Dinosaur Flatulence Caused Pre-historic Warming?

A lighter note on the global warming issue is to be found today’s Telegraph. (also at BBC, Foxnews, inhabitat, The Scotsman) Seems that methane emissions may have been a bigger problem pre-history.

”A simple mathematical model suggests that the microbes living in sauropod dinosaurs may have produced enough methane to have an important effect on the Mesozoic climate,” said study leader Dr Dave Wilkinson, from Liverpool John Moores University.

It is speculative, but how far much warming was this? The article says

Scaling up, assuming a global vegetated area of 75 x 106km2 (equivalent to half the total land area), gives global methane production from sauropods of 520 Tg (520 million tonnes). This is comparable to the total modern-day methane emission. For comparison, total pre-industrial Holocene global methane emission was roughly 200 Tg per year, capable of sustaining an atmospheric methane mixing ratio of about 0.7 ppm, and the modern mixing ratio of about 1.8 ppm is supported by roughly 500–600 Tg of global emission.

The IPCC estimates that current methane levels produce (with feedbacks) about 0.4 degrees of warming. Using Idso 1998, this reduces to 0.05 degrees. Either way a quite trivial amount. What is noted is that the number of dinosaurs is huge, as the temperatures and CO2 levels were much higher than today. Without the icecaps there was more available land, and with more verdant vegetation (again both due to temperature and CO2) the animal mass supportable was much higher.

In other words, higher CO2 and temperatures are good for both flora and fauna.

Maybe Josh can to an appropriate dinosaur cartoon – like the recent one below!

John Redwood lights the “Global Warming” fuse again

John Redwood bravely touched on the global warming subject again in “Challenging establishment orthodoxies“.

One of the strange features of global warming theory is the reaction of its leading protagonists. They say it is scientifically derived, but then go on to say the science is proven and established. I thought the essence of scientific method was to reach a hypothesis that seemed to fit the facts, and then to keep trying to improve or destroy it by further testing or experiment. This seems to be a thesis where the aim is always to buttress it rather than test it. For many years scientists thought Newton had said the last word on planetary motion, but the twentieth century did not rest until they had replaced or improved on the Newtonian universe in a dramatic way.”

My comment (following from previous comments made on this blog) was

You will notice that whenever you mention “Global Warming” that you are guaranteed to get a greater number of comments compared to practically any other issue. Further the views are probably more polarized and politicized than any other issue.
However, the way to proceed might not be one of hypothesis testing. The data is complex and most of the science is about future events. Rather, it might be worth using the experience with which you are more familiar.
1. In business, a new investment proposal will just be assessed on the theoretical profits, but on the capacity to see that proposal through to actual success. The Stern Review allegedly gave the theory, but there was nothing on public policy issues of controlling policy costs, and maximizing policy benefits (CO2 benefits). Whatever the policy, this failure to focus and project management is a sure guarantee of policy disaster.
2. In politics, the greatest threat to extremist and untenable viewpoints has been from the majority who are able to compare these viewpoints to their other perspectives. That is why authoritarian regimes only can exist in an environment where they silence criticism. There is growing evidence of excluding contrary views without a fair hearing in our scientific institutions, in research funding, and in the mainstream media.
3. Science at the frontiers about making bold hypotheses that can be falsified by later testing. Similarly, the police in a crime investigation make conjectures and then gather evidence. Established science (on which policy should be based) is like a successful prosecution in a criminal case. It is about presenting the evidence and under-going a cross examination by the opponents. This to convince a randomly-selected group of people. My contention would be that the strongest evidence of catastrophic global warming is the most trivial, whilst the most alarming aspects of climate change are based on weak, circumstantial and hearsay evidence.

Two relevant references

A Climate Change / Global Warming Spectrum

In politics, most people’s views can be placed on a spectrum, when it comes to climate change / global warming there is no such perspectives. The views are often polarized, particularly by those who believe in a future climate catastrophe. This is an initial attempt at a grid aimed at clarifying the issues. Your constructive advice is sought on how this might be improved.

When there are contentious or politicized issues, a spectrum of opinions emerge where there is free discussion of ideas. This is true in politics and the Christian religion. In both, there is not just a one-dimensional spectrum of ideas, but multi-dimensional perspectives. For instance, in politics it has been argued that the left-right spectrum should be split into economic and moral issues. The United States Libertarian Party has had a simple survey running since 1995. A more comprehensive (but still American-orientated) survey is the Political Spectrum Quiz.

Another idea comes from Greg Craven, who did a series of zany You-Tube videos on Climate Change, particularly such as The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See” and “How it all ends“. He claimed that for the mass of non-scientists it was best to take a risk-based approach, grading the science on the credibility of those who made the claims. One objection with his analysis was it was based on polar extremes. That is either the worst climate catastrophe imaginable, or it is all a hoax. I proposed that there was a spectrum of possible outcomes, with the apocalyptic catastrophe at one extreme and the null outcome at the other. Basically there is a spectrum of views.

For this spectrum, the possible scenarios are from the null outcome on the left, rising to a huge climate catastrophe on the right.

Craven’s argument was to consider either 0 or 1000, whereas I claimed that the UNIPCC scenarios (representing the “consensus” of climate scientists), allowed for a fair range of outcomes. I have provided a log scale, as this puts clear distance between someone who believes in a low risk of catastrophe of extreme catastrophe to someone who says there is no risk at all. For instance, if someone believes that there is a 1% chance of the worst case, a 9% chance of loss of 100 and a 90% chance of a loss of 10, then their score would be 0.01*1000 + 0.09*100 + 0.90*10 = 28. In other words, for that person, especially if they are risk averse, there is still a very significant issue that should justify serious consideration of some type of global policy action.

But this measure of the prospective level of climate catastrophe needs to be based upon something. That something is scientific evidence, not people’s intuitions or gut feelings. If we imagine that the uncertainties can be measured as risks (as neoclassical economists do) then then the worst case scenario can only be attained if there is near certain, unambiguous scientific evidence in support of that prediction. If the evidence is weak statistically, gives highly variables results depending on methodology or data sets, or only tangential to the prediction, then a lower risk weighting lower than 1 will need to be ascribed. For an overall picture, we need to ascribe a weighting to the body of evidence. I propose a traffic light system. In outline green is for an overwhelming body of evidence, red is for no proper evidence whatsoever, and amber is for some weak evidence. Something along the following lines:-

Basically, an unambiguous case for impending global catastrophe must have a substantial body of strong scientific evidence to substantiate that case, with little or no contrary evidence. I will develop on another day the analogy with evidence presented to a criminal court by the prosecution. However, for the present, an analogy that is relevant is that this conclusion is only reached once the evidence fails to fall over under independent cross-examination.

This gives us a grid with the magnitude of the climate catastrophe on the X axis, and the scientific case on the Y axis. The grid, with my first opinion of where people various groups are placed, is given below. I know it is controversial – the whole aim is to get people to start thinking constructively about their views.

Alarmist Blogs (for instance Skeptical Science and Desmogblog) have an extreme black-and-white one world where they are always right, and anyone who disagrees is the polar opposite . “Deniers” is a bogeyman construct of their making.

If one reads the detail of UNIPCC AR4 report, the “Consensus” of climate scientists allow for some uncertainties, and for scenarios which are not so catastrophic.

The more Sceptical Scientists, such as Richard Lindzen, Roger Pielke Snr and Roy Spencer, view increasing greenhouse gases as a serious issue for study. However, they view the evidence as being both much weaker than the “consensus” and pointing to a much less alarming future.

The most popular Sceptic Blogs, such as Wattsupwiththat, Climate Audit and Bishop Hill I characterise as having a position of “The stronger the evidence, the weaker the relevance“. That is they allow for a considerable spread of views, but neither dismiss rise in CO2 as of no consequence, nor claim that the available evidence is strong.

Finally, the Climate Realists such as Joanne Nova and the British Climate Realists website. They occupy a similar position as the “deniers”, but from a much more substantial position. They can see little or no evidence of catastrophe, but huge amounts of exaggeration dressed up as science.

What are your opinions? What position do you think you lie on the grid? Is there an alternative (and more informative) way of characterizing the different positions?

Adelaide – a decline in extreme heatwaves?

Joanne Nova has posted data from Ian Hill on extreme heatwaves in Adelaide, Australia. To quote

It’s another mindless record used to remind the public to “keep the faith” and recite the litancy:

“Adelaide had it’s hottest start to the year since 1900 Sky news

Picking three particular days out of 365 and comparing them over a century is about as cherry-pickingly meaningless as it gets. But Ian Hill went back through the records to find that not only have there been 79 heatwaves in Adelaide since 1887, but there have been 51 heat-waves that were hotter since 1887.

I have done a bit of number crunching of my own, that is quite revealing. Higher temperatures are meant to lead to more extreme heatwaves. Using Ian Hill’s figures Adelaide is providing an exception. Hill’s definition of a heatwave is 3 or more consecutive days where the maximum temperature exceeds 38oC. I have downloaded the figures and categorised by decade. There are two ways I have analysed this data. First is by the number of heatwaves per decade. Second is the number of days per decade.

There are a number of points.

  1. The temperature data only starts in 1887, so the 1880s are probably more significant.
  2. The current decade might be more significant.
  3. Last decade, beginning 2000 was no more significant than the decades 1890s, 1900s, or 1930s.
  4. The 1990s was no more significant than the decades 1910s and 1920s

Is there, however, a revival of extreme heatwaves in the last twenty years?

Nope. Just a couple of extreme years in 2008 and 2009.

Climate Change Impacts in AR5 – It is better than we thought

BishopHill has a screen shot of Climate change impacts for the new IPCC report. He notes the similarity to the AR4.

The differences are noticeable and demonstrate a subtle dilution of AR4.

First, the disappearing Himalayan Glaciers have disappeared – to be replaced by disappearing glaciers in Latin America.

Second, the potential disappearing Amazon forest has disappeared, to be replaced by tree species extinction.

Third, no mention of potential catastrophic losses of Antarctic sea ice or land ice. So that means that sea level rises are less of a problem.

Fourth, there is no mention of coastal storm damage. Roger Pielke Jnr has won the argument on hurricanes?

Fifth, species extinction is much more localised.

Sixth, global loss of wetlands reduced, to more seasonal coastal flooding in Asia. So that means that sea level rises are less of a problem.

Check out for yourselves.

2007 AR4

Which was developed from the Stern Review.

The Positives of Global Warming in Context

David Friedman makes some good points about the positive aspects of global warming. I would like to put the positives of global warming into context and pointing the way to making the analysis of the consequences of global warming more rigorous.

The consequences of global warming may have positive and negative consequences. The severity of any consequence should be assessed according to three factors.

  1. Magnitude – how large it will be. This can be over a number of dimensions. So a predicted worsening of hurricanes, for instance, might be in frequency, power and area.
  2. Likelihood. The Probability of a forecast event it occurring.
  3. Randomness. It is predicted the weather systems will become destabilised, so the weather will become the norm.

When extreme events are postulated, the magnitude that is most often over-stated is time. So sea levels are imagined to rise by a foot a year, not a century at the current rate (3.2mm per year is the best estimate). The rate of change is crucial here. Incremental changes over generational times scale we will not notice globally, as economic conditions change much more rapidly than this. Also there are unstated assumptions about the likelihood of the events. From an economic point of view, the potential costs can be many times over-stated by a combination of magnitude and likelihood. There are two main reasons to believe this is the case – adaptation and way-markers.

Adaptation is people changing to changed circumstances. The reason that living standards are over 30 times greater and the world population is more than 10 times greater than 300 years ago is than the human race cannot just adapt to changing conditions – in wealthy countries extreme weather events and failed harvests are hardly a problem. Look back to the 1960s and 1970s, the mainstream forecasts were for increasing poverty and starvation. With the exceptions where governments are extremely bad (North Korea, Zimbabwe) or there has been extensive conflict (Zaire), this has not been the case. But many of the prophesies of doom assume no adaptation at all. So literally, farmers will grow the same crops they always have, and people will not think of moving as the sea immerses their houses.

Way-markers are the signals of climate change happening now. Many of the extreme short-term forecasts have been falsified, or shown to be based on pseudo-science. Sea levels have failed to rise by 25 metres anytime soon, the Arctic was not ice-free in the summer of 2008, nor will it be in 2013; the snows of Kilimanjaro are not primarily disappearing due to rising temperatures; and the Himalayan glaciers will not be gone by 2035. The Bangladesh landmass has increased; the Amazon rainforest is not about to reach a tipping point; and the Maldives will not disappear beneath the waves. With these clear near-term failures, it is reasonable to say that more long-term extrapolations will be unlikely and exaggerated in magnitude.

On the other side, whilst individuals and communities are incapable of adapting to changes, the assumption is that Governments can fix anything at minimal cost. So, subject to a global agreement, CO2 can be constrained (according to the UK Stern Review) at one fifth to one twentieth of the likely costs of doing nothing. No allowance is made that government projects tend to overrun on costs and underperform on benefits, nor that the this degree of underperformance tends to proportionately rise with lack of planning, vagueness of objections, complexity of organisations involved and scale.

Finally, for those with a grounding in economics, I have an unfinished project analysing the above issues graphically here and here.

Keynes, Hayek and Global Warming

Jo Nova points to the excellent Keynes versus Hayek rap videos and compares with global warming views. My own observations are more to do with the nature of theory.

To compare Keynes & Hayek, I believe that we need to separate Keynes from the mainstream Keynesians. Keynes saw theory as a means to get the policy he wanted. It was the Keynesians (starting with John Hicks’ IS-LM analysis) that started the modelling approach. Both Keynes and Hayek eschewed the mathematical modelling of modern economics. In this Keynes would be closer to the perspective of GLS Shackle than Keynesians

  1. Keynes saw the economic system as being essentially unstable. There was no tendency for the economic system to tend towards an optimal equilibrium. Rather it could get stuck for long periods with high unemployment. This seems to parallel to the notion of tipping points. The Keynesian multiplier The parallel in CAGW theory can be seen in the positive feedbacks and tipping points. When Bob Carter says that climate is homeostatic (or Warren Meyer at climate-skeptic uses his ball in a bowl illustration), they criticize the climate models for being Keynesian. I would think that the Carter/Meyer view of climate is similar to that of Hayek on economic phenomena. Climate is essentially chaotic, having only general empirical regularities. However, it has tendencies towards equilibrium. Please note that Hayek occupies a position close to Keynes this issue. Walrasian General Equilibrium with perfect knowledge and instantaneous leaps from one equilibrium to another is an extreme caricature of more mainstream economics. Here Keynes v. Hayek is more apt for the views on climate.
  2. Keynesians view all the essential features of the economic system as being essentially knowable, capable of being reasonably represented in mathematical models. Hayek calls this a “pretence of knowledge” (the title of his Nobel Prize lecture), as although we may know essential features of the system, the relationships are highly complex and changing. The problem is not just lack of measurement, it is having data that is capable of being modelled in order make manipulation of these variables possible. In economics, the manipulation is control of macro economy. In climate, it is to control the global average temperature.
  3. Keynesians believe that a few major measures are sufficient to describe an economy. CAGW theorists believe that the global surface temperature and atmospheric CO2 are key measures. Hayek questioned whether such variables were meaningful. CAGW theorists are on much shakier ground than the Keynesians here. Bob Carter points out in his book that the stored heat in the atmosphere is a tiny fraction of that stored in the oceans. When it comes to stored CO2 the problems are even greater.

But when it comes to the rhetoric of global warming, the analogy should not be with Keynes, but with Karl Marx. Climate models give true scientists perfect insight into the real nature of climate. Those who are on the outside are delusional and/or are either knowingly, or subconsciously, acting as lackeys of the oppressive class. In Marx the oppressive class are the bourgeois, in climate alarmism they are Big Oil.

CAGW – Paralleling Kuhnian Science or New Labour Spin?

A review of Montford’s “Hockey Stick Illusion” suggests that it is an example science described by Thomas Kuhn in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. Both the Hockey Stick in particular, and CAGW theory in general, I believe parallel something entirely different.

Catastrophic AGW theory is not an example of Kuhnian science. It was swallowed whole by the political establishment without going through the strictures of scientific acceptance. Furthermore, it is coupled with a major political policy objective – to constrain CO2 emissions. The IPCC was then set up to confirm and fortify the science and the policy. CAGW is thus not a proper science as such, but “politicised science”.

The Hockey Stick is the major example of this – a public relations ploy to promote policy and direct attention away from proper analysis of the data. The shenanigans may have milder and more short-lived parallels in other fields of science, but better parallels are to be found in New Labour Spin. That is, never admit to error; talk over opponents and view them as self-evidently wrong; deflect adverse comments by saying something different; deflect criticism and error by making an easily answerable point the major issue, or conceding a minor point; and then quickly moving the discussion onto safer ground. Most of all rely on image more than substance. In the case of CAGW, make peer review and agreement with collective experts the ultimate demarcations between science and non-science.

Comparing Politicians to Global Warming Deniers

At CafeHayek, Don Bordeaux has a post that requires careful reading. It is an attack on politicians and overbearing government, couched in a metaphor of global warming deniers.

My comment was

Using the metaphor of global warming is apt, but like any metaphor breaks down once examined closely. I would claim that a global warming “denier” has a more tenable position once the evidence is examined in detail and from different perspectives. Conversely, a denier of the unintended consequences of interventionism, like a holocaust denier, has a less tenable position once the alternative evidence is examined.

This brings me onto a second point. Politicians are selling themselves to get elected, which implies building up coalitions of diverse interest groups. Early Public Choice theory called this Pork-Barrel politics. A more successful approach in the television era is one based on image. That is projecting personality over policy substance. It goes against the notions of weighing up the pros and cons, learning from error in one’s past judgments, and recognizing limitations in one’s abilities and knowledge. Good government requires questioning skeptics, but has a propensity to elect the smooth-talking deniers.

An early example of image-based politics – indeed the forerunner in modern times – is JF Kennedy. A more recent example in Britain is New Labour. The image-based politics justified building up a structural deficit in the boom years. The need to save face, and the political ambitions of the key player, meant that the political business cycle did not operate after the 2005 general election. That is, according to Public Choice Theory, to boost the economy to get re-elected and then take the necessary measures to reduce the deficit immediately after.

NASA excludes an inconvenient figure on 2010 Temperatures

The NASA Earth Observatory has a nice graph to show average global surface temperatures.

I noticed a small anomaly with the 2010 figures. The blue line, for the British Hadley Centre, appears to be missing.

You can check this by downloading the HADCRUT3 data set from here. Popping these figures into an Excel graph I get the following.

Excel even defaulted to the correct colour! The 2010 average temperature anolmaly on this data set is .468, as against .474 in 2005 and .529 in 1998. This is significant in that the NASA GISS figures show 2010 to be the warmest year on record, something that was pre-announced by leader James Hansen before the year was half way through. Try Googling 2010 Warmest Year on record to see the number of hits. But inclusion of the HADCRUT figures refutes the headline. Statistically it may not be significant, but the headlines show that politically it is important. It is the difference between the claim that global warming stopped in 1998, and that it is continuing.

There is previous form in the climate community, as Steve McIntyre has noted. McIntyre has the following graphic (at page 28 of McIntyre, S. 2008b. How do we “know” that 1998 was the warmest year of the millennium?. Ohio State University Seminar, may 16, 2008.)

As Steve McIntyre states

“In the IPCC Third Assessment Report, they did worse than simply ignoring the problem.

They deleted the declining portion after 1960, thereby giving a false sense of coherence

between the proxies. In AR4, as a reviewer, I asked them to restore the deleted portion.

They refused saying that showing this information would be “inappropriate” (See

IPCC WG1 chapter 6 29 Review Comments) and the downward late 20th century portion

of the Briffa et al 2001 reconstruction was once again deleted in IPCC AR4.”