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    kenmce High Voltage Member

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    ScienceDaily (Nov. 24, 2009) — In a provocative new study, a University of Utah scientist Tim Garret argues that rising carbon dioxide emissions -- the major cause of global warming -- cannot be stabilized unless the world's economy collapses or society builds the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant each day.

    Is global warming unstoppable?



    **********Clarification and update Nov 29, 2009********************


    Hi folks,

    We already have a good collection of threads that discuss the question of whether or not global warming exists, and if so, do we have a hand in it. We also have already present and healthy threads about graph reading and the ClimateGate mails. Rather than open yet another thread about the same things, I'd like to suggest comments along those lines go into the existing threads so people can find them conveniently.

    The reason I posted this is because Tim Garret is a new player at the table and he seems to have some new things to say. He makes no claims to be a climate scientist. He is approaching the whole question as a general problem in physics. This gives him a new perspective, it may give us new insights, and I would be interested to hear what people think about his work.
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    TimBikes New Member

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    It looks to me like "global warming" has already stopped on its own.

    [IMG]

    Climatologist Kevin Trenberth said, in the climategate emails:

    "The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t."
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    patsparks An Aussie perspective

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    Roll on your back and give up then hey?
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    radioprius1 Climate Conspirisist

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    Is global warming unstoppable? It's not even occurring.
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    TimBikes New Member

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    What are we "giving up" if global temps are the same now as they were 30 years ago? Look at the graph.
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    patsparks An Aussie perspective

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    I see your arrow pointing to a point that favors your point of view, but overall my poor old tired eyes see an upward trend on the graph.
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    patsparks An Aussie perspective

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    Here is how I see the graph, excuse my cherry picked low points on the left side of the graph, just like I ignored the cherry picked low point on the right side of the graph. The orange line shows the trend over the period of the graph as I see it with my un trained eyes. Do you want to give your interpretation of how you see the graph? Please excuse my ignorance about things like graphs if I don't know the right trick to reading the data in the way most favorable to your argument, I'm not even a highschool graduate so I'm pretty thick when it comes to book learnin.

    Attached Files:

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    TonyPSchaefer Your Friendly Moderator

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    I too would like to see that graph with an algorithmic average calculated and charted.

    Give me the raw data points and I'll chart it myself.
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    patsparks An Aussie perspective

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    My effort was a rough line of sight in paint. Nothing but the best hey?

    I find that looking at the thumbnail image is pretty indicative of a temperature increase.
    Oh, in case it is my tired eyes, my 17 year old son and his mate said they see an overall increase too.
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    kenmce High Voltage Member

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    Thread Clarification & Update:

    Hi folks,

    We already have a good collection of threads that discuss the question of whether or not global warming exists, and if so, do we have a hand in it. We also have already present and healthy threads about graph reading and the ClimateGate mails. Rather than open yet another thread about the same things, I'd like to suggest comments along those lines go into the existing threads so people can find them conveniently.

    The reason I posted this is because Tim Garret is a new player at the table and he seems to have some new things to say. He makes no claims to be a climate scientist. He is approaching the whole question as a general problem in physics. This gives him a new perspective, it may give us new insights, and I would be interested to hear what people think about his work.

    I suppose I should read the actual report before I have opinions about it. Sadly, this is as close as I've gotten to the actual report. Anyone got a lead?
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    radioprius1 Climate Conspirisist

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    Your thread is titled "Is global warming unstoppable?"

    It is a nonsense question because anthropogenic global warming is not occurring.

    It's like asking the question "Can the color blue feel pain?"
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    patsparks An Aussie perspective

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    Why did you open the thread if its title is ridiculous? Just stay away.
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    chogan2 Senior Member

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    All I know about this is what was in the link, but based on that, this view is extreme. His model of the world is not consistent either with physics (which I am not competent to judge) or with classical economics (which I am).

    Based on what I read in that link, he denies any role for conservation. If you use less, somebody else uses more. So, his world appears to be one with no conservation in it. (EDIT: Read the article, no, there's no empirical basis for that in the article. The only data is two timeseries, world GDP and world energy use. So, there is zero direct empirical support in the paper for that notion. None.)

    Second, assumes that each real dollar of GDP requires a fixed amount of fossil fuel energy. I think that's completely unreasonable, given (e.g.) the history of energy intensity of the US economy over the past few decades.

    Third, again based on the link, he assumes that the recent acceleration in C02 release will continue unabated. (I guess that's a consequence of the first two.)

    Well, if you assume you that conservation doesn't matter and assume that C02 is absolutely linked to GDP growth, then ... yeah, his conclusions follow. Unless-GDP-crashes-then-carbon-continues-to-grow.

    But so what. The term of art in programming is GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).

    But I'd say that both assumptions are highly questionable, and his method is not just unlike any other mainstream approach, but also highly unrealistic. The economy is not a heat engine, as he models it.

    For example, here's the energy intensity of US GDP over the past half-century. It has fallen by 50%.

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec1_12.pdf


    For the world as a whole, this source (of unknown quality) shows nearly a 50% reduction in energy intensity of GDP for the world, 1990 - 2005:

    Energy Intensity: Energy consumption per GDP

    Given that, I would want to see how he arrives at this conclusion:

    "Garrett says his study's key finding "is that accumulated economic production over the course of history has been tied to the rate of energy consumption at a global level through a constant factor."
    That "constant" is 9.7 (plus or minus 0.3) milliwatts per inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar. So if you look at economic and energy production at any specific time in history, "each inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar would be supported by 9.7 milliwatts of primary energy consumption," Garrett says."

    Summary:

    Somehow this fellow models the world economy as if it were a fixed-technology heat engine: each $ of real GDP requires a fixed amount of fossil fuel. Well, sure, if you make those assumptions, then they only way to get C02 emissions to fall is to get GDP to fall.

    But are those assumptions reasonable? Golly, 3 minutes on Google shows good data for the US, and data of unknown quality for the world, both items showing strong downward trend in energy intensity of GDP.

    At the minimum, the good US data show that any world trend this guy may have ginned up from whatever source is an artifact of the particular time period and countries chosen. So, even if he credibly came up with a constant energy input per unit of world GDP, historically, then means squat going forward. It would be an artifact of the particular mix of GDP across countries in his historical dataset (not some invariant physical constant.) And, near as I can tell, the raw data are not even close to showing that energy input per unit of GDP is constant.

    For what it's worth, my observation as a health economist: economic articles in science journals are always crap. The reviewers are just not equipped with the mindset needed to review economic analysis.

    EDIT: Found the full text here:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/9476j57g1t07vhn2/fulltext.pdf

    And no, it's not very smart and it's really, really obscure. Instead of just graphing BTU/$, he's got a graph of cumulative GDP and cumulative world energy consumption. Why?

    Well, if you go to his sources, download the data, and do the arithmetic, the raw data show that energy intensity per unit of GDP (BTU per constant US $) fell 20% from 1980 to 2006. That "constant dollar GDP" for the world is a true sonofa#$ to have to calculate, so I'll rely on his source (the UN) for that without question.

    So, the data he used shows as 20% secular decline in world energy intensity of GDP over his study period. And, note, that was mostly a period of low real fossil fuel prices.

    In other words, even in an era with no particular constraints on fossil fuel cost and use, energy intensity of GDP fell 20%. Put on some carbon caps, raise the price of fossil fuels around the world, and it would not surprise me to see the trend accelerate.

    So, not only do I think the reasoning is just not very smart (it's Leotieff technology -- fixed input mix, essentially), his basic premise does not appear to be supported by his own data. Only if you obscure the trend by plotting cumulative GDP and cumulative energy use can you get away with saying what he said.

    And, that's how get gets his one-nuclear-plant-per-day figure: that's real GDP growth trend, divided by his constant energy use per dollar of GDP. But if there's a downward trend in that constant, then he's all washed up even within his own narrow framework.

    Let me do the rough correction. His trend GDP is 2.1%. My estimated trend energy intensity is about -1%/year. So just figuring that in cuts the number of needed nuclear plants in half. In other words, even assuming there's no such thing as conservation, just modifying the analysis to account for existing secular trend in BTU/$GDP cuts the "headline" figure in half.

    I mean, the point is well taken, that it'll be a trick to decarbonize rapidly enough to do any good. Got it, no need to go further. The rest of this is too far into the realm of pseudo-science. No need to make the analogy that the economy is like a heat engine. That adds little. And, really, the sophisticated analysis of the data hides more than it illuminates. Trend real GDP has been 2.2%, trend change in fossil fuel use per unit GDP has been -1%, if you have to reduce fossil fuel use but not crash GDP, you need to increase the second figure dramatically. As in, uh, double it, say? But we already knew that. Somehow claiming that there's some fixed constant, based on historical economic data, is just dumb. There are no conservation laws in economics.

    So this is consistent with the rule as stated above: economic analysis in science journals is always crap.
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    SageBrush Senior Member

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    Fair criticism, Chris.
    I will say though that conservation has a terrible record, I think for the market principles that underlie the author's reasoning: if use goes down, price follows and then use goes up.

    Honestly, and this is only my opinion, fossil fuel use will not decrease until it becomes clear to enough of a majority that the economic cost of fossil fuel use is more than the cost of alternatives. As these things tend to go, the changes will not be gradual as more people get a clue, but precipitous in time scales for national economies. One of these days GM et al are going to sing their usual song of 'wait, we are not ready', and the response is going to be 'tough'.
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    tochatihu Senior Member

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    Would like to suggest that Soloman et al 2009

    www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0812721106

    is a good place to start for those interested in the thread-title topic.

    The UAH satellite-only temperature record (mentioned above) is quite valuable, and it's worthwhile to see what the authors have to say about it and secular trends in general:

    UAH News: Your Official UAH News Source

    Other interpretations of these data exist:

    http://homepage.univie.ac.at/leopold.haimberger/i1520-0442-21-18-4587.pdf

    So, don't expect it to be easy to get to the bottom of this question

    As we have discussed elsewhere on Prius Chat, increases in the earth's heat balance can be stored in the oceans as well, and the partitioning through time is pretty jumpy. It seems to me that Levitus et al 2009

    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 36, L07608, doi:10.1029/2008GL037155, 2009

    have the best handle on that at present (this article may not be free, so if you need a copy, PM me).

    Or, one may disagree entirely with these analyses, part or whole. Suits me. But I must say that Prius Chat is not really constituted as a place to work out these complicated matters. and that such discussions here seem more cententious than they need to be.

    Unfortunately I can offer no simple path for the non-technical reader to develop a good understanding ot these topics. The popular media is probably the poorest choice. Get your feet wet at xikipedia, read as much of the primary literature as you can stand, and then you will be reasonably well equipped to interpret things presented at web sites such as realclimate or climateaudit.

    Those are just examples, so don't fly off the handle at me.
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    BeakerTX Junior Member

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    My $0.02......I've read enough scientific evidence to know that global warming is occurring, but not enough to know if it unstoppable. There are some great resources about the topic on this site:

    Global Warming | Union of Concerned Scientists

    I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I am a doctor (Ph.D. in chemistry) and a member of UCS.
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    radioprius1 Climate Conspirisist

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    I've never seen an academic refer to themselves as a doctor like that, lol. Weird.
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    TimBikes New Member

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    Hi Pat - no need to apologize for your level of education. Seriously. Your analysis is fine.

    However, consider:
    - what is the temperature trend from 1979 - 1998? You will see the slope is approximately zero.
    - note the temperature spike in 1998 - the year of a strong El Nino
    - now notice the temperature post 1998 - it rises briefly, then levels off, then falls from roughly 2002 on.

    So in the immediate analysis, yes, a trendline from beginning to end shows an upward slope. But if you look more closely, you see a step change in temp. post 1998.

    Why no global warming from 1979-1997?
    Why no global warming from 2002-2009?

    This looks more like natural cycles to me than the slow, steady increase in temps one would expect from constantly increasing levels of CO2. Then again, another aspect to consider is the role of oceans in heat storage, as per the post from tochatihu.

    [IMG]
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    TimBikes New Member

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    This is a good point. It is worthy of investigation. However, since "the science is settled" as per Al Gore and the AGW movement, it may be unlikely that we will ever get an answer to this.

    Also - things like AMO & PDO probably have a strong influence on arctic sea ice. But I don't believe the drivers behind such cycles are well understood either.

    It is curious to me how the El Nino heat apparently builds up (presumably in the ocean), then releases into the atmosphere (1998), then we see a drop in temps immediately following (1999), then a rise again in tropo temps through around 2002 where we seem to reach a temperature plateau. It is too bad we do not have Argo float data for ocean temps prior to the 1998 El Nino. We would understand a lot more about how & why ocean heat builds up and releases into the atmosphere and perhaps the relation, if any, to increases in atmospheric CO2.
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    patsparks An Aussie perspective

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    Could it be that natural cycles need to be cancelled out from the graph to make in meaningful? The difficulty here is we don't have enough data to know what the natural cycles are and what drives them. I also see, again with my untrained eyes, that the last half of the graph has more and high points when compared with the first half. Is that significant? I honestly don't know. Is it like the image of the old woman and young woman where some see the young woman and others see the old lady? Same image, different eyes and brain looking.

    OK, back to the people who know what they are on about.
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