April 30, 2009

What You Can(‘t) Do About Global Warming

We are always hearing about ways that you can “save the planet” from the perils of global warming—from riding your bicycle to work, to supporting the latest national greenhouse gas restriction limitations, and everything in between.

In virtually each and every case, advocates of these measures provide you with the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (primarily carbon dioxide) that will be saved by the particular action.

And if you want to figure this out for yourself, the web is full of CO2 calculators (just google “CO2 calculator”) which allow you to calculate your carbon footprint and how much it can be reduced by taking various conservations steps—all with an eye towards reducing global warming.

However, in absolutely zero of these cases are you told, or can you calculate, how much impact you are going to have on the actual climate itself. After all, CO2 emissions are not climate—they are gases. Climate is temperature and precipitation and storms and winds, etc. If the goal of the actions is to prevent global warming, then you shouldn’t really care a hoot about the amount of CO2 emissions that you are reducing, but instead, you want to know how much of the planet you are saving. How much anthropogenic climate change is being prevented by unplugging your cell phone charger, from biking to the park, or from slashing national carbon dioxide emissions?

Why do none of the CO2 calculators give you that most valuable piece of information? Why don’t the politicians, the EPA, and/or greenhouse gas reduction advocates tell you the bottom line?

How much global warming are we avoiding?

Embarrassingly for them, this information is readily available.


April 28, 2009

EPA: Shooting Blanks at Global Warming

Filed under: Climate Politics

Does the EPA have a fighting chance at changing global climate enough through regulating greenhouse gas emissions from the United States to materially reduce the endangerment of our public health and welfare?

The answer is emphatically ‘No.’

The see why, check out this post at MasterResource.org.

April 16, 2009

Who is Behind the Current Emissions Trends?

There is a lot being made in some circles about how we are currently on an emissions pathway that exceeds even the worst case projections used by the IPCC. This is used to support pleadings that we take immediate and significant action to reduce our profligate usage of fossil fuels, or we risk making the planet inhospitable to human societies.

The problem is that it is unclear who “we” are. Since most of these pleadings seem to be aimed at the current U.S. Congress to get it to pass legislation to limit the lifestyle of those under its control, it would seem like “we” are Americans.

But it this really a very effective course of action? Are Americans the reason that the current pathway of total global carbon dioxide emissions exceeds the IPCC’s wildest expectations? Or is there a more appropriate target audience?

To help you decide for yourself, we plot below the annual (energy-based) carbon dioxide emissions from various portions of the world for the past 10 years (through 2006, the last data available from the Energy Information Administration).

Figure 1. Annual energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from various portions of the world, 1997-2006 (source: Energy Information Administration)

Notice that one of these things is not like the others. And that thing is…China.

The emissions growth in China over the past 10 years (actually over the past 6-7) is simply astounding. Since 2000, China has increased its CO2 emissions by nearly 50% more than the rest of the world combined. In fact, had China’s CO2 emission changes for the past 10 years paralleled those of the United States (which was responsible for only a few percent of the global emission growth since 2000), the world would be on an emissions pathway that would lie very near the lowest scenario considered by the IPCC.

If other words, “we” (Americans) have little responsibility for “our” (global) emissions growth during the past 5-10 years.

Here is another way to look at it.

China has increased its national emissions since 2000 by an amount equivalent to about half the total annual U.S. emissions. That means, just to offset Chinese emissions growth, each and every one of us (Americans) would have had, on average, to have reduced our CO2 emissions by 50% during the same period. And this would only to be to offset China’s growth! Give China a few more years (although the global recession will slow things down a bit—temporarily) and China’s emissions growth will have exhausted our (Americans) potential to effect any more offsets—in other words, even it we (Americans) in 2000 had eliminated all our CO2 emissions, China, by the end of this decade, would most likely have completely replaced them through growth of its own. In only 10 short years, our (Americans) tremendous sacrifice would be forever erased by China’s growth.

The bottom line is clearly thus:

The loudest the pleas to limit carbon dioxide emissions should be being made in Chinese (rather than English), for without reigning in China’s emissions growth, America’s impact on future global climate change will be minuscule. So the alarmists should quit pestering us (Americans) about our energy usage until they have made some serious inroads with China. Recent trends show that “we” are not the problem.

April 15, 2009

Climate Models: Better Clouds=Less Warming?

While all the attention has been focused on a paper by Warren Washington and colleagues that has just been accepted by the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), whose conclusions can perhaps best be summarized by “Yes, Virginia, there is something you (acting together with 7 billion of your closest friends) can do to lessen climate change,” another paper has been published by GRL that seems to argue that if climate models had a better handle on the true behavior of clouds, that they may project less warming than they do now.

So, perhaps Virginia, if you wait for the scientists to get things right, there may be less that you actually have to do in the first place (which is a good thing, because according to the Washington et al. results, you are way behind already).


April 14, 2009

The Cato Climate Ad, Joe Romm, and Swanson&Tsonis

For another look at how the results of the latest work by Kyle Swanson and Anastasios Tsonis—which show, among other things, that the earth’s climate most likely shifted into a state which could result in a slowed rate of global warming lasting for another decade or so—are impacting the processes (both scientific and political) of climate change, see this piece over at MasterResource.org.

April 8, 2009

Has the climate recently shifted?

“Has the climate recently shifted?” is the title of a just-published paper in Geophysical Research Letters by researchers Kyle Swanson and Anastasios Tsonis from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Their examination of this topic was undoubtedly prompted by the recent behavior of global temperature which shows that the rate of warming has dramatically slowed during the past 7-12 years.

Updating a methodology that they had previously developed and used to identify several changes in the climate state that occurred during the 20th century, Swanson and Tsonis examined the temperature data from recent years to see if another state change had taken place:

Here, a new and improved means to quantify the coupling between climate modes confirms that another synchronization of these modes, followed by an increase in coupling occurred in 2001/02. This suggests that a break in the global mean temperature trend from the consistent warming over the 1976/77–2001/02 period may have occurred.

In other words, the authors think that they have identified another in a string of break points that signal a change in the general state of the earth’s climate.


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