UNDERESTIMATING GLOBAL WARMING February 15, 2009Posted by wmmbb in Environment, Humankind/Planet Earth.
Climate change is likely to be worst than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)report expected. Professor Christopher B Field, one of the authors of the report, says that Greenhouse Gas Emissions increased more than anticipated from 2000 to 2007.
The problem was not the model, but the data. The consequence was that the Report underestimated the feedback effects of increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. ABC News Online reports:
Professor Field says that a warming planet will dry out forests in tropical areas, making them much more likely to suffer from bushfires.
He says recent climate studies suggest global warming could also melt permafrost in the Artic tundra.
These events would release billions of tons of greenhouse gasses that could raise global temperatures even more.
The report did not have data on emissions of carbon dioxide between 2000 and 2007 which show far more rapid rises than had been predicted.
These increases in carbon have been caused principally by the burning of coal for electric power in India and China.
He has told an American science conference in Chicago that global warming is likely to accelerate at a much faster pace and cause more environmental damage than previously predicted.
“Fossil emissions have proceeded much more rapidly than anticipated in any of the scenerios that were characterised in detail,” he said.
“The consequence of that is that we are basically entering a domain of climate change that has not been explored by the models.
“We’re on a different trajectory of emissions and therefore an unknown trajectory of warming.”
If we have gone beyond the tipping points, as suggested, then it seems to me, we are in very dangerous territory indeed. I notice that in his publications, Professor Field writes of the “carbon-climate-human system” which seems to be characterized among other factors by inertia.
Some have argued, for example Professor Michael Nagler, that the human part of the equation is not just a function of the political systems and technology, but more fundamentally human values or culture. Am I drawing a long bow by suggesting at this level there is a parallel between the failure to recognize insolvency of some banks in the financial crisis, and the implications of coal exports to China and India for the climate crisis?
Gary at Public Opinion notes the intention is to build more coal-fired power stations, with clean coal technology. Geosequestration, he notes is the great hope for the industry, even though it only works with new power stations, not the existing ones that supply 80% of the energy to the system.
Melanie Warner has an article in the NYT, which includes this observation:
Nevertheless, the industry sees clean coal technologies as its best hope for joining the ranks of green power. The problem is that the technology, called carbon capture and storage, is still being developed and could make electricity generated by coal more expensive than power from other sources.
That to me, as true as it might be is not the problem, which is that these companies and organizations did not anticipate the implications of their business, or if they did chose to ignore them.
The deeper problem lies in the way we think about our intimate relationship with the atmosphere and the biosphere, and the way that thinking informs our actions and economic behavior. Seen in this light, we have a cultural problem that needs to be understood. In this vision, people gifted in science and the arts must work together.
Another world might be possible, but who sets the agenda, and defines the discussion?
James Hansen is emphatic and categorical, ” coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on our planet”. He also says, and there is hope in his words, that, “The Climate is nearing tipping points”.
In parenthesis, I should advise, I live in place that has a “Black Diamond Heritage Centre”. Coal was seen as the source of prosperity for the local economy.
The New Statesmen published an article by David Whitehouse claiming that global warming had stopped, and then a counter article by David Lynas. This short quote will have to suffice, from the rejoinder article:
Science, in the best Popperian definition, is only tentatively correct, until someone comes along who can disprove the prevailing theory. This leads to a frequent source of confusion, one which is repeated in the Whitehouse article – that because we don’t know everything, therefore we know nothing, and therefore we should do nothing. Using that logic we would close down every hospital in the land. Yes, every scientific fact is falsifiable – but that doesn’t make it wrong. On the contrary, the fact that it can be challenged (and hasn’t been successfully) is what makes it right.
Uncertainty is not the half of it. There is, as always, the Rumsfeldian quagmire of known unknowns and unknown unknowns. What are the conditions for a paradigm shift? Whereas the predictions and calculations of the effect of carbon emissions have been made since the late nineteenth century.