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New evidence suggests Earth’s oceans are warming far faster than we knew

Warmer waters in the upper oceans have larger long-term surface-level consequences than deep-ocean warming — like the melting of ice now stored on land.

New evidence indicates that the world’s seawater has been absorbing far more heat than expected over the last 45 years, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are saying in a paper published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

In fact, they say, the oceans may be warming twice as fast as has been generally assumed.

Meanwhile, a second paper in the same journal suggests that most of the warming is not going into deep-ocean storage but rather is remaining in the upper levels, at depths above 6,000 feet.

Because the oceans are thought to store more than 90 percent of the heat associated with the global warming driven by greenhouse-gas emissions, it seems to me these findings are worrisome for at least four main reasons:

  • While the oceans’ ability to bank a certain amount of warming means that global air temperatures rise more slowly, at least for a while, this capacity is neither limitless nor indefinite. At some point, stored heat must be returned to the atmosphere.
  • Warmer waters in the upper oceans have larger long-term surface-level consequences than deep-ocean warming — like the melting of ice now stored on land, in glaciers and ice sheets in places like Greenland and Antarctica, which causes sea level to rise.
  • A warmer ocean surface can also add immense energy to short-term storm events like hurricanes and typhoons;  diminishing sea ice in regions like arctic Alaska, meanwhile, promote and storm-driven coastline erosion.
  • Finally: At this relatively late date, our understanding of oceanic climate-change mechanisms — and thus our ability to craft reasonable strategies of adaptation — is plagued by gaps that make our foundation for decisionmaking disconcertingly unstable.

How can we know so little?

Perhaps you are wondering how it is possible for such a critical factor as the rate of ocean warming to be measured so poorly for so long, in this age of technological sophistication.

One answer is that while the means may be there, the will has lagged behind.

Despite decades of concern over global warming, and the ocean’s complicated role in all scenarios, we haven’t been measuring things like ocean temperature all that rigorously — unless the work was in support of better forecasting for, say, the needs of commercial shipping.

This means that we know a lot more about ocean temperature in the northern hemisphere than in the southern; even though the seas of the southern hemisphere account for nearly two-thirds of the ocean worldwide, the shipping lanes are disproportionately northern.

And while scientists have long agreed that our grasp of ocean warming is a series of tenuous underestimates, this new work is claimed to be the first effort to quantify the magnitude of error.

And even here, the researchers had to rely heavily on satellite altimetry measurements of sea level, which are plentiful, rather than direct temperature measurements, which are not.

Method explained

As the announcement from Livermore explained the work, in terms slightly less technical than the paper itself:

The team found that climate models that simulate the relative increase in sea surface height — a leading indicator of climate change — between Northern and Southern hemispheres is consistent with highly accurate altimeter observations. However, separating the simulated upper-ocean warming in the Northern and Southern hemispheres is inconsistent with observed estimates of ocean heat content change. These sea level and ocean heat content changes should be consistent, and suggest that until recent improvements occurred in the observational system in the early 21st century, Southern Hemisphere ocean heat content changes were likely underestimated.

Since 2004, automated profiling floats (named Argo) have been used to measure global ocean temperatures from the surface down to 2,000 meters. The 3,600 Argo floats currently observing the global ocean provide systematic coverage of the Southern Hemisphere for the first time. Argo float measurements over the last decade, as well as data from earlier measurements, show that the ocean has been gradually warming, according to [chief author Paul] Durack.

“Prior to 2004, research has been very limited by the poor measurement coverage,” he said. “By using satellite data, along with a large suite of climate model simulations, our results suggest that global ocean warming has been underestimated by 24 to 58 percent. The conclusion that warming has been underestimated agrees with previous studies, however it’s the first time that scientists have tried to estimate how much heat we’ve missed.”

Let’s focus on that latter statistic for a moment: The real rate of warming in the ocean may well actually be more than twice as large as is generally assumed.

Historical (and personal) context

At this point I ask your leave for a small digression, in which I recall a 10-year-old interview with a naval commander that helped me to grasp for the first time, really, how little we knew about ocean and climate apart from commercial forecasting.

His name is Conrad Lautenbacher, and at that point he was in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (he’s now retired). He had been dispatched to make a tour of American newspapers’ editorial boards, including the one at the Star Tribune where I was employed, in the runup to the elections of November 2004, to demonstrate to opinion leaders that the George W. Bush administration was engaged in some good things, too, like weather forecasting.

On meeting “the admiral,” as his NOAA escort described him, you might note his slight build and scholarly demeanor and have no difficulty believing he held a Ph.D. in applied mathematics, which he did, or was an expert on prediction of currents and wave action in Pacific atolls, which he was.

You might be less likely to guess he’d been a vice admiral and the U.S. Navy’s deputy chief of naval operations for surface warfare (in which role a knowledge of how atolls influence ocean currents had been rather valuable).

He was kind of candid about the political agenda for his tour of newspapers,  and the relaxed conversation that followed became  memorably intriguing. He liked to turn the tables on a questioner, too, and at one point he asked me to imagine a hemisphere of the earth centered on the Pacific Ocean, and then to guess how many sea-level climate-monitoring buoys were deployed in the whole of that half-planet.

By the sheerest luck, I had only recently read the answer somewhere and knew that it was: One. As in, (1).

But I didn’t know why that was so, and thus began a free-ranging discussion of how little we really invest in understanding the oceans and their role in potentially the greatest planetary problem of our time.

We also agreed that the admiral had a pretty cool idea for converting cruise missiles left over from the Gulf wars — and he had more than a passing familiarity with these, having commanded the U.S. Naval forces at Riyadh during Desert Storm — into robotic monitors carrying weather instruments rather than warheads.

There were lots of them around, he said, gathering dust and carrying a production cost of about a  million bucks apiece, which he said was almost certainly going to be cheaper than any custom-built solution for widespread measurement and monitoring.

He was still waiting to hear back from the White House on that one, but was beginning to think the idea wasn’t really going to go anywhere, and that’s pretty much what happened as far as I can tell.

But the Argo project of robotic floats, mentioned above, is also pretty cool — and is beginning to prove its value in research like the two pieces published on Sunday.

If you’ve seen Errol Morris’s documentary “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control,” you have the basic concept in your grasp: A bunch of  (relatively) low-cost and low-tech instrument stations that are cast into the void, where they operate independently and without much central control after deployment, gathering data and sending it home until the batteries die and they go dark.

Except this time the target is not the surface of Mars, but the surface and upper depths of our own ocean, about which we know much less.

And about which, it would seem, we have a lot to learn and maybe not so much time in which to learn it.

* * *

Both of the papers published in Nature Climate Change can be read online, but you’ll have to pay for access if you don’t already subscribe. The Durack paper on underestimation of ocean warming globally is here; the paper on upper-ocean trends is here.

Comments (104)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/07/2014 - 09:44 am.

    Considering this Past Hurricane Season

    with the absence of storms in the Gulf,…

    and Baja getting hit by hurricanes which formed in the Eastern Pacific,…

    which then led to massive damage in a region completely unprepared for hurricanes (because it hasn’t usually had them),…

    and flooding rains in the the desert regions of Southwestern US,…

    all of that coupled with unprecedented and persistent heat in Southern California and that region,…

    how can we doubt that, compared to previous recorded history, something in our weather is broken,…

    and is likely to continue this way into the future.

    Those of us here in the upper midwest are very lucky in that our climate seems to be changing LEAST and may continue along the lines of what we have called NORMAL for far longer than may other regions of the world.

    But I can’t help but wonder how the climate has changed at the Long Lake Nature Center since we were there with our elementary-aged kids 20+ years ago.

  2. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/07/2014 - 10:18 am.

    Egypt’s Calling

    How soon before the deniers wade in on this article too. These are the people who focus on a few denier crumbs while behind them there’s a bakery cranking out thousands of loaves of bread. But hey, they’ve got the whole conspiracy figured out!

    • Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/07/2014 - 10:50 am.

      Name calling

      ‘Denier’ is a pejorative term, suggesting a person who thinks smoking is good for you and that the holocaust never happened.
      Actually the earth’s climate is very complex and difficult to forecast. Reasoned discussion helps to understand the issues. That is why I avoid the term ‘alarmist’ for those who don’t grasp the technology.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/07/2014 - 10:56 am.

      How can we know so little?

      The first subtitle: “How can we know so little?”

      Todd, how can this be? This is all settled science, consensus stuff, right? What we don’t know, we can learn from computer models, right? Let’s talk boldly like we know it all, stifle all meaningful conversation, shout down people and label them as deniers if they dare to disagree or challenge the status quo.

      Science advances when science is challenged; consensus is not the thing of science, it is the tool of agenda, of politics, and persuasion. Carry on with zeal.

      • Submitted by Marc Post on 10/07/2014 - 11:15 am.

        Not a problem!

        Discussing science isn’t the problem. It’s when nonsense is touted as fact that is that problem. If you want to deny global warming, please cite your peer-reviews scientific studies. The problem is most deniers use long debunked clap-trap. It’s just recycled trash. Even ALEC admitted it “doesn’t understand the science” when Google called them liars, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to write global warming denier trash into science curriculum.

        • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/07/2014 - 01:13 pm.

          Very Accurate?

          36 of 38 (95%) major computer climate models predicted dire climate doom that never came to pass.

          Read for yourself:


          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/07/2014 - 01:25 pm.

            One look at the link

            shows you what kind of source of scientific expertise the Daily Mail is.
            When you you look at the actual numbers, you find that the scientific consensus was correct in predicting the -direction- of global climate change, but somewhat overestimated its extent in the near term.
            I’ll stay with the science.

            • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/07/2014 - 02:27 pm.

              Did you take one look?

              Had you, you would have seen that the Daily Mail is reporting on the UN IPCC report.

              No one was questioning direction, we have been coming out of an ice age for quite a few years now. Magnitude, that is what was overstated. Again.

          • Submitted by Marc Post on 10/07/2014 - 03:00 pm.

            Rose / Daily Mail

            David Rose’s Daily Mail article has been debunked over and over again.


          • Submitted by Lance Groth on 10/07/2014 - 05:12 pm.

            History, not models

            Models are by definition approximations. They have their uses in helping us improve our understanding of the forcings that drive climate. But we don’t need them to understand what happens when the planet is no longer in energy balance. We have multiple examples in the distant past, and the picture is not pretty. Unless you think mass extinction is a good thing. Argue about model uncertainties all you want. The past is fixed, and the data are clear.

          • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/13/2014 - 01:44 am.

            The Daily Mail? Really?

            Have you ever seen The Daily Mail?

            It’s somewhere between USA Today and The National Enquirer.

            • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/13/2014 - 08:05 am.

              ad hominen, really?

              The article is on the IPCC Assessment, and major climate scientists from major universities are quoted. Since you didn’t read it, I will provide a sample here on the comments; thanks for the opportunity.

              “One of the report’s own authors, Professor Myles Allen, the director of Oxford University’s Climate Research Network, last night said this should be the last IPCC assessment – accusing its cumbersome production process of ‘misrepresenting how science works’.
              Despite the many scientific uncertainties disclosed by the leaked report, it nonetheless draws familiar, apocalyptic conclusions – insisting that the IPCC is more confident than ever that global warming is mainly humans’ fault.
              It says the world will continue to warm catastrophically unless there is drastic action to curb greenhouse gases – with big rises in sea level, floods, droughts and the disappearance of the Arctic icecap.
              Last night Professor Judith Curry, head of climate science at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said the leaked summary showed that ‘the science is clearly not settled, and is in a state of flux’.”

        • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/07/2014 - 01:20 pm.

          Climate change is as old as the planet

          Global warming began as Earth started warming up from the Pleistocene Ice Age, a time when the lands on which we live were buried beneath thick sheets of glacial ice. In my opinion, we are living in better, more hospitable times. I think we are fortunate to be living during an inter-glacial period. Given the choice between glacial and inter-glacial, I will go with inter-glacial every time.

          Seven or eight thousand years ago the land bridge that linked what we call Alaska to what we call Russia became flooded. What is the goal, once we humans seize control of the planet’s thermostat, a planet whose climate has always been in flux? Do we want to lower the seas and re-establish the land bridge that was flooded by the Bering Strait?

          • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/07/2014 - 01:27 pm.

            The goal

            is reducing the rate of change by minimizing the anthropogenic effects.
            This might keep coastal cities (where most of our population lives) above water for the next generation or two.

          • Submitted by Jon Lord on 10/07/2014 - 02:02 pm.

            well, like it or not…

            Climate change generally isn’t good for the existing species at the time of the change. Species who need the most food resources fair the least well. Before the Pleistocene things were a lot warmer and nothing lived, say the late heavy bombardment.

          • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/07/2014 - 04:09 pm.

            Current population of the world 7.2 billion

            World population in 8000 BC 5 million, mainly centered around lower latitudes. Oddly enough, those current areas are some of the least productive areas.

            The world population depends on intensive industrialized agriculture in specific climactic conditions in the middle latitudes.

            No way you are going to shift that production further north (or south again), all in a hundred years or so..

          • Submitted by Lance Groth on 10/07/2014 - 05:09 pm.

            Paleo history, indeed

            The paleo history also reveals what has happened in the past when climate forcings moved too far in one direction or the other. One extreme is Snowball Earth. The other is extreme heating. Both resulted in mass extinctions. The crocodiles paddling around in what is now the Arctic may have thought conditions were just dandy, but the 70-90% of other species that went extinct would beg to differ.

            We have already seized control of the planet’s thermostat, but in a completely uncontrolled fashion. The planet is no longer in energy balance – it is warming because the energy being radiated into space is less than the energy coming in. The goal is to restore the planet to energy balance.

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/07/2014 - 12:31 pm.

        Science is advanced as new data comes in, gets reviewed by peers, and advances out into the public realm. That’s the very foundation of science.

        The anti global warming folk, on the other hand, don’t have much in the way of data, papers, or reports to support their position. So why should we believe them? What do they have to prove their point? If you have it, please post it here so we can all take a look at it.

        If you have a mountain of evidence that supports one position, which you ignore, and a small pile of evidence that supports the other side, which is held up as gospel, then you rightfully deserve to be called a denier. Follow the facts no matter what they are and they will lead you to the logical conclusion. Anything less than that just paints you as an ignoramus who is being deliberately obtuse just to carry on a senseless argument.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 10/07/2014 - 01:19 pm.

        Funny stuff

        coming from the same guy who on another subject, attempts to tout ONE study as gospel. But climate change…nah..”consensus is the tool of agenda, politics and persuasion.” Keep pushing your “global research” denier dreck if it helps you sleep at night, Steve. The rest of us aren’t going to wait until the wheels fall off to do something. You can go back to listening to Sooch and count your cylinder index and compare flashlight sizes.

        • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/07/2014 - 01:49 pm.

          Coming from …

          … someone who is consistently rude and name-calling on every subject. Reread your post and see if you can find your contribution to the conversation.

          At the march in New York City promoting global warming awareness, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. stated that there should be a law against skeptics and those who question climate change.

          It is clear that a discussion, a conversation, is not welcome. As we all can see directly above, a climate zealot is always poised to insult and shout down anyone who is not a true believer. Kennedy would like to make it a law.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 10/07/2014 - 03:01 pm.

            What conversation, Steve?

            You came to Minnpost, saw a picture of a melting glacier and like someone who can’t pass up a garage sale sign, felt compelled to stop and spew your tired, denier nonsense, starting off with a year old link to one of the oldest Brit tabloids in existence. As I stated, you have proven that you have no issue with presenting limited data if it suits your argument, but when it comes to climate change, you’d ride around on three flat tires and still think you’d need more data to ascertain if there’s a problem. That you continue to deny the effects of 200+ years of carbon emissions from the industrial revolution, renders any discussion with you pointless. It’s akin to finding common ground with a creationist. You think I’m rude? Good…I’m beyond tired of listening and reading the rants of people who are quite content to live with their collective heads buried deep within the sand of denial when the evidence surrounds them.

          • Submitted by Susanne Wissink on 10/07/2014 - 11:36 pm.

            I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “everyone is entitled to their opinion.” Well, it is not true on MinnPost. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can rationally and intelligently argue for. The plea that we should listen to all sides implies a false equivalence between experts and non-experts. Climate change is a matter of scientific evidence. Your opinion does not matter.

            • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/08/2014 - 09:22 am.

              It is true on MinnPost

              While you would surely prefer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s stated solution that there should be a law against skeptics and those who question climate change, that is not how we roll here.

              When in the course of Earth’s history has the climate not been in flux?

              The efforts to stifle this conversation serve only to encourage those of us that have not bought into the settle science dogma. Continue your attempts to belittle and ridicule the heretics that dare challenge the status quo; we need the encouragement that we are right to challenge the consensus.

              • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/08/2014 - 12:45 pm.


                Mr. Rose, you’re deliberately being obtuse. No one disputes that the earth’s climate has and continues to be in flux. The heart of the issue, which you ignored, is the cause of that flux and the rate of the flux. If the planet took tens of thousands of years to adjust to the new climate, then it wouldn’t be such a big deal. That’s normal and ecosystems have time to migrate.

                But we’re not looking at 20,000 years, we’re looking at 200 years and less. That’s not enough time for entire ecosystems to pack their bags and move off to another part of the planet. And for ecosystems that are near the poles, there’s no place at all for them to move to.

                You also have the added problem that there weren’t that many people around at the end of the last ice age. How many were on the earth then? Maybe a couple of million. How many do we have today? Seven BILLION and it’s quickly climbing to nine billion, most of whom live near low lying coastal areas. What are you going to do when their cities and farms flood? Where will they move to? Who will pay for the move? How much will it cost to replicate the infrastructure they left behind, such as buildings, highways, ports, and airports? Where will they get food from once their farm fields are sterilized with encroaching salt water?

                This is why people think you’re unintelligent with your comments. You don’t look at the science that’s presented, don’t think through the issues, and simply discount the ramifications of the earth heating up. Then you act surprised when people think you’re full of crap.

                If you have some legitimate concerns about the science, then bring them forth and cite them properly, not from a tabloid like the Daily Mail. People are more than happy to discuss honest questions about how the science behind global warming works. They’re not interested, however, in talking to someone who deliberately plays stupid when the issues have been explained in detail.

                • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/08/2014 - 01:42 pm.

                  Moderator Taking the Day Off?

                  Your devolution into unkind words and phrases, like “full of crap”, “stupid”, “obtuse”, “unintelligent”, say more about you than anything else.

                  “That’s not enough time for entire ecosystems to pack their bags and move off to another part of the planet.” Really? Are you aware that 99.9% of all past species are extinct? Extinct. But, this time will be different, because man is here to slow it all down and make it better? Let’s all dwell on that idea for a moment, and you can take a “look at the science”.


                  • Submitted by jason myron on 10/08/2014 - 02:31 pm.

                    Maybe you should put your big boy pants on.

                    and stop whining that your views are being exposed for what they are. You repubs are all the can dish it, but your sure can’t take it. Basically your contention is …”whatever happens is God’s will.” Does that about cover it? Just cut to the chase Steve, it’s obvious you couldn’t care less what happens to this planet. As long as your lifestyle doesn’t get mussed in any way and you have your get out of hell free card, you’re golden.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/09/2014 - 08:16 am.

                      And now, fashion advice

                      You have been consistent in bringing nothing to the discussion and refuting nothing that I have said. The lefty play of attacking the messenger when you cannot attack the message is in full bloom. And, you make a lot of incorrect assumptions about someone who you do not know.

                      As a carbon worshiper, I would expect that you can refute this bit of information regarding Earth of a lower temperature with a much higher CO2 PPM atmosphere.

                      Earth experienced an ice age 450 million years ago, with CO2 somewhere between 2000 and 8000 ppm. According to Hansen’s theories – all life on Earth should have been extinct before it even evolved.


                    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/09/2014 - 11:44 am.


                      Do you have a credible source for your position? Goddard does not fit in the reliable category.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/09/2014 - 12:23 pm.

                      Citations Clearly Stated at Top of Article


                      PALEOMAP Project

                    • Submitted by jason myron on 10/09/2014 - 01:06 pm.

                      There’s nothng to refute as the “message” is BS…

                      and the only discussion would be as to why you continue to retch up a charlatan like Goddard in an attempt to defend yourself. Are you a masochist or just willfully obtuse? It’s like holding up the analytics of Ken Ham to prove evolution is bogus. Get a grip.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/09/2014 - 01:51 pm.

                      Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

                      You know that has already been addressed downstream. Just scroll down.

                      An excerpt:

                      “An international team of scientists including Mark Williams and Jan Zalasiewicz of the Geology Department of the University of Leicester, and led by Dr. Thijs Vandenbroucke, formerly of Leicester and now at the University of Lille 1 (France), has reconstructed the Earth’s climate belts of the late Ordovician Period, between 460 and 445 million years ago.

                      The findings have been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA – and show that these ancient climate belts were surprisingly like those of the present.

                      The researchers state: “The world of the ancient past had been thought by scientists to differ from ours in many respects, including having carbon dioxide levels much higher – over twenty times as high – than those of the present.”

                  • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/09/2014 - 02:02 pm.

                    Definite bias

                    I am always amazed at how they choose what to let through. I have to assume Todd and Jason are friends of the folks.

                    • Submitted by jason myron on 10/09/2014 - 03:24 pm.

                      Sorry to disappoint.

                      but I know no one at Minnpost. I assume that the moderators understand that in the real world, people are free to express themselves. If you or Rose are having a sad because people here expose and ridicule your repeated attempts at using outright partisan, debunked data to hold up your arguments, that says more about you than it does about any of us. If you don’t like being mocked, stop painting a target on your back, or take it back to your own blog where you can control the situation as you converse with the two others that have done you the favor in checking it out. I have zero patience for people who run to moderators because their feelings were hurt after being stepped on by people calling them out on their BS.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/09/2014 - 07:08 pm.


                      Yes it is their decision how they choose to enforce their policy. I do differently on my site.

                      “MinnPost reserves the right to remove postings that include the use of foul language, personal attacks or the use of language that may be libelous or interpreted as inciting hate or sexual harassment; however we are under no obligation to do so.”

                      It just seems that if I even try to make harmless joke here it is blocked where as you can ridicule the other commenters.

                    • Submitted by jason myron on 10/09/2014 - 08:56 pm.

                      and others have ridiculed me in turn.

                      the difference is I don’t whine about it. John, I’ve checked out your”blog.” It seems most of your content is lifted from minnpost and you spend a majority of time complaining about posts that weren’t printed. I’ve had numerous posts that were censored for whatever reason and frankly, I don’t care. I’m not so full of myself that I feel my every utterance has to be read. I’ll leave that you.

                    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/10/2014 - 09:59 am.

                      Excellent Source

                      I appreciate the subject related comments of all the MinnPost commenters, they give me different views to ponder and discuss in further detail.

                    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 10/09/2014 - 09:09 pm.

                      Spare me

                      One in about 10 get through for me, so stow the outrage.

                    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 10/10/2014 - 09:12 am.

                      Oh Grow Up

                      I’ve had a ton of my comments not make it through moderation, but I’m not going to run crying when it happens… nor will I assume that those dastardly people on the opposite end of my perceived political spectrum are colluding with one another.

                      Obviously, the posts of both Mr. Appelen and Mr. Rose ARE getting through. Mr Rose has been a registered site commenter for 6 years and has 112 pages of posts. Mr Appelen has 116 pages of posts.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/09/2014 - 02:05 pm.

            The sky is falling

            It was likely hard to have a civil conversation when Chicken Little was frightened by the acorn.

  3. Submitted by David Frenkel on 10/07/2014 - 10:23 am.

    Warming oceans

    The warming of the oceans is an old story that has essentially been ignored by the politicians but it is on the radar of the US Military who realize the issues rising sea water can do to coastal areas. I was SCUBA diving off of Key West , FL five years ago and saw the dead and bleached coral from the warming Gulf and Caribbean. It is also an old story that we know more about the moon than the ocean depths.

  4. Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/07/2014 - 10:27 am.

    From 2 people who know which way the wind blows

    As to the frequency of extreme-weather events, we have a recent TV interview by Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, one of world’s largest casualty insurers. Buffett noted on CNBC, “While the question of climate change deserves lots of attention, it has no effect on the prices we’re charging this year versus five years ago. And I don’t think it’ll have an effect on what we’re charging three years or five years from now. Hurricanes in recent years have been all profit. Future catastrophe forecasts appear to be no different than in the past.”

    Or as Stanford’s Nobel physicist, Robert Laughlin, put it recently, “Global warming forecasts have the further difficulty that one can’t find much actual warming in present day weather observations.”
    The 17 year pause in global warming measured the atmosphere over both land and oceans.
    A recent study in the journal Nature measured the effect on sea levels of melting from both Antarctica and Greenland. It came out to a one inch rise every forty years.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/07/2014 - 10:48 am.

      Food For Thought

      Winner winner, chicken dinner!

      Mr. Westgard’s musings were thoroughly refuted here:

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/07/2014 - 12:48 pm.


      If you use Warren Buffet for your climate information, do you use Mike Fairbourne for your investment advice?

      As has been said dozens of times, Buffet was talking about their gulf coast hurricane insurance profits. But don’t ask any insurer about their losses on uncommonly heavy rains, flooding, frequent storms, Pacific hurricanes, drought losses, fire losses, tornado damage, etc., etc. You might not have such a rosy answer.

      And if there has been a “pause” in warming for the past 17 years, how come the 10 hottest years have been achieved all within the past 17 years (2010, 2005, 1998, 2013, 2003, 2002, 2006, 2009, 2007, 2004)?

      And 2014 is on track to be the hottest yet.

      So sad you stick by long discredited statements.

      How about something new and inventive next time?

    • Submitted by Susanne Wissink on 10/07/2014 - 12:57 pm.

      Mr. Buffett is an expert on making money, not climate change

      I am confused why you would cite Mr. Buffett as an expert on climate change. He is an expert on making money, not climate change. What he actually said is that “Hurricanes in recent years have been all profit.” That means that he has earned more in premiums than it cost him for payouts. Why is that? Does that mean he controls the payout (i.e. climate) or that he controls the premiums? Climate change has no effect on prices because Mr. Buffett covered his bets. He has already entered data from worst case scenarios into his pricing model. These models cover the three to five years and as long as overall the payout is less than the premium, Mr. Buffett will hold the prices for those years. When he states it will not have an effect on what he will charge three to five years from now, that tells me that he is confident that his premiums are sufficiently high enough to make a profit – no matter what. Mr. Buffett makes no inferences that consequences of climate change do not exist.

  5. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 10/07/2014 - 10:50 am.

    Co2 is such a little component

    of the total atmosphere. To think if we decrease a tiny component to even a tinier component, and it’s going to have a effect, well, we are really grasping at straws. This is like attempting to effect our household electricity bill by switching to from electric pencil sharpeners to manual. But, some want to shutter coal plants to “correct” global warming.

    • Submitted by Marc Post on 10/07/2014 - 11:04 am.


      That denier talking point was rebutted long ago. It’s just plain silly.

      Get the facts:

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/07/2014 - 12:20 pm.


      Carbon dioxide is indeed a relatively small component in our atmosphere, but it hits far above its weight class. It absorbs radiated heat rather than letting it dissipate into space, which in turn causes the planet to heat up faster. That’s pretty much basic science that we’ve known for hundreds of years.

      Switching from electric to manual pencil sharpeners is pretty minimal, considering you only use the sharpener a couple of times a month. Coal fired power plants, on the other hand, are the biggest source of CO2 emissions in the country. Turning them off would be more akin to turning off the fridge in your house, not the pencil sharpener.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/07/2014 - 01:17 pm.

      There are numerous precedents in nature for tiny amounts of something affecting a much larger system.

      For instance, do you know how many grams of iron your body has in it? 4 grams. But it is essential in that amount and too little and too much have serious effects.

      There are 10 mg of nickel in our entire body, it is essential (in a medically mysterious way) but there cannot be much variation in that amount for good health.

      Many things in the natural world work in a narrow range, and departure from that narrow range results in changes to the system as a whole.

      • Submitted by Jim Halonen on 10/07/2014 - 02:43 pm.

        I wonder why

        Co2 emmissions apparently have been rising year over year, but there hasn’t been any warming for nineteen years. Logically thinking, Co2 has nothing to do with “global warming”. So why would blame something that’s causing absolutely nothing from happening – and costing us dearly to administer?

        • Submitted by Marc Post on 10/07/2014 - 02:53 pm.

          Because it HAS been warming

          You are misinformed. Here are the facts:

        • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/07/2014 - 03:49 pm.


          Why would you think CO2 has nothing to do with global warming? It’s been proven for hundreds of years that CO2 is indeed a greenhouse gas. Do you have any proof to back up your claim or are you just casting aspersions because it fits your world view?

          Please bring data and links to the table to back up your assertions, and make sure they’re credible before you post. You’ll save yourself and the rest of us a lot of time if you do and you’ll help to move the discussion forward in a meaningful way.

          • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/08/2014 - 07:54 am.

            Carbon PPM Tipping Point

            It seems that 400 PPM is not the tipping point that it was sold to be. There are many factors besides CO at play, hundreds, Carbon is an easy one to explain, understand, and parrot.

            “Princeton U. Physicist Dr. William Happer and NASA Moonwalker & Geologist Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt wrote on May 8, 2013 in the Wall Street Journal: “Thanks to the single-minded demonization of this natural and essential atmospheric gas by advocates of government control of energy production, the conventional wisdom about carbon dioxide is that it is a dangerous pollutant. That’s simply not the case.””


            The Earth has had much higher CO PPM than presently during colder times.

            • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/08/2014 - 12:46 pm.

              CO2 Levels

              Do you have a cite for that?

              • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/08/2014 - 01:47 pm.

                It is in the Article I Linked

                The carbonifereous period.

                Earth experienced an ice age 450 million years ago, with CO2 somewhere between 2000 and 8000 ppm. According to Hansen’s theories – all life on Earth should have been extinct before it even evolved.


                • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/08/2014 - 06:01 pm.

                  Sounds dreamy, Steve


                  The Ordovician–Silurian extinction event, the Ordovician extinction, was the second-largest of the five major extinction events in Earth’s history in terms of percentage of genera that went extinct and second largest overall in the overall loss of life.[1] Between about 450 Ma to 440 Ma (million years ago), two pulses of extinction, separated by one million years, appear to have happened.[2] This was the second biggest extinction of marine life, ranking below only the Permian–Triassic extinction event. At the time, all known life was confined to the seas and oceans.[3] More than 60% of marine invertebrates died[4][5] including two-thirds of all brachiopod and bryozoan families.[3] Brachiopods, bivalves, echinoderms, bryozoans and corals were particularly affected.[2]


                  (end quote)

                  And oddly enough, the only place amenable to life was the ocean–and that was depopulated.

                  Great research, Steve.


                  • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/08/2014 - 09:50 pm.

                    Thank you

                    Are you countering with wikipedia? Great research, Neal.

                    My point was colder a colder Earth at much higher CO PPM.

                    The fear is 450+ PPM will lead to runaway heating. That experiment has been run and we know the results.

                    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/09/2014 - 07:53 am.

                      Gosh Steve, I bet if you picked up ANY geologic history reference you would find the extinction events laid out. It’s not a little-know, hidden, crackpot theory. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar. Your need for an ultra-scientific reference on a commonly accepted event says a lot.

                      By the way, during that period of time, the earth was mainly covered with water (gosh–higher CO2, lots of water !?!?–whoodathunkit?)

                      Over the short period of a couple of million years, a see-saw through high and low temperatures and a cople of major extinction events. Still sounds like a rather dubious path for us to go down, Steve–and in a few hundred years rather than a few million years.

                      What is so amusing is that Steve, like many others, makes the assumption because some life endured through that period, it must mean that modern humans with all their trappings and numbers would find it survivable (a steamy Waterworld, anyone?)

                      And a clue as to that period–“Carboniferous” refers to formation of the great coal beds which WAS the result of giant die-offs of carbon-based plants and animal, and the ultimate sequestering of those carbon forms below ground, leading to a climate with less CO2 that we are familiar with.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/09/2014 - 09:31 am.

                      More Pseudo-Science

                      “(gosh–higher CO2, lots of water !?!?–whoodathunkit?)”

                      Go ahead, explain how water causes CO2 in the atmosphere.

                      Each year, humankind frees about 9 billion tons of that sequestered carbon. Those sequestered carbon-based plants were CO2 consumers; they weren’t loading the atmosphere with carbon.

                    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/09/2014 - 11:43 am.


                      Steve Goddard (real name Tony Heller) is not a reliable source for information. In fact he’s so unreliable that even other global warming deniers shy away from him.


                    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/09/2014 - 01:07 pm.

                      It’s not that hard, Steve.

                      Carbon consumers consume CO2 from the atmosphere.

                      Death of carbon consumers, from whatever means, results in more CO2 in the atmosphere (now talk again about that 7000 ppm level again–obviously a runaway reaction).

                      But carbon remains in the carbon consumer’s carcass, and when embedded in the earth, are sequestered from the atmosphere.

                      Which we are now rapidly liberating by uncovering and burning their carcass.

                      Because it was so grand the last time it was so high.

                      The atmospheric lifespan of CO2 as a greenhouse gas is about 200 years–the spikes aren’t eternal, but unfortunately can we put things on hold for that amount of time?

                      And check my sentence–more CO2, more heat, more moisture in the environment.

                      Every wonder why the humidity is so low in winter?

                • Submitted by jason myron on 10/09/2014 - 12:28 am.

                  Steven Goddard?

                  Steven Goddard is mocked by his fellow deniers for being too much of a flake. When a brain trust like Steve Doocy takes up your argument, you know you’ve already lost the war.

                  • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/09/2014 - 12:38 pm.

                    Carboniferous Deniers?

                    Ad hominem attacks against people, truly the hallmark of desperation in an argument.

                    From the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works website:

                    “Washington, DC — Award-winning Princeton University Physicist Dr. Will Happer declared man-made global warming fears “mistaken” and noted that the Earth was currently in a “CO2 famine now.” Happer, who has published over 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers, made his remarks during today’s Environment and Public Works Full Committee Hearing entitled “Update on the Latest Global Warming Science.”

                    “Many people don’t realize that over geological time, we’re really in a CO2 famine now. Almost never has CO2 levels been as low as it has been in the Holocene (geologic epoch) – 280 (parts per million – ppm) – that’s unheard of. Most of the time [CO2 levels] have been at least 1000 (ppm) and it’s been quite higher than that,” ”


                    Lots of CARBON.

                    “Geologists reconstruct the Earth’s climate belts between 460 and 445 million years ago.

                    An international team of scientists including Mark Williams and Jan Zalasiewicz of the Geology Department of the University of Leicester, and led by Dr. Thijs Vandenbroucke, formerly of Leicester and now at the University of Lille 1 (France), has reconstructed the Earth’s climate belts of the late Ordovician Period, between 460 and 445 million years ago.

                    The findings have been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA – and show that these ancient climate belts were surprisingly like those of the present.

                    The researchers state: “The world of the ancient past had been thought by scientists to differ from ours in many respects, including having carbon dioxide levels much higher – over twenty times as high – than those of the present.”


                    • Submitted by jason myron on 10/09/2014 - 01:34 pm.

                      It’s not desperation…

                      you come off like the owner of the pet shop in the Monty Python skit that insists the parrot isn’t dead. What you’re seeing from us is complete dismissal of a person that just isn’t worth wasting time on anymore. In order for you to win an argument, you’d actually have to present one…you haven’t even come close.

                    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/09/2014 - 02:41 pm.

                      It’s all where you make the cut for your quote, Steve

                      From your last reference:


                      The researchers state: “The world of the ancient past had been thought by scientists to differ from ours in many respects, including having carbon dioxide levels much higher – over twenty times as high – than those of the present.[*****THIS IS WHERE STEVE MAKES HIS CONVENIENT CUT, BUT READ ON*****] However, it is very hard to deduce carbon dioxide levels with any accuracy from such ancient rocks, and it was known that there was a paradox, for the late Ordovician was known to include a brief, intense glaciation – something difficult to envisage in a world with high levels of greenhouse gases. ”

                      The team of scientists looked at the global distribution of common, but mysterious fossils called chitinozoans – probably the egg-cases of extinct planktonic animals – before and during this Ordovician glaciation. They found a pattern that revealed the position of ancient climate belts, including such features as the polar front, which separates cold polar waters from more temperate ones at lower latitudes. The position of these climate belts changed as the Earth entered the Ordovician glaciation – but in a pattern very similar to that which happened in oceans much more recently, as they adjusted to the glacial and interglacial phases of our current (and ongoing) Ice Age.

                      This ‘modern-looking’ pattern suggests that those ancient carbon dioxide levels could not have been as high as previously thought, but were more modest, at about five times current levels (they would have had to be somewhat higher than today’s, because the sun in those far-off times shone less brightly).

                      “These ancient, but modern-looking oceans emphasise the stability of Earth’s atmosphere and climate through deep time – and show the current man-made rise in greenhouse gas levels to be an even more striking phenomenon than was thought,” the researchers conclude.



                      It doesn’t support any of the points you are trying to make.

                      There you go again, Steve…..anything goes, throw it and hope it sticks…


                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/09/2014 - 03:36 pm.

                      Read on, indeed the link I provided

                      From your excerpt of my link:

                      “those ancient carbon dioxide levels could not have been as high as previously thought, but were more modest, at about five times current levels”

                      The math, 5 X 400 = 2000 PPM CO2

                      By the way Neal, you are on the hook for explaining your assertion, “(gosh–higher CO2, lots of water !?!?–whoodathunkit?)”

                      We all continue to wait, with great anticipation, for your explanation of how water causes CO2 in the atmosphere.

                    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/09/2014 - 06:24 pm.

                      In normal conversation, it goes cause>effect, if>then, so high CO2, more water in the atmosphere.

                      And if you can recall, you are the person who was insisting a few posts above that there was 20 times the CO2–now it’s down to 5.

                      And all I can say is that the papers you cite directly contradict your point.

                      So long Steve, happy delusions.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/10/2014 - 09:06 am.

                      Scroll up and read

                      The context, the quote, “the earth was mainly covered with water” This doesn’t sound like you were talking about atmospheric water. Your failed to explain how water covering the earth, to which you referred, causes atmospheric CO2 to increase.

                      Scroll up again where you will see that I stated a range of 2000-8000 PPM CO2. You seized upon 2000 as good news, but now 450 or 500 will be the end of the world, right?

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 10/12/2014 - 08:20 am.

                      That is quite a scramble feedback loop

                      Your words, “By the way, during that period of time, the earth was mainly covered with water (gosh–higher CO2, lots of water !?!?–whoodathunkit?)”

                      It doesn’t seem to match what you call “In normal conversation”. Please clear it up for us all.

        • Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 10/07/2014 - 03:51 pm.

          “no warming”

          Cite the peer-reviewed journal articles that show we’ve seen no warming in the past 19 years. Just asserting it doesn’t cut bait around here.

  6. Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 10/07/2014 - 10:56 am.

    Oh come now

    You continue to trot out Buffet in an attempt to qualify him as an expert on climate, which he clearly is not. Nor is he setting rates for one of the companies owned by Berkshire.
    I might be wrong, but I’m guessing that being CEO of Berkshire is a full time job, which means he does not run the companies owed by the umbrella company, they are separate entities, with their own CEO’s, boards of directors, share prices, etc. Warren does not run those companies, he runs Berkshire – there is a difference.

    Albedo, maybe you’re unfamiliar with this term, but it is the reflective property of a surface. Albedo is rated on a scale of 0-1, with water having an albedo of about .2, and snow about .6. More snow on the ice caps means there is more solar heat reflecting back off the surface, more water means more heat being trapped – its simple science really, you should check it out.

    • Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/07/2014 - 12:09 pm.

      simple science

      It really is not so simple, as you would learn if you took one of the classes on energy that I teach for the U of M adult ed program.
      Buffett is not a climate expert, but he and his people know a lot about the unusual weather that Gore disciples keep touting. There isn’t any unusual weather, just as there isn’t any warming. Warming might resume next year, we just don’t know. Spending billions on ethanol and wind turbines won’t matter whether we head toward the next glacier or warm up to the level of the Medieval Warm Period.
      A stiff gas tax could finance energy efficient public transport and encourage its use. But you don’t hear those tough measures from the Gore disciples.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/07/2014 - 01:23 pm.

      • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/07/2014 - 01:28 pm.

        …..Warming might resume next year, we just don’t know………….

        You need to get your definition of “warm” in sync with the rest of the world.

        The 10 warmest years on record?

        2010, 2005, 1998, 2013, 2003, 2002, 2006, 2009, 2007, 2004

        And 2014 is heading for the recorded all time warmest.

        As for no unusual weather–are you serious?

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/07/2014 - 01:31 pm.

        Read Tom Friedman

        Or doesn’t he qualify as a ‘Gore disciple’?

      • Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 10/07/2014 - 01:34 pm.

        Gas tax

        Oh hell yeah, I favor raising the gas tax (and coal taxes, natural gas taxes, etc). I favor a stiff carbon tax for climate reasons. I favor it for investing in infrastructure so our roads, bridges and transit options are properly funded. I favor it for getting us to import less tar sands crude and to slow the unprecedented rush towards fracking.

        I don’t know who these “Gore disciples” are that you mention, but plenty of folks from Thom Friedman to conservative economist Greg Mankiw to average individuals who care about our planet are on board for a carbon tax that includes raising pump prices.

      • Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 10/08/2014 - 08:25 am.

        No warming huh

        You might want to talk to some of your contemporaries at the U, specifically those in the ESPM area, they feel a bit differently about warming than you do.
        For instance, one professor is currently doing research on forest management in the Arrowhead, where she is replacing the coniferous trees with hardwoods. Hardwoods don’t grow in the cold (very well), so why are those trees flourishing – could it be because the state is in fact getting warmer, and species can now thrive where they couldn’t previously. Or, is it because of magic. Not sure where you fit on that spectrum, but it appears closer to the magic side.

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/08/2014 - 12:27 pm.

          “Hardwoods don’t grow in the cold (very well)…”

          Ah. That explains why Birch does so well in Minnesota and…Siberia. Magic…It’s all coming together now.

  7. Submitted by Gary Taylor on 10/07/2014 - 11:15 am.

    Where’s the data?

    Typical Global Warming article – No data – Not a single temperature mentioned.

  8. Submitted by Jim Nessa on 10/07/2014 - 12:45 pm.

    Trust your eyes

    If you discount the actuality of global warming, look around. Spend a few days in Glacier Park. Look at the pictures of the glaciers that were there in the past and see which ones remain. Visit Grindelwald Switzerland and talk to the people who live at the base of the Eiger. The mountain is crumbling because the permafrost is melting. As a result the climbers are resorting to climbing in the winter when the rock falls are lessened. Look at the melting of the glaciers that feed the Ganges river. People suggest that the increased sea ice in the antarctic suggest global cooling. Others suggest that the increase is due to fresh water entering the sea from the melting of the ice on the land which freezes at a higher air temperature that normal salt sea water. As far as reduction in sea ice in the arctic, go back to look at the stories in the past week or so about the unprecedented number of walrus beaching on land this summer instead of sea ice. Maybe you could find the April 2013 National Geographic magazine story about warming summers melting permafrost in Siberia and exposing mammoth tusks over 3000 years old.
    The discussion about global warming is not about us, and it is not about what will happen next week or next month. A 17 year pause in the increase of some temperature measurements does not remove the reality of long term temperature change, precipitation changes and the effects of sea water acidification. Our grandchildren will look back at us and be the judges of our inaction.

  9. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/07/2014 - 05:54 pm.

    Whew. That dramatic headline had me thinking warmers had some hard data. More models; no worries.

  10. Submitted by Lance Groth on 10/07/2014 - 07:02 pm.

    Insanity vs. Reality

    There is a form of insanity peculiar to humans that comes into play when politics and money are allowed to dominate in discussions in which they have no legitimate place, or only peripheral involvement at most. It is called “magical thinking”.

    People, most people, are so used to feeding every issue under the sun into the political meat grinder that they think they can do it with physics too, as if the basic laws by which the universe operates can be influenced by opinion polls, PAC money, votes (bought & sold), and postings on comment pages. I blame it on our abysmal educational effort in science and mathematics. People opt out of the “hard” classes, but then proceed to blather about the topics they didn’t study.

    MODELS: AGW denialists love to attack climate models as being inaccurate. You know what? They are. That’s why they’re just models, which are by definition imprecise approximations of the real world, using only a subset of all the myriad variables that go into the real world system. They are useful in testing which variables are the most important, thus improving our understanding of the natural system, and over time become more precise as they are adjusted based on new data. But this is all a red herring. We don’t need models to know what happens when the Earth is out of energy balance, because we have ample record of what *has actually happened* in the Earth’s past when energy imbalance has occurred due to nonhuman forcings. We also have the examples of Venus and Mars, which started out much like the early Earth, but went in radically different directions. The bottom line is that when more energy is coming into the system than is going back out, the world warms, and this has various consequences to the climate system and the biosphere. When warming is extreme or very rapid, the climate system is destabilized and species go extinct. It’s all there in the paleo record, you only have to look.

    PHYSICS: CO2, methane, and other gases are greenhouse gases. This means when they are present in an atmosphere, they retain heat by preventing it from radiating back into space. There’s no good arguing about it, this is a physical fact. Add more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and more energy is retained in the system. Period, end of story. As I and many others have noted, physics cannot be bargained with, wished away, or voted out of office. It just is, and it had better be accounted for when making decisions. Ask any engineer or astronaut about physics. Leave it out of your calculations and disaster results.

    ENERGY: The various forcings impacting the Earth’s energy balance can be measured with precision. Pre-industrial civilization, the Earth was more or less in energy balance. Natural forcings would sometimes push the climate toward cooling, and sometimes toward warming, but over time the system would re-balance. Human activity has now pushed the Earth out of energy balance. A NASA study ( of the Earth’s energy balance during the period 2005-2010 – a period of unusually low solar activity – found that reduced solar radiance had a negative forcing of 0.25 watts per square meter of the Earth’s surface. If the Earth were in energy balance, that would result in cooling. However, the carbon people are pumping into the atmosphere produces a positive (warming) forcing of 0.58 watts per square meter, more than twice the natural negative forcing (there will never be another ice age as long as humans maintain an industrial civilization). This energy is not being radiated back into space, it is staying in the system. 0.58 watts per square meter. Multiply that times the surface area of the Earth – that’s a heck of a lot of energy. In order to restore energy balance, atmospheric CO2 would need to be reduced to no more than 350 ppm. We are now at 400 ppm, give or take a couple of ppm. The last time this happened, horses and camels lived in arctic. Given that we are doing nothing effective to reduce emissions, we will certainly reach 450 ppm. The last time that happened, there was no sheet ice anywhere on the planet, and that means dramatically higher sea levels.

    TIPPING POINTS: The issue is not just the CO2 level, that isn’t even the most important issue by itself. The real danger is crossing a tipping point after which warming accelerates dramatically and out of any hope of control. In the past, long periods of warming led eventually to the melting of methane hydrates, releasing vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere, which abruptly spiked the temperature. Methane lasts only a short time in the atmosphere, but is oxidized to CO2, which lasts a long time. Temperatures spike, and all the extra CO2 holds in the excess energy. Civilization would end, as quite likely would the human (and all or nearly all other) species. Depending on how things play out, the world could enter a Venus Syndrome phase of unrestrained warming. It’s just nothing to play with. In recent years, elevated release of methane has been detected in the arctic. It seems the melting may have already started. We had better hope not, because if it has, we have no hope of stopping it no matter what we do.

    BUT NO WARMING?: Nonsense. It just hasn’t been where you expected. According to the same study, “the upper ocean has absorbed 71 percent of the excess energy and the Southern Ocean, where there are few Argo floats, has absorbed 12 percent. The abyssal zone of the ocean, between about 3,000 and 6,000 meters (9,800 and 20,000 feet) below the surface, absorbed five percent, while ice absorbed eight percent and land four percent.” The energy is there, the ocean has absorbed most of it. The ocean may temporarily be keeping the Piper at bay, but the Piper will be paid in the end.

    CONSEQUENCES: Greenhouse gases have risen this high and higher in the distant past, and the Earth has been far warmer than it is now. Life survived. Life did, but not most species. Once major difference between then and now is that pre-humans, these changes happened over periods of thousands and tens of thousands of years. Species had time to adapt if they could. They had time to migrate. Not so, now. We are accomplishing in a couple of centuries what took tens of thousands of years through natural means. The natural world has no time to adapt. We are already in the midst of a 6th Great Extinction, mostly due to human activity. We have also confiscated and farmed or developed vast areas of habitat, and imposed blockades on most migration routes. Adding human induced climate change to the pressures we have already put on the biosphere means that most species will not be able to adapt, with enormous risk of wholesale collapse. If that doesn’t scare you, you’re not thinking hard enough. That is the chief problem from my point of view, because as much as we might like to think we’re separate from nature, or somehow above and in control of it, we are not. We cannot survive without the web of life that supports us, and it is in imminent peril. That doesn’t even get to other consequences, such as agricultural disruption (7+ billion people well on our way to 10 billion, and they all want to be fed), sea level rise when the ice melts (how many trillion $ to move our seaports “inland”, or try to shelter them with massive seawalls?), acidification of the oceans (attacks the food web from the bottom up), human migrations (if you think immigration is a problem now, wait until the heat is on), and the list goes on.

    The part of all this that makes me angry is that the denialists are willing to subject their descendants to all of this, mainly because they don’t want to spend any money now to change how we do business, or compromise their lifestyles in any way for the benefit of our posterity, or because they calculate they can cynically use the issue to win elections in the short term. The Koch brothers I understand – they’re in it for the money and the power, and they won’t be around for the consequences, so what the hell. But why their disciples, who are not rich and powerful and will be victimized by all of this, allow themselves to be used so cynically is something that escapes me. I don’t understand how they can care so little for their grandkids and great-grandkids. I can only put it down to gaps in education.

    I am reminded that Carl Sagan warned that advanced civilizations may be rare, because they may tend to snuff themselves. With regard to climate, he said “Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.”

    Carl was wise. And we can no longer tolerate ignorance and complacency in such matters.

    • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/08/2014 - 07:18 am.

      Thanks, Lance!

      For the best summary of this issue I’ve read in a long time.

      Sadly, I’m left with no conclusion in this whole area but that those who are making megabucks in dinosaur energy (not just the Kochs),…

      are successfully playing off the screaming fears of a certain segment of the population,…

      and the massive denial those terrified folks maintain in order to seek to keep their fears at bay,…

      to keep climate denial alive by convincing those who are most fearful that they’re really the ones who are most BRAVE because they’re RESISTING reality.

      The question lingers: how can we help these folks who are so afraid to have the courage to face the possibility of massive change,…

      and give them confidence that we can somehow minimize that change,…

      and help them understand that the WORST thing we can do is nothing?

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/08/2014 - 07:20 am.

      That’s a very passionate speech, Lance. It’s a shame Al Gore had to spoil the impact by flying through it in his G5.

    • Submitted by Jon Lord on 10/08/2014 - 08:35 am.

      Amen brother!

      I am in total agreement. Awesome comment and content. I have asked the denier people I know if they are thinking about their grandkids, and their answer usually is ‘eh’. Or they put their trust in God to save their grandchildren, etc. When I ask where they get their information from, they say ‘Fox News end of story!’ When the heat is really on, Fox News will have long since disappeared in a puff of smoke. It does seem our educational system has betrayed us. No blame to the individual teachers, but it does fall on those who fund and choose the content. Critical thinking and actively seeking information has long since been ignored as an important part of our education.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/10/2014 - 09:46 am.

      Natural Forcings

      “Natural forcings would sometimes push the climate toward cooling, and sometimes toward warming, but over time the system would re-balance.”

      So if humans are accelerating the balance in one direction, when and how will nature adjust to push it back? The CAGW folks seem to deny that Mother Nature has self corrected before and will again.

      As for Venus and Mars, maybe they are just like the story of the 3 bears. Venus was too close to the sun, and Mars was too far from the sun, whereas Earth was just right…

  11. Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/08/2014 - 07:43 am.

    Natural climate change

    It is atmosphere water that is the dominant GHG. Without it, it would be too cold for us humans. Sine the Little Ice Age ended about 1800 we have been slowly warming, and most of the recent warm years are in the past twenty. Current temps are similar to those in the Minoan and Roman periods and the Medieval Warm Period. In between Roman times and the MWP it got cold. We know that time as the Dark Ages when crops failed and life was short and miserable. Humans do better when it is warmer.
    Sea levels vary during these cold glacial times, and they are rising since the Wisconsin Glacier melted. The rise has slowed to about one inch per decade, a problem for some flood plains. But there is still no market for arks in southern Florida for people to float north to high and dry Minnesota.
    We are in a warm inter glacial period. When it will start to chill again we don’t know, but hang on to your winter coat.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/08/2014 - 09:25 am.

      ….It is atmosphere water that is the dominant GHG….

      Bingo! There it is, but go ahead, walk right by that issue.

      With increased atmospheric moisture content due to rising temperatures (10 of the warmest years all occurring in the last 17 years) proven by the absolute increase in astounding downpours, don’t you think that some sort of feed-back loop with respect to water vapor as a GHG is occurring?

      From researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Lab


      “When you heat the planet, you increase the ability of the atmosphere to hold moisture,” said Benjamin Santer, lead author from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Program for Climate Modeling and Intercomparison. “The atmosphere’s water vapor content has increased by about 0.41 kilograms per square meter (kg/m²) per decade since 1988, and natural variability in climate just can’t explain this moisture change. The most plausible explanation is that it’s due to the human-caused increase in greenhouse gases.”

      More water vapor – which is itself a greenhouse gas – amplifies the warming effect of increased atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. This is what scientists call a “positive feedback.”

      Using 22 different computer models of the climate system and measurements from the satellite-based Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I), atmospheric scientists from LLNL and eight other international research centers have shown that the recent increase in moisture content over the bulk of the world’s oceans is not due to solar forcing or gradual recovery from the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo. The primary driver of this ‘atmospheric moistening’ is the increase in carbon dioxide caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

      (end quote)

      But hey, in the world of Rolf, making up some nonsense is as valid as people who actually do research in the area of their expertise.

  12. Submitted by Jim Million on 10/08/2014 - 09:37 am.

    Degrees of Understanding

    Isn’t it troubling, that whatever one’s position may be, we seem to not have conclusive models of settled science? Whatever one’s position is, shouldn’t we all be disturbed by the model conflict?

    Isn’t the global population growth rate perhaps more critical than the contested warming rate? It seems the certain effects of too many people are of more concern than the less certain effects of too many therms.

    Should we not focus on the more immediate threat to our biosphere?

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/08/2014 - 12:29 pm.


      It’s not an either/or situation, but rather both. Both situations should be addressed simultaneously. In fact the world’s population growth is already being tackled through the methods proven to have a positive effect:

      -Empowerment for women
      -Family planning
      -Better health care
      -Access to inexpensive contraceptives

      Recently I read an article on how the Bill Gates Foundation is pledging $500 million towards a program that, in part, hopes to develop a better and cheaper condom that will help items #3 and 5.

      Of greater concern isn’t the population growth per se, but rather the standard of living developing nations adopt. If everyone strives for the American lifestyle as it’s currently structured, cars, meat, and general consumer consumption will go through the roof. That in turn leads to more fossil fuel burned, which leads to more carbon in the atmosphere.

      If, on the other hand, we can find ways to provide energy without also releasing carbon, then we’ve got a shot at managing our population growth, consumer growth, and carbon emissions all in one shot.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 10/08/2014 - 01:23 pm.

        That pesky “If”

        Back when Earth Day debuted, we also proposed a well-defined metric for limiting the population explosion we all understood as certainty. That was called Zero Population Growth (ZPG), a simple concept for curbing conception: each man would father only one child (as did some of us). Even forty-some years ago, most of us knew ZPG would fail due to excessive Chinese birthrates alone. ZPG was quickly swept aside by the more tangible (and passive, I’d say) Earth Day campaign. Both were/are critical, but only one cause survived. In any case, we long ago blew right through all ZPG targets.

        One critical “If” campaign died quickly for lack of interest. We don’t seem able to settle conflicting data in the current less certain campaign. One way or another, honest global experts must eliminate that pesky “If.”

        Sorry for my cynicism, but too many scientists have become politicized and too many politicians have become pseudo-scientists.

        • Submitted by Jim Halonen on 10/08/2014 - 03:00 pm.

          So true

          Best thing I read all day: “Sorry for my cynicism, but too many scientists have become politicized and too many politicians have become pseudo-scientists.”

  13. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/10/2014 - 08:46 am.

    “I assume that the moderators understand that in the real world, people are free to express themselves.”

    Funny stuff, that, coming from a guy who the Minnpost moderators are holding in protective custody.

    Minnpost is very protective of it’s message, and it’s faithful minions. And that’s fine, because this website is private property. In real world, general population, there are lots of Minnpost commentators that would have run for the hills. Trust me.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 10/10/2014 - 01:51 pm.

      Actually, I think MinnPost does a very good job of discussing topics from different perspectives.

      And I agree that people should be free to express themselves. I just think it should be regarding the article and the comment string, not about the other commenters, their competence, perceived agenda, etc.

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