Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Global warming?

By B'Trey in MLP
Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 05:58:56 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

US President George W. Bush has taken a lot of flack for his stand on the Kyoto Protocol. A recently released report from the National Academy of Sciences was widely reported as confirming global warming. One of the authors of the report, however, challenges the common interpretation and the conclusion that it supports adherence to the Kyoto Protocols.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Misunderstanding scientific studies is the fault of ....
o Scientists who write incomprehensible reports. 1%
o Journalists who fail to adequately research their stories. 10%
o Idealogical journalists who slant their coverage. 29%
o A scientificly illiterate public. 21%
o A lazy public who never looks beyond the sound bites. 24%
o The K5 cabal, who likes it that way. 12%

Votes: 57
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kyoto Protocol
o widely reported
o challenges the common interpretation and the conclusion that it supports adherence to the Kyoto Protocols.
o Also by B'Trey

Display: Sort:
Global warming? | 30 comments (27 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Global warming not a fact (2.46 / 13) (#1)
by treetops on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 07:58:54 PM EST

A few selections

This the full report did, making clear that there is no consensus, unanimous or otherwise, about long-term climate trends and what causes them.


But--and I cannot stress this enough--we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future. That is to say, contrary to media impressions, agreement with the three basic statements tells us almost nothing relevant to policy discussions.

Gosh! Could that mean that the millions of dollars worth of junk science lobbied for by environmental organizations was a waste of taxpayers' money?

I guess when you can't justify spending millions and millions of taxpayers' money and writing laws to subvert the constitution and individual freedom to "protect our children", you can use it to "protect our trees"

Not a two-state problem. (4.00 / 3) (#3)
by ucblockhead on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 09:38:12 PM EST

"We don't know yet" != "It is not a fact"
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Burden of Proof (3.00 / 3) (#7)
by ubu on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 10:42:22 PM EST

Before ratifying a treaty that would cripple the US economy and create a supernational regulatory boondoggle worth trillions of dollars... don't you think the burden of proof ought to be met?

"No!", scream the environmentalists. But they hate the rest of us, anyway...


As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
No (3.50 / 2) (#9)
by ucblockhead on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:07:28 PM EST

I just think that posters should stop screaming "NOT A FACT!" when that is not what the story said.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Eh (3.00 / 3) (#11)
by ubu on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:16:05 PM EST

It's true the story didn't say that. But posters who express their skepticism about the notion that global warming is a) occurring, or b) the result of mankind, are entirely justified in doing so.

Personally, I find the whole idea of "global warming" to be laughable, and indeed most everyone I know laughs cheerfully when the subject arises in polite conversation.

Anyway, polite conversation is the appropriate place for pseudo-science like global warming. What infuriates most of its opponents is that it has crawled out of dinner-party banter into international politics.


As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Give reasons: (3.66 / 3) (#14)
by Mad Hughagi on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:37:48 AM EST

Personally, I find the whole idea of "global warming" to be laughable, and indeed most everyone I know laughs cheerfully when the subject arises in polite conversation.

Do you have some kind of global temperature measuring apparatus that determines just how much this situation is changing? You seem to take the point that it isn't a problem unless we can observe it's negative consequences. What ever happened to the prevention state of mind?

I can't believe people that think that humans have no effect on the environment. Global warming is real, many scientists have documented it, and although we may not have an exact reason to justify it's occurance, it surely cannot do any harm to look into such matters.

You truly must be sophisticated to laugh at such a situation. When the Earth has tumbled out of an equilibrium state in 50 years or so and is on runaway greenhouse mode, I don't think your kids will be laughing.

There is nothing I hate worse than people who justify their ignorance by ignoring the fact that the earth is a dynamic system. If you think that it will simply 'bounce back' under it's own accord, think again - there is no magic going on here. If you want to, listen to the politicians, but last I heard there aren't too many geo-physicist governers or biologist senators.

Unless you have reason to believe that global warming isn't happening, then you should be keeping an open view. A few years of economic downturn is worth the avoidance of global environmental catastrophes. Just because you don't know that this snake in the grass isn't deadly, will you still go up and touch it just for the sake of it?


We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

Global warming...and cooling... (3.50 / 2) (#22)
by Mantrid on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:02:49 AM EST

will happen whether or not humans are around. Ever hear of an ice age? Global warming is a boondoggle and our efforts are better spent cleaning up lakes and streams and air quality in major cities. Coincidentally this will happen to reduce green house emmissions, but it should in no way be our focus.

And as for the Kyoto Treaty not being signed by the Americans, maybe everyone should take a look at who actually has signed it....if it's so great why haven't all these other countries led the way and signed it to?

[ Parent ]

Here (5.00 / 2) (#26)
by Mad Hughagi on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:36:19 PM EST

is what the scientists think:

Recent Temperature Measurements

Global Warming and Health

It is recognized by most of the scientific community that humans are accelerating the trend of global warming. Granted, the Earth's temperature does fluctuate on it's own, but the point of the matter is that we are actually adding to the trends. Ever spin a bottle? Sometimes if you spin it a little, it will wobble about and maintain it's upright orientation. If you spin it a bit too hard though, the bottle might lose control and fall down. The way I see it is that we are adding to the natural fluctuations of the Earth - and that perhaps we may be instigating a dramatic climate change that would not happen in the natural cycle of things.

Reversing human impact on the environment is something we need to start taking seriously. Never in the history of man (that I know of anyways) have we possesed technology that could alter the nature of our planet to such a degree. To argue that we shouldn't take this seriously because other countries haven't is a very naive way of looking at things. Granted, the Kyoto Treaty is not really a solution, but it is a beginning, and by refusing to sign it we are giving all the rest of the countries incentive to follow in our footsteps - after all, if it isn't good enough for the US, then why should it be good enough for the rest of the world?

Global Warming must be approached scientifically, not by opinion and government policy that is rooted in economic development.


We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

Global Warming (2.50 / 2) (#23)
by Merk00 on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:10:51 AM EST

Interesting enough, I don't believe that global warming has ever been proven to be caused by humans. One other thing of importance to note is that we are coming off of a "mini ice age." The Thames River used to freeze about the year 1400 but it no longer does. There is a general warming trend, and there would be whether or not there was an idustrialized society. Whether or not humans actually influence global warming is still up to debate.

"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

Forget about global warming (3.50 / 6) (#4)
by spacejack on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 10:04:49 PM EST

We might accomplish more if we were to focus on real problems that have been with us for quite some time.

Studying the topic suggests a few things... (4.50 / 6) (#5)
by Xeriar on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 10:25:23 PM EST

For one, we're closer to an ice age than a (what would you call it, tropical age?). The range is five degrees and we're certainly getting warmer, but there are a lot of buffers that need to be overcome to make those changes.

Secondly, carbon dioxide is rather innefective as a greenhouse gas, compared to methane and other substances. That we produce it in such 'huge' quantities is surprising only when they don't tell you how much other animals produce (humans breath out about 5% CO2 compared to bringing .5% in, IIRC. While I don't know figures for other creatures, this adds up a bit :-)

There is no real 'natural' state of the earth, and the ice-capped state it is in now is not the only state. We're aware of the ice age, but this planet has also experienced periods where there were no such polar caps. These changes are not terribly gradual (blunt way of saying it) and we're going to eventually have to regulate Mother Nature as is, or Move (and a lot of people will die).

That said, I would rather have a treaty requiring countries to do a lot of serious research on the chemicals that they produce, and those that are found harmful will be (by treaty and law) quickly phased out. CFC's can be bad, but methane and CO2 really are not the culprits here.

When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.

There is no natural climate for earth. This is bad (3.80 / 5) (#8)
by eean on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:06:12 PM EST

If you look at the climate graphs that scientists have made by studying the ice caps, it's clear why civilization has developed when it did. Before the end of the last ice age the climate was seemed went up and down apparently with no real reason and very quickly (within a few years sometimes). Perhaps some sort of cycle. Humans did not have much do with these. This leads to the conclusion that one way or the other we are screwed, unless we are able to develop technology that keeps us where we are. We can't be sure of this, so we should be on the safe side and not put out a lot of CO2.

Indeed, by heating up the Earth it could ironically send us into an ice age, as ice age appear to come after periods of warming.

Humans are very good at adapting and we will survive any climate change (outside of plunging into the sun). Civilization I'm not so sure about.

[ Parent ]
Well don't confuse (3.50 / 4) (#12)
by Xeriar on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:36:34 PM EST

Civilization and civilization as we know it :-)

Live in Minnesota for awhile, and know how we take the cold. :-) The US has five years of food reserves - enough to get us through any reasonable volcanic eruption, or small meteor impact. Now, I don't know about the state of other nations, but the brown stuff has to hit the fan real DAMN hard to wipe us out now.

I don't think a single event could obliterate us, anymore. Even man-made factors have some serious 'design flaws' which we can be thankful for (and others could well be completely removed from the picture...)

When I'm feeling blue, I start breathing again.
[ Parent ]

Well, it isn't a single event (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by eean on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 11:53:39 AM EST

A climate change can occur over just a few years, but doesn't mean it is going to last just few years. A climate change can last thousands. Also, a climate change will change lots of things so it is kind of pushing it to call it a single event.

I think you're right, that a huge climate change will not put us back to hunting and gathering, but it will certainly make things a lot worse.

[ Parent ]
No natural state. (4.50 / 2) (#18)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 06:07:37 AM EST

Although I agree that there is not a natural Earth's state most changes fron one state to another are gradual, not sudden.

If mankind insists in forcing global changes without thinking about the consequences then our survival and the survival of many other species could be compromised.

To preserve the US's workers familiar economy undamaged sacrificing long term viability of our societies is a petty objective of a petty, uninformed ignorant president. We have to sacrifice a little now to make sure we have a sustainable future.

Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
[ Parent ]
Climate Change (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by ajduk on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 07:42:53 AM EST

Actually, the evidence of past climate changes suggests that very rapid climate change does happen. For instance, the last glacial-interglacial transition around 9000 years ago appears to have taken less than 100 years in some places.

[ Parent ]
2nd treaty canceled by Bush .. (2.75 / 4) (#10)
by Highlander on Tue Jun 19, 2001 at 11:08:42 PM EST

.. keep counting.

Any opinion stated would be trolling.

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.

no, this is the only one (3.66 / 3) (#13)
by physicsgod on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 01:37:10 AM EST

For now. Just saw something in the paper the other day about Colin Powell saying the US would get out of the ABM treaty as soon as the US has the technology to deploy a missile defence system. That would be perfectly justified, since the treaty contains a section saying either party can absolve the treaty for whatever reason as long as they give six months notice.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
That's Ok... (plus a rant...) (4.50 / 4) (#17)
by ajduk on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:44:37 AM EST

The US won't have that technology anytime soon.

Of course, the money involved COULD make the US self sufficient in energy from renewable sources, making OPEC blackmail (do what we want or we'll wreck your economy..) ineffective. With enough left over to safeguard all of Russia's nuclear weapons in properly secure facilities.

Any state which launches a nuclear weapon at the US, or allows its territory to be used for a launch, faces swift and total destruction. This is something of a disincentive.

However, a fair number of states can hold the US to ransom by reducing oil production. And there is nothing the US can do about this.

Even if Global warming was a myth, the main strategic problem for the US is NOT random nuclear attack, it's the reliance of the US on imported oil. Over the medium to long term, this can only be addressed by a switch to renewable energy technology.

[ Parent ]
US and Energy (3.33 / 3) (#21)
by Merk00 on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 09:02:34 AM EST

First of all, throwing more money at a problem does not solve the problem. There is research going on into renewable energy sources.

Second of all, the idea that the US can easily be held hostage by OPEC is not entirely true. The US maintains a strategic reserve of oil stored in Texas, I believe. There was talk of using some of it to lower energy prices while Clinton was in office but I don't believe it was ever done. The idea behind the strategic reserve is to prevent what happened in the '70's and more importantly, to provide the US with oil in time of war if imported oil was cut off. It's also important to remember that the US only imports about 50% of its oil. The rest is domestic. Holding the US "hostage" by not supplying oil is not as easy as it sounds and strategies to defeat that have been developed.

"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

I am reminded .... (3.00 / 4) (#15)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 02:09:34 AM EST

Of course, you can't make any definitive judgement based on writing styles, but this guy does sound awfully like the crowd who managed to insist for so long that the link between cigarettes and lung cancer was "not conclusively proven". If you keep raising your standard of evidence, you can support politically convenient points of view for a surprisingly long time.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
Also check out this link (3.50 / 2) (#20)
by Mantrid on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 08:53:37 AM EST

Another article in a similar vein at www.stats.org.

I mean come on really, are people going to deny the fact that there's been cycles of major climate change in the past, before humanity?

Global warming is a stupid thing to concentrate on. I'd like to see less emissions from cars, vehicles, and factories, but that's just so you can admire the Toronto skyline without the brown haze and breathing problems.

We need to act responsibly, we don't need to be in a state of panic.

Some thoughts on Global Warming... (5.00 / 3) (#25)
by jd on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:10:18 PM EST

First, let's look at the indisputable fact that climate changes have existed in the past. These invariably coincide with natural variations in the composition of the atmosphere.

One of the most dramatic of these changes occured some 3-4 billion years ago, when tiny microscopic organisms started converting CO2 into O2, changing the atmosphere from a scorching, uninhabitable condition into one in which life could exist.

The first problem that this raises is this: One of the largest counter-arguments to Global Warming is the claim that individuals cannot make changes on the scale that natural catastropic events do. Ummm, that's probably correct, but we're also a great deal more powerful than even large numbers of single-cell organisms. Yet they were perfectly able to orchastrate changes on a global scale.

The second problem this raises is just as significant. It shows that life alters the climate. The mere EXISTANCE of life will alter the climate. This is the basis behind a theory I've yet to see any significant contradiction for, which is James Lovelock's "Gaia Hypothesis", in which he argues that organic and inorganic processes are constantly shifting the climate, and that the climate you observe is simply the "best fit" for all processes involved.

Second, let's also look at the equally indispitable fact that climate changes are NOT cyclic. They're "chaotic", in that they never repeat at the same interval, no two climate shifts are the same (or even remotely similar), and that it is impossible to predict the behaviour of the climate at any given point in time, based on past points.

This also raises two problems. First, chaotic systems (also called "non-linear dynamic systems") are very sensitive to conditions. One tiny difference in the values at one point can (not will, it's not predictable) cascade into a HUGE difference at another point. That cascade effect is extremely complex, and is the primary reason that even "simple" systems, such as hurricanes, can follow seemingly-bizare paths, even stopping, reversing, or spinning round some geographic feature.

Now, if you can't predict what a chaotic system will do, and it is extremely sensitive to values, then you don't need a huge cause to generate a huge effect. A single vehicle =can= (not will!) shift the path of a storm, if it's placed "just so", the engine temperature is in "this range", and the velocity is within "these bounds".

On these grounds alone, you might want to hesitate before assuming that a power station can't affect the climate, simply becase it's smaller than, say, a volcano. The power station might be in just the right point, or have just the right characteristics, to start a cascade. The volcano might, too. Or neither. The only way to know is is to stop assuming and start number crunching.

The second problem this raises is related. Because chaotic systems are so utterly unpredictable (though =some= may be self-similar), they cannot (obviously!) be predicted. There is simply no way to seperate out human activity from natural activity. The systems are too enmeshed.

What does this mean? It means that we are not able to tell if the globe really IS warming, or to what degree that warming is due to human activity. It's NEVER going to be provable. It's never going to even be "probable". The best you can ever manage is a vague "possible", and that's what we have. The strongest possible determination of Global Warming has been issued, and all it amounts to is a "maybe".

Conclusion: Global Warming may be real. It might not be. There is simply no way to tell. The effects are (just barely) deterministic. Sometimes. (You're on the borders of Quantum Mechanics, when you start dealing with atoms and small molecules. And QM doesn't give a damn about anyone's need to be sure.) But even when they're deterministic, the system is non-resolvable. It's simply impossible to know what the system will do, for any given set of values.

This goes into weather forecasting. It's usually not too bad, over a period of a few hours, but even then it's still no "certain", and you can be sure that the "exact" values they predict won't occur in the majority of the area covered. Why? Because the system is just too unstable, too variable, too dynamic to predict.

And that produces the final problem. We don't know if cutting CO2, SO2 and NO2 levels will resolve anything. There's a significant chance that it might make things worse! The only way to find out is to do the work. You can't know what will happen unless you do. And you can't know what any other path would have done, had you followed it.

If you like certainty, tough. Nature forbids certainty, and it's Nature that deals the cards. Or sells the science rag.

Do I think the Kyoto Accords should be followed? Yes. Because although I can't be "certain" as to the consequences, I believe that the risks are much lower. I also believe that a competent industry can turn the problem into a gain. Total Input = Total Output. Total Output = Useful Output + Waste. If you reduce Waste, and keep Total Input the same, then your Useful Output increases, so increasing profit.

Anyone in "industry" who opposes the Accords does so because they're too naive or too scared to seek the opportunity in the risk.

Risk and reward (1.00 / 1) (#27)
by PresJPolk on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 12:45:55 PM EST

Do I think the Kyoto Accords should be followed? Yes. Because although I can't be "certain" as to the consequences, I believe that the risks are much lower. I also believe that a competent industry can turn the problem into a gain. Total Input = Total Output. Total Output = Useful Output + Waste. If you reduce Waste, and keep Total Input the same, then your Useful Output increases, so increasing profit.

Anyone in "industry" who opposes the Accords does so because they're too naive or too scared to seek the opportunity in the risk.

Did it maybe occur to you that many Americans, including those in "industry," are risk averse? They aren't interested in gambling our economy to appease some socialists and politicized scientists, even with the promise that there might be a huge payoff to a few lucky investors?

It also occurs to me that if some important tech was patented, but was needed to keep the US within Kyoto, that there would be a huge outcry for price caps on that tech. Once you start down the path of Euro socialism, it's easy to slide further down. Maybe that's why some of the non-risk averse people aren't intersted.

[ Parent ]
Risk-aversion (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by jd on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:24:04 PM EST

You take a risk, every time you cross the street, or eat chicken. (Actually, chicken is one of the most dangerous foods imaginable. Not only is salmonela a risk, but anthrax is often found in deposits of old chicken bones.)

You take these risks, not because they're "low", or some other claptrap, but because there is a long-term profit in many short-term risks.

This is also something many military people will recognise. Strategy has to be long-term, or you're finished before you've started. Unless you have set long-term objectives, you're going to have your arse kicked.

So, when you speak of Americans being "risk-averse", you can either be saying that in the short-term or the long-term. Either way, they WILL be risk-prone in the other. You cannot be risk-averse in both.

Many successful companies, including Microsoft, are very risk-averse in the short-term. They simply don't care about the immediate future. Why should they? They know they'll survive, and that survival will make them stronger. They also know that anyone who DOES focus on the immediate here-and-now won't be around next week to bother them.

(Wow! Something nice about Microsoft! I must be growing old.)

So, getting back to the Environment.... There's a risk in investing in optimal technology. Sure! But, if you get that risk to pay of... Then, you are talking serious business. If you can produce X amount of goods (physical, electrical, whatever) for less than your competitors, you can price them out of existance, giving you a potential de-facto monopoly. (Hmmm... Wonder where this has happened before...)

If you take the power industry, which is worth a few hundred billion, and can profitably undercut every other single power provider, you'd need to invest one hell of a lot, over a VERY long time, before it's not worth it in the long run.

What about the car industry? The American car manufacturers barely exist. The British ones don't. (The only car actually made in England, now, is Japanese.) How have they crushed two of the most influential countries in the world? By being better. By knowing when to gamble on investments, and how to best use them. By looking at the market next year, or next decade, not next week.

Western companies might be risk-averse in the short-term, but it's killing them. Kyoto isn't the only risk they are faced with, and the other risks are risk-takers who don't give a shit about tomorrow's headlines, if they control next year's market as a result.

If you are long-term risk-averse, then you MUST gamble on how to minimise that long-term risk. There are no crystal balls, no magic mirrors, just skill and luck in deciding which way to go. If you're looking ahead, you can't be looking at the here-and-now. One set of eyes, two directions, you've got to choose.

[ Parent ]

Analysis of the risks (none / 0) (#29)
by PresJPolk on Wed Jun 20, 2001 at 03:55:17 PM EST

Lacking suport for tables, I'll have to wing it here.

There is a probability p that the threat of global warming is a serious threat.

There is probability q that if we take steps to prevent global warming from doing what it (possibly) threatens to do, we will cause a major economic collapse.

So, assigning a payoff of -1000 to the bad outcomes (economic or ecological collapse), a payoff of 0 to going on as we are now, and a payoff of 200 to improving current efficiency without a disaster, we get the following possible effects:

If we act on global warming (let's call this action Kyoto), we get an expected payoff of -1000(q) + 200(1 - q) = 200 - 1200q.

If we don't act on it, we get an expected payoff of -1000(p) + 0(1 - p) = -1000p.

So, if we assign .95 to p (human caused climate change is very likely), and .05 to q (better air and more efficient industry are likely to result from Kyoto), we get:

Kyoto payoff: 140
~Kyoto payoff: -950

IF you're me, and you assign .05 to p and .50 to q:

Kyoto payoff: -400
~Kyoto payoff: -50

If you're ignorant, and can do nothing but flip a coin (p = q = .5)

Kyoto: -400
~Kyoto: -500

No wonder a lot of the ignorant journalists are favoring this. :-)

[ Parent ]
You are confusing weather and climate.. (none / 0) (#30)
by ajduk on Thu Jun 21, 2001 at 04:43:17 AM EST

It's true that you cannot forecast weather much past a week, or even that far.

But climate is a stastical problem, not an absolute one. A climate modeler may predict a higher average spring rainfall for a region, not 'Heavy showers on the 17th march'.

Although modeling the climate is difficult, it can be done, and IS being done.

[ Parent ]
Global warming? | 30 comments (27 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!