Dr. Hansen’s Dream World – Part 1

James Hansen, world famous global warming hawk and perennial doom speaker extraordinaire, has just published a new paper titled Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature.

The article uses lots of short term data, cherry picks that data, draws worldwide conclusions from regional data, and makes ridiculous assumptions.   Opinion wanders willy nilly throughout the article.

I am ever amazed at what gets passed off as scientific research in the environmental community.  The article looks more like a legal brief than a scientific document.   Lawyers are paid to represent a client, science isn’t supposed to work that way.

Where to begin? Let’s start at the beginning.  The first paragraph of the introduction says the following:

Humans are now the main cause of changes of Earth’s atmospheric composition and thus the drive for future climate change

Humans are changing the climate, but are they the main cause and is that change the drive for future climate change?   I don’t think so.  Greenhouse gases, air pollution, carbon black, solar winds, gamma rays, volcanoes, hot spots in the sea floor, aerosols and variations in the Earth’s orbit all play a part.  Dr. Hansen’s preoccupation with man caused carbon dioxide is a gross oversimplification.

This article sites the 2007 IPCC report as their reference for the statement.  The IPCC report says they are 90% certain that man is responsible for more than 50% of the changes seen in worldwide  climate since 1950.  Changes before 1950 are considered normal climate variation.

Many of the predictions made in that 2007 IPCC document  have proven to be wrong.   Their specific short term temperature predictions have, so far at least, been way off the mark.   I have been wondering how the global warming community would try to tiptoe around that fact.  This article offers a glimpse into this new reality of global warming climate predictions with the following statement:

The climate response to this forcing and society’s response to climate change are complicated by the system’s inertia, mainly due to the ocean and the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica together with the long residence time of fossil fuel carbon in the climate system. The inertia causes climate to appear to respond slowly to this human-made forcing, but further long-lasting responses can be locked in.

Okay, I suppose.   Society’s response is an odd addition to the statement.

In 2007 the IPCC said warming was already locked in, now it’s still locked in….but the actual warming might not show up for a while….how convenient.    IPCC reports since 1990 have insisted that warming since 1976 has proven their case.  As soon as that warming wanes a bit, short term data no longer matters.

Lots of controversy in the very first paragraph of the introduction.   Wow.   I’d better move on or I’ll never finish this post.

The introduction continues with a few paragraphs describing  IPCC history, followed by a few paragraphs about energy use.  Near the end of the introduction, the article begins advocating for a serious reduction in total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions  with the following statement:

Our evaluation of a fossil fuel emissions limit is not based on climate models but rather on observational evidence of global climate change as a function of global temperature and on the fact that climate stabilization requires long-term planetary energy balance. We use measured global temperature and Earth’s measured energy imbalance to determine the atmospheric CO2 level required to stabilize climate at today’s global temperature

This paper does not use computer models, it simply looks at lots of regional data (cherry picked regional data) and draws conclusions based on those observations.  Correlations are presumed.  Many many identified events are presumed to be the direct result of a 1 degree C change in climate.   Factoids that do not support the position are simply ignored.

This study starts with three assumptions; 1)man is responsible for the energy imbalance they see, 2) if we severely reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gases,  an energy balance can be restored, and 3) climate stability will be achieved.

I think all three assumptions are likely wrong!  Man probably deserves some credit for recent warming, but not sole credit.   Remove all man caused effects and climate still changes.   The notion that any specific level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can all by itself stabilize climate at any specific temperature is… well…it’s just extra special stupid.   And it’s the base premise of this entire article!

Why would anyone ever assume climate in the world can be stabilized at any specific temperature?  We live in an ice age cycle.   It has been lots warmer than it is today and lots colder as this Antarctic ice core demonstrates:


Temperature varies by about 11 degrees C in the average ice age cycle.   The warm periods tend to be short, the cold periods tend to be long.   We live in the Holocene, an 11,000 year period of unusually stable warm temperatures.   Ice ages are presumed to be caused by the location of the continents and variations in solar irradiance due in part to variations in the Earth’s orbit.

The goal of the article is to keep temperatures at or below the temperature experienced in 1990, which is about 1 degree C higher than it was in 1750.   This  is an  unrealistic and unachievable goal.  Temperature is not now and has never been that stable.  Just look at the movement we have witnessed in  the last 45 years:


The late 1970’s were more than a degree cooler than it was in 1998.  1998 was a strong El Nino year.  In June of 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted, changing the climate for over a year and causing a decline of almost 1 degree C.    Just imagine what would happen if a volcano 5 or 10 times bigger than Mt. Pinatubo erupted.   We’d all be wishing for a warmer world.

If we did exactly as Dr. Hansen recommends, would the world magically become stable climatically? I don’t think so. It might be a bit cooler, but stability is an unachievable goal.

Surprisingly, there has been nearly no net change in climate since 1987.   In 1987 we were .2 degree C above the base line and in late 2013 we are still about .2 degree C above the base line.  Temperatures have the ability to warm and cool rather dramatically all by themselves and yet, these past 25 years have been boringly stable.

And that is a political problem for Dr. Hansen and the IPCC.


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