Climate Change Slows Down

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Everybody just knows that the man-made global warming is terrible and getting worse, don't they? The UN says so. The Union of Concerned Scientists says so. Everybody–except for some lying corporate shills–says so. So it must be so, right? Well, actually, perhaps there's been a bit of a rush to judgment.

A new Journal of Climate study of water vapor in the upper troposphere by researchers at the Universities of New Mexico and Maryland find that there is less water there than the computer climate models predict. Why does this matter? Because water vapor is the earth's chief greenhouse gas. The climate models incorporate a positive feedback loop in which higher levels of CO2 produces higher temperatures which increases the amount of water vapor the atmosphere can hold which further increases the temperature and so on. The bottom line is: Less water vapor, less warming.

How much less warming? Just taking these new findings into account reduces the projected warming by at least 25 percent. Of course, the satellite data still show a very mild average global temperatures increase over the past 25 years. Which brings up the question–which would you rather believe, the models or the earth?

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  1. Trainwreck: Of course, regional variations occur all the time–witness the 1930s Dust Bowl. However, the Pacific appears to be changing and you folks in the Pacific NW may soon be back to the halcyon weather days prior 1976. For details see URL: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2002-11/tau-pot111202.php

  2. Has anyone asked the Canadians if they’re distressed over this warming “trend”? I know we get thousands of them visiting us here in South Florida every winter.

    Maybe it’s the top-notch dinner theatre.

  3. I wish that for every 100 articles, posts, or links on the Reason web site that basically say “global warming / overpopulation / mass extinctions / etc. really doesn’t exist, or isn’t as bad as some say, or will probably go away on its own” there’d be at least one article along these lines:

    Perhaps such-and-such a crisis isn’t real, but it’s certainly imaginable that a crisis like this could happen. The solution to such a crisis would seem to be something that is global in scope, and would require individuals to change their behavior in ways that aren’t immediately advantageous to them in order to produce diffuse and gradual benefits to society at large. Such solutions are notoriously difficult to accomplish though free-market mechanisms. Let’s examine possible libertarian solutions to problems like these, so that in case one of these crises happens to be incontrovertably real, we’re not caught flat-footed.

  4. Dave,

    Ask and you shall receive…

    https://reason.com/9711/fe.benford.shtml

    There was one issue from when VP was the editor where the cover story was basically what to do if gobal warming happens. It had a picture of a polar bear floating on a mini-iceberg out to see. I can’t find it in the archives. It might be from the early 90’s and not available.

  5. Dave, I’d settle for 1 per 1000.

  6. Dave Gross:

    The position of the minarchist is always, “regulate if you must, but only if you must.”

    I can imagine a hundred billion things that might happen and might be bad, and I have no problem with people discussing what we should do when such and such an event can be seen as both probable and harmful. I take issue with people asking me to give up billions of dollars for nothing. That is the position that will be resisted in these parts, because it is the most common position presented by the opposition.

    I could similarly ask for every 1000 scaremongering story that demands regulation now, I should get 1 that tells me why the opportunity cost of several billion dollars over 25 years should be considered a real cost.

  7. trainwreck,

    Climatic cycles are common. The northwest may be experiencing a cyclical pattern that has yet to be documented.
    Weather records only go back so far.

  8. thoreau– have you had time to start your study?

  9. One, I have less confidence in science projecting weather
    than I have in the US intelligence finding hidden WMDs.

    Two, if we’ve been changing climate with coal and oil
    for a whole century, I doubt we can reverse it by SLOWING it now.

    Three, if by recycling beer cans we can make the world’s aluminum
    last 500 years instead of 400, I’m not impressed.

    Four, I like recycling, like living more simply,
    but I don’t like pretending suspicion is fact.
    Three,

  10. As someone who also grew up in the Northwest I agree with trainwreck that the weather has changed. Back in the 70’s you’d have these typical weeklong-10 day stretches of monotonous grey skies and drizzle, in just about any season. Nowadays it seems that the patterns have gotten more extreme in both directions– more really nice sunny hot summers, but also more hard rains and cold temps in the winter. I’m undecided on global warming, but attribute this local change more to the development that has taken place over the past 30 years due to the massive influx of people to the area from elsewhere. In Western Washington everything from Tacoma up to Marysville (and beyond) is becoming a metropolitan zone. Cut down lots of trees and replace them with pavement and, sure, it changes the local weather. We also have more localized flooding due to the incapacity of sewers to handle the runoff.

    Wait– did I say we had nice sunny weather here now? Forget that. It rains all the time, very depressing. No one in their right mind would want to move here. Stay where you are.

  11. The solution…is global in scope, and would require individuals to change their behavior in ways that aren’t immediately advantageous to them in order to produce diffuse and gradual benefits to society at large. Such solutions are notoriously difficult to accomplish though free-market mechanisms.

    Who speaks for society at large? And what about all the zany people who choose to have children, putting themselves in short- to middle-term difficulty, but with diffuse benefits to future society?

    The minarchist regulates when necessary. The anarchist reacts to real costs and weighs predictions. There’s no solution since an anarcho-libertarian doesn’t even recognize the situation as a problem, just a change in condition. The climate is neither fraudulent nor coercive. No state response is justified.

  12. even a very mild increase is by definition global warming (not cooling) …so what was the point again?

  13. Yes, climate cycles do happen. But, saying “maybe it’s just another cycle” is no more a scientific basis for formulating public policy than than simply assuming global warming will occur, and planning for it.

    ronski, I wouldn’t attribute the changes in climate to local development. Of course stream hydrology is affected by development in the watershed. But the weather changes are also occurring in Eastern Washington, where we are still free from that local phenomenon you westsiders call “the traffic jam”.

  14. Mark-

    I have 5 other projects going on right now. My study is slated for fall.

  15. t: Again, I admire your dedication.

  16. So once the great Global Warming scare dies off, what’s next? Anyone have a guess? We just don’t deserve this prosperity, we must be doing something awful.

  17. Dave Gross,

    I don’t think most global warming skeptics have a problem with the basic hypothesis. It’s pretty much a no-brainer that an increase in CO2 levels will result in *some* temperature increase–all other things being equal.

    The question is, how much increase in CO2 is necessary for how much of a temperature increase? And what’s the threshold for triggering an effect? And what’s the time scale? How is the model complicated by ocean currents, etc.?

    The main objection of most global warming skeptics is to the unscientific use made of anecdotal evidence, and the political axe grinding involved.

    As for dealing with global warming through free market mechanisms, it might be “notoroiously hard.” But that’s the result not of any intrinsic problem in the market mechanism, but rather of the political obstacles to such a market solution.

    The present structure of the economy reflects massive subsidies to the consumption of fuel and transportation. It relies much more intensively on those factors than it would if the cost of providing them were fully internalized. The way to drastically reduce CO2 output is to make economic actors, rather than the taxpayer, pay the full cost of the energy resources they use.

  18. JDM,

    Well, in the ’70’s there was cooling….then there was warming. The future will bring Global Lukewarming.

    trainwreck:
    “is no more a scientific basis for formulating public policy than than simply assuming global warming will occur, and planning for it.”

    Right….yet why do the central planners at the UN assume it’s a done deal? 😉

  19. Kevin: “The way to drastically reduce CO2 output is to make economic actors, rather than the taxpayer, pay the full cost of the energy resources they use.”

    User-fees?

  20. Perhaps the overly stable temperatures will be a disruption of Gaia’s normal cyclical climate patterns, endangering us all.

  21. Climatic cycles are common. The northwest may be experiencing a cyclical pattern that has yet to be documented.
    Weather records only go back so far.

    ShaneP, rigorous climate records only go back so far, but contemporary descriptions of weather go way back; we know from them that, for example, the British Romans could grow red wine grapes and that Greenland got that name as real-estate advertising, but that the coast at least was green and relatively inviting, at least to Vikings leaving Iceland.

    We are apparently leaving a cold patch of a few hundred years.

  22. There is no doubt that in my corner of the world, the Pacific Northwest, it’s getting hotter. Mean annual air temps at 33 of 35 washington state weather stations show a 1.5 F increase in temp for the past 80 years. Snowpack has been in long term decline. Glaciers too. I don’t know about global warming, but locally the climate has warmed, and the trend looks to continue.

  23. Let’s get with it folks! The current terminology is Global Climate Change. Change is inevitable. Therefore, no matter how the climate changes, the Global Climate Change advocates are right.

    Bailey’s article: “Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make” in TCS December 11th raises one of the two real issues in this debate: What is the end point? The other real issue is: “What is the timeline?”

    The Global Climate Change folks and the “fourth estate” are all focused publicly on the Kyoto (or S139) reductions in the short term, though they now acknowledge that these levels of reductions won’t solve the “problem”. Senator McCain is trying to sell “$20/family/year” for S139. It might even be possible, but it doesn’t solve the “problem”; It’s just step one.

    The end point some are talking about would require a 95% reduction in US CO2 emissions. That won’t happen for $20/family/year, or anything close to that. By that point, we will have a HUD Office of Cave Space Allocation and a DOE Office of Candle Rationing.

    Knowing the end point and the timeline are crucial, if we end up on this path, because many of the obvious things we might do to reduce CO2 emissions fractionally are not on the path to a 95% reduction. Therefore, any investment in these approaches is an utter and complete waste of time, money and energy.

    Yogi Berra said it best: “You’ve got to be carful, if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might end up somewhere else.”

  24. Actually what if global cooling is taking place and just as we get the warming laws in place climate heads in the opposite direction?

    Will we need subsidies for coal to keep the planet warm?

    I say we take the precautionary principle attitude towards preventing global cooling. We need to start today to see that it doesn’t happen. It would wipe out food production in large parts of the world.

    Doesn’t it scare anybody that we might be doing the wrong thing?

    Global warming has got people mesmerized.

  25. All our efforts to influence Global Climate Change will come to naught unless we manage to deal with variable solar activity and vulcanism.

    http://unisci.com/stories/20022/0613022.htm

    Kevin

  26. The point that people miss, is that global warming is a good thing. There is a stable point, that is cold earth, icy oceans, where sunlight is reflected at high enough rates that we never will have another weather cycle again. All life on earth would die. Warm earth experiences not quite cycles, but rather dynamicism, change in state without being periodic. Warm earth climate change would add rain to the Sahara, permit greater growth of forests in Siberia and the Canadian Shield, and even potential for weather in Antarctica. The greater amount of biomass on world wide scale would permit greater populations of fish in the oceans, now at very low levels, compared to populations estimated from the fossile records. By the way, human activity consumes only about 6 percent of fish, with over 90 percent being consumed by whales.

    As the Antarctica ice cap melts, the flattening of the south pole reduces, and there would be more earth quakes, but that would be a small price to pay for near doubling of arable land, and 7 to 9 times the amount of fish available from the sea.

    Through into the hat the “nuclear fusion energy source” and you have near boundless sources of fresh water.

  27. I use very large computers to model the chemical dynamics of fuel cells. You might think this kind of technology would be popular with the fringe of the environmental movement. Hydrogen is the core of this technology and is also a ‘greenhouse’ gas. As immature as this technology is there is already an outcry from the fringe to kill it. It seems that they are worried that with all of this hydrogen running around a certain amount will escape into the atmosphere. It will NEVER end. I am intimately familiar with computer modeling of very complicated phenomena. Anyone who believes their model is good enough to support global policy making is insane. If a model can predict past and present climate I’ll put some stock in it’s predictions. It is my understanding that all the current models driving the global warming frenzy can’t predict the current climate from past records or past climate from current records.

  28. Shane P,

    User fees on roads and airports, anyway.

    Also an end to the depletion allowance and to a foreign policy geared toward maintaining the flow of oil at politically determined prices. It should not be the job of the U.S. government to guarantee a supply of energy to the economy. Part of the free market is letting market actors bear all the risks and costs of their own activity–which means buying fuel from whoever is willing to sell it, at whatever price they can negotiate.

  29. “Nowadays it seems that the patterns have gotten more extreme in both directions– more really nice sunny hot summers, but also more hard rains and cold temps in the winter.”

    This is exactly what you’d expect when you increase the amount of energy in a complex system.

  30. M. Simon,

    Niven and Pournelle had a story (I forget the title) where the Greens managed to impose heavy government controls on greenhouse gases, and it turned out the greenhouse effect had been the only thing delaying the onset of an ice age.

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