I’m continuing to post Viscount Monckton’s full responses to my RAMA challenge issued last week. Previous posts are here, here and here. As with previous posts, I will have my comments to his responses in bold and if he has time to continue the discussion his further replies will be in italics.
3. Scientists have identified ways in which human activity can change the climate: Deforestation, pollution, changes in land use / land cover and emissions of greenhouse gases.
(VM) “Again, the statement is trivially true, and accordingly skates neatly around the true topic of scientific debate, which is not whether the four listed activities can change the climate but to what extent they do change it. The statement is qualitative, but science is quantitative. Equations are its syntax; expressions its grammar; quantities its vocabulary.”
TF: You may say that this statement, like others you have characterized with the same words, is ‘trivially true.’ But it, like the others, is not. If you do not believe scientists know how humans can change the planet, they have to qualify as scientists who know their material. If you do accept that they have identified mechanisms for artificially altering the climate, it is only a matter of agreeing on metrics and finding the numbers.
I agree with you that they have identified those mechanisms. And if your subsequent statements boil down to ‘they haven’t shown it to my satisfaction,’ in some respects I would agree. However, I think they’ve come a long way in the past quarter century and have hopes that progress will continue.
(VM): “Take deforestation. A tree is a store of carbon from CO2 that it extracted from the atmosphere. And the atmosphere once contained at least 7000 micromoles per mole, compared with just 400 today. To the nearest tenth of one per cent, then, there is at present no CO2 in the atmosphere at all.”
TF: Again, you are repeating the mistakes of the alarmists. They go on about how many Hiroshimas worth of heat are accumulating in the ocean and how many Manhattans are melting from the ice caps. It’s a nonsense. Sadly, your attempt to quantify CO2 as a percentage of the atmosphere is the same. CO2 is almost at the level of a trace gas, both at 400 ppm at present and 8,000 ppm in the past. But as you note below, it is an important trace gas.
(VM): “Trees and plants die if CO2 concentration falls much below the ice-age value of 150 micromoles per mole. Trees and plants grow faster, produce better crops, and consume less water the more CO2 is added to the air. These benefits are relentlessly excluded from the account by the profiteers of doom. One scientific consequence is that, notwithstanding deforestation, the phenomenon known as CO2 fertilization has caused a net increase of 0.2% per year over recent decades in the total biomass of vegetation on Earth (known as the “net primary productivity of plants”):”
(VM) “Take pollution. CO2 is not pollution, in that it is naturally occurring, in that it is beneficial to, as well as essential to, just about all plant and animal life on Earth, and in that it has normally been present in the atmosphere at larger concentrations than that which obtains at present. Currently, the only globally significant form of atmospheric pollution (and no other kind could much influence the climate) is particulate aerosols – i.e., soot. However, the cooling effect of these aerosols largely offsets the supposed warming effect of CO2; and, intriguingly, removing all constraints on emitting particulates, while very bad for human health, would be sufficient to offset CO2-driven warming altogether. However, since warming has been negligible in recent decades, the real question is whether the magnitude of our current enhancement of the greenhouse effect will cause so much warming as to be harmful. It seems increasingly certain that the answer is No.”
TF: I don’t know where you get your increasing certainty. Not from the papers I am reading. Sensitivity may come in at a low value–I think we all hope so. However, due to development (which I enthusiastically endorse) in the developing world, our CO2 emissions will double over the next few decades. With any positive value for sensitivity this could and probably will pose problems for us.
(VM): Take changes in land use and land cover. These have a generally marginal effect on the concentration of CO2 resident in the atmosphere and, in all other respects, are capable of having only a very small and harmless influence on the global climate, though they may have a more significant impact at the regional level.”
TF: Yes, but ‘global’ warming is an accounting fiction. All of whatever impacts may result will be expressed at the regional level. And the IPCC thinks that the regions most affected will be those least able to counter it at present.
(VM) “Take emissions of greenhouse gases. We have emitted more CO2 than the IPCC had predicted in 1990 on its “business-as-usual” Scenario A:”
“In short, all the rhetoric about CO2 reduction has made not the slightest global difference, because Socialist measures to shut down the economies of the West have been more than offset by the very rapid growth in emission in China, which overtook the United States as the world’s largest emitter just a decade ago and already now emits twice as much as the U.S. China will soon emit one-third of all the CO2 emitted worldwide: and yet Mr Obama, in December last year, exempted China from any obligation to cut its CO2 emissions, which will continue to rise steeply until at least 2050, regardless of what we do in the West.”
TF: Your geopolitical analysis is quite different from mine. (I am a confirmed leftist and likely to remain so.) However, your numbers here are quite accurate. I would say focusing on China actually flatters the figures. The top 5 emitters in 2040–China, the U.S., India, Japan and Russia–will account for 60% of emissions.
However, I wonder how you think Obama ‘exempted’ China from emission cuts. Do you suggest he could have imposed his will by imperial edict? I think the days of gunboat diplomacy are (thankfully) over. Xi Jinping has every incentive to move to less emissive power generation and would love to do so. But he can’t–and I have no doubt that Obama knows it.
(VM) “To put this in context, if the U.S. were to continue on its present course and shut down its economy altogether and immediately, the growth in Chinese emissions has already replaced that entire output of CO2:”