What temperature should the planet be?

 

Reading Richard Fulmer’s excellent post about Exxon being accused of holding illegal opinions on global warming reminded me of my response to my incredulous friends who just can’t believe that I don’t believe in science.  My skepticism of the global warming issue produces such a strong response that I have developed a simple, reasonable set of questions to pose to my friends, which express my uncertainty:

  • What do you think the correct temperature of the world is?
    1. Should that temperature always be the same, or is some variation acceptable (or even healthy)?
    2. Who gets to pick that temperature? Mosquitoes?  Polar bears?  Camels?  Plankton?  What’s best for one may not be ideal for another.
    3. Note that right now, we believe that it is cooler than it has been for 90% of the time since the last Ice Age. So it is likely to be getting warmer over the next few hundred years, if everything evens out statistically.  This, of course, is presuming that we are not entering another Ice Age now, or if something else happens – hard to say.  Would it be better if it got warmer, or if it got cooler?  Are you sure?
    4. Also note that we have only been collecting satellite data on planet temperatures for the past couple decades. Our satellite data continues to improve, we think – it was of dubious accuracy in the beginning of the space age.  Before that, we looked at a bunch of thermometers of varying accuracy in various locations and averaged them together somehow.  So we’re judging climate trends which occur over the course of hundreds of millions of years based on 10-20 years’ worth of “data” which we think might be close to accurate.  Until we improve it next year.  The difference between that and pure guessing is not much.
  • Do you think it’s likely that our understanding of climate science 100 years from now will be the same as it is now? Are we sure about all this?  Remember that just 20-30 years ago we were certain that the next Ice Age was imminent.  Perhaps we were right then.  Perhaps we’re right now.  Perhaps there’s some other possibility we haven’t thought of yet.  All we know is that our 5-10 year models that we’ve done over the past several decades have all been no better than pure guessing – usually wrong.  In my job as a doctor, I would not make a decision on patient care based on such inconsistent data.  That’s not called settled science.  That’s called malpractice.
  • The primary source of energy on this planet is the Sun. Previous variations in temperatures have been mostly linked to changes in solar output.  Will the output of the sun increase in the next 10 years?  100 years?  1,000 years?  Or will it decrease?  Are you sure?
  • Are there any major volcanic eruptions scheduled in the next couple hundred years? If so, what impact will that have on the weather?  Are you sure?
  • The most potent greenhouse gas is not CO2 – not even close. We believe that the most potent greenhouse gas is, by far, water vapor.  What factors control the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere?  We have no idea.
  • So, suppose we figured out how to install a thermostat on the planet. And we could make it cooler if we decided it was too warm.  Or warmer if we decided it was too cold.  Should we do that?  If so, who’s in charge of the thermostat?  Are you sure?  We’ve spent enormous amounts of time & energy “improving” our environment via importing Japanese Beetles, or moving snakes to change squirrel populations, or protecting forests by putting out small fires, etc – our record is dismal.  There are always unforeseen variables.  As it turns out, the complexity of our environment is close to infinite, like the arrogance of those who claim to understand it all.
  • Should people, who currently can’t figure out which bathroom to use, be in control of the entire planet? Are you sure?

Once my friends understand my concerns, they generally will at least cut me a little slack.  And if I persist in looking at the problem logically, my friends will generally change the subject.  Which is fine with me.  Because when it comes to climate science (ie, understanding the whole world), I don’t know what I’m talking about.  And neither do they.  That is one thing I am absolutely sure of.

There are 106 comments.

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  1. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    I suspect that the agreed upon (yet not to be admitted to) answer to “What Temperature SHOULD be?” is whatever the temperature would be, absent the presence of the infection known as mankind.

    Kudos on a fine post.

    • #1
  2. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    There isn’t a computer in existence that can compute all the factors needed to predict earth’s climate, yet everything is based on computer models.

    • #2
  3. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Paul Dougherty: I suspect that the agreed upon (yet not to be admitted to) answer to “What Temperature SHOULD be?” is whatever the temperature would be, absent the presence of the infection known as mankind.

    That’s a good point.  Many worshipers at this temple probably believe that, although as you point out they may be reluctant to admit it in so many words.

    What I’m trying to get them to see, however, is that our efforts to impact the environment reflect not humility, but arrogance.  That person is not saying, “We should make the world more natural, because we’re nice.”  No.  That person is saying “I know how the world should be, and I can change the world as I see fit, and I won’t screw it up.”  The arrogance of that point of view is staggering.

    • #3
  4. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    72.  At least where I am.

    • #4
  5. blank generation member Inactive
    blank generation member
    @blankgenerationmember

    I often get confused these days.

    Temperature is scientific.

    Science is a social construct.

    Therefore temperature is a social construct?

    N.B.  I haven’t heard the science is a social construct statement in years.  Does it still exist?

    • #5
  6. Paul Dougherty Member
    Paul Dougherty
    @PaulDougherty

    I tell you this, I will be mighty upset if these fools prevent my beautiful state of Alaska from its rightful lush temperate climate. Imagine if Siberia and Northern Canada were able to render produce to feed every hungry belly.

    • #6
  7. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Great points Doc. One point I like to add is what is the effect of our solar system rushing around the milkey way every 250 million years like a merry go round ? There couldn’t possibly be any  deviation could there?

     

     

    • #7
  8. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Plankton? Which plankton? What’s good for diatoms might not be good for planktonic cladocera.

    • #8
  9. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I believe in climate change, but not all man-made. It’s not hard to see and feel the changes. A tornado touched down in Atlanta, major storms across Alabama, drought in many states, high temps, humidity and wildfires in TN.  And tomorrow is Dec. 1! I remember seeing stories on the climate change on other planets witnessed by the Hubble.  A swirling tornado in one spot, gone the next, things reversing direction, spots show up, then disappear.  It could be changes in the sun that is driving this on earth and within our solar system.  I keep up with a fascinating site called:

    http://www.rsoe.com

    I’ve noticed quite an uptake in extreme weather just in the last month.  Here’s an example from today:

    http://hisz.rsoe.hu/alertmap/database/?pageid=event_desc&edis_id=CC-20161129-56126-ARC

    What I have a problem with is a global regulating body controlling what countries do, and taxing them. It is wealth redistribution.  People suffering from rising seas and extreme weather should be helped, but it should not be forced.

    • #9
  10. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    The Reticulator:Plankton? Which plankton? What’s good for diatoms might not be good for planktonic cladocera.

    Oops.  Good point.  Sorry to oversimplify…

    • #10
  11. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Another recent story:

    http://hisz.rsoe.hu/alertmap/database/?pageid=event_desc&edis_id=CB-20161129-56119-AUS

    Again, eliminating fossil fuels isn’t the answer, but developing (which we’ve done) cleaner ways to process will help.

     

     

    • #11
  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    When you take the planet’s temperature, where do you stick the thermometer?

    • #12
  13. Milton Coolidge
    Milton
    @LillyB

    One of my favorite articles on the unforeseen effects of global warming:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/science/earth/18juneau.html

     

     

    • #13
  14. blank generation member Inactive
    blank generation member
    @blankgenerationmember

    Once upon a time complexity and complex systems were the hot thing.  Ok, the 90’s.  Where did that go?

    N.B.  I came out of that with nobody knows nothing.

    • #14
  15. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    It is a fine list, and useful if you hit them with a trank dart, restrain them with bungee cords and hire Neil Tyson Degrasse to read it to them with cool background music and bring in Ancient Aliens somewhere into the plot.

    Then you might penetrate.

    Option Two.  Virtual Waterboarding.

    • #15
  16. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    Front Seat Cat:I believe in climate change, but not all man-made. It’s not hard to see and feel the changes. A tornado touched down in Atlanta, major storms across Alabama, drought in many states, high temps, humidity and wildfires in TN. And tomorrow is Dec. 1! I remember seeing stories on the climate change on other planets witnessed by the Hubble. A swirling tornado in one spot, gone the next, things reversing direction, spots show up, then disappear. It could be changes in the sun that is driving this on earth and within our solar system. I keep up with a fascinating site called:

    http://www.rsoe.com

    I’ve noticed quite an uptake in extreme weather just in the last month. Here’s an example from today:

    http://hisz.rsoe.hu/alertmap/database/?pageid=event_desc&edis_id=CC-20161129-56126-ARC

    What I have a problem with is a global regulating body controlling what countries do, and taxing them. It is wealth redistribution. People suffering from rising seas and extreme weather should be helped, but it should not be forced.

    The only thing that has never changed about the climate is that it has always been changing. Weather is part of the nature of the earth. You can’t expect  San Diego  everywhere and every minute.

    • #16
  17. Polyphemus Inactive
    Polyphemus
    @Polyphemus

    Which seems more fruitful a direction to follow? Trying to control or even affect climate or trying to find ways to cope with climate change? Doesn’t it seem infinitely more sensible for us to look at the extremes and all of the in-betweens of our planet’s climate history and start thinking about how to deal with it should, say, another ice age commence? Maybe we ought to spend our time thinking about coping rather than imagining that we have any hope of manipulating the climate by our naïve, pathetic efforts.  If you are on a large ship that tosses to and fro, do you want to get sea legs in order to cope or do you imagine that if you just get everybody to run around in just the precise way that we can calm the ship by our movements?

    • #17
  18. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Percival: When you take the planet’s temperature, where do you stick the thermometer?

    Detroit – if it is a rectal thermometer.

    Seawriter

    • #18
  19. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Percival:When you take the planet’s temperature, where do you stick the thermometer?

    Up Al Gore’s a……

    • #19
  20. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    One reason we have global climate change is the Earth orbits a variable star. Not massively variable, but slightly variable. When Earth was experiencing warming, so was Mars. I don’t think Martian warming was due to Spirit and Odyssey.

    We had a Roman Warming Period when you could raise wine grapes in York. We had a Medieval Warm Period when you could grow grain crops in Greenland. We had the Little Ice Age in the 1600-1700 when the Thames would regularly freeze over. All that was due to the Sun.

    I tend to think the idea we can stop global warming by cutting back on carbon is about as arrogant as believing we can stop volcanoes from erupting by sacrificing virgins in the volcanoes – and about as scientific.

    Seawriter

    • #20
  21. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Their vaunted computer models either a) fail to account for past variations in temperature, b) fail to accurately predict the near-term variations in temperature, or c) fail to do either.

    The ones in Category C clearly need more grant money.

    • #21
  22. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Percival:When you take the planet’s temperature, where do you stick the thermometer?

    That’s a question that climate scientists have spent quite a bit of time on. Answer: It’s complicated, and there is no one best place.

    Actually, I think there are better answers than that. But they all have problems.

    It doesn’t mean we should give up on it.

    • #22
  23. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    I’d add one additional question:  How much money should we spend in order to prevent the global average temperature from rising by one degree C over the next 100 years?

    • #23
  24. erazoner Coolidge
    erazoner
    @erazoner

    Severe weather events (which routinely happen somewhere every day) were once reported by the news media rather straightforwardly. Now, however, every network evening news broadcast opens with the the anchor breathlessly and emotionally reporting every tornado, flood, blizzard, wildfire or other phenomenon as if it had never happened before and must therefore be connected to climate change. Even “thunderstorm asthma” in Australia:

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/nov/27/thunderstorm-asthma-oure-talking-an-event-equivalent-to-a-terrorist-attack

    • #24
  25. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Percival:Their vaunted computer models either a) fail to account for past variations in temperature, b) fail to accurately predict the near-term variations in temperature, or c) fail to do either.

    The ones in Category C clearly need more grant money.

    The TIAA-CREF advisor who was helping us with some retirement investment options  gathered our data and a few weeks later presented us with a booklet showing the results of modeling our financial future a zillion different ways.  I waved it off, saying that I used to do some ecological modeling and I worked with people who did ecological modeling, and the one thing I learned is that it’s easier to predict the past than the future.

    • #25
  26. blank generation member Inactive
    blank generation member
    @blankgenerationmember

    What’s the ideal temperature?  What’s the ideal income?  What’s the ideal rate of employment?  What’s the ideal IQ?  What’s the ideal….

    It’s so sciency.

    • #26
  27. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    What is the right temperature?- let us look back to prior history, before SUVs caused planetary crisis..

    geologic_time_scale_climate_change

    • #27
  28. Lily Bart Inactive
    Lily Bart
    @LilyBart

     

     

     

     

     

     

    • #28
  29. OldDan Rhody Inactive
    OldDan Rhody
    @OldDanRhody

    One thing to think about is what to do as an individual to respond to what looks like a warming trend (based on the past few winters in my present location).  For example, I don’t anticipate a rising trend in snowmobile futures.   And the guys who like ice fishing are getting downright irritable.

    • #29
  30. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    EHerring:There isn’t a computer in existence that can compute all the factors needed to predict earth’s climate, yet everything is based on computer models.

    Even if a computer theoretically could, it would still depend on humans KNOWING all the factors needed to predict earth’s climate. Which they don’t.

    • #30

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