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Global warming, greenhouse gases, link measured directly

By codemonkey_uk in News
Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 09:34:41 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)

The much contested link between greenhouse gases and global warming has now been measured directly for the first time.

By using satellite data to look at the Earths infrared spectrum in 1970 and 1997 Scientists at Imperial College, London, have shown that greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone, are directly responsable for the differences in the amount of heat reflected by the planet.
"Before, the only thing that showed the connection was models. This is a real observation." - John Harries, Imperial College
Interestingly the change caused by methane was 30% greater than predicted.
  1. Nature vol410 p355
  2. New Scientist No2282 p27


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Global warming, greenhouse gases, link measured directly | 74 comments (41 topical, 33 editorial, 0 hidden)
Carbon Dioxide (4.00 / 10) (#2)
by finkployd on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 08:35:52 AM EST

Carbon Dioxide is bad. We must work toward removing all of it from our air. Please everyone, I implore you, stop breathing. :)

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
of course... (3.00 / 3) (#5)
by Seumas on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 08:41:27 AM EST

Of course, the environmentalists (I'm talking the hard-line, militant whacko types here and not the sane, concerned ones) are going to take credit for telling us the world has been heating up and that it's all going to come to end for a decade now.

Just don't forget, these are the same nut-jobs that were telling us the earth was going into another ice age and everything was cooling down two decades ago.

I think it's great if they can prove it either way without doubt. If it is absolutely without a doubt proven scientifically that the greenhouse effect is in action and not a myth to promote enivronmental fringe groups and line their pockets, then governments can start taking more action and seeing it as a direct threat instead of suffering from the "little green men" syndrome. Likewise, if this can't really be proven (sure, the study sounds legit right now, but how often have you seen them waffle on whether coffee, eggs or milk is good or bad for you?) then people can quit going psycho and acting like we're all going to turn into burnt toast in the next five years.
I just read K5 for the articles.

Climate and prediction (4.50 / 2) (#12)
by cameldrv on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 09:17:14 AM EST

The global climate is very hard to predict because there are so many interdependent variables to consider. As I understand it, the new ice age theories stemmed from an observation that some very important convection currents in the oceans could stop, leading to polar ice expanding, causing more sunlight to be reflected, and hence causing a new ice age. This could still happen. Many researchers think that heating up the earth could stop the north atlantic flow, cooling down Europe by as much as 10 deg farenheit. It's true that it's hard to predict what the Earth is going to do if we make changes to the environment. The point is that we are monkeying around with a system which could have extremely serious consequences for us.

The true conservative position is that we shouldn't be messing with global gas concentrations until we know that it is ok. We don't know that, and in fact we have huge evidence that it is causing major changes in the climate. Furthermore, it's not like we're powerless to stop this.

We could reduce CO2 output by 90% or so in fifteen years if we made an effort to convert over to a combination of nuclear, solar, wind, biomass, hydro, and geothermal. Despite the fact that a balanced strategy of phasing out fossil fuels is possible and economical, our government continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industry, and give very limited support to the alternatives.

[ Parent ]

concerned environmentalists (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by alprazolam on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 09:53:39 AM EST

I don't know that the people who worry the most about global warming are the same people who want to tell you eggs are bad for you, its something completely different. I think one major problem is that the media stereotypes everybody as crazy liberal wiccan whatever love the earth but not people ok you get the picture. You have to be able to look beyond that. Nobody knows for certain what effect the greenhouse effect has. But that doesn't mean we can't be careful. It's so easy to be cautious. I know it might be painful to some, in the short run, But the potential benefits of cautiosness...well you know what the results of global warming would be. Look at the effects of something like DDT. The american people (don't know about the rest of the world) just accepted the idea that DDT would save us all, and didn't consider the consequences. On the other hand, their is a debate over whether it should be banned, because of it's potential for fighting the spread of malaria. I'm not sure what the final 'decisions' are regarding DDT, but we can learn from both sides of the argument. I think that's partly what has happened with GM food, which seems to be unpopular in Europe. It's good that there are people adamantly opposed and adamantly for it, because you can come to two almost opposite conclusions...that it could greatly improve the quality of life around the world, and that it could irreparably damage the 'environment' in a way that greatly reduces the quality of life. We can work to reduce greenhouse emissions, without blowing up factories and killing people, and without accepting blindly the goals of corporate entities, who by law can't be concerned with anything other than their bottom line.

[ Parent ]
Global warming and k5. (4.33 / 9) (#18)
by claudius on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 10:06:48 AM EST

Frankly, while it may well prove to be a vitally important topic for the survival of humans, the subject of global warming is no longer a suitable topic for discussion on k5. For the most part, as we saw from the last such discussion here, nobody's mind will change on the matter regardless of what new information may be presented. Essentially every debate boils down to ad hominim attacks on the naive environmentalists or the foaming-at-the-mouth capitalists. The subject is as dead as the debate over whether there is a God, whether Napster has a right to distribute copyrighted music, whether abortion is appropriate in an enlightened culture, or whether the U.S. brand of religious conservatism is inherently evil.

While I myself believe that global warming is occurring, I'm realistic in believing that the only way that public policy in the U.S.A. (the largest emitter of greenhouse gases) will change is if we have a crisis. Witness the recent about-face of the Bush administration regarding regulating C02 emissions. Until such a crisis surfaces, scientific studies, no matter how pervasive and conclusive, will be unable to convince the skeptics that action needs to be taken that may affect corporations' bottom lines. Show me a bona fide crisis--and I'm not talking the extinction of an esoteric species of waterfowl that nobody cares about--and then let's talk policy change.

Unfortunately, scientists have shot themselves (ourselves--I'm a scientist too) in their feet by breaking the story too early, before the case for global warming was incontrovertible, and by couching their results in precise language regarding the limitations of their studies: "A case can be made that..." "It is becoming increasingly clear that..." "We may be facing..." "Our work suggests that..." just doesn't hack it when you have corporate interests speaking in absolute terms: "This WILL cost Americans their jobs...." "This WILL make energy costs rise...." "This WILL lead us to a recession...." "This WILL cause your taxes to go up...." If you were John Q. Public, who would you rather listen to? Who engenders a greater amount of trust?

crisis (2.50 / 2) (#19)
by codemonkey_uk on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 10:16:06 AM EST

By the time there is a crisis it will be to late. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, the crisis will not be "the extinction of an esoteric species of waterfowl" but the extinction of the human species as we know it.

Enviromental protection is about preventing the irreversable.
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

You're preaching to the choir... (4.00 / 2) (#24)
by claudius on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 10:40:16 AM EST

...and, unfortunately, the policy makers don't go to church. A major part of the problem is the public's inability to comprehend scientific results and to understand why an ethical scientist cannot, in general, convey his results in absolute terms. Part of the blame for this is the public school system--at the very least, high school graduates should know what the scientific method is and how science is done--and part of the blame falls on scientists who do not manage their public relations well. We need press agents to help parse our results into language that the public can grab onto, else we are at the mercy of public figures, such as Rush Limbaugh, who delight in portraying scientists as a single, collective body with a overt political agenda. Inaccurate press reports of one are of science ("eggs are an unequivocal bad") are somehow made to affect whether one should believe measurements of ice cores in Greenland or absorption lines in the atmosphere.

I agree that when a genuine crisis occurs it may be too late, but, speaking pragmatically, it will be nearly impossible to impel politicians to act unless we can find some tangible damage occurring that affects people's livelihoods. (That being said, it is curious, don't you think, that we USAians are willing to mortgage our futures to prevent one unlikely catastrophe scenario--e.g. the $100+ billion Nuclear Missile Defense system--yet somehow global climate catastrophes aren't worth trifling with)?

[ Parent ]
Your right, I know (none / 0) (#25)
by codemonkey_uk on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 10:59:49 AM EST

It just felt like it should be said. :)

Oddly enought, I got caught up with other things and didn't say what I was going to say, which was re: the whole global warming / k5 issue.

Basically, my stance is to give the users the benafit of the doubt, and present new facts as just that, a new thing that adds to the discussion, and hope that people <ahem> behave themselves...
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

"Too late" (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by ucblockhead on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 11:43:54 AM EST

I read something over a year ago (in an exceedingly radical, ecoterrorist rag called "Scientific American") that said, basically, that man climatologists have stopped talking about "how do we prevent global warming" and started talking about "how do we minimize the effects of global warming on civilization." as they've come to believe that it already is too late.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
extinction of humanity? yeh, right... (3.00 / 1) (#44)
by delmoi on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 08:17:33 PM EST

but the extinction of the human species as we know it.

Please, do you really think that every human on earth will die if the planet gets 10degrees hotter? Homo sapiens have lived in every climate on the planet, from 100 f deserts, to the freezing arctic. If anything, we'd just have to relocate further north.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Two reasons why your wrong (none / 0) (#57)
by codemonkey_uk on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 07:58:19 AM EST

And what if those 10deg cause a feedback loop that spirals out of control, and Earth becomes as desolate and inhabitable as Mars?

I'm not saying that this *will* happen but that it might, and that if it might, then waiting for a crisis to happen is waiting till its to late.

But assuming that there was a 10deg rise, and then the earths climate stabalised at that level, can you imagine the social and economical repurcutions? A mass migration north could easly plung humanity into a world war. And to that the use of weapons of mass destruction, and yes, the extintion of Human kind becomes a potential reality.
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

+2? (none / 0) (#59)
by delmoi on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 11:23:07 AM EST

I'm not saying that this *will* happen but that it might, and that if it might, then waiting for a crisis to happen is waiting till its to late.

Would, could, might. Who cares, An asteroid might hit the planet and kill a lot of us, to. Or lots of other things could happen. Human beings are the most versatile form of life on this planet as far as habitat climate. The difference between summer in Saudi Arabia and winter in Siberia is more then 100 degrees (f).

Did I say anywhere that a 10 degree rise would be a good thing, did I say anywhere that it wouldn't be bad? no. All that I said was that it wasn't going to kill us all, and it won't. The temperature of this planet has been hotter before, and a lot colder to. And life has had no problems adapting and changing. And as long as there's land and liquid water, we won't have to much trouble either.

Saying that a 10 degree change is going to kill all of us is ridiculous.

And what's with rating all my comments to 2 because I disagree with you? That's so childish it's unbelievable, and the mark of a true idiot-zealot.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
dooby dooby dooby do (none / 0) (#61)
by codemonkey_uk on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 12:11:05 PM EST

IIRC the asteroid scenario is one the governments are looking into doing something about.

I find it amusing that you consider humans the most environmentally versatile life forms - I take it you don't know about cockroaches, or that bacteria that survives boiling *and* freezing.

As for my moderation. I thought that your comment deserved a 2. Don't be such a baby about it, 2 is below average, but its not *really* bad. Shall I change it to a 3? I don't think its worth more than that. Its not because I disagree with you, take a look at some of the other posts, there are some I really strongly disagree with moderated, by me, to 4 or 5.
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Hitler! (1.06 / 16) (#62)
by Godwin Man on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 01:19:26 PM EST

Its not because I disagree with you, take a look at some of the other posts, there are some I really strongly disagree with moderated, by me, to 4 or 5.

I think it's perfectly clear to everyone here that you are a nazi attempting to manipulate the moderation system to your own twisted purposes.

Thank you.

This conversation is over

[ Parent ]
+4 (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by delmoi on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 02:03:01 PM EST

I modded you up since your post made me laugh. Just through I'd clarify that.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Nah. (4.00 / 2) (#31)
by br284 on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 12:28:35 PM EST

The topic is still good for kuro5hin. The reason being is that not all the people who read the discussions post to the discussions. As one of the lurkers in these topics, and having not made up my mind, I think that these topics should continue for the benefit of the silent mob out here.


[ Parent ]
I humbly disagree... (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by kevsan on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 12:56:56 PM EST

What if the abolitionists who opposed slavery stopped debating the issue because no one's mind would have changed on the matter regardless of what new information may have been presented?

I hate to invoke Godwin's Law, but what if those who were opposed to the Holocaust decided to give up one day when they believed that they were not being heard?

Global warming is an issue that we, as a society, must face together. To truly do that effectively, our culture must be educated on the repercussions which this issue will have on our society. We are the idealists, and we must share that which we produce: our ideas. Only then will the world be changed for the better...

[ Parent ]
Scientists are right (3.50 / 2) (#48)
by bjrubble on Wed Mar 21, 2001 at 12:11:17 AM EST

I think it's the media you should blame for the way "Global Warming" (call it "Climate Destability" dammit!) has been foisted on people. Scientists should release their findings as soon as they have them, and should always be precise and measured their statements, and above all should be regarded as above the debate and thus unbiased in their fact-finding and theory-crunching. It's the media that's responsible for conveying interpretations and opinions on what we should do about it. That's where it got overhyped, dumbed down, and turned into this big brawl.

[ Parent ]
The problem is more PR, press, & politicians (4.50 / 2) (#51)
by rjh on Wed Mar 21, 2001 at 09:21:30 AM EST

The true scientists in climate study have generally been very good about properly qualifying and limiting their comments. It is the PR, press, and politicians that remove all the ambiguity and uncertainty from the science reports and turn it into absolute certainties for their favored power base. For example, a recent scientific publication from Danish observers noted that according to their measurements of solar variations, you could not explain 100% of climate variations from solar variations. There were also appropriate caveats about measurement techniques used, etc. The press release screamed "Greenhouse effect proven". The commentary was so bad that the scientists issued a further statement disavowing the incredibly inaccurate and biased summary of their research. They in fact believed that solar variability and orbital effects are major factors and were trying to quantify to what extent these two affect the climate.

It is unfortunate that a difficult climate measurement issue has become an international powergrab with schemes like the Kyoto agreement. It has changed a difficult but potentially rational discussion topic into an extreme of political posturing.

[ Parent ]
Scientists need to take more initiative re: PR. (none / 0) (#58)
by claudius on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 10:01:13 AM EST

As I mentioned in another thread on this topic, I believe that scientists have a responsibility to not only do credible science, but to ensure that their science is represented accurately in the press. I would propose that much of the controversy surrounding the current debate has arisen as a result of poor (or nonexistent) public image handling on the part of scientists. NASA, for all its faults, does one thing very well: It has a press corps tasked with presenting accurately and in a language the reporters can understand the scientific results that NASA scientists obtain. NASA regularly spools its press releases to a mailing list of interested parties, and the NASA writers work closely with the scientists to make the press releases as technically accurate, yet accessible, as possible. (References to the relevant research articles are included in the press releases, so an interested reader can access more detail as necessary).

Other scientific organizations could well learn from their example and provide their own scientists with access to science writers/reporters. While some may object that this is a frivolous waste of resources, I would counter that it is a small price to pay to ensure that our results are communicated fairly and accurately so that, in the event that the results become a part of a larger debate, they at the very least contribute in a manner consistent with the data. Smaller organizations, such as university geophysics departments, who might otherwise be unable to afford to keep science writers on their staffs could support their scientists in this way if the scientific member societies, such as the American Geophysical Union, were to provide science writing/press release services on a contract basis. Unfortunately, far too many scientists believe that the task of managing the public perception of one's work is somehow unsavory and not an appropriate undertaking for a "true" scientist, and they instead cast blame on the press for continually misrepresenting their work.

[ Parent ]
In other news (4.37 / 8) (#36)
by jabber on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 01:01:29 PM EST

Scientists have conclusively proven a strong positive correlation between precipitation forecasts and the carrying of umbrellas by the general public.

Ok, so now we know that greenhouse gassses and the greenhouse effect are related. How very convenient that they have similar names. But, this says absolutely nothing about global warming being human induced, or necessarily harmful to the environment - or more specifically, to humans - since the environment will be just fine after we've eliminated ourselves. :)

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Nice strawmen (none / 0) (#47)
by bjrubble on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 11:49:21 PM EST

So how does the theory go, that umbrella carrying causes storms? (I can only assume that was your implication, because the other way around it's pretty sound!) The theories behind global warming have been around for decades, far longer than the observations that might back them up. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can trap solar energy; this is a fact. Human industry produces carbon dioxide; this is a fact. Because the world isn't linear, they don't always add up quite the way you expect, but don't those two facts suggest they add up to something?

I also continually wonder about people who make the point about "you can't kill the Earth." The world won't die, only us, so therefore everything is okay?

[ Parent ]
Global Warming vs real problems. (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by jabber on Wed Mar 21, 2001 at 01:20:37 AM EST

Umbrellas don't cause rain. That would be silly. What I was trying to point out what that announcing conclusive scientific proof of a relationship between greenhouse gasses and the greenhouse effect is pointless redundancy. The reason why they're both called 'greenhouse' is because they are intrinsically related.

The levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere today are lower, IIRC, than a few tens of thousands of years ago. Yes, the flora and fauna have changed since then. They will continue to change, both because of and despite our influence. But our effect on global temperatures does not concern me as much as the many more tangible and immediate things we are doing.

CFC's are a real problem. An even bigger problem are oil spills, and the release of manufactured chemicals and heavy metals into the soil and waterways. These things have a very quick impact on the biosphere, and I see them as a much greater concern than CO2 and Methane.

Frogs are going extinct the world over. This will surely upset the balance much more, in the next few decades, than a few extra feet of water on the coast. The hole in the Ozone, while a Liberal myth, is certainly true as well, and the additional UV exposure is not something that can be compensated for by evolution in the space of a few decades.

There are many significant effects of global warming. I wouldn't dare dispute them, but I think that we put too much emphasis on that - it's something we can not effectively observe, unlike our other damages which we conveniently fail to address since "the planet is getting warmer".

CO2 will feed plant-life and algae. The increased evaporation will contribute. Eventually, we'll be ankle-deep in moss, with plenty of oxygen to go around. If anything, global warming is a good change since it will feed the herbivores pretty well. The increased evaporation will increase cloud cover, which means an increase in planetary albedo, which will reduce temperatures, and the amount of light hitting the surface - throttling some of the excessive plant life. The seas will rise and expensive beachfront property will become an attraction for snorklers. Those of us in the now temperate zones will get to wear shorts and polo-shirts for a few more weeks each summer. So what?

This will happen slowly enough for organisms to adapt, for the most part. Weather will get more violent, and global temperatures will actually become more mild instead of extreme. That's the global warming forecast.

As I said, I'm more worried about the near-term impact of our environmental habits. The pollution, not the climatic changes, are the dangerous thing. We stand to eliminate pivotal species out of the ecosystem, and the ability of Gaia to compensate for that is much lesser than for a few extra degrees.

No one is claiming that we should run around with careless abandon because the only one's we're hurting is ourselves. That's trivializing a very valid perspective on the bigger issues. The claim is that our role in global warming is not something we can cleary define. While we should remain actively aware of our greenhouse gas production, we should focus more energy on the 'un-natural' pollutants. The environment has no contingencies against these. We should loosen our fixation on those phenomena which, by all thorough scientific analysis, appear to be macro-cyclical and dwarf our civilization in their periodic nature.

Chastising society for causing global warming is arrogant. We don't know what part we play in it, or which way the temperature trends are actually going. We do know that we are killing various river, delta and coastal life with Mercury. We do know that we have DDT in our soil and water and animals. We even know that all the hormones we are feeding to our cattle are having all sorts of interesting effects on our own children. But, global warming is a nice, fluffy subject that lends itself to 'expert analysis' with absolutely no proof or verification. It's the soap-opera of enviromental crises, and the media and grant-seeking researchers are milking it for all it's worth. Enough hand-waving.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Thank you (none / 0) (#55)
by bjrubble on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 03:25:22 AM EST

That was intelligent, balanced, and reasonable. Why didn't you post that at first?

I do think you're assuming too much in your forecast for global warming. The exact effect of cloud cover is far more uncertain than the general effect of CO2 itself. And there are some potential nonlinear effects -- stalling of the Atlantic gulf stream looking the most serious right now -- that would certainly not be peaches and cream. But I can't say I really disagree with you.

[ Parent ]
Some other thoughts (none / 0) (#60)
by fluffy grue on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 11:48:14 AM EST

One of the big dire predictions of global warming is the flooding of lots of land due to the melting of icecaps.

Take a glass. Fill it all the way with ice. Fill the glass to the rim with water. See what happens as it melts.

That's right, the water level goes down, because ice is less dense than water.

Now remember the expression "the tip of the iceberg?" This comes from the fact that icebergs are about 99% below the surface of the water. It's icebergs which comprise most of the meltable parts of the icecaps IIRC (at least in the arctic; I'm not so sure about the antarctic)...
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

antarctic (none / 0) (#63)
by delmoi on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 01:54:36 PM EST

The problem is, all of the ice thats on land right now in the antarctic. If that stuff melts, then seas would be likely to rise, I think.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Cancellation (none / 0) (#65)
by fluffy grue on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 02:37:30 PM EST

I'd imagine that the large icefloes up north would cancel out the large icefloes down south. Just my hunch, though. Anyone willing to test that theory? ;)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Did you actually conduct this experiment? (none / 0) (#68)
by AzTex on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 03:34:50 PM EST

fluffy grue said:
Take a glass. Fill it all the way with ice. Fill the glass to the rim with water. See what happens as it melts. That's right, the water level goes down, because ice is less dense than water.

Yes, ice is less dense than water.

But if you had actually done the experiment you would have seen that the water level stays exactly the same as the ice melts.  It's simple physics involving equilibrium between the weight of the water displaced and the weight of the ice.   Hint: Some of the ice (the tip) is suspended above the water line.

To get the results you want you can either make sure that the ice has a lot of air trapped in it or use ice cubes made of pure water suspended in salt water (which is the case with icebergs).

solipsism: I'm always here. But you sometimes go away.
** AzTex **

[ Parent ]
Good point (none / 0) (#69)
by fluffy grue on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 06:13:05 PM EST

My bad, forgot about buoyancy. My point still remains though. :) (And the air trapped in the ice definitely applies, as you said. Mmm, bergy seltzer.)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Link!! (2.66 / 3) (#37)
by Lelon on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 02:59:05 PM EST

I gave you a +1FP because I posted this story 2 days ago but it didn't get through (thanks to the 2 of you who actually posted insightful feedback btw)

Here is the link you could have provided


This basically ends the debate. Global Warming is no longer a theory.

This sig is a work in progress.
correlation (4.33 / 3) (#38)
by Delirium on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 03:20:36 PM EST

This basically ends the debate. Global Warming is no longer a theory.

I'd disagree with that. This one particular study has come to this conclusion; obviously no scientific hypothesis can be considered conclusively proven with a single study in its support. I'll wait until we see some independent verifications.

As for this particular study, it seems to very convincingly show that there has been warming, but seems more sketchy when it attempts to show the warming was caused directly by greenhouse gases. Yes, there is a correlation between warming over a 30-year period and the increase in greenhouse gases over that 30 year period, but that alone does not imply causation - there's also a correlation between warming and the growing use of computers over that time period; does this mean computer use is directly responsible for global warming?

IMHO the only way to conclusively prove the causation would be to have an earth without greenhouse gases to use as a control, so we can see what the "natural" temperature change would've been to see what effects greenhouse gases directly have. But obviously this is impossible.

[ Parent ]

and a bit more (4.00 / 3) (#39)
by Delirium on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 03:24:39 PM EST

Ok after reading a bit more it seems they have gone some way towards proving a causation wherein greenhouse gases produce a greenhouse effect (reflecting heat inwards in the atmosphere). However they don't appear to have even attempted to prove that this is what causes global warming. It is conceivable that this greenhouse effect accounts for 1% of global warming, and natural temperature cycles (cycles of ice ages and such) account for the other 99%, in which case greenhouse gases would be rather unimportant in the final analysis. Of course it's also conceivable that greenhouse gases account for 99% of global warming, which would make them a threat. My point is that this study doesn't prove it either way.

[ Parent ]
does it? (3.50 / 2) (#42)
by delmoi on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 08:04:04 PM EST

This basically ends the debate. Global Warming is no longer a theory.

Not according to the link you just posted. All it says is that there is a build up, and there is some effect. They don't say what the effect is, though
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Read the Link (none / 0) (#66)
by makaera on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 03:14:53 PM EST

The article at the link says that the study has shown the greenhouse effect but the scientists who did the study question whether the greenhouse effect is directly linked to global warming and say that more studies are needed. The link you provided does not support your own conclusion!


"Ninety rounds in there," Joel Andrews said. "If you can't take it down with 90 rounds, you better turn in your badge!" -- from Washington Post
[ Parent ]

Hmm, where to start (4.40 / 10) (#40)
by weirdling on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 03:52:06 PM EST

I was appalled to discover that their first sample was just nine months long. Their second sample wasn't much better. If they had compared the data over a longer period, I would have been less appalled by the rest of the study, which makes no provision for measuring the reflectivity of the water that day, appears to make no question as to sunspots &c, and generally only points out that energy is absorbed in roughly the same wavelengths their model predicted. This study is hardly conclusive. To the scientists involved: nice try, but please be more complete in your next study. Things to try:
Use more than one sat. Very important; sats aren't particularly reliable in the small amounts of stuff your're trying to measure.
make an effort to study the absorbtion rates of the water at the time you do the study. This will require a boat down there doing samples, as you can't do it from sattelite data without corrupting your model.
Check shipping logs to see if a shipping lane changed. Check algae growth records to see if the algae and hence the absorbtion of the water may be responsible. Check greenhouse gas emissions by the ocean to see if this is high-altitude greenhouse gases or gases emitted by the ocean itself due to other effects not yet understood.
Log any and all changes in solar energy striking the planet at that time. This will require correlation to astronomical data.
Use more than two datapoints. Two datapoints only shows that this happened twice; not that there is a trend. At least ten datapoints would make the study statistically significant enough to be worth mentioning.
So, if you are looking for proof of the theory of greenhouse gases, this is the best yet, but is hardly conclusive.
Kudos, though, to the scientists for pointing out that greenhouse gas != global warming, necessarily. That is a breath of fresh air in this Chicken-Little age.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Logical Fallacy (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by makaera on Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 03:19:16 PM EST

It seems to me that these studies simply show correlation, not causality. They fall prey to the Post Hoc, Ergo Proptor Hoc (after this, therefore because of this) fallacy. It would be just as reasonable to say: because it is dark when I go to bed, and the sun has risen when I awake, my sleeping causes the sun to rise. You have correlation, but no causality.


"Ninety rounds in there," Joel Andrews said. "If you can't take it down with 90 rounds, you better turn in your badge!" -- from Washington Post

Strict logical formalism and science. (none / 0) (#70)
by claudius on Fri Mar 23, 2001 at 11:39:26 AM EST

And, to be picky, your argument is based on a straw man.

Strictly speaking, all scientific measurements, if taken alone and in the absence of hypotheses, are indeed subject to criticism for violating post hoc ergo propter hoc. For example, suppose I let go of a ball and I see it fall to the ground. I would argue that my letting go of the ball caused it to no longer be supported against gravity, and thus my letting go was the underlying cause for its motion downward. You, on the other hand, may claim that the ball's opting to fall downward is what caused me to let go of it, and you could smugly trumpet "correlation is not causation" and believe that your interpretation and mine are equally valid. And from the standpoint of strict logic, you would be entirely correct in saying so.

I would argue, however, that the statement "Correlation != causation implies that either event could logically and equally plausibly cause the other event" is not necessarily true in the case of scientific observations. Scientific observations, such as the one you cite, occur in the context of hypotheses, other observations, and well-established scientific theories (the closest thing to a "scientific truth" there is, though still not absolute-100%-pure-unvarnished truth from a logical formalist sense). This context is what gives the causality arrow a "most reasonable direction" in which to point, and it is what gives meaning to scientific observations. The measurements themselves are not entirely conclusive, and they should be taken for what they are: a single, fairly compelling piece of evidence in support of a hypothesis, i.e. that man-made greenhouse gases affect the energy balance of the atmosphere.

Science, an intrinsically empirical study, is about proposing hypotheses to predict things, and then constructing experiments and making measurements to test how good the predictions were. Hypotheses whose predictions are validated time and again by independent measurements eventually take on a level of veracity greater than before, though in a strict logical sense they appear to be on no firmer footing. In short, science is, at least in some capacity, conducted in the Babylonian tradition of inductive rather than purely Greek deductive reasoning; strict logical formalism, while useful in doing science, is simply not enough--to make any progress one must set aside one's reservations with occasional inductive reasoning and post hoc ergo propter hoc when the sheer numbers of independent observations in support of a given hypothesis warrant.

If people wish to wait until greenhouse-effect-induced global climate change becomes a well-entrenched scientific theory (read: "truth") rather than just a hypothesis supported by many observations, then we may well have to wait indefinitely since nothing is ever, in a strict logical sense, "proven" in science. At some point in the future we will have to draw a line and say that the effect, measured independently in dozens of studies, seems to be real enough to warrant action. For many nations, the Kyoto agreement signalled that they were at that stage of acceptance; the USA, apparently, is not yet there.

[ Parent ]
Scared of change. (none / 0) (#71)
by barneyfoo on Fri Mar 23, 2001 at 02:47:16 PM EST

A well respected libertarian author at the Cato institute recently wrote a book about global warming (available in .pdf at no cost).

His thesis is, basicly, that fighting global warming (as advocated by the left, and the kyoto accord) will be less beneficial than not fighting it. To spend 1 trillion dollars in the next ten years on reducing CO2 to fight something that will hurt far less than that, in terms of global GDP, seems unintelligent on its face.

The author goes on to say something rather blasphemous(!) if you're of the opposite persuasion: Having a warmer earth might increase productivity, make us all happier, and increase crop yields! Far from causing global disaster, it could cause a global renaissance and an end to global hunger.

Now, I have to add that I'm not the best advocate of this position, even though I beleive in it, and I must admit my libertarian bent. I should also say that I only read the introduction (which I thought was very good) so I can not expound in detail on any of the theories. And if you've ever read a Cato institute publication, you know how dense they can be. (dense as in thick, intelligent, complex).

[ Parent ]
How do they figure? (none / 0) (#72)
by Danse on Fri Mar 23, 2001 at 05:11:45 PM EST

Seems like they are just saying that we should sit back, relax, and hope for the best. Do they have any evidence that global warming will improve the planet rather than harm it? We're already seeing a good bit of evidence of harm (coral reefs dying, etc.). Do they offer any good evidence that we won't be harmed by global warming?

An honest debate between Bush and Kerry
[ Parent ]
Yes of course. (none / 0) (#74)
by barneyfoo on Sun Mar 25, 2001 at 03:21:24 PM EST

There is of course back up to these statements. Read the book. as I said it's free and available in PDF format. :)

[ Parent ]
Active vs Passive Experiments (5.00 / 1) (#73)
by makaera on Sat Mar 24, 2001 at 12:59:49 AM EST

To be really picky there are different types of experiments.

These experiments to detect global warming do not actively play with any of the variables in the system, therefore no true conclusions can be drawn about causality. This is just a passive observation of what happens, it is more data collection than experimentation.

To go back to the example of dropping the ball, when you drop the ball, you apply an external stimulus to the system of the ball and the earth. You then observe that the earth's gravity pulls the ball toward it. If you just watched others hold balls and sometimes drop them you could not tell what happened.

Now, I understand that in some situations it is not possible (or it is impractical) to apply an stimuli to the system and observe its reactions. However, in the absence of such ability, I am upset when people claim as fact, things which haven't been proven. This is what I was objecting to when I made my original post. Trying to distort the results of an experimental observation in an attempt to make it show something it does not.

Finally, I do believe that global warming may be a hazard. However, many of the proposed measures to treat it seem impractical (at least IMHO) and very often have double standards (why is China allowed to pollute to such an extent, yet still allowed into the WTO?). The cost of attempting to treat global warming, if in fact it does not turn out to be a major issue will also be very high.

"Ninety rounds in there," Joel Andrews said. "If you can't take it down with 90 rounds, you better turn in your badge!" -- from Washington Post
[ Parent ]

Global warming, greenhouse gases, link measured directly | 74 comments (41 topical, 33 editorial, 0 hidden)
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