Climate Change Predictions - How Accurate Are They?
This hub is in response to a challenge from another distinguished hubber who disagree with me on Climate Change. He is Doc Snow and his recent hub Climate Change: How much Time Do We Have? was the start of this debate. To proof each of our positions, we decided to each create a hub detailing the accuracy of recent predictions made by Climate Scientists. We will select a few highlights to make our points and leave it to the readers to decide. We have agreed on a time frame of about one month to complete. I hope you will keep an open mind and wait till you had a chance to read both hubs. Here is the hub by Doc Snow opposing opinion. Let's have a robust discussion with respect. Please take the poll at the end after reading both hubs.
I am an engineer by training and I am also a skeptic when it comes to AGW (man-caused global warming or climate change). I've written several hubs related to this topic and they are linked below. As an engineer, I am pragmatic and I look for solutions that produce results. The reason we are at this point is very simple. The vast extreme claims made by climate scientists over the last 20 years have not panned out. If they were accurate, I would not be a skeptic today.
I have been following this topic with great interest for many years. At first, I bought into the scientific theory that CO2 emissions were causing our planet to heat up. The theory seem simple enough and made some sense. However, after looking into it deeper and reading some related writings available, I began to realize that climate is a very complex issue. No one factor can determine the total effect. That's the genesis of the debate. How much of the warming is due to man-made events and how much of it is due to natural cycles and events.
A Side Bar
Let me give an example where I have been convinced by Science theories just to show I am not anti-Science or an ideolog. In the 1970's, a scientist discovered that our ozone layer was eroding. An ozone hole was becoming apparent in the antarctic pole region. This was alarming because the ozone layer in our upper atmosphere was protecting us from the harmful UV from the sun. The scientific community got together and determined that CFC was primarily responsible for the depletion. The is the chemical Chlorofluorocarbons that are in spray cans and air conditioners. The International community worked with nations to remove and replace CFC usage. Recently, we have seem a reduction of the ozone hole. In fact NASA is reporting the hole is reducing in size and may be closed in a few years. This is a success story I welcome. Just to summary this experience.
- A problem was identified - Ozone Hole
- A theory was proposed on the cause by scientists
- A man-made chemical was identified as the culprit - CFC
- Policies was adopted to fix the problem by replacing the chemicals
- The problem seem to be reversing
Progression of Ozone Hole
AGW Climate Change
Getting back on topic, in the case of climate change, this is a very different scenario. Even though it may share some of the attributes of Ozone Holes, there is one important distinction. The projections made on global temperature and climate due to increased CO2 concentrations did not come to fruition. There is something else going on and we don't have a good understanding at the moment.
If the theory say "A" causes "B", and we see "A" causes "?", then we need to revisit the theory. That is why I'm a skeptic in 2015.
Let's example three predictions that were made about AGW and increase CO2 levels.
Here are three bullet points taken from the list published on the EPA main site.
- Earth will get warmer
- The Ocean level will rise
- The annual hurricanes will increase in intensity and frequency
FACT: CO2 Crosses Above 400 ppm 2013
Increase Temperature (Predictions vs. Actual Reality)
As seen from the above chart, CO2 concentration have been increasing steadily and have crossed the 400 ppm level.
Prediction: from Michael Mann, the creator of the "hockey stick" chart and Dr James Hansen of NASA in 1988. Here is a snippet from the NYT article 1988 - (read link below)
"Mathematical models have predicted for some years now that a buildup of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil and other gases emitted by human activities into the atmosphere would cause the earth's surface to warm by trapping infrared radiation from the sun, turning the entire earth into a kind of greenhouse.
If the current pace of the buildup of these gases continues, the effect is likely to be a warming of 3 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit from the year 2025 to 2050, according to these projections. This rise in temperature is not expected to be uniform around the globe but to be greater in the higher latitudes, reaching as much as 20 degrees, and lower at the Equator."
Results: It is 2015, and 27 years since the dire prediction. Does it seem like we are anywhere near the temperature rise predicted by Dr. Hansen? In fact, even a former IPCC lead author Dr. Philip Lloyd recently admitted that global warming is within natural variability.
Another dire prediction is the rising sea levels and the impact that will have on all parts of the world especially coastlines. Here is a technical paper on this topic from 1988.
What is the reality?
Increase Hurricanes in Frequency and Intensity
Another projection is that global warming will lead to drastic increases in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes. On the face of this, it seems logical. If the temperature of the oceans are warming, it will create more cloud activity and lead to storms in the summer months.
What is the reality?
Here is the list of major storms in the last 100 years or so…
Scroll down to the listing for the 20th century. You will note that 1938 was the biggest of them all, called the "Long Island Express." Also, 1960 had Hurricane Donna and both were category 5 storms. This happened before any global warming awareness.
I rest my case.
What's The Harm?
Environmentalist have co-opted the climate change movement. They have tied the environment protection to reducing fossil fuel as if the two are one and the same. They are not.
I have heard smart people such as Tom Friedman of the New York Times make the following argument. Suppose the theory of global warming are wrong. What's the harm? the worst is we will end up with cleaner air...They say think of it as an insurance policy.
The answer is lots.
- destroying jobs in the energy sector.
- increase cost of electric utility.
- subsidizing alternative energy production that are not cost efficient.
- reduced quality of life.
- Wasted resources and missed opportunities.
Here is a mental exercise to ponder. If reducing CO2 is the proposed solution to global warming, what if sometimes down the road the earth enters a cooling phase? Would these same scientists propose that we increase CO2 to counter global cooling? Bring back the coal power plants... I tend to doubt it.
Items For Thought...
For all who are concerned about climate change, here are some items to think about going forward.
- The past dire predictions have not come to fruition. Remember the boy who cried wolf...
- Climate change is not the same as environment protection. I disagree with the Pope on this even though I am a catholic. I believe we should be good steward of the earth but climate change is not in our power to affect.
- The hypocrisies of the climate change proponents such as Al Gore and some of the Hollywood crowd. They want us to curtail our energy consumption while they live in mansions and fly in private jets. Who's carbon footprint is larger?
- Consider the harm that was done and ongoing with large amount of resources put into energy tax credits and renewable development...solar, wind, electric cars
- Consider the increased cost of basic necessity of electric power for everyone and the lost of coal power plants.
- Consider the increase of standard of living and improvements for 3rd world nations due to cheap and efficient fossil fuel.
- Consider the lost of good jobs in the construction of the XL pipeline and the coal industry.
- How does scientist explain the climate change occurring in the rest of the plants in our solar system?
- Consider the false prediction of "peak oil" and the high cost of crude oil. Last I check, it is around $45 a barrel.
- Notice that many predictions are for 25 years or 50 years into the future. Why is that? Could it be that they will not be around when the predictions don't come true. They will be retired and collecting their pensions.
Some Sign Of Desperation
Recently, a group of 20 climate scientists sent a letter to President Obama asking him to use the RICO law to prosecute climate change deniers. Is that a sign of desperation? Now we learned that one of the leader of the group, Jagdish Shukla, is under investigation for corruption.
I Am Not The Only One
Here is an important quote I discovered from a workshop discussing the Effects of Solar Variability on Earth's Climate - (page 28)
"The basic question in understanding the Sun’s role in climate change is a compelling one: How well is past and present total solar irradiance known and understood? As Haigh pointed out, it is certainly an issue of concern that the existing TSI database has been derived from measurements that could not be intercalibrated to the degree of accuracy necessary for climate studies."
In this hub and others, I tried to make the case that the science of climate change is still a work in progress. The current models are incomplete and have a poor record of predicting future climate effects. We are about to reached a tipping point in a few short years. The projected rise in global temperature plotted against actual data is about to cross into a zone below that of the variance. If that trend continues, the whole model's credibility will be put to the test.
Let the reader decide. Please take the poll at the end.
The Changing Climate Models
Update 11/23/2015 (Hard Data Nugget)
His specialty is the study of tree forests. The title of the talk was “Did the climate of the late 20th Century mask mechanisms for rapid, large-scale change in eastern US forests?”
It was a very interesting talk because it gave me a real data point that is peripheral to the general climate change environment. What I mean is that his work is related to climate science and how it affects the tree population over long periods of time but it is not a study of climate change per se. In the course of his presentation, he put up a chart showing the average temperature of four regions of forests in the US over a period of last 100 years. His focus was on droughts but it surprised me because the temperature were even over that period and in fact one region even show a slight decline of temperature.
At the Q/A session at the end, I posed the question to Dr. Pederson and ask for his comment with regard to the claim of climate change scientists that the earth is warming. His response shocked me a bit. He didn't see any issue with that and ended his response that we are not seeing warming "yet." I was also struck by the lack of curiosity on his part. Why are we not seeing the predicted warming?
His talk ended with the conclusion that we are in the best time of environment for trees. The last 15 or 20 years are wet and not too warm and ideal for tree life. This was not always the case going back 300 years. his study have found periods of severe drought and frost that have had negative effects on forests in the US.
This incident relates to my assertion that most scientists are just doing their narrow study on the effects of climate change on some specific item. They "assume" that CO2 causes global warming almost religiously and don't even question that fact even when their own data fail to agree with that assertion. Instead of questioning it, they just move along and continue with their study and getting the grants.
Chart by Dr. Neil Pederson (Harvard University)
Update Nov. 18, 2016 (on rising sea level)
I attended a talk at the Lamont Dogherty campus today. It was given by professor Andrea Dutton of the University of Florida. Her topic was polar ice sheet retreat during past warming periods...and their effects on sea level rise. I was particularly interested in this topic because of recent discussions here on this hub and elsewhere on the potential dangers of sea rise due to climate change. She spent a good part of 45 minutes describing the details of her teams work. She went on to expain the difficulty of measuring sea level averages and that they vary from location to location and even places where sea level will go down due to other factors such as topography and gravitational effects. She also mention the recent estimates of a rise of 3mm per year of oceans as accepted range. Going back over the past 3 million years, there have been multiple periods of warming and cooling. Her study focused on how high oceans have risen due to these natural warming cycles. The numbers they came up with using carbon dating and instrumentation were between 6-13 meters for a corresponding 2 degrees C rise in temperature. The implications is that a modern day warming of 2 degrees will possibly cause the same among of sea rise which will be devastating. She ended the talk with the projected chart of the IPCC of rise of 20 feet over the next 100 years.(2000-2100 time frame)
During the Q/A session, I asked the question of how fast the rise will come based on her studies. She was brutally honest and said she doesn't know. Her studies and experiments using coral reefs and radioactive dating does not indicate the timeframe but only the rise and fall of sea level. I found this astounding. When I followed up and ask about her last chart, she said they were based on combining the various work done by her colleagues and various climate models. Again, she does not know how accurate these projections are since they were made by other groups.
Here is the bottom line for me. If these scientists cannot answer the basic question of how fast, then we can't trust any projections. From a birdseye view of an outsider, I can accept the theory that a warming earth will lead to melting polar caps and rising oceans. I just can't agree on the dire nature of their projections. Let me pose the following hypothetical. Assuming a worse case scenario, that our earth will experience an average warming of 2 degrees C. Assuming we know from past history that the ocean will rise as high as 13 meters as a result. How fast will that rise take place? If it is decades, we are in definite trouble. If it is hundreds of years, we have time to mitigate by relocating to higher grounds. If it is thousands of years, then I say we can just forget about it. It is a non issue because other factors will become much more significant. Our civilization has only been here 5 or 6 thousand years.
Update April 21, 2018; A talk by Peter Kelemen - Columbia University
The title of the talk is too long but I will just summarize it. He is a geologist who is the expert on mantle rock formation. His talk which is a summary of works done by over 30 scientists in this field. His idea is to use the natural process that exist today in areas of the world where the tectonic plate shifts is taking place, and accelerate this process of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere. He estimate the venture will cost 40 billion dollars per year to mitigate and remove a significant amount of the manmade CO2 emissions. Sound like a viable solution if it can proven to work.
This is exciting since it is a different approach to fighting climate change. I am wondering how many billionaires will sign up and donate some of their fortunes to save the planet. How about it, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos and Al Gore?
Doc Snow's Opposing Opinion
- Climate Change Predictions--How Accurate Are They, Really?
A 'challenge Hub' documenting numerous successful climate change predictions--great and small.
What should we do in 2015 about Climate Change?
Final Poll After Reading Both Hubs (Started 11/18/2015)
Have your opinion on climate change science moved one way or another?
Projected US Energy Sources by the EIA
Flooding in Paris- Then and Now
An Inconvenient Truth - 10 years later 2016
One of the chart that struck me is the one Al Gore presented in the documentary film released in 2006. It depicts the projection of temperature rise due to man-made global warming. As you can see, it is a complete fabrication to scare people. Here is the official website. The prediction of increased number of hurricanes, rising oceans, disappearing glaciers, polar bears going extinct...all have not come to pass. What happened Al Gore? Please explain the discrepancy...Is the science of climate change really settled? Does 100% of scientists agree with you?
Truth or Distortion?
Latest Temperature Records ...2016
Mann Hockey Stick graph
Al Gore and the IPCC have bought into this. Now, they will have to live with the implications going forward...In particular, the steep rise in just the last 50 years. What will the actual temperature be in the next 25 years?
Projected for 2100...up up and away!!!
Glacier National Park 2017
Discrepancy Between Predicted Warming and Revised...
A New Question About Models? 2/2/2018
I attended a talk today on the intricacies of volcanic crystals. The speaker‘s research was on the makeup of magna in the depth of volcanos...and how to deternine their ages and their composition to help with future predictions of eruptions.
This gave me an inspiration and a philosophical question.
Why is it so hard for scientists to predict volcano erruptions and earthquakes in localized regions and yet they are so confident in their models to predict global climate years into the future?
Think about it. Does it seem reasonable or odd that this is the case?
Can someone explain this contradiction or dilemma?
Rising Oceans Projections...
Energy Production By Source in 2017
Postscript - October 2018
My latest realization on the climate debate. It may just be both sides are right. Let me explain my thought. First of all, we all agree that climate science is very complex. It is not a one answer fits all type of problem or solution. If I were to use math as an analogy. It is not as simple as 1 + 1 = 2. It is more like a differential equation with many variables and some are unknown.
Therefore, it is unfair to ask the simple question that what percent of the warming in recent years are due to human activity and what percent is natural causes?
The answer may be multi-faceted.
From all my interactions with scientists and layman, it is clear to me that there are at least two scenarios and both are in play in any given moment in time.
First, in ordinary periods, the natural variablility of our climate is small compared to the recent run up in fossil fuel use by humans. As the concentration of CO2 indicates, it has been rising steadily and has surpassed the 400ppm a few years ago and rising still. This is the scenario that most climate scientists adopt to be true and they also assume this to be the reality we face. Therefore, their estimate on climate change causation to be 95% human is understandable.
Second, in other extra ordinary periods, such as a weak sunspot cycle, or a major volcanic errption, or an asteroid striking from outer space, the effects of these natural occurances, though rare, can be major in its effect.
Therefore, combining both scenarios, the estimate on human contribution to climate change needs to be qualified and re-stated. It can be stated as a three part solution.
If condition A, Human contribution to climate change is 95% and natural causes 5%.
if Condition B, Human contribution is 50%, and natural causes 50%.
if Condition C, Human contribution is 5%, and natural cuases 95%.
Can you guess what condition C might be?
Finding Causation in the Noise
Climate change is hard to detect. The reason are many but one of the problem is climate is changing in nature. In fact, temperatures vary as much as 40 degrees F from day to night. Therefore, to detect a change of .5 degrees C over a decade is almost impossible. Another problem is looking at averages. In mathmatics and statistics, there is a thing called standard deviation. This indicator measures how much of a swing in data variation. For example, take a series of measurement over 10 years, 10, 11, 9, 10, 11, 9, 10, 11, 9, 10 and you will say the average is 10. However, another series of 10, 20, 0, 10, 20, 0, 10, 20, 0, 10 the average is also 10. The deviation in the first case is 10% while the deviation in the second case is 100%.
In climate change, we are looking for changes so small, it is hiding in the noise. In any given year, we have a large variation of temperatures around the globe. The science is trying to detect a small change over a long period of time. Climate cycles can be as long as 60 years and as short as 1 year. To extract a change due to one particular source is almost impossible. You would have to exclude all other natural elements that could come from a very long cycle and also may be random in nature such as a volcanic erruption.
So far, the change in warming of 0.5 degrees over the last 20 years is among the natural variability of the earth. I am not saying it is not human induced. I am just saying, it is not significant enough to say it is definitively outside of natural causes.
A new Observation - Oct. 4, 2018
Over the past year, I attended numerous talks given at the Lamont Dogherty Earth Observatory campus. I heard a talk by a vulcanologist on some details of volcanic activity. I head a talk by a seismologist on the science of tectonic plates and relations to earth quakes. Of couse, I heard numerious talks on the study of climate science.
In the first two cases, my question to the speakers at the end of their talk focused on why it is so hard to make predictions regarding volcanic erruptions or earth quakes and tsunamis. They had no answer. Apparently, these are real hard problems for scientists.
However, when it comes to climate science, which by all comparison are much more complex and much more global in its effects, they claim their various models are accurate in predicting our future climate.
As an engineer, I am perplexed. How is this possible? When we speak of a volcano, we are only talking about one mountain. When we speak about earth quakes, we are only talking about the ring of fire around our globe. There are two specific regions where volcanic activities are most active. Yet, these advanced models and sensors and all kinds of monitors cannot predict the next erruption or the next “big one.“
Climate science, covers our whole globe. It includes numerous natural cycles like the the sun, and moon and the major planets and the precession of the earth and earthquakes and volcanic activities and various climate related effects such as the jet stream and the North Atlantic oscillations and known la Nina and el Nino...
The 64 thousand dollars question is this. How can these climate scientists be so confident that their models are correct and that their projections for the next 30 years are true? Does anyone have an explanation?
© 2015 Jack Lee