Recycling, Global Warming Style

Guess the year:

Some climate computer models say that the warming so far this century should be greater than it has been.  Why hasn’t the Earth warmed more?

Some of the possible reasons are:

  • Pollution, especially sulfur particles, could be blocking enough sunlight to offset greenhouse warming
  • Oceans could be storing more heat that most theories allow
  • The climate might be in a natural cooling phase, offsetting some of the greenhouse warming
  • Natural “thermostats” could limit the Earth’s heating.  One idea is that as oceans warm, thicker clouds would form, blocking more sunlight and keeping temperatures from rising further

Climate models that take the effects of sulfur into account and that have more details of ocean currents come close to creating the current conditions.  [Senior Scientist at the National Climate Data Center Tom] Karl says enough sulfur is in the air over the eastern U.S., and parts of China and Europe to easily offset a greenhouse warming.  Heat stored in the oceans and changes in ocean currents could account for the 1940 to 1975 cooling.

This leads to speculation that the weather’s ups and downs of the last few years are caused by global warming.  Some have blamed greenhouse gases for Hurricane Andrew, the 1993 Mississippi floods and other events.  But there’s no real evidence that global warming was involved.  In fact, Hurricane Andrew hit in August 1992, the earth’s coldest month in a year that was cooler than any since the 1970s because of the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption in 1991.

Over the last few years, various scientific findings have been publicized as either proof or refutation of the idea that greenhouse gases are warming the climate.  Reports of these findings could leave “the impression that science changes its mind each six months,” [NCAR’s John] Firor says.  Instead, what’s really happening, is “every year we learn a little bit by thinking very hard” about climate.  “Science progresses very slowly.”  In climate science, “changes have been minor, even since 1988 when all the fuss about global warming was front page news.”

This means that policymakers will have to continue making decisions about the balance between economics and the danger of greenhouse warming without firm predictions from scientists. (Emphasis added.)

And then, there’s this graph:

Every once is a while, I’m able to overcome my neuroses and throw out a book that’s past its sell-by date.  But before tossing out the 1995 Weather Almanac, I thought I’d take a look at what it had to say about Global Warming.  Here are the relevant portions under, “Greenhouse update.”  The article points out that the earth was warming between 1900 – 1940, then cooled from 1940 – 1975 or so, before starting to warm up again.  This means that right at the tail end of a warming spurt, climate scientists were struggling to explain why the earth hadn’t warmed as much as models had predicted.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Right now, climate scientists are struggling with exactly the same problem right now, with no net warming (and potentially even a little cooling) since 1998.  So should some of the explanations.  (Also, note the honesty about “extreme weather events,” notably absent from most of today’s reporting about climate.)

Perhaps most notable is the simultaneous assumption that the greenhouse gases will warm the planet, along with a modesty about how much is actually known.  Actual temperatures are what matter, not models and their predictions, for instance.  That said, it’s clear that the Climatocracy already understood the dangers of public debate in a field in which they knew so little but assumed so much.  It goes a long way toward explaining the speed with which they moved to shut off that particular threat.

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