Is Global Warming a Blessing in Disguise?

This is highly speculative analysis, but looking at the most recent climate data, I can’t help but think that this is more evidence that anthropogenic global warming is averting an ice age:

marcott-b-mj

There can be no doubt that in recent years that there has been a large uptick in temperature, probably related to the sharp uptick in carbon dioxide levels. Temperatures have returned to levels last seen during the peak of the most recent interglacial period, 6,000 to 8,000 years ago Analysis by climate scientists has tended to focus on the disruptive effects that this may have — sea level rise, glacier loss, drought, etc.  What’s striking about the extended timeframe data, however, is the gradual downward slope over the last 6000 years — the Earth’s climate was changing in the opposite direction when humans began offsetting this by burning fossil fuels. It does not seem unreasonable, given the evidence of a longer-term glaciation cycle, that had humans not started to emit massive quantities of greenhouse gases, that the cooling trend would have continued. Burning fossil fuels seems to have had a powerful countercylical effect.

Falling temperatures and increased glaciation may have made it very difficult for human civilisation to continue to progress. The fossil record suggests humanity has existed in various forms for four million years, and there is evidence that non-anthropogenic climate change — including glaciation — has been a disruptive force in the past. So it seems increasingly likely to me that the countercylical climactic effects of the industrial revolution may have been supportive to the continued existence of human civilisation. Furthermore, had the anthropogenic emissions occurred at a different time — say, during a time of cyclical warming — the probability of catastrophic effects may have been much higher, because the effects would have been cumulative. That doesn’t mean that the current trend may not have catastrophic effects in the long run, especially if emissions and greenhouse gas levels continue to grow.

I look forward to decreasing reliance on fossil fuels, and decreased carbon emissions. As solar power and nuclear power (etc) become cheaper and more efficient (inevitably eclipsing fossil fuels, whose extractable quantities are naturally limited) carbon emissions should gradually decrease. Given that we have already experienced significant countercylical warming, that is probably a good thing. Indeed, we may have gone too far already, and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (perhaps even to pre-industrial levels) may be necessary. But given the pre-existing trend of falling temperatures, we must take seriously the possibility that anthropogenic global warming has averted big problems.

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29 thoughts on “Is Global Warming a Blessing in Disguise?

  1. The tilt of the earth axis is not static. It wobbles. Combined with solar cycles, I do not believe man can influence climate change. I do not think the temperature records are accurate enough to use as data. I highly doubt the accuracy of the temperature rises recorded over the last 100 years.

    My vegetable garden failed to grow this year, despite lots of sunny weather and plenty of water. In fact over the last 3 months of summer we had no rain at all (High barometric pressure anomoly). And if you assume we have rising CO2 levels then this does not make sense. Many other local gardeners reported the same thing.

    I propose a hypothesis: The barometric pressure has an influence over plant growth. Plants will not grow, despite sun and water, unless the pressure drops.

    Perhaps we could learn from building greenhouses that are vacuum sealed, allowing a pressure drop to stimulate growth. It will help with terra-forming and herba-forming Mars.

    • Combined with solar cycles, I do not believe man can influence climate change.

      Are you saying that increasing the total levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from pre-industrial levels will not influence climate? Of course altering a sensitive system like the atmosphere will have palpable effects. Causes have effects. Just because there are other factors in the equation does not mean that what humans have contributed is irrelevant. The evidence clearly shows that humans have caused a small reversal in the temperature trend since the industrial revolution. Which, as it turns out, may be a good thing as the pre-existing trend was one of global cooling.

  2. I agree with Buddy. Solar cycles are the main influence. We have events occurring on a geologic time scale over millenia. There have been at least four ice ages lasting tens of thousands of years. That is surely a bigger threat?

    • Just because solar activity is the main influence doesn’t mean that smaller variables like carbon dioxide levels cannot have a real effect. The pre-existing trend if we look into the data was one of global cooling. We were most likely heading for a new ice age. My point is that the post-industrial carbon emissions have offset this effect, preventing a new ice age.

    • If we hadn’t pumped all the carbon into the atmosphere, we would not have prevented the glaciation. A new ice age would not have been a non-event…

  3. Aziz,

    problem is, that much more warming is in the pipeline – and fierce and more frequent droughts and floods are occuring already today. CO2 is as high, as it was last time around 4-6 millions years, and possibly 15-20 millions years ago (400 p.p.m.). Also declining Arctic sea ice will wreck havoc for current weather patterns – with unforseen consequences. This is expensive way of “preventing” ice age…

    Alex

    • I don’t think there is any doubt that there is more to climate variability than just human CO2 emissions. The solar cycle certainly plays a very large role, and cosmic ray effects may play a role too. Nonetheless, CO2 very clearly has some link, as shown by the strong correlation between historical temperatures and historical CO2 levels.

  4. Significant Anthropogenic Atmospheric Warming is a modern myth, hoax, fraud. I don’t recall any reported scientific finding of what warming contribution actually is from AAW or what contribution would be “significant”, but I believe it’s well established that it is lowest in a list of warming/cooling influences: solar activity, other extra-earth phenomena*, ocean currents, atmospheric H20 and CH4, non-anthropogenic CO2. Human history (hundreds of years) and geologic history (tens of thousands of years and more) support the above conclusion. Are the plotted Mann, Marcott data from the UN (UK investigators’) reports exposed as blatantly fraudulent?

    * Including earth-axis wobble mentioned by Buddy Rojek and the proximity of massive Jupiter & Saturn.

    • http://edition.cnn.com/2013/03/08/world/world-climate-change — Marcott study is out of Oregon State and Harvard.

      Let’s assume that you’re right and that the fact that humans have increased atmospheric CO2 levels by 33% has had no effect on climate. Whatever caused the post-industrial temperature increases has still held off an ice age, which is a beneficial thing.

      Personally, I think humans are making a big contribution to temperatures. I think that so far most of those effects (slight temperature increase) have been beneficial, and so will not have catastrophic effects long as we don’t increase levels much more, and develop technology that will help us stabilise and eventually decrease levels.

      • 1. Your linked Marcott study makes no mention of solar activity, which, I believe, is recognized as the largest factor in atmospheric warming, and is predicted to reach a cyclical peak in 2013. I wonder what history of solar activity is available to correlate with ice cores, etc. [Was “Mann” the corrupt study?]

        2. Speaking of correlation (NOT causation): (a) what is the change in TOTAL* greenhouse gasses from a 33% increase in the CO2 component? And what is the effect of all greenhouse gasses relative to solar, etc. (b) I believe that there is a recent study arguing that higher temperature CAUSES more atmospheric CO2 from oceans (and plants?).

        * H2O, CH4, etc.

        • Yes, the Mann study was the one where there were serious questions over integrity, although I don’t think Mann’s findings are completely wrong as they are consistent with Marcott.

          As for whether solar variability can fully explain the temperature changes, here’s the recent data on that:

          To me that looks very much like there are other factors, of which CO2 levels are probably one (as they have risen to very high levels relative to recent history).

          What is the change in TOTAL* greenhouse gasses from a 33% increase in the CO2 component?

          Carbon dioxide is estimated at contributing between 10% and 25% to greenhouse effect. So the human increase (around a third of the total CO2) would provide a small increase to the total level of greenhouse gases, consistent with the small rise in temperatures we have seen in the last half century.

          I believe that there is a recent study arguing that higher temperature CAUSES more atmospheric CO2 from oceans (and plants?).

          Correct — http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/06/09/a-study-the-temperature-rise-has-caused-the-co2-increase-not-the-other-way-around/

  5. I’m not sure of the anthropogenic climate change (I’m also a social-liberal, go figure). Even if we assume that our data is 100% exact, we still need developed theory and models to process it and arrive to conclusions. Given that Earth climate is a very complex, self-equilibrating yet chaotic system, to separate the influence of the anthropogenic emissions of the CO2 from the influence of the plethora of other factors, one needs a VERY good model indeed. I don’t think that we’re there yet. I find it curious that some leftists are always ready to distrust mainstream economic theory, but habitually treat climatology as the Word of God.

    Still, curbing the burning of hydrocarbons would be nice anyway: it releases a lot of toxins in the air and creates more radiological hazard than all nuclear plant catastrophes. The real problem is that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The unprecedented wealth of the Golden Billion is founded on the equally unprecedented energy consumption. Some people in Africa could afford maybe some hours of electric lighting a month. An average member of the First World, on the other hand, heats the atmosphere with dozens kilowatt-hours of energy from their consumer electronics, cars and house heating. Everything made from the modern materials like aluminum or plastics require a shitload of energy to just produce. So, all in all, I find it fascinating when the tenderhearted decry what a crime is being committed on the Nature. Sure it is. And you are the perpetrators.

    • Climate models in themselves are pretty awful, I’ve written a fair amount on that in the past.

      Still, hard for me to not surmise that a large increase in CO2 (circa 33% on preindustrial levels) will not have some effects, probably (given the correlation and given the greenhouse effect) warming.

      As for the sun, I think it has a large effect in the long run. Cosmic rays have some effect. Non-human greenhouse emissions and other atmospheric phenomena (oceans, forests, volcanoes, etc) have a large effect. And the dynamics of the system are simply unpredictable — any climate scientist who tells you that their long-term predictive climate models work is either a fool or lying. Many climate scientists will be surprised that the Marcott data shows a pre-existing cooling trend, for example. There are lots of dynamics in play here. But I’m still pretty sure humans are having some effect, and the correlations do tend to support this (how large this effect, the extent of its long term implications, etc, nobody really knows).

      So with a complex dynamical system like the climate, it is one of those things that we should probably be very careful with disturbing. My guess is that we have gotten very lucky with our carbon emissions. Had they occurred 12,000 years ago, we might have seen much more severe warming than what we have already.

      • John, this may be the place to close debate and call for a vote:

        I think you have already declined to endorse government subsidies for solar and wind, and have expressed openness to safe nuclear. Will you also disavow the corrupt system of carbon penalties, credits and exchanges?

        • BTW, John, your prompt and laudable responses did not include anything on the effect of TOTAL greenhouse gasses relative to non-greenhouse effects. If anthropogenic CO2 is 3% to 8% of greenhouse gasses, what is the effect on temperature?

        • Will you also disavow the corrupt system of carbon penalties, credits and exchanges?

          Does that sound like the kinda thing I’d support?

          I don’t think I’ve written a post on it (closest I have come is this — http://azizonomics.com/2012/06/24/free-market-ecology/) but honestly I think carbon credits/carbon exchanges are possibly the most corrupt, vile, bureaucratic wasteful piece-of-trash idea around today. It’s also a massive bubble risk.

          I think the solutions to these kinds of issues are technological in nature — technologies that can create jobs and profits, not profit-sapping, job-destroying bureaucratic poison.

          If anthropogenic CO2 is 3% to 8% of greenhouse gasses, what is the effect on temperature?

          Small but real effect on temperature, but possible that this small effect is beneficial (i.e. preventing an ice age).

  6. John:

    Nitpicks — when your “real” effect can be quantified even roughly, please let us know; “technological” solutions are really economic solutions, as you point out in your linked June 2012 article.

    Attaboys — speaking of that June 24, 2012 post, I say this: when you teach me investments to make me rich, and when you show me a US birth certificate, I’ll finance your run for president. Oh — you would have to be 35 years old. Well, we can ignore the Constitution as the Democrats regularly do, or amend it. Seriously, it’s super!!!

  7. climateaudit.org/2013/03/16/the-marcott-shakun-dating-service/

    John, Every minute more and more scientist and historical data analyst are debugging Marcott’s claim that we are in the throws of before never experienced climate change. Marcott continues (this is not the first time) to rewrite or ignore historical data to sensationalize the recent exaggerated spike in temps. I am pleased to see your lack of panic during the discussion. Nice job!

  8. Aziz,

    “I think that so far most of those effects (slight temperature increase) have been beneficial, …” – Sorry, but that is NOT in agreement with scientific literature, and 0,8 °C rise in global temperature per century is NOT “slight”,

    cheers,

    Alexander

    • I think we’re over-focusing on the easy-to-quantify negatives, while ignoring the hard-to-quantify positives.

      What part of preventing an ice age isn’t beneficial? Once you realise that that has most likely been the macro-level effect, you will see the evidence a little differently.

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