floods are a liability, not an enhancement. The timing is crucial - flash floods that arrive after crops are planted simply wash the crops away. This is not very helpful, nor it is predictable.

    The list above is too one-sided to be taken seriously.

    You'd need to provide the other side then, for your assertion to be taken seriously. Substantiate your claim please with facts.
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  9. huntjanin: "I can't believe that there will be absolutely NO benefits [to sea level rise]"
    Fair enough, but I couldn't find anything in the literature, in what was admittedly a short search. If you can find anything from a reasonably credible source I'll be glad to add it in.
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  10. In all respect, and meaning no offense, some of the comments above strengthen my belief, stated in this blog not long ago, that it is mistake to reduce complicated, multifaceted isses to simplistic explanations. These will give the deniers no end of free ammunition. In my opinion, the climate change believers must set their sights high, not low.
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    Response: It is possible to accurately explain complicated science in simple terms. It's not easy, in fact, it's very difficult (a quick scan of the in-depth discussion on the Authors Forum shows that). But if we want the general public to understand what's happening to the climate, it's an effort worth trying.
  11. gpwayne: Thanks. FYI, I'm writing a book on sea level rise and, aside from the river-port-seaport idea, the only other positive benefit I'm come across is that maybe some former wetlands will be submerged and can thus return to their role as wetlands, rather than as, say, oil refineries.

    I don't know that you have to put this but it may be best to avoid making categorical statements unless you are 100% sure you are right.
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  12. #6, doug_bostrom

    There may be another thread or article needed on this site to discuss extreme weather events this year - Southern France, Central Europe, Russia, China, Brazil, Tennessee, Pakistan and now Niger - and whether they should be linked to climate change.

    There is a very interesting response to these events from the Munich RE insurance company. They've undertaken research that demonstrates that since 1980 extreme weather events have tripled. The implication is that extreme weather events can no longer be dismissed as unrelated to climate change.

    Here is a link.
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  13. huntjanin - again, a fair point. I've amended the line about sea level rise benefits to make it appropriately equivocal. Thanks for pointing that out.
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  14. Huntjanin, probably will help you to know this post is part of a new development here to produce stepwise explanations increasing in complexity. John Cook provides an explanation here. The idea is to provide a very quick synopsis with immediately accessible elaboration of explanations including full supporting material, etc.
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  15. huntjanin at 15:41 PM, do you mean some of the river ports that used to be sea ports but are gradually getting further and further inland as the deltas grow?
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  16. johnd: Sorry to be unclear. I was actually thinking of ports that are now on rivers but which, thanks to rising sea levels, might eventually become seaports.
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  17. One obvious positive outcome from the sea level rise is that the sea life has more room to live in. Sea life of course faces other serious problems from climate change and other human activities but that's one positive side.
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  18. When the coastline of Greenland gets greener, are people going to just take pictures of it?
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  19. RSVP: If global warming continues, maybe they will work on their tans,too.
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  20. On a serious note, I think the plain English format as above is a major improvement on the original post. It reads smoothly without dumbing down.

    On a lighter note, I note Port Jackson or Sydney Harbour is indeed a flooded river valley. Lovely water views, good sailing and so forth. It was last a river valley some 6000 years BCE if my memory serves me.

    Some parts of the world will continue to rise above sea level - Scandinavia is still in a post-glacial rebound - and other parts are rising due to tectonic activity. Not sure of the comparable rates though.

    I would cut out the bit about malaria - malaria was an ubiquitous disease until the mid to late 20th century. Other illnesses due to insect vectors might be more of an issue.
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  21. Under economic, for the U.S. which has a variety of climate zones, the total heating expenditures are $57B (table SH5 in
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/recs/recs2005/c&e/spaceheating/pdf/alltables1-13.pdf
    ) The total A/C expenditures are $25B (table AC4 in
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/recs/recs2005/c&e/airconditioning/pdf/alltables1-11.pdf
    ) Heating costs are less flexible since a house can be damaged in freezing weather unlike a house without A/C in warm weather.
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  22. A. Korhola:
    “Decision-makers should make sensible choices regarding the overall benefits in the environment of uncertainty.”
    “According to Korhola, the mistakes and exaggerations of the IPCC report that have now come to light – for example, regarding the Himalayan glaciers, destruction of the Amazon rain forest, collapse of the grain crop in Africa, and the link between climate change and natural disasters – have in this respect done a favour.”

    On Spitsbergen, when he was on the “current location on the map”, Polish researchers found that there millions of years ago, were growing - almost as big as the equator - tropical plants - how, why, have reached such proportions? - We do not know ...

    “heatwaves”

    - Between 2003 and 2006 - let's look at this figure:


    “heatwaves “ were associated with more rapid cooling of (rapid La Nina 2003 and 2006) - such as CLAW hypothesis (?) - low clouds over NH ...

    ... and malaria

    Climate change and the global malaria recession Gething et al., 2010.:
    “First, widespread claims that rising mean temperatures have already led to increases in worldwide malaria morbidity and mortality are largely at odds with observed decreasing global trends in both its endemicity and geographic extent. Second, the proposed future effects of rising temperatures on endemicity are at least one order of magnitude smaller than changes observed since about 1900 and up to two orders of magnitude smaller than those that can be achieved by the effective scale-up of key control measures. Predictions of an intensification of malaria in a warmer world, based on extrapolated empirical relationships or biological mechanisms, must be set against a context of a century of warming that has seen marked global declines in the disease and a substantial weakening of the global correlation between malaria endemicity and climate.”

    and sea level increasing ...

    Nils-Axel Mörner (2009.) Open letter to the president of the Maldives:
    “When I was president for the INQUA commission on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution (1999-2003), we spent much effort on the question of present-to-future sea level changes. After intensive field studies, deliberation within the commission and discussions at five international meeting, we agreed on a "best estimate" for possible sea level changes by the year 2100. Our figure was +10 cm ±10 cm. This figure was later revised at +5 cm ±15cm.”
    “So, Mr. President, when you ignore to face available observational facts, refuses a normal democratic dialogue, and continue to menace your people with the imaginary threat of a disastrous flooding already in progress, I think you are doing a serious mistake.

    Darfur

    - The greening of the Sahel: “Analyses made by several independent groups of temporal sequences of satellite data over two decades since early 1980s, showed a remarkable increasing trend in vegetation greenness.” “Increasing rainfall over the last few years is certainly one reason, but does not fully explain the change.”
    “The vast belt of significantly increasing vegetation across the central Sudan corresponds to a large extent to provinces with large numbers of internally displaced people. In the seven Sudanese provinces ... ... almost 2 million people were internally displaced, corresponding to about 24% of the population. Being internally displaced means that people have fled their homes and live elsewhere away from their normal means of incomes, often on the outskirts of towns. As a consequence, agriculture is neglected and livestock dispersed.”
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  23. Glaciers as a water source

    - in Poland - for students - I explained it this way: when Poland was a year-long glacier in the Carpathians, the water is our main Vistula river were similar (in the flow) to the current supply of its very small - a tiny river: Wisłok .. .
    The amount of water in the soil would (a year-long glacier in the Carpathians) then be about 10 times smaller. The area of the Poland, could feed population of Lapland, at most, and not present Poland ...

    Rain water (saturation curve) increase the amount of groundwater to an extent significantly greater compared with the "power" of the glaciers. With overcapacity compensate for losses arising after the disappearance of the glacier.

    Tibet was a land of "vibrant green" ... - during the early Holocene Optimum, when the glaciers in the Himalayas retreated by more than 3 -5 km farther than today ...

    So this is where the "over-trust" for "gray references - literature" by the WHO, WWF; and another formal - informal, ecological "green" organization’s ...

    The only danger of global warming are such that: decreasing the desert can take care of the areas where they are not ..., can move to areas where a lot of people now living.
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  24. Arkadiusz Semczyszak 25
    You will find sea shells incrusted in calcified rocks not too far from Carpatheans (Ojcow). This land was all under the ocean at one point in time.
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  25. Chriscanaris #7, whether the recent flooding in Pakistan was 'caused' by climate change is irrelevant to the point at hand... it was precisely the kind of flooding which climate change is projected to cause. It's effects have NOT been beneficial. Ergo, a relevant example of the kinds of problems climate driven flooding would cause.

    BTW, I find the whole 'we cannot say whether climate change "caused" weather event X or not' argument nonsensical. Weather occurs within a climate. If the climate changes significantly then ALL weather which occurs is, in some part, 'caused' by those new climate conditions. Without them the weather WOULD have been different. Could the weather have been 'better' or 'worse'? Sure, it is still weather, with a large degree of natural variability. Thus, in one sense a weather event can only be said to be 'caused' by climate change if it is SO extreme that it falls outside the bounds of what was possible under the previous climate conditions (a situation which we are now approaching), but in another sense ALL weather we are experiencing is 'caused' by climate change because it is all dependent on the current climate. When that weather includes more 'extreme weathers events' than normal then we very much CAN say that climate change has "caused" an increase in such events.
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  26. The Weizmann Institute in Israel has proposed reforesting the Sahara desert. This is possible because of higher CO2 levels caused by human activity and sufficient water in the area to maintain a reforestation activity for 200 years. Higher CO2 levels allow certain species of trees to prosper with less water. The finding that higher CO2 levels can cause a forest in an arid zone to grow better was a result of studies of the Yatir forest in the Negev.

    Such a project may be able to absorb all man made green house CO2. In addition the food and building material from such a project would help meet the growing needs of Africa and the rest of the world.
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  27. The violent weather phenomena are correlated only with the equally rapid cooling common at the end of long (always quiet) and rapid warming, often at the end of strong and violent El Nino (perfect example is the beginning of LIA, and the last: 1997 / 8; 2010 - the end of a strong El Nino - heat waves and floods, for example in Europe).

    Altithermal: "... warmest period during the last 75,000 years ..."

    „The palynological studies (ie, fossil pollen) that boreal coniferous forests (taiga), western Siberia and Canada, then stretched approximately 300 km further north, and so occupied areas, has completely treeless (tundra), but now overgrown with grass, shrubs and moss. Ocean water temperature was higher in some areas by up to 6 ° C above today's, oceans steamed so strongly, resulting in increased humidity. Increased rainfall filled to the brim Saharan pools and lakes, and Lake Chad, for example, took on the size of a real sea, spilling an area comparable to today's Caspian Sea [!!!]. Then it just became a green Sahara and the Middle East. Great rock rites and paintings testify, to the fact that these areas are rich with life and lived on them typical fauna - for today's, of the African savannah.”
    (author: dr. Ryszkiewicz; translation - unfortunately - my)


    Altithermal - the SH geological period might have been even warmer than the Eemian - Sangamon. It turns out that only in this period - from several million-year - part of the Atacama desert was green.


    If this is what I wrote above, and others "deny", it is really a picture of the disaster, it is a picture of a particularly "beautiful" disaster ...


    Described in the IPCC's fourth report: "increasing the number of violent climatic events", refer only to a further warming of 0.5 - 1 deg. C (maximum of 1.5 deg. C). Response to climate warming is not linear.
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  28. One minor point, in the polar melting section surely albedo is dealing with reflection of visible light (mainly),rather than heat. So a lower albedo means more energy is absorbed in the ground to be re-radiated as heat?
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  29. #18: "ports that are now on rivers but which, thanks to rising sea levels, might eventually become seaports."

    I wonder how that's going to be beneficial. Consider the industrial infrastructure in place on the lower Mississippi River and for that matter, all of coastal Louisiana.
    Here's a snip from a report written in 2006:

    The technological infrastructure of the petrochemical industry in the Gulf Coast has become more vulnerable in recent years for several reasons. Declining global crude oil and natural gas reserves have rendered supply chains more tenuous and less flexible. Storms have struck the area with increasing ferocity and frequency.

    And in 2009:
    "With rising sea levels, subsidence, and catastrophic storms such as Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, the risk to coastal communities and the critical economic, energy and navigation infrastructure upon which the nation depends is incalculable."

    In short, rising sea level is a looming disaster along that coast. You won't be able to just pick up oil refineries, pipeline hubs, natural gas compression and processing plants, etc and move them upriver. What will happen to million bbl per day that move through the LOOP? The onshore terminal at Port Fourchon is shown as having an elevation of 0 ft.

    I supposed this would be considered by some as 'alarmist,' but 'alarm' has an implicit sense of urgency; these concerns have been talked about for years -- and still we do nothing.
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  30. Minor technical correction to the post--"vegitation" is a misspelling. Otherwise I agree it reads very smoothly and hits the important points without too much detail. The nuances belong in the "blue" section.
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  31. huntjanin:
    "I can't believe that there will be absolutely NO benefits, anywhere in the world, as a result of sea level rise. Might not some river ports become seaports?"

    Possible, but then some will be lost as well or very difficult to defend. I don't think one can really say that relocating many millions of people away from flooded coastal cities as being positive.
    Another problem with increasing sea levels is that salt water makes it's way further up a river causing all sorts of problems.
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  32. Arguments that warmer is not necessarily worse, miss the point that it is the rate of the changes that are so dangerous. That, at least in part, is what makes all these effects of climate change so hard to adapt to, for humans as well as other species.
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  33. As Chris' cue above has largely been ignored, I'm going to respond to one of Chris' remarks.

    It's a very convenient truth that of course we cannot ascribe any particular weather event to climate change, not with certainty. However, when we look at statistics it becomes clear we may conclude that a proportion of increasingly frequent extreme weather events are themselves indicators as well as outcomes of climate change. When experts tell us so and we choose instead to focus on the uncertainty of a particular event, we're ignoring an inconvenient truth larger and more significant than the event itself.

    In the case of Pakistan, we have an event that has exceeded any previously recorded, in a way that has overwhelmed the resources of the country and is threatening Pakistan's stability in an entirely new way; Pakistan is in fact an example of what we may expect to see in the way of both physical and cultural impacts of climate change. Again, choosing to interpret this year's monsoon in Pakistan as a singular feature without heed of local as well as larger context is to lose perspective.

    We have other examples of stability being upset this year. When an extended history of cultural habit is overturned by a weather event transcending a local population's notion of where to live and how to live in that location and such an event is entirely in keeping predictions, that's a message to be folded into statistics. Such an occurrence is not only useful from a statistical standpoint but more germane to the topic of this thread is an indicator of how disruptive the sequence of action we've set into motion will be.

    If we choose not to see and allocate costs of climate change, our understanding is impaired and our ability to respond will be irrational by choice.
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  34. TOP,

    Please provide a link to the Weizmann study of reforesting the Sahara to eliminate man-made greenhouse gases. I'll be damned if I can find a reference to it.
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  35. More happy talk:

    One 2008 study by researchers Tim Barnett and David Pierce of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography estimated that if current consumption patterns are not altered, Lake Mead has a 50 percent chance of running dry by 2021.

    Water managers in the West were skeptical, as was The Las Vegas Review-Journal, which blasted the study in an editorial. “Predictions such as these virtually never come true,” the paper declared. “From Thomas Malthus in 1798 to Paul Ehrlich in the 1970s, the forecasters of famine, abandoned cities and desolated economies always look like fools in the end because they refuse to take into account the ingenuity and enterprise of the human race.”


    What's happening after the editorial was published

    Hint: Levels Plummet in Crucial Reservoir

    Oh, yes, it can't be put down to climate change, not definitively. It's entirely consistent with predictions, the variability is exactly what's expected and traditional, the trend appears to follow projections but let's not overdo it and form any conclusions, let alone imagine climate change might not be a walk in the park.
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  36. #35 doug_bostrom at 05:33 AM on 18 August, 2010
    when we look at statistics it becomes clear we may conclude that a proportion of increasingly frequent extreme weather events are themselves indicators as well as outcomes of climate change

    OK, let's have a look at statistics on some extreme weather events. Fortunately we have this technical memorandum on The Deadliest, Costliest, and Most Intense United States Tropical Cyclones From 1851 to 2006 from NOAA National Hurricane Center. In Appendix A of the report one can find a complete Chronological List of All Hurricanes which Affected the Continental United States: 1851-2006.

    I have also collected hurricane data for the most recent three complete hurricane seasons from 2007-2009, so I could produce an overview of this special type of extreme weather event for the last 159 years.

    As a crude measure of hurricane intensity, I have simply added up the category numbers of all hurricanes annually. As we are talking about climate (not weather), it is a 25 year running average of that number, assigned to the middle year. It looks like this:



    As you can see, hurricane intensity is decreasing slightly on a century scale, therefore increasingly frequent extreme weather events do not include hurricanes hitting the US. More importantly, no relation to either any kind of global average temperature history reconstruction or atmospheric CO2 levels can be seen. At least in this respect, if hurricanes are considered indicators, climate does not even seem to change much, not in the Atlantic region for sure.
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  37. "You'd need to provide the other side then, for your assertion to be taken seriously. Substantiate your claim please with facts."

    Here is a few others.

    Sea Level.
    Mass extunctions occur when sea level falls, not rises. Sea life and biodiversity generally flourishes in the geologial record with seal level rises.

    Health.
    I dont know where you get your stats from; it is well known that cold related deaths far outweigh heat related deaths. I think your figures are actually a projection in very high IPCC warming scenarios, but are not current stats. Lomborg has some good data on this in his book 'Cool It', which is the opposite of what you say, cold related deaths are ~5-10 times heat related deaths.

    Also, malaria is a poverty related disease, which has been declining since 1900 as the world has warmed, the exaxct oppoisite of what you project above. Also, draining of wetlands (eg Southern US) has generally been shown to reduce malaria prevalance.

    In the case of tropical disease incidence, I'm sorry, but biodiversity is generally a bad thing. 'Biodiversity' also means virus diversity. That is why in low biodiversity temperate forests there is low rates of disease generally; tropical Africa would probably be better off reducing its rainforest and wetlands extent if it wants to reduce malaria and enhance human health (a sure heresy amongst the green brigade).

    Polar Melting
    Greater access to mineral and petroluem resources.

    Ocean Acidification
    I'll get back to you about possible positive benefits, but oceans wont acidify if the rate of burial of carbonate sediments and the dissolution of existing carbonate sediments responds to changes in pH and provides provide a negative feedback to ocean acidification: from Wiki:

    "Leaving aside direct biological effects, it is expected that ocean acidification in the future will lead to a significant decrease in the burial of carbonate sediments for several centuries, and even the dissolution of existing carbonate sediments.[49] This will cause an elevation of ocean alkalinity, leading to the enhancement of the ocean as a reservoir for CO2 with moderate (and potentially beneficial) implications for climate change as more CO2 leaves the atmosphere for the ocean.[50]"

    Agriculture:
    The area of temperate land which receives a net benefit from warmer temperatures greatly outweighs the area of land where the sun's angle of incidence is too high to benefit agrculture.

    Also it largrely depends on the type of crop, many crops only need a little more water, rather than more sunlight, as the main factor in their productivity.

    The area from China to Europe has a greater area which will benefit from warmer temperatues whilst still having enough sunlight to grow crops. The issue here isn't angle of incidence of the sun, but largely T and precipitation (which is both projected to increase in these areas).
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    Moderator Response: Graham's response: Thanks for your comments. Sea-levels: I think the timescales we're interested in as a race lie outside that of evolution, so I wouldn't agree that this was a benefit the human race might accrue. Health: you say you don't know where the stats came from. The intermediate rebuttal is the answer, so you can look that up yourself. All the claims made here are referenced to the original papers. Your point about cold related deaths belies the fact that we are discussing projections - not what happened in the past. Polar melting: true, more resources would be available - theoretically. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing, however, but I've put it in. Ocean pH: cite your sources. A wiki doesn't cut it. Same with agriculture - a lot of claims there, no detail, and no substantiation.
  38. Experts overwhelmingly disagree with you, BP, probably because you did not take into account the fact that years leading up to the 1960s were unusually active. Look at it from the power dissipation of larger storms viewpoint as well as what happens when natural variability is superimposed on the secular trend (or climate change is superimposed on the variability?):

    Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over
    the past 30 years


    Low frequency variability in globally integrated tropical cyclone power dissipation

    Heightened tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic: natural variability orclimate trend?

    Trends in global tropical cyclone activity over the past twenty years (1986–2005)

    The increasing intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones
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  39. thingadonta - Please, please back your assertions with references. "well known" my foot. The only reference you provide is wiki and clearly you didnt bother to read the Tyrell paper that it quotes, nor its gloomy cites. And to endlessly repeat the mantra - Its the RATE of change that matters. RATE of change is what causes mass extinctions. RATE of change results in acidification become overwhelming before processes operating on geological
    However, instead of arm-waving about it, you could read IPCC WG2 instead.
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  40. #38: Sum of Safir-Simpson number by year is an interesting statistic. I took the same data and divided your cumulative SSN by number of storms in 5 year bins. Looked quite different. Of course, SSn is based on pressure and windspeed. As a victim of TS Allison, I'm here to tell you that storms that don't contribute to your statistic sure make a heck of a mess.

    So it would appear to be number of named storms that is a better indicator. Why not look a little further on the NOAA site and find this graph for Atlantic storms:

    Bars depict number of named systems (open/yellow), hurricanes (hatched/green), and category 3 or greater (solid/red), 1886-2004

    This seems to indicate a gradual increase in the number of named storms in later years.
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  41. #39: "Mass extunctions occur when sea level falls, not rises. Sea life and biodiversity generally flourishes in the geologial record with seal level rises."

    Here is a top 5 list of biggest known mass extinctions. Note causes include asteroid impacts, volcanic eruptions on a large scale ("which may have led to global warming"), flood volcanism leading to loss of oxygen in the oceans and, yes, dropping (but then rising again) sea level.

    Of course, it is apples and oranges to compare mass extinctions in geologic time periods when most forms of life were marine to what we are talking about here. And we're not even talking about 'extinction', we're talking about floods, loss of agricultural resources, loss of infrastructure and general crappiness for anyone living along the coastline. No, that's not extinction, but its darned unpleasant.
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  42. #39: "Also it largrely depends on the type of crop, many crops only need a little more water, rather than more sunlight, as the main factor in their productivity."

    Oh, there's plenty of water available:
    50% rise in extreme rain incidence in last 50 yrs

    Extreme rainfall events (rainfall more than 100 mm/day) have increased by 50% during the past 50 years. ... And, most climate models predict that global warming will increase such events. We cannot claim that a specific extreme event is due to global warming although we know that the probability of such events will increase as the earth becomes warmer.

    That reminds me of another recent article, cited here.
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  43. #42 muoncounter at 11:16 AM on 18 August, 2010
    Why not look a little further on the NOAA site and find this graph for Atlantic storms

    I tell you why. Hurricanes making landfall in the US during the last 160 years are well documented (there were insurance companies there during the entire epoch). Named Atlantic storms on the other hand, are not, especially before the satellite era. In earlier times there must have been a lot that would have deserved a name but never got one, because went unnoticed.
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  44. #41:
    "RATE of change that matters. RATE of change is what causes mass extinctions. RATE of change results in acidification become overwhelming before processes operating on geological...."

    Yes, but no research has been conducted that I am aware of the rate of dissolution/precipitation of carbonate on the sea floor, so we don't know the rate of this potential negative feedback to ocean acidification. The geological record indicates the ocean is strongly buffered, and takes a very long time to acidify, suggesting such a buffering as suggested above to ocean acidification is more or less instantaneous.

    #44 muoncounter:
    your point about more rain is partly why agricultural output (including rice) is also increasing- and why the discussion about agricultre in the above article is wrong/misleading-more rain means more crops, particularly in marginal temperate zones. Too simple for AGW promoters to understand.
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  45. A small remark seems to have unleashed a perfect storm of argument.

    So is increased Internet traffic a positive or negative consequence of climate change?

    Arguably, every energy expenditure however small increases net entropy in the universe as we know it thus hastening our own demise as a species.

    Just kidding :-)
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  46. thingadonta wrote : "your point about more rain is partly why agricultural output (including rice) is also increasing- and why the discussion about agricultre in the above article is wrong/misleading-more rain means more crops, particularly in marginal temperate zones. Too simple for AGW promoters to understand."


    Yes, of course, very simple. All that lovely rain, leading to lots of lovely crops - sounds very simple, doesn't it, especially in Pakistan :

    Floods likely to have destroyed crops worth $1 billion


    As for rice, well... :

    There has been a major decline in world rice production since late 2007 due to many reasons including climatic conditions in many top rice producing countries as well as policy decisions regarding rice export by the governments of countries with considerable rice production.
    Rice Trade

    The above article says something about floods and drought...
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  47. #46, thingadonta:
    "Yes, but no research has been conducted that I am aware of the rate of dissolution/precipitation of carbonate on the sea floor, so we don't know the rate of this potential negative feedback to ocean acidification."

    Here's just one example:

    In situ measurements of calcium carbonate dissolution rates in deep-sea sediments - Berelson et al. (1990)
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  48. Ari:
    Skeptics don't do their homework and then claim that the work has not been done. That makes it easy for them to claim that we don't know a lot that we actually know. Thank you for providing this link to show what really is known.
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  49. The major decline in rice production in recent years appears to be, again, a continuation of a long-term trend. Higher night time temperatures seem to be the culprit.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100809161138.htm
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  50. The article says "Rising temperatures during the past 25 years have already cut the yield growth rate by 10-20 percent in several locations." And then it says "We found that as the daily minimum temperature increases, or as nights get hotter, rice yields drop,"

    According to this http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-02/irri-tpt021910.php yields have more than doubled worldwide over the last 50 years.
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