back to article Boffin dubs global warming 'irreversible'

Economies may rise and fall every few decades or so, but at least the hard work we've put into global warming is "irreversible" on the human time scale. That's according to research from a team of US environmental scientists published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The report claims that …

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Hype, HYPE, !!!HYPE!!!

Whether you're making Reality TV shows, being inaugurated as president or predicting doom you have to keep outdoing previous attempts to grab attention. Scientists live or die by getting published and nothing gets you published like alarmism.

Still, if it really is too late and we're all doomed, then may as well give up trying to live an austere lifestyle all huddled around a single compact florescent bulb. Fill up the SUV, cut down the rain forests, party, party, party coz there aint no tomorrow!

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Flame

"That's according to research from" ...

Someone who actually bothered to do any research, unlike you, who just sat in your armchair at home and guessed that anything you can imagine in your own private mind simply *has* to be true. God, I admire how you put up with the whole rest of the human race. We're so pathetic and ignorant and stupid for not thinking exactly how you do; you must be a living saint for having to put up with the whole human race.

Still, just as well you're not part of it, eh?

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Boffin

london coral reef party

I'll book my great, great, great, etc grand kids place, as surely by 3000 will will have evolved gills to live 30m underwater

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IT Angle

Harsh words for Susan Solomon

From http://icecap.us/ :

That 1000 year forecast comes with a moneyback guarantee from NOAA. Too bad they don’t offer the same on their seasonal forecasts. the last two winters were forecast to be warm in Alaska and the lower 48 states. Susan can’t help but keep embarrassing herself first with her work on the ozone hole, then the IPCC AR4 report for which she was a Lead Author and now this.

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Anonymous Coward

Irreversible?

Just what makes anyone think that a minor skin infection like the human race is going to have any significant effect on the earths' climate?

The climate has been changing for eons; it is continuing to change (we're still exiting an ice age); and it will change no matter what we do short of detonating every nuclear device on the planet and clouding up the atmosphere. That would cause a minor blip.

Predicting long-term (i.e, thousands of years)climate trends based upon a few hundred years of observations is nonsense.

Netgeek

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No reef for London, sorry.

"So remember readers: an extra hour to your car ride today may help make it a warm, sunny day at the London coral reef"

Um...

Isn't it predicted that *anthropogenic climate change* (that's right, they stopped calling it "global warming" back in the eighties) will alter the gulf stream, possibly stopping it, and bringing freezing temperatures to most of Europe?

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Is the report available online?

Has it been peer reviewed?

Or is it just more ramblings from the doomsday set?

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Oh yeah that's right...

This site is frequented by those who feel threatened by the scientific consensus.

As I'm not a scientist, who do I believe?

The scientists, or the armchair geeks and fossil fuel lobby?

hmmm....

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Unhappy

Oh bugger...

... you mean I can't keep the world a green and fluffy place just by paying more taxes?

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Ro
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pessimistic

This thinking is only if we stop producing CO2 and then sit on our arses twiddling our thumbs. Of course climate change is irreversible if we don't bother doing anything about it. On the other hand if we actively remove the CO2 from the atmosphere then it is reversible. The technology already exists to remove CO2, it is just a matter of perfecting that technology and making practical.

Also there won't be any london coral reefs if the oceans CO2 level continues to rise as coral reefs simply wonty be able to exist in oceans that are much more acidic.

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Mat

@ Ogden Freen

There is a third option..

The scientists, or the armchair geeks and fossil fuel lobby or the govt sponsored scientists..

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Climate Change is as inevitable as night following day...

and that's an undisputable fact. The important aspects for humans is how badly will it affect us and what do we need to do if the badness is unacceptable. First define "badly", "affect" and "acceptable", then define "need" and then look at the "doing" bit. Clearly, There is a lot of "politics" here. The average "Western" family may find the cultural adjustment of going without their grilled steak dinner just too much to tolerate at the moment. It is prudent to take a few precautions - like we didn't with the current banking crisis and "toxic debt" - so I'll not go along with a scare mongering line too far. The essence of the messages in the article and the comments is that we need more hard science not reports of reports. If that means some less "rationale" stuff gets published it is a price a skeptical public will have to pay.

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Anonymous Coward

Who to believe

well obviously not those calling themselves scientists that's the first give away that they are talking out their petunas.

Science is so academic it is got to the point of being irrelevant, very few true scientists left on this planet, just a bunch of monkeys looking for tenure. If there is one particular group that has done very little for the world in the last generation then that would be the scientist.

I am of course deliberately leaving out the computer scientist, because they have been doing things, but the rest, well can you actually point to anything outside of Computer Science that has made a difference in the last 25 years?

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Re: As I'm not a scientist, who do I believe?

anyone who thinks scientists and the scientific community are rational, logical and above all never allow belief to override what the evidence says - needs to work with a few to realise they are just human and the "scientific community" is often more driven by politics and personal ambitions than any drive to advance science

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Stop

Atlantic Conveyor

I think the Gulf stream is meterological. It's the sea current conveyor that keeps us moderately warm, taking the cold arctic melt-waters deep down and south, whilst bringing warmer waters from the southern ocean along near the surface. Too much melt-water from the arctic will stop the cycle and we will begin to enjoy some serious winter sports on the south downs !

Should the conveyor weaken or stop all together the effects will be dramatic and fast (gulp).

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Boffin

@ "That's according to research from"

Good candidate for the FOTW I think.

Paris - been in the news I think

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Gold badge

Nope, don't get it.

Exactly how is what I do with my car going to affect my ancestors being, as they are, mostly dead and unlikely to rise from the grave?

As for the main thrust of the article. No shit Sherlock! Anyone with more than a vague passing interest in the subject worked this one out years ago and has known for quite some time that the climate taxes are just taxes with a trendy badge.

I'm firmly of the opinion that it probably is warming, it probably is our fault, but it's waaay too sodding late to do anything about it now. So spend some cash on researching living with it and stop moaning about my sodding car. I'm not an evil, nasty, climate-change-denying bogeyman. I am an evil, nasty, sack-the-eco-nazis-they're-a-waste-of-space bogeyman.

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Boffin

re: Irreversible

Ask the Dodo, kid.

Or look for the massive forests in Scotland, that existed for thousands of years, covering the entire north and ensuring the soil there remains lush enough to support a lot of life.

Or go check out the Dust Bowl. Lovely rich grasslands turned into a massive dessert by this "skin disease".

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Coat

Oh, dear...

... if this author is correct, has she not just validated the Bible's prediction of our future ie. burning in the heat of hell?

Now, what a dilemma THAT poses!

No, no, it's the T-shirt thanks - too warm for a coat apparently.

:-)

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@Ogden Freen

Don't lump all the "Armchair geeks" in with the fossil fuel lobby. There are a good few of them floating about on the climate side as well- and they're usually the ones with the expensive PR guys to make them seem like some sort of Cassandra, with absolutely no-one listening to them and being repeatedly beaten by men in suits who work for the oil industry.

IIRC, and someone correct me if I'm wrong, humans produce about 3% of the world's annual CO2 output. So even if we stopped, it would mean that there was 97% of its annual production left untouched.

Yes, our 3% can make a delicate equilibrium unstable or shift it a bit, but we'll never be able to make rapid change as expected by our hemp-wearing friends.

What we need now is someone to determine what effect we've actually had given the whole cyclical nature of... well... Nature. Take a look at a long-term graph. A million years or so. You'll see the cycles emerge neatly. We really are pretty insignificant.

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Anonymous Coward

I wouldn't worry

It's likely that the gaia effect will kick in long before then. There is only a finite availability of food and other resources and the current population levels are not sustainable. Expect the population to drop significantly before 3000.

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Anonymous Coward

Impossible

All the CO2 we are 'creating' is from burning fossil fuels, which in turn came from plants which in turn came from ... the atmosphere... indeed if there were no plants and the atmosphere is what it started out as, CO2 and sulphur oxides and Nitrous oxide, we know that it would still tend to balance. BECAUSE IT WAS THAT WAY AND THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED!

So her model must be broken because the real world model contradicts it.

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K
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lol

"So remember readers: an extra hour to your car ride today may help make it a warm, sunny day at the London coral reef"

... awesome :D

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Pirate

@ Ogden Freen

If you think the average reader of El Reg is beneath you & your lofty intellect feel free to leave.

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@AC

"Just what makes anyone think that a minor skin infection like the human race is going to have any significant effect on the earths' climate?"

Physics, dear heart, physics. Really basic physics that have been well understood and accepted for over a century. ΔF = α ln(C/C02) . See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arhennius#Greenhouse_effect

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Stop

Oh yeah that's right

Not quite right. This site is frequented by people who would rather hear about Science from the scientific community and use that information to form their own opinions rather than have politicians or TV tell us what Scientists are thinking and what we should believe.

Your assertion that there is such a thing as a "Scientific Consensus" suggests you get your science from the latter group. Can you provide us with the statistical breakdown from the survey used to draw this conclusion or are you just quoting the BBC/Guardian? I'd really be interested to see if because the media and politicians are constantly telling us about it but I've yet to see the survey.

Maybe it's top secret?

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Happy

Irreversible!

Hooray for us, we WIN!

The trouble with hype is that it has to escalate and once it has been escalated to "irreversible" then it does not matter any more.

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Scientists lie to you

All scientists fiddle the results to form the conclusions they wish to prove. While i can agree that the ongoing polution is clearly not going to be good for the environment, there has not been enough collected data on the weather cycles of this planet to draw any definate conclusions.

This could be nothing more than a natural cycle. The CO2 emmisions are not enough to cause alarm, we will still be able to breathe for many more centuries to come, but if it is a concerm perhaps these "scientists" should be trying to find a solution instead of attempting to insight mass hysteria and panic in the lower lifeforms* amongst us.

*civil servants and daily mail readers.

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@Ogden Freen (is that your real name?)

There isn't a scientific consensus in support of AGW. The IPCC is a political group (with a tiny minority of the world's scientists as signatories to its propaganda, sorry, reports).

Plus, since when did consensus automatically equate to truth? There used to be a consensus that the world was flat (based on all the available evidence at the time.....)

PS. In case you hadn't noticed, the majority of fossil fuel moguls are now tacitly in favour of the AGW scare (because there's money to be made from carbon exchange and they pull the strings).

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Probably true

James Lovelock is interviewed in the current New Scientist. He simply takes it as read that catastrophic climate change is coming and there is now almost nothing that can be done about it.

That may still be an extreme position but it's not that far from the scientific consensus as exemplified by the IGPCC - which has historically been extremely conservative in its assessments.

Now, I'm a physics graduate so I can understand the basic science (not that the degree is necessary - any intelligent human prepared to put in a bit of effort could do so). If I were able to put a bet on it would be with the scientific consensus and against the deniers, almost regardless of the odds William Hill might quote.

There is an opportunity to ameliorate some of the worst effects if we take it seriously, but we should still be planning for a world in which Bangladesh is under water full-time instead of just when a cyclone strikes.

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Flame

Urgh

Climate scientists must report that the Earth is warming, otehriwse their fat grants will stop rolling in. They are NOT impartial. Most of their data is heavily massaged (NASA) or based on a single (or, at least, very small number) of reports (IPCC). None of their computer models are in anyway accurate - just look at how often they talk about getting a "feel" for the numbers. Sounds suspiciously like faith in an an unverifiable truth if you ask me.

Anthropogenic Global Warming/Change is a total myth; a scam, a lie. This does not preclude "green" initiative for a number of other reasons (oil will run out, killing rivers is bad) but this has NOTHING to do with the AGW/C fairytale.

The Earth is coming of the end of an ice age so OF COURSE IT IS WARMING UP, YOU MORONS! That's kind of what coming to the end of an ice age MEANS! Climate Changing? Well, duh, END OF AN ICE AGE!! HELLO? And guess what? It's NATURAL! We going to go head-to-head with Mother Nature now? Man, I though you bunch of hand-wringing nancies were supposed to be Greens.

Sheesh.

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Anonymous Coward

Why bother then?

Look, if this is all can't be reversed, then why are we spending the equivalent of the GDP of a G-8 country trying to fix it? That would be just throwing money away (or in AlGore's case putting it in his pocket!).

The whole "Climate change" thing is silly. Most likely it is because of sunspots anyway, and I seriously doubt that ANYTHING can be done to alter them!

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Umm, ancestors?

Ancestors...in the future? Shurely shome mishtake?

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Happy

Futurama

1000 years hence, when Fry asks Leela what happened to GW, she replies that it was cancelled out by the nuclear winter. So nothing to worry about, really...

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"an irreversible change that will last for more than a thousand years."

"an irreversible change that will last for more than a thousand years."

Did they change the meaning of irreversible while I wasn't looking? I always thought that something irreversible could, you know, not be reversed. Will all irreversible things suddenly change back in a thousand years now?

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@ Ogden Freen

Being said same group who predicted "global cooling" then when temps rose "global warming" now its "killer climate change"

Doom and gloom = headlines

positivity = ridicule from you and your fellow lima bean munchers

Seems the climate cultists still willingly swallow gores magic kool aid

Bit like the Mac muppets believe the almighty jobs is infallible and immortal.

I look around myself and I see shifting weather back to normal this winter compared to 5 to 10 years of mild winters. Winters here are MEANT to be cold, yet all the southern climate change muppets run around like headless chickens "the sky is falling the sky is falling" just because gore has them all wound up that were "killing the planet"

As usual Methane is ignored, CO2 from volcanoes etc is ignored and wild assumptions abound that CO2 levels are 10 times higher than they are and this actual issue doesnt exist as "we cant accurately map it"

Climatology - valid science, hijacked by nutters trying to make a name for themselves

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@Ogden Freen - "scientific consensus"?

Ogden,

Is this the "scientific consensus" that gave us last week's scare about temperatures in Antarctica? The Beeb faithfully reported it as fact. Then we found out that there aren't many weather stations in the area, so the weather twonks used satellite data and "a computer model" (algorithm not released) to determine what a weather station in Antarctica might have recorded, had it been there for the past 50 years.

All very fine, but then it's presented as incontrovertible evidence, not with the caveats that it's all just a computer model that might be inaccurate.

Oh, and one of the modellers was Michael Mann, of "Hockey stick" fame. Not a man with a history of faking statistics. Oh no.

O

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Linux

Ogden is a genius.

Lets believe the scientist. and forget about the fossil fuel lobbyists.

Who do you think these scientist work for, Environmental lobbyists.

So no difference in that both are biased.

Ever think about the idea that the reason it will take a 1000 years might be due to the fact that this is a part of the regular cycle of weather trends on this planet which is approximately 6 billion years old.

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Dead Vulture

Ancestors?

Don't think we can change the weather for our ancestors, mate; maybe for our descendants (long after we and El Reg have gone to meet our environmentally friendly maker)?

Cheers

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Boffin

(Computer) models are like politicians...

...they tell you what you want to hear.

A lot of the dynamics related to environmental change is not well understood, so it can be a fair assumption that most computer models are wrong.

With 2008 being one of the coldest years of the last decade, La Nina condition prevalent in the pacific, a reduction in steelmaking and oil consumption (both CO2 factories), I think I will wait and see.

It wouldn't surprise me if 2009 saw another significant drop in GMST (global mean surface temperature) to levels common in the 1980's / 1990's and a sudden worry about snoball-earth again.

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Everybody just calm down ..

It doesn't take long for the attack dogs to be let loose on the author of a report like this does it?

@Eric Werme - those "harsh words" from icecap.us don't seem to add up to much of an argument against the paper. (1) there is a great difference between modelling climate and forecasting weather for a couple of seasons, climatology is about the trends and long-term mechanisms, (2) the ozone story they link to is about another scientist's findings and doesn't invalidate anything about Solomon's previous work, (3) they don't give any substance to the AR4 criticism, so it relies on us already sharing their opinion that the IPCC report is flawed.

Not very persuasive, rather a reflex "ad feminem" attack, wouldn't you say?.

@jake - the PNAS is a mainstream peer-reviewed journal, see

http://www.pnas.org/site/misc/about.shtml

I couldn't find an online version, but they say the journal is indexed in "Index Medicus, PubMed Central, Current Contents, Medline, SPIN, JSTOR, ISI Web of Science, and BIOSIS", so if you have access to any of them it should be available.

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Happy

No irreversible

I was a bit confused by this because the argument appears to be that it's irreversible because it would take at least a thousand years to reverse it.

Now I'm not a contrarian, in fact I generally agree with science, but it seems to me that "a bit slow to reverse" and "irreversible" are not the same thing at all.

Also, who knows, maybe all those climatologists that the contrarians and oil-lobby shills hate so much for being experts on the climate will start coming up with solutions that allow us to turn things around faster. With a bit of luck we could get things sorted out within 700 years or less!

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@Ogden Freen

"This site is frequented by those who feel threatened by the scientific consensus."

Science doesn't work by 'consensus' - it works on evidence. The evidence says that temperature change LEADS CO2 level change by hundreds of years. Cause and effect backwards much ?

"The scientists, or the armchair geeks and fossil fuel lobby?"

False dichotomy. There are many scientists (without an agenda or funding) who are questioning the hypotheses put forward by the climate scientists (who may have an agenda of their own, if you think about it - job security for one ?).

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Anonymous Coward

Geoengineering

Don't know about Global Warming, but neither does she.

According to my old globe, the oceans represent even more of the total earth surface than the selectively ignored Russian northland. We have a few random records of ocean temperatures prior to World War II. There might be useful recent sea surface information, but It appears that the people in charge of satellite data have been manipulating the records to increase their budgets, and the politicians have eagerly leaped at the opportunity to extort a new tax.

Mankind has significantly affected weather patterns. Humidity goes up when you create major reservoirs. Ditto for the huge cooling towers for the nuclear power stations. The stagnant brown cloud over our extensively paved and air-conditioned cities, wouldn't have formed without some help from mankind.

But remember man is only responsible for roughly 4 % of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and water vapor is still the dominant greenhouse gas.

Perhaps, as the environmentalists believe, it's regretable that science has made the human population explosion possible. So let's bring back the four horsemen, eliminate 80 per cent of the population, and reintroduce the better, purer life of hunter-gatherers for the lucky few.

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Anonymous Coward

I just don't care anymore.

When it all turns out to be correct, and that you've chosen to live a cushy life now at the expense of having a future at all, I'll at least be able to take some solace in the fact that you'll all be suffering just a little more than me, in the knowledge that you could have done something, but chose not too, because it was inconvenient.

Yes, a lot of green initiatives are a con, but little things, like recycling some of your own rubbish, or not leaving your PC on 24/7 to torrent, or driving in a fuel efficient manner or even just turning the lights off in rooms you aren't in don't take effort, don't require a huge lifestyle change, and they don't cost money, and they aren't making anyone else rich. Why won't you do them?

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Paris Hilton

Fuck it

Pass me the Ambre Solaire and a cold one!

Paris cos she already dresses for global warming, tenuous I know but what the hell.

Efros

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AC
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@AC 04:41 GMT

Some salvation then for the human race, I'm not the only one who can see what a total fucking con this global warming^W^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hclimate change is.

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re: Irreversible?

>> what makes anyone think that a minor skin

>> infection like the human race is going to have any

>> significant effect on the earths' climate?

Just to establish an endpoint, we could have an all out nuclear war. I think it's been established fairly solidly that _that_ would have an effect, even if we are otherwise a minor skin infection. Indeed, a recent article in Physics Today[1] suggested that most earlier estimates of the severity of nuclear winter were underestimates.

So having settled that point of principle, the question becomes one of degree: to what extent can (or will) the minor skin infection change the climate?

[1] Phys. Today 61 37 (2008) http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.3047679

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Boffin

@Jake

The original paper's from PNAS, but it doesn't seem to be online yet.

http://www.pnas.org/content/current

Dr Solomon works at the NOAA; here's their press release:

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20090126_climate.html

...and a Nature blog posting for good measure.

http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2009/01/no_way_back_from_climate_chang.html

There's plenty more on news.google.com .

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What coral reef ...

I thought that rising ocean CO2 levels increased the acidity of the water, threatening the existence of corals ?

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