Skip to comments.New Climate for Global Energy Policy
Posted on 02/02/2007 4:11:37 PM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a slim summary today trimming down thousands of pages of its massive overall Fourth Scientific Assessment on global warming, which will be released in May.
It is hoped that the "Summary for Policymakers" will be an accurate distillation. Hundreds of scientists have been involved in the review process, and it is safe to say that means hundreds of bored scientists, because there is very little in it that is scientifically new. For example, it will report with increasing certitude that humans are responsible for most of the surface warming that began in the mid-1970s. That's been pretty obvious for years.
Graphs in today's summary will show that the rate of global warming has been remarkably constant -- about 0.18 degrees Centigrade per decade -- since 1975. So, any news report that "U.N. panel says the planet is warming at an increasing rate" (and there will be many) will be dead wrong.
For more than a century, it has been known that increasing the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide will eventually lead to a warming of surface temperatures, concentrated more in winter than summer, and more in mid and high-latitudes over land. That's exactly what's been observed for years, as is a global cooling of the stratosphere, another prediction of greenhouse theory.
More interesting, and, again, less newsy, is that the communal behavior of the dozens of computer models for future climate also predicts a constant (rather than an increasing) rate of warming.
That means that unless the collective conclusions of all of the models is wrong, we can confidently estimate a warming of about 1.8 degrees Centigrade from 2000 to 2100. That's very near the low end of the range of projections released today. The fact that the most logical distillation of observed and predicted warming yields such a modest heating should be reassuring, rather than alarming.
The new estimate for maximum rise in sea level, assuming a middle-of-the-road estimate for carbon dioxide changes, is going to be lower than in previous IPCC reports. The last figure I saw was around 17 inches by 2100, down 40 percent from their previously estimated maximum.
A small, but very vocal, band of extremists have been hawking a doomsday scenario, in which Greenland suddenly melts, raising sea levels 12 feet or more by 2100. While this forecast enjoys no real support in the traditionally refereed scientific literature, it is repeated everywhere, and its supporters are already claiming that the IPCC -- the self-proclaimed "consensus of scientists" -- is now wrong because it has toned down its projections of doom and gloom.
But the integrated warming of southern Greenland (the region that sheds ice) was much greater for several decades in the early and mid-20th century than in the last decade. In fact, with the exception of one year (2003), Greenland's recent temperatures aren't particularly unusual, nor is its rate of ice loss.
As measured recently by satellite, and published in Science magazine, Greenland is losing .0004 percent of its ice per year, or 0.4 percent per century. All modern computer models require nearly 1,000 years of carbon concentrations three times what they are today to melt the majority of Greenland's ice. Does anyone seriously believe we will be a fossil-fuel powered society in, say, the year 2500?
In summary, what's not new in today's IPCC report -- that humans are warming the planet -- will be treated as big news, while what is new -- that sea levels are not likely to rise as much as previously predicted -- will be ignored, at least by everyone except the extremist fringe.
This article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on February 2, 2007.
Patrick Michaels is senior fellow and author of Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media.
by Patrick J. Michaels
In very large type, the New York Times Jan. 16 proclaimed "The warming of Greenland." But as has become increasingly typical of their reporting on climate change, that's only about half the news that's fit to print.
The big story, of course, is the melting of Greenland's ice, and threats of a major rise in sea level. After all, if the entire 630,000 cubic miles of it disappeared, the ocean would rise 23 feet.
The Times relied on an off-the-cuff estimate of ice loss, given to it by Professor Carl Boggild from the University Center at Svalbard. The Times reported he "said Greenland could be losing more than 80 cubic miles of ice per year."
Nowhere did the Times give the amount determined by meticulous analysis of recent satellite data, which is around 25 cubic miles, published by NASA's Scott Luthcke in Science less than two months ago.
It then quoted Richard Alley, from Penn State, who reported "a sea-level rise of a foot or two in the coming decades is entirely possible." Wrong. It's entirely impossible.
First, the current sea-level rise contributed by this amount of ice loss is probably too small to even be able to measure in coming decades. The satellite data show a reduction of 3 hundred-thousandths of Greenland's total ice per year (while Mr. Boggild's figure "could" be around 12 hundred-thousandths [0.000012]).
Multiplying the satellite-based figure by 23 feet gives the annual rise in sea level of .01 inch per year. Averaged over three decades, that's a third of an inch, which indeed is too small to be detectable. Over a century, the rise becomes a bit more than an inch. Mr. Boggild's guesstimate yields 31/2 inches per century.
In fact, there's nothing very new going on in Greenland. While the Times pays great attention to ice-loss in eastern Greenland caused by current temperatures, it conveniently forgets to look at nearby temperature histories. The longest record is from Angmagssalik. In the summer (when Greenland's ice melts) the temperature has averaged 43.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 10 summers. There was one very warm summer, in 2003, but the other nine years aren't unusual at all.
From 1930 through 1960, the average was 43.7 degrees. In other words, it was warmer for three decades, and there was clearly no large rise in sea level. What happened between 1945 and the mid-1990s was a cooling trend, with 1985-95 being the coldest period in the entire Angmagssalik record, which goes back to the late 19th century. Only in recent years have temperatures begun to look like those that were characteristic of the early 20th century.
Petr Chylek, from Canada's Dalhousie University, recently summarized Greenland's climate history in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. He wrote that "Although the last decade of 1995-2005 was relatively warm, almost all decades within 1915 to 1965 were even warmer at both the southwestern [Godthab Nuuk] and southeastern [Ammassalik] coasts of Greenland."
In fact, the Times could have written pretty much the exact same story in 1948, before humans had much of a hand in anything climatic. That's when Hans Ahlman wrote, in the Geographical Journal, a publication of the British Royal Geographic Society, that "The last decades have reduced the ice in some parts of Greenland to such an extent that the whole landscape has changed in character." So it's hardly something new when the Times reports, almost 60 years later, that temperatures in Greenland "are changing the very geography of coastlines."
This isn't the first time the Times has misled its readers about climate change in high latitudes. On Aug. 19, 2000, based upon reports from a cruise ship floating at the North Pole, they reported that "the last time scientists can be certain that the Pole was awash in water was more than 50 million years ago."
The report received top, Page One billing. But in fact, during the end of summer there's often some open water at very high latitudes. So 10 days later, on Aug. 29, buried on Page D-3, the Times admitted it had misstated the true condition of polar ice and that an ice-free North Pole is hardly unprecedented.
Yet, in the same issue, the newspaper again misled, saying, "The data scientists are now studying reveal substantial evidence that on average Arctic temperatures in winter have risen 11 degrees [F] over the past 30 years." It claimed its statement was based upon a recent paper published in the journal Climatic Change by University of Colorado's Mark Serreze. The average winter rise in Mr. Serreze's paper is 2.7 degrees F. The Times never even retracted its fourfold exaggeration of Arctic warming. Nor did they say there was only one very small area in the Arctic where there was an 11-degree rise.
To most readers, "average Arctic temperatures" means "temperatures averaged over the Arctic," not temperature change at one location.
So, the fact the recent Greenland story ignored the historical record and the refereed scientific literature is nothing new. On reporting about polar climate, the Gray Lady has a consistent record of hiding parts of the truth that are inconvenient to whatever story it is trying to sell.
This article appeared in the Washington Times on January 24, 2007.
-- about 0.18 degrees Centigrade per decade -- since 1975.
I wonder what the trend was before 1975?