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back to article Global perils of dirt, glaciers and lizardocalypse overblown, say boffins

A trio of new studies out this week have undermined three of the basic ideas underpinning the belief that the world is facing imminent doom as a result of human carbon emissions and perhaps-associated global warming in past decades. It would seem that the menaces of a runaway feedback loop driven by carbon belching from …

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Anonymous Coward

Sigh

How many hundreds of billions have been spent on attempting to reduce global CO2 emissions? If it turns out to have been a waste of time, I'll be quite cross. Especially considering the number of lives that could have been saved were the funds to have been directed elsewhere.

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Pint

Re: Sigh

For some part I agree. However the CO2 debate also has a lot of positive side effects. Pushing for more efficient energy usage is not such a bad thing. More efficient engines, heating and light, for example. So even in the worst case (which would doubtless be the best case!), not all is just a waste of time. Yes, yes, I know - there are also a lot of negative examples. I'm just trying to keep a positive attitude...

Beer - because it is better to put the alcohol in a glass than in the tank.

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Unhappy

Re: Sigh

the number of lives that could have been saved were the funds to have been directed elsewhere.

Huh. Most likely they'd just end up being given to the military or security forces.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sigh

Or for the UK actually building enough power plants to meet requirements and of course NHS and welfare. I imagine our debt would be less if we didnt build a load of windfarms that dont produce any useful contribution to the grid. Same with solar.

The one good thing to come out of all this is more efficient cars. But even then we could build cars a lot cheaper and to use less fuel if we used carbon fibre. There was an interesting presentation on TED talks about that.

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Mushroom

Re: Sigh

+1

There's plenty of people around who wouldn't be able/willing to wrap their heads around the fact that we need to work on gradually (so as not to be too disruptive) reducing our fossil fuel consumption while it's still cheap* and plentiful so that there's enough spare cash floating around to cover the huge cost of developing new energy infrastructure. Global Warming/Climate Change/Cute Animal Apocalypse serves as a handy , soundbite-friendly stick** with which to beat said people. Obviously this will provide another drive for politicos to do stupid things but you can't make a perfect system where people are involved.

*I await the ensuing argument about petrol prices

**Also the neocon modus operandi; rule be fear by proxy***.

***As in having some bogeyman/thing that's external to the political system which 'requires' the ruling class to be lavished with greater power so as to combat it... and any other things that were in the small print.

Nuke icon- we're going to wind up using more nuclear power at some point so may as well stay ahead of the game.

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Headmaster

Re: Sigh

...For some part I agree. However the CO2 debate also has a lot of positive side effects. Pushing for more efficient energy usage is not such a bad thing. More efficient engines, heating and light, for example....

Actually, it can be a bad thing. Human development and economics are not zero-sum games, but exercises in balance in a constantly changing environment. Efficiency is generally advantageous, but there can easily be such a thing as too much efficiency, if the by-products of this cause problems. For instance, we could insulate houses to a far greater degree than we do at present. We could make the walls much thicker, remove all windows and use an airlock to enter. But this would be considered extreme - in fact we prefer to insulate ourselves to a degree, insulate the house to a degree, and then use energy to maintain a decent temperature.

It is the market place which determines where this balance lies. Monkeying around with the market place by putting 'behaviour-modification' taxes on may improve insulation levels, but will distort other things which may be equally, or more, important. And, since the market-place usually produces the optimum balance, any distortion usually produces a net loss....

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Re: @mutatedwombat

On the other hand, to quote an old Polish proverb...

You should not pee in your soup before making other arrangements for dinner*

*May actually not be an old Polish proverb

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Re: Sigh

Frankly, I find the entire article fully misleading.

What carbon source was feared to be released wasn't CO2 or elemental carbon, it is methane. Plants sure as hell cannot absorb methane from the atmosphere.

At least no plants from this planet.

I see a regular slog of El Reg articles against global climate change. Interestingly enough, the studies quoted are either misinterpreted by the intrepid author or are studies fit for the bottom of the parakeet cage.

One ponders some financial inducement...

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FAIL

Re: Sigh

" we need to work on gradually (so as not to be too disruptive) reducing our fossil fuel consumption"

That's the British way.

Funny that it always ends up meaning "do nothing".

France replaced almost all of its fossil fuel powered electricty generation with nukes in the 80's and 90's.

Britain did what?

France built Arianespace. Britain launched one - yes one! satelite - prospero.

France built the (nuclear powered) TGV network. Britain is still worrying about whether to build HS2. (Meanwhile the comparably sized LGV SEA is actualy being built as I type).

What has Britain done with all the money it's "saved" by sitting on its arse since the 70's?

Please tell me.

(Fuck I'm glad to be out of that negative do-nothing hell-hole).

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Re: Sigh

Frankly, I find the entire article fully misleading.

I think that's a bit strong. Certainly it's glib and pat, and anyone concluding much of anything based on it would be a credulous fool. But unless these three papers do not, in fact, exist, or are completely misrepresented, the piece can't be "fully misleading".

I don't know whether the papers are misrepresented because I haven't bothered to read them, for the same reason that I take no position on AGW: it's not my area of research, and my opinion on it is unlikely to have any measurable consequence. It's certainly not going to be a determining factor in how I exercise my political or economic power - it'd be far down those lists.

One ponders some financial inducement...

This, however, is tired, tiresome, childish, and a violation of the Reg's (never-enforced) posting guidelines. Lewis can hold an opinion contrary to yours without being paid to do so. The shilling argument is a resort of those who have nothing better to offer.

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The end is nigh

I saw a bloke walking around with it written on a board.

So it must be true.

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Re: The end is nigh

Considering that most of those talking about the evil of global warming seem to be donkeys, shouldn't that be "the end is neigh"?

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Re: The end is nigh

Donkeys go Eeyore.

You're thinking of horses.

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Joke

Re: The end is nigh

"You're thinking of horses"

Not for long. The horseocolyse is neigh due to over eating of the stock.

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Re: The end is nigh

The four donkeymen of the apocalypse doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

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Coat

shock horror

More plant food in atmosphere leads to more plant growth which puts plant food back into soil.

perhaps the current levels of Co 2 at 400 ppm might improve crop yields and help feed the starving.

And they can eat lizards as well. ......

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Mushroom

Listen to the Sheep.......

I can just imagine them bleating " Silly humaaaaans!"

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"So, even if global warming carries on - it's been on hold for over a decade at the moment"

You keep repeating this throw-away line in your articles and I see it a fair bit in the comments, without much qualification - the warming trends being considered are not simply air temperatures but rather the total heat budget of the Earth as far as we can measure it, and CO2 is not the only driver (as you are undoubtably aware). There is considerable variation in the air temperatures, and there does appear to be plateauing in many measurements (interesting in themselves considering the solar activity and ENSO events), and also some cooling in parts of the upper ocean. However the balance of analysis i've seen thus far, which includes deep ocean temperatures, still seems to indicate a warming trend in total. Are there some published articles which show this global halting that you can link to please ? (even pointers to abstracts of paywalled papers would be useful)

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I doubt very much if Mr Page cares about the science. If he did he wouldn't continuously cherry pick (and usually distort or embellish) findings and ignore the rest.

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Boffin

... However the balance of analysis i've seen thus far, which includes deep ocean temperatures, still seems to indicate a warming trend in total...

You have already read the papers which show global warming to be halting.

Read them again, paying particular attention to the suggestion that deep ocean temperatures are maintaining a warming trend. You will find that the data does not bear this out, and what the papers are doing is taking sparse, highly error-prone data and torturing it until they think that they can make assertions about it. The 'deep-ocean' temperature is essentially unknown at present, and highly-error-prone proxies like sea-level figures are being used to estimate it. It is an act of faith to believe in continued warming at present - not a judgement based on good data...

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@Dodgy Geezer

"You have already read the papers which show global warming to be halting."

Not that i'm aware of - i've read plenty in blogs purporting to show things one way or the other though.

"Read them again, paying particular attention to the suggestion that deep ocean temperatures are maintaining a warming trend. You will find that the data does not bear this out, and what the papers are doing is taking sparse, highly error-prone data and torturing it until they think that they can make assertions about it."

The data i've seen dealing with more than just upper ocean temperatures has typically from Argo for depths down to about 2km and analysis from people like NOAA using World Ocean Circulation Experiment data as a base-line and re-visiting many of the sites surveyed in the WOCE for data down to 6km+. The data is not comprehensive, but what data there is seems to support a warming trend, albeit markedly different in magnitude in the North and Southern hemi-spheres. If you have any papers in particular you'd like me to look at, i'd be more than happy to do so.

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Unhappy

Re: @Dodgy Geezer

...If you have any papers in particular you'd like me to look at, i'd be more than happy to do so....

Not at all - you already seem to be well on top of the subject. Noticing the difference between North and South will already indicate to you that this is not a simple case of heat from the air flowing straight into the water - as will the lack of warming in the shallow ocean. Pay attention to the error bars - and consider whether the claimed accuracy is likely to be achieved in practice. Note the many other explanations there might be for small variations in temperature. And come to your own conclusions.

I still have basic thermodynamic difficulties with the idea that CO2 can constantly increase, while the air temperatures heat up, flatline and then decrease, and the ocean conveniently in the meantime soaks up enough heat to maintain the upward curve as predicted. Hansen talks about 'Climate Inertia' - I think that's just shorthand for 'find something which might be getting hotter and claim that that is where the heat is going without bothering to establish a mechanism'...

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The Sistla et al. article also says:

'Our results also show that deeper mineral soils are susceptible to coupled biotic–abiotic effects driven by warming over decades. Although increased decomposer activity did not offset increased carbon inputs in the mineral soil, incubation studies suggest that labile carbon limits tundra mineral-soil-decomposer activity19. Thus, although greater carbon availability at depth may initially increase carbon storage, it remains uncertain whether the ecosystem response observed after 20 years of warming reflects a continued trajectory of increased net carbon storage or a transient state in which an activated decomposer system will ultimately outpace carbon inputs. As such, identifying the mechanisms under which warming stimulates and regulates tundra decomposer activity at depth—where the majority of permafrost soil carbon is stored—remains a pressing challenge.'

In short - work in progress.

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Thumb Up

I just wonder how many more assumptions were made before people hit the panic button.

Thumbs up for going out there and studying the evidence.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I just wonder how many more assumptions were made before people hit the panic button.

Wot?

Like oil 'running out' maybe? Pushing up energy prices to unsustainable levels

Or 'needing' wind-turbines to 'save the planet'? Causing micro-climate changes and interfering with weather forecasting radar

Or 'cars, aeroplanes and ships' are 'overheating' the atmosphere with CO2 emissions (despite Nature filling said atmosphere with CO2 from forests, plants, oceans, animals and politicians for billions of years)?

Politicians with either 'fingers in the pie' or 'tax payer subsidised wallets' have made fortunes from 'green energy' on the back of the 'climate panic button'.

Still, the unemployed, the elderly needing care and the poorly educated and nourished are just a 'drain on the State aren't they?

Wake up world - its time for the 'revolting' to speak up and make our voices heard!

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lizardocalypse

Here I was expecting some explanation of how global warming would enable lizards to overrun the Earth. Turns out it was the lizards that were possibly in peril. Good new! There is still hope that we can welcome our lizard overlords.

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""For the first time, we've been able to very precisely constrain how much these glaciers as a whole are contributing to sea rise," said geography Assistant Professor Alex Gardner of Clark University in Worcester, Mass., lead study author. "These smaller ice bodies are currently losing about as much mass as the ice sheets."

A paper on the subject is being published in the May 17 issue of the journal Science.

"Because the global glacier ice mass is relatively small in comparison with the huge ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica, people tend to not worry about it," said CU-Boulder Professor Tad Pfeffer, a study co-author. "But it's like a little bucket with a huge hole in the bottom: it may not last for very long, just a century or two, but while there's ice in those glaciers, it's a major contributor to sea level rise," said Pfeffer, a glaciologist at CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research""

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130516142547.htm

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Unhappy

I very much dislike these most recent articles that seem to be implying that global warming doesn't exist at all. Sure maybe it's not happening exactly like we first imagined it. But to imply that it is not happening at all and never will just isn't cricket. Besides regardless of if it is or isn't 'real' the pursuit of more efficient machines, renewable resources etc can only be a good thing. Now if you want to tell us why wind is useless and we should build nuclear, geothermal or tidal then I'm all ears but please don't continue with this nonsense.

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FAIL

I very much dislike these most recent articles that seem to be implying that global warming doesn't exist at all. Sure maybe it's not happening exactly like we first imagined it. But to imply that it is not happening at all and never will just isn't cricket.

I haven't heard that argument before. Are you seriously saying that if the data show that warming has stopped that we should continue to believe that it's going up because that would be 'sporting'?

...Besides regardless of if it is or isn't 'real' the pursuit of more efficient machines, renewable resources etc can only be a good thing...

No it's not. Please learn a bit more about the balance of efficiency and utility. And consider how the forced application of renewable energy to a system like the Grid which is not able to accept it will damage the entire infrastructure. Why do you think that the Czechs are building blocking transformers between their Grid and the German one?

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yet the data don't show that it's stopped

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Holmes

...yet the data don't show that it's stopped...

Ah, well, I can only go by what the scientists at the UEA say, and what Pachauri, the head of the IPCC says. If you have data which seems to show different, I'm sure they'll be very interested to study it. AR5 is due soon, and your new data will be really useful for that - they were going to have to put graphs out showing the actual warming dropping out off their predictions...

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neither scientists at the UEA nor Pachauri have said global warming has stopped.

Why do you feel the need to proxy your own beliefs through others?

It's also interesting that you cite UEA and Pachauri as authorities on the matter, but I bet when you discover they don't claim warming has stopped you'll backpeddle and dismiss what they say.

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It's simple isn't it? If we can all agree on these three points then I believe my original point is valid.

Greenhouse gasses exist.

Greenhouse gasses cause global warming.

We are artificially increasing the level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

If you agree with these three points then there is only one possible outcome and that is some amount of global warming. How much is not know at the moment and it’s clear we have a lot to learn but no one who agrees with these three points could argue no warming.

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Anonymous Coward

@Rufe0

"It's simple isn't it? If we can all agree on these three points then I believe my original point is valid.

Greenhouse gasses exist.

Greenhouse gasses cause global warming.

We are artificially increasing the level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

If you agree with these three points then there is only one possible outcome and that is some amount of global warming. How much is not know at the moment and it’s clear we have a lot to learn but no one who agrees with these three points could argue no warming."

Its funny how simple can be assumed right, especially if simple ignores everything except the little things. Surely you could use NASA's latest discovery of co2 reflecting heat from the sun as simple proof that increased co2 in the atmosphere is not warming us. Or that its plant food so more plant life will develop.

In fact if your simple enough you can make up any argument and claim it must be true. Are there monsters under the bed too? Ahh!

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@Anonymous Coward

The point you are making is that you do not agree with the three points. Thats fine if you don't agree with the three points then we arn't taking about the same thing and cannot continue the conversation.

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Re: @Rufe0

"Surely you could use NASA's latest discovery of co2 reflecting heat from the sun as simple proof that increased co2 in the atmosphere is not warming us"

That would be grossly distorting the discovery into something it is not. It would be like claiming that the discovery proves sunlight doesn't reach the earth.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Rufe0

@NomNomNom:

"That would be grossly distorting the discovery into something it is not. It would be like claiming that the discovery proves sunlight doesn't reach the earth."

That was the point. If you dont let facts get in the way you can make any vastly complex system we cant yet model or understand into a simple set of points to make any case. As was the same with religion.

I dont believe either side knows the answers yet and this is not saying co2 has no effect etc, I am just demonstrating the lack of value in the 'simple solution' which makes the heavy claim that "no one who agrees with these three points could argue no warming.". His comment was entirely wrong by trying to suggest a few tiny points dictated the entire debate.

As you say it is gross distortion

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WTF?

Re: @Rufe0

" Surely you could use NASA's latest discovery of co2 reflecting heat from the sun as simple proof that increased co2 in the atmosphere is not warming us"

Where does this insane idea come from?

This is the second time I've seen some loony here spouting it.

Oh, look here is WHATSUPWITHTHAT debunking it!

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/03/28/a-misinterpreted-claim-about-a-nasa-press-release-co2-solar-flares-and-the-thermosphere-is-making-the-rounds/

For fucks sake.

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Not so surprising to me

Re: "It's a surprising counterbalance," says prof Schimel.

How can that be surprising, *especially* to someone with his credentials? It is stuff like this that makes me so skeptical of this entire community. They get grant money by framing absolutely commonplace things in bombastic terms. Even when finally fessing up to the facts, they report it as if they have discovered Atlantis.

For those who do not have a background in life sciences, feedback loops are the norm and *ONLY* elastic self regulating feedbacks last for any length of time. Positive and negative feedback loops eventually have to extinguish themselves. This is particularly true with ecosystems. Plant growth is limited by both temperature and CO2. Providing more warmth and CO2 increases plant biomass. Plants fix CO2. What on earth could possibly be surprising about this? It would be incredibly surprising if this were *NOT* the case.

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Re: Not so surprising to me

well it depends on how much CO2 the plants fix vs the carbon emitted from the warming. There's no reason up front to assume they balance. Plenty of systems in nature do not.

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Boffin

Re: Not so surprising to me

Agreed @btrower. The feedback loops in question have kept the planet pretty stable for the last couple of billion years. The average world temperature has not deviated more than about 10C plus or minus over that time. This despite some pretty big perturbations from asteroids, super volcanoes, oxygenation, etc. The current increase in carbon dioxide levels should be corrected in due (geological) time.

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Re: Not so surprising to me

"The feedback loops in question have kept the planet pretty stable for the last couple of billion years. The average world temperature has not deviated more than about 10C plus or minus over that time."

10C is a pretty large number for the planetary average to deviate. Far larger than the difference in solar variability permits. Which suggests feedbacks are amplifying the temperature changes rather than limiting them.

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