Sunday, March 30, 2014

Five questions to a libertarian who denies that climate change is a problem

I have engaged on Twitter with @MDSebach styled Son Of John Galt (SOJG), a follower of Ayn Rand, the libertarian novelist and ideologue. He seems a nice enough fellow.

I put it to him that libertarians hold that liberty means that they have an inalienable right to live a high carbon lifestyle if they choose to do so, and this means that AGW (anthropogenic global warming, which demands that we drop our high carbon lifestyle) must be untrue.   

SOJG disagreed with this construction, and claimed that his rejection of AGW was based on reason.

I asked him to answer five questions on AGW without obfuscation or evasion.

The rationale for these five questions is that they summarise the cognitive steps that a scientist takes in arriving at the conclusion that AGW is a problem. They show how science constructs its case. Science is not an endless chaotic intellectual brawl, it is a careful reconstruction of what is happening out there in reality.

He agreed to answer, under conditions which he sets out here http://tl.gd/n_1s15ruq.

My conditions are that there should be, as well as no obfuscation and no equivocation, no unpleasantness and no red herrings. 

Here goes. 

Five questions for a climate change denier. 
I ask SOJG to take them one at a time for the sake of clarity and avoidance of obfuscation.


1) Do you agree that the Greenhouse Effect exists, and that it keeps our home planet some 30C warmer than it otherwise would be?

2) Do you agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG)?

3) Do you agree that human activities have so far increased CO2 levels by about 40% relative to pre-industrial levels?

4) Do you agree that doubling of CO2 levels will raise Earth surface temperatures (T) by some 1.2C?

5) Do you agree that this 1.2C increase will induce positive feedback mechanisms that will give further increases, leading to an equilibrium range of T that includes the value 2C?

So. Off we go.

6 comments:

M. D. Sebach said...

Answer to question #1:

I believe that virtually all atmospheric gasses, naturally occurring and artificial, have some effect on climate and, further, that the relative strengths of those gasses are well established and measured as warming potentials (WP). So yes, I agree that "greenhouse effects" exist.
As for your 30C metric, I can only assume that the greenhouse effect you refer to includes only certain atmospheric gasses (CO2, CH4, N2O, plus CFCs and other trace gasses) while ignoring H2O vapor. Before continuing to the next question, perhaps you would care to identify which gasses you include in the category "greenhouse gasses," which ones you don't, and why. Thanks.

PS - Neither I nor Ayn Rand are/were libertarians. Libertarianism is an amoral, irrational ideology that shares little with Objectivism.

PS x 2 - I strenuously object to your (and everyone else's) use of the term "denier" in your introduction. It is a thinly veiled reference to Nazi Holocaust deniers and it has no place in civil discourse, any more than the "modern" resurgence of moral eugenics (see @disorderedworld on Twitter) which attempts to equate egoism (as opposed to collectivism/tribalism) with genetically inherited tendencies (and on a sliding scale) with various psychopathologies such as narcissism, sociopathy, psychopathy, and/or paranoid psychological disorders. The Nazis used just such ideas (in Hitler's Germany it was the selfish, capitalistic, genetically inferior Jews ruining the "social order") and used them to unspeakably brutal effect as a MORAL justification for the internment and elimination of the Jews and others just a few generations ago. Regards, John Jr.

Richard Lawson said...

(Now i'm having problems uploading. Apologies if the first line appears twice)

Excellent you do not deny that the greenhouse effect exists. But you are tying yourself in unnecessary knots over the gases. The GH effect in total (which of course includes water vapour, as well as the gases you correctly identify). Any gas that has the physical property of resonating in response to short or long-wave energy is a greenhouse gas.

I assumed that Objectivism was an ally of libertarianism, but I see now that that is like assuming that the SWP is an ally of the RCP. My bad.

Note that I did not use the term denier.

If you do you not deny that AGW is a problem, we can all go to bed.

Richard Lawson said...

M D Sebach said:
RT @ DocRichard: Re: "Do you agree that human activities have so far increased [total atmospheric] CO2 levels by about 40% relative to pre-industrial levels?" // Answer: No, I do not. Depending on which data set one relies upon, atmospheric CO2 levels have increased anywhere from 50-120 ppmv over mid to late C19th levels. The percentage of that rise that is measurably anthropogenic is, according to 13-C/12-C (carbon) isotope mass balance calculations, no more than 4%. The atmospheric CO2 delta-13-C mixing value of -11 permil, to be expected from IPCC's model (which claims that 21% of of total atmospheric CO2 has an anthropogenic signature) is NOT found in actual measurements [Keeling et al., 1989; American Geophysical Union, Geophysical Monograph 55, 165-236.]. To compensate for that, a "missing sink" fudge factor was invented and plugged into the IPCC model [Segalstad, 1996 (link available upon request)].

Said physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson of climatologists: "I just think they don't understand the climate...their computer models are full of fudge factors."

I look forward to our next interaction. Regards, "John Jr."

[I'm pasting it in on his behalf from the Twitlonger here: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1s184h1 ]

Richard Lawson said...

"Do you agree that human activities have so far increased [total atmospheric] CO2 levels by about 40% relative to pre-industrial levels?"

Depending on which data set one relies upon, atmospheric CO2 levels have increased anywhere from 50-120 ppmv over mid to late C19th levels.


The accepted figures are 280 ppmv at pre-industrial times, and current levels are 395ppmv, a difference of 115, so you are not denying that the levels have risen by 40%. But you question the source of the rise.


The percentage of that rise that is measurably anthropogenic is, according to 13-C/12-C (carbon) isotope mass balance calculations, no more than 4%.

In nature, the CO2 cycle means that around 771 Gigatonnes (GT) of CO2 is emitted and 788 absorbed, in the average year. This fluctuates widely, as more CO2 is taken up in a (warm) El Nino year and less in a (cold) La Nina year.

To this natural cycle, humans add 29GT a year by burning fossil fules. Of this, 11.6GT (40%) is absorbed by vegetation and oceans, and the remaining 17GT accumulate in the atmosphere, pushing the Keeling CO2 curve steadily upward.

Note that it is 17GT a year, so that, although our emission is a small % of the total amounts in the carbon cycle, nature keeps the carbon cycle in equilibrium, whereas we are pushing levels ever higher, as we see in the Keeling graph.

The atmospheric CO2 delta-13-C mixing value of -11 permil, to be expected from IPCC's model (which claims that 21% of of total atmospheric CO2 has an anthropogenic signature)
is NOT found in actual measurements [Keeling et al., 1989; American Geophysical Union, Geophysical Monograph 55, 165-236.]
.

Carbon 12 (12C) is the common form of carbon. 13C forms only 1% of the total.

Plants “prefer” to take up 12C both now and in ancient times, which means that the 13C/12C ratio in plant material is lower than that in the atmosphere.
If we burn plant material, emitting its carbon into the atmosphere, the 13C/12C ratio in air will fall.

This falling trend has been observed. 13C/12C ratios are now lower than at any time in the last 10,000 years, and the decline has occurred since 1850AD.

For more detail about carbon ratios in the atmosphere, see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=87


To compensate for that, a "missing sink" fudge factor was invented and plugged into the IPCC model [Segalstad, 1996 (link available upon request)].

"Fudge factors were needed in early computer models due to incomplete data. Fudge factors are not used in modern models.

So, Son of Gaunt, we agree that CO2 has increased, but I doubt that I have persuaded you in these few lines that the increase is anthropogenic. I would be interested to learn what has caused the increase if not our burning of fossil fuels and our land use changes?

Richard Lawson said...

Son of John Galt has put this on Twitlonger:

http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1s18f22

RT @DocRichard Re; Continuing commentary re Ques #3. "DocRichard: '..., so you are not denying that the [CO2] levels have risen by 40%. But you question the source of the rise.'"

Actually, I do have some reservations about the cherry-picked data set(s) that "give" what you call the "accepted" pre-industrial CO2 metric of ~280 ppmv (it may have been as high as 325 ppmv or so), but for the sake of argument I will concede the "accepted" value, as it is not crucial to the proposition at hand. As for the source of the
CO2, I quote from Segalstad, Houghton, Keeling and Kondratyev:

Isotopic mass balance calculations show that IPCC's atmospheric CO2 lifetime of 50-200 years will make the atmosphere too light (50% of its current mass) to fit its measured 13-C/12-C ratio (Segalstad, 1996).

CO2 from combustion of fossil fuels and from biospheric materials have delta-13-C values near -26 permil. 'Natural' CO2 has delta-13-C values of -7 permil in equilibrium with CO2 dissolved in the hydrosphere and in marine calcium carbonate. Mixing these two atmospheric CO2 components: IPCC's 21% CO2 from fossil fuel burning + 79% 'natural' CO2 should give a delta-13-C mixing value of -11 permil, calculated by isotopic mass balance (Segalstad, 1992,

1996). This atmospheric CO2 delta-13-C mixing value of -11 permil is not found in actual measurements (Keeling et al., 1989). From the measured delta-13-C values in atmospheric CO2 [~7.5 permil] we can by isotopic mass balance calculate that the amount of fossil fuel CO2 in the atmosphere is equal to or less than 4%, supporting the [stable] carbon-14 'Suess Effect' evidence. Hence, the IPCC model
is neither supported by radioactive nor stable carbon isotope evidence (Segalstad, 1992; 1993; 1996).

[A]t least 96% of the current atmospheric CO2 is indistinguishable from non-fossil fuel sources, that is, natural marine and juvenile sources from the Earth's interior [concluded from 13-C/12-C isotope mass balance calculations, in accordance with the 14-C data]. Hence, for the atmospheric CO2 budget, marine equilibrium and degassing and juvenile degassing from volcanic sources must be much more important; and the sum of burning of fossil-fuel and
biogenic releases (4%) much less important than assumed (21%) by
the authors of the IPCC model (Houghton et al., 1996). [A]ny
atmospheric CO2 level rise beyond 4% cannot be explained by accumulation of CO2 from Man's burning of fossil fuel (Segalstad, 1996).
And Kondratyev (1988) argues that, "The fact is that the
atmospheric CO2 content may be controlled by the climate, and not the opposite."

Notwithstanding all of the above, Warmist logic -- likely committing the logical fallacy of, post hoc, ergo propter hoc -- seems to go something like this: "Because we observe the atmospheric CO2 level increase, it must be caused by Man's burning fossel fuel, and
the 'lifetime' of atmospheric CO2 must be 50-200 years (Houghton
etal., 1990 - paraphrased).

As for the rising CO2 levels from the claimed 17 GT carbon "excess" due to ongoing anthropogenic emissions, Dr. Roy Spencer said: "As of 2008, only 39 out of every 100,000 molecules of air were CO2, and it will take mankind's CO2 emissions 5 more years to increase that number by 1, to 40."

I don't know about you, Doc, but, given all of the above, that hardly seems like a reason to panic, yet that is exactly what the new IPCC report recommends. Either the sky is falling or it isn't. And since climatology is nothing like a reliable, predictive science (the
hypothesis is essentially unfalsifiable + this is the first climatological "consensus" prediction in history, plus the experiment that can falsify it is the prediction itself), I think I will choose NOT to panic.

How about you?

Richard Lawson said...

I will put a new post up on Segalstad.