[Vision2020] Questions about global warming

Glenn Schwaller vpschwaller at gmail.com
Mon May 14 13:53:51 PDT 2007

Mr Rumelhart

An interesting graph.  Before reading your comments, I took a look at the
figure and almost immediately said "What the hell ?!?!"  Man-made emissions
EXCEED the total atmospheric concentration of CO2?  Personally, I think it's
all those people TALKING about global warming, exhaling copious amounts of
CO2, resulting in such a spectacular increase as illustrated.

In all seriousness though, this is the kind of "science" which leads to the
Chicken Little syndrome.  And this is government science to boot!  (Thought
- is that an oxymoron??)  Depending on one's viewpoint, one can find any
amount of data to support any claim.  I really need to go back and find some
of these data for posting.  For example, NOAA had a study a few years ago
showing about the same thing (total atmospheric CO2 and the
human-contribution to the increase) but with the human contribution
amounting to around 2.5% of the total.

In another "study" a group in England I believe (forgive me for not being
totally accurate - I'm pulling this out of my memory, but I shall see if I
can locate this stuff again) gathered data on regional temperature changes
in Europe and Asia, correlating that with sunspot activity.  As sunspot
activity went up, "global warming" went up.  At a gut-level reactionary way,
this makes perfect sense to me - solar radiation (i.e. heat), zips through
space to bathe our delightful little planet, and keeps us warm.  Solar
radiation output increases, more radiation zips through space and our little
planet gets a little warmer.  Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaa - way too simple.

However, regardless of one's stand on global warming and potential causes
(if one subscribes to such a thing) I don't see a problem with changing your
lifestyle a bit since it either A) helps all of us out a bit, B) helps us
individually a bit (I can live with spending less for gas for my car, gas
for my furnace, cutting down on piles of grocery sacks and MPDN papers which
fall over on me, or C) all of the above.  What I do have a problem with is
having some politically-based agenda (IPCC for example) or guilt (It's YOUR
FAULT that poor drowning polar bear is starving!) thrust down my throat.

It seems a bit Narcissistic of us to say "Look what WE piddling lifeforms
did to this huge planet."  Even more so to think we can do anything of major
consequence about it (e.g. IPCC proclaiming that "Global warming shall be
limited to a maximum of 2 degrees C.  Period. End of story."  Hey, can we
also limit hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes (hey - do they
contribute to greenhouse gases??) since they are bad thing too?

For my part, I ride my bike, use a push mower, bag my groceries in a
backpack, and don't talk a lot.  Purely self serving - I'm hoping my buildup
of carbon credits can offset the water I use to keep my lawn lush.


On 5/13/07, Paul Rumelhart <godshatter at yahoo.com> wrote:
>  I have been looking into Global Warming, and I have some questions that
> have come up as I've been attempting to educate myself on this topic.
> First, look at this graph from the Energy Information Administration which
> appears to be part of the Department of Energy (from
> http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggccebro/chapter1.html in case your email
> doesn't show it):
> [image: Trends in Atmospheric Concentrations and Anthropogenic Emissions
> of Carbon Dioxide]
> I've been attempting to understand this graph for a little while now, and
> something about it seems strange to me.  Hopefully, I have misunderstood it
> completely.  The text for this image states: "Figure 1 is a line graph
> showing the trends in atmospheric concentrations and anthropogenic emissions
> of carbon dioxide.".  Ok.  We're talking millons of metric tons of carbon in
> the atmosphere here, with a scale that goes from 0 (in 1860 or so) to about
> 6,600 at present.  I had at first assumed that they were showing the total
> amounts of carbon int he atmosphere on the right hand side, but the numbers
> are way too low for that and they start at zero.  There is supposedly right
> now about 730 billions metric tons of carbon in the atmosphere, so that top
> 7,000 million tons number must mean something else.  It's somewhat close to
> the current number for billions of tons of carbon put into the atmosphere by
> "Fossil Fuel Combustion and Industrial Processes", which appears to be an
> annual number.  To make these numbers come together, I have to assume that
> the above graph is showing the amount of change in millions of tons of
> carbon each year since 1750.
> So my question is, what happened in the 1960s?  That is the point at which
> the lines cross.  So, if you look at 1860 you see that the entire amount of
> carbon increase each year in the atmosphere (the orange line) is about 2400
> million tons.  So that's the baseline for the non-anthropogenic increases.
> It would basically have been going up by that amount without our help every
> year, anyway.  Perhaps we had some effect before 1860 burning wood and coal,
> cutting down forests and so on, but presumably not the steep incline we see
> later - so we're not so much to blame here.
> Now, if you look at 1950, you see that the total anthropogenic amount is
> about 1500 million tons, yet the total atmospheric increase is about 3600.
> Subtracting the two, you get a difference of 2100 million tons instead of
> the 2400 million tons that I would have naively predicted.  It gets hugely
> worse in the 1960s, where the graphs actually cross.  At that point, the
> total amount of atmospheric change per annum is due to anthropogenic
> changes.  From that point forward, the amount of atmospheric change would
> have been dropping, if not for the huge spike in anthropogenic change.  We
> have the strange situation where the total amount of atmospheric change is
> less than the total amount of anthropogenic change, which is just flat-out
> weird.  What this seems to say is that if you simply stopped burning all
> fossil fuels and stopped all industrial processes, the amount of carbon in
> the air would drop quite quickly.
> This is why I'm skeptical that we are going to have as disastrous an
> effect as seems to be assumed by global warming proponents.
> Take a look at the next graph on that site:
> [image: Global Carbon Cycle (Billion Metric Tons Carbon)]
> We are focusing so much on the dashed line heading from the factory to the
> atmosphere that we seem to be ignoring the question of why 90 billion tons
> of carbon come out of the atmosphere and end up in the ocean while only 88
> billion tons makes its way back.  Same with vegetation and soils - 120 from
> atmosphere to vegetation/soils, 119 goes back.  Even the changing land-use
> figures are in our favor, by 0.2 billion tons.  This seems to mesh with
> the previous graph, i.e. if you stop all industrial process altogether
> than the amount of carbon in the atmosphere will drop by 3.2 billion tons
> every year.  Since the article stated that certain greenhouse gases have
> increased by 25% since 1850, then there must have been 730 / 1.25 = 584
> billions of tons of carbon in the air at that time.  Thus, it would take
> (730 - 584) / 3.2 = 45.625 years to get back to pre-industrial levels.  Of
> course, these changes are probably not linear - I'm sure they all change
> with great complexity, which is why relying on those numbers in the other
> direction without better understanding them seems foolish.
> I'm not saying that we shouldn't be pressuring our government and that of
> other countries to lower that 6.3 number, but maybe we should also be
> trying to find ways to increase the differences in those different areas.
> The only way that comes to mind right off hand is to take much of our
> current vegetation and sink it to the bottom of the ocean so that when it
> grows back it will have to take it's carbon from the atmosphere.  Of course,
> that's not a viable solution for a whole host of different reasons - but the
> idea is to "think outside the box" (gods I hate that phrase) and look for
> other solutions at the same time we are trying to convince those lunk-heads
> in charge that depending on fossil fuels is a Bad Idea for many different
> excellent reasons.
> Just to forestall some things: I am not saying that global warming isn't
> happening, obviously it is.  I'm not saying we aren't having an effect on
> it, obviously we are.  That's a change in my thinking since I started
> learning about this.  I was skeptical at first that we could have such an
> enormous effect.  While that 6.3 number is small compared to the amount of
> carbon going into the air from the oceans or from vegetation, it's much
> larger proportionally than I would have guessed.  My position, if you would
> call it that, is that this whole process is so bloody complicated that we
> shouldn't be sounding the Trumpets of Doom and Gloom all the time until we
> have some better numbers and a model that we can use that has shown itself
> to be predictive.  The above is talking just about the relatively simplistic
> carbon cycle, and doesn't even touch on the other greenhouse gases, their
> interactions, or what the various numbers given above are going to do as the
> earth warms even more or even what their current rates of change are at this
> moment.
> If we do need to sound the trumpets, think about this - what if we have
> set into motion a series of processes that will dump so much carbon from the
> atmosphere before they stop that we will *need* to keep up our anthropogenic
> changes or risk freezing to death?  I'm not actually serious here, just
> trying to illustrate why "doom and gloom" doesn't really help the debate.
> Paul
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