Carbon dioxide obsession causes real issues to be missed


Kennan Mighell (Climate change most severe problem of all time, Nov. 17) is justifiably concerned his grandchildren may never “have the opportunity to see a glacier up close.” Earth was (naturally) ice free 35 million years ago. We have no way of knowing that this will not happen again.

Having said that, the 16 prominent scientists who signed “No Need to Panic About Global Warming” (Wall Street Journal, July 27, 2012) realize there is “no compelling scientific argument for drastic action to ‘decarbonize’ the world’s economy.” The “ninety-seven percent of scientists” who agree that global warming is anthropogenic is a small group. Realization that we are seeing natural variation, well within Earth’s recent natural history, is widespread in the larger (disinterested) scientific community.

Carbon dioxide from warming oceans, melting permafrost and increased tree mortality are all epiphenomena that carry no etiological weight. These are all examples of how increases in the global temperature anomaly (GTA) lead to increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. When Earth cools oceans, permafrost and forests will recapture the carbon dioxide they released during the current warming period.

Climate scientists know that atmospheric carbon dioxide level lags the GTA at major climate transitions. The New York Times (Study of ice age Bolsters Carbon and Warming Link, Feb. 28, 2013), reports on an effort (by Parrenin et al. in Journal Science) that reduced the gap by which the GTA led atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, at the last transition, from 800 years to less than 200 years.

There is no suggestion that changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels actually preceded changes in the GTA: the observation that “atmospheric carbon dioxide lags temperature at major climate transitions” remains intact.

Informed belief that global warming is anthropogenic requires believing that effect precedes cause. Those who accept that global warming is anthropogenic should also be prepared to accept that the light coming on is the cause of my having just previously flipped the switch, and that my wife’s ire with me this morning is the cause of the thoughtless remark I made last evening.

Surely a Whitman College student’s vaunted critical thinking skills should let him see through this flapdoodle.

Earth faces real and pressing environmental challenges that are not being addressed in large part due to our obsession with a harmless to slightly beneficial gas (AKA carbon dioxide).

Jim Robles

Walla Walla



fatherof5 says...

The 97% is a "small group"? Compared to what......the population of China?

The 97% represents more than one thousand peer-reviewed, published climate scientists throughout the world. (In other words, the people who know what they are talking about.) Mr. Robles cites 16 "prominent" scientists who disagree?

What a condescending, ridiculous letter.

Posted 23 November 2013, 5:58 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Compared to the population of scientists, or even the population of climate scientists.

As I've challenged you before, the survey you always cite for this proposition does not say what you pretend or believe it says.

Posted 24 November 2013, 2:09 p.m. Suggest removal

fatherof5 says...

It's more than one study, PearlY. The new IPCC report, which looks at hundreds of studies, raised its level of confidence to greater than 95% that warming is caused by human activity.

Posted 24 November 2013, 11:10 p.m. Suggest removal

jrobles says...

Hello fatherof5,

I do not know how conversant you are with finite element models (FEMs) or finite element analysis (FEA)? The 95% confidence is based on the results of such models. Like all models the ones behind this estimate reflect the assumptions used in developing them. Zero percent of these models are capable of meeting the minimum test, for an useful model, of "predicting the past" (the "Medieval Warm Period," the end of the last ice age, etc.). It may be hard to believe that there is anything subject to limitations of available computing power, but Earth's climate system is far too complex to be usefully modeled within the constraints of available computing power. Developers of these models are forced to assume an otherwise constant temperature Earth (a manifestly false assumption) until anthropogenic carbon dioxide leads (another manifestly false assumption - it follows) to warming. There is nothing to the 95% confidence other than the results of models reflect the assumptions that go into building them. I think I am going to write another letter that will give pointers to a "natural experiment" that shows that our very real anthropogenic carbon dioxide has not had any effect on the GTA. I look forward to continuing our conversation.

Posted 26 November 2013, 6 a.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...


My translation of Mr. Robles' discussion of the 95% confidence you rely on is that when it comes to drawing conclusions from models - GIGO.

Posted 26 November 2013, 3:44 p.m. Suggest removal

jrobles says...

Hello again PearlY,

GIGO = garbage in => garbage out?

Some models are very good and people can and should rely on them. Some models are based on false assumptions, and people should not rely on them.

I am a retired Boeing Senior Technical Fellow with over thirty years of experience in electronic packaging disciplines including system architectures, hardware design for commercial and military ground and airborne avionics, mechanical tolerance analysis, thermal and dynamic/vibration analysis, weights/mass properties analysis, design of experiments, environmental analysis and test, reliability, and environmental stress screening.

The thermal, vibration, and structural finite element modeling we do in aerospace is conceptually similar to the models that generated the 95% confidence. I seen good and bad models. The big difference between aerospace and climate change is the the things we model are simply enough that we can build models that reflect reality within the constraints of available computing power.


Posted 27 November 2013, 7:36 a.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Jim, I know nothing about the modeling done for aerospace but at a guess, I suspect the number of variables and the sheer amount of data that have to be handled are a small fraction of those involved in long-term climate change modeling. If that's true, then climate modeling inputs are either going to omit potentially important variables or make assumptions about included variables that are not data-driven or fail to account for all possible effects of those variables on each other, resulting in GO = garbage out.

Posted 1 December 2013, 10 a.m. Suggest removal

jrobles says...

Hello PearlY,

Could you be more specific? The citations that come to mind, are the one, on professional weather men, from:

Kolbert, Elizabeth (2010, April 12). Up in the Air. The New Yorker.

and the one on scientific literacy from:

Kahan, Dan M. et al. (2012, May 27). The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change / Letter, 2, 732 – 735.

They are available on line, so it is easy to fact check and see if I got something wrong.

If I quoted some other survey, please give me a more specific reminder.

Here is a thought for you: whatever you provide, I will support my argument with facts and logic. I will not have to question your motives or if you really believe what you are saying. If you produce something that leaves me unable to support my argument with facts and logic, I will modify my argument. I still will not have to question your motives or if you really believe what you are saying. AKA - ad hominem attacks are the last refuge of those who can not make an argument with facts and logic.

Here is a second thought: my core argument that climate change is not anthropogenic is based on its two fatal flaws; first backward causation from Sunday's letter; second a natural experiment that I describe (again) in the letter I just submitted. That should be enough for those with reasonable scientific literacy. The commentary on the purported consensus is more explanatory for those who cannot follow an argument based on facts and logic. If you see flaws in the backward causation argument from Sunday, please let me know what they are.


Posted 27 November 2013, 7:27 a.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

Jim, in my mention of a survey, I was responding to fatherof5's post, not yours. In other threads, fatherof5 has relied heavily on a study that I found to be dubious at best, for reasons that I provided in some detail on those other threads. I don't believe my comment to him was ad hominem, but there was certainly no attack on you. To the contrary, in both of my comments (including the GIGO one) I was supporting your position, albeit obviously too cryptically.

Posted 1 December 2013, 12:16 a.m. Suggest removal

VinoTinto says...

If carbon dioxide is so good, go take a nap in a closed garage with your engine running.

Posted 24 November 2013, 4:58 p.m. Suggest removal

barracuda says...

Vino........ Garages are more known for carbon monoxide poisioning

Posted 24 November 2013, 9:27 p.m. Suggest removal

PearlY says...

And be sure to warn people to stay away from dihydrogen monoxide, too..

Posted 25 November 2013, 12:06 a.m. Suggest removal

Iopine says...

PearlY - That's classic!

Posted 25 November 2013, 9:05 a.m. Suggest removal

carcrazy says...

I can't believe that Vino actually wrote that. How embarrassing.

Posted 25 November 2013, 1:43 p.m. Suggest removal

jrobles says...

First – Thank you to all for taking the time to read my letter and respond. I appreciate it.

Second – Carbon dioxide in a garage (or anywhere else), unlike carbon dioxide, will not harm you.

Third – I have a hard time addressing this issue within 400 words. . Another example of those of us outside the “97 percent” would be the Kolbert (2010, April 12, Up in the Air. The New Yorker) report that a number of recent polls have shown that the general public (including professional TV meteorologists) does not believe that Global Warming is serious. “Weather” is certainly not “climate,” but professional TV meteorologists are an example to the people who are scientifically literate, but whose personal interest does not depend on the view that climate change is anthropogenic: the majority are skeptics. I have more examples.

I have observed, previously in this forum, that a recently study funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the journal Nature Climate Change (Yale Law Professor Dan Kahan is the lead author) finds that people who are not that worried about the effects of global warming tend to have a slightly higher level of scientific knowledge than those who are worried - “As respondents’ science literacy scores increased, their concern with climate change decreased.”

Posted 25 November 2013, 11:28 a.m. Suggest removal

jrobles says...

Forth – And here is the real point: one hundred percent of the “ninety-seven percent” realize that, as I observed in my letter, that changes in the GTA (cause) precede changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide (effect).

If you believe that I have the cause and effect relationship backwards, are their other examples of “backward causation” that you accept? Probably not.

Did you notice, in the examples that Mr. Mighell mentioned in his letters, each and every one was a case where increasing temperature caused the release of carbon dioxide? Being concerned that the release of carbon dioxide, following (AKA caused by) an increase in temperature will lead to further increases in temperature is analogous to being afraid that having the light come on, after I flipped the switch, will make me flip the switch more.

From your comments you sound like concerned citizens who are vey concerned about the environment. Me too. The things we might do to restrict carbon emissions, such as encouraging fracking to produce more natural gas in China, carry substantial risk of precipitating a real ecological catastrophe. So here is a challenge for you? How do you resolve “backward causation?” Since changes in temperature always lead changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, how do you sustain the belief that changes in carbon dioxide levels cause (after the fact) changes in temperature?
In one of Plato’s “Dialogues,” Protagoras says, “as to the people, they have no understanding, and only repeat what their rulers are pleased to tell them.” I am sure that all of you understand that cause (changes in temperature) leads effect (changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide level). What does you “understanding,” vs. what your “leaders tell” you (albeit 97 percent), say about effect preceding cause? If we precipitate and (worldwide) ecological catastrophe in China, trying to limit carbon emissions, what will we tell our grandchildren?

Posted 25 November 2013, 11:30 a.m. Suggest removal

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