— The Erimtan Angle —

In 2011 temperatures around the globe were slightly cooler on average than in the two years before. Does that mean Global Warming has somehow ended? Or that it has never even existed? Global Ideas Climate Expert Anders Levermann explains why a cooler year does not contradict the reality of Global Warming (15 August 2012).

So, who is Anders Levermann???  He is the Chair of research domain Sustainable Solutions of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The Head of PIK-flagship activity TUMBLE on the stability of Greenland, Antarctica, monsoon & ocean circulation. The Lead author of the Sea Level Change chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC-AR5). A Professor at the Physics Institute of Potsdam University teaching climate physics and the author of climate-science video column “Global Expert” answering questions on climate change.[1] And he is also a prolific blogger.

Recently, a prominent climate sceptic has been in the news as a result of his conversion to a climate believer.[2]  The physics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Richard Muller published a memorable op-ed in the New York Times, announcing his conversion: “CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause. My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the I.P.C.C. concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans. It was possible, according to the I.P.C.C. consensus statement, that the warming before 1956 could be because of changes in solar activity, and that even a substantial part of the more recent warming could be natural. Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off). In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions. The historic temperature pattern we observed has abrupt dips that match the emissions of known explosive volcanic eruptions; the particulates from such events reflect sunlight, make for beautiful sunsets and cool the earth’s surface for a few years. There are small, rapid variations attributable to El Niño and other ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream; because of such oscillations, the “flattening” of the recent temperature rise that some people claim is not, in our view, statistically significant. What has caused the gradual but systematic rise of two and a half degrees? We tried fitting the shape to simple math functions (exponentials, polynomials), to solar activity and even to rising functions like world population. By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice. Just as important, our record is long enough that we could search for the fingerprint of solar variability, based on the historical record of sunspots. That fingerprint is absent. Although the I.P.C.C. allowed for the possibility that variations in sunlight could have ended the “Little Ice Age,” a period of cooling from the 14th century to about 1850, our data argues strongly that the temperature rise of the past 250 years cannot be attributed to solar changes. This conclusion is, in retrospect, not too surprising; we’ve learned from satellite measurements that solar activity changes the brightness of the sun very little. How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase”.[3]  So, there you go and there you have it, or, is there anything else???  Claire Perlman writes that “Muller’s project has been criticized in the past for receiving $150,000 in funding from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, which is associated with Koch Industries, an oil and gas conglomerate. The foundation has historically supported conservative causes, so environmentalists were unsure what to expect when Muller prepared to announce the study’s findings last year. Muller maintained throughout the study that the funding would have no impact on the results of the research, and he sort of proved it with the group’s results that show a two and a half degree Fahrenheit increase over the last 250 years, and one and a half degrees Fahrenheit increase over the last 50 years”.[4]  Does this now mean that Muller has become free from his Koch addiction???  Has he now become an advocate of clean energy and renewable resources???  Well actually, not quite . . . he now advocates switching to natural gas.

Turns out that Professor Muller has now become a vocal proponent of fracking . . . Or as explained by Perlman: “Muller hopes the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and humanity’s role in exacerbating it. He believes the most difficult task in front of us is to reach a consensus across the political spectrum about what we are going to do to deal with a changing climate. In the near future, the majority of greenhouse gas emissions will come from China, India, and other parts of the developing world, Muller said in an email to Earth Island Journal. In order to slow warming, he said two major initiatives are required: technical conservation and replacing coal with natural gas, which emits one-third of the carbon dioxide coal emits when burned. Muller’s advocacy of natural gas as a cleaner fuel, however, doesn’t really delve into the serious environmental and health impacts caused by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — the process of extracting gas buried in shale deposits that’s become increasingly popular in the United States. In an interview earlier this month with talk show host Rachel Maddow, he offered up an unbelievably naïve solution to such concerns: ‘Well, I totally don’t support the old kind of fracking, but I think clean fracking — in which you just fine the hell out of the companies if they spill anything or upset the water tables, they can fix it up. Compared to developing really cheap solar, developing really clean fracking, I think, is relatively straightforward’”.[5]

Over the past years we have heard the phrase Clean Coal, and now, Professor Muller is talking about Clean Fracking???  What the frack???  In all fairness, some time ago I met a geologist who told me about a new methodology for fracking involving microwaves . . . but as such, apart from that personal testimony, I have not heard about this revolutionary way to frack our environment. Maybe the Koch Bros will turn out to be the ultimate champions of clean fracking, possibly employing the awesome power of microwaves???  After all, Koch Industries is an oil and gas conglomerate . . .


[1] “Anders Levermann” Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. http://www.pik-potsdam.de/~anders/.

[2] “Changing Views About A Changing Climate” NPR (03 August 2012). http://www.npr.org/2012/08/03/158085161/changing-views-about-a-changing-climate.

[3] Richard A. Muller, “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic” The New York Times (28 July 2012). http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html?pagewanted=all.

[4] Claire Perlman, “The Not-So-Great Part of Richard Muller’s Conversion from Climate Skeptic to Believer” Earth Island Journal (15 August 2012). http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/the_not-so-great_part_of_richard_mullers_conversion_from_climate_skeptic_to.

[5] Claire Perlman, “The Not-So-Great Part of Richard Muller’s Conversion”.

Comments on: "Global Warming or what the frack???" (7)

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