Friday, September 5, 2014

Even the Planetary Society has Climate Change Flat Earthers

Incredibly,  on reading the most recent issue of the Planetary Society's Planetary Report (Sept-Oct., p. 18, 'Members' Dialogue') I was astounded to come across two letters that took the organization to task for its "biased treatment of the global warming issue".  This was after their reading the July-August, 2008 special issue. Of course, even then the issue was relatively settled but now even more so - thanks to high resolution satellite imagery of the poles, as well as more detailed ice core analyses. Thus, the complaint that "a growing number of papers don't support global warming" is plain bullocks. In fact, just the converse is true.

One knuckle-dragger, a Warren Miller, wrote:

"Without going into great detail,  interglacial periods are directly correlated to a number of natural phenomena, including Sun cycles, Earth axis variation, orbital procession variation, and yes, CO2 levels. These processes combine to cause an end to ice ages usually once every 100,000 years. Most of the causal culprits are never mentioned by the global warming camp."

Well, they're never mentioned because they're not really relevant. While Miller is gracious enough to note the effects of CO2- CO2 levels, he doesn't go the next step and report that there never has been a glacial period or ice age when the CO2 level is at 200ppm or higher (see, e.g. Gale Christianson's book, Greenhouse).   In effect, the 'Sun cycles' (solar sunspot cycles) would not have played any role in halting an ice age for when CO2 levels were < 200ppm.  The same applies to 'Earth axis variation', 'orbital procession variation' (i.e. change in eccentricity of orbit) which are to do with the controversial Milankovitch hypothesis, which I've already exposed as half-baked schlock in a previous post, e.g. 'The Travails of the Milankovitch Hypothesis', Dec. 5, 2007)

Miller also drags in the red herring of "global cooling" being a prevalent belief in the 1970s, failing to note that the reason was to do with an effect only appreciated years later called global dimming  - by which aerosols and other pollutants in the atmosphere artificially kept down the ambient temperatures by 40 percent or more. Once 'clean air' laws were passed, as in the USA and Britain, the pollutants contributing to the cooling were reduced to the point global warming predominated.

Miller then adds:

"If you wish to continue publishing global warming articles, please do so in an unbiased fashion, befitting the long history of the Planetary Society. Better yet, stick with the topics that have led to your loyal readership."

Ah yes! Don't veer too far off the path of the 'Middle Mind' - into areas some factions of our country can't handle and never will - because it means economic growth must be retracted. And oh, by the way, steer clear of anthropogenic based warming or you will piss guys like Miller off. To which I'd tell Bill Nye, lead CEO of the Society, let that ilk go and even allow the door to smack them in the butt on the way out. We don't need or want them. In fact, their very presence gives a bad name to the Society.

Not to be outdone, we spot the reply of another genius, Phil Pickering, who moans:

"It is going to continue to warm up no matter what is done. Learn to live with it. Just do not continue to scare our young people with unproven scientific facts that make mankind there evil culprit."

Right! So, in other words, our young people are too infantile to handle the truth - that we are steering this planet toward an incendiary disaster - and we need to coddle them and feed them fairy stories that we're not the ones responsible. So just go on burning all that fossil fuel - whether in auto engines, or in coal fired plants and be happy!

What both these characters need to see is the MSNBC documentary, 'The Last Days of Planet Earth': where physicist Michiko Kaku observes:  "For the first time in history, humans have the potential to alter the destiny of a whole planet."

On the same documentary astrophysicist Neil Degresse Tyson put it another way:

"Imagine the irony of our species having the intellect to stop an asteroid impact, but lacking the intellect to moderate the worst effects of global warming. It boggles the mind!"

Indeed, because it's inexcusable! Further, I go so far as one British climatologist who opined in the same documentary that so-called "climate mavericks" and their skeptic pals who are holding back bold changes, are no different from Holocaust deniers. (Who in a number of countries, such as Austria and Germany can be jailed for making public pronouncements).

Is this an incursion of liberty or "free speech"? Well another question: If a fire breaks out in a crowded theater and several 'maverick' voices yell 'There is no fire, stay put!' and all the people perish, what is their accountability (hint: they sneak out after yelling the injunction to stay put)? Should they not face lengthy prison terms? The same situation applies to the global warming deniers whose defective PR has postponed necessary, timely action, which will make the difference between a moderately-warmed, tolerable planet and an intolerable one in the maw of the runaway greenhouse effect.

In this light, I recall after the failure of the climate conference in Durban to accomplish anything significant or durable,  The Economist (December 17, 2011 p. 138) sounded off:

"Its terms - even assuming they are acted upon - are unlikely to prevent a global temperature rise of of more than 2 C, which was the stated aim of the whole UN climate 'process'. Indeed, they might easily allow a 4C rise"

The latter would be catastrophic and on top of the existing (hitherto) 1.2 C increase, bring us to the precipice of the runaway greenhouse. Carl Sagan noted in an interview (with Ted Turner) ca. 1989 (still have it on tape) that the limits for catastrophic climate change- we're talking species exterminating magnitude with a runaway greenhouse - are not as high as many think. In fact, he cited the tolerance increment of six degrees Celsius.

This position was reinforced in Sagan's essay: 'Ambush - the Warming of the World', p. 98, in his last popular book, Billions and Billions, Random House, 1997.

Is this all "scare mongering"? That is what the flat Earth, Denier cultists want you to believe, so they can wreck the world on the basis of pure economics with no thought of the morrow or how our children and grand children will forever curse us for putting our comforts and stock profits over their welfare.

In a blog four years ago, I warned about the impending signs of ice sheet breakup and melting in Greenland in connection with the phenomenon known as "Jokulhlaup" (cf. ‘Jokulhlaup Observed in Greenland ice sheet’, appearing in Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union (Vol. 89, No. 35, 26 Aug. 2008, p. 221). The cited paper specifically noted an increased frequency in occurrence of “jokalhlaups”or sudden glacial bursts of melting runoff from glaciers. It was this phenomena that also played a role in the “unusual cracks" that set off the separation of a “chunk of ice the size of Manhattan” (19 sq. miles)from Ellesmere Island in Canada’s northern Arctic.

Since then, many more drastic break-ups of glaciers have been observed and documented and now readers can access this material directly at the following link:

Anyone watching this documented evidence who isn't terrified, has lost most of his or her brain neurons.

We also know that this process provides one of the nonlinear drivers toward catastrophic climate change. Melting of ice caps and glaciers (already occurring) results in diminished albedo (fraction of solar radiation reflected back into space), a darker Earth surface - with more infrared radiation (e.g. HEAT) being absorbed - reinforcing and enhancing global warming. As more ice melts from the polar regions, the positive feedback from lowering albedo proceeds faster. The overall (mean) ocean temperatures continue to rise - ultimately becoming too hot for any marine life- and reaching equilibrium temperature somewhere in the next 500 years. All ocean currents, circulation systems will, of course, eventually cease. With atmospheric circulation soon following (as on Venus) , all solar energy going into heating the oceans until their specific heat capacity is reached. We then will have vaporization.

Even now, before the runaway has set in, we know the acidity of sea water has increased nearly 30% since the Industrial Revolution. Given that sea life, including corals, fish, and the critical phyto-plankton (which provide most of our planet's oxygen) can only exist within very narrow pH levels this may be most disturbing. It means that there is the potential for humanity to suffer devastating famines and loss of life long before the Runaway Greenhouse charges up.

The upshot of all this is that deniers and their BS can no longer be tolerated, given the havoc already afoot from the delays they have promoted. And rather than give the likes of Warren Miller and Phil Pickering a forum to spout off the Planetary Society would do better to ignore them. Their voices represent only a small and irascible minority, and let's bear in mind that in science - unlike in a democracy - truth isn't settled by votes (even if they are few and far between) but by facts and hard evidence.

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