Warming Could Be Quick - NSF

2 views
Skip to first unread message

Energy and Climate Information Exch

unread,
Jun 8, 1992, 7:54:00 AM6/8/92
to

From: Energy and Climate Information Exch <ecixdy>
Subject: Warming Could Be Quick - NSF

/* Written 4:53 am Jun 8, 1992 by ecixdy in cdp:alt.earth_summ */
/* ---------- "Warming Could Be Quick - NSF" ---------- */
Subject: NSF Press Release of interest to CLIMLIST subscribers
To: Multiple recipients of list CLIMLIST <CLIM...@OHSTVMA.BITNET>

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
CLIMLIST Mailing Number 92-06-07
Origin: NAN...@CWU.BITNET (Nancy Hultquist)
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Members of this list may find this press release of interest.

Title : NEW EVIDENCE INDICATES GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE MAY OCCUR SUDDENLY
Type : Press Release
NSF Org: OD / LPA
Date : April 30, 1992
File : pr9246

Cheryl Dybas April 30, 1992
(202) 357-9498 NSF PR 92-46

NEW EVIDENCE INDICATES GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
MAY OCCUR SUDDENLY

Rapid changes in air and sea temperatures around the North
Atlantic caused by sudden shifts in the ocean conveyor belt
circulation system that transports heat from the equator towards
the poles have been confirmed by National Science Foundation
(NSF)-funded scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The temperature and
circulation shifts may occur within a period of 40 years,
indicating that "greenhouse warming" and the melting of snow and
ice at the poles may be far more rapid than previously thought.
Scientists Scott Lehman and Lloyd Keigwin of the
Institution's Geology and Geophysics Department presented the new
data on the timing, rates and cause of circulation change in the
North Atlantic Ocean since the last ice age in a paper published
today in Nature. Their findings are based on a study of
microscopic animal skeletons and oxygen isotope variations in a
sediment core from the Norwegian Trench, an ocean-bottom core
with rates of sediment accumulation rapid enough to document
these sudden changes. While computer models have suggested that
a gradual atmospheric warming over a 100-year period might occur
in response to buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,
Lehman and Keigwin's findings suggest that greenhouse-induced
melting might lead to sudden circulation changes that could
result in dramatic cooling.

"Our results suggest that the present climate system is very
delicately poised," Lehman said. "The system could snap suddenly
between very different conditions with an abruptness that is
scary. It's a strongly non-linear response, meaning shifts could
happen very rapidly if conditions are right, and we cannot
predict when that will occur. Our studies tell us only that when
a shift occurs it could be very sudden."

Oxygen isotope records in ice and sediment cores from the
Greenland icesheet and Lake Gerzensee in Switzerland, and fossil
plankton in a sediment core taken west of Ireland in the North
Atlantic Ocean, have been used in previous climate change
studies. However, typical ocean bottom sediments do not
accumulate fast enough to provide sufficient evidence of rapid
temperature and circulation shifts, according to Lehman. The new
evidence comes from a core called Troll 3.1, taken in the
Norwegian Trench. The core was taken in an area where sediments
accumulated very rapidly from continental erosion during the last
Ice Age.

"Cores with such a long undisturbed record are rarely
available to ocean scientists because of the high cost of
recovery," Lehman said. Oceanographers normally work with
sediment cores 10-20 meters (33-66 feet) long, while cores from
the area studied by Lehman and Keigwin are 100-200 meters (328-
656 feet) in length. The core was made available to Lehman and
Keigwin by Norsk Hydro A/S, an oil exploration firm which was
prospecting for new drilling sites off the Norwegian coast.

Lehman and Keigwin reconstructed sea surface temperatures by
looking at planktonic foraminifera -- microscopic shell-forming
animals living near the surface of the open ocean -- with known
temperature tolerances. Ocean bottom sediments contain the
skeletal remains of these animals and have long been used by
ocean scientists as indicators of past changes in water
temperature. By counting the different types of shells in the
core and plotting them as a function of depth, Lehman and Keigwin
noticed many transitions between warm and cold water species.
They dated these changes very precisely using a recently
developed radiocarbon dating technique-accelerator mass
spectrometry-which directly counts carbon-14 atoms in the shells.
This data, together with the rapid accumulation rates, permitted
Lehman and Keigwin to precisely calculate rates of change.

Scientists have known for some time that during Ice Ages
polar species of foraminifera lived much farther to the south,
and at these times the Gulf Stream flowed straight across the
Atlantic toward Portugal rather than on its present path
northward toward Norway. What they didn't know until this study
was that similar shifts occurred many times at the close of the
last Ice Age, and occurred extraordinarily quickly.

Studies of ice cores from Greenland during the 1980s
revealed that large and rapid changes in atmospheric temperature,
by approximately seven degrees Celsius (28.80 Fahrenheit) in 50
years, occurred at the end of the last Ice Age some 14-8,000
years ago. Similar shifts appear in ice core records every 5,000
years or so back to approximately 70,000 years ago, and appear to
be a characteristic feature of the earth's climate. Scientists
have suggested that the sudden changes in air temperature and
ocean circulation patterns were caused by changes in the way the
ocean conveyor belt system operates. Lehman and Keigwin's
findings provide a direct evidence of this process.

"The ocean circulation system drives the climate system,"
Lehman said. "The ocean acts like a conveyor belt, carrying the
warm surface water of the Gulf Stream from the equator northward
into the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea. Gulf Stream waters
become enriched with salt through evaporation as the waters pass
through the warm latitudes. As this water flows toward the cold
Norwegian Sea it releases heat to the atmosphere and becomes
dense enough to sink. This new water mass, known as North
Atlantic Deep Water, then travels south through the Atlantic,
around Africa and through the Indian Ocean into the Pacific like
a conveyor belt. New warm surface water is drawn northward to
replace this water and the cycle repeats itself. The conveyor
system is thus a heat engine."

It was suggested earlier that freshwater input to this
system, either from increased precipitation, decreased
evaporation or melting of snow and ice, could reduce the salt
content in surface waters enough to stop them from sinking,
thereby turning off the conveyor system and the northward flow of
heat. Lehman and Keigwin's studies indicate that the Norwegian
Sea limb of the conveyor belt was periodically shut down due to
inputs of freshwater at the end of the last ice age, leading to
sudden shifts in sea and air temperatures.

"If greenhouse warming occurs and leads to increased amounts
of precipitation in the Arctic and/or melting of snow and ice,
the Norwegian limb of the conveyor might be threatened, leading
to very rapid changes in ocean conditions and climate," Lehman
notes. "In such a scenario, the present climate of Britain and
Norway would change suddenly to that of Greenland and northern
Canada."

The National Science Foundation is an independent agency of
the federal government established in 1950 to promote and advance
scientific progress in the United States. NSF accomplishes its
mission primarily by competitively awarding grants to educational
institutions for research and education in the sciences,
mathematics, and engineering.

This and other information is available electronically on
STIS, NSF's Science and Technology Information System. For more
information about STIS contact the Publications Section at (202)
357-7861 and request the "STIS Flyer," NSF Publication #91-10, or
send and E-mail message to sti...@nsf.gov (INTERNET) or
stisfly@NSF (BITNET).

END
* ------------------------------------------------------------ *
* Dan Yurman | Internet: eci...@igc.org *
* Climate Digest Editor | Bitnet: ecixdy%igc.org@stanford *
* Econet Energy & Climate | MCI Mail: 364-1277 *
* Information Exchange | Unix bbs: dyu...@world.std.com *
* ------------------------------------------------------------ *
* Surface mail: PO Box 1569, Idaho Falls, Idaho 83403 USA *

John McCarthy

unread,
Jun 8, 1992, 4:31:07 PM6/8/92
to
NSF Press Release

NEW EVIDENCE INDICATES GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE MAY OCCUR SUDDENLY

This press release has an error, seven degrees Celsius does not
correspond to 28.80 degrees Farenheit, but it does make one think.

What one thinks depends. One thought is that human actions can have
drastic effects, and therefore we should be careful not to do
anything. A different thought is that this confirms that Nature
doesn't love us, and we are likely to get zapped unless humanity gets
control of the mechanisms that affect plantary temperature
distributions.

--
John McCarthy, Computer Science Department, Stanford, CA 94305
*
He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.

Steinn Sigurdsson

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 5:52:44 AM6/9/92
to
In article <JMC.92Ju...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU> j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) writes:


NSF Press Release

NEW EVIDENCE INDICATES GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE MAY OCCUR SUDDENLY

This press release has an error, seven degrees Celsius does not
correspond to 28.80 degrees Farenheit, but it does make one think.

What one thinks depends. One thought is that human actions can have
drastic effects, and therefore we should be careful not to do
anything. A different thought is that this confirms that Nature
doesn't love us, and we are likely to get zapped unless humanity gets
control of the mechanisms that affect plantary temperature
distributions.

A simpler point is that the concern that any anthopogenically
induced climate changes would be especially dangerous because
they occur on unnaturally short time scales is now weakened,
as evidently rapid natural climate fluctuations do occur.


* Steinn Sigurdsson Lick Observatory *
* ste...@helios.ucsc.edu "standard disclaimer" *
* If no one seems to understand *
* Start your own revolution, cut out the middleman... *
* So join the struggle while you may *
* The revolution is just a t-shirt away B.B. 1988 *

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 2:10:20 PM6/9/92
to
In article <14666...@igc.org>, eci...@igc.org (Energy and Climate Information Exch) writes:
> "Our results suggest that the present climate system is very
>delicately poised," Lehman said. "The system could snap suddenly
>between very different conditions with an abruptness that is
>scary. It's a strongly non-linear response, meaning shifts could
>happen very rapidly if conditions are right, and we cannot
>predict when that will occur. Our studies tell us only that when
>a shift occurs it could be very sudden."

"Sudden" is one of those words that don't travel real well between scientist
and media. The dinosaurs died off "suddenly" over a span of several million
years, the last ice age "suddenly" started over a span of 10,000 years.
Exactly how long do they *think* "sudden" will take?

> Lehman and Keigwin reconstructed sea surface temperatures by
>looking at planktonic foraminifera -- microscopic shell-forming
>animals living near the surface of the open ocean -- with known
>temperature tolerances. Ocean bottom sediments contain the

Known temperature tolerances are all well and good, but how do they guarantee
that temperature is what accounted for those deaths? Can they factor out
changes in salinity? Volcanic activity? Random population variations?

>skeletal remains of these animals and have long been used by
>ocean scientists as indicators of past changes in water
>temperature. By counting the different types of shells in the

Does that mean they have validated the technique in modern times by direct
measurement?

>core and plotting them as a function of depth, Lehman and Keigwin
>noticed many transitions between warm and cold water species.
>They dated these changes very precisely using a recently
>developed radiocarbon dating technique-accelerator mass
>spectrometry-which directly counts carbon-14 atoms in the shells.

What's the latest figures for accuracy of radiocarbon dating? I *think* it's
pretty good, but I still wonder about "suddenly".

>This data, together with the rapid accumulation rates, permitted
>Lehman and Keigwin to precisely calculate rates of change.

I see evidence here (modulo comments above) for concluding temperature changes
can occur "suddenly". I don't see any evidence for the conclusion that our
present climate is "delicately balanced". I noticed they were careful to
qualify that with "may", but I've also noticed such qualifiers tend to evap-
orate in the heat of debate...

> Scientists have known for some time that during Ice Ages
>polar species of foraminifera lived much farther to the south,
>and at these times the Gulf Stream flowed straight across the
>Atlantic toward Portugal rather than on its present path
>northward toward Norway. What they didn't know until this study
>was that similar shifts occurred many times at the close of the
>last Ice Age, and occurred extraordinarily quickly.

Of course, such shifts occured without human aid. Although human activity
may indeed be changing the climate, even dramatically, we do not yet know
how the "natural" system worked. It seems to me this problem becomes more
complex when human variables are added. This is an important datum, but it
argues most loudly for reducing the *rate* of human impact more than it
does for reducing the *scale*. By this logic, we shouldn't be trying to
significantly alter the rate of CO2 emission for, say, the next 10 or 20
years because we'll be throwing more variables into the equation and making
it more difficult, perhaps even impossible, to determine the real relation-
ships so reliable results can be depended upon.

I don't think I'd care to go that far with that particular piece of logic.
But I now think that perhaps the *rate* of reduction in emissions should
now be more carefully controlled, so the variables it adds to the models
used are, at least, fairly simple. That argues against drastic or draconian
measures. I have advocated that before, though I am at a loss as to how
controlling the rate of reduction (or even the rate of reduction of the
rate of increase) can be controlled so as to make as simple an overall curve
as possible, and I certainly don't think our present political setup in the
world is the least bit capable of such fine control. Battleaxes we got, what
we need is a vernier.

> Studies of ice cores from Greenland during the 1980s
>revealed that large and rapid changes in atmospheric temperature,
>by approximately seven degrees Celsius (28.80 Fahrenheit) in 50
>years, occurred at the end of the last Ice Age some 14-8,000

Is this the "sudden" I'm looking for? And by this measure, where *should*
we be, if we presume this is correct?

>years ago. Similar shifts appear in ice core records every 5,000
>years or so back to approximately 70,000 years ago, and appear to
>be a characteristic feature of the earth's climate.

(discussion of "ocean conveyer" elided)

> "If greenhouse warming occurs and leads to increased amounts
>of precipitation in the Arctic and/or melting of snow and ice,
>the Norwegian limb of the conveyor might be threatened, leading
>to very rapid changes in ocean conditions and climate," Lehman
>notes. "In such a scenario, the present climate of Britain and
>Norway would change suddenly to that of Greenland and northern
>Canada."

Hmmmmmmmmm. In other words, it will bring on an Ice Age? That seems counter-
intuitive, doesn't it? Certainly puts the kibosh on the "we're heading for
Venus" people, I think.

So this means we are looking for evidence of cooling and a *reduction* is
sea level? Cooler we've seen studies on (although many people called me a
liar about that, so perhaps we've not seen that). I've seen other people
referring to an increase in sea level but that was alleged to be due to
thermal expansion, but by this prediction the freezing that will follow
from the greenhouse effect should remove water from the sea and lower it.

Let's see, we might have a greenhouse effect or we might not, and if we do, it
might warm us up or it might cool us off, and in either event we know Earth
went through massive changes both ways in history before humans discovered
fire. I think that sums it up. So now we have a greenhouse effect AND an
Ice Age. That ties everything up pretty neatly. Not.

I think we flatter ourselves we know so much or have so much power. This
study confirms my opinion (again) that we really have no clue what will happen,
and that major and drastic action either way would be as likely to magnify the
effects as minimize them.

Larry Smith (sm...@ctron.com) No, I don't speak for Cabletron.
-------------------------------------------------------------
I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a "disgrace",
that two are called a "law firm", and that three or more become a "Congress".

dean alaska

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 2:38:35 PM6/9/92
to
In article <STEINLY.92...@topaz.ucsc.edu> ste...@topaz.ucsc.edu (Steinn Sigurdsson) writes:
>In article <JMC.92Ju...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU> j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) writes:
>
>
> NSF Press Release
>
> NEW EVIDENCE INDICATES GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE MAY OCCUR SUDDENLY
>
>A simpler point is that the concern that any anthopogenically
>induced climate changes would be especially dangerous because
>they occur on unnaturally short time scales is now weakened,
>as evidently rapid natural climate fluctuations do occur.
>
It is interesting that you point this out. In general, many environmetalists
like to point out that impacts on ecosystems that don't appear to hurt humans
are a problem while others less environmentally inclined usually conern
themselves with humans and only those animals or ecosystems that humans
directly depend on. Whether or not a sudden climatic change can occur
non-anthropogenically does not lessen the impact on human civlization.
Maybe sudden
climate change will hurt the human species _most_ Do you feel that the
possibility of sudden "natural" climate change in the past lessens our need
to prevent anthropogenic effects? Note that the fact that it may have
occurred before humans had a major impact does not mean that non-human
ecosystems can adapt fast. Maybe aliens from outer-space caused it. :)

>
>* Steinn Sigurdsson Lick Observatory *
>* ste...@helios.ucsc.edu "standard disclaimer" *
>* If no one seems to understand *
>* Start your own revolution, cut out the middleman... *
>* So join the struggle while you may *
>* The revolution is just a t-shirt away B.B. 1988 *
>


--

dingo in boulder (de...@vexcel.com)

Carl J Lydick

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 3:15:53 PM6/9/92
to
In article <41...@balrog.ctron.com>, sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:
>> "If greenhouse warming occurs and leads to increased amounts
>>of precipitation in the Arctic and/or melting of snow and ice,
>>the Norwegian limb of the conveyor might be threatened, leading
>>to very rapid changes in ocean conditions and climate," Lehman
>>notes. "In such a scenario, the present climate of Britain and
>>Norway would change suddenly to that of Greenland and northern
>>Canada."
>
>Hmmmmmmmmm. In other words, it will bring on an Ice Age? That seems counter-
>intuitive, doesn't it? Certainly puts the kibosh on the "we're heading for
>Venus" people, I think.

Larry, are you really a moron, or do you just play one on the net? Given a
constant influx of sunlight, if we increase greenhouse gases, the global mean
temperature will increase. If Britain, Norway, etc. get colder, that means
someplace else gets even hotter. It's been pointed out time and again that
global warming does NOT mean that every spot on Earth gets warmer.

>Let's see, we might have a greenhouse effect or we might not, and if we do, it
>might warm us up or it might cool us off, and in either event we know Earth
>went through massive changes both ways in history before humans discovered
>fire. I think that sums it up. So now we have a greenhouse effect AND an
>Ice Age. That ties everything up pretty neatly. Not.

It's been pointed out here before that global warming COULD increase the amount
of ice in the polar regions.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Carl J Lydick | INTERnet: CA...@SOL1.GPS.CALTECH.EDU | NSI/HEPnet: SOL1::CARL

Disclaimer: Hey, I understand VAXen and VMS. That's what I get paid for. My
understanding of astronomy is purely at the amateur level (or below). So
unless what I'm saying is directly related to VAX/VMS, don't hold me or my
organization responsible for it. If it IS related to VAX/VMS, you can try to
hold me responsible for it, but my organization had nothing to do with it.

Bill Williams

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 3:16:19 PM6/9/92
to
In article <JMC.92Ju...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU> j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John
McCarthy) writes:
>What one thinks depends. One thought is that human actions can have
>drastic effects, and therefore we should be careful not to do
>anything. A different thought is that this confirms that Nature
>doesn't love us, and we are likely to get zapped unless humanity gets
>control of the mechanisms that affect plantary temperature
>distributions.

Yet another is that human actions can have drastic effects, human ingenuity and
imagination can probably prevent or accomodate them, and so when we DO do
something, we'd better get it right. Cleaning up is always harder than not
getting dirty, but sometimes you have to get dirty to accomplish anything. If
one does enough arithmetic, one realizes that few things sum to zero or one.
Too bad, makes life complicated.

Steinn Sigurdsson

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 7:49:44 AM6/9/92
to
In article <1992Jun9.1...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (dean alaska) writes:


In article <STEINLY.92...@topaz.ucsc.edu> ste...@topaz.ucsc.edu (Steinn Sigurdsson) writes:
>In article <JMC.92Ju...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU> j...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU (John McCarthy) writes:

>
> NSF Press Release

> NEW EVIDENCE INDICATES GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE MAY OCCUR SUDDENLY

>A simpler point is that the concern that any anthopogenically
>induced climate changes would be especially dangerous because
>they occur on unnaturally short time scales is now weakened,
>as evidently rapid natural climate fluctuations do occur.

It is interesting that you point this out. In general, many environmetalists
like to point out that impacts on ecosystems that don't appear to hurt humans
are a problem while others less environmentally inclined usually conern
themselves with humans and only those animals or ecosystems that humans
directly depend on. Whether or not a sudden climatic change can occur
non-anthropogenically does not lessen the impact on human civlization.
Maybe sudden
climate change will hurt the human species _most_ Do you feel that the
possibility of sudden "natural" climate change in the past lessens our need
to prevent anthropogenic effects? Note that the fact that it may have
occurred before humans had a major impact does not mean that non-human
ecosystems can adapt fast. Maybe aliens from outer-space caused it. :)

Gee, I guess I'm not as anthropocentric as I have been accused of...

While humans are a concern of mine, I also like to consider impacts
on other species - while a rapid climate change would impact human
civilization, I think humans have a deomstrated ability to accommodate
rapid change, whereas the question of other species and ecosystems
responding rapidly was one that I felt was an issue - if there was
rapid (decade time scale) major climate change in the past (comparable
to realistic worst case scenarios for anthropogenic changes) then
self-evidently various ecosystems were resilient enough to handle
it, which is mildly reassuring. Not that this closes the issue, it
simply provides a little more data on one particular worry.

* Steinn Sigurdsson Lick Observatory *
* ste...@helios.ucsc.edu "standard disclaimer" *

* I know people whose idea of fun *
* Is throwing stones in the river in the afternoon sun *
* Oh let me be as free as them *
* - BB 1986 *

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 5:24:31 PM6/9/92
to
In article <1992Jun9.1...@cco.caltech.edu>, ca...@SOL1.GPS.CALTECH.EDU (Carl J Lydick) writes:
>Larry, are you really a moron, or do you just play one on the net? Given a
>constant influx of sunlight, if we increase greenhouse gases, the global mean

Carl, are you really an asshole or do you just play one on the net? The farther
north you go in the northern hemisphere the colder it gets, if that cold moves
south, as implied by the study, you are flirting with an Ice Age. If at any
point the snow from the year just past doesn't have time to melt before the
next years snow arrives, that's an Ice Age, by DEFINITION.

>temperature will increase. If Britain, Norway, etc. get colder, that means
>someplace else gets even hotter. It's been pointed out time and again that
>global warming does NOT mean that every spot on Earth gets warmer.

WHAT spot is getting warmer? The study implies a GENERAL reduction in Earth's
temperature! What, is Britain going to look like Greenland and the North Pole
is going to be in the 90's? If the cold line moves south the equator is going
to get even hotter?

And frankly, I don't give a damn how many times it's been pointed that "global
warming does NOT mean that every spot on Earth gets warmer", that's just proof
by repeated assertion!

THIS study is implying an Ice Age, others are telling me Venus.

>>Let's see, we might have a greenhouse effect or we might not, and if we do, it
>>might warm us up or it might cool us off, and in either event we know Earth
>>went through massive changes both ways in history before humans discovered
>>fire. I think that sums it up. So now we have a greenhouse effect AND an
>>Ice Age. That ties everything up pretty neatly. Not.

>It's been pointed out here before that global warming COULD increase the amount
>of ice in the polar regions.

I've not seen a study predicting Britain looking like Greenland before.

James Hammerton

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 5:57:53 PM6/9/92
to
I just thought I'd add my tuppence worth. This thread has so far
discussed whether the change is sudden or not, whether we should really
worry about mans impact on this problem. So I thought I'd like to put
this point forward.
If as the report said, the system is delicately balanced, then surely
it is best not to disturb that balance in case things go wildly against
us? I mean it would be in our own interest not to do so, since we know
the effects could be sudden and dramatic, and we don't know which
direction things would actually go in( and we probably couldn't
influence things quickly enough if the direction was bad for us).

James


--
James Hammerton,2nd year Computer Science at University of Edinburgh
Email: jam...@uk.ac.ed.castle Or: j...@uk.ac.ed.dcs

Steinn Sigurdsson

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 10:59:21 AM6/9/92
to
In article <22...@castle.ed.ac.uk> jam...@castle.ed.ac.uk (James Hammerton) writes:

If as the report said, the system is delicately balanced, then surely
it is best not to disturb that balance in case things go wildly against
us? I mean it would be in our own interest not to do so, since we know
the effects could be sudden and dramatic, and we don't know which
direction things would actually go in( and we probably couldn't
influence things quickly enough if the direction was bad for us).

You assume that the "do nothing" option exists.

* Steinn Sigurdsson Lick Observatory *
* ste...@helios.ucsc.edu "standard disclaimer" *

dean alaska

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 7:52:41 PM6/9/92
to

First of all, I would challenge the notion that humans have a demonstrated
ability to adapt. I would suggest that any adaptation that was
demonstrated before our technological society developed may not have
relevence to our ability to adapt now. We have a very complex and
interdependent society. Just as an example, wet regions of the U.S.
feel a drought very quickly because they have very little storage
capacity, while drier areas have little infrastructure for preventing
floods. The cost of trading these infrastructures would be enormous.
The cost might even prevent us from developing new technologies to
deal with other environmental problems! Secondly, assuming that such
non-anthropogenic sudden warmings have only occurred rarely, ecosystems
might be impacted just as much as they would be by anthropogenic-based
impacts, as shown by the admittedly extreme example of the periodic
(65 million years) extinctions. The question relative to adaptation to
sudden change is how often does that sudden change occur? My guess is
that the limited habitat now available to wild ecosystems would magnify
any adaptation problems they would have.

>
>* Steinn Sigurdsson Lick Observatory *
>* ste...@helios.ucsc.edu "standard disclaimer" *
>* I know people whose idea of fun *
>* Is throwing stones in the river in the afternoon sun *
>* Oh let me be as free as them *
>* - BB 1986 *
>

Hank Roberts

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 6:48:21 PM6/9/92
to

Could someone point Mr. Smith to the Scientific American article on
reversals of ocean circulation, which came out a few years back? Now
that the recent ice cores have confirmed the possibility in fact occurs,
it would be useful for him and others skeptical of this process to look
at the original general-interest article on the subject.

Mr. Smith, you've "not seen a study predicting" this. But you can,
if you will read up on the past few years' discussion of ocean currents.

Steinn Sigurdsson

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 12:39:32 PM6/9/92
to
In article <1992Jun9.2...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (dean alaska) writes:

In article <STEINLY.92...@topaz.ucsc.edu> ste...@topaz.ucsc.edu (Steinn Sigurdsson) writes:
>In article <1992Jun9.1...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (dean alaska) writes:

> It is interesting that you point this out. In general, many environmetalists
> like to point out that impacts on ecosystems that don't appear to hurt humans
> are a problem while others less environmentally inclined usually conern
> themselves with humans and only those animals or ecosystems that humans
> directly depend on. Whether or not a sudden climatic change can occur
> non-anthropogenically does not lessen the impact on human civlization.
> Maybe sudden
> climate change will hurt the human species _most_ Do you feel that the
> possibility of sudden "natural" climate change in the past lessens our need
> to prevent anthropogenic effects? Note that the fact that it may have
> occurred before humans had a major impact does not mean that non-human
> ecosystems can adapt fast. Maybe aliens from outer-space caused it. :)

>While humans are a concern of mine, I also like to consider impacts


>on other species - while a rapid climate change would impact human
>civilization, I think humans have a deomstrated ability to accommodate
>rapid change, whereas the question of other species and ecosystems
>responding rapidly was one that I felt was an issue - if there was
>rapid (decade time scale) major climate change in the past (comparable
>to realistic worst case scenarios for anthropogenic changes) then
>self-evidently various ecosystems were resilient enough to handle
>it, which is mildly reassuring. Not that this closes the issue, it
>simply provides a little more data on one particular worry.

First of all, I would challenge the notion that humans have a demonstrated
ability to adapt. I would suggest that any adaptation that was
demonstrated before our technological society developed may not have
relevence to our ability to adapt now.

I'd argue we're more adaptable now. Historically we have to major
human adaptations to climate - the end of the last ice age and
the "little ice age" - the little ice age is fairly well recorded,
there were crop failures, some catastrophic extinctions of human
settlements and hard times but overall humans did just fine.

We have a very complex and
interdependent society. Just as an example, wet regions of the U.S.
feel a drought very quickly because they have very little storage
capacity, while drier areas have little infrastructure for preventing
floods. The cost of trading these infrastructures would be
enormous.

I think you overestimate the costs, in fact they might be lower than
the cost of trying to make societal changes in anticipation of climate
changes - which in worst case would be wrong, leaving both the cost
of societal change for the wrong threat and the cost of meeting the
actual change.

The cost might even prevent us from developing new technologies to
deal with other environmental problems!

History would suggest that the crisis would speed up technology
development, barring a conscious effort to suppress technology
development, which some seem to advocate.

Secondly, assuming that such
non-anthropogenic sudden warmings have only occurred rarely, ecosystems
might be impacted just as much as they would be by anthropogenic-based
impacts, as shown by the admittedly extreme example of the periodic
(65 million years) extinctions. The question relative to adaptation to
sudden change is how often does that sudden change occur?

Well, the Wood Hole data would suggest several times per megayear...

My guess is
that the limited habitat now available to wild ecosystems would magnify
any adaptation problems they would have.

That is a real possibility and could be a major concern.

Michael Tobis

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 8:45:52 PM6/9/92
to
Larry Smith seems capable of generating more confusion and misinformation
about the atmosphere that I have time or patience to respond to and yet
it is very difficult to let his ramblings go unanswered. I would urge
everyone to take all his doubts with a grain of salt. I urge Larry to
actually try to learn some of the basics before he criticizes the science.

>Known temperature tolerances are all well and good, but how do they guarantee
>that temperature is what accounted for those deaths? Can they factor out
>changes in salinity? Volcanic activity? Random population variations?

Again the urge to make climatologists look like idiots. Of course there
are uncertainties, and of course they are considered. Foraminifera are
one of the main information sources about past climates. I don't know much
more, but I'm confident that the researchers in this area do.

However, I wonder why this level of skepticism. Don't you
think that the people who spend their lives on this subject have thought
about these issues? If you really want to know, look it up. Don't just
complain about completely hypothetical failures of research you haven't seen!

>Of course, such shifts occured without human aid. Although human activity
>may indeed be changing the climate, even dramatically, we do not yet know
>how the "natural" system worked. It seems to me this problem becomes more
>complex when human variables are added. This is an important datum, but it
>argues most loudly for reducing the *rate* of human impact more than it
>does for reducing the *scale*. By this logic, we shouldn't be trying to
>significantly alter the rate of CO2 emission for, say, the next 10 or 20
>years because we'll be throwing more variables into the equation and making
>it more difficult, perhaps even impossible, to determine the real relation-
>ships so reliable results can be depended upon.

An interesting hypothesis, showing you are not completely lacking in
scientific insight, but anyway completely wrong. Do you suppose that radiative
balance responds to 1) atmospheric concentration or 2) rate of change of
atmospheric concentration? How would a ray of infrared travelling at
3e8 m/s know anything about rates of change of order 1%/yr. ?

Barring economic concerns, the most conservative approach is either to
keep the concentration at current levels, or to drop it to pre-industrial
levels. It is certainly NOT to allow the emissions to continue to accelerate.

Indeed, the proposal to limit the emission rates to 1990 levels is exactly
the proposal at hand in current negotiations. It strikes a plausible balance
between economic and environmental concerns. I guess you support it then?

>> "If greenhouse warming occurs and leads to increased amounts
>>of precipitation in the Arctic and/or melting of snow and ice,
>>the Norwegian limb of the conveyor might be threatened, leading
>>to very rapid changes in ocean conditions and climate," Lehman
>>notes. "In such a scenario, the present climate of Britain and
>>Norway would change suddenly to that of Greenland and northern
>>Canada."

>Hmmmmmmmmm. In other words, it will bring on an Ice Age? That seems counter-
>intuitive, doesn't it? Certainly puts the kibosh on the "we're heading for
>Venus" people, I think.

It doesn't, really. It only postulates a local ice age in northern Europe.

As for the possibility of a Venus-like runaway greenhouse effect, see
Dr. Ray Pierrehumbert's thought provoking article on that subject, now
appearing in a sci.geo.meteorology near you.

>Let's see, we might have a greenhouse effect or we might not, and if we do, it
>might warm us up or it might cool us off, and in either event we know Earth
>went through massive changes both ways in history before humans discovered
>fire. I think that sums it up. So now we have a greenhouse effect AND an
>Ice Age. That ties everything up pretty neatly. Not.

If this is not deliberate obfuscation, it certainly demonstrates a very
casual familiarity with the issues.

It is entirely likely that regions of the Earth will
cool in the radically changed circulation that would go along with global
warming. You do know what "average" means, don't you?

Indeed it is the polar warming that would CAUSE the European cooling in
this scenario. And yes, the sea level would still rise due to thermal
expansion, modulo the behavior of the Antarctic ice sheet.

And of course, natural effects can also stress the environment. People who
think this is reason for a lack of concern seem to ignore the enormous
stresses already extant. An additional large stress of an amplitude
comparable to the largest natural changes under such circumstances is
indeed cause for concern. Also, the social impacts shouldn't be lightly
dismissed.

>I think we flatter ourselves we know so much or have so much power. This
>study confirms my opinion (again) that we really have no clue what will happen,
>and that major and drastic action either way would be as likely to magnify the
>effects as minimize them.

You don't seem to "get" that there is a perfectly valid globally summed
energy budget that is a much simpler problem. (This is the radiative-convective
model that Mr. Halliwell referred to.) We know that it is greenhouse gas
concentrations, not their derivatives, that cause the effects. We can postulate
an enormous variety of plausible local consequences, some of which are mutually
incompatible. But we have a fairly clear sense of the global average changes
forced in a global integration of the radiation budget, given the changes
in atmospheric composition. It's a fairly simple calculation based on
very well established physical principles.

If you want to debate science, kindly learn some, please. If you just say
every damned thing that pops into your head, you are only adding to the
mystification of these issues that seems to be the mission of the popular
press. You claim to have an open mind, but it is becoming clear you have
an axe to grind.

Look, I'm happy to exchange views with you on policy and society and
objectives and so on, but I have no interest in debating atmospheric science
with someone who doesn't know any. I haven't the time to respond to every
silly thing you say about climate in any detail. But face it, you have no
clue on the matter and seem to resist getting one. That being the case,
I will have to restrain myself from rebutting every point you make. It's
a tremendous time sink. I think I'll just have to respond "wrong" "no"
"irrelevant" "misleading" "completely bogus" and so on.

mt

Michael Tobis

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 9:29:10 PM6/9/92
to
In article <42...@balrog.ctron.com> sm...@ctron.com writes:

Juvenile flaming deleted.

The further


>north you go in the northern hemisphere the colder it gets, if that cold moves
>south, as implied by the study, you are flirting with an Ice Age.

It is possible for the pole to warm, northern Europe to cool, and the
temperature gradient to still point south. England is at the latitude of
Northern Canada, so there is no contradiction in saying it will be in
the same temperature range if the formation of Norwegian bottom water stops.

If at any
>point the snow from the year just past doesn't have time to melt before the
>next years snow arrives, that's an Ice Age, by DEFINITION.

irrelevant. Most of Northern Canada isn't glaciated either.

>>temperature will increase. If Britain, Norway, etc. get colder, that means
>>someplace else gets even hotter. It's been pointed out time and again that
>>global warming does NOT mean that every spot on Earth gets warmer.

>WHAT spot is getting warmer?

In this scenario, a warmer Arctic was specified. Or don't you read the
information that you are so excited about?

The study implies a GENERAL reduction in Earth's
>temperature!

Completely false.

What, is Britain going to look like Greenland and the North Pole
>is going to be in the 90's?

misleading

If the cold line moves south the equator is going
>to get even hotter?

quite possible

>And frankly, I don't give a damn how many times it's been pointed that "global
>warming does NOT mean that every spot on Earth gets warmer", that's just proof
>by repeated assertion!

I like this one!

That's not a proof by assertion, it's a proof by definition. What do you
think "average" means? Global warming is defined as "an increase in the
average surface temperature".

>THIS study is implying an Ice Age, others are telling me Venus.

No one is saying Venus is likely, although it is less implausible than you
might think. But this study postulates a mechanism for _local_ cooling as
caused by _global_ warming. There is no contradiction.

>I've not seen a study predicting Britain looking like Greenland before.

Just by the bye, you still haven't. You've seen a press release. You
ought to learn the difference.

mt

Carl J Lydick

unread,
Jun 9, 1992, 7:14:14 PM6/9/92
to
In article <42...@balrog.ctron.com>, sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:
>>Larry, are you really a moron, or do you just play one on the net? Given a
>>constant influx of sunlight, if we increase greenhouse gases, the global mean
>
>Carl, are you really an asshole or do you just play one on the net?

No, but I do have relatively little patience for morons.


>The farther north you go in the northern hemisphere the colder it gets, if
>that cold moves south, as implied by the study, you are flirting with an Ice
>Age.

You are flirting with glaciation in places that get as cold as the study
predicts they will

>If at any point the snow from the year just past doesn't have time to melt
>before the >next years snow arrives, that's an Ice Age, by DEFINITION.

No, that's glaciation, by definition.

>>temperature will increase. If Britain, Norway, etc. get colder, that means
>>someplace else gets even hotter. It's been pointed out time and again that
>>global warming does NOT mean that every spot on Earth gets warmer.
>
>WHAT spot is getting warmer? The study implies a GENERAL reduction in Earth's
>temperature!

It implied no such thing. It implied that if a certain current were somehow
stopped or diverted, the climates of Britain and Norway would get colder. In
case you haven't noticed, both of these happen to be on the North Sea.

>What, is Britain going to look like Greenland and the North Pole
>is going to be in the 90's?

No.

>If the cold line moves south the equator is going to get even hotter?

That's right.

>And frankly, I don't give a damn how many times it's been pointed that "global
>warming does NOT mean that every spot on Earth gets warmer", that's just proof
>by repeated assertion!

And the study we're talking about now says the same thing.

>THIS study is implying an Ice Age, others are telling me Venus.

This study is implying that a certain area may get colder. It's not implying
any global ice age.

Michael Tobis

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 12:01:03 AM6/10/92
to
I think I have to go cold turkey. Gradual net.disengagement doesn't seem
to work for me, so you won't hear from me until I have a 3-D model
of the ocean. It looks like other capable hands are tackling the Larry
problem. So let me leave you with this:

In article <JMC.92Ju...@SAIL.Stanford.EDU> j...@cs.Stanford.EDU writes:

I find myself in the peculiar position of agreeing with John McCarthy's
suggestions for reasons which are philosophically much closer to Alan
McGowan's point of view. I suppose that holding radical views on both ends
of the "spectrum" makes me a centrist of a sort...

That is, I think there is an intrinsic moral value to ecosystems, and
that this intrinsic value should be an influential, possibly dominant
determinant of our behavior in the foreseeable future. On the other hand,
I feel that direct and deliberate human intervention on a global scale is
going to become necessary to protect what is left of natural systems.

Here's my prognosis for the broad historical outline of the next few
decades, as they will be remembered by the far future. I do believe
that global change issues will be the dominant feature of the coming
period. I am also confident that deliberate human intervention on a global
scale will eventually occur, and probably fairly soon.

==== BEGIN SCIENCE FICTION

"The end of immediate prospects for massive nuclear exchanges around 1990
combined with increasing awareness of the huge impact humanity was having
on the global environment. The first international conference on the
environmnet, held in Rio de Janiero in 1992 was a turning point.

The USA, representing the world's largest market and economy, felt immune
from external economic pressures, and found itself alone in maintaining
an economy-centered view at the conference. This, while politically useful
internally in a weak economy and a three-sided election, and also much
(though quietly) appreciated by certain economic interests in Europe, profoundly
weakened the global geopolitical position of the United States, driving the
developing nations into a much closer connection with Western Europe, as
global attention shifted from nuclear to environmental security.

Shortly thereafter, many of the rainforest nations, and notably and
quite vigorously the Brazilians and Indonesians, made major efforts
to stop the extensive burning of the rainforests. This period also coincided
with the major volcanic eruption in the Philippines, Mt. Pinatubo, in 1991,
and also with a period in which the greenhouse warming was just beginning
to accelerate to alarming proportions. This acceleration had been largely
masked by the volcanic eruption, and had also been considerably slowed
by the smoke from the enormously extensive burning of the rain forests.

The sudden lifting of these two masking phenomena around 1994, combined
with the rapid background increases in radiative forcing, led to the
Great Warming of the 90s. Agricultural failures were widespread, and
sea surface rises which had once seemed hypothetical now appeared imminent.
Extreme heat waves occurred in parts of America and China, causing much
human suffering. Demands for action were heard worldwide.

Suggestions for massive tree planting were widely implemented, but the
impact of these measures was slight. Then some wags suggested reinstating
the burning of the rainforest, and the possibility of massive deliberate
dust releases entered the public awareness. Environmental purists were
outraged, feeling that anthropogenic mitigation efforts were somehow as
immoral as negative anthropogenic impacts. This position was inadvertently
bolstered by some technophiles who claimed that economic activity should
be untrammelled by environmental concerns, and that repairs to the damage
could be implemented more efficiently and cost effectively than by limiting
the activities in the first place. (Of course, time has proven both these
positions to be drastically incorrect.)

In fact, the economic so-called conservatives ended up being a larger
impediment to the implementation of the Massive Dust Release Programme
than the so-called greens, the latter group being neutralized by the
support for dust releases by the majority of professional biologists and
ecologists who felt that the pace of warming represented an immediate and
profound threat to already highly stressed ecosystems worldwide. The
so-called conservatives resisted the loss of national sovereignty to
a worldwide institution that would be required to coordinate and regulate
the emissions due to economic activity, and to allocate the required
emissions to the appropriate geographic locations.

Nevertheless, in 2005, with the enthusiastic participation of the North
American Bloc, the World Organization of the Ocean and Atmosphere
(WOOA) was formed, the first actually sovereign instrument of world
government, with the participation of almost all countries. By 2019, the
few minor holdouts had been pressured into participating, with Kazakhstan
and Libya being the last to join.

In subsequent decades, control over climate was improved with careful
allocation of CO2 and dust emissions and sensitive salinity controls over
ocean currents. Massive ecosystem loss continued for some time, but the
climate control itself went well for about two centuries, until the source of
carbon was depleted, and suddenly the world faced the prospect of Global
Cooling, but that is a subject for a later chapter...

==== END SCIENCE FICTION

mt

Nick Janow

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 2:10:01 AM6/10/92
to
sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:

> "Sudden" is one of those words that don't travel real well between scientist
> and media. The dinosaurs died off "suddenly" over a span of several million
> years, the last ice age "suddenly" started over a span of 10,000 years.
> Exactly how long do they *think* "sudden" will take?

Hmmm, in a previous message you claimed that climate varies too rapidly for
scientists to predict a few decades in advance. Now you're arguing that
climate changes over very long time spans.

Which is it Larry, fast, slow or whatever suits your arguments best at any
given time?
--

Nick_...@mindlink.bc.ca

Nick Janow

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 2:10:29 AM6/10/92
to
sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:
> Carl, are you really an asshole or do you just play one on the net? The

> farther north you go in the northern hemisphere the colder it gets, if that
> cold moves south, as implied by the study, you are flirting with an Ice Age.
> ....

> And frankly, I don't give a damn how many times it's been pointed that
> "global warming does NOT mean that every spot on Earth gets warmer", that's
> just proof by repeated assertion!

Your concepts of climate are terribly simplistic. I'm not a climatologist, but
at least I'm aware of wind patterns and ocean currents. Vancouver is nice an
warm in winter, partly due to a warm ocean current. Newfoundland is at the
same latitude but is colder; they have a cold ocean current. Central USA seems
to be colder in winter than much of Canada, due to wind patterns I suppose.

A few degrees of _global_ temperature increase could have major effects on
those ocean currents and wind patterns. Vancouver could get much colder,
Newfoundland much warmer and the southern states could experience cold winters
(I don't know enough to say it's impossible). Add in other local climatic
effects, such as increased cloud cover or loss of vegetation (ground
heats/cools faster), and the local situations may differ even more from their
present states.
Your climactic models may work fine on a mathematical sphere with no air or
fluid flows, but the Earth isn't quite that simple.

Of course, as I said, I'm not a climatologist. Perhaps one could confirm or
deny my comments.
--

Nick_...@mindlink.bc.ca

dean alaska

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 10:51:12 AM6/10/92
to
In article <STEINLY.92...@topaz.ucsc.edu> ste...@topaz.ucsc.edu (Steinn Sigurdsson) writes:
>In article <1992Jun9.2...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (dean alaska) writes:
>
>
>I'd argue we're more adaptable now. Historically we have to major
>human adaptations to climate - the end of the last ice age and
>the "little ice age" - the little ice age is fairly well recorded,
>there were crop failures, some catastrophic extinctions of human
>settlements and hard times but overall humans did just fine.
>
But these adaptations were to a much slower climate change. And I doubt
that "extinction of human settlements" would be considered okay. In
modern terms, that may mean enormous refugee problems. I am not saying
it wil drive humans into extinction.
We may have better technology, but our needs have increased.
In the past migration has been a way to adapt but that option is not
available now.

> We have a very complex and
> interdependent society. Just as an example, wet regions of the U.S.
> feel a drought very quickly because they have very little storage
> capacity, while drier areas have little infrastructure for preventing
> floods. The cost of trading these infrastructures would be
> enormous.
>
>I think you overestimate the costs, in fact they might be lower than
>the cost of trying to make societal changes in anticipation of climate
>changes - which in worst case would be wrong, leaving both the cost
>of societal change for the wrong threat and the cost of meeting the
>actual change.

It seems to me that they would be quite expensive and I think you
_overestimate_ the costs of changes in anticipation of climate changes.
These changes will lead to more efficient production and consumption
technologies and will pay for themselves.

>
> The cost might even prevent us from developing new technologies to
> deal with other environmental problems!
>
>History would suggest that the crisis would speed up technology
>development, barring a conscious effort to suppress technology
>development, which some seem to advocate.
>

The existence of a crisis to focus on might weel speed technology
development, but if fundamentally different problems develop at the
same time, resources will be spread. While research certainly isn't
monolithic today, if the climate change problem does end up being a
serious one, research resources would want to focus much more on a
single issue. What is the limit on capital
available for technological development?

> Secondly, assuming that such
> non-anthropogenic sudden warmings have only occurred rarely, ecosystems
> might be impacted just as much as they would be by anthropogenic-based
> impacts, as shown by the admittedly extreme example of the periodic
> (65 million years) extinctions. The question relative to adaptation to
> sudden change is how often does that sudden change occur?
>
>Well, the Wood Hole data would suggest several times per megayear...

Is a megayear a 1000 years? If this is so then it might indicate an
ability for wild ecosystems to adapt, but I still believe human society
is less able to.

>
> My guess is
> that the limited habitat now available to wild ecosystems would magnify
> any adaptation problems they would have.
>
>That is a real possibility and could be a major concern.
>
>* Steinn Sigurdsson Lick Observatory *
>* ste...@helios.ucsc.edu "standard disclaimer" *
>* I know people whose idea of fun *
>* Is throwing stones in the river in the afternoon sun *
>* Oh let me be as free as them *
>* - BB 1986 *
>

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 11:02:17 AM6/10/92
to
In article <1992Jun10....@meteor.wisc.edu>, to...@meteor.wisc.edu (Michael Tobis) writes:

>Larry Smith seems capable of generating more confusion and misinformation
>about the atmosphere that I have time or patience to respond to and yet
>it is very difficult to let his ramblings go unanswered. I would urge
>everyone to take all his doubts with a grain of salt. I urge Larry to
>actually try to learn some of the basics before he criticizes the science.

Larry Smith is reasonably well-informed professional who is not given to
parroting lines given to him by environmental extremists with a social
engineering agenda. I would urge everyone to take *everything* in this
group with a grain of salt, mine, yours, Alan's, Michael Vandeman's, and
everyone elses, and let each one use his own brain.

As for learning the basics, I am, and I am continuing to. YOU might take
the same advice - I'd suggest a good basic computer text to start, then
a good intro into psychology.

>>Known temperature tolerances are all well and good, but how do they guarantee
>>that temperature is what accounted for those deaths? Can they factor out
>>changes in salinity? Volcanic activity? Random population variations?

>Again the urge to make climatologists look like idiots. Of course there

Asking questions about methodologies is making scientists out to be idiots?
Did you even bother to look at the fact that this paragraph asked honest
questions? Did you finish out the thread to realize that someone answered
these question quite definitively, without recourse to character assassination
or acidic sarcasm? No, I don't think the scientists who did that study were
idiots, I *asked* how they could make these determinations hoping for some
enlightenment.

>However, I wonder why this level of skepticism. Don't you
>think that the people who spend their lives on this subject have thought
>about these issues? If you really want to know, look it up. Don't just
>complain about completely hypothetical failures of research you haven't seen!

I have this level of skepticism, Mr. Tobis, because of raving environmental
lunies that twist and distort legitimate studies or fund bogus "studies" whose
final results are determined when the money is granted. And if you took your
own advice about grains of salt, you'd realize it. Of course, YOU are above
all that - that's why you raked me over the coals for posting questions about
an environmental study to sci.environment.

<points about implications of study>

>An interesting hypothesis, showing you are not completely lacking in
>scientific insight, but anyway completely wrong. Do you suppose that radiative
>balance responds to 1) atmospheric concentration or 2) rate of change of
>atmospheric concentration? How would a ray of infrared travelling at
>3e8 m/s know anything about rates of change of order 1%/yr. ?

Most left-handed compliment I've ever gotten in my entire life. It obviously
relates to (1), but that is the factor we have the least control over. Given
that we *do* have control over (2), something may be better than nothing.

>Barring economic concerns, the most conservative approach is either to
>keep the concentration at current levels, or to drop it to pre-industrial
>levels. It is certainly NOT to allow the emissions to continue to accelerate.

These two statements are not equivalent. The most conservative approach,
barring economic concerns, it to slow the rate of increase to zero, then
to slow the absolute increase to zero, preferably (I take it from the study)
at a relatively constant rate. I have *never* advocated allowing emissions
to continue to accelerate, and if your dire warnings about my attempt to
"confuse" people on the net is based on that then you have, I hope not
deliberately, misconstrued my position.

What you need to learn, Mr. Tobis, is that someone can disagree with your
methods and still desire the same end result. There *are* people in this
world - and a lot of them in gov't - who simply dismiss your concerns out
of hand. From me you get at least this minimal respect: I, at least, am
willing to argue with you - I hope to our mutual enlightenment.



>Indeed, the proposal to limit the emission rates to 1990 levels is exactly
>the proposal at hand in current negotiations. It strikes a plausible balance
>between economic and environmental concerns. I guess you support it then?

I support the idea. The plan for implementing it is completely absent from
the current negotiations as far as I can see - the cost of that plan, and
its potential impact on personal liberty, and the probability of success (in
order of increasing priority) are the factors I'd use to evaluate it. If it
is workable, cost effective, and sparing of reductions in personal liberty,
I would support it, otherwise I would oppose it - but I would be opposing the
plan, not the goal. It is high time you learned the difference, and it is
an important difference. YOU and *I* disagree on methods, many, many others
disagree that anything need be done anyway.

>>Hmmmmmmmmm. In other words, it will bring on an Ice Age? That seems counter-
>>intuitive, doesn't it? Certainly puts the kibosh on the "we're heading for
>>Venus" people, I think.

>It doesn't, really. It only postulates a local ice age in northern Europe.

Presumably the effect refers to that latitude, does it not? How is this
different from "real" ice ages?

>As for the possibility of a Venus-like runaway greenhouse effect, see
>Dr. Ray Pierrehumbert's thought provoking article on that subject, now
>appearing in a sci.geo.meteorology near you.

I don't have time to scan YANG (Yet Another News Group), if you could email
me a copy, I'm all eyes.

>>Let's see, we might have a greenhouse effect or we might not, and if we do, it
>>might warm us up or it might cool us off, and in either event we know Earth
>>went through massive changes both ways in history before humans discovered
>>fire. I think that sums it up. So now we have a greenhouse effect AND an
>>Ice Age. That ties everything up pretty neatly. Not.

>If this is not deliberate obfuscation, it certainly demonstrates a very
>casual familiarity with the issues.

It was also inflammatory, sometimes I can't resist baiting. In truth, the
cooling effect the researchers describe jibes much better with more stuff
than any other, and I'm inclined to give it much more credence because of
it. Nevertheless, questions remain - for one, cooling temperatures should
reduce the atmosphere's ability to carry water, and the increasing temp-
eratures, presumably around the equator, should encourage cloud formation,
which should drop their water as precipitation as they move north. This
implies in increase in precipitation - yet the US is distinctly drier these
last 10 years, and this year looks to set some records. No geographical
features have changed, obviously, NH's not behind any mountains, it's right
convenient to the Atlantic. So where's the rain?

>It is entirely likely that regions of the Earth will
>cool in the radically changed circulation that would go along with global
>warming. You do know what "average" means, don't you?

Do you want a debate or a flamefest? I'm up for either.

>Indeed it is the polar warming that would CAUSE the European cooling in
>this scenario. And yes, the sea level would still rise due to thermal
>expansion, modulo the behavior of the Antarctic ice sheet.

I find this hard to swallow. Care to expound further? Exactly how is the
coldest part of the globe going to become warmer while the temperate regions
become cold enough for extraordinary snows and glaciation?

>And of course, natural effects can also stress the environment. People who
>think this is reason for a lack of concern seem to ignore the enormous
>stresses already extant. An additional large stress of an amplitude
>comparable to the largest natural changes under such circumstances is
>indeed cause for concern. Also, the social impacts shouldn't be lightly
>dismissed.

In point of fact, they need to be weighed against the impacts of the solutions,
don't they?

>You don't seem to "get" that there is a perfectly valid globally summed
>energy budget that is a much simpler problem. (This is the radiative-convective
>model that Mr. Halliwell referred to.) We know that it is greenhouse gas
>concentrations, not their derivatives, that cause the effects. We can postulate
>an enormous variety of plausible local consequences, some of which are mutually
>incompatible. But we have a fairly clear sense of the global average changes
>forced in a global integration of the radiation budget, given the changes
>in atmospheric composition. It's a fairly simple calculation based on
>very well established physical principles.

It's these statements I really distrust. If some of your "plausible local
consequences" are "mutually incompatible" in your "fairly simple calculation",
then methinks it more likely you have dropped a decimal point somewhere. If
it was all as simple as you say, it would be a whole lot more obvious to
*everyone* and far less susceptible to the kind of "misinformation" you
decry in the media. You can't have it both ways, Michael.

>If you want to debate science, kindly learn some, please. If you just say
>every damned thing that pops into your head, you are only adding to the
>mystification of these issues that seems to be the mission of the popular
>press. You claim to have an open mind, but it is becoming clear you have
>an axe to grind.

If you want me to agree with you, you can damn well debate science with me
regardless of how much I know. If I don't know enough educate me. If you
don't care whether I agree or not, don't bother to follow up.

As for saying whatever pops into my head, what else is the net for? Do YOU
spend days or weeks composing each post? I've never seen your bibliography
at the end of your posts, do you strip it for brevity? This is an informal
forum, laddie, and if anyone is left mystified, well, maybe they'll be moti-
vated to do some research on their own.

Micheal, I'm enjoying this. I really am. For years I've put up with
instrusive posts from groups like this into rec.autos with this "of course"
cars have to go, and "you're all part of the problem", and I find I'm truly
enjoying an opportunity to bring some of the acrimony back over here. Some
of you really need a good kick in the pants, to make you rethink and rejustify
your positions. I find myself slipping very naturally into the Devil's
Advocate role - I push THIS button, I get THAT post from Vandeman, I push
THAT button I get THIS post from you, I push some other button and I get
some other one of the regular crowd.

You need a bit of exercise, Michael. You need to learn that people can
disagree with you and not be evil, that they can agree with your goal and
not with your methods, that they can think you might be right but want to
see some proof and explanation anyway. It's time for YOU to come down off
your high horse and start justifying some of YOUR positions.

>Look, I'm happy to exchange views with you on policy and society and
>objectives and so on, but I have no interest in debating atmospheric science
>with someone who doesn't know any. I haven't the time to respond to every

Then you have no right to bitch and complain when people disagree with you
on policy and society because "they don't know any atmospheric science".

>silly thing you say about climate in any detail. But face it, you have no
>clue on the matter and seem to resist getting one. That being the case,

I have lots of clues, but I *do* have an axe to grind. I want to see YOU
justify your position, I want you to prove to MY satisfaction that the dire
social requirements you advocate to address these problems are really needed.
Like I say, if you want me to agree, work for it. If you don't, don't bother
to follow-up. But don't whine about it.

>I will have to restrain myself from rebutting every point you make. It's
>a tremendous time sink. I think I'll just have to respond "wrong" "no"
>"irrelevant" "misleading" "completely bogus" and so on.

Oh, goody, I can do that to. Wait, I'll just clip this paragraph...yeah,
that's the ticket! Now I can just respond "wrong" "no" "irrelevant"
"misleading" "completely bogus" and so on. Sure, that'll help all those
mystified people out there.

Josh Rovero

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 10:53:19 AM6/10/92
to
Gee, I hope your 3-d ocean model will be synchronously coupled with an
atmospheric model. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.... :-)

--
Josh Rovero (rov...@oc.nps.navy.mil) | or Internet 53...@cc.nps.navy.mil
Department of Oceanography, Code OC/Rv | Bitnet 5346p@NAVPGS
Naval Postgraduate School |
Monterey, CA 93943 (408) 646-2084 |

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 11:12:20 AM6/10/92
to
In article <1992Jun9.2...@cco.caltech.edu>, ca...@SOL1.GPS.CALTECH.EDU (Carl J Lydick) writes:
>No, but I do have relatively little patience for morons.

Me, too. Maybe you should stop slinging insults around and try to explain a
little better.

>You are flirting with glaciation in places that get as cold as the study
>predicts they will

>>If at any point the snow from the year just past doesn't have time to melt
>>before the >next years snow arrives, that's an Ice Age, by DEFINITION.

>No, that's glaciation, by definition.

<sigh> What, exactly, is the difference? My understanding of "ice age"
states that an ice age IS a glaciation extending down from the pole into
the temperate zones, if you are working with any other please enlighten me.

>>WHAT spot is getting warmer? The study implies a GENERAL reduction in Earth's
>>temperature!
>
>It implied no such thing. It implied that if a certain current were somehow
>stopped or diverted, the climates of Britain and Norway would get colder. In
>case you haven't noticed, both of these happen to be on the North Sea.

Are you telling me that Britain will look like Iceland but NH will not? I
might buy it being worse because of the sea effects, but I've got to believe
NH will be colder, too, the trade winds would tend to distribute temperatures
would they not?

>No.

>>If the cold line moves south the equator is going to get even hotter?

>That's right.

Interesting thought. Supposing this is correct, how MUCH hotter?

>>And frankly, I don't give a damn how many times it's been pointed that "global
>>warming does NOT mean that every spot on Earth gets warmer", that's just proof
>>by repeated assertion!

>And the study we're talking about now says the same thing.

As my old writing teacher used to say, "telling" is not "showing".

>>THIS study is implying an Ice Age, others are telling me Venus.

>This study is implying that a certain area may get colder. It's not implying
>any global ice age.

I dunno, with Britain and the temperate zones under heavy snow or ice, the
difference may be one of those academic questions.

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 11:17:08 AM6/10/92
to
In article <12...@mindlink.bc.ca>, Nick_...@mindlink.bc.ca (Nick Janow) writes:
>sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:

>> "Sudden" is one of those words that don't travel real well between scientist

>Hmmm, in a previous message you claimed that climate varies too rapidly for


>scientists to predict a few decades in advance. Now you're arguing that
>climate changes over very long time spans.

>Which is it Larry, fast, slow or whatever suits your arguments best at any
>given time?

In this particular case, it wasn't an argument at all, but an honest question
to know what THESE scientists meant when they said "sudden". I'm getting the
impression that this study is pretty well grounded, I'm fairly impressed so
far with it, but I'm not at all impressed when lots of people who think they
have me neatly pigeonholed try to read my agenda into everything I post. Are
you so good at reading minds, Nick?

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 11:28:35 AM6/10/92
to
In article <12...@mindlink.bc.ca>, Nick_...@mindlink.bc.ca (Nick Janow) writes:
>sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:
>> And frankly, I don't give a damn how many times it's been pointed that
>> "global warming does NOT mean that every spot on Earth gets warmer", that's
>> just proof by repeated assertion!

>Your concepts of climate are terribly simplistic. I'm not a climatologist, but
>at least I'm aware of wind patterns and ocean currents. Vancouver is nice an
>warm in winter, partly due to a warm ocean current. Newfoundland is at the
>same latitude but is colder; they have a cold ocean current. Central USA seems
>to be colder in winter than much of Canada, due to wind patterns I suppose.

Hmmmmmm. In many of my postings to this group I must plead guilty to being
"deliberately obtuse". There are so many things that so many people take for
granted here that I find myself trying to pick arguments just to get people
to reconsider their positions, to make them think about what they say and
advocate even if only to justify them again. I am suspicious of any cut-and-
dried assertions. It was cut-and-dried assertions about the viability of cars
and even the concept of personal transportation, smugly crossposted to
rec.autos, that brought me here.

I can read books, and have, and I have, I think, a pretty fair idea of the
global issues involved. I came to this group with three axes to grind. First,
to rock the boats of those people who seem to be committed to the idea that
solutions to environmental problems must, of necessity, reduce or eliminate
individual liberties. Second, to see if anyone can square the various
conflicting assertions I've seen in my reading regarding the effect of human
changes on the environment. Third, to make the authors of those smug cross-
posts justify their positions, to me, in detail. Not to fob me off with
lectures about how little I know, or to give me references to works, many of
which I've already read. Few of those scientists have advocated such extreme
social agendas, people in this group have. I am less interested in the
science (except insofar as #2) than I am in questioning the conclusions
implicit in the social engineering agenda.

>Of course, as I said, I'm not a climatologist. Perhaps one could confirm or
>deny my comments.

Facts, yes. The social engineers, I'm not so sure.

Nick Janow

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 2:07:15 PM6/10/92
to
sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:


> In many of my postings to this group I must plead guilty to being
> "deliberately obtuse". There are so many things that so many people take for
> granted here that I find myself trying to pick arguments just to get people
> to reconsider their positions, to make them think about what they say and
> advocate even if only to justify them again.

In that respect, you are failing miserably. If you want to encourage people to
back up their positions with facts or make them think of issues related to
their position, you have to phrase your comments a certain way. You seem to
phrase yours in such a way as to encourage simple dismissal of your comments.
For example, your comment about average global temperature increase meaning
that every point on the globe getting warmer didn't spur anyone to post any new
information; it just evoked a standard "don't be an idiot Larry" response.

A successful devil's advocate angers people into improving their arguments. An
unsuccessful one simply draws flames.
--

Nick_...@mindlink.bc.ca

Steinn Sigurdsson

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 7:52:22 AM6/10/92
to
In article <42...@balrog.ctron.com> sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:


In article <1992Jun9.2...@cco.caltech.edu>, ca...@SOL1.GPS.CALTECH.EDU (Carl J Lydick) writes:
>No, but I do have relatively little patience for morons.

Me, too. Maybe you should stop slinging insults around and try to explain a
little better.

>>WHAT spot is getting warmer? The study implies a GENERAL reduction in Earth's
>>temperature!
>
>It implied no such thing. It implied that if a certain current were somehow
>stopped or diverted, the climates of Britain and Norway would get colder. In
>case you haven't noticed, both of these happen to be on the North Sea.

Are you telling me that Britain will look like Iceland but NH will not? I
might buy it being worse because of the sea effects, but I've got to believe
NH will be colder, too, the trade winds would tend to distribute temperatures
would they not?


If I may...
If you look at the west coast of Europe and comparable
latitude on the east and west coast of the Americas, then you will
notice a systematic pattern in climate as function of latitude
- california/spain and washington/england have very different
climates from florida and new england. The reason for this, crudely,
is that oceanic currents tend to circulate from the equator north
along the west side of the ocean and come down the east side - in
the Atlantic this is the gulf stream - as a consequence of which
East Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Britain have much milder climates
then would otherwise be expected given their latitude. In fact all
of western Europe and western US have milder moderate climates because
of these currents. An additional benefit is that the worlds richest
fisheries form where the warm current meets the cold arctic currents.
Now, the reason for concern, is that it has been noted the
Gulf stream is vulnerable to major shifts from relatively small
temperature and/or topography perturbations (this is not a real
issue in the pacific, as far as I know, the reason is basically
the combination of florida, caribbean and cuba). In fact it has
been suggested that the track of the gulf stream determines
european glaciation and possibly the transition to ice free
intervals during ice ages (such as we are in) - hence the
recent study on very rapid temperature changes.
So, if the gulf stream shifts, then East Greenland, Iceland
and Northern Norway go under ice in a few centuries - barring CO2
effects compensating, and the rest of western Europe has a more
extreme climate more comparable to the US east coast. If there were
no anthropogenic CO2, then an ice age might ve triggered - given the
CO2 - which might cause the current shift, the global average might go
up anyway, in spite of the increased arctic albedo - basically the
models can't tell for sure - either way Europe is badly hurt.

Steinn Sigurdsson

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 9:39:52 AM6/10/92
to
In article <1992Jun10.1...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (dean alaska) writes:

In article <STEINLY.92...@topaz.ucsc.edu> ste...@topaz.ucsc.edu (Steinn Sigurdsson) writes:
>In article <1992Jun9.2...@vexcel.com> de...@vexcel.com (dean alaska) writes:

>I'd argue we're more adaptable now. Historically we have to major
>human adaptations to climate - the end of the last ice age and
>the "little ice age" - the little ice age is fairly well recorded,
>there were crop failures, some catastrophic extinctions of human
>settlements and hard times but overall humans did just fine.
>
But these adaptations were to a much slower climate change. And I doubt
that "extinction of human settlements" would be considered okay. In

Now "ok" but not intolerable to civilization, probably less than
random internal crisis such as we have seen repeatedly this century.

modern terms, that may mean enormous refugee problems. I am not saying
it wil drive humans into extinction.
We may have better technology, but our needs have increased.
In the past migration has been a way to adapt but that option is not
available now.

> We have a very complex and
> interdependent society. Just as an example, wet regions of the U.S.
> feel a drought very quickly because they have very little storage
> capacity, while drier areas have little infrastructure for preventing
> floods. The cost of trading these infrastructures would be
> enormous.

>I think you overestimate the costs, in fact they might be lower than
>the cost of trying to make societal changes in anticipation of climate
>changes - which in worst case would be wrong, leaving both the cost
>of societal change for the wrong threat and the cost of meeting the
>actual change.

It seems to me that they would be quite expensive and I think you
_overestimate_ the costs of changes in anticipation of climate changes.
These changes will lead to more efficient production and consumption
technologies and will pay for themselves.

I'm all in favour of increasing efficiency and naturally beneficial
technologies. The cost estimates I had in mind are those in Nature,
357, 1992 - order 100 billion $ per year, global.

> The cost might even prevent us from developing new technologies to
> deal with other environmental problems!

>History would suggest that the crisis would speed up technology
>development, barring a conscious effort to suppress technology
>development, which some seem to advocate.

The existence of a crisis to focus on might weel speed technology
development, but if fundamentally different problems develop at the
same time, resources will be spread. While research certainly isn't
monolithic today, if the climate change problem does end up being a
serious one, research resources would want to focus much more on a
single issue. What is the limit on capital
available for technological development?

The limits on _development_ capital is probably educated manpower,
implementation limits are probably energy, manpower and resources
in order. For comparison, consider current military expenditures
on development and implementation.

> Secondly, assuming that such
> non-anthropogenic sudden warmings have only occurred rarely, ecosystems
> might be impacted just as much as they would be by anthropogenic-based
> impacts, as shown by the admittedly extreme example of the periodic
> (65 million years) extinctions. The question relative to adaptation to
> sudden change is how often does that sudden change occur?
>
>Well, the Wood Hole data would suggest several times per megayear...

Is a megayear a 1000 years? If this is so then it might indicate

million years. my guesstimate from what I remember of the study, plus
that it is unlikely they happened to find a unique event.

ability for wild ecosystems to adapt, but I still believe human society
is less able to.

I claim they can, certainly at less cost than the "reduce humanity to
10**8 people in five generations" proposals, and that it will be far easier.

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 5:47:17 PM6/10/92
to
In article <12...@mindlink.bc.ca>, Nick_...@mindlink.bc.ca (Nick Janow) writes:
>In that respect, you are failing miserably. If you want to encourage people to
>back up their positions with facts or make them think of issues related to
>their position, you have to phrase your comments a certain way. You seem to
>phrase yours in such a way as to encourage simple dismissal of your comments.
>For example, your comment about average global temperature increase meaning
>that every point on the globe getting warmer didn't spur anyone to post any new
>information; it just evoked a standard "don't be an idiot Larry" response.

This is, I think, purely a matter of opinion. In this case, I don't expect
to actually reach the people I'm arguing with. What I am most hoping to
accomplish is to challenge this smug idea that "we all know the problems" and
"we all know the solutions". The arguments themselves accomplish something.

>A successful devil's advocate angers people into improving their arguments. An
>unsuccessful one simply draws flames.

I've got me "ol' Bessie". And what I lack in politeness I make up for in
persistance.

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 5:55:20 PM6/10/92
to
In article <STEINLY.92...@topaz.ucsc.edu>, ste...@topaz.ucsc.edu (Steinn Sigurdsson) writes:

...good commentary deleted...


> So, if the gulf stream shifts, then East Greenland, Iceland
>and Northern Norway go under ice in a few centuries - barring CO2
>effects compensating, and the rest of western Europe has a more
>extreme climate more comparable to the US east coast. If there were
>no anthropogenic CO2, then an ice age might ve triggered - given the
>CO2 - which might cause the current shift, the global average might go
>up anyway, in spite of the increased arctic albedo - basically the
>models can't tell for sure - either way Europe is badly hurt.

Best thumbnail explanation I've read - including those in the books.
Many thanks. Especially for doing it politely. Point yielded.

Okay, the study implies a considerable redistribution of heat, more to the
equator, less to the artic and temperate zones. How far can this go?

While this heat engine is in effect Earth's temperatures ranged from, 100 below
zero at the pole to 100 above at the equator. What is "normal" distribution
on a globe with no atmosphere or ocean moving heat around.

Carl J Lydick

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 8:37:35 PM6/10/92
to
In article <42...@balrog.ctron.com>, sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:
>It was also inflammatory, sometimes I can't resist baiting. In truth, the
>cooling effect the researchers describe jibes much better with more stuff
>than any other, and I'm inclined to give it much more credence because of
>it. Nevertheless, questions remain - for one, cooling temperatures should
>reduce the atmosphere's ability to carry water, and the increasing temp-
>eratures, presumably around the equator, should encourage cloud formation,
>which should drop their water as precipitation as they move north. This
>implies in increase in precipitation - yet the US is distinctly drier these
>last 10 years, and this year looks to set some records.

First, the study in question did NOT say that the sort of oceanic circulation
shift they describe has taken place. They say that such shifts have apparently
taken place in the past, and that the timescale on which they occurred appears
to have sometiemes been as short as 40 years. Second, you're once again
confusing global averages with local phenomena. The fact that a global average
changes does NOT mean that the value being measured must change in the same
direction everywhere.

>No geographical features have changed, obviously, NH's not behind any
>mountains, it's right convenient to the Atlantic. So where's the rain?

The recent California drought was not because of a decrease in Pacific storm
systems; it was because the storm systems did not drop their rain on
California. Perhaps the rain missing from New Hampshire was dropped further
south in part by the several of the severe hurricanes we've had the past few
years.

>>It is entirely likely that regions of the Earth will
>>cool in the radically changed circulation that would go along with global
>>warming. You do know what "average" means, don't you?
>
>Do you want a debate or a flamefest? I'm up for either.

Given that it's been pointed out to you over and over again that global warming
refers to an increase in the AVERAGE GLOBAL temperature, and you still seem to
think that it means that the temperature must increase everywhere, the question
as to whether you understand the term "average" seems perfectly appropriate.

>>Indeed it is the polar warming that would CAUSE the European cooling in
>>this scenario. And yes, the sea level would still rise due to thermal
>>expansion, modulo the behavior of the Antarctic ice sheet.
>
>I find this hard to swallow. Care to expound further? Exactly how is the
>coldest part of the globe going to become warmer while the temperate regions
>become cold enough for extraordinary snows and glaciation?

It was stated quite clearly in the press release. I'll try to explain it,
sticking to words of one syllable as much as possible.

The Gulf Stream now goes quite far north, and as it does so, it brings warmth
to places like Norway and Britain. At times in the past, the Gulf Stream
turned east by the time it got as far north as Portugal. This means that it
didn't bring warmth to Norway and Britain. If it should do this again, Britain
and Portugal will get colder.

With me so far?

As the Gulf Stream flows north, water evaporates. The concentration of salt in
the water increases. The water becomes denser. At some point, it sinks, and
forms another current, called the North Atlantic Deep Water, which flows south
at the bottom of the ocean. If a source of fresh water is added to the north
Atlantic, as it could be if some of the polar ice melts, the salinity will
drop. This makes the water less dense. The transition from the Gulf Stream to
the North Atlantic Deep Water might be impeded or forced further south. The
Gulf Stream might no longer flow past Britain and Norway. Both of these
countries are currently warmer than they would be without the Gulf Stream. If
the Gulf Stream doesn't reach them, they'll get colder.

There, that wasn't so hard, was it?

>>You don't seem to "get" that there is a perfectly valid globally summed
>>energy budget that is a much simpler problem. (This is the radiative-convective
>>model that Mr. Halliwell referred to.) We know that it is greenhouse gas
>>concentrations, not their derivatives, that cause the effects. We can postulate
>>an enormous variety of plausible local consequences, some of which are mutually
>>incompatible. But we have a fairly clear sense of the global average changes
>>forced in a global integration of the radiation budget, given the changes
>>in atmospheric composition. It's a fairly simple calculation based on
>>very well established physical principles.
>
>It's these statements I really distrust. If some of your "plausible local
>consequences" are "mutually incompatible" in your "fairly simple calculation",
>then methinks it more likely you have dropped a decimal point somewhere.

Not true. You're again failing to understand the nature of an average. If the
average global temperature changes, it's likely that atmospheric and oceanic
flows will be altered. There are many different ways in which they could be
altered. If you take a coin that's standing on its edge and flip it, you can
be pretty sure it's not going to come down standing on its edge again. It
might come up heads. It might come up tails. Coming up heads and coming up
tails are mutually incompatible outcomes for any single toss. Similarly,
the temperature of, say Pasadena might increase if the flows change one way.
It might decrease if the flows change another way. Pasadena's temperature
increasing is incompatible with its temperature decreasing. That's what's
meant by "mutually incompatible." Not that for a single scenario the
temperature changes in both directions, but that for two mutually exclusive
scenarios, it would change in one direction for one and the other direction for
the other.

>If it was all as simple as you say, it would be a whole lot more obvious to
>*everyone* and far less susceptible to the kind of "misinformation" you
>decry in the media. You can't have it both ways, Michael.

There's a simple part, and a complicated part. If you increase greenhouse
gases, then the GLOBAL AVERAGE temperature WILL increase. That's the simple
part. Figuring out HOW MUCH that average will increase, and what the LOCAL
temperatures will do is the hard part.

>If you want me to agree with you, you can damn well debate science with me
>regardless of how much I know. If I don't know enough educate me. If you
>don't care whether I agree or not, don't bother to follow up.

We've been trying to, and you simply choose to ignore what we tell you. You
don't "debate" in any useful sense of the word. You're simply carrying on a
monologue.


>>silly thing you say about climate in any detail. But face it, you have no
>>clue on the matter and seem to resist getting one. That being the case,
>
>I have lots of clues,

No, you are totally clueless.

Carl J Lydick

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 8:48:39 PM6/10/92
to
In article <42...@balrog.ctron.com>, sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:
>>>If at any point the snow from the year just past doesn't have time to melt
>>>before the >next years snow arrives, that's an Ice Age, by DEFINITION.
>
>>No, that's glaciation, by definition.
>
><sigh> What, exactly, is the difference? My understanding of "ice age"
>states that an ice age IS a glaciation extending down from the pole into
>the temperate zones, if you are working with any other please enlighten me.

An ice-age would be a large-scale glaciation. The decrease in temperatures in
Britain and Norway that the press release talked about is NOT large-scale.

>>It implied no such thing. It implied that if a certain current were somehow
>>stopped or diverted, the climates of Britain and Norway would get colder. In
>>case you haven't noticed, both of these happen to be on the North Sea.
>
>Are you telling me that Britain will look like Iceland but NH will not?

That's a possibility.


>I might buy it being worse because of the sea effects, but I've got to believe
>NH will be colder, too, the trade winds would tend to distribute temperatures
>would they not?

Given the mechanism described in the press release, New Hampshire would
probably get colder, too. However, since the circulation of the atmosphere
tends to bring warm air up in a northwesterly direction, probably not by as
much as Britain and Norway would.

>>>If the cold line moves south the equator is going to get even hotter?
>
>>That's right.
>
>Interesting thought. Supposing this is correct, how MUCH hotter?

We don't know.

>>>And frankly, I don't give a damn how many times it's been pointed that "global
>>>warming does NOT mean that every spot on Earth gets warmer", that's just proof
>>>by repeated assertion!
>
>>And the study we're talking about now says the same thing.
>
>As my old writing teacher used to say, "telling" is not "showing".

The study specified, in detail, a mechanism. However, try the following
demonstration. Take a long strip of metal. Put an ice cube on one end of it.
Hold a match under the other end. Chances are that the average temperature of
the strip of metal will change. But one end got hotter and the other end got
colder.

>>>THIS study is implying an Ice Age, others are telling me Venus.
>
>>This study is implying that a certain area may get colder. It's not implying
>>any global ice age.
>
>I dunno, with Britain and the temperate zones under heavy snow or ice, the
>difference may be one of those academic questions.

HOLD ON THERE. Where did you come up with the gratuitous "and the temperate
zones"? Britains climate is considerably warmer than that of most other places
at the same latitude. It's kept warm by the Gulf Stream. The press release
described a mechanism by which the unusually warm climate of Britain could be
brought down to a more normal climate for that latitude. Where does this "and
the temperate zones" come from?

David Halliwell

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 8:29:18 PM6/10/92
to
In <42...@balrog.ctron.com> sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) says:

>Hmmmmmm. In many of my postings to this group I must plead guilty to being

>"deliberately obtuse". There are so many things that so many people take for
>granted here that I find myself trying to pick arguments just to get people
>to reconsider their positions, to make them think about what they say and
>advocate even if only to justify them again. I am suspicious of any cut-and-
>dried assertions. It was cut-and-dried assertions about the viability of cars
>and even the concept of personal transportation, smugly crossposted to
>rec.autos, that brought me here.
>
>I can read books, and have, and I have, I think, a pretty fair idea of the
>global issues involved. I came to this group with three axes to grind. First,
>to rock the boats of those people who seem to be committed to the idea that
>solutions to environmental problems must, of necessity, reduce or eliminate
>individual liberties.

Then take it to talk.environment. If you actually want to discuss
the scientific aspects in a reasonable manner, then come back to
SCI.environment or SCI.geo.meteorology.


> Second, to see if anyone can square the various
>conflicting assertions I've seen in my reading regarding the effect of human
>changes on the environment.

Then post the conflict you identify, your understanding of the
various assertions that you have read about and what you don't like
about them, and ask questions! When you post misconceptions and call
them "uncontrovertible facts" in an attempt to badger people with a
particular viewpoint, you are likely to shut off discussion with the
people on this group that actually understand the concepts well enough
to explain them to you and resolve your conflict. You catch more flies
with honey than with vinegar.



> Third, to make the authors of those smug cross-
>posts justify their positions, to me, in detail. Not to fob me off with
>lectures about how little I know, or to give me references to works, many of
>which I've already read. Few of those scientists have advocated such extreme
>social agendas, people in this group have. I am less interested in the
>science (except insofar as #2) than I am in questioning the conclusions
>implicit in the social engineering agenda.

I don't need to justify my position to you at all. For the most
part, you are just another bug on the windshield of life. I do need to
justify my existence to my employers, though. They expect me to do two
things in my job:

- perform research in climatology.
- teach and evaluate students in the subject of climatology.

I initially started responding to this thread with the hope that
you would learn something about climatology. I _do_ enjoy seeing someone
increase their knowledge base with my asistance. "Satisfaction is job#1."
Now that you have admitted you only have a minor interest in learning,
I'll give you your mark and let you go away. You got an "F", Larry.
I will only continue in this thread for one of three reasons:

- I see people that are genuinely interested in learning, and feel
that I have something to contribute.

- I see something that will help me learn and I need further
clarification.

- I see Larry saying something stupid again and feel the need
to point out to others that he doesn't know what he is talking
about, so they won't think that his rantings are "state-of-the-art"
knowledge of climatology.


<enter final exam mode>



Dave Halliwell | "So once you know what the question
Department of Geography | actually is, you'll know what the
University of Alberta | answer means"
Edmonton, Alberta. | - Douglas Adams

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 11, 1992, 12:09:53 PM6/11/92
to
In article <RN....@mts.ucs.UAlberta.CA>, user...@mts.ucs.UAlberta.CA (David Halliwell) writes:
> Then take it to talk.environment. If you actually want to discuss
>the scientific aspects in a reasonable manner, then come back to
>SCI.environment or SCI.geo.meteorology.

Did you give this sage advice to the ecolunies and their social engineering
projects, or is that SCIence?

> I don't need to justify my position to you at all. For the most
>part, you are just another bug on the windshield of life. I do need to
>justify my existence to my employers, though. They expect me to do two
>things in my job:

I've been considering your posts, and I've been considering what to do. I came
to this group following one of those smug crossposts I referred to earlier, and
my earliest posts questioned the social agenda, with the intent to get some in-
terest going regarding some practical alternatives. But the very first post I
found in this group was a ferocious attack on not only the idea and implement-
ation of personal mobility - that, at least is an arguable subject - but on
a fundamental right people have of being able to live where they like. It
advocated a program to export the costs of cities to surrounding suburbs, other
posts advocated confiscatory gas taxes, and many even less savory alternatives.
All of them presumed from tone and by outright accusation, that because I
disagreed with the agenda, "obviously" I must think there is no problem. Making
a virtue of necessity, I tried to get these social engineers to justify the
problem again, hoping that by taking the discussion back to its roots some
common ground could be obtained.

As Carl noted earlier, my attempts have not been notably successful. Rather
than finding common ground with the extremists, I find myself, to a large
extent, arguing with scientists who really know some of this stuff. That was
not my intent, it's isn't fun and I'm doomed to loose.

But, being the stubborn fellow that I am, I'll try another tack, and maybe
get some "constructive" (TM - Alan M.) discussion going.

As far as the CO2 issue goes, it's clear the amount already added to the
atmosphere will cause major climactic changes, and that furthermore these
changes are probably non-optimal for human beings. Clearly, reducing the
amount of CO2 being added to the atmosphere is the first step. Once that
is accomplished, further studies will tell us how far we want to roll back.
Having rolled back, some fancy footwork between gov't, academe, and industry
will result in policies to maintain the most desirable level. I leave that
at the handwaving point as I doubt we'll reach that in my lifetime, anyway,
but the first steps must be laid now.

I have little faith in major social changes to accomplish this. The gov't,
particularly the US gov't, is not especially good at getting people's
fundamental attitudes or desires to change to any great degree. It is, in
fact, very responsive to special interest lobbying, and is frequently at odds
with the majority of the electorate, even when the electorate is environ-
mentally correct. Nevertheless, it has assumed most of the power and right
to regulate many of the things which need to be controlled, the problem can-
not be solved in principle without the gov't. But it remains a slow and
creaky tool, and must be treated as the cantankerous device it really is.
Giving it additional power will not make it significantly faster or less
creaky, it will merely remove many of the safeties - an especially important
concern for the environmentally aware. As we have discovered much to our
sorrow, much of the regulatory power given the gov't in the environmentally-
conscious years of the Carter Administration has now been largely turned to
undesirable ends under Reagan and Bush. It is not wise to give a friend a
gun if his entire personality may change for the worse in eight years.

Given the foregoing, the gov't should be used as sparingly as possible, and
in roles where it has demonstrated success in years past. All reasonable
means of reducing CO2 emissions should be explored so long as they do not
threaten to bankrupt the economy. Aside from the human costs involved in
such economic damage stands the pragmatic reality that such bankruptcy will
inevitably end any attempt at controlling CO2. I therefore suggest the
following for discussion:

1. The gov't should protect existing forests and require better long-term
management of existing lumbering regions. This will push up the price
of wood, and make recycling paper more desirable and more economic.
The resulting damage to housing industry should be addressed with
significant tax breaks for houses that use as little wood or wood
products as possible.

2. The gov't should provide significant tax breaks for major replanting -
parks, green strips, etc. Entirely too many malls have these enormous
expanses of parking lots unrelieved by the tiniest shred of greenery.
Any area now lying fallow that had previously had forest or other such
environment should be agressively replanted.

3. Symbolic gestures like electric cars, absent any commitment to pollution-
free infrastructure, is stupid and pointless. Worse, it wastes time,
resources and money better spent on the real problems. Electric cars,
in particular, will not be viable until the US commits to nuclear power.

4. The only non-CO2-producing technology currently available and compatible
with existing power distribution networks is nuclear power. Clean on-site
power like solar is dealt with below, this item refers to centralized
power production. The US must remove nuclear power from the current
litigation-driven regulations. Public review and careful monitoring must
remain but stumbling-block tactics increase the price of the power without
changing the final outcome. Once the price of nuclear power is brought
down and older coal plants are decommissioned CO2 will drop not only
because of less coal being burned, but because electric cars will become
practical.

5. Extensive and generous tax breaks must be enacted for anyone who reduces
CO2 emissions, by whatever means (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, whatever)
that reduces reliance on central power. These breaks MUST more than off-
set the rate hikes that invariably follow when power is conserved. Power
utilities must be put on notice that theirs is a shrinking industry, and
that profits have already peaked. This will make it more difficult for
them to issue bonds or attract investors, but this industry is more
expendable than is the auto industry - especially since it is shrinkage,
not elimination.

6. The gov't must commit to a long term plan to eliminate reliance on non-
renewable fuels. The only real alternative to fossil fuels that is as
practical as fossil fuels and which is compatible with existing technology
to use fossil fuels is alcohol. It has already been proven as a fuel, we
don't need more symbolic "demonstrations" like the California M85 project.
Availability must be mandated and use required in new vehicles exactly the
way it was done for the switch to unleaded gasoline. This program MUST be
combined with projects to set up renewable alcohol production from biomass.
Virtually all methanol made in this country is from natural gas, clearly
this must stop.

7. Cars must get smaller and lighter, and they cannot do so at the present
time because of prescriptive laws regarding safety, emissions, etc. The
gov't must switch to a descriptive form of laws, such as stating safety as
a statistic rather than simply requiring an air bag, for example. We
must also reject the "deep pockets" theory of liability as the moral,
ethical, legal, and practical quagmire it is, and return to the original
standards. This will require significant action from Congress, which must
take this power away from the courts, which have assumed it for their own
purposes. Once this is done, cars can cease to be made of metal, and can
become smaller and lighter.

8. Smaller cars cannot share the road with ever-increasing truck sizes, and
trucks themselves contribute not only to pollution and CO2 directly, but
to the high costs of highway maintenance. The current system simply was
not designed to take today's trucks, it has degenerated further and far
more rapidly than was anticipated because of trucks, and the rebuilding
is proving to be incredibly costly because of new engineering specs for
roadbeds and bridges to accomodate trucks. The gov't must institute a
graduated plan to increase taxes on trucks with the stated intention of
eliminating all trucks over some small limits - perhaps as little as 1 or
2 tons of payload. This should force goods transport, which does not
require point-to-point transport in one vehicle anyway, to rail, where it
belongs. This will make highways cheaper to rebuild and will enable to
last longer with less maintenance, as well as reducing traffic an making
the existing road system more useful. It will also turn rail back into
a profitable industry, and rail is more efficient at cargo hauling than
trucks are, anyway. This will require Congress to show enough backbone
to tell the Teamsters they're going to be railroad men before they retire.
It will also tend to concentrate goods distribution - malls that cannot
gain access to a rail right-of-way will perish, others will spring up.
It will encourage larger malls, stores, etc. but they will be more con-
entrated (which should make Mike Tobis happy).

9. The gov't should encourage almost all other forms of transport except
energy intensive or unneeded transport. To me, this means a formalized
trail system for bikes and other HPV's and tiny-motor vehicles like
mopeds, light motorcycles and (where and when practical) snowmobiles,
all of which are more efficient than cars, etc. Business travel, most
of it by air, should be discouraged, especially air travel, which should
be taxed heavily. The proceeds of that tax should encourage expansion
of the national communication networks, permitting virtual commuting,
presentations, etc. This idea will drastically downsize the airline
industry, but the advantages are well worth the cost and, again, this
industry is more expendable than cars IF the alternatives are available.

None of this requires major social engineering, though the costs and effort
involved will spread throughout the country. Only three industries will be
significantly affected and of those only one - a far smaller one than the
auto industry - will be eliminated. Aside from standing up to special in-
trests it requires nothing Congress hasn't done already, nor does it require
any erosion of individual liberty.

With central power coming from nuclear and other clean sources, with decentral-
ized power and heat from solar, etc. and with cars using fuel whose carbon is
removed directly from the atmosphere, we should be able to reach 0-increase
in 20 years. The increasing plant biomass program will then be able to turn
the rate negative, albeit at a much slower rate than increase that preceded it.
In 100 years our great-grandchildren would have to deal with the problem of
balancing CO2 production to maintain the climate at the desired level, but that
will give Carl and his friends time to perfect their models of the climate.

I expect I'll catch hell for this, but what the heck, I've got my flameproof
Doctor Dentons on.

Giles Morris

unread,
Jun 11, 1992, 11:09:10 AM6/11/92
to
sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:

>I think we flatter ourselves we know so much or have so much power. This
>study confirms my opinion (again) that we really have no clue what will happen,
>and that major and drastic action either way would be as likely to magnify the
>effects as minimize them.

You make the point well. We have been causing major & dramatic action, and
continue to do so. Would it not make sense to (at the very least) lessen the
rate of increase of that action? You are equating allowing things to continue
as they are with a lack of "major and dramatic action" when the reverse is true.

Giles Morris ...uunet!viusys!gilesm

Giles Morris

unread,
Jun 11, 1992, 11:22:12 AM6/11/92
to
sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:

>You need a bit of exercise, Michael. You need to learn that people can
>disagree with you and not be evil, that they can agree with your goal and
>not with your methods, that they can think you might be right but want to
>see some proof and explanation anyway. It's time for YOU to come down off
>your high horse and start justifying some of YOUR positions.

I've been wondering about this theme for a while, and I think that Larry is
performing a useful function in this. In fact I have to wonder whether it
might even be deliberate - it's hard to imagine anyone being this irrational
accidentally. But the population in general _is_ as stubborn, half-informed
paranoid, loth to change etc. as the best that Larry has to offer. The concept
of the "red team" is used successfully in business and in military planning,
and could work well for the environmental movement. Perhaps we need more LSs.

>I *do* have an axe to grind. I want to see YOU
>justify your position, I want you to prove to MY satisfaction that the dire
>social requirements you advocate to address these problems are really needed.

We tend to forget that there are many people whose thinking is _not_ changed
when a point is proved. For example, I might find a study from a respected
organization that shows smoking is harmful. QED? No, Larry will say that he
doesn't trust that organization because it is biased and deliberately lied - he
will only accept information from the NHTSA under its current director. Well,
there are a lot of people out there who react in the same way, and I am glad to
have been reminded of that.

Things are moving, slowly, but it takes a lot to change that huge mass of
people who will not be convinced because they do not want to be convinced.

Giles Morris ...uunet!viusys!gilesm

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 11, 1992, 12:48:45 PM6/11/92
to
In article <gilesm.708275350@bird>, gil...@bird.uucp (Giles Morris) writes:
>You make the point well. We have been causing major & dramatic action, and
>continue to do so. Would it not make sense to (at the very least) lessen the
>rate of increase of that action? You are equating allowing things to continue
>as they are with a lack of "major and dramatic action" when the reverse is true.

I do more than support lessening the rate of increase, I advocate 0-rate
increase, even allowing for reduction, and I think it's possible without
major social engineering, with no more power than the gov't has already.
Please see my "What Can we Do Now?" post for more details.

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 11, 1992, 12:55:28 PM6/11/92
to
In article <gilesm.708276132@bird>, gil...@bird.uucp (Giles Morris) writes:
>I've been wondering about this theme for a while, and I think that Larry is
>performing a useful function in this. In fact I have to wonder whether it
>might even be deliberate - it's hard to imagine anyone being this irrational
>accidentally. But the population in general _is_ as stubborn, half-informed
>paranoid, loth to change etc. as the best that Larry has to offer. The concept
>of the "red team" is used successfully in business and in military planning,
>and could work well for the environmental movement. Perhaps we need more LSs.

<chuckle> Well, I'll settle for that. In any event, the idea seemed worth a
try, but I'm trying something more positive at this point.

>>I *do* have an axe to grind. I want to see YOU
>>justify your position, I want you to prove to MY satisfaction that the dire
>>social requirements you advocate to address these problems are really needed.

>We tend to forget that there are many people whose thinking is _not_ changed
>when a point is proved. For example, I might find a study from a respected
>organization that shows smoking is harmful. QED? No, Larry will say that he
>doesn't trust that organization because it is biased and deliberately lied - he
>will only accept information from the NHTSA under its current director. Well,
>there are a lot of people out there who react in the same way, and I am glad to
>have been reminded of that.

And please further realize this is a very important factor in any cost-benefit
analysis. We can't ban cigarettes, people won't stand for it - but we can ban
them in public places, we can tax them, etc. and people will stand for that.
We can also try to redirect behaviour - encourage gum-chewing or whatever.
Social engineering, in any form, strives against this barrier, technology, and
the use of existing societal machinery does not.

>Things are moving, slowly, but it takes a lot to change that huge mass of
>people who will not be convinced because they do not want to be convinced.

If circumstances are as dire as you say, we cannot afford the time. Best we
work for the half a loaf, that, at least, is worth something in the interim.
If we get some discussion going on the "What Do We Do Now?" thread, I expect
opportunities to introduce arcologies, move major portions of the population,
etc, will present themselves - in a NON-coercive fashion.

Carl J Lydick

unread,
Jun 11, 1992, 2:21:37 PM6/11/92
to
In article <42...@balrog.ctron.com>, sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:
>5. Extensive and generous tax breaks must be enacted for anyone who reduces
> CO2 emissions, by whatever means (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, whatever)
> that reduces reliance on central power.

This might better accomplished by including CO2 in the proposed tradeable
pollution permits scheme.

> These breaks MUST more than off-
> set the rate hikes that invariably follow when power is conserved. Power
> utilities must be put on notice that theirs is a shrinking industry, and
> that profits have already peaked.

Given the ubiquity of rate-of-return regulation of power utilities in this
country, this condition isn't necessary. If tradeable permits to produce CO2
were implemented, there would be a point where the cost of buying and holding
the CO2 permits would exceed the regulated rate of return on the contribution
of the CO2-producing power plant to the rate base. At that point, the utility
would have an incentive to retire the plant.


>6. The gov't must commit to a long term plan to eliminate reliance on non-
> renewable fuels.

Again, this doesn't follow. Once you've internalized the external costs of
producing CO2 (e.g., by tradeable CO2 permits), you don't need government
intervention to reduce the dependence on the fossil fuels: the economic
incentive will be in place.

> Availability must be mandated and use required in new vehicles exactly the
> way it was done for the switch to unleaded gasoline.

If it makes economic sense to sell and use the fuel, it will be sold and used.
We don't need government intervention in the form of "mandates." For example,
the government regulations intended to reduce photochemical smog ended up
placing more restrictions on hydrocarbon emissions than on NOx, when in many
cases, NOx reduction would've been a better way to go.

>7. Cars must get smaller and lighter, and they cannot do so at the present
> time because of prescriptive laws regarding safety, emissions, etc.

But you're advocating exactly the same sort of laws for reducing dependence on
fossil fuels. Such laws nearly always have unforseen and undesirable
side-effects.


> The gov't must institute a
> graduated plan to increase taxes on trucks with the stated intention of
> eliminating all trucks over some small limits - perhaps as little as 1 or
> 2 tons of payload. This should force goods transport, which does not
> require point-to-point transport in one vehicle anyway, to rail, where it
> belongs. This will make highways cheaper to rebuild and will enable to
> last longer with less maintenance, as well as reducing traffic an making
> the existing road system more useful.

If it does this, then it will also require a fairly massive increase in the
number of rail lines. There comes a point where it doesn't make sense to have
a (relatively seldom-used) rail line that duplicates the route of an existing
highway.

> It will also turn rail back into
> a profitable industry, and rail is more efficient at cargo hauling than
> trucks are, anyway.

Not universally. There's some break-even amount of cargo per trip. With less
cargo, trucks are more efficient.

> Business travel, most
> of it by air, should be discouraged, especially air travel, which should
> be taxed heavily.

Again, if the external costs are internalized, there's no reason for a surtax
on any mode of travel.

David Halliwell

unread,
Jun 10, 1992, 10:30:12 PM6/10/92
to


Sigh! Just one last fix before I go....


In article <42...@balrog.ctron.com> sm...@ctron.com writes:

> If at any
>point the snow from the year just past doesn't have time to melt before the
>next years snow arrives, that's an Ice Age, by DEFINITION.

I assume you mean any point in space, Larry? Are you saying that if
any point on the globe has snow throughout the summer, then the entire
globe is in an ice age, or just that local point is in an ice age?

If you mean the entire globe is in an ice age, then we are in one
now. (Of course, you stated last week that it was an INCONTROVERTIBLE
FACT that the world was supposed to have gone into an ice age 10,000
years ago. Fact confirmed?) Of course, that *is* one valid definition
of "ice age", but Larry probably didn't read the recent postings on
the meanings of "ice age", "glacial", and "interglacial". I can't
remember if it was in sci.environment, sci.geo.geology, or
sci.geo.meteorology.

If you mean only that local point is in an ice age, then we must
have thousands of ice-age climates existing on a local scale in the
north of Canada, where small patches of prennial snow at the base of
north-facing slopes are rather common. Of course, these ice ages would
be surrounded by vast areas of non-ice-age climates, where the local
topography doesn't favour retention of snow. Interesting concept: an
ice age all my own, in an area as small as my back yard.

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 11, 1992, 4:05:32 PM6/11/92
to
In article <1992Jun11....@cco.caltech.edu>, ca...@SOL1.GPS.CALTECH.EDU (Carl J Lydick) writes:
<in response to my>

>>6. The gov't must commit to a long term plan to eliminate reliance on non-
>> renewable fuels.

>Again, this doesn't follow. Once you've internalized the external costs of
>producing CO2 (e.g., by tradeable CO2 permits), you don't need government
>intervention to reduce the dependence on the fossil fuels: the economic
>incentive will be in place.

>> Availability must be mandated and use required in new vehicles exactly the
>> way it was done for the switch to unleaded gasoline.

>If it makes economic sense to sell and use the fuel, it will be sold and used.

I agree with this assessment, but I point out the inevitable chicken and egg
problem with new fuels. Your scheme, while workable for powerplants and the
like, doesn't address this for cars - no one wants to sell alcohol if no cars
use it, and no cars will use it until someone sells it. All the gov't really
has to do is get the ball rolling to break the impasse, just like the switch
from leaded to unleaded.

>We don't need government intervention in the form of "mandates." For example,
>the government regulations intended to reduce photochemical smog ended up
>placing more restrictions on hydrocarbon emissions than on NOx, when in many
>cases, NOx reduction would've been a better way to go.

Ye, Gods, my own Libertarian stuff shot back at me! Yes, it's a flawed tool,
but I think the ball can't roll until the gov't starts it.

One way I *do* see it working is if there is a really considerable advantage
to the new fuel in a relatively short term. I frankly don't know how cheap
alcohol could be made, but if it cost, say, 25 cents a gallon and alcohol-
cars were exempt from taxes for the first five or ten years, then I could see
purely economic motives successfully transiting to it. But if alcohol winds
up costing a buck a gallon plus forty cents tax and the development costs of
the first alcohol cars put them into the $30,000 special luxury tax and so on,
no, I don't think it'll happen. Too much short-term benefit not to switch.

>>7. Cars must get smaller and lighter, and they cannot do so at the present
>> time because of prescriptive laws regarding safety, emissions, etc.

>But you're advocating exactly the same sort of laws for reducing dependence on
>fossil fuels. Such laws nearly always have unforseen and undesirable
>side-effects.

In this particular circumstance, better the devil we DON'T know, than the one
we do. Virtually all the major car manufactures in the US have experimented
with carbon fiber and other exotic ultralight material, and all of them have
indicated that they can't use it for fear of liability lawsuits. I suspect
they mean the cost of liability plus the cost of development plus the cost of
the new material makes the cars uneconomic. Of course, if they sell ultra-
lights in Europe for ten years, it makes a big difference, and that's why the
US got anti-lock brakes so many years after European cars had them.

>> The gov't must institute a
>> graduated plan to increase taxes on trucks with the stated intention of
>> eliminating all trucks over some small limits - perhaps as little as 1 or
>> 2 tons of payload. This should force goods transport, which does not
>> require point-to-point transport in one vehicle anyway, to rail, where it
>> belongs. This will make highways cheaper to rebuild and will enable to
>> last longer with less maintenance, as well as reducing traffic an making
>> the existing road system more useful.

>If it does this, then it will also require a fairly massive increase in the
>number of rail lines. There comes a point where it doesn't make sense to have
>a (relatively seldom-used) rail line that duplicates the route of an existing
>highway.

Been thinking about that. Consider this: SOME of the existing highway system
is DEDICATED to trucks, redesigned and rebuilt for trucks if needed, and
intended to supplement and feed to major rail arteries. Such highways would
not allow small vehicles, and the rest of the highways would not allow larger
ones. Ever. In your hypothetical case above, that road might be designated
a truck road, and if car access were really need in addition, you'd put down
some jersey barriers or whatever, like the dopey "carpool" lanes we already
have. Cars on one side, trucks on the other.

>> It will also turn rail back into
>> a profitable industry, and rail is more efficient at cargo hauling than
>> trucks are, anyway.

>Not universally. There's some break-even amount of cargo per trip. With less
>cargo, trucks are more efficient.

This is so, but I see no reason why smaller trains can't run, either. I also
suspect the break-even is also dependant on distance, cargo going cross-town
versus cross-country, and so forth. Feeder lines, as outlined above, would
help this, too.

>> Business travel, most
>> of it by air, should be discouraged, especially air travel, which should
>> be taxed heavily.

>Again, if the external costs are internalized, there's no reason for a surtax
>on any mode of travel.

The form of the tax matters little to me, but in this (for me, rare) case I
think a specific tax is called for. Businesses are less sensitive to price
than individuals and "business men" indulge in a very great deal of unneeded
travel - a staggering amount, really. Even today, conference calls, remote
teleconferencing, and so forth are underused. There is a lot of inertia
there.

Carl J Lydick

unread,
Jun 11, 1992, 4:31:46 PM6/11/92
to
In article <42...@balrog.ctron.com>, sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:
>>> The gov't must institute a
>>> graduated plan to increase taxes on trucks with the stated intention of
>>> eliminating all trucks over some small limits - perhaps as little as 1 or
>>> 2 tons of payload. This should force goods transport, which does not
>>> require point-to-point transport in one vehicle anyway, to rail, where it
>>> belongs. This will make highways cheaper to rebuild and will enable to
>>> last longer with less maintenance, as well as reducing traffic an making
>>> the existing road system more useful.
>
>>If it does this, then it will also require a fairly massive increase in the
>>number of rail lines. There comes a point where it doesn't make sense to have
>>a (relatively seldom-used) rail line that duplicates the route of an existing
>>highway.
>
>Been thinking about that. Consider this: SOME of the existing highway system
>is DEDICATED to trucks, redesigned and rebuilt for trucks if needed, and
>intended to supplement and feed to major rail arteries.

We've got something akin to that in California already. Trucks are restricted
to the two rightmost lanes of any freeway, and are prohibited entirely on some
freeways. While the two right-hand lanes on freeways are not DEDICATED to
trucks, the conditions in which automobile drivers will want to use these lanes
are those under which major accidents are relatively unlikely (it's hard to get
injured severely when traffic's moving at 5 mph :-). Of course, there's still
the problem of getting on and off the freeway, and one problem with California
freeways that I think makes the freeway traffic problems worse than they need
to be is that they have too many exit and entrance ramps.

>This is so, but I see no reason why smaller trains can't run, either. I also
>suspect the break-even is also dependant on distance, cargo going cross-town
>versus cross-country, and so forth. Feeder lines, as outlined above, would
>help this, too.

There's also the matter of increased flexibility of the highway system. It's
probably easier to schedule trucks such that they run without cargo less of the
time than would trains.

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 12, 1992, 11:25:42 AM6/12/92
to
In article <1992Jun11....@cco.caltech.edu>, ca...@SOL1.GPS.CALTECH.EDU (Carl J Lydick) writes:

>We've got something akin to that in California already. Trucks are restricted
>to the two rightmost lanes of any freeway, and are prohibited entirely on some
>freeways. While the two right-hand lanes on freeways are not DEDICATED to

Sounds like an existance proof to me! :D

>>This is so, but I see no reason why smaller trains can't run, either. I also
>>suspect the break-even is also dependant on distance, cargo going cross-town
>>versus cross-country, and so forth. Feeder lines, as outlined above, would
>>help this, too.

>There's also the matter of increased flexibility of the highway system. It's
>probably easier to schedule trucks such that they run without cargo less of the
>time than would trains.

Seems to me the question there is whether the increased flexibility is worth
the cost - whether in $, lives, CO2, or whatever.

A related idea is to simply torpedo the existing rail system and pave over the
roadbeds for use by heavy trucks - which would probably be dragging mucho
trailero just like a train anyway, if they didn't have to share with cars. But
then the question arises which industry can do the job better, and who has more
capital equipment it would be nice to salvage.

We can dicker over details, but I think the basic idea of splitting cargo and
personal transport is sound. No more trucks idling in traffic belching out
clouds of diesel exhaust, no more jacknifes on exit ramps, no more cars
mangled beyond recognition by encounters with trucks driven by caffinated
lunies, not to mention an end to the rail subsidies. I'd like to see some
study work done on it, but intuitively it seems much more efficient, particu-
larly after a few years when malls and other major outlets gets their own
spurs/feeder roads, etc.

But the biggest advantage is it removes one major safety objection to smaller
and lighter cars. This I know: I would never by a car that weighed 1000 lbs,
no matter HOW good its mileage or HOW good its CO2 emission if I knew the
first double-trailer truck was going to put me in a ditch!

Joel J. Hanes

unread,
Jun 12, 1992, 1:08:40 PM6/12/92
to
> ... In many of my postings to this group I must plead guilty to being

>"deliberately obtuse". There are so many things that so many people take for
>granted here that I find myself trying to pick arguments ...

Obviously. If your posts had the saving grace of new information, or
cogent reasoning, they'd still be valuable, albeit irritating.
However, since you've amply demonstrated that you're clueless,
and openly admit that you're intentionally picking fights --

you're a waste of time.

/smith@ctron/a:j

---
Joel Hanes

Joel J. Hanes

unread,
Jun 12, 1992, 1:02:45 PM6/12/92
to
An interesting thread. Allow me to contribute my provincial viewpoint.

It's known from pollen studies of lake deposits in Iowa that
Iowa, and by extension much of the Midwest, was too dry to grow
trees for at least two intervals since the Wisconsin glaciation
(i.e., within the last 10,000 years); during these intervals,
Iowa seems to have resembled eastern Colorado - dryland short-grass
prairie.

Now the foram-test study cited in the basenote offers evidence
that such climactic changes may occur relatively quickly --
that one day it may just stop raining in Iowa, and not rain
for a long time, until all the trees are dead.

So, who cares if there's trees in Iowa? We all should.

Humans have wonderful technology today, but we all eat, and
essentially all our food comes from agriculture. With only
few and short-lived exceptions, the incredibly productive
agriculture that feeds North Americans depends on adequate
annual precipitation, and even five years of drought provokes
considerable difficulty. California's production depends on
Sierra snowpack, and rainfall in the Feather River country;
in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Kansas,
irrigation is rare -- if it doesn't rain enough, crops fail.
Our food reserves are not high -- (interestingly, the Federal
government surplus traditionally distributed to schools and
the needy is exhausted at present) -- and a decade
of serious crop failure would provoke economic and social
change on a scale that I, at least, prefer not to experience.

Note that very little grain farming is conducted on the dryland
short-grass prairies of the western Dakotas, western Nebraska,
eastern Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. Settlers tried to
farm these regions, and failed. True, vast aquifers exist,
and are tapped in some places, but they are insufficient to
support our agricultural base even if fully and agressively
exploited -- and such exploitation is a temporary solution,
since the recharge time is measured in millenia.

So: we have evidence for relatively sudden climate changes in
the recent past, and such a change occuring now would wreck
the productivity of US agriculture. So what?

In the US, the Dust Bowl was a minor foretaste of what
such a climactic excursion can mean -- it was one of the
forces that toppled an over-leveraged economy into the
Great Depression. (I'm no economist, but I think I understand
that the national economy is once again highly-leveraged, with
the banking system fragile, and many debt-burdened businesses
absolutely dependent on maintaining their cash flow for
continued survival.)

The high ratio of city-dwellers to farmers that has arisen
the world over is another kind of leveraging. Most of us
can't and don't feed ourselves by our own efforts -- we
rely on highly-productive specialists to produce for us,
and an elaborate infrastruture to bring it to a store near us.
If those specialists fail, or are even significantly interrrupted,
cities become untenable. Bread riots are an urban phenomenon.

Civilization depends on, and is a product of agriculture. No
cities existed before the invention of agriculture; my
Random House atlas points out that every city shown on the map
implies the existence of sufficient productive fields nearby
to feed its inhabitants. "Nearby" is relative -- before
1700, it meant "within fifty miles"; after the proliferation
of railroads and grain elevators, it came to mean "on the same
continent". In the nineteenth century, with the rise of
huge grain-carrying cargo ships, grain became a worldwide
commodity -- but that was the last technological innovation in
grain transport. Food is fantastically bulky and heavy -- the
corn from a single moderately-productive 100-acre Iowa field
(150 bu/acre -- 15,000 bu) weighs on the order of a million pounds,
and needs more than ten rail cars to get it to market.
Surprisingly, trucks are little used for grain tranport, because
of grain's high weight and low value; planes aren't even considered.
It would be an interesting effort to compute the number of semi-trailer
truck miles involved in moving the US grain harvest from local
elevator to barge terminus. Yes, barges -- grain is too bulky
for even railroads to carry if any other means is available.

To get to the point -- What impacts will people suffer if a
short-onset climate fluctuation happens and lasts for a
couple decades or a century? In the past, changes on this
scale have meant economic dislocation, social dislocation,
ill-considered changes in government, and the breakdown of
whole societies. Of course, it could never happen to us ...

still, I'm extremely unwilling to see my invested life savings
evaporate in a string of bank failures, or the return of
the Dust Bowl on a larger scale, or widespread business failure
and structural unemployment.

It seems to me that those who glibly say "eco-systems must be
resilient enough" are suffering from a failure of imagination,
an apparent inability to believe that _their_ lives will be
seriously affected by climate change. Perhaps they are young.

Ecosystems may be resilient, but human lives, institutions, and
cultures are not, particularly. Shit happens.

---
Joel Hanes

Larry Smith

unread,
Jun 12, 1992, 3:45:51 PM6/12/92
to
In article <1ehS02G...@JUTS.ccc.amdahl.com>, jj...@outs.ccc.amdahl.com (Joel J. Hanes) writes:
>In article <42...@balrog.ctron.com> sm...@ctron.com writes:
>> ... In many of my postings to this group I must plead guilty to being
>>"deliberately obtuse". There are so many things that so many people take for
>>granted here that I find myself trying to pick arguments ...

>you're a waste of time.

Joel, go find your significant other and get a hug.

David Halliwell

unread,
Jun 11, 1992, 7:55:03 PM6/11/92
to

In <42...@balrog.ctron.com> sm...@ctron.com (Larry Smith) writes:

>In article <1992Jun10....@meteor.wisc.edu>, to...@meteor.wisc.edu (Michael Tobis) writes:
>
>>Larry Smith seems capable of generating more confusion and misinformation
>>about the atmosphere that I have time or patience to respond to and yet
>>it is very difficult to let his ramblings go unanswered. I would urge
>>everyone to take all his doubts with a grain of salt. I urge Larry to
>>actually try to learn some of the basics before he criticizes the science.
>
>Larry Smith is reasonably well-informed professional who is not given to
>parroting lines given to him by environmental extremists with a social
>engineering agenda. I would urge everyone to take *everything* in this
>group with a grain of salt, mine, yours, Alan's, Michael Vandeman's, and
>everyone elses, and let each one use his own brain.
>

In my humble opinion, as a person who's job it is (in part) to
assess the climate knowledge of several hundred students per year, Larry
Smith is rather poorly informed in the subjects of meteorology and
climatology, and has spent most of the last couple of weeks parrotting
the lines given to him by anti-environmental extremists rebelling against
environmentalists. Larry's extremism has done little to foster useful
debate in this group. Instead, he has alienated knowledgable scientists
and enflamed the people he seems to be most upset about.

Of course, there are likely areas in which Larry is quite competent,
but climatology is not one of them.

>As for learning the basics, I am, and I am continuing to. YOU might take
>the same advice - I'd suggest a good basic computer text to start, then
>a good intro into psychology.

To suggest that Michael Tobis - who has departed this group until he
has a working ocean circulation model - needs an introduction to basic
computing simply demonstrates Larry Smith's woefully inadequate
understanding of this area of science.



>Look, I'm happy to exchange views with you on policy and society and
>>objectives and so on, but I have no interest in debating atmospheric science
>>with someone who doesn't know any. I haven't the time to respond to every
>
>Then you have no right to bitch and complain when people disagree with you
>on policy and society because "they don't know any atmospheric science".

If the person is advocating a policy based on a misunderstanding of
atmospheric science, then Michael is perfectly correct in pointing out
that misunderstanding.


Dave Halliwell | "Learn from the mistakes of others;
Department of Geography | you'll not live long enough to make
University of Alberta | them all yourself..."
Edmonton, Alberta. | - Canada Aviation Safety Letter.

Jan Schloerer

unread,
Jun 12, 1992, 6:18:43 PM6/12/92
to
In article <1992Jun11.0...@cco.caltech.edu>

ca...@SOL1.GPS.CALTECH.EDU (Carl J Lydick) writes :

> The Gulf Stream now goes quite far north, and as it does so, it brings


> warmth to places like Norway and Britain. At times in the past, the
> Gulf Stream turned east by the time it got as far north as Portugal.
> This means that it didn't bring warmth to Norway and Britain. If it
> should do this again, Britain and Portugal will get colder.
>

> As the Gulf Stream flows north, water evaporates. The concentration of
> salt in the water increases. The water becomes denser. At some point,
> it sinks, and forms another current, called the North Atlantic Deep
> Water, which flows south at the bottom of the ocean. If a source of
> fresh water is added to the north Atlantic, as it could be if some of
> the polar ice melts, the salinity will drop. This makes the water less
> dense. The transition from the Gulf Stream to the North Atlantic Deep
> Water might be impeded or forced further south. The Gulf Stream might
> no longer flow past Britain and Norway. Both of these countries are
> currently warmer than they would be without the Gulf Stream. If the
> Gulf Stream doesn't reach them, they'll get colder.

That's how the "Atlantic conveyor" can get shut down. Just how quickly
might that happen ? As noone seems to have addressed this, and as some
more, potentially badly hurt, Europeans might be listening (sigh, another
"last" post) ...

Lehman's work is referring to the Younger Dryas. The Younger Dryas,
named for the arctic Dryas flower, is a 1000-year or so cold-spell
centering around the Northern Atlantic. It's onset and the shutdown of
the conveyor seem to have occured about 11000 years ago. Why was the
onset so sudden ? Broecker and Denton (What drives glacial cycles ?
Sci.American 262,1,Jan.1990,42-50) think it was due to a sudden outflow
of enormous amounts of fresh water from the melting North American ice
sheet. The ice sheet started shrinking about 14000 years ago; at first
the meltwater from it's southern edge flowed down the Mississippi to
the Gulf of Mexico. A vast lake (Lake Agassiz, Southern Manitoba) had
formed in the bedrock depression at the edge of the retreating ice
sheet. When the retreat of the ice sheet opened a channel to the east,
the meltwater started to pour into the North Atlantic, flowing across
the region of the Great Lakes and down the St. Lawrence. The water
level of Lake Agassiz seems to have dropped by 40 meters. btw,
does anyone know whether this is generally accepted or whether other
(reasonable :-) explanations have been proposed ?

Today, where might the fresh water come from ? There is no Lake
Agassiz. The Greenland ice sheet seems unlikely to collapse terribly
fast - see the recent post by Bob Grumbine: "on the order of several
hundred years". Next, precipitation. Many of the general circulation
models seem to vote for increased precipitation in the high latitudes,
although they disagree somewhat on amount and locations [IPCC 1990,
Working Group I, chapter 5]; of course, they tell nothing about the
ocean. In 1990 there was one _very_ _preliminary_ result from a
coupled GCM [IPCC 90/I, chapter 6, experiment by Stouffer/Manabe],
assuming CO2 increasing 1 % per year for 70 (?) years - when the
results were extrapolated to perhaps 150 years, the Atlantic conveyor
might have come to a standstill.

If and when the Lehman study gets into the media hereabout, we'll get
our usual amount of scaremongering ("ice age by the year 2000") and
debunking ("just a theory"). Are there any more recent results ?
Any additional information ?

Thanks, Jan Schloerer

-------------------------------------------------------------------
Jan Schloerer Internet: schl...@rzmain.rz.uni-ulm.de
Klinische Dokumentation Univ. Ulm Schwabstr. 13
Postfach 3880 D-W-7900 Ulm Germany