Monday, November 12, 2007

BBC Climate Questionnaire

I took the BBC climate questionnaire, just for grins.


1 Do you believe that the global average surface temperature has risen over the last 50 years?

It has risen, fallen, and risen again. It is apparently slightly higher than it was 50 years ago.

2 If yes, do you agree with the IPCC's range for that rise of between 0.10 and 0.16 Celsius per decade - alternatively, what figure or range of figures do you believe to be correct?

We have no way of knowing what is "correct". Every method is merely an estimate based on different premises.

3 If you do not believe that the global average surface temperature has risen over the last 50 years, what is your explanation for increasing temperatures recorded by ground-based instruments over that period?

Climate varies. The fact of the matter is, we don't know. Even if we did, I doubt it would be one single factor.

4 Do you agree that the oceans have warmed to depths of several kilometres over the last 50 years?

I haven't seen any data, but I haven't looked. However, one shouldn't be surprised that if Earth's atmosphere has warmed in general, that the oceans would as well.


5 Do you believe that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases have increased over the last century or so?


6 If so, do you agree that the rises are principally due to anthropogenic factors?

Maybe some of it. Maybe all of it. Maybe very little to none of it. We don't know.

7 For carbon dioxide, do you accept the broad figure of 280ppm in the post-glacial but pre-industrial era, and the current figure of about 380ppm?

Not blindly, but for now, sure.


8 Do you agree with the principle that rising concentrations of greenhouse gases will increase radiative forcing?

In theory it should in a homogeneous black body model with no negative feedback processes such as variations in albedo due to cloud cover. By that same theory, each unit of CO2 increase should have less of an impact than the previous unit. More importantly, the earth/atmosphere system is not a homogeneous black body with no negative feedback mechanisms.

9 Do you agree that the relationship between CO2 concentrations and radiative forcing, given current levels, is logarithmic?

Again, on that theoretical black body, yes. Do you know what logarithmic means? It is the opposite of exponential (or another way of putting that is that the exponent is negative). Each additional unit of CO2 would theoretically contribute less to such a warming than the previous unit.

10 If you answered 'Yes' to question 1, do you believe that rising greenhouse gas concentrations are the most important factor behind the observed increases in the global average temperature? If not, what would you say is/are the principal factor(s) behind the observed rise?

Probably not. See the answer to question 3.

11 If you answered 'No' to question 1 but 'Yes' to questions 5 and 8, what is your explanation for why rising greenhouse gas concentrations, associated with higher radiative forcing, have not resulted in a rise in the global average temperature?

I did not answer 'No' to question 1, but I did answer yest to 5 and 8. Again, check the answer to question 3. There are probably many contributing factors, most of which would have been here in our absence. But right now we can't prove which ones contribute how much because we really don't have that good an understanding of the system.

12 What value, or range of values, would you estimate for climate sensitivity?

Sensitivity to what? CO2? In the past it appears that temperature increases drove CO2 increases, not the other way around. My speculation would be very little if any.


13 What would you say is the maximum amount by which the global average annual surface temperature can vary over the course of a century due to natural variability?

Well, there's a certain ignorance imbedded in that question about what constitutes natural variability and what can and can't happen. Obviously variations in solar output would be a major contributor. Volcanic actvity can wreak havock on what we consider normal by ejecting particulate matter into the atmosphere, as would asteroid collisions. Other than that variations in the tilt of the earth seem to have the largest impact, but it happens too slowly to notice and wouldn't figure in to a 100 year analysis. Climatologically speaking, glancing at a temperature chart covering the last 3,000 years, it doesn't appear that 0.5-0.7 degrees is uncommon at all. Go back 10,000 years and it gets a little crazy. What is clear is that there is no "correct" temperature and that global temperature has rarely remained steady for very long in geological time.


14 Do you believe that if concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases rise significantly higher than they are now, there is a chance of dangerous climatic change resulting?

Gut feeling? No. Data to the contrary would convince me. Right now there isn't any.

15 If you answered 'No' to the previous question but 'Yes' to question 8, could you explain why you do not feel rising concentrations might prove dangerous?

I don't believe CO2 is a significant temperature driver in the earth/atmosphere system. Models say it should be, but data does not back it. In fact it may actually contradict it.

16 Do you think it would be wise for the global community to set a maximum limit for atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, or of carbon dioxide equivalent? If so, what limit would you recommend?

Pollution in general is bad. Conservation in general is good. Arbitrary caps without credible justification are wrong.

17 If anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions increase broadly in line with "business as usual" projections over the next 20 years or so, which of the following statements would most closely reflect your opinion of the likely impact of emissions over that period:

· they will not have any deleterious impacts on human societies or the natural world

· they will have some impacts on human societies and the natural world, but nothing that cannot be dealt with quite easily

· they will have major impacts on some human societies and some aspects of the natural world

18 Which of these statements most reflects your view of the Kyoto Protocol:

  • it was a worthwhile attempt to tackle an issue of global significance
  • it was the wrong approach to tackling an issue of global significance
  • it was meaningless, because there is no reason for attempting to curb greenhouse gas emissions at present (caveat -- CO2 emmisions in general are usually accompanied by actual pollutants -- that would be a reason. But the presumed reason here is that CO2 will drive temperature, and that is not a reason. Which is why this is the "best" answer for me.)


19 Do you believe that computer models, when used in conjunction with observational data, can in principle make meaningful projections of future temperature and climate trends at global and regional scales?

Is it theoretically possible? Yes. With the knowledge we have now? No.

20 If so, would you say current models are, on the whole:

· very accurate and useful

· quite accurate and useful

· not very accurate or useful (assuming you are talking about climate models)

· completely useless

21 If you answered c or d to the last question, could you explain what it is that you believe to be wrong with current models?

Models are expressions of belief, they are not fact. They prove nothing. Another way of putting it is: models are always wrong, but sometimes they're useful anyway. Models can only include approximations of what we understand, or think we understand. The more we understand, the better the model should be, and the better our mathematical approximations of what we understand, the better the models should be. Our mathematical approximations of what we do understand aren't the main source of error. The problem is that we don't understand nearly enough about how the entire earth/atmosphere system works to have a useful climate model. We have useful short-term weather forecasting models, but out past about 10 days they become pretty useless. Here we're talking about years, decades, and centuries.

22 If you answered 'No' to question 19, what approach would you prefer to computer modelling as a way of forecasting future climate?

Keep working on what we have, but don't pretend it means much until we understand the system well and/or it verifies fairly reliably (which would infer, but not prove, the former).


23 Which element(s) of your academic background is/are relevant to climate change?

B.S. in Atmospheric Science, ABD Masters course work in Atmospheric Science.

24 Could you please supply a list of scientific publications (not exhaustive), or a weblink to such a list, which demonstrates your expertise in the climate field?

Nope. Don't have any.

25 Have you ever received funding from a company involved in fossil fuel production or use, or from an institution which receives such funds? If so, please give details.

No. And if I did, what then? The IPCC is an intergovernmental organization which has an
interest in making itself relevant. It is funded by governments which have agendas. Government grants go to people whose research supports AGW. Publications reject papers that tell the other side. There is general interest, though short of a conspiracy, in keeping this idea alive. The money that pays for it is no less an incentive, to those looking to be published, to color research in a certain direction than it might be for someone whose research was partially funded by a fossil fuel company. The fact of the matter is that the fossil fuel industry's contribution to research is paltry, especially compared to what you can get from a government grant or from someone with an environmentalist agenda (no matter how well-meaning it might be). It just might be that the fossil fuel industry chooses to give funding to researchers whose research doesn't back the AGW theory. It would make sense. Perhaps their independent research attracts the funding rather than what the implication is here -- that the funding attracts tainted research. When I listen to skeptics like Lindzen and Christy, I hear people who are talking like scientists talk. When I listen to AGW believers, I often hear scientific language... but they don't talk like scientists. Scientists are natural skeptics and want theories to be backed by data. If it is not backed by data, they couch their opinions in the language of opinion. AGW proponents tend to talk like believers, as if they know the truth and those who don't believe are idiots, or infidels.

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