A denialist makes seductive, but hollow, claims

Check out this comment at the Intersection blog at the Discover Magazine website:


39.   Steve Says:
August 19th, 2010 at 4:52 pm

AGW proponents argue from a faith in models, implying that we can only postulate what will happen because a real experiment cannot be run. Sadly for AGW proponents, Earth has run the massive atmospheric CO2 experiment. Proxy data shows that atmospheric CO2 has been 10 – 20 times what it is today. The result? The planet survived. It even thrived. Was it warmer than today? For certain periods, yes, it was. But, for other periods, it was colder. These facts alone should be enough to educate an open mind that CO2 is NOT strongly correlated to temperature and catastrophic global warming is impossible.

Lest one think that the proxy data cannot be trusted, we have evidence within recent history of the same result. First, however, a primer. It is well known that temperature follows a logarithmic function in the presence of rising CO2 levels. That is, temperature rises more at a lower CO2 range increase (say, from 100ppm to 150ppm) than at a higher CO2 range increase (say, from 300ppm to 350ppm) . From roughly 1940 to present, CO2 has been increasing. If AGW theory is correct (i.e. CO2 is THE major variable controlling global temperature), then there should be a strong, logarithmic correlation between temperatures and rising CO2 levels after 1940. That is, a larger temperature increase between, say, 1940 – 1950 as opposed to 1990 – 2000. What we see, though, is that global temperature actually decreased slightly between roughly 1940 – 1970 (culminating in the ice age scare) before beginning a roughly 3 decade increase (culminating in the AGW scare). In addition, over half of the global temperature increase of the 20th century occurred BEFORE 1940, when CO2 levels were fairly constant. An open mind that follows data to arrive at a conclusion would rightly conclude that CO2 is NOT a major variable in global temperature.

Frankly, I don’t care if any kind of cap-and-trade system passes. Energy use will not dissipate. And since fossil fuel holds the most energy density, it will be used. Cap-and-trade will simply increase the cost of everything. People will either: 1) demand more money for their labor in order to maintain their standard of living or 2) get poorer. In the period of economic instability, several individuals and companies will get VERY rich.

By 2100, CO2 will have increased even more. If the trend of the past 200 years continues, global temperatures will increase steadily with 20 -40 year modulations that follow the warm and cold phases of the oceans. Our understanding of bioshpere mechanics will have increased immensely and enough data will have been gathered to know that CO2 is not the boogeyman that grant-seeking “scientists” thought it was. If fossil fuel usage is not declining, it will be much more costly (even in inflation-adjusted terms). If we are smart, nuclear energy will be much more abundant. If we are even smarter, we will have found a way to reprocess the waste for re-use. Energy storage technology will have increased to the point that wind and solar energy can provide a steady stream of power around the clock. They will, however, still be a niche technologies.

Our great-grandchildren will look back on this time and wonder what the f*#k we were thinking and curse us for putting politics ahead of common sense and sound science.

First, the models Steve refers to are based on the physical and chemical laws that govern all of matter. If you wish to debunk those models, you must show either that the models are incomplete or that the laws are incorrect. He has not.

Second, Steve does not specify when the CO2 levels were 10 or 20 times higher than today. Indeed, we can be certain that the Earth’s atmosphere was full of CO2 about four billion years ago, just as Venus’ atmosphere is today. The critical difference between the two planets is that Venus is closer to the Sun, and it has no oceans like Earth does to absorb some of the CO2 and lock it away. It also does not have life, including plants to absorb even more CO2. The reason the Sun did not burn us up hundreds of millions of years ago when the CO2 levels were much higher than today was because the Sun was also much less luminous, as you would expect with a star that had less helium and more hydrogen in its core (Helium is at least four times denser than hydrogen and helium is also what hydrogen fuses into to produce its sunlight. Denser concentrations of gas in the cores of stars will indeed be hotter. Strange that Steve overlooked that). And at most geologic periods,  Earth WAS warmer than today and the sea levels were much higher. But that was not a problem because our civilization did not exist. The concern today is that our civilization is so highly adapted to the specific global climate of the late 20th Century that ANY significant deviation from that will do great damage to that civilization.

Third, Steve ignores that fossil fuels are nonrenewable and when they begin to grow scarce, the price of them will skyrocket anyway. Indeed, the best way to lower the price of fossil fuels at present is to REDUCE DEMAND FOR THEM!  Which is a compelling reason to switch to renewable sources; the only reason we haven’t yet is because the fossil fuel companies have rigged our so-called “free market” economy to support their perpetual dominance. That has to be stopped, or we will end up with fossil fuel companies only getting richer and richer at the expense (literally) of the rest of us, global warming or no global warming. That’s why we need governments to step in and use some kind of force to stop them.

Fourth, CO2 is not THE only factor in climate change. The drop in global temperatures between 1940 and 1970 could have been a temporary halt in global warming, not a sign of cooling, due to factors such as the advent of nuclear energy which largely replaced fossil fuels for a time before accidents like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl lessened public support for the use of nuclear fuels, making fossil fuels more popular once again. And since we have had reliable CO2 measurements only since the 1950s, we cannot say for certain what global CO2 levels were prior to that decade. So his claim that “over half of the global temperature increase of the 20th century occurred BEFORE 1940, when CO2 levels were fairly constant,” is unfounded.

Steve is not open-minded at all. He is an idiot who beleives the denialist claims without testing them, as I have.


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