Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Earth opens and swallows. . . .

As many of you may know (see, you should join Google's Global Change group, see box on the side of this page, and Eli should read it more daily, Stoat and Michael have beat me to this), the Earth has opened and swallowed the past American Association of Petroleum Geologists statement on climate change. The new draft statement is a major step forward starting with a recognition of the obvious. . . .

Public concern over the potential impacts of climate change is growing because observations demonstrate that the planet has been warming since the middle to late 19th century and increasingly sophisticated climate models predict increased future warmth (IPCC 2007). These conclusions have been articulated mainly by climate scientists, through reports of the National Academy of Sciences, American Geophysical Union, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Meteorological Society. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) respects the conclusions of these professional scientific organizations.
although they are quite muddled about it, a point that the membership comments makes clear
Climate research provides a consistent view that agents that increase incoming energy (an increase in the solar output) or act to selectively absorb outgoing energy (a greenhouse gas) will promote warming at a global level. Today's climate is a product of several contributing factors, including greenhouse gases, solar variations, volcanism and aerosol production. Since the middle to late 19th century the sum of these factors have promoted a warmer climate. Climate models predict additional warming at a global scale.
this is still a huge step forward from their previous basakwards policy statement
  1. Scientific research has been stimulated by the proposal. Recently published research results do not support the supposition of an anthropogenic cause of global climate change.
  2. Detailed examination of current climate data strongly suggests that current observations do not correlate with the assumptions or supportable projections of human-induced greenhouse effects.
Now this is important, but understanding the issues from the viewpoint of the AAPG membership is equally important, and you can follow the discussion. Among the most interesting so far is a statement from a previous past president of the organization

The AAPG position on Climate Change will never be accepted as objective since we are considered part of the oil industry. I suggest that we get with the GSA and let them put forth a statement that the AAPG approves of.

(Editor\’s Note: Harrison Townes is a past President of AAPG)

which shows exactly how far the Overton frame has moved, a point that many PG members make both for and against the new proposal. Eli thinks that his framing of the issue is superior to that of Mooney and Nisbet, although they have a better megaphone.

Those who do not like what is happening retreat to the idea that the AAPG should not take a position on a political (read public policy) issue
I do not think it is AAPG’s role to take a position on political issues or to engage in political lobbying of any kind. It is not AAPG’s role to issue political position statements.
Some want much more
Once again, AAPG is so obviously acting in its own interests that any unbiased reader of our statement will label us as self-serving pseudo-scientists with our heads in the sand. This statement will maintain AAPG\’s position as a (lunatic?) fringe group with little to add to the debate on global warming.
There are a large percentage of comments along the line of

In my mind, as a member of this association for nearly 30 years, the issue is fundamental: act now, or study and debate. I have been a petroleum geologist for nearly 30 years and have never been involved in a decision where there are no uncertainties. This is the same professional society that thrives on deepwater, sub salt exploration, signing billion dollar deals with emerging third world countries, and buying and selling old fields that are trash to one company and gold to another.

I believe that a Climate Change Statement issued by AAPG must support efforts to reduce carbon emissions. What is more basic than recognizing that global warming may significantly change the way my grandchildren and great grandchildren live in this world? I for one, want to be a part of a society that errors on the side of my children’s future. AAPG is grounded in ethical behaviors and actions. Let our ethical foundation guide our Climate Change Statement.

Now there has been a recent trend amongst climate blogs to declare victory and go home, or at least play nice. The repetition in a policy debate of the trophs we have come to love and adore demonstrates the folly of doing so, as ignorance is recycled as faux wisdom to support bad policy.
We know that climate zones shift through time. Would it be that horrible if Germany developed a Mediterranean climate and Siberia and Sweden had milder winters or if Chicago got St. Louis weather, St. Louis got Houston weather, Houston got San Antonio weather and San Antonio got Cozumel weather? We also know species diversity increases exponentially toward the tropics. Wider tropical zones may be a good thing for the Biosphere and they are definitely preferable to another ice age. But we must also adapt and mitigate in economically sound and thoughtful ways as suggested.
Even that represents a large shift for the AAPG (which, btw like the APS, the ACS, the AGU has a large number of non-US members and is really an international organization), but still many have swallowed the Kool Aid
The levels of CO2 today (+/- 350 PPM) are far too small to be the actual cause of global warming. Therefore all we can say is that CO2 levels seem to correlate to global temperature in the past, though the reasons are not known to me. There is no conclusive evidence that man’s input of atmospheric CO2 in ways not seen before in Earth’s history will result in additional warming. It is more likely that levels of CO2 will not be as good an indicator of global temperature in the future. . .
There is no evidence that carbon emissions cause warming; on the contrary, there is hard scientific evidence that increased CO2 is an effect of warming.
The Earth is a large place covered 2/3 by water. Of the remaining 1/3 much is unpopulated. I believe it is pompous and unscientific to think that humankind living on less that 1/4 of the planet can undo the naturally occurring processes of photosynthesis that have taken place for eons.
Folks like John Gray (the hurricane expert at U of Col - google him) thinks this cycle of global warming is about over. Many climate experts in Russia (who didn’t vote for Al Gore) also think this current period of global warming is either at its end or will soon be. . .
Google mars ice cap, and you will see that the polar ice on Mars is also melting rapidly - probably not related to the pick-up truck you’re driving!
On the other hand, the correlation between sun spot activity and global temperature is an outstanding match. Work done by Nir Shavir (Univ. of Jerusalem), Piers Corbyn (Univ. of London), Friis-Christensen (Norway Met. Service), and others show that global temperature correlates with sun activity closely.
This brings up the question of what to do now if anything. Since it is unlikely that PGs will read this blog, perhaps the NAS would send the AAPG a letter welcoming the new draft and dealing with some of the issues raised in the comments in a friendly way. Real Climate might be the only climate blog with enough juice and readership to do this in the form of an open letter.


guthrie said...

I can't quite recall what the term is for the affliction of scientists, whereby they think because they are expert in one area, they can pronounce judgment on another area with equal understanding and pressure.

bmcworldcitizen said...

Hi Guys!

This is a revamp of a video about GW I did a few months ago, which I think you posted on your site. I used the term anthropomorphic instead of anthropogenic. Silly and rather embarrassingJ That’s corrected now, and I’ve tightened up the voice over so it’s a but shorter, coming in at about 5 mins.

It also touches on the scientific method, and the damage that creationism has done to science in general, so although not the typical fare of your site, it may be of interest.

If the video helps your audience, by all means use it.


Brian Coughlan

Brian Coughlan

Anonymous said...

I believe it's called "hubris" when a scientist (or anyone else) thinks they know everything about everything.

The real problem is not that scientists make pronouncements on things outside of their area of expertise (which is impossible to prevent, at any rate), but instead that most of the public believe them when they do.

The only thing I can figure is that most people have such a poor understanding of science that they lump all scientists together as "scientist". You know, the guy/gal in a white lab-coat who spews forth an endless stream of facts.

--Horatio Algeranon

inel said...

Perhaps someone should politely send the AAPG committee a copy of a clear, succinct statement—which is about to celebrate its second birthday—and ask what gifts AAPG members bring to the party.

Also, statements, just like birthdays, work best when the date is clear.

P.S. AAPG's use of the word 'uncertain' (once), and 'uncertainty' (thrice) in their proposed statement gives policymakers good reason to ignore any call to action embedded in the extended text.

Anonymous said...

"still many have swallowed the Kool Aid'

But surely, if they had swallowed it, they would not be updating their position, would they?

Perhaps they are just swishing it around in their mouth, waiting for the cue.

I had to laugh when I read this:

"As stated in my January President’s Column...this change [to the AAPG position on climate change] is occurring because we are listening to AAPG members, not because we are listening to members of other organizations."

Heaven forbid that they would ever listen to "other organizations" -- the national science academies of the G8 countries for example ( US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada, Japan) and of China, India and Brazil.

Anonymous said...

Sea level rose a similar amount in the past 100 years and none of the IPCCs model’s catastrophes happened. Models are GIGO. For instance, sequester enough CO2 and you starve plant life, cut down on oxygen and CO2, and freeze the planet. We will then need to burn the furniture to keep warm which could tip over into burning the remaining oxygen while we all choke in the cold. Sound incredible? It is.

The planet has evolved mechanisms over geological time (4.5 billion years of trial and error) to protect itself. Earth’s climate varies for a lot of extraterrestrial reasons. The shortest periodicity has to do with the interplay of solar activity and cosmic radiation from the Milky Way. During quiet periods of solar activity, like now, cosmic radiation penetrates the atmosphere and creates clouds where conditions permit. Over long periods this cools the earth. Most of the time however, sun’s magnetic activity induces earth’s geomagnetic field. The geomagnetic shields are up during most of the 11 year sun spot cycle. Earth’s cooling (1940-1965) and earth’s heating (balance of the 20th century) is 95% correlated to sunspot peak frequency. Short cycles induce cooling and long cycles induce warming. This is a magnificently balanced system because the total solar irradiance varies very little. The subtlety is the correlation with sunspot peak frequency. During the Maunder Minimum there were no sunspots and the world suffered through the Little Ice Age.

CO2 has come out of the planet during 4.5 billion years of volcanic activity. Plants use CO2 to produce carbohydrates, oxygen and water vapour. Free oxygen is not produced by volcanoes. CO2 has the property of inverse solubility. Global warming from the sun forces CO2 out of the ocean in increasing quantities like warming beer. CO2 is the effect, not the cause of the warming. Moreover, the absorption wavelength for CO2 in the spectrum is filled. CO2 will not contribute any more heating. The analogy is adding a second Venetian blind to your window may not make the room any darker.

Sea level is said to be rising (ICPP) at 2 – 3 mm a year. Since the Pleistocene it has risen 125 metres (6 mm a year) and most of the coastal tribes of the earth have a Noah. The coral reefs of the oceans have kept pace because of a symbiotic relationship with algae that keep them thriving in the sunlit surface of the sea no matter how fast sea level rises. Barrier bars like the Atlantic longshore bar are dynamic features that are fed sand by Piedmont rivers and maintain themselves in the surf zone. A summer beach is wide and fine and a winter beach is coarse and steep. Common sense needs to be applied.

By the way modern coal-fired power plants produce electricity, water vapour and CO2; plant food not pollution. The US has enough coal and oil shale to support itself for 1,000 years. This AGW piece is political, not scientific, and is coming out on party lines.

Anonymous said...

"sequester enough CO2 and you starve plant life"

Where have we heard this before?

Ah, yes, from that other organization that only listens to its own propaganda: Competitive Enterprise Institute -- "CO2 is Life!"

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmm....last year they were openly skeptical. But this year they are a little skeptical, concerned about people overstating the science, and worried about costs of acting.

So last year, they gave their annual book award to Michael Crichton, a full-blown skeptic. In light of their updated positiong, maybe they'll give this year's award to Mr. Honest Broker, Roger Pielke Jr.

Mus musculus anonymouse

guthrie said...

Ahh, the old sunspot chestnut. Hey, (not a mouse) anonymous, where is the data to support what you say? Got any nice graphs of sunspots and temperature?

Anonymous said...


Who needs sunspots when there are spots on Uranus that tell us everything we always wanted to know (about everything) but were afraid to ask?

Mark UK said...

The US has enough coal to support itself for 1,000 years. That's it. Right there. That statement is the key to understanding the poster does not have a clue...

I would LOVE to see the data supporting that one...

Anonymous said...

Quit looking at Myanus.

Mus musculus anonymouse

Anonymous said...

You have to remember. These are the people who put Bush in office.

They know not what they say -- and sometimes they say not what they know.

Steve Bloom said...

Mark UK, the US has an unpleasantly large supply of coal (such that it is often referred to as "the Saudi Arabia of coal"). I'm not sure it's 1,000 years worth, but given existing coal-to-liquids technology (= liquid fuels substitutes) it's more than sufficient to have some unpleasant climate consequences. If that's not enough to ruin your sleep, guess what country has the secon-largest supply of coal? Yes, them.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the oil geologists are not hedging their bets -- and moving into a new field:

Federal Loans for Coal Plants Clash With Carbon Cuts

"A Depression-era program to bring electricity to rural areas is using taxpayer money to provide billions of dollars in low-interest loans to build coal plants even as Congress seeks ways to limit greenhouse gas emissions." -- Washington Post
////[end post quote]

...which, of course, is why renewable energy has a hard time competing with fossil fuel and nuclear power plants (or nukyaler, to those from Texas)

Brian said...

Thanks for the a sedimentary geologist and AAPG member I have been embarrassed by their previous comments, and have written letters to those that head up the organization.

I think they are listening...slowly maybe. Perhaps its obvious to say, but AAPG is not a monolithic organization with all its members agreeing with the ridiculousness of the "head honchos".

Another thing to realize is the demographics of this organization. The oil industry has a huge "gap" due to the '86 crash, such that there are two main groups -- one made up largely of fairly conservative "oil men" over 50 and another group under 35 that is much more diverse, in terms of gender, background, and scientific expertise. Guess which group is in charge of AAPG? And guess which group is more likely to resist the conclusions of the IPCC?

Believe me...I'm not happy with AAPG, and if they don't get their heads out of their behinds, i'll have to work harder to straighten it out...but please don't lump all of us who are members (and many are members of other Earth science organizations too) into one viewpoint.

EliRabett said...

Hi Brian, for some interesting comments take a look at Stoat. In particular the one that, after viewing the discussion over at the AAPG site said:

"Having read some of the comments, I regret my cynicism about the position statement; there's clearly a principled debate going on in the AAPG."

There is also an interesting comment from a member of the "uranium committee" at AAPG

Brian said...

Cool...thanks for the link to that comment. I get more optimistic about changing attitudes w/in the organization as time goes on.

love Rabett Run by the way...keep it up!