Monday, October 29, 2007

Lovelock Is Bummed, The Telegraph Confused

That's the only hypothesis that makes sense of this story from the U.K. Telegraph. The headline and first par. read:

James Lovelock: Reducing emissions could speed global warming

A rapid cutback in greenhouse gas emissions could speed up global warming, the veteran environmental maverick James Lovelock will warn in a lecture today.

But that can't be right. And if you read down further:

Prof Lovelock, inventor of the Gaia theory that the planet behaves like a single organism, says this is because current global warming is offset by global dimming - the 2-3ºC of cooling cause by industrial pollution, known to scientists as aerosol particles, in the atmosphere.

[...]

Prof Lovelock will say in a lecture to the Royal Society: "Any economic downturn or planned cutback in fossil fuel use, which lessened aerosol density, would intensify the heating.

"If there were a 100 per cent cut in fossil fuel combustion it might get hotter not cooler.

Ahh but you see its not greenhouse gas emissions cuts per se that could speed up warming, its cuts in fossil fuel use. Burning fossil fuels involves releasing both green-house gases and aerosols. Lovelock's argument is that while such cuts might reduce the amount of (warming) green-house gases being released into the atmosphere, it might also reduce the amount of (cooling) aerosols more, with the net effect being greater warming. A similar argument is made here, and criticized here (the criticism being, in a nutshell, that most models already assume a decline in aerosol emissions over the course of the next century) .

Interesting to speculate as to whether the confusion is intentional or not. The U.K. Telegraph is notoriously Conservative and has given an outlet to any number of climate change deniers.

More generally, Lovelock thinks we're all freaking doomed, and yet wants a massive societal effort to stave off the admittedly inevitable. I don't think he realizes the shaky logic behind this position. Ethicist Stephen M. Gardiner has posted several papers on his website that deal with the logic of "doing nothing" in response to climate change. Under certain circumstances, the status quo, or even emitting more, becomes the rational response. The idea is to avoid those circumstances.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm better off if I just stock up on ammo and gasoline . . .

Oldschool said...

In the last 100 years . . . we have warmed up less than 1 degree C . . . . most of that warming occurred before 1940, since 1998 we have been cooling slightly!!!
The warmest years in the 20th century were in the 30's . . .
Those are all provable "Facts of Science"!!!
Then comes Al Bore, the Suz and other enviro-nuts, plus the incompetent UN to convince us all that a rare gas, CO2, .05% of the atmosphere is ruling the planet.
When we all look back on the first decade of the new milenieum in about 10 or 12 years we will laugh at these silly notions just as we now are amuzed at the 1975 "Ice Age" nonsense.

Jay said...

Shhh.
They can't handle one concept so don't tell them about the second problem we have!

Proof for global dimming is often the effect grounding all the planes on 9/11 had which lasted a few days. It was the longest sunny period recorded consecutively and warmer due to more light hitting the earth and getting trapped.

Religious wing nuts often think god was smiling on us (after all the death he allowed).

Its interesting to note that Harper has decided to focus on particulates. A definite no-no as it will actually make the warming worse.. Both particulates and GHG's have to be reduced together.

Holly Stick said...

I think Harper has asthma, so he may actually understand that particulates are harmful.

Bill said...

What happened to the ice age the "experts" were predicting in the 1970's? How about the massive surge of water that was supposed to cover Manhattan by now or were we to be hit by an asteroid before that? It's hard to keep all these scientific predictions in line. Could it just be they have found they get more funding if they scare the pants off of us or are they just hoping yet another alarmist piece of garbage will get a Nobel Prize next year. (It Yassar Arafat can get a PEACE prize, anything is possible)

Holly Stick said...

bill's been watching too many scarey movies. Find any of those predictions in the scientific literature, bill, if you can get someone to eplain to you what "scientific literature" is. Here's a hint: it ain't the media.

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