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Home > Politics
The Physics of Global Warming
by Bob Powell, 11/06/16
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The first and last two slides from my presentation.
Climate Change Teach-In 7/22/17 at Penrose Library Powerpoint Presentation


This article describes The Physics of the System relative to Global Warming. Even though exact modeling of the climate for past and future average global temperature is enormously complicated, the physics, the facts, and what they mean are not. Gravity is only a theory -- a unified theory of forces isn't "settled science" -- but we know what happens when we jump off a cliff: we die. Global Warming is also only a theory, but it's settled enough to know, not exact temperature predictions, but what's happening because we're jumping off that cliff.

One does not have to be a rocket surgeon to understand this. The facts and their implications are not up for negotiation. "Physics does not negotiate! Physics just does."

Let me be clear, this is an existential threat to life on earth.

Please, pay attention and stop denying reality. Some against abortion of fetuses say that's "child murder", yet they are quite willing to vote for Trump/Republicans who deny this threat to all life on earth.

In 2001, Ron Suskind wrote in The One Percent Doctrine that Vice-President Dick Cheney announced that if there was "a one percent chance" that a threat was real "we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response." Cheney added, "It's not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence." If "conservatives" believe that about attacking other nations, why do they quibble over whether it's 97% certain that life on earth is threatened by global warming?

Trump/Republicans are a clear and present danger to all life on earth. This is the ultimate in evil.

As I write in Trump/Republicans: Worse Than 9/11: Were I a better person, I would say "forgive them, for they know not what they do". But they are so damned dedicated to not knowing that I cannot.

I will not be around for the most disastrous consequences, so this will not affect me personally. I do not have children, but those who do and don't take this seriously are condemning them to a dystopian future in which billions of humans will die and countless species will go extinct.

Also see: Why Climate Skeptics Are Wrong, Scientific American. But take note: they aren't "skeptics"; they're deniers!


- The Climate System
Reasons Deniers Deny
- Global Warming Physics
- What this Means to Life on Earth
- There's Consensus That It's Real and a Threat
- The 1% Doctrine
Here's How Much I'm Certain It's an Existential Threat to Life on Earth
- What Deniers Say about Me ... nothing good
- Other Articles

From the Cloudy Skies article:

This is a simplified representation of the stock and flow structure of the global carbon cycle and heat balance.

The global carbon stock is divided into two compartments:
(1) carbon sequestered in, e.g., fossil fuels and therefore not interacting with the climate at present; and
(2) carbon in the atmosphere, in biomass, and dissolved in the ocean.

Over geological time carbon in terrestrial biomass and in the ocean gradually accumulated in stocks of fossil fuels, reducing the quantity of carbon circulating among the atmosphere, terrestrial biomass, and the ocean.

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, however, fossil fuel consumption has grown exponentially, injecting previously sequestered carbon into the atmosphere. While some of this carbon is taken up by biomass or dissolved in the ocean, the equilibrium concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere rises.

The rise in atmospheric CO2 increases net radiative forcing, causing the stock of heat at the surface and in the surface layer of the ocean to rise until the surface is warm enough for radiation of energy back to space to balance the incoming solar energy.

The stock and flow structure in Figure 1, simplified though it is, shows that an injection of fossil carbon to the atmosphere leads to a rise in average surface temperatures, though with a long lag.

The Climate System

The science of global warming is settled enough for us to know what's happening and why. John Sterman at MIT has been studying why so many humans don't understand the reality of what's happening. The diagram shows a simplified stock and flow model of the climate system. The paper contains a more detailed model as well.

John D. Sterman is the Standish Professor of Management and Director of the System Dynamics Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Cloudy Skies: Assessing Public Understanding of Global Warming by John D. Sterman and Linda Booth Sweeney, System Dynamics Review, 18(2) 2002

Surveys show most Americans believe global warming is real. But many advocate delaying action until there is more evidence that warming is harmful. The stock and flow structure of the climate, however, means "wait and see" policies guarantee further warming.

Atmospheric CO2 concentration is now higher than any time in the last 420,000 years, and growing faster than any time in the past 20,000 years. The high concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) generates significant radiative forcing that contributes to warming. To reduce radiative forcing and the human contribution to warming, GHG concentrations must fall.

To reduce GHG concentrations, emissions must fall below the rate at which GHGs are removed from the atmosphere. Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are now roughly double the removal rate, and the removal rate is projected to fall as natural carbon sinks saturate. Emissions must therefore fall by more than half even to stabilize CO2 at present record levels.

Such reductions greatly exceed the Kyoto targets, while the Bush administration's Clear Skies Initiative calls for continued emissions growth. Does the public understand these physical facts?

We report experiments assessing people's intuitive understanding of climate change. We presented highly educated graduate students with descriptions of greenhouse warming drawn from the IPCC's nontechnical reports. Subjects were then asked to identify the likely response to various scenarios for CO2 emissions or concentrations. The tasks require no mathematics, only an understanding of stocks and flows and basic facts about climate change.

Overall performance was poor. Subjects often select trajectories that violate conservation of matter. Many believe temperature responds immediately to changes in CO2 emissions or concentrations. Still more believe that stabilizing emissions near current rates would stabilize the climate, when in fact emissions would continue to exceed removal, increasing GHG concentrations and radiative forcing. Such beliefs support wait and see policies, but violate basic laws of physics. We discuss implications for education and public policy.

It's a major problem that humans are poor at thinking through problems that are dynamically complex. That is, problems with multiple feedbacks and long delays ... known as "Messes". When there is great inequality of wealth and power, these are called "Wicked Messes".


Reasons Deniers Deny

So it's a difficulty that could be related to one or more of seven thinking aberrations I've identified.

1. Human Cognitive Ability: Dynamic Complexity, an inability of humans to deal with dynamically complex systems: systems with multiple feedbacks and long delays. Common sense fails us in the face of dynamic complexity. "Common sense is a bundle of prejudices we develop before the age of 18." Albert Einstein
2. Religion-like faith in "free market" capitalism that maintains that the "free market" will address all problems and government interference only makes things worse. Denial of the cost redistribution from negative externalities.
3. A "My Team" vs "Your Team" mentality that overcomes reason ... if someone goes against the Republican Team, it's seen as undermining the team's success. It's not allowed to be disloyal to the tribe.
How Tribalism Overrules Reason, and Makes Risky Times More Dangerous by DAVID ROPEIK ... also see the Salon article just below on this.
4. Black propaganda from the likes of the Republican Party, Fox News and Glenn Beck denying the problem because they get campaign bribes or profit from denialism.  Example: Millions of Americans get information about climate science from the Fox News Channel, yet a 2012 UCS snapshot analysis found that representations of climate science on Fox News Channel were misleading 93 percent of the time.
5. Fossil fuel corporate black propagandaClimate Denialism’s Star Scientist Exposed, Paid $1.2M By Oil Companies To Deliver Friendly Results, 2/22/15. The New York Times summarizes the findings. Scientists, with extensive political connections, are paid to deny well-established scientific knowledge, mislead the public, and sow doubt.
6. Religious faith that "God's in charge" and humans aren't more powerful than God so we can't be responsible. The "biblically inspired" Sen James Inhofe (R-OK) believes global warming is a hoax. He said, "... God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous." What's arrogant is for Inhofe to reject the science.
7. Anti-intellectualism. An antipathy against expertise and education and a view promoting radical simplicity and what's known as "common sense". See Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter. One person's take on the issue: "People hate and fear "dummies" but their true venom is reserved for anyone smarter than themselves. So they actively work to bully, ridicule, and shame people who are smart and driven to get good grades, pursue extraordinary dreams." 
8. More simply, unreason: "You're just lying. I know what I know and I don't give a damn what you say."

On anti-intellectualism: America hits peak anti-intellectualism: Majority of Republicans now think college is bad by SOPHIA TESFAYE, Salon, 7/11/17
Republicans say no to college: It's the only institution viewed in more sharply partisan terms than the media

... A new Pew Research Center poll released on Monday revealed that there is one U.S. institution perceived through a larger partisan divide than even the media: It's college.

For the first time, a majority of Republicans think that colleges and universities have a negative impact on the country. Fifty-eight percent say that colleges "are having a negative effect on the way things are going in the country," according to Pew. In other words, the Wall Street banks are more popular with Republican voters than Stanford, Harvard or the University of Akron.

Just two years ago, a majority of Republicans, 54 percent, rated universities' effect as positive. As Pew noted, "this shift in opinion has occurred across most demographic and ideological groups within the GOP," but in particular the poll found that positive views of colleges among Republicans under the age of 50 sunk by 21 percentage points from 2015 to 2017. ...

Republicans will wreck the U.S. economy with "austerity" even as they take enormous Tax Breaks, kill hundreds of thousands of Americans by way of a "tax cuts for the wealthy bill" disguised as a "health care bill", and destroy life on earth for campaign contributions.

No regrets for Trump voters: The media needs to stop looking for buyer's remorse by AMANDA MARCOTTE, Salon, 6/21/17
Psychological research shows people are too tribal and afraid to admit they were wrong to regret their votes

"We are really uncomfortable when a decision we've made or an action we've taken or a belief we've come to is contradicted by evidence that we're wrong," explained psychologist Carol Tavris ...

With her co-author Elliot Aronson, Tavris explored the issue of cognitive dissonance in the book "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts." Cognitive dissonance is the theory that people cannot reconcile two conflicting beliefs - in this case "I am a smart person" and "voting for Trump was a stupid thing to do" - and so instead they make rationalizations for why their bad decision was not a bad one at all.

"People, when they're motivated to form a certain position, then they're just going to dismiss [the] facts," explained Dan Kahan, a professor of law and psychology, in a phone interview. "They're going to dismiss the evidence behind them. They're also going to tune into the kinds of communications that reinforce what they already believe." ... [interview on this]

False Objections: There are common false objections behind opposing action. The website Skeptical Science bats down many, many more false objections. Here are two I've gotten:

1. Warming is "natural"; it's happened in the past many times. Deniers say it would be happening even if humans did not exist. This, too, is false; warming this time is much faster, 10X faster. see below.
2. It's the sun! Dr. Wei-Hock ("Willie") Soon asserts that variations in the behavior of the sun, rather than human caused greenhouse gas emissions, are the central factor driving climate change. This is false: "the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which found in its latest (2013) report that "There is high confidence that changes in total solar irradiance have not contributed to the increase in global mean surface temperature over the period 1986 to 2008, based on direct satellite measurements of total solar irradiance." False [see graph at right].

So yes, it's a cognitive failure, but there's also a quality of religion-like zeal behind the denial. The difficulty is way beyond science, logic, and rational understanding ... it's a form of insanity.

It's not the sun. From Sun & climate: moving in opposite directions.
The primary drive behind this religion-like zeal may very well be the third above: "My Team" vs "Your Team" tribalism. More from the article:

How Tribalism Overrules Reason, and Makes Risky Times More Dangerous by DAVID ROPEIK

... Dan Kahan, principal researcher into the phenomenon of Cultural Cognition, has found that our views are powerfully shaped so they agree with beliefs of the groups with which we most strongly identify. His research, along with the work of others, has also found that the more challenged our views are, the more we defend them...the more dogmatic and closed-minded we become...an intellectual form of ‘circle-the-wagons, we're under attack' tribal unity. Talk about tribalism overruling reason. ...

We may not be aware at the conscious level of the influence tribalism has on us, but then, most of human cognition happens below the radar of consciousness, and is driven not so much by the goal of getting good grades or winning Nobel Prizes as it is, first, to survive. Small wonder that this ultimate imperative dominates so much of how we behave, how we think and act, and how we treat each other. And it's hardly surprising that the more unsettled and uncertain we feel and the less we feel we have control over how things are going - feelings that make us feel threatened - the more we circle the wagons and fiercely fight for tribal success, looking to the tribe to keep us safe.

This is perhaps the untimate irony relative to the destruction of life on earth: a "drive to keep us safe" leading to making us and all life on earth much less safe. ...

Covering many of the same points that I do above, see:

John Holdren Commentary: Convincing the Climate-Change Skeptics by John Holdren, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Boston Globe, 8/4/08

An article byJohn Paul Holdren, Ph.D. physicist, was Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Obama's top science adviser's guide to navigating the Trump era by Brian Resnick, Vox, 2/18/17,
John Holdren: "We can be in for a major shift in the culture around science."

"I'm worried - based on early indications - that we can be in for a major shift in the culture around science and technology and its eminence in government. We appear to have a president now that resists facts that do not comport to his preferences. And that bodes ill on the Obama administration's emphases on scientific integrity, transparency, and public access." ...

But with the appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, he's signaled that his administration will be making big changes to environmental regulation. One of the first bills he signed as president killed an Obama-era rule that made it harder for coal companies to dump waste in streams.

As you recall, Trump campaigned on making it easier for coal corporations to pollute dump coal waste into streams.

You don't recall that? That's because he did not.

In an interview, after he denies the reality of global warming, Trump said,

"I want to make sure we have clean air and we have clean water. I want to make sure ... We want to have clean air to breathe and beautiful clean water."

He said China isn't "behaving" on global warming. What people who say this ignore is that China's CO2 production is *our* CO2 production ... just *try* buying something in a big box store *not* produced in China. Just try.

Trump is a liar, a fool, and -- along with other Republicans and deniers -- a malevolent threat to Life on Earth.

Why we pretend to know things, explained by a cognitive scientist by Sean Illing, Vox, 3/2/17

New research explains why we pretend to know more than we do.

Why do people pretend to know things? Why does confidence so often scale with ignorance? Steven Sloman, a professor of cognitive science at Brown University, has some compelling answers to these questions.

"We're biased to preserve our sense of rightness," he told me, "and we have to be."

The author of The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone, Sloman's research focuses on judgment, decision-making, and reasoning. He's especially interested in what's called "the illusion of explanatory depth." This is how cognitive scientists refer to our tendency to overestimate our understanding of how the world works.

We do this, Sloman says, because of our reliance on other minds.

"The decisions we make, the attitudes we form, the judgments we make, depend very much on what other people are thinking," he said.

If the people around us are wrong about something, there's a good chance we will be too. Proximity to truth compounds in the same way.

In this interview, Sloman and I talk about the problem of unjustified belief. I ask him about the political implications of his research, and if he thinks the rise of "fake news" and "alternative facts" has amplified our cognitive biases. ...

Changing Minds : Strategy from Blaise Pascal

A philosopher's 350-year-old trick to get people to change their minds is now backed up by psychologists by Olivia Goldhill, Quartz, 9/11/16
Blaise Pascal knew a thing or two about persuasion.

Pascal set out the most effective way to get someone to change their mind, centuries before experimental psychologists began to formally study persuasion:

When we wish to correct with advantage, and to show another that he errs, we must notice from what side he views the matter, for on that side it is usually true, and admit that truth to him, but reveal to him the side on which it is false. He is satisfied with that, for he sees that he was not mistaken, and that he only failed to see all sides. Now, no one is offended at not seeing everything; but one does not like to be mistaken, and that perhaps arises from the fact that man naturally cannot see everything, and that naturally he cannot err in the side he looks at, since the perceptions of our senses are always true.

Pascal added:

People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.

Put simply, Pascal suggests that before disagreeing with someone, first point out the ways in which they're right. And to effectively persuade someone to change their mind, lead them to discover a counter-point of their own accord. Arthur Markman, psychology professor at The University of Texas at Austin, says both these points hold true.

I say "Good luck with that." when views are based on religion, a religion-like belief in the "free market", or "my team vs. your team". They are immune.


Global Warming Physics

This diagram is from The Carbon Bathtub, by Professors John Sterman (MIT) and David Archer (U of Chicago)

It’s simple, really: As long as we pour CO2; into the atmosphere faster than nature drains it out, the planet warms. And that extra carbon takes a long time to drain out of the tub. Of the CO2 humans produce: 45% remains in the atmosphere (the "bathtub", 30% is absorbed by plants & soils, 25% is absorbed by Oceans.

A fundamental human flaw, says John Sterman, impedes action on global warming. Sterman is not talking about greed, selfishness, or some other vice. He’s talking about a cognitive limitation, “an important and pervasive problem in human reasoning” that he has documented by testing graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Sterman teaches system dynamics; he says his students, though very bright and schooled in calculus, lack an intuitive grasp of a simple, crucial system: a bathtub.

In particular, a tub with the tap running and the drain open. The water level can stand for many quantities in the modern world. The level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere is one. A person’s waistline or credit card debt—both of which have also become spreading problems of late—are two more. In all three cases, the level in the tub falls only when the drain runs faster than the tap—when you burn more calories than you eat, for instance, or pay off old charges faster than you incur new ones.

Plants, oceans, and rocks all drain carbon from the atmosphere, but as climatologist David Archer explains in his book, The Long Thaw, those drains are slow. It’s going to take them hundreds of years to remove most of the CO2; that humans are pouring into the tub and hundreds of thousands of years to remove it all. Stopping the rise of CO2; will thus require huge cuts in emissions from cars, power plants, and factories, until inflow no longer exceeds outflow.

Most of Sterman’s students—and his results have been replicated at other universities—didn’t understand that, at least not when the problem was described in the usual climate jargon. Most thought that simply stopping emissions from rising would stop the rise of CO2; in the atmosphere— as if a tap running steadily but rapidly would not eventually overflow the tub. If MIT graduate students don’t get it, most politicians and voters probably don’t either. “And that means they think it’s easier to stabilize greenhouse gases and stop warming than it is,” Sterman says. ...

Here's why global warming is happening, why humans are causing it, and why humans must cut CO2 emissions in half. One does not have to be a rocket surgeon to understand this.

Physics of the System Facts and What they Mean:

Fact: At current levels of CO2 (and other greenhouse gasses) in the atmosphere, more heat is absorbed by the atmosphere than goes back into space.

Means: The planet is warming because more heat is coming in than is leaving.

Fact: Human activity continues to increase greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

Means: The planet absorbs even more heat than goes back into space.

Fact: Humans emit twice as much CO2 into the atmosphere than is absorbed by plants and the oceans.

Means: We humans are accelerating warming.

Means: Stopping the increase in human emissions is not enough; we must cut emissions in half.

Fact: CO2 absorbed by the oceans is making them warmer and more acidic, which reduces both the oxygen in the ocean and the production of oxygen by phytoplankton

What this Means to Life on Earth: Because of warmer oceans and more water in the atmosphere, hurricanes and tornadoes will be stronger, flooding will be more severe, snow storms will drop more snow when the moisture hits a cold front, increasing drought from changing weather patterns, and more wildfires in drought-stricken areas.

Even worse, half the source of oxygen produced on planet earth is threatened by more CO2 dissolved in the oceans.

Source of Half Earth's Oxygen Gets Little Credit by John Roach, National Geographic News, 6/7/04

Fish, whales, dolphins, crabs, seabirds, and just about everything else that makes a living in or off of the oceans owe their existence to phytoplankton, one-celled plants that live at the ocean surface.

Phytoplankton are at the base of what scientists refer to as oceanic biological productivity, the ability of a water body to support life such as plants, fish, and wildlife. ...


In addition to playing a big role in removing greenhouses gases from the atmosphere, phytoplankton are the foundation of the ocean food chain.

For nearly a decade, the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS) has been making global observations of phytoplankton productivity. On December 6, 2006, NASA-funded scientists announced that warming sea surface temperatures over the past decade have caused a global decline in phytoplankton productivity.

NASA Data Reveals Climate Warming Reduces Ocean Food SupplyNASA, 12/06/06

In a NASA study, scientists have concluded that when the Earth's climate warms, there is a reduction in the ocean's primary food supply, posing a potential threat to fisheries and ecosystems. By comparing nearly a decade of global ocean satellite data with several records of Earth's changing climate, scientists found that whenever climate warmed, marine plant life in the form of phytoplankton declined. Whenever climate cooled, marine plant life became more vigorous or productive.

Rising Acidity in the Ocean: The Other CO2 Problem By Peter G. Brewer, James Barry, Scientific American, 9/1/08
Emissions are making the oceans more acidic, threatening sea life

So please, never mind whether the models predicting global temperature are exactly correct ... they're exact enough to know the planet is warming, we humans are causing it, and it requires action now if billions of persons and countless species are not to die in this century.

Already, though the major disastrous effects have not set in, "global wildlife population declined by nearly 60 percent over the past four decades." Humans are causing the Sixth Mass Extinction of life on earth even without the major impacts of Global Warming.

Vanishing species. CNN: Now we're on the verge of the sixth extinction. Three quarters of all species could vanish. Over half of world's apes and monkeys in danger of extinction by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY,1/18/17.

Earth, we have a problem!

Less than half of the American public recognizes that scientists agree on Anthropogenic Global Warming, despite the fact that 97% of climate scientists endorse the science. Source: The Pew Center, Cook et al (ERL), The Consensus Project

Some don't think the science on global warming is "settled."

For example, one denier said: "Anybody that says the science settled is a farce. This guy doesn't have a PHD in anything except P-iled H-gher and D-eeper. lol... And to boot he's goofy as hell."

In a technical sense, no science is ever settled. In fact, the science around gravity is not settled ... there are relativistic, quantum, and other effects that have yet to be fully understood and integrated into a unified theory.

In that "fully settled" sense, neither are the big bang or evolution "settled", but they're "settled enough" for even Pope Francis to say they're true.

Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand' by Adam Withnall, The Independent UK, 10/28/14
Francis goes against Benedict XVI's apparent support for 'intelligent design' - but does hail his predecessor's 'great contribution to theology'

The theories of evolution and the Big Bang are real and God is not "a magician with a magic wand", Pope Francis has declared.

Speaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope made comments which experts said put an end to the "pseudo theories" of creationism and intelligent design that some argue were encouraged by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

Francis explained that both scientific theories were not incompatible with the existence of a creator - arguing instead that they "require it".

"When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so," Francis said.

"The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it.

"Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve." ...

But we know enough about gravity to know gravity's effects ... fall off a tall enough building and you die. And that's also the case for jumping off global warming cliff. We know that it's a killer of life on earth.


There's Consensus That It's Real and a Threat

From NASA: How is Today's Warming Different from the Past?

As the Earth moved out of ice ages over the past million years, the global temperature rose a total of 4 to 7 degrees Celsius over about 5,000 years. In the past century alone, the temperature has climbed 0.7 degrees Celsius, roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

Models predict that Earth will warm between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius in the next century. When global warming has happened at various times in the past two million years, it has taken the planet about 5,000 years to warm 5 degrees. The predicted rate of warming for the next century is at least 20 times faster. This rate of change is extremely unusual.

Sure, we can question whether there's 97% agreement among scientists, but the threat is real even though the public is misled.

RESOLUTION NO. 484-16, The San Francisco Board of Supervisors' Response to the Election of Donald Trump, 11/15/16. Excerpt:

... FURTHER RESOLVED, That climate change is not a hoax, or a plot by the Chinese; in this city, surrounded by water on three sides, science matters; we will continue our work on ICleanPower, Zero Waste, and everything else we are doing to protect future generations;

NASA: How is Today's Warming Different from the Past?

As the Earth moved out of ice ages over the past million years, the global temperature rose a total of 4 to 7 degrees Celsius over about 5,000 years. In the past century alone, the temperature has climbed 0.7 degrees Celsius, roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

Scientists agree

Scientists Agree Human-Caused Climate Change is Real: But Wait, We've Known That for Decades! by MELANIE FITZPATRICK, CLIMATE SCIENTIST, 5/16/13

An important peer-reviewed study was published today by John Cook et al. in the journal Environmental Research Letters. John Cook runs the well-known Skeptical Science website that rebuts global warming misinformation. His new research once again confirms there is overwhelming agreement amongst climate scientists - over 97 percent agree - and in the scientific literature - over 97 percent of papers confirm - that global warming is real and largely caused by humans. However, current surveys of the U.S. public, such as those done by the Pew Center and Yale, show that less than half the population believe scientists are in agreement on the issue of human-caused climate change.

Let's do a classic "thought experiment" (it's only classic because climate scientists have been telling this one for so many years now). Imagine you went to 100 medical experts and asked each of them to diagnose whether you had cancer or not. If 97 of those hundred confirmed your worst fears and verified that you did indeed have cancer, would you keep asking for more evidence before you did something about it? Most people would have a hard time ignoring that kind of agreement amongst experts! Except, it seems, when the experts we're talking about are climate scientists and the subject is the consequences of burning so much coal and oil and destroying so many tropical forests. ...

Scientific Organizations Agree

From this article: Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.

BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change Science by Naomi Oreskes, Science 12/3/04 Vol. 306. no. 5702, p. 1686

The drafting of such reports and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism, and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies' members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords "climate change" (9).

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

Admittedly, authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.

This analysis shows that scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences, and the public statements of their professional societies. Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.

The scientific consensus might, of course, be wrong. If the history of science teaches anything, it is humility, and no one can be faulted for failing to act on what is not known. But our grandchildren will surely blame us if they find that we understood the reality of anthropogenic climate change and failed to do anything about it.

Many details about climate interactions are not well understood, and there are ample grounds for continued research to provide a better basis for understanding climate dynamics. The question of what to do about climate change is also still open. But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have repeatedly tried to make this clear. It is time for the rest of us to listen.


The 1% Doctrine

So-called "conservatives" buy Cheney's "1% Doctrine" when it applies to attacking other nations:

THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE by Ron Suskind, The New Yorker, 7/3/06 ISSUE

In November, 2001, Suskind writes, Vice-President Dick Cheney announced that if there was "a one percent chance" that a threat was real "we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response." He added, "It's not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence."

Oh my, a 1% chance must be treated as a certainty! That is indeed radically "conservative."

But global warming deniers don't see it that way even though at least 45% of the public agrees it's a problem! That's despite the amazing fact that 196 nations agreed on a Paris Climate Agreement (Trump is lying when he says it's "one more bad trade deal.").

A real threat that's 100% certain: so-called "conservatives" and Trump/Republicans who want to step on the accelerator to drive us even more quickly over the cliff.


Here's How Much I'm Certain It's an Existential Threat to Life on Earth

How certain am I? Certain enough to put more than $30,000 behind my words.

I've invested $27,000 (after rebates) to put solar panels on my roof because I know it's an existential threat. I produced 84% more electric power than I used in 2016. See the system on my roof and power production web-based tracking here. My usage also went down because I bought more efficient appliances.

In addition I supplement winter heating with a pellet stove to reduce my use of natural gas; cost $4,500.

None of this is to protect me personally or save me money -- I quite sure cost savings will never pay off the investment -- it's to help protect future generations ... and help protect your children, if you have them.


I've been "insulted" with the comment: "You're an intellectual!"

Charles Darwin: "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge."

This concept is called the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias in which people with little knowledge of subjects become overconfident in their abilities, and people with more knowledge tend to underestimate their grasp of a subject. If higher education becomes an evil, then the undereducated decide their opinions mean more than someone trained to be an expert.

What Deniers Say about Me ... nothing good

For me to have a PhD in physics and an MBA is a liability in the view of deniers. Yet, I've got deniers without that education lecturing me on science and physics. Those who take physics know it's tough. The sad thing is that, if one looks at the facts, one doesn't need that much education to understand the threat.

Even though I did get that education, like Rodney Dangerfield, "I don't get no respect." One "conservative" accused me of being an "intellectual" ... it was only several hours later that I considered the source and realized that was an insult. Even mentioning my credentials has been called "patting myself on the back."

Not even Stephen Hawking gets respect from some. One comment: "Yea, Hawking says a lot of stupid things."

Humankind is still greedy, stupid and greatest threat to earth, by Mary Bowerman, USA TODAY Network, 6/28/16

When asked what the biggest problem facing the world is, Hawking said climate change. Hawking told King he wonders if we are past the point of no return. "Will we be too late to avoid dangerous levels of global warming?" [bolding, italics added]

I'm not being paid, but deniers' views are bolstered by those who are paid by fossil fuel corporations. It's not that deniers are simply in denial; they are rabidly in denial.

Here are sample comments I've gotten. Their derision and hatred is visceral:

  • You're a hypocrite because you drive a gasoline-fueled vehicle. It's true I drive a car that runs on gas. It's also true that, instead of buying a new car -- I don't drive all that much -- I spent $27K (after rebates) to install solar panels on my roof that produced 84% more energy in 2016 than I used. The system sends data to the web to monitor operation and track energy produced over time ... see at the link: http://www.tigoenergy.com/site.php?bobsolar
  • Only ecofascists and fools believe (or claim to believe) that it is particularly important to abate CO2 to begin with.
  • The only retards who yell "climate denier" are just the people that dont know the actual "science: behind it and just buy into the propaganda. And seem to be oblivious to the thousands of scientists who disagree.
  • Grow a brain stem, Robert.
  • Hey, look. I'd like to continue discussing nonsense with some brainwashed lunatic cultist, But Jehovah's witness already knocked on my door this morning . .and I already shooed them away.
  • Your problem is that you are one of those "stupid smart guys". We all know them. Lots of education and high IQ, but in many ways "dumb as a doorknob" and "easily buys into dogma and propaganda". as well as snarky "superior then thou" attitude.
  • Anybody that says the science settled is a farce. This guy doesn't have a PHD in anything except P-iled H-gher and D-eeper. lol... And to boot he's goofy as hell.
  • You just don't tire of parading your ignorance, do ya, Bob? "I dunno shit, but I know conservatives are wrong!"
  • Get over yourself! No one spends their OWN MILLIONS to go against a system that does everything they can to shut him down just to clean up a corrupt system. Final nail in the coffin of life on earth????? You're a little over-dramatic!!! A tad! GO take a nap & come back when you have a better attitude!!! And yes! That's exactly how you're acting! Pathetic.
  • I tried to be fair with you view but obviously you are a delusional radical full of hate. Take your meds and bug off freak. [... after I commented with my link to Trump/Republicans: Worse Than 9/11].

All righty, then.... actually, knowledge from long years of study isn't just "doubted" as the article below says; it's maligned. ...

Honesty, RIP: Facts take a beating across US By MATT SEDENSKY, AP, 11/5/16

"There's a profound doubt in this country about the importance of expertise, knowledge, things like that," said Ohio University professor Kevin Mattson. "Trump has just drawn that out to its logical extreme conclusion."

Mattson studies the history of ideas and wrote about the notion of a "post-fact" world. "It's people's belief that their willing and their subjective desire for something is more important than facts that stand outside of that," he said. ...

"The belief is that there is no objective truth - if we want something to be real, then it is real," he said.

Through that lens, it's easier to understand vehement insistence that climate change is not real (it is, according to scientific consensus) .... The disconnect from facts is exacerbated by a confusing web of information sources, both ideology-driven news outlets and lesser-known sites that peddle lies through incredible headlines, which spread on social media. ...

Sad, indeed ...


Other Articles

Global Warming Denial: A Case Study, 11/14/15. The facts about a global-warming-denier meme that lies about what Gore has said and about the reality of the loss of ice at the Arctic ice cap. Even when shown the lies, the denier remains in denial.

Global Warming: An Inconvenient-to-Understand Truth, 3/28/03. Global warming is a major problem that we must address. This is a draft of a commentary on the issue from a systems thinking perspective. The referenced paper from MIT explains the flawed nature of public understanding of the problem. A second commentary responds to a libertarian column denying there's a problem and explains why George Bush's "Clear Skies" program is more aptly titled, "Cloudy Skies." Since writing this I've added a large number of links to articles showing global warming is real, it's not slowing, and humans are causing it.

Global Warming: The Carbon Bathtub, 4/23/15. Presentation (3 minutes) on global warming to the Colorado Springs Utilities Board on 4/22/15 (Earth Day). It explains the physics of the system: why global warming is happening, why humans are causing it, and why stopping the increase in emissions is not enough ... we must cut them in half. And it addresses common false objections to addressing the problem.

Much of What's Called Socialism is Just Pragmatic, 3/19/15. Many freak out at even the mention of the word, socialism. It's "politically incorrect" to even mention the word thanks to more than six decades of propaganda against it. Bill Maher: "America's real religion is capitalism. And like any religion, it needs a devil. And that devil has always been socialism."
- Those who value freedom must realize that freedom is about more than "individual freedom."
- True freedom is about individual freedom and being free from system failure.
- That's what this article is about: taking back the concept of freedom from the limited view of "freedom" promoted by "conservatives."
- There is little to no "freedom" for individuals in the midst of economic collapse. Individuals can do all the right things and still be financially devastated through no fault of their own.
- This article reviews those realities from a systems thinking perspective. A major purpose of this article is to describe areas where collective action through government is necessary to avoid system failure.

From NASA: How is Today's Warming Different from the Past?

As the Earth moved out of ice ages over the past million years, the global temperature rose a total of 4 to 7 degrees Celsius over about 5,000 years. In the past century alone, the temperature has climbed 0.7 degrees Celsius, roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.

Models predict that Earth will warm between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius in the next century. When global warming has happened at various times in the past two million years, it has taken the planet about 5,000 years to warm 5 degrees. The predicted rate of warming for the next century is at least 20 times faster. This rate of change is extremely unusual.


Climate Change Teach-In 7/22/17 at Penrose Library Powerpoint Presentation

URL: http://www.exponentialimprovement.com/cms/physicsofglobalwarming.shtml

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