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Climate Change and the Integrity of Science: a letter to Science

Posted on 8 May 2010 by John Cook

A letter Climate Change and the Integrity of Science has been published in the journal Science. It's written by 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences, including 11 Nobel laureates (here's the complete list plus their university affiliations). I recommend reading the entire letter but here is an excerpt:

There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet...

... The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other scientific assessments of climate change, which involve thousands of scientists producing massive and comprehensive reports, have, quite expectedly and normally, made some mistakes. When errors are pointed out, they are corrected. But there is nothing remotely identified in the recent events that changes the fundamental conclusions about climate change:
  1. The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.
  2. Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
  3. Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth's climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.
  4. Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.
  5. The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more.
Much more can be, and has been, said by the world's scientific societies, national academies, and individuals, but these conclusions should be enough to indicate why scientists are concerned about what future generations will face from business-as-usual practices. We urge our policy-makers and the public to move forward immediately to address the causes of climate change, including the un restrained burning of fossil fuels.

The scientists are the members of the NAS most familiar with climate science, as explained by lead signer Peter Gleick:

It is hard to get 255 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to agree on pretty much anything, making the import of this letter even more substantial. Moreover, only a small fraction of National Academy members were asked to sign (the signatories are all members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences but were not speaking on its behalf). Because of a desire to produce a statement quickly, the coordinators of the letter focused on those sections of the NAS most familiar with climate science and the ongoing debate. But the NAS (and Academies of Sciences and other professional scientific societies from dozens of other nations) has previously published a long set of assessments and reviews of the science of climate change, which support the conclusions laid out in the Science essay.

Lastly, here is a link to the National Academy of Science's Policy advice, based on science, to guide the nation's response to climate change.

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Comments 201 to 239 out of 239:

  1. For those of you relying on published temperature records to support global warming - you can use it to support the notion that it is due to man's activities, however not in the manner in which you believe. A study undertaken by Edward Long (The Science & Public Policy Institute) arrives at some interesting conclusions. In essence he notes that apparent global warming trends as presented by GISS, NCDC and UAH are misleading. “GISS, over a 10-year period has modified their data by progressively lowering temperature values for far-back dates and raising those in the more recent past (Ref 3). These changes have caused their 2000 reporting of a 0.35 oC/century in 2000 to increase to 0.44 oC/century in 2009, a 26-percent increase.” In essence he identifies the global warming trends identified in the reports of those institutions to simply reflect the impact of urban warming (hence the effect of man's activities) on the data. It is an interesting study and can be found here.
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  2. Maintain_integrity # 199 My purposes in posting the regional data is that there are other potential sources that affect ocean pH. As weathering of rock patterns change due to uplift, the pH of run-off water will change depending on changes to the rocks being eroded. Furthermore industrial activities contribute additional emissions notably SO2, which is more soluble in water than CO2 and which, when mixed with water creates sulphuric acid (pH of 0.96). On the other hand, CO2 when mixed with water forms Carbonic acid. Solutions with high amounts of dissolved CO2 (ie a soft drink) will have a pH of just under 4. Under normal atmospheric conditions, the pH of a carbonic acid solution lies around 5.4 Now with Sulphur dioxide being a major emission from sulphur rich coal, sulfur rich fuels and from the manufacture of cement, once can readily surmise that it has a greater role on influencing the pH of ocean water than does CO2.
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  3. robhon # 200 While I haven't reviewed Mann's model, I have taken several graduate courses on forecasting and consequently I feel I do have a background in understanding the pros and cons of forecasting. I have relied on publishings by others who have had access to the model and data and who have determined that it is unreliable. I remember when the report first came out and the President of the US Association of Statisticians issues a statement that Mann did not follow normal statistical protocol in his study.(sorry I do not remember the official name as it was some years ago). However I have come across a resent report in Technology Review, published by MIT which is worth reading and throws some light on the issue: http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/13830/?a=f As for throwing out the baby with the bath water concept, I don't believe we, as scientists should accept conclusions that have been derived from suspect processes. I don't believe the issue regarding Mann's forecast to be reflective of such a concept. Regarding citations for my SO2 and CO2 - any text dealing with introductory chemistry will work for you. It is a no brainer to understand that until the 1980's and 1990's that the fuels being burned worldwide were high in sulfur contents and that their buring released SO2 into the atmosphere in large amounts (visit Sudbury to see the remnant effects). As for your friend in Portland - ask him how cold his November and Decembers were this past year. The west was affected by el Nino, hence the warming, but in recent years Portland has had heavy snow: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/pqr/paststorms/200812/2008_Dec_snow.php Here in Calgary we had the warmest January that I can recall, but by far we experienced the coldest November in many years. However neither what Portland experienced nor what we experienced amounts to any significant in a 100 year time frame. - if you are going to use tid bits, make them comparable
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  4. @geo guy, #204 Giving us the pH of a solution of carbonic acid, is meaningless when it comes to a highly diluted solution of a large ocean absorbing more and more CO2 from the atmosphere. While I can certainly agree that runoff from mankind in a stream emptying into a huge ocean will skew that pH more than what you will find out in the middle of an ocean. It is still the AVERAGE pH, not regional, just like global temperature vs. regional temperature. There's been many credible studies over the past few years, showing a huge decrease in sea water pH, and all of them cite clear evidence of pH levels dropping in response to increased levels of atmospheric CO2. The latest study even stated that it was the largest decrease in ocean pH levels in at least 800,000 years to a pH level of 8.1
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  5. robhorn # 198 - interesting link - you showed the month of April, if you look at earlier months you will see a much different story. December, 2009 http://climate.rutgers.edu/snowcover/chart_anom.php?ui_set=1&ui_region=nam&ui_month=12
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  6. GeoGuy 204 Re acidity. It's true that SO2 is acidifying and H2SO4 is more acidic than carbonic acid. But there is substantially less of it and it desn't get around much. SO2 has a half life of days in the atmosphere -- what doesn't fall out locally as particles interacts readily with water droplets and quickly rains out. As a consequence, it cannot build up to great concentations and is deposited regionally. Only lakes and streams that are small, dilute and whose watersheds have very low buffering capacities are generally sensitive to acid rain. Lakes that are as alkaline as the ocean (which resemebled a saline lake in chemistry) are not senstive to acid rain - unless you REALLY pound them as has sometimes happened in Eastern Europe. CO2 has a residence time in the atmosphere in years. That means it is well mixed in the atmosphere relatively unvarying in concentration and continuously exchenging with dissolved CO2 in the ocean. The increase in CO2 is felt throughout the whole ocean. Because of CO2, pure droplets of water in the amsophere have a pH of 5.6 (actually lower --that was in the 80's!). SO2 rains out mostly near sources on land and only sporadically. It concentrations have been declining due to controls on emissions. A success story of regulation and the model for cap and trade approaches! NOx (another pollutant that causes acid rains) shows similar characteristics although it is not declining yet. So no, SO2 cannot be the cause of declining pH in the ocean. The other effets you cite are too local in effect as well. The change in pH we see correlates perfectly with what we expect from changes in temp and pCO2 based on equilibrium buffer chemistry.
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  7. tobyjoyce at 04:04 AM, perhaps I need to make it clearer still, these snippets should help. ‣ “... the modelling of time dependent clouds is perhaps the weakest aspect of the existing general circulation models and may be the most difficult task in constructing any reliable climate model” --- Arakawa (WMO,1975) ‣ “It must thus be emphasized that the modeling of clouds is one of the weakest links in the general circulation modeling efforts” --- Charney (NRC,1979) ‣ “Probably the greatest uncertainty in future projections of climate arises from clouds and their interactions with radiation ... even the sign of this feedback remains unknown” --- IPCC (TAR 2001) ‣ “Cloud feedbacks are a primary source of inter-model differences in equilibrium climate sensitivity, with low cloud being the largest contributor” --- IPCC-draft language (2006) This is what the question has, and still pivots on, as I mentioned earlier, as yet remaining unresolved. If you have some evidence that the matter has been resolved, please present it. positive cloud feedback, larger climate sensitivity negative cloud feedback, smaller climate sensitivity
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  8. @Geo Guy... I did look at the other links but maybe you missed my point. You are using anecdotal information to form conclusions. "Tidbits" are a double edged sword.
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  9. maintain_integrity # 199 & 200 I guess you missed the point of a tid bit - it wasn't to provide any proof but rather simply to show that climate varies widely and that long term cold records in some locations are being broken. Does this mean global warming is not happening? Of course not. Does it say global cooling is happening? Of course not. What it might reflect is the idea that climate change is more complex than many are making it out to be. Prior to the winter, it was predicted that this year would be an el Nino year - warming and drier than usual in the west side of NA, cooler and wetter on the east coast and colder in Europe - all of which happened. One of the issues that climate scientists have not been able to integrate into their models is the relationship of el Nino and global warming trends. Including temperatures that occur during an el Nino episode can have the effect of raising the calculated average for global temperatures. It is same effect a sale of a multi-million dollar house in a market will have on average house prices in that market. That is why I feel that a median temperature is more indicative of what is really happening climate wise than average temperatures. With respect to the NSIDC report, am not sure where they got their data from, however if you look at the Environment Canada's date that covers data from 1840 to the present, their info does not support NSIDC's contention that the Artic was warmer than usual. http://www.climate.weatheroffice.gc.ca/climateData/canada_e.html The above link allows you to access data from some 168 stations located the Canada's east arctic and some 144 from the west Arctic. Not all stations have a full set of data but there are enough for you to be able to identify trends.
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  10. I'd love to see how you get urban heat islands melting glaciers and causing sea level rise. What Mann "forecast" are you referring to? "Forecast" is not especially useful term without knowing the methodology used. You can make pretty good forecasts of a projectile path when fired from gun from physics. You dont get same certainty from statistical models based on past behaviour.
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  11. maintain_integrity # 199 & 200 I guess you missed the point of a tid bit - it wasn't to provide any proof but rather simply to show that climate varies widely and that long term cold records in some locations are being broken. Does this mean global warming is not happening? Of course not. Does it say global cooling is happening? Of course not. What it might reflect is the idea that climate change is more complex than many are making it out to be. Prior to the winter, it was predicted that this year would be an el Nino year - warming and drier than usual in the west side of NA, cooler and wetter on the east coast and colder in Europe - all of which happened. One of the issues that climate scientists have not been able to integrate into their models is the relationship of el Nino and global warming trends. Including temperatures that occur during an el Nino episode can have the effect of raising the calculated average for global temperatures. It is same effect a sale of a multi million dollae house in a market will have on average house prices in that market. That is why I feel that a median temperature is more indicative of what is really happening climate wise than average temperatures. As for the NSIDC report, certainly the data at environment Canada's website doesn't reflect a warmer arctic this past winter http://www.climate.weatheroffice.gc.ca/Welcome_e.html One final note, can any one provide a link to any articles describing the role the jet stream has in determining climate? I ask that because where I live, the jet stream can be either north or south of us. The temp difference realized depending on its location can be 15 degrees C.
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  12. @Geo Guy... Just checked out your link to the 2004 Richard Muller article regarding McIntyre and McKitrick's critique of Mann's hockey stick. You need to do a little more research here. There are a lot of critiques of the Mc&Mc critique. And this is all older information. There are a long series of papers that have used other measures to come to similar conclusions as Mann (including Huang 2004, Oerlemans 2005, Moberg 2005, Esper 2002, Briffa 2001 and others).
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  13. Robhon # 213 - let's just agree to disagree on this issue. My comments re Mann had to do with the process they followed and not to their conclusions. I have yet to find a valid report refuting the critique of M&M on the process and data manipulation carried out by Mann et al.
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  14. Geo-guy. "One of the issues that climate scientists have not been able to integrate into their models is the relationship of el Nino and global warming trends." This is not true. ESNO features arise with climate models - ie they are an output, not an input of models. There is insufficient skill to use a climate model for prediction of individual ESNO events but that doesnt limit in any way the models ability to predict a 20 year temperature trend. As to complexity of regional weather - heat distribution around the planet is complex that doesnt mean you cant make statement about the global energy balance. If you heat a large pot on the stove, you will get convection patterns that would be extremely hard to model but it doesnt stop the fact the pot will still heat up and boil if there is enough energy at the bottom.
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  15. tobyjoyce at 08:02 AM, all I can suggest then is that you do your own research and when you find evidence that the matter of climate sensitivity (which still rests on the matter of cloud feedback) has been finally resolved, please post such evidence. I simply haven't got the time or the inclination to seek out and post every single reference to the fact that the matter remains unresolved when you could settle it with just one reference that provides proof it has been resolved, something you have avoided doing so far.
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  16. Stephen Baines # 206 Everything in the ocean has a source that can be linlked to land. Industrial sources in the northern hemisphere account for most of the man made SO2 in the atmosphere. Other sources are volcanic which are spatially located in the volcanic belts around the world. SO2 has a lower hafl life than CO2 for 2 reasons: 1) higher specific gravity (2.3 vs 1.5) and greater solubility (80/1.7). Wolfgand Knorr concluded in his study that the trend in airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 has essentially remained constant since 1850 http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2009GL040613.shtml According to the US EPA domestic SO2 emissions fell from 31 tons to 19 tons between 1970 and 1999. The same figures for CO2 were 197 and 89 respectively. If we take 1970 as an example, the ratio of SO2 to CO2 emissions calculates to .15. If we calculate the same ratio for solubility, we get 40. Hence we can have more CO2 in the atmosphere but because the SO2 solubility factor is so much greater, a smaller amount of SO2 can have an equivalen effect on the pH of water, including the Ocean. On another point, the prevailing winds are from west to east and with most of the US industrial complex located on the east coast, a lot of SO2 emissions will get blown out over the ocean. In addition SO2 is just behind CO2 in terms of gas emissions from volcanoes so I feel that SO2 does play a more important role on the acidity of the oceans than some people are willing to give it.
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  17. @Geo Guy... You do also realize that there is a more recent Mann paper on climate reconstructions. Mann 2008. Here is Mann's response to McIntyre and McKitrick. I would assume that if you read Mc&Mc you would want to continue to understand both sides of the debate as fully as possible.
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  18. @Geo Guy... John Cook also addresses the hockey stick issue in other pages on this site.
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  19. Geoguy - And Mann 2009 not to mention that science moves on and there is all the other paleo reconstructions in AR4 WG1. What do you do you see as the importance of this?
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  20. Geo Guy #216 Good, we can agree that atmospheric SO2 is largely produced by man (actually about 90%). That's a start. Your comparison of CO2 and SO2 emissions are WAY off, though (really, you need to check your units!) In 2004 CO2 emissions were 38 GIGATONS (AR4 IPPC). More than 30% of that entered the ocean - or conservatively about 12-13 Gt. Global SO2 emissions even at the peak of emissions in the 1990 were only about 154 million tons (or 0.154 Gt) according to the World Resources Institute – much more than you claimed but a lot less than CO2 emissions. Less than half of SO2 emissions get to the ocean (36-51 % according to Dentener et al (2006)) because it rains out so quickly. Most estimates I have seen suggest more like 30-40% - not that different from CO2. So basically ratio of SO2:CO2 entering the ocean is similar to SO2 and CO2 emissions, about 1:1000. But buffer chemistry is complex, right? And there are other strong acids in human emissions. What of them? There was a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Doney et al 2007) that directly addressed the effect of sulfur and nitrogen deposition on ocean acidity and found that it amounted to only a few percent of the effect of CO2 over the whole ocean. Locally, near the coasts, acidic N and S deposition could contribute a larger fraction of acidification. There is nothing close to the effect of acid deposition on pH of lakes though. That requires a poorly buffered system, which the ocean is not. Still, since marine organisms are sensitive even to subtle changes in pH, it provides yet another reason for controlling emissions of these compounds - especially near China where emissions are skyrocketing. Some other issues I have with your post… the residence times of SO2 or CO2 in the atmosphere have NOTHING to do with their specific gravities (relative to air) as pure gas. If you had a balloon of pure CO2, sure, it would sink in our atmosphere. But you may have noticed that CO2 does not exist as balloons of pure gas in our atmosphere. Rather it is a trace gas mixed among other gasses. The gravitational pull on single molecules is nowhere near enough to offset mixing due to turbulent motion or even Brownian motion. Good thing, too. If CO2 molecules sank they would collect near the surface of the earth and we would all asphyxiate. You and would not be having this edifying discussion. You are right that SO2 IS much more soluble than CO2 in dilute water. Actually sulfate particles for this reason often form nuclei for condensation of droplets – implicating them in cloud formation. It also explains why SO2 gas has a residence time in the atmosphere very similar to water – ie, days – because it rains out with the water. Finally, it explains why SO2 cannot build up in the atmosphere to any great extent or travel much more than 1000 miles from the source. In the US SO2 concentrations in air are typically below the health standard set by the EPA, which is <0.03ppm or >10,000x lower than CO2. Refs Dentener et al., F. (2006b). Nitrogen and sulfur deposition on regional and global scales: a multimodel evaluation. Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 20:GB4003. doi:10.1029/2005GB002672 Doney et al (2007) Impact of anthropogenic atmospheric nitrogen and sulfur deposition on ocean acidification and the inorganic carbon system. PNAS 104:14580-14585.
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  21. #212 "it wasn't to provide any proof but rather simply to show that climate varies widely" Why does this need to be shown? Is there anyone on this site who doesn't know that climate varies widely? Or that it's complex? In my experience, people who accept AGW know this already. More to the point, they understand that complexity and uncertainty can lead to understating risk, as well as overstating it.
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  22. @johnd #216 I am disappointed you could not substantiate your assertions, which I will now ignore completely as a rhetorical overstatement, and without real foundation. It seems to me that you should be one doing the research. You could start by reading the thread on climate sensitivity at this blog. The thread lists links to 12 papers on climate sensitivity. In none of them do the authors confess "doubts", other the wish to refine their analyses. Climate Sensitivity
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  23. Stephen Baines - 219 My numbers were for the US only, hence the reference to the EPA so I stand by them. With respect to CO2 being heavier than air, it does tend to fall and collect near the earth's surface - sometimes in great quantities. Volcanists are very aware of this danger when undertaking field studies. Then there is the high concentration of CO2 near Mammoth California that were so concentrated it killed trees. pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs172-96/ Over time I contend that SO2 does have a greater effect on ocean acidity simply because the acid lakes and rivers eventually make their way to the ocean where currents distribute the waters with low pH around the oceans. As for residence time, I disagree as a gas with a lower specific gravity and lower solubility in rain water will stay in the air longer than one with a much higher solubility and a specific gravity that is 50% higher.. robhon # 218 - personally I am at a disagreement with the work done by the IPCC - for a number of reasons which probably should not be posted here as it would be deemed to be off topic. Suffice to say I have investigated the resolutions by the UN that created the organization and from that point on I've seen enough to be dissuaded by their work. scaddenp # 214 - while there are models used to predict ENSO events, my reference was to the global climate models and the integration of the forecast of ENSO events into the climate models. To be properly treated, they should be an input parameter and not an output - of course if they did that, then their models would appear to be out of whack. IF the ENSO events are a result of high levels of CO@, then I agree they would be an output. But since we do not know the origins of them (what causes the features that create the warming and cooling trends) we must conclude that their cause is something other than CO2 and hence they should be an input item
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  24. As others have pointed out, the NAS consists of a very broad set of individuals, many with little knowledge or experience with climate science. So it's not a surprise that the letter seeks support from those with the strongest knowledge. They might look for more broad support for statements like this: "We also call for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them." One doesn't need a great depth of climate science expertise to support a statement like this. I would think that nearly every NAS member would support this or a very similar statement (although the harassment is not limited to politicians). The attacks on scientists is utterly disgraceful. On the other hand, many scientists are quite cautious about getting involved in anything that seems the least bit political. They do the research and let the science do the talking.
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  25. "scaddenp # 214 - while there are models used to predict ENSO events, my reference was to the global climate models" So was mine. We do have a very good explanation (model) of what causes ENSO events. See the NOAA ENSO site. There is no mystery here - just very difficult to predict. The point I am making is the ENSO event are emergent from the physics of atmosphere and ocean, and the global climate models model capture this physics sufficiently well for ENSO event to emerge from the model as output. They are not "caused" by CO2 except in the sense that CO2 levels stop the ocean freezing. We would have ENSO events with stable CO2 levels. They are however part of the heat redistribution system. Since they are not some magical generator of energy, only a distributor, then how should they be an input to models?
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  26. With regard to mixing of CO2 - very short term concentrations of CO2 occur but molecular weight has little influence on gas mixing. However, on long term scale atmosphere is well mixed as you would expect from gas laws. The vertical profile of gas concentration in atmosphere has been well studied and only in stratosphere do get a reduction
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  27. @geo guy, #201: edward long & SPPI After reading the ad hominem attacks by edward long in his non-peer-reviewed work of fiction at SPPI, I think you need to read a sane description of temperatures
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  28. Geo Guy #219 Whether it’s the US or the world doesn’t matter, nor does it matter whether you got the data from EPA. You’ve got the units wrong. I went to the EPA reports. US CO2 emissions were 7,200 teragrams in 2006. SO2 emissions in the same year are reported to be about 10 million tons (which is 9 teragrams). That’s 762x less SO2 emissions per weight than CO2 emissions. Per atom that ratio rises to 1165x less. Per ionic equivalents its 562x less. Seriously, you really don’t do your case a service by making such simple mistakes and sticking to them though you could easily have corrected them. http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets/progress/ARP_2008_Highlights.pdf http://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPURL.cgi?Dockey=P1000KQ1.txt Volcanic gases are an interesting case that actually proves my point. They do sink because they are NOT mixed with the atmosphere when they come out of the earth, so the plume of gas is heavier because of its high CO2 content. Same thing happened when that killer lake in Cameroon burped CO2, killing all those people in the 80s. But this tendency for CO2 to sink only lasts as long as the plume is coherent. When the plume eventually mixes with the atmosphere due to wind driven turbulence, the CO2 molecules no longer sink. Good thing that happens quickly or we would all be running away from herds of renegade volcanic plumes on the prowl. As for acidity making its way unaltered through lakes and streams, think about the implications of what you are suggesting. Rain is acidic, has been for eons. Sometimes it’s really acidic if a volcano erupts. If it lands on earth and makes its way to the oceans without interacting with rocks through weathering what would the ocean look like? That’s right, it would be acid. It would not have sodium or calcium or magnesium which are all released in weathering reactions involving acids and eventually accumulate in the oceans. There would be much less phosphorus in the ocean to support life. It would have SO4, and Cl and CO2, all acid ions since these come from volcanoes. Not only that but ALL lakes (not just some) would be acidic as well. You would not see the great variety in lake chemistry that you have noted. What you are suggesting doesn’t isn’t consistent from your own perspective. You seem to be someone who likes to appeal to common sense. Scientists really are no different – they want explanations that are consistent with their experiences and those of their colleagues. What you are suggesting above directly contradicts what you and virtually every else knows to be true from personal observation. Only under very special circumstances do we asphyxiate from CO2, and the ocean is salty. Because they are generally familiar with a greater diversity of such observations, scientists see even more contradictions. It is well established by many, many measurements that the contribution of CO2 to atmospheric composition does not change with altitude, for example. Check elsewhere on this site for proof of that.
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  29. Geo Guy, Stephen Baines told you to "Check elsewhere on this site for proof" that CO2 is well mixed. Here are some of those elsewheres: The post CO2 measurements are suspect, including the comments. In particular, click on the links in my comment of 18:10 PM. Also click the links in my comment 13:54 PM, and be sure to then read this comment by dhogaza and this one by cbrock that are in the thread Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing?.
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  30. Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and NY Times all refused to print this letter. What a disgrace. MSM Rejects Letter from 255 Scientists
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  31. It was submitted to NYT as an op-ed, not a letter.
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  32. Stephen Baines # 220 ok..mea culpa ..however I sort of wanted to catch you [which I did. ] For arguments sake let’s use your numbers: SO2 = 9 tgms CO2 = 7,200 tgms = 10 million tons = 8,000 million tons Now let’s assume that when only natural sources of the two gases are considered, then acidity is not an issue because both cycles are deemed to be in equilibrium. Therefore the following discussion reflects anthropic sources for the two gases as it is those amounts that lead to increased acidity levels. Now we look at what percentage of the two gases are believed to end up in the ocean. CO2 = 50% (IPCC) SO2 = 85% (the sulphur cycle) Anthropic SO2 emissions for the most part are land based (international air travel and shipping are not included in any statistics), the locale of the sources are important as the prevailing winds tend to carry the emissions out over the oceans. This is true for Asia, India and North America and some sections of Europe/North Africa. The 8,000 million tons therefore needs to be reduced by a factor of 50% to 4,000 million tons. We then need to consider how CO2 is trapped in water. The vast majority of it (85%) is held as a gas molecule surrounds by a water molecule and does not have any impact on the acidity of the water when held this way. The remaining 15% however forms carbonic acid over a long slow process. reference We therefore have to only consider 15% of the 4,000 million tons of CO2. This number becomes 600 million tons. Now we are comparing the 250 million tons of CO2 which forms as carbonic acid in the ocean with 8.5 million tons of SO2 which ends up in the ocean. With Carbonic acid having a pH of 5.7 and Sulphuric acid having a pH of less than 1.0, we then have to take into account the relative acidities of the two solutions to really understand their true effect on ocean water. As you must know, the pH scale is not linear but logarithmic meaning the comparison between two consecutive pH levels is a magnitude of ten and between two measurements separated by a pH it is 100 and so on. Now the difference between carbonic acid with a pH of 5.7 and sulphuric acid having a pH of less than 1.0, the separation of the pH is about 4 so sulphuric acid is close to 10,000 times more acidic than carbonic acid. Under this scenario, the 8.5 million tons of SO2 identified above has the same acidity as 85,000 million tons of CO2 compared to 600 million tons of CO2. Even if we reduce the amount of SO2 that ends up in the ocean to 20%, the 10 million tons is reduced to 1.5 million tons which has the acidity equivalence of 15,000 million tons of CO2. On another note, emissions of international flights and shipping are not included in country or UN data dues to the fact those categories do not require reporting. Hence given that the bunker oil used by ships is perhaps the most polluting fuel used today and those emissions – especially the sulphur, fall directly onto the ocean. Also, remember that emissions during the 1960’s to the mid 1980’s had higher SO2 content than current emissions – the result of clean air acts and the installation of scrubbers in industrial chimneys. Hence the proportion of SO2 to CO2 from those years would likely have been higher than what is portrayed in this analysis. Given that what we see happening in the environment reflects what occurred some 20 to 40 years ago, I then pose the question to you: which gas, when emitted into the atmosphere and then dumped into the ocean will have the greatest impact on ocean acidity? With regards to asphyxiation by CO2, I never suggested such would happen. What I did mention was volcanists working around dormant or active volcanoes are aware of the dangers of CO2 concentrating in depressions. The term sedimentation rate for gases is totally acceptable and is used to asses the rate at which CO2 settles down to the surface of the earth. CO2 is heavier than air and even in the molecular stage will settle rather than rise. Winds will carry it into the upper atmosphere and perhaps there are some other methods by which is rises, however when we are talking ground generated anthropic CO2, a good portion of it settles down to the surface. Perhaps I can use another example – CO detectors are installed at eye level compared with smoke detectors which should be placed near your ceilings. The reason for this is CO is heavier than air and settles down when a fire is smouldering or when combustion in a furnace or fireplace is incomplete. CO2 is heavier than CO hence one would expect the same pattern when CO2 is generated. My comments regarding acid rain were taken out of context by you. It is well documented that SO2 is given off both naturally and artificially and that yes as the acid seeps through grounds and rocks chemical reactions do take place. With regards to weathering, there are two environments to consider – oxidation (above the water table) and reduction (below the water table.). Sulphuric acid can be formed in both environments. The key point to understand is the locale of the sources of acid rain (on the east coast in both Canada and the US), the prevailing wind direction (west to east) is that significant amounts of acid rain have likely been deposited directly into the ocean from these sources. With regards to atmospheric contribution by CO2, again you took my comments out of context. The earth requires CO2 as an essential part of its ability to control climate. We get CO2 from a lot of natural sources, one of which is volcanic activity which ejects large amounts of CO2 into the upper atmosphere. With the high winds located there, that CO2 likely remains there for a long time (as opposed to the CO2 in my breath which comparatively has a shorter time in the atmosphere. One aspect of our atmosphere that seems to be too readily rejected by many is the role jet aircraft has in adding to the CO2 in our atmosphere. Yes I know many have said the amounts are too small to be considered and given the total numbers we are dealing with. Having said that, the growth curve for CO2 in the atmosphere as exhibited by the well known plot from the Mauna Lea Observatory, shows a remarkable increase starting in mid to late 1950’s. Coincidently, the rise in global SO2 emissions follows a similar pattern. Now if we look back to the 50’s the only part of the industrial world that really started to grow was commercial jet flights. Jet aircraft are believed to emit substantially more greenhouse gases than propeller driven aircraft. Jets also fly substantially higher than propeller aircraft so their emissions are spread via the high winds that are present at altitudes of 20,000 to 40,000 feet. Finally according to the UN, emission data for international flights are not known as fuel for those activities do not have to be reported. Hence they are not reflective in the numbers used to describe aircraft contribution to greenhouse gas accumulation. Recently a news article reported that an average trans-Atlantic flight had the same emissions as a car has over a fifty year period. This translates into the same emissions as 18,250 cars in a day. If the average flight is 5 hours, then that jet produces the same emissions as 87,600 cars during the time of the flight. When you multiply this number by the number of daily flights lasting 5 hours, then the significance of these emissions is more apparent. Complicating the issue is the fact about 80% of these pollutant are emitted at high elevations, well above the influence of most clouds and where wind then disperse them in the atmosphere.
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    Moderator Response: Further comments on how well mixed CO2 is, will be deleted from this thread. Please post them on CO2 Measurements are Suspect. Further comments on ocean acidification will be deleted from this thread. Please post them on Ocean Acidification Isn’t Going to Happen. It is fine to post comments on this thread, pointing to your new comments on those other threads. And fine to introduce your comments on those other threads, with links to your comments on this thread.
  33. I was thinking the other day............If so called "climate change" is proved and it's adverse effects on us as humans are so obvious,as you imply, why are the world's politicians doing next to nothing about it ? This seems rather odd to me. The human population increase has been a threat to humans for years but again not much is done about it - likewise lack of food and disease in certain areas of the world.
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  34. neilperth, I think this is the realm of sociology. Science tells us what the threat is, societies may choose not to see, at least for a while. This behaviour is not at all new in human history. It makes me think about the famous Asimov's short story Nightfall, definitely worth a reading.
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  35. neilperth, you answered your question by the examples in your second paragraph - even though we all know what the problems are, we won't do anything about it until it affects us personally and directly. You could also see the inaction from politicians before the credit crunch, even though many economists, etc. had been predicting it and we were all just basically waiting for it to happen. I'm not sure how much of a threat comes from an increase in human population, though - as long as there is enough food, water, work, etc. The main threat will be the way climate change impacts on that food, water, work, etc.
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  36. I looked up a random sample of about 10 names on the list. One of the ten was plausibly connected to climate science, the rest were well-qualified scientists in other fields, like chemistry, cell biology, and conservation. It is a disgrace to the scientific enterprise that scientists pretend to have expertise where they do not. People who are smart about something tend to think they are smart about everything. Wrong/ The idea that it would be difficult to collect 255 signatures of smart people is simply wrong. It was easy to get a load of brilliant scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, to swear that an anti-ballistic missile system could not possibly work. It was an engineering problem, so every scientist was out of field in that case. ABM systems clearly can be made to work; how well is a function of available technology. We had the consensus of learned societies that homosexuality is a form of mental illness. That wasn't reversed until the Seventies. Science is not a consensus enterprise, so calls upon consensus are nonsense in the first place. [edit: please refrain from making baseless accusations of deception] 15 years of no global warming cannot be reconciled with the claim that human-produced CO2 dominates climate. The climate record is out of the 95% bounds of the models.
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  37. ABM systems still don't work very well, Roy, poor odds for a hit in a distilled environment and certainly rotten when combined with inexpensive countermeasures. That's a matter of limitations of the various radar system wavelengths versus effective antenna gains. Together these leave a serious coverage versus resolution gap. So in that domain, it's possible for people who don't know weapons systems to generalize knowledge about EM limitations and make a successful conclusion.
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  38. Roy, "15 years of no global warming cannot be reconciled with the claim that human-produced CO2 dominates climate. The climate record is out of the 95% bounds of the models. I think you believe things that are not true. On the "no warming" try no warming since 1995. It seems to me that you are relying on very unreliable source. Check it yourself. Numbers easily available. As for out of 95% bounds of model - huh? For starters on whether it can be "reconciled" you could try Dont be fooled again. However, 15 years is not climate. 16 year trend is significant warming, but 30 year trends is what climate models predict.
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  39. Great thread! At 62. Monckhausen "We are running a small but fine blog taking on these deniers with something they do not have: humour" I thought those skeptics were pretty funny actually www.cartoonsbyjosh.com
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