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Could we be wrong about global warming?

There is an article in the USAToday (that is based on an article in Nature Geoscience) that is getting a lot of web traffic lately.

While few people would call me a global warming alarmists, I do think it is important to have relatively balanced perspective on all of this.  In fact, that is the essence of this blog.

Most reputable scientists without an agenda (which likely excludes anyone associated with Al Gore) had concluded long ago that it wasn’t the CO2 concentrations that would deliver the doom and gloom of the alarmists.  Rather, the concern was a feedback loop that would be accelerated by a fairly rapid expansion of carbon dioxide.  One theory is that this CO2 increase would cause temperatures to increase slightly which causes an increase in H2O in the atmosphere which further increases the temperature in an escalating fashion.

The concern is not the CO2 increase directly but the tipping point that it trips. This is incredibly difficult to model in the computer models that we are using since we have never seen this phenomenon.  This is part of the reason that I do not trust the current state of the art of the computer models – they assume that this tripping point will be hit and we don’t know that it will.

Here are highlights from the USAToday article.

Could the best climate models — the ones used to predict global warming — all be wrong?

Maybe so, says a new study published online today in the journal Nature Geoscience.  The report found that only about half of the warming that occurred during a natural climate change 55 million years ago can be explained by excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. What caused the remainder of the warming is a mystery.

“In a nutshell, theoretical models cannot explain what we observe in the geological record,” says oceanographer Gerald Dickens, study co-author and professor of Earth Science at Rice University in Houston. “There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the way temperature and carbon are linked in climate models.”


The conclusion, Dickens said, is that something other than carbon dioxide caused much of this ancient warming. “Some feedback loop or other processes that aren’t accounted for in these models — the same ones used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for current best estimates of 21st century warming — caused a substantial portion of the warming that occurred during the PETM.”

In their most recent assessment report in 2007, the IPCC predicted the Earth would warm by anywhere from 2 to 11 degrees by the end of the century due to increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by human industrial activity.

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4 Responses to “Could we be wrong about global warming?”

  1. I actually did something unusual for me–I went to the source (the free part) and I find this:

    At accepted values for the climate sensitivity to a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration, this rise in CO2 can explain only between 1 and 3.5 C of the warming inferred from proxy records.

    Thus triggering my BS alert. Upon what experimentation are these “accepted values” based?

  2. Tim – thank you for the comment. I agree with you that this study was based on a proxy that was built on assumed values. The entire discussion of global warming is based on conjecture building upon conjecture. It doesn’t mean that it is wrong – it just means that there is a lot of doubt that it is correct.

  3. wow, you guys are super smart.

    I still don’t think we’re wrong about global warming though:)

  4. Tim – thank you for the comment. I agree with you that this study was based on a proxy that was built on assumed values. The entire discussion of global warming is based on conjecture building upon conjecture. It doesn’t mean that it is wrong – it just means that there is a lot of doubt that it is correct.