Two earthly halves locked in a downward spiral

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Jeremy Clarkson recently became a climate change believer when he experienced a dry lake in Cambodia.

I recently experienced something of the bush fire season in Australia. As well as all-pervasive smoke in most of Queensland and New South Wales, ABC Radio news is a constant stream of news on the bush fires – hundreds of them raging all the time. And it is still their spring.

Without trying to rehearse the dangers of climate change, I have one particular fear.

There is an extent to which the world is divided into two. I am over-generalising but if you take the lower portion below the tropic of cancer and the upper half above it: The bottom half is disproprotionately hot and getting much hotter – suffering terrible effects from climate change, and generally poorer than the top half.

My fear is that the people causing most of the problem of climate change are in the upper half and are able to retreat to the cool fresh air and air conditioning.

So the top half people don’t see a problem and carry on pumping out carbon emissions, while the lower half suffer without the means to change things.

And together we are walking through a disaster.

It is the stuff of nightmares.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Paul, I’m not aware of any papers that confirm a warming differential between the two hemispheres. Perhaps if you have such evidence you could provide a link.

    What concerns me is that plentiful and low cost electricity and gas played a key role in the development of northern hemisphere modern countries yet we are now denying the same opportunities to poor developing countries in the name of climate change.

    Millions are still burning vegetation and animal dung within their homes in order to cook food and provide heating. This results in massive pollution and respiratory diseases.

  • I am amazed at the lack of urgency amongst people I know who have expensive property a metre or two above sea level, suggestions that they sell up and move to higher ground just evince a patronising smile. I am at 40m above sea level and considering moving further up the hill but not so high as to leave me in an exposed position to howling gales that are likely to come in off the south-west coast. The only certain thing about climate change is the uncertainty of the climate in any particular country. Knowing our luck, the UK will end up warmer but with constant rain!

    Perhaps a new world trade order needs to emerge where tariffs are linked inversely to the amount of pollution a country puts out, nothing like squeezing the money to get people working in the right direction?

  • Frank, no need to worry. At the current rate of global sea level rise, your doorstep will not become awash until over 1,300 years from now.

    Seas have been expanding as we warm up from the Little Ice age which lasted 300 years and ended about 1850. The sea level rise has been gradual and very steady at around 3mm per year.

  • The danger is that we look at one issue at a time. So we deal with climate change, then plastic waste becomes a matter for debate. Next perhaps the extinction of species. Oh and the air we breathe – how many people are getting ill through polluted air.
    In fact the problem lies with us, as the species who have the ability to change the way we live and the way we damage our planet.
    We probably have the ability to manage our planet so as to ensure that we build a planet fit to live in. It does not really matter what is causing problems, we need to organise our society to enable everyone to contribute to solving our problems.
    The election being held today is a good example of how not to do it.
    We need to talk about how to organise ourselves so that we have a future.
    I am not very optimistic.

  • Peter Martin 12th Dec '19 - 10:05am


    The models show that the increase of sea level won’t be linear. At present, the melting of most of the Arctic ice won’t have any effect at all. The ice floats on the sea and displaces its own weight of water anyway. Its just Archimedes principle.

    The melting of land based ice in Greenland and Antarctica is a different matter. Much of the ice is only prevented from sliding into the sea because there are other formations of ice preventing it. Once they melt……..

  • @Peter Martin
    I agree with every word of your comment. However, I don’t believe the models for several reasons.

    The validation of any model is its ability to predict correctly. All but one of the CMIP5 models fails to match reality by a factor of two or three. The models predict much higher temperatures than we see in reality. They predict strong heating of the middle troposphere over the tropics but millions of radiosonde balloons have failed to find any evidence of this. They predict a rapid increase in RH in the troposphere (necessary to give the positive feedback that is alleged to drive most of the warming) but in fact the RH has decrease slightly.

    Recent work has shown that the uncertainty in quantifying cloud cover is so uncertain and so massive that it dwarfs any possible CO2 warming signal by a factor of 300. In other words, the models are unfit for purpose and cannot predict temperature change due to carbon dioxide.

    There are an increasing number of researchers claiming that a 4% change in cloud cover explains all the warming seen in the last 70 years. Incidentally, the only model that does get close on prediction is the so called Russian model.

  • Stephen Booth 12th Dec '19 - 2:13pm

    We have to get over to people that climate change can never be one flood, one forest fire, one week of 36° plus temperatures or one snow covered spring day. It’s gradual and it’s the sum of these events over an ever shorter period of time. It’s ironic that so many people who would otherwise trust their lives to skilled scientists (e.g. doctors and surgeons) can’t accept that some 10,000 other scientists, who spend their lives measuring and checking these things, shouldn’t be believed.

  • @Peter – What do you really mean by “predict correctly”? And at what point are you prepared to stop procrastinating and start taking action? Remember we are talking about climate not weather.

    Given the number of variables/factors in something as simple calculating tide times and heights, it isn’t surprising that the climate models are a lot more complex and hence will contain errors because they don’t take full account of all the relevant factors or sufficient detail.

    The only question is whether the errors significantly change the direction of travel or not (to take the example of tides, the model may get the time and/or height wrong, but it still predicts there will be a tide); so far none of the models disagree on the trend (I note the researchers you cite, don’t disagree that the earth has warmed significantly in the last 70 years, but are unable to provide a model that “predicts correctly” cloud cover…), just on the details and contributing factors. However, where discrepancies have arisen, efforts have been made to understand why, hence why we now know that methane, Sulfur hexafluoride and some other gases also disproportionately contribute to the greenhouse effect that many believe is wholly attributable to carbon-dioxide levels.

    The sad laugh is that had the UK committed itself to change in the 1990’s, our (UK) society would be much better placed to survive the coming perfect storm, forecasted since circa 1970, than it is now…

  • @Roland
    The purpose of the models is to predict future temperatures given the projected rate of increase in atmospheric CO2. We now have decades of data shown here.

  • Roland, the models predict temperature and by implication, sea rise, because the rise is due to the thermal expansion of the oceans. If the models are not fit for purpose then so too are the sea rise projections.

    The models are wrong for other reasons too:

  • Paul Barker 12th Dec '19 - 4:22pm

    You hear a Fire Alarm go off.
    Do you evacuate the building immeidiately or wait till you can see the smoke ?

  • @Stephen Booth
    Climate is normally defined as trends that have been established for at least thirty years or more.
    Climate science is highly politicised which is why I don’t trust what I am told, especially by the press and the BBC. I trust the evidence of the data though sometimes even that is proved wrong.

    A good example is all the extreme weather nonsense. The evidence shows that hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires, etc have been less frequent and severe in recent decades. Droughts and floods are no worse. Deaths from climate disasters are very much reduced. Most of the evidence is linked in a previous discussion a few weeks ago.

  • Richard Underhill 12th Dec '19 - 6:29pm

    Paul Barker 12th Dec ’19 – 4:22pm
    “You hear a Fire Alarm go off. Do you evacuate the building immediately”?
    In the case of housing we remember Grenfell.
    So what about a civilian workplace in daylight, and not raining?
    Could some managers fear that someone wants to stop work for a little while?

  • @Peter – I see you haven’t actually answered my questions:
    What do you really mean by “predict correctly”? And at what point are you prepared to stop procrastinating and start taking action?

    Also remember the only reason why we know the models are inaccurate is because people are devoting time and effort to making them accurate; your viewpoint is an open invitation to a luddite – and there are plenty of them around, to cut funding to climate research…

  • Roland, I am sorry, I did try to answer your question but I failed.
    The Climate models calculate changes in climate factors such atmospheric properties like humidity, pressure, temperature and so on and also sea temperatures.. I don’t think they calculate sea level as such.

    Increases in sea level due to warming depend on quantities of land based ice melt and run off, (as opposed to floating ice melting) but mainly the thermal expansion of the oceans due to increased temperature. So sea level is a calculation based on the volume of the oceans, coefficient of sea water thermal expansion and the increase on ocean temperature.

    I hope that answers the first bit. It is the temperature predictions of the models that are wrong as demonstrated.

    I have always taken action to minimise energy waste, such as turning electrical stuff off if not essential, good insulation, etc. But the UK creates only 1% of global emissions and the developing world are increasing their use of energy as fast as possible in order to catch up in terms of modernisation with the rest of the world. I don’t blame them for that. So whatever the UK does will destroy its economy and lifestyle for zero impact on the climate. That is a simple fact.

    Climate science is pretty shoddy. I am very confident that even a doubling of carbon dioxide will only increase temperatures by about 1.5 degrees. That would probably be mainly beneficial with no major downsides and no need for anything other than some adaptation.

    I am not a climate scientist, but I have engaged in scientific research all my working life and have now spent about twelve years taking a keen interest in the climate story. What got me started was the awareness that climate scientists were making ridiculous claims that were obviously garbage.

  • Paul Walter Wed 11th December 2019 – 2:30 pm.:
    I am over-generalising but if you take the lower portion below the tropic of cancer and the upper half above it: The bottom half is disproprotionately hot and getting much hotter…

    Such an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence.

    Current temperature data shows an equitable distribution above and below the Tropic of Cancer…

    Source: Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville.

  • @Peter – “Climate science is pretty shoddy.”
    I think Climate research is probably no worse or better than other areas of research today, where the trend has been to announce “findings” to the media, before double checking the results and submitting the scientific paper for peer review.

    Where climate science is different, is the very real sense of urgency to understand what exactly is happening and the timeframes involved, because the fundamental logic says man in the last 200 years has changed the atmosphere – the question is what does that mean, particularly with records being broken year on year in recent years. Urgency also being added by findings that indicate chaos theory explains much – so that 1.5 degree rise might be fine, but 1.6 degree rise and you’re over the edge. Fundamentally, we don’t know and I suspect we will never know(specifically within the next decade or two), if the models really predict correctly or not, ie. the model may predict the 1.6 tipping point, but we will only be able to prove the model is correct by going over the tipping point…

    Whilst I agree the current climate models contain questionable assumptions, errors and leave much to be desired, change is happening for reasons not fully understood, we have a simple choice: continue to procrastinate at our peril or prepare for the post-perfect storm world. Remember Noah and his family survived because he heeded the warning at a time when (according to the story) there was no evidence for the coming rains…

  • @Peter – Increases in sea level due to warming depend on…
    I see from your list you omitted land heave/crust displacement, another factor not taken into account in the early models, but being considered now. Naturally this branch of earth science is still developing reliable models to predict the overall effects, which will naturally feed into other models and change their outcomes…

    It is clear modelling highly complex interdependent earth systems is in its infancy and has only comparatively recently started to gain both the tools and understanding necessary to move beyond the highly simplified models that treated the earth as a single uniform sphere – which were good enough to indicate a trend, which we have been largely following for several decades now, to the more sophisticated models that identify the component factors and the part each plays.

    The hope has to be that we achieve predictably correct science (and models) in time to actually use them to either influence or react to change.

  • @Roland, more apologies for not revisiting this thread sooner.
    Forgive me if I try to give an overview rather than bits and pieces of answers.
    Part 1. First, the politics. The UN wants two things, the power to have global control of climate change and the power to raise taxes and penalties in an ambitious redistribution of wealth using climate change as the vehicle. Trump refuses to play because the US has to supply millions while huge emitters of CO2 like India and China pay nothing. Ironically, the US has reduced emissions greatly by switching from coal to fracked methane.
    Green technology is hugely expensive. South Australia has the highest cost of electricity and the least stable power supply. Germany has the highest cost in Europe. Green policies are also destroying the automotive industry and German industrial competitiveness.
    The UK contributes 1% of CO2 emissions. Even if we disappeared off the planet, China would still belch out more increases in CO2 than any savings from us disappearing. We are irrelevant. But if we destroy ourselves in the name of saving the planet, that is very relevant to every inhabitant of our country.

  • Part 2. Let us move to more technical stuff. As pointed out earlier, we are warming up from the little ice age but we are only told that we are warming up. Every weather event, every new temperature record is attributed to global warming and all global warming is attributed to carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere. In fact, they may be natural, such as warming from the LIA or due to the current solar minima or due to cloud cover which is about 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide but very poorly understood and impossible to model.
    Then there is the question of climate sensitivity. That is how much do we warm from a doubling of CO2? The flawed models say 2 degrees to 5 or more, shock, horror. Based on actual temperature measurements it looks more like 1.5 degrees which should be beneficial and not a problem.
    Then we have other scientific uncertainties. Some scientists claim that a 4% reduction in cloud cover explains all of the warming seen in the last 75 years. The models cannot cope with clouds. Other researchers claim that cloud cover uncertainty makes climate models unfit for purpose because the cloud effect dwarfs the CO2 warming signal by a factor of 300:1.
    The models exaggerate warming by a factor of at least double compared with measurement. The inescapable conclusion is that climate change is more of a political construct than a reality. But with trillions at stake, we are not going to get confirmation of that any time soon.
    Thank you, Roland, for showing interest and asking challenging questions rather than blindly accepting all the propaganda.

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