Climate change scepticism becomes mainstream

Essential research has just found that believers in AGW has fallen to 45% in Australia. That’s still well ahead of the 36% who believe that we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the earth’s climate. The “don’t know” category is quite large, at 19%.

Still 61% either see it as very or quite important to “tackle” climate change.

Peter Lewis, director of Essential Media Communications, speculates in the linked article on how we have come to be where we are.

69 thoughts on “Climate change scepticism becomes mainstream”

  1. A lot of my friends are joking about it due to the big rains and the cold weather so far in Sydney.

  2. I’d agree with the reasons listed in the article. But I also think it’s because we’ve had such a wet,cold Spring. People think that climate change is all about ‘global warming’ whilst conflating the concepts of weather and climate together. Ergo, we simply just had a really bad drought and now it’s broken. Nothing to worry about.

  3. Oh good, I was having a happy day already.

    I do find it a bit remarkable, since the science only gets more and more confident in its understanding, the lines of evidence only point one way.

    Funny though, looking at the data, only 32 percent of Liberal voters accept climate change, while 50 percent think that it’s either very or quite important.

  4. I remain even more convinced that we wont see effective action on climate change until it’s too late. Four degrees, here we come. I just hope the tipping points, positive feedback mechanisms aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

    The future is going to judge us very very harshly indeed. If there remains a literate society to write history.

    But that’s it, we’re getting PV panels, despite their expense and the fact that they’re a sub-optimal response. Pretty much going off-grid, an internet connection only, it seems to be the sensible way forward.

  5. Last week my motor mechanic delivered the opinion that the weather had returned to the way it always used to be when he was young. I consistently find this view when we are getting at least 25 to 30% above average rainfall.

    Another problem is that people don’t understand how insignificant what happens here is. That’s true also for Europe and the US/Canada.

  6. I just posted a comment on another thread about the ease with which skilled manipulators of public opinion can distract people into talking about trivialities to the extent they become more important than the main issues. The sorry history of the AGW discussion offers examples in spades.

  7. What’s really interesting is that if you wade through all the sorry drivel that passes for denialist commentary on Lewis’s article, and elsewhere in similar contexts, a pattern emerges.
    The denialists all read like angry authoritarian old men, and it seems to me that these are people who grew up in households where their parents were parroting all the anti-communist hysteria of Cold War. Now, in their old age, these men have been delighted to find a cause in which they can reuse all of this rhetoric. Or, looking at it another way, big oil and other boosters of denialism have simply revived the Cold War propaganda, with the difference that’s it’s now Green socialists under the bed, not Reds.

  8. I blame the government. As in the US, the lily-livered character of the governments respoinse since 2007 simply emboldened the filth merchant lobby to ramp up their disinformation campaign and gave them the critical time they needed to make their FUD hurt.

    Had they just got on with it and treated the opponents of science-driven public policy as either cranks or worse, not only would we have had a sound schem in place, but we would have near unanimity.

    Instead, the government allowed itself to become biogged down in “analysis paralysis” and in bipartisan posturing.

    Both here and in the US, this course has proven disastrous. The insipid Rudd/Gillard in Australia and Obama in the US are the authors of their political troubles and the working people are just collateral damage.

  9. The tipping points are likely to occur on the way to a 4 degree celcius increase, probably in the next 50 years. The science ‘worse case scenarios’ have a habit of being too optimistic after the event. For example the observed doubling of ocean dead zones every 10 years could exceed even that worrying logarithmic increase with projected population growth impacts that also take a logarithmic shape.

    Massive coral bleaching, melting ice caps, redcing glaciers and plummeting fish and marine populations will produce the kind of profound changes consistent with Earth’s fifth mass extinction event in around 100 years when around 90% loss of life on the planet may also be seen in retrospect to be an overly optimistic survival rate.

    World goverance is hoplessly inept in taking global effective quadruple bottom line strategies because we’re only prepared to vest real power to representatives of squabbling nation states with their short term, policies that must accord with the wishes of the powerful elites. Only a new paradyme, a world parliament can save the planet as we know it.

  10. The clue to understanding golbal warming is in the title. The warming is global, it is not what is just happening in your local neck of the woods. As I understand it, 2010 is in the top three of warmest years on record. Just because it is snowing in England & flooding along the eastern seaboard of Australia, doesn’t mean the globe isn’t warming. While what the consequences of global warming are is still unclear, so the models of our scientists make predictions from can be legitimately debated, but to participate in this debate in any meaningful way, a person must first accept the fundemental premise that made made global warming is occurring. A second point is that people seem to be confused by the differences between the concepts of weather and climate.

  11. I also blame the government. The ETS was never going to be easy to explain because it had too many flaws. The government spent too little time arguing the cause, and too much time blaming the Greens for its eventual failure. Gillard is on the right track by saying she supports a carbon price (read: tax) and that a trading system should be left to the market, but I also think Gillard is just putting on a show for the sake of holding her minority government together and is just as uncommitted to effective countermeasures as her predecessor.

    I don’t think Rudd was ever committed to doing anything effective about climate change. One of the most obvious signs of this was his trumpeting of a Clean Coal Institute, which was basically a sop to the coal industry.

    Part of the problem was that the CSIRO board was packed with ex-coal industry executives. Rudd should have cleaned the CSIRO out, but failed at this task.

    I also blame Rudd for not clearing out the ABC board, which was full of Howard-appointed denialist-inactivists, and mostly still is. Maurice Newman should have been sacked a long time ago. If we’d had a decent science-oriented ABC, the public might have been properly educated about the science of climate change. Instead we get the ABC giving excessive airtime to that exposed charlatan Christopher Monckton.

    If the Greens had some sense, they should be pushing for the cleaning out of the ABC.

  12. The rise in apathy reflects the lack of global action by the politicians, which in turn reinforces the ‘wake-me-up-when-they-decide-to-do-something’ mentality.

    In the intervening vaccuum, the spoilers and obfuscators, the paid agents of the fossil fuel industry and the media demagogues whose influence depends on black-and-white opinions are making merry with public opinion.

    Ultimately, I think the Al Gore movie title summed up the public reaction to climate change rather well – it’s a very inconvenient truth. And as in all issues which come down to public policy, the small number of potential losers from redemedial action are far noiser than the many, many potential winners.

    Utterly depressing.

  13. The question we need to ask is, what are we doing to convince other people on the veracity of climate change. Are we just whinging about it and pointing the finger of blame or are we actively engaging those who are uncertain to convince them of the truth about global warming. People need to stop talking to people who agree with them and start engaing in the debate.

  14. Over the past 60 years or so (when CO2 levels have been high enough to have some effect), the temperature has shown a meaningful upward trend between 1976 and about 2003 – or hardly half the time.

    Even over that specific period, (1976 to 2003), temps have rose at only two thirds the rate of the midpoint of the IPCC range – which I think is about 3.3C for a century. From 1976 to today temp increase would be about half the forecast rate.

    Over the past 8 or 10 years there has been hardly any uptrend at all, so the predictive performance of those “climate models” is getting steadily worse, even as CO2 rises higher and higher.

    Clearly the models substantially overestimate CO2’s effect on the climate.

    See if you can “stop whinging about it” and engage with that.

  15. Bill, it is good that you are reading this site, but if you not going to accept the basic tenant that the globe is warming, then it is very difficult to hold a rational discussion with you. You seem to have some anger issues based around your denial of the insurmountable mountain of verifiable scientific evidence the man made global wrming is a fact. Maybe you need to be questioning the source of your information regarding global warming, this is how science works, because what you are saying is clearly wrong. Please reveal your source of information so the discussion can progress.

  16. For Bill [just to reinforce the above]

    “2009 ends Australia’s warmest decade on record, with a decadal mean temperature anomaly of +0.48°C (above the 1961-90 average).

    In Australia, each decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the preceding decade.”

    “On 8 December 2009, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) stated that 2009 is expected to be the globe’s 5th warmest year on record (about 0.44°C above the 1961-90 average).
    A cooler-than-average global mean temperature has not been recorded since 1985, with the last decade also being the globe’s warmest on record”

    Now Bill here’s the crux of the matter:

    You are wrong.
    You have been shown the correct information.
    Please adjust your mindset.

  17. I do accept the basic tenet that the globe is warming – but it is warming at a far slower pace than the climate models predict. Anyone who actually read what I said ought to be able to understand that distinction.

    What I claimed is clearly correct. Look at either the GISS or CRU temp data series since WWII or so, (you may need a ruler, a biro and a pocket calculator as well).

    Wilful, I cannot understand how you think paleoclimate studies of the past 2000 years says anything at all about whether recent temperature increases are anywhere near model forecasts. They are allmost entirely unrelated topics.

    Can anyone do better?

  18. hd, none of your points even adress my claim that while temperatures are rising, (at least some of the time). they ARE NOT RISING AT A SPEED ANYWHERE CLOSE TO MODEL PREDICTIONS. (See also my other comment above).

    (Sorry to use Caps, I couldnt get the “bold” tag to work).

  19. From Bill:

    “..Over the past 8 or 10 years there has been hardly any uptrend at all..”

    -From Oz BOM [as above]

    “2009 ends Australia’s warmest decade on record, with a decadal mean temperature anomaly of +0.48°C (above the 1961-90 average).”

    In Australia, each decade since the 1940s has been warmer than the preceding decade.”

    -From WMO [as above]

    “2009 is expected to be the globe’s 5th warmest year on record (about 0.44°C above the 1961-90 average).”

    -From hd [as above]


    “You are wrong.
    You have been shown the correct information.
    Please adjust your mindset.”

  20. Hannah, you really do have some limitations. Certainly temperature has risen over the past 30 yrs (and over the past 150 yrs). As a result most of the warmest years, (in recent times), are in the past 10 yrs. In itself, that just does not show that temperatures have risen as fast as the GCM climate models predict. A teenager should be able to understand that.

    Also there is little point in citing BOM figures. I was discussing global temperatures, not Australian temperatures.

  21. It no longer seriously matters. But this is an opportunity to do some on the ground, as it happened research into the end of a civilisation. If these surveys can be logged and recorded into a database to map the progression of opinion against the unfolding reality species failure it will make an interesting read for future truly intelligent species, should any arise.

    The true test for the technical excellence of our race will be what method we use to pass the saga of our demise forward the several million years that it will take the earth to reset itself from the homosapien catastrophy.

  22. Bill
    From Bill
    “I was discussing global temperatures”

    So am I Bill.
    Did you see this above?

    “On 8 December 2009, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) stated that 2009 is expected to be the globe’s 5th warmest year on record (about 0.44°C above the 1961-90 average).
    A cooler-than-average global mean temperature has not been recorded since 1985, with the last decade also being the globe’s warmest on record”

    Notice that word ‘global”?

    Notice also that credible authoritive sources have been provided to contradict your unsourced assertion:
    “Over the past 8 or 10 years there has been hardly any uptrend at all..”

    Which, interestingly, you yourself contradict:
    “As a result most of the warmest years, (in recent times), are in the past 10 yrs.”

    hannah’s dad [not hannah, she’s my dog]

  23. Just add all this to the Chomsky file of the multifarious ways in which voters in a democracy can be persuaded to vote against their own interests and in support of the interests of entrenched capital.

    He of course is discussing the USA, where voters can routinely be convinced to vote for administrations that block universal health care and pour trillions of tax dollars into pointless wars.

    But the same techniques are quite effective here in Oz.

  24. Nature’s cruel trick. Just enough oil to burn ourselves, but not enough the mend the wounds.

    Oil hits $90 per barrel,…..again, only this time it is permanent.

  25. Bill, the terms you’re seeking are radiative forcing (often expressed in watts/m2) and climate sensitivity. Greenhouse gases are estimated to provide about 3W/m2, this is pretty well a matter of physics and isn’t readily disputed. The question is what are the feedbacks that provide the final sensitivity reading? Solar activity, clouds, aerosols and ozone are the major contributors, and ocean heat uptake is the major equilibrium balancer on where it’s all going.

    Have a look at Rahmstorf and Zedillo 2008, they explain it far more authoritatively than I could.

    If your point is that the models are wrong, well duh. There’s a saying: all models are wrong, some models are useful. There are more than 20 climate models used, many of them derived independently (apart from the fact that they agree on fundamental questions of physics). It’s remarkable how well they do align! AR4 WG1 chapter 8 can tell you far more about the models and their limitations than I can.

    I wrote all the above without looking at Skeptical science, which I should have done. Rather than wasting my time any further, let me just point you to “how sensitive is our climate?


    This is not true.

    It is true that Hansen’s model from 1988 is looking a little hot compared to observations. However even there Scenario B is comfortably within error margins, so “not anywhere close” is just wrong, and more importantly there has been considerable refinement to the modelling (and computation) since 1988.

  27. FYI, bold tagging is done like this:

    {strong} words to be emphasised {/strong}

    replacing the parentheses with the chevrons (?), the wee arrows that on my keyboard are found above the comma and period.

  28. I would love to see a study (particularly in the US) showing percentages of creationists amongst those who dispute AGW.

    The two are often compared, but being able to say something like “people who agree with you are three times more likely to believe in Noah’s ark” might be useful.

  29. Martin, since 1988 CO2 has risen in line with Hansen’s Scenario A, (possibly a little steeper because of China’s industrialisation, which was then in its infancy). The appropriate comparision is with scenario A, and “a little hot”, may be a little too kind.
    Recent models would be more sophisticated or complex, but they predict a very similar temperature trajectory to Hansen’s models. If Hansen had used a modern model in ’88, his predictions would not have been more (or less) accurate.

  30. Good links, wilful and Martin B. In any review of Hansen’s work it is surprising how near to the mark he was given the early days of climate science. If his current expectations are similarly accurate we should be very afraid.

    In his book he says he erred in not anticipating how soon climate effects, such as the deterioration of ice sheets, would become apparent.

  31. Bill, China and India’s industrialisation, based largely on coal-fired power, has a delayed effect. There’s some research Ken Caldeira was involved in which shows that a coal-fires power station has a net cooling effect for the first seven years of life. It produces a lot of aerosols which shade the sun, but these aerosols are short-lived in the atmosphere. After 7 years the cooling effect is overcome by long-lived CO2 emitted.

    So along with increase solar activity a surge temperature increase in the next 10 years would not surprise.

  32. So along with increase solar activity a surge temperature increase in the next 10 years would not surprise.

    I’d be prepared to stretch my neck out Brian, and say that a lack of a surge in temperature increase in the next decade would surprise. The only way is up, baby!

    My prediction that I’m happy to be held accountable for is that the difference between 2011-2020 and 2001-2010 will be decently greater than the difference between 2001-2010 and 1991-2000. Even with all the myriad uncertainties, we’re putting our foot down on the accelerator, hard, and this is going to show up.

    Oh, bonus prediction, I reckon climate denialism will drop to less than 25 percent of the Australian population (a few serious heat wave will kill them off (metaphorically mostly, but also literally, since it’s principally old white males who believe this nonsense (and are susceptible to heatwaves (no offence to scientifically literate old white males like Brian)))).

    On the obverse, Australia’s response will still be beyond inadequate, our total emissions in 2020 will exceed 1990.

  33. Thanks for the comment wilful. But what Rahmsdorfer says is that a doubling of CO2 (a forcing of 3.7W/m2) results in 1C warming. (pg 38). That is in the absense of feedbacks, and certainly is “undisputed”. However the strength, (and matbe even the sign), of some of the feedbacks is highly uncertain.

    That uncertainty is admitted in the case of clouds, but the key feedback is water vapour (H2O), which delivers about half the warming (if you expect total warming of 3C). While WV is also a greenhouse gas like CO2, it’s effect is much more complicated than CO2.

    That is because the massive amounts of WV allready present in the lower atmosphere, (“wet troposhere”), means that additional WV at this level has little effect – Longwave radiation (LW) of suitable frequencies is allready being very largely absorbed. To cause much additional warming extra WV has to get into the higher, colder “free troposhere”, where existing WV is only slight – so there is plenty of unabsorbed WV available. The models assume this should happen largely in the tropics, where upwards convestion of WV is certainly much stronger.

    The absense of the resultant “tropical hotspot”, (where the rate of warming is predicted to be 2 or 3 times higher than elsewhere), shows that this is not happening – or not at anything like the predicted strength.

    The fact that +20 models make the same predictions never really means much. All of those Sub Prime CDO’s had sophisticated models too. The models were emailed off to the credit agencies to get the AAA Rating, and also made available to any investors who wanted to bother looking at them. All those models were wrong and they were all wrong for the same reason – the default rate on Sub Prime mortgages was far higher than traditional mortgages, not around 1% higher as assumed.

    When the theory/models, and reality, disagree for decades, it is usually reality that is right.

  34. Well wilful, according to one recent survey 55% of us must be old white males like Brian?
    There has allready been a serious heatwave, and very serious bushfires, in 2007, but “climate denialism” seems to have increased since?

    But I agree with your last prediction.

  35. All you’re really trying to say here Bill is that you know better than climatologists with combined tens of thousands of years of experience. if you’ve got a real scientific point, publish! Even in *cough* Energy & Environment, if you must.

    You say there’s no tropospheric hotspot? Yeah whatevs. Or are you saying temperature increases are below IPCC predictions?

    But this is really a second order issue, you already agree that CO2 is causing significant warming, and that there is significant warming observed, so I’m struggling to see your fundamental point.

  36. Obviously not all of the 36 percent (check the link again Bill) of gullible sorts are old white men, and obviously not 100 percent of OWMs are gulls for the denialist industry. But there is a very strong correlation, I believe that’s been demonstrated before.

  37. Interesting to watch how discussions on AGW always either veer off to the emotional side or into climate geek territory. Clearly this post is about human perceptions of the subject. I for one would be much more interested in exploring the psychological dimension as well as related statistical concepts of the problem.

    Perception of risks is interesting. Bill is right in relation to perception and related actions taken to the subprime fiasko. However, there is another side to this. For example you’ll find considering the risk of a private dwelling catching fire and burn down is astonishing small, how do you explain that just about every house owner pays a hefty fee to insure against it. Statistically all house owners would be much better of to sink the money into a personal portfolio set up for such an occasion.

    Further, in relation to models and probability, surely the margin of error is not just one-sided and the error that the impact of AGW is underestimated has to be included in the continuum. Are there any figures out there to substantiate this.

  38. The appropriate comparision is with scenario A

    Actually I would say the appropriate comparison is with modern models.

    Recent models would be more sophisticated or complex, but they predict a very similar temperature trajectory to Hansen’s models. If Hansen had used a modern model in ’88, his predictions would not have been more (or less) accurate.

    That’s nonsense. As the link shows modern models are tracking very well (at the appropriate decadal scale).

    When the theory/models, and reality, disagree for decades, it is usually reality that is right.

    Since, as above, the models are in good agreement with the observations that does not apply here.

    There are small areas where we know we need better modelling and/or better observations: TOA energy budgets, aerosols, clouds, convection. But none of these areas of uncertainty provide anything like a convincing disagreement with the current best modelling.

  39. Ta for that link Wilful. I too find the denier psych interesting in a car-accident sort of way.

    I have been trying to lure a denier to get in front of a CO2 laser for over a year but I just get banned or never come out of moderation at denier sites 🙂

    In case someone may think Bill has a point re water vapour blocking IR over CO2, this has been known not to be true since the 1920s when the boffs discovered molecular vibration quantum and worked out spectrum (and demonstrated in the 60-70s when we got spectrometers on satellites, but labs had it way before then, just in case being up in the air alters physical properties). To put it another way, a steam laser would have a different output to a CO2 laser. Not that you see too many water lasers out there as it’s a mongrel to keep more than a little bit of it in a gaseous state, unlike CO2.
    (The water molecule gifs I had just stopped working last week due to the site I stole it from )

    I used to find it fun to argue but now it’s very dull. My aunt used to be a history teacher and mistress. Amongst her collection is film from the British army in Belsen. (Yeah, her classes had a rep of being riveting). She relates that she still got deniers after even that. What can you do?

  40. Wilful, if you actually read that piece from Skeptic Science, you can see that Cook agrees with me. He admits that UAH, RSS and UWA show troposheric warming close to the surface rate. He says the differences between those surveys relate to different adjustments for “orbital decay” – I will take his word for that. However the “troposheric hot spot” is supposed to be warming at 2X suface rate, (some models as much as 3X). The “hot spot” just isnt there and it is pretty crucial to the strong positive feedbacks that are predicted by all of the models. If the “hot spot” mechanism is much weaker than modelled, then the positive feedbacks are also much weaker. That is the most likely reason the temperature just isnt rising at anything close to 3C per century.

    Cook does note that the “hot spot” does seem to appear as a result of some short term “monthly timescale” forcings.I havent personally read any of those studies yet, but again will take his word for that, (for now).

    Why the hot spot mechanism doesnt seem to work in the longer term no one knows.

  41. Wilful, if you actually read that piece from Skeptic Science, you can see that Cook agrees with me.

    For low values of “agree”.

    The “hot spot” just isnt there and it is pretty crucial to the strong positive feedbacks that are predicted by all of the models.

    No. From the link

    If the warming was caused by a brightening sun or reduced sulphate pollution, you’d still see a hot spot.


    The hot spot is not a unique greenhouse signature and finding the hot spot doesn’t prove that humans are causing global warming. Observing the hot spot would tell us we have a good understanding of how the lapse rate changes

    The ‘hotspot problem’ is a problem reconciling our instrumental surface measurements, our atmospheric temperature measurements and our understanding of atmospheric physics, specifically the lapse rate. It is not a problem of greenhouse modelling.

  42. So, Bill, your silence on my last para @40 tells us all volumes. You (or someone you study) have clearly put some research effort into finding some triviality which does not have a fully satisfactory answer yet. And now you’re hanging your hat on that, as if to suggest that the entire climatology community are committing some kind of fraud.

    Pretty weak.

  43. Martin – modern models are tracking well only because they are calibrated to start at the current temperature – it takes some time for a poor model’s performance to deviate from observations by a large, or statistically significant amount – in just about any field. Hansen’s model was at the same level as temperatures in 1988 and thus would have looked fairly good for at least a decade. But over 22 years it’s performance is fairly poor, though certainly not entirely wrong.

    You (and Cook) are correct that the hot spot is not specific to GHG’s. I never said it was. The “hot spot” is a result of the mechanism that amplifies a modest forcing, (of whatever cause), into a much larger total warming. (In this case; 1C directly from CO2 itself – into 3C of total AGW). The absense of the hot spot shows that amplification, (aka “feedback”), just isnt working as modelled.

    Pretending the hot spot really is there means ignoring 50yrs of evidence from scientific grade, calibrated thermoneters that have gone up on thousands of weather balloons – plus the recent satelite evidence from RSS. Ridiculous.

    I dont think I have to bother replying to the bloke with a thing about lasers, do I?

  44. So Bill what are you saying, we should all go and disperse like on a car accident site; “move on, nothing to see here”.

    You drive over bridges that very likely have been modeled by engineers in terms of stress and wear, you consume food that has been approved by scientist as to be sprayed with non harmful level of insecticide, but you appear to be nitpicking a consensus of scientific findings that have the potential of consequences of many magnitudes larger than the above two examples.

    What is your rational and what is your motivation?

  45. The first thing to understand about GW is that every degree of average temperature increase is a measure of a huge energy input into the atmosphere and the sea.
    What then happens is that the system that is oscillatory to begin with oscillates even more. Thus you get big temperature swings – these swings manifest themselves as snow/ice or heatwaves and assist with the formation of cyclones.
    Now for the ultimate conspiracy theory.
    There is one sure way to control the temperature rise without Carbon reduction – inject sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere. Whoever controls that process controls the world. It will be a curious world with no sunshine or shade, just a sort of pinkish glow that pervades everything. Stop the injection process and the climate takes off like a rocket. Question is who will control the SO2 ?

    BTW, Wilful your solar panels will not work very well in this regime, also you need alot more gear if you wish to disconnect the grid..

  46. Bill, your stements comparing Hansens 1988 model with modern models just isn’t right.

    Hansen’s 1988 scenario A has a warming of 0.39°C/decade and Scenario B has a warming of 0.24°C/decade. By contrast the current models used in IPCC AR4 show a warming of 0.2°C/decade for the next few decades. To just wave your hand and say that the performance of an ensemble of modern models will be the same as the performance of a single early model is really not very satisfactory.

    And of course hindcasting would perfectly well be able to show up any kind of error such as you describe. If models inevitably drift away from reality, and only agree because they recalibrated then hindcasts over the whole century – calibrated only at the beginning – would also drift away from the observations. This is not what we see; hindcasts perform very well.

    Pretending the hot spot really is there

    Lucky no-one’s ignoring the problem then. The IPCC AR4, and the literature in general, make it clear that there is a substantial problem here. Whether it is observational errors, insufficiently understood tropical circulation or overly simple modelling – or likely a bit of each – is something that no-one’s sure about.

    However Cook’s point is that you could throw out Greenhouse theory entirely – and there would still be a ‘tropical hotspot’ problem, based solely on our measurements (and non-greenhouse theory).

    Your comments about positive feedback relying on the tropical hotspot’s existence are not correct. The relationship between all of these things is complicated, but the feedback due to lapse rate alone is negative. This means that the greenhouse effect would be diminished by the presence of a hotspot. (Of course this would be offset by a positive water vapour feedback, but that is a seperate matter in that this positive feedback is not derived from the existence or otherwise of the hotspot per se.)

  47. BilB, the two kind of go hand. You can’t argue motivation on a intellectual basis, but it should be possible to do so with rational. I mean if there is a traffic sign indicating that there might be a slippery surface ahead do you double the speed and take one hand of the wheel because you argue ‘the engineers’ got it wrong.

    Well it is a fact our global population is growing exponentially, we are using resources including fuel at an exponential rate and these nitpickers and doubtsayers say ‘look the science has got it all wrong, she’ll be right mate’! My foot, In my scientific understanding, where everything that goes up comes down, unless you tackle escape velocity, we are living on borrowed time. Thus, any scientific alarm bells at the scale that AGW is ringing should be at least heeded cautiously and not nitpicked publicly for good sport.

  48. Wilful said:

    Huggybunny, sulphur wont fix ocean acidification.

    That’s true. All it can hope to do is to buy us a bit more time to get our collective acts together on deploying the technologies to foreclose uncontrolled warming, minimise loss of snowpack and ice cover, prevent disruptions to ocean conveyors, prevent loss of sea ice extent, glacial mass, the possible decomposition of the Arctic permafrost, defer warming in oceans and possibly prevent changes in the composition of vegetation in rainforests at altitude.

    Since many of these are a part of partly understood positive feedbacks, it seems in principle, worth looking at, assuming we could manage it without causing other seriously undesirable consequences and phase it out as we achieved zero net emissions and/or through other geoengineering measures began removing Co2 from the flux at a rate sufficient to return the atmosphere to about 290-310 ppmv. Apparently stratospheric SO2 does “wash” out pretty quickly.

    The problem of ocean acidification is of course a completely separate reason for abating emissions. I quite like the idea of large algae farms set up purely to bind CO2. You could then seal the dried algae in some sort of inert and cheap material (salt from desal plants? charcoal? Fly ash?) and then bury it deep in disused mines or perhaps drop it into the deeper parts of the ocean where under pressure, sequestered from light and at near zero temperature it ought to remain stable indefinitely.

    This use of algae would not have the same problems as one encounters trying to make biofuels as you wouldn’t be trying to select for a particular species — you’d simply want the greatest yield so as to absorb the maximum CO2 — and of course you aren’t trying to extract lipids or starch.

  49. Never mind the mainstream, what about levels of government, planning authorities and business.

    Compare these calls of reality …….

    Karl Braganza from the Bureau of Meteorology says more and increasingly frequent heatwaves are inevitable.

    “What has been clear in the last 10 years, and particularly in the last five or six years, is that events that were typically occurring once every 100 years, their return periods have greatly shrunk,” he said.

    “So in places like Adelaide and Victoria and Melbourne, we’ve seen some really bad heatwaves occurring every other season.

    “And the climate modelling that we’ve done and the projections due to greenhouse gas increases shows that that is typically what you would expect as the climate system warms up; that you get more severe and prolonged heatwaves more frequently occurring.”

    Mr Reeves says the dangers are all too real and governments, essential services and the communities need to be better prepared.

    …. with the conclusion in The capacity of local government to support adaptation to climate change: dealing with risk and uncertainty

    Yet the perception that climate change is not a significant risk for the region, combined with the layers of uncertainty about what will be the impacts of climate change has constrained adaptation response. Layers of uncertainty, coupled with different levels of problem awareness, perceptions of urgency, responsibility, and clear mandate and pathway for action at any political level has inhibited action. More reluctant decision makers are able to delay action on climate change citing scientific uncertainty and disagreement as the reason for inaction (Moser 2005). Plus there is the pragmatics of the issue such as a lack of capacity and resources including a shortage of professional, technical or political support (Allman et al. 2004). Compounded by the fact that climate change issues, particularly at the level of a local authority, is locked in to short term budgetary and political cycles (Urwin and Jordan 2008)

    Fickle thing risk perception.

  50. Wilful
    So2 certainly will not fix ocean acidification. I am not advocating it in any way. In fact I believe that we have only one safe path – CO2 emissions reduction. However there are people and governments out there that would seriously like to control SO2 injection, they would control the world.
    The more “they” obstruct CO2 emissions reduction the higher the probability that we will be forced to adopt heroic geoengineering measures that “they” put forward.
    Like I said, this has all the elements of a really bad conspiracy theory. Maybe it is just incompetence and stupidity. I hope so.

  51. “There is one sure way to control the temperature rise without Carbon reduction – inject sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere. Whoever controls that process controls the world.”

    As I said on another thread, Sulphur increasingly looks like the only thing that’s going to stop the Arctic permafrost melt. And the Arctic Council will control that through the Americans and their fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, spraying sulphur 24/7/52 for at least the next 50 years.


  52. Come on Darryl R, you know that that is never going to happen. The subsequent acid rain would make the whole thing total folly.

  53. A likely suspect:
    “Each base station would liquefy SO2 (through well-known processes) and send it up an 18-mile-long lightweight hose. The hose could have a diameter of just a couple inches. Helium-filled balloons positioned every few hundred yards would hoist it into the stratosphere. To keep pressures down, small pumps every 100 yards would push the liquid to the top of the hose, where nozzles would mist it into the stratosphere. There high winds would distribute it around the planet in about 10 days’ time.”
    Apparently the SO2 would be less thath that now comes from coal etc.
    “(The amount of SO2 would be less than 1% of current worldwide sulfur emissions.) The stations would cost about $150 million to set up and $100 million annually to operate. As Levitt points out in Superfreakonomics, if IV’s idea works, it would cost $50 million less to stop global warming than what Al Gore’s foundation is paying just to increase public awareness of it. In contrast, some mainstream economists have proposed spending $1.2 trillion (yes, with a “t”) annually, funded by taxes on carbon output, as a way of accomplishing the same goal”

  54. You dont need to build any equipment at all to increase SO2 emissions. Just relax the SO2 limits on petrol etc and switch off some of the “scrubbers” on power stations etc. It would cost nothing. (of course somewhat more acid rain is environmentally undesirable).

  55. Bill

    The altitude at which the SO2 is released makes a difference to its impact below. Releasing it in the lower troposphere is far more nasty than releasing it up near the tropopause or above.

    Merely adding a small amount to the jet fuel (say 0.5%) of long haul aircraft and having them fly at or near the boundary layer with the lower stratosphere would do the job for very little marginal cost.

  56. Sorry Brian, it would appear the ABC pulled the story, as I checked the link when posted and now can’t find the page again.
    Nevermind, I found same story here. Hope it’ll stay online this time.

  57. Nobel prize winner Paul Crutzen recently advocated injecting artificially large quantities of sulfur dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere at altitudes of around 12 miles (20 km), to counteract the effects of global warming from increased greenhouse gases.
    The proposal stemmed from observations of the aftermath from powerful volcanic eruptions. In particular, the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines shot deposits of sulfur dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere. Reaching an altitude of 12 miles (20 km), the gas formed small droplets of concentrated sulfuric acid, similar to those found in the clouds on Venus.
    These clouds then spread around Earth, and the droplets created a layer of haze that reflected some of the sun’s rays back into space, which cooled the whole planet by approximately 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius).
    In light of these new findings, injecting sulfur droplets into Earth’s atmosphere may not be as effective a method of battling climate change as once thought. For one, it is not known how quickly the initially protective haze will be converted back into gaseous sulfuric acid, which is transparent and allows the sun’s rays to pass through.
    Per Huggy

  58. Just a few comments:

    (1) SO2 wont solve the problem, acid rain anyone? The deliberate addition will kill us and trees, at least as fast as CO2 goes up. Net effect, at best, nothing.
    If you add in the effect of SO2 acid rain on fresh water areas …

    (2) We will do nothing about GW, until it is too late and we panic. BAU and old ‘King Coal’ lobbies are some of the most powerful in the world (read Wikileaks). The only medium term hope is that the ‘oil lobby’ jumps ship. There is no short term hope.

    The entire effort by ‘developed’ (I wonder how long that adjective will last) Govts efforts are are to do … nothing.

    Aided, as always, by the (as Lenin called them) the ‘fellow travelers’ (ie those paid directly or indirectly) or the ‘useful idiots’ (ie the normal ‘Green’ parties who would prefer total poverty or rampant GW vs a single nuclear reactor).

    Net result, nothing will be done. Lots of PR will happen of course. Until we, as a race, panic of course.

    Our most realistic hopes about dealing with GW are:
    (1) Total economic collapse in every ‘developed country’, which is quite possible (I include bankrupt Australia in this group).
    (2) Nuclear war.

    If you are older (50+), take up smoking, drugs and drink lots of alcohol and hope to cark it before it hits the fan.

    If you are young .. research all options. If you are 20 today you are going to be so stuffed at 40 (what plants can you make soup out of).

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