Variations on a Lukewarm Theme

Again, this is from Bart Verheggen’s blog on a post called ‘The Problem is it’s Not Our Problem (But Rather That of Future Generations) found here.

According to several independent sources including the UN, the average income (not GDP) in the US in 2050 will be $88,000 in inflation adjusted dollars. Individual figures for other developed countries vary, but are at the same order of magnitude.

China’s income (not GDP) will skyrocket from about $1,600 to about $23,000 over the same period.

So Bart, your lovely daughter will be able to help your academic retirement, but she won’t be Bill Gates. And her Chinese counterpart will be excitedly using the electronic tool kit that her parents couldn’t quite afford, and driving a decent car.

At 2050 the picture looks pretty difficult from a green point of view. We will be using massive amounts of energy, and most in the developing world will not care overly much how it is generated.

But then it starts to get better–and quickly. China’s population will start to decline, as will that of 48 other countries (mostly in Europe). The elderly population that will be so prominent everywhere will use less energy than they did when economically hyperactive.

Those still working will get proportionally higher incomes, as GDP gets spread among fewer workers. And their children will be born and educated in much the same way as your daughter.

And they will care. And they will have enough money to mitigate and adapt.

We should do all we can now, whether at an individual level (I quit driving as my ‘grand green gesture’ 20 years ago), a group level (I am trying to persuade our landlord to get solar panels) or through political means.

The future needs our help. But we don’t have to sweat bullets and imagine catastrophe. We do the footwork and prepare the field, lower our emissions as and when we can, and if we do an honest, workmanlike job of it, things will be okay.

2 responses to “Variations on a Lukewarm Theme

  1. I got interested in the subject of climatechange/global warming 6-7 years ago. As a geologist (bachelor) I could not believe the many claims that the tiny CO2 fraction in the atmosphere (and the even tinier part humans alledgedly would have contributed) potentially plays a devastatingly warming role.
    After years of membership of sceptical groups and having read dozens of books and also having read (and debated on) thousands of blogs my conclusions so far are as follows:
    – the public, media and politicians have absolutely no clue on the concept of climate, the concept of verifiable (and falsifiable) science and the concept of time (when it spans more than a few years)
    – the subject is riddled with emotions like fear and guild
    – there are important vested interests and hidden agendas everywhere, not least in the area of the ‘scientists’ themselves. The overwhelming majority of these interests are pro-AGW, anti-AGW interests are virtually absent
    – bad science is everywhere (on both sides of the debate)
    – as a result it is very hard to distinguish what is real

    As far as the facts and probabilities go my take is this:
    – CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has gone up significantly in the last 100-150 years. This seems to be a pretty sure fact (although debated by some, like Beck et all) which I am prepared to believe (99%)
    – the rise in CO2 is the result of human emissions. This is not a sure fact, there could be other explanations and the CO2 cycle is poorly understood, but there are strong indications and this seems entirely plausible. I am prepared to believe this as well (90%)
    – the mean atmosperic temperature has (mildly) risen during the last 150 years (roughly 0.8C). This is not so sure in my humble opinion. The data are very unreliable, metadata (reliable data about the measurement stations themselves) are as good as absent, the UHI effect is unclear and seems to be underestimated, the landthermometergrid worldwide is a joke, both in quality and in distribution, the datasets are being selected and interpreted in a biased way. The warming of 0.8 C is very tiny given the local variations and the crudeness of the old measurements. Recent data from satellites since 1979 show warming of 0.4C. UHA (Huntsville Alabama) measurements basically show a plateau from 1979 to 1998 and an inexplicable jump of 0.4C up in 2000 with a new plateau until this day. Hardly a clear trend. So whether it has indeed warmed during the last 1,5 century is imhu far from obvious. I am however prepared to believe there has been a slight warming (65%)
    – does more CO2 create warming? Unclear. Yes it does in a column of air at standstill in laboratory circumstances (1,1 C at doubling of current concentration). But in the atmosphere convection is one of the key temperature regulators. Standstill does not exist. This changes everything because in the high stratosphere CO2 is a coolant. Whether CO2 has a cooling role in the atmosphere is imhu impossible to say for sure (50%)
    – does CO2 enhance greenhouse effects because of positive feedbacks with watervapor? This is a wild quess. It is theoretically possible, but highly implausible since this would imply an inherent instability of the atmosphere with run-away-heating whenever some temperaturerise occurs. Furthermore there are no real life measurements clearly pointing to this effect. (<1%)
    – Arctic icecap is declining. This is true over a timeperiod of a few decades, especially as far as icecover during summer is concerned. We do not have reliable long term data from before 1979. Anecdotal information however points to similar 'Arctic lows' in the 30's of the 20th century as well as earlier than that. It is impossible to derive any robust conclusions here. Things seem to be heavily influenced by local wheather (storms, etc.).
    – Sea levels are increasing. True, but this has been going on for ages at a very low pace. There are no indications of accelerated sealevel rise.

    Conclusion: there is not much to see and no reason for alarm. Whether human presence influences global climate in a certain direction is unclear. No doubt there is some influence, certainly on a local/regional level. As to global effects there is no clear indication. We do not clearly see in what direction global climate is heading, let alone what the human effect on all this might be.
    Policies aiming at the reduction of humanly produced CO2 are therefore entirely pointless from a 'climate concern' perspective. Also from a (climatic) precautionary principle these policies make no sense at all. The costs are huge, the effects are none.

    • This is an excellent summary and I would say is close to the real consensus that I have experienced.. Welcome to Lukewarmer.
      Tom, maybe this comment should be elevated.

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