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back to article NASA: Clean-air regs, not CO2, are melting the ice cap

New research from NASA suggests that the Arctic warming trend seen in recent decades has indeed resulted from human activities: but not, as is widely assumed at present, those leading to carbon dioxide emissions. Rather, Arctic warming has been caused in large part by laws introduced to improve air quality and fight acid rain. …

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Interesting to see how they spin this one.

The Cult Of Carbon isn't going to like this one...

Also, does no-one else find it ironic that the report suggests "climate engineering" as the solution to an obviously poorly understood problem that was caused by "climate engineering" of a poorly-understood system in the first place?

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Paris Hilton

So to work out the formula...

OK, so then...

Reduce sulphite pollution in US and Europe, increase soot output, offset reductions against the gradual increase of sulphites and soot from emerging industrial countries, charge CO2 tax to consumers in US and Europe, reduce CO2 emissions in US and Europe, offset against increased CO2 emissions from emerging industrial countries, add to reduced CO2 -> Oxygen conversion due to de-forestation and factor in addition of methane to the atmosphere from melting Siberian permafrost and Cow farts, discover some other environmental variable like ocean wide plankton blooms or something, FACEPALM, hope it'll all work itself out somehow.

I don't know what all the fuss is about...

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Joke

Hummer

Good news everybody.

I am going out to buy that BIG SUV I have always wanted.

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Errr, I think you've got that backward

This data (and graph) doesn't say that clean air regs have caused warming at all.

What its actually showing is that the aerosols have been masking the temperature rise due to CO2. Now air pollution is being cleaned up (and not before time - have you seen the junk that the Chinese have to breathe recently) the effect of throwing all that CO2 into the air is being revealed.

We need less aerosol pollution and CO2, rather that being choked by pumping out more of both.

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Paris Hilton

hhmm re diesels

Ok so I bought a 1.4 diesel which supposedly is a low CO2 emmiter - 119g/km however it is not fitted with a particle trap AFAIK and I can certainly see under aggressive acceleration leaves a plume of black smoke on occasion. According to this the black smoke is prob worse than the CO2 which is what it's tax band is based on and is infact making more damage warming the environment due to that black stuff it's putting out...

Is it just me or is obsessively measuring CO2 becoming really silly now?? That is assuming that G. warming is happening at all...

Paris - cause she might want her G warming...!!

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Boffin

Right, so....

Before the 70's we were dumping (at least) two sets of nasties into the atmosphere, that cancelled each other out in terms of warming effects.

Now because we've stopped doing one, the damping effect it was having on the other is gone.

Surely the best answer is to try to stop pumping shit into the atmosphere, not ramping back up on the acid rain?

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Anonymous Coward

Archmedes

....as a melting of the ice cap could lead to disastrous rises in sea level

Since the arctic ice cap is floating on water it is already displacing it own volume so if it melts it wont make any difference to sea levels.

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Hmmm, yeah, right...

May I be the first to point out that the graphs for "global" and "southern mid-latitudes" are far less convincing for this hypothesis but far more likely to be accurate going all the way back to 1900, and that the helpful arrow for "clean air starts here" implies that the whole world switched to clean air in the late sixties.

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Black Helicopters

I'm just a little sceptical...

...of any study of this kind coming out of the US. Past studies from that source have spent much on trying to disprove the various reports produced elsewhere, though a sizeable number of these reports have a vested interest in the status quo, namely the sponsors behind the US reports are those that could stand to lose out if we came down against the continued use of fossil fuels for power. Before I can take any US report seriously, I'd want to see who was actually behind it, both as far as the report and the researcher(s) were.

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Flame

Pre-emptive correction

I can imagine the drooling hordes becoming tumescent at the thought of another blow to conventional climatology. But in the same way that they can rant about how everyone involved in climate research ( except, presumably these guys ) is only in it for the big bucks science grants and they can simultaneously wave their arms with religious zeal and spray bystanders with spittle, so the presence of one mechanism in the climate does not indicate the absence of another. Complicated stuff, this science malarkey.

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Happy

You're so cute, El Reg

But front page of your rag is not the same as "the front of the climate-science stage".

The main contribution of El Reg on that stage is to give the performers something to wipe their arses with during the interval.

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Anonymous Coward

Plants can't grow in the dark...

...So if the answer to global warming is to make more soot then we starve because it also reduces the light and plants need the light to grow.

Perhaps we should just burn less oil and coal, oil in particular since we're running out of it.

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Boffin

WTF?

The problem with this is that the Arctic ice cap is floating on water. As any fule kno, a floating object displaces an equivalent weight of water. The sea level will not change as the ice melts.

You can easily prove this to yourself. Take one litre of water. It weighs 1kg. Now freeze it. It still weighs 1kg.; but now, due to a peculiar property of the H2O molecule, it occupies more than 1L. of space. Place this in a bucket containing several litres of water. The ice will float, displacing -- according to Archimedes' Principle -- 1kg. of water. Since 1kg. of water occupies 1L. of space, then the level in the bucket will have risen by 1L.

After 100g. of ice has melted, increasing the quantity of water in the bucket by 100mL., the remaining 900g. of ice will be displacing only 900g. of water. So the level will still be 1L. higher than it was originally: 100mL. from the meltwater plus 900mL. Archimedean displacement due to the remaining ice.

After a further 400g. of ice has melted, increasing the original quantity of water in the bucket by 0.5L., the remaining 500g. of ice will be displacing 0.5L. of water. So the level will *still* be 1L. higher than it was before the block of ice was introduced.

And by the time all the ice has melted, the quantity of water in the bucket will have increased by 1L. compared to what it originally was; but now, there will be no ice displacing any water.

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So...

what's the similar sharp and prolonged rise that started in approx. 1915?

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reality-based science

The tiny spark from which all this smoke is being blown is that, yes, sulphate aerosols have been masking the warming effect from GHGs, chiefly through the increased albedo. (This is no news to anyone.) Sulphate aerosols have an atmospheric lifetime measured in days, however, whilst for CO2 it's tens and hundreds of thousands of years.

How much longer will El Reg continue the climate change trolling? (I know, I know, as long as it brings in the page views and gets some comments flying before the long weekend...) It's really a bore to read embarrassing undergraduate-level misunderstandings of elementary processes like this one. Oh well, at least Lewis reads the odd journal paper, rather than getting his talking points directly from the loony Crichtonista types, as Orlowski does.

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Boffin

In before...

..nutters who can't read erroneously lambasting El Reg for another "anti-gw" article.

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7

Cause and effect

Yes, pressing the brake pedal (aerosol emissions) will have an effect on a car's speed, even if done while the accelerator pedal (greenhouse gas emissions) is pushed to the floor. But please, let's tinker with our environment - anything to prevent the rich, powerful and culpable from needing to rethink how they can retain their wealth and power.

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Coat

Just bomb an Alaskan Volcano

I believe that there's an active volcano in Alaska. Obama could have someone (US Air Force) drop a GPS guided or even a laser guided bunker busting bomb in to the crater to start an explosion. This should put a large dust cloud in to the atmosphere and it would have some effect on changing the climate. Why Alaska? Well for one, the US owns and controls it. Also its closer to the artic shelf, lower risk to populated areas...

Besides this would be a 'greener' solution since volcano activity happens all the time. ;-)

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Alert

CO2 after all?

So we take the soot out of the air, allowing more sunlight to get through, which, due to there being more CO2 in the atmosphere means more heat is trapped and temps rise.

So perhaps it might really be the CO2 after all.

And ideas like disseminating "high altitude soot" aren't so strange. If what we put up doesn't cause acid rain and we only do it until we are able to reduce CO2 emissions?

(No, I'm not an atmospheric scientist and I did not read the study.)

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Anonymous Coward

Doesn't mean CO2 has no effect

It means that one of our other nasty polluting activities has been suppressing (you really should allow basic tags, like italics) the effects of the other.

Now that the Clean Air Act has taken out the effects of that pollution, you can clearly see the upward trend that it was masking.

Still, I don't really care. You're only borrowing the earth from your children if you actually have any.

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IT Angle

So Mr NASA, explain this

if human sulphur burning cools the planet and lets the poles have nice ice caps, how did the ice ages come about ? And why did they then end ?

Pre-humans starting a jumbo sulphur-fueled barbie ?

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But if that's the case...

Why isn't the temperature returning to pre-industrial levels then stopping there.

I'm no expert but I would have guessed emissions before say 1500 would have been very much lower than now. Assuming mass industrialisation based mainly on coal burning is no more than 300 years old. If the models suggest increased CO2 levels would increase a problem even if they are not the prime motivators doesn't it make sense to address problems additional CO2 cause.

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Write out 100 times:

"Arctic temperatures are of particular concern to those worried about the effects of global warming, as a melting of the ice cap could lead to disastrous rises in sea level - of a sort which might burst the Thames Barrier and flood London, for instance."

The Arctic ice cap floats, so its melting would have negligible effect on sea levels. Now the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps, on the other hand ...

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And now...

we will get a load of "I told you so" posts from people how said global warming is not happaneing, but changing there story to say "I said CO2 was not a problem"

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Anonymous Coward

Time enough for everyone to just admit that the atmosphere is horribly complex

so that everything that is put into it has some sort of effect. Not having ever had a control atmosphere against which to compare our results, everyone is pretty much pissing in the wind (pun intended) when trying to assess exactly what's happening, what's normal and what we should or should not be doing about it.

Anyway, let the usual commentard shitfight begin.

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Tim

Therefore...

UK CO2 emissions now are way lower than when we we burnt lots of coal in the 1950s, so I guess he's right that the volume of sulphur must be much lower too; it seems we have traded acid rain for a bit of global warming.

Admittedly I thought water vapour instead of CO2 was being blamed for GW nowdays anyway, tis hard to keep up nowdays. Anyone know what's the current probability that (a) GW is actually happening and (b) GW is man made, and what is the trend for the probabilities?

Tim#3

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Unhappy

Oh dear Lewis

You're normally so good at technical things. It doesn't matter a toss if the Arctic ice cap melts, as it's already floating in equilibrium with the sea. It's if the Greenland ice sheet melts that Londoners will have to start interbreeding with Fenlanders to get webbed feet.

And I'll have a lovely beach front property here in Cambridge.

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Not exactly new stuff

Interesting stuff, but 'global dimming' has been known about as a driver of Northern Hemisphere climate change for some time now* and it's been factored into the latest climate models. Also this doesn't explain the simultaneous temperature rises in the Southern Hemisphere where its harder to invoke fewer carbon and sulfur particles in the atmosphere.

There's plenty to worry about with sulfur particles - they not only cause acid rain and affect soil chemistry and crop yields. They are linked to human health problems and would only increase the acidification of the oceans. So we might be able to ward off a warming ciimate only to screw another part of the planet. Not to mention, when they're up there in the atmosphere, there's nothing we can do to get them back if we find they're causing trouble.

* it's even been on the dumbed-down 'Horizon'. (That's the one that was on before they went for broke and decided to have a programme about 'maffs' hosted by Alan Davies. It can't be long before Barbara Windsor is on a quest for the HIggs Boson.

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geoengineering

' "geoengineering"- artificially modifying the climate - must be considered as a countermeasure to global warming...'

yeah, given the reasons for global warming seem change every other week how would anyone actually know for certain how to "geoengineer" anything - they could potentially (read: probably) make things 'worse' (relative to this weeks version of the apocalypse). It seems there's still far too much uncertainty to take any positive action.

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Impartial ?

How likely is the " impartial " BBC to report this current finding in full ?

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Stop

Down with diesels

All you folk who drive around in Diesels thinking you're saving the planet, take note - the soot that comes out the back when you thoughtlessly give it a bootful, or drive around even though the engine warning light is on, is much more harmful than the small amount of extra CO2 released by an equivalent, clean-exhaused petrol car.

Down with Diesels!

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Anonymous Coward

Tosh!

Any 12-year old kid can tell you that a strategy such as the one proposed here is risky at best but probably just plain-old catastrophic.

I'd go into details but it'd be longer than the article and, frankly, if you can't spot the problems without any scientific training then you deserve to boil :)

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Stop

Arctic ice is floating - no effect on sea levels!

Please get your basic physics right: The majority of the ice in the Arctic is floating and if it melts has no effect on sea levels. It's the Antarctic ice you want to worry about in that regard.

Another effect of coal soot that you didn't mention is that the ice may be getting 'dirty' so that its albedo reduces, leading to local warming.

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All Hail...

The great saviour!

DIESEL!

Woo Hoo!

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Unfortunately.

I doubt the infuriating arseholes in the "Carbon Neutral" brigade will shut the fuck up winging and I doubt the government will stop stealing our money as "Carbon Tax" on the basis that they're saving the planet from global warming.

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Nice, but one small error

Good to see some scientists are prepared to raise their head above the "consensus" parapet, and challenge some of the accepted orthodoxy regarding anthropogenic global warming.

I would like to correct one point though:

"Arctic temperatures are of particular concern to those worried about the effects of global warming, as a melting of the ice cap could lead to disastrous rises in sea level - of a sort which might burst the Thames Barrier and flood London, for instance."

Melting the arctic ice cap will have zero effect on sea level - it's floating. As for "bursting the Thames Barrier", the primary driver of sea-level rise in the Southeast of England is actually the isostatic response of the area, which is still recovering from being tilted up by the massive weight of ice over scotland and the north during the last ice age.

The Thames Barrier was designed (in the 70's) with an allowance for 4-6mm annual rise in sea-level. It will happily continue to operate well past it's original design life of 50 years - assuming they can figure out when to press the button to close it. As with most systems, the biggest risk of failure is actually human error.

For the record, I don't buy the Hansen apocaplytic versions of the future one bit. He's an evangelist, not a scientist in my opinion.

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The unfortunate problem with geoengineering

Is that the benefits are not uniformly distributed. Perhaps Canada (ignoring their Inuit population) would like things a little warmer. Perhaps Mediterranean countries would like things a little cooler (in theory, it helps their rain, which has been down). Countries dependent on glacier-melt for a steady supply of water might like it cooler, Russia might like it warmer.

Where do we set the thermostat?

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Happy

TreeHuggers

S'funny, but for the last 40 years or so them TreeHuggers have been yammering on about climate change and ecological destruction.

Annoyingly, perhaps for some, it turns out they were pretty much right (give or take a generation). So, how about we give them what they want. More trees for the hugging.

I'd no longer call myself a scientist, but I did study complex systems at uni and it actually probably makes a good deal of sense. Let's face it, forests and ecosystems have a proven track record at climate stabilisation. New technologies are by definition unproven in practical application. Perhaps then our best attempt to repair some of the damage caused is to try and replace or recreate what we've destroying - forests being the obvious example. These natural mechanisms are the very ones which kept us stable for so long. Why do we find so little mention of putting them back as a viable solution?

A lovely analogy here is the old one of Gaia as our mother.... and what did you do as a kid if you stole the chocolate out of the fridge and your mum caught you? That's right, you put it back - with a guilty, shamefaced expression and a contrite apology. Maybe, just maybe that might work here too.

alb

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IR
Alert

Yay, pollution

That graph poses more questions than it answers. No mention of why it went up so high between 1920 and 1950, what caused it to drop just before the clean air regs.

As for the whole "water displaces its mass", while it is true, you should try the calculations for ice in salt water. They don't cancel each other out so neatly. And then consider the masses of ice sitting on Greenland and northern Russia. And then consider how much water expands when it is heated up by a few degrees and multiply that by an area the size and depth of the arctic.

I guess the conclusion of the article is "We should start polluting with this as much as we used to, since it covered up the effects of a different pollution". Excuse me I I don't find that to be an appealing prospect. I'm just glad that people are discussing things other than carbon, which the media and politicians has been so obsessed with lately.

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The brave new world is Venus

Isn't this basically describing Venus? Venus has tons of CO2 and greenhouse effect, but sunlight is actually blocked by all the sulpher dioxide clouds.

In fact, the amount of sunlight falling on the ground on Venus is the SAME as a sunny day on Earth, despite the proximity to the Sun, because so much is reflected by the cloud layer.

As mentioned in another new article on here, Venus can get to around 500'C.

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Coat

From the peanut gallery...

As a card carrying member of the "Global Warming is a Hoax Department", let me gladly add my "I told you so" to the growing list.

What I hope no one will miss out of this article, and others that discuss GW findings, is that it PAINFULLY obvious that no one has a blithering-idiot's idea of what is actually going on. Despite the thoughtful replies from Reg readers that surely sound informed and astute on the matter, I would love for someone in the scientific community to finally admit that they don't have much more than a hypoothesis and certainly don't have enough data to back the bloody thing up! Setting aside my tongue-in-cheek admission from the start, I really tire of the debate, given the complete lack of certainty that these sorts of announcements portray.

I'd prefer to think of scientists as smart, analytical, carbon compute units instead of the warm-blooded, average, fallible people they actually are, but sadly, reality isn't quite so. Can't we all get along?

Mine's the one with the built-in, anti-GW, aerosol dispensers.

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1880? <-- this is the title, I know it's required. That's why I put it there.

What the hell is so special about 1880, that all the temps are the same? Also If the current average global Surface Air Temperature is .75 degree's C that is pretty damn cold. I always thought the current surface air temperature was closer to 14C, but I'm positive they would never mis label a chart to skew the results to look like mountains instead of little blips.

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Other work by this scientist

A quick Google (or the NASA site) will quickly turn up a lot of other work by Drew Shindell. This morning, I toyed with the idea of posting some links (before going for the 'wrathful sarcasm' mode instead) but any readers interested enough to do so can google them up just as easily as I could have done. But then the name "Shindell" caught my eye half-way down this article, describing another new synthesis study of multiple independent datasets...

http://antarcticsun.usap.gov/science/contenthandler.cfm?id=1686

Enjoy.

Incidentally, props to Lewis Page for having the good sense to allow comments, unlike related Andrew Orlowski pieces (assuming the author's wishes have something to do with it, of course!)

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Pirate

Solve one problem, cause another

Vehicles with diesel engines without a carbon particle filter are already banned from many German cities. The reason for the ban has more to do with the possible causes of asthma than it does with climate change as the soot apparently doesn't travel that far. I'm not convinced that it will have any affect on climate change but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. Although, I am reminded of the solution to lead-free petrol. Yes, tetraethyl lead is nasty is stuff, but lead-free petrol releases CH3 "free radical" molecules which have been implicated in cancers, IIRC.

I like the idea of Barbara Windsor presenting a science programme!

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º

Just what exactly is the ideal temperature of the Earth anyway?

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Coat

ugh.... 4% people...

Man is responsible for 4% of the annual global emissions of CO2....

Even if we stopped every CO2 emission we are responsible for, which is just not going to happen, but if we did... then one small volcanic eruption will wipe out that saving for years....

mine is the sleeveless one with the shades in the pocket, coz its getting warmer

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Bod
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Greenland and Antarctic

Problem even with Greenland and the Antarctic is the models assume that all the ice will melt and will somehow slide over some of the biggest continental land in the world into the sea, not at all accounting for the land structure and mountainous terrain of the Antarctic in particular where much of that water will form inland lakes and seas..

But wait, there's more!

The Antarctic is typically sitting down at -40C kind of temperatures except at the extreme edges and only in summer where it might push towards 0C.

Predictions are for "as much as" rises of 5C. Now maybe my maths isn't great but -40C + 5C = -35C. Still far too cold to melt!

But wait, there's still more!

The ice sheets in the center of the Antarctic are as much as 3 miles deep. Ice has an insulating property that keeps the core cold for a long time. That's why it takes a lot longer to defrost a large slab of ice than it is small chunks of ice of the same volume. And still it assumes the whole of the Antarctic can leap from -40C to 0 (frankly if it can do that the rest of the world will be burnt to a crisp!).

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Joke

Science?

That article was based on art not science. One graph is all you give us? It's all very well labelling 1960something as being the date that clean air regulations came in.

That's also around the time Pamela Anderson was born (1st of July, 1967. I looked it up, honest). That must be the reason for this recent global warming! Stop the Press! I solved it!

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Go

The Truth, The Whole Truth... Blah, Blah, Blah

http://www.junkscience.com/

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Genius Conclusion

Apparently some scientists at NASA are less genius than others. I wasn't aware they hired special ed students.

Here's an analogy if the obvious eludes you.

Man drinks a pint of whiskey every day for 10 years. Eventually his liver can't take it and starts to shut down. Man is sent to detox to see if he can be saved. Unfortunately it's too late and the cumulative affect of all that drinking causes his liver to shut down.

NASA Scientist.

"Obviously the reason the man is going to die is because he went to detox. His liver shutting down coincided precisely with this event."

So the temperature increase accelerates not because the size of the icepack means less sunlight is reflected back and therefore the entire earth heats as a result on a scale never previously seen. It's because we're trying to do something about it.

And the reason the ice melting is accelerating has nothing to do with the effect of reducing the volume of ice being melted, the increase in temperature of the planet by the reduction in sunlight reflected nor even the melt water assisting in the melting of the ice. It's because we're trying to do something about it.

How does someone at NASA get to keep his job after they say things as stupid as this? This must be his true area of expertise, because anything science related certainly isn't.

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