This post is the third of 3 dealing with an article published on December 3rd by Dr. Hansen and 17 other scientists. The article’s basic argument is that carbon dioxide is creating an energy imbalance. They attempt to measure the energy imbalance, and make predictions about the future.
The article is refreshing in that it finally addresses many of my objections about the IPCC. It actually discusses other possible drivers for climate change and tries to provide a compelling argument for why these other drivers of climate are not important. I am less confident than I was before reading the article, but I still have doubts, many doubts.
Dr. Hansen made up his mind about the importance of carbon dioxide before most of the research used was performed. He has been an advocate for a really long time. And many of his arguments use data with very short histories. The data displayed about the sun only goes back 40 years.
I want to see what happened during the last cooling cycle from 1940 to 1976. Information that went back to the beginning of the Little Ice Age would be even better.
The Energy Imbalance discussion uses data from buoys. The changing amount of energy stored by the oceans is used as an indicator that the world is accumulating energy. That it is out of balance. Virtually all of the data used in the calculation is less than 10 years old. It is more a snapshot in time rather than a trend established over a long period of time.
And I worry about the data set. There are about 4,000 buoys spread out around the globe. They drift with the currents and too many are near land. Many of the buoys have only been available since 2005. The data is so new and so important to his conclusions that I suspect lots of wild guessing.
The article also dismisses all the short term temperature predictions in past IPCC reports. It uses the oceans and the large ice masses near the poles as reasons why the horrible changes predicted have been late. This effectively eliminates one of my main complaints about the IPCC….stupid short term predictions.
And they bravely encourage widespread use of Nuclear Power. I think Nuclear power is a necessary part of any green answer. Unfortunately with the exception of China, the world is walking away from nukes.
The article paints a bleak picture of the world unless we make the following changes to the way we generate energy.
- The article advocated carbon trading on a worldwide scale.
- They advocated widespread use of wind and solar.
- They advocated widespread use of Nuclear to replace both coal and natural gas generation.
Carbon trading requires all the countries of the world to agree. That is unlikely to happen. Without a worldwide agreement, carbon trading only works for the countries that don’t join. Today, China and the USA have a huge trading advantage when trading with the EU because they don’t have to worry about carbon taxes.
Wind and solar will continue to be developed, but they have limitations due to Mother Nature. If and when a better battery is developed, their use can expand. Until then, their use will be limited.
Germany has so much solar that their power grid is developing reliability issues when solar is not available. Germany’s ability to manufacture goods may be impacted. Germany’s 21st century solution, a brand new coal fired power plant!
The world has changed a lot since 2006 when Al Gore won a Nobel Prize for his political commercial masquerading as a documentary film. Dr. Hansen and his cohorts barely got any press for their latest bit of gloom and doom. The world has passed them by. Why?
They have been gloomy for a long time. Doom failed to arrive on schedule. Throw in climate-gate and the Mann Hockey Stick debate; the group has lost some credibility. How did they get into this position?
I think it starts with their mind set. Dr. James Hansen and his comrades live in a political dream world. Why do I say they live in a dream world? Let me count the ways:
- They think the science is so compelling that there is no other plausible view. When Dr. Hansen and 17 other scientists wrote the article I am critiquing, they declared there were no competing interests. The world does not have unlimited funds. Every dollar spent on global warming is not spent on something else. Things like world overpopulation, starvation in Africa, AIDS, Cancer, over fishing the oceans, and safe drinking water all have the potential to be competing interests.
- This group lives on government funds. Every other need of the government is a competing interest.
- Competing interests go beyond government money. Jobs are at stake in the coal industry. Wind turbines kill birds, including some endangered species. People dislike the appearance of wind mills in pristine areas. Solar panels take up lots of space and must be imported, impacting trade. Nuclear, well it’s Nuclear, need we say more.
- The carbon dioxide is evil climate group has made many mistakes. These mistakes have given the skeptical community reason to doubt their results. They have been caught cooking data (Climate-gate), adopting questionable scientific theories (The Mann Hockey Stick Graph) and their short term predictions have been wrong. Horribly wrong.
- They have been too secretive and too vague. They have argued against sharing data with skeptics. If the data is good, they should be doing exactly the opposite. In 2005, the Scientific American wrote an article defending this use of secrecy shortly after the Mann Hockey Stick data began to be attacked by skeptics. The Scientific American defended Dr. Mann aggressively. Interestingly, Dr. Hansen in his new article, appears to argue that the specific temperature conclusions in the Mann Hockey Stick Graph were wrong.
- The politics has turned against them. A worldwide recession, cheaper and more plentiful fossil fuels, and the Fukashima Nuclear Disaster have changed the political landscape. Global warming advocates are failing because people fear Nuclear Power. Germany and Japan are abandoning their Nukes, only China seems willing to build new Nuclear plants.
- Long ago they made one very large mistake, they let a politician become point man for the cause, Al Gore. Mr. Gore is driven by political realities. He will never advocate Nuclear Power. Green energy without Nuclear energy does not work. It will not work until a cheap way to store electrical energy is developed. The green community has been advocating a solution that does not work. This is now becoming obvious.
- They expect the United Nations to be an effective force. This expectation never made sense. Much is made of the original Kyoto Treaty. A treaty that did not work. Carbon emissions soared during it’s implementation period. Kyoto created too many winners and losers. Russia got special treatment. India and China got a free ride. It was politically unacceptable in the USA.
- China has become significant politically. Any solution must involve China. In a few years China will produce a third of the world’s anthropogenic carbon dioxide. The 2009 Copenhagen attempt at a new treaty failed in large part because there was no way for the world community to get China to do what they felt needed to be done. Absent political concessions in China, the USA will never come on board. The two largest economies in the world must be a part of any real agreement.
- Stop living in the past. Dr. Hansen has been an advocate of counting all the pollution a country has produced since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution when dictating what each country is obligated to do to stop warming. I personally don’t buy the argument scientifically, but that’s beside the point. This approach has effectively given China a pass. It provides them with an excuse not to cooperate.
- Global warming hawks need to learn how to compromise. Natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal. While it is not as good as Nuclear as a base load fuel, from a carbon dioxide perspective, it is much better than coal. No new plants are currently under construction. Decades will pas before any new Nuclear plants come on line in the USA. And old plants are being retired as we speak. Dr. Hansen and his cohorts should be adopting natural gas as a lesser of two evils while they wait for technology to provide a better choice in the short run.
I would be more convinced by the arguments in Dr. Hansen’s article if Dr. Hansen hadn’t made his mind up about global climate change in the 1980’s. 15 years ago doom was coming and coming soon. His article still says it’s coming, but it could be delayed by centuries. It is a better argument than the immediate gloom arguments of 15 years ago. Unfortunately for him, politicians usually don’t respond to problems in the indefinite future.
And still I wonder. Is Dr. Hansen right now….or is he just selectively looking at data to defend a position he has held for 30 years? Only time will tell….lots of time.