Where Scientists Were Wrong On Climate Change

While most people would prefer that the predictions on climate change are not true it is primarily conservatives who think because they don’t like the findings they can just assume the scientists are wrong. Increasingly it does look like the scientists weren’t completely correct in their predictions. Newsweek shows that things might be worse than predicted:

The loss of Arctic sea ice “is well ahead of” what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast, largely because emissions of carbon dioxide have topped what the panel—which foolishly expected nations to care enough about global warming to do something about it—projected. “The models just aren’t keeping up” with the reality of CO2 emissions, says the IPY’s David Carlson. Although policymakers hoped climate models would prove to be alarmist, the opposite is true, particularly in the Arctic.

The IPCC may also have been too cautious on Greenland, assuming that the melting of its glaciers would contribute little to sea-level rise. Some studies found that Greenland’s glacial streams were surging and surface ice was morphing into liquid lakes, but others made a strong case that those surges and melts were aberrations, not long-term trends. It seemed to be a standoff. More reliable data, however, such as satellite measurements of Greenland’s mass, show that it is losing about 52 cubic miles per year and that the melting is accelerating. So while the IPCC projected that sea level would rise 16 inches this century, “now a more likely figure is one meter [39 inches] at the least,” says Carlson. “Chest high instead of knee high, with half to two thirds of that due to Greenland.” Hence the “no idea how bad it was.”

The frozen north had another surprise in store. Scientists have long known that permafrost, if it melted, would release carbon, exacerbating global warming, which would melt more permafrost, which would add more to global warming, on and on in a feedback loop. But estimates of how much carbon is locked into Arctic permafrost were, it turns out, woefully off. “It’s about three times as much as was thought, about 1.6 trillion metric tons, which has surprised a lot of people,” says Edward Schuur of the University of Florida. “It means the potential for positive feedbacks is greatly increased.” That 1.6 trillion tons is about twice the amount now in the atmosphere. And Schuur’s measurements of how quickly CO2 can come out of permafrost, reported in May, were also a surprise: 1 billion to 2 billion tons per year. Cars and light trucks in the U.S. emit about 300 million tons per year.

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  1. 1
    Fritz says:

    Haven’t seen a whole lot of the supposed negative effects of warming, though, yet.  I’ve heard no commentary in the media about the lack of major hurricanes hitting the US in the last 3 years.  Of course, if there had been a CAT 4 or 5 that caused extensive damage (as there often is), it would have been evidence of the destructiveness of global warming.
    On the other hand, there is a Democratic lawmaker who asserts that she can feel global warming when she flies because of all the new storms.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    “Haven’t seen a whole lot of the supposed negative effects of warming…”

    Have you been to the Artic, or to Greenland?

  3. 3
    Fritz says:

    Nope.  Even there, “Hey, there is liquid water!  Maybe we could grow something.” is not considered a negative to most people.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    You sure do miss the big picture here. If only it would stop at “Hey, there is liquid water…”

  5. 5
    Fritz says:

    Hence “I haven’t seen negative effects of global warming so far”.  I am keeping an open mind that some may crop up down the road.
    I do think the predictions of mass destruction seem odd, since for almost all of the Earth’s history both the CO2 level and the temperature were higher, and yet the Earth was demonstrably not a vast desert.
    But we might want to mine methyl hydrates quickly before all of that lovely and useful methane is wasted into the atmosphere.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    “since for almost all of the Earth’s history both the CO2 level and the temperature were higher”

    And how many of these periods were times of human civilization? Perhaps even more importantly, such episodes came about gradually. It is the rapid change which is beginning which would make the change even more disruptive. How often was it really the case–global warming deniers have made a number of claims of warmer periods which have not held up.

  7. 7
    battlebob says:

    If I were you, I wouldn’t be buying or living near ocean-front property. When the rising oceans wipe out coastal settlements, are you going to finally say glbal warming does affect people?

  8. 8
    Fritz says:

    Typically sensible people did not own waterside property, until modern insurance allowed them to rebuild easily.  And as for living below the level of the surrounding water?  Only the Dutch get away with that.
    Me — my house is at 390 ft elevation.  I think I’m OK.
    I am talking timeframes of tens of millions of years — but, still, CO2 and temps were higher (way higher than is being predicted for the next 150 years), the continents were in (close to) their current configuration, and forests were lush.  So I find the claim that if temperatures rise by 5 degrees the Amazon will become a desert to at least be questionable.

  9. 9
    Eric says:

    “Typically sensible people did not own waterfront property, until modern insurance allowed them rebuild easily.”

    That statement has more wrong with it than one of MC Esher’s weird perspective drawings.

  10. 10
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Fritz is making the ‘moral hazard’ argument, which is that people who believe they are safe because of insurance or subsidy are less likely to be careful than people responsible entirely for themselves. There is some merit to this argument, and some statistical information to support it. Back when the unfunded auto insurance mandate (Prop 80) was on the ballot in California, some years ago now, there was stasticial information presented by some of the people fighting it that uninsured drivers were actually safer drivers than insured drivers.
    The key flaw in the ‘moral hazard’ argument is that ‘safe’ behavior does not guarantee safety and a great deal in life requires ‘risk.’ Plenty of ‘risks’ are dictated by factors outside of personal control, and many arguments about ‘safe’ vs ‘risky’ behavior do not take account the level of degrees in which personal responsibility and outside factors dictate that risk.
    One doctor of which I know suggested disallowing smokers or the overweight from health insurance plans based on ‘unsafe’ behaviors. But my parter is overweight because of a steroid prescribed by her doctor when she was recovering from cancer surgery and she has never been able to re-lose that weight even after years of trying.
    It can be very difficult to gauge the real cause of ‘risky’ behavior sometimes.

  11. 11
    Ron Chusid says:

    Plus many medical problems arise from genetic factors, or exposure to the wrong virus.

  12. 12
    Eric says:

    The sentence I quoted had really nothing to do with the moral hazard argument. It quite simply stated that folks didn’t live near water until the advent of modern flood insurance, which is quite frankly, either based in an astonishing level of ignorance(to the level of never, ever, ever having seen a map in his life sort of ignorance), or an outright lie that a third grader could detect.
    So, Fritz, are you an ostrich, or are you a lying jerk that assumes the world is populated with people who have never seen maps and therefore you could get way with that bald-faced lie?
    Please Fritz, take your doubt of global warming and move to the coast, and then defend your property with a gun. We won’t miss you, the best we can hope is that your corpse doesn’t overly pollute whatever coastline it ends up on.

  13. 13
    Ron Chusid says:


    Fritz has already indicated he doesn’t think it is wise to build too close to the coast, regardless of his disbelief in global warming.

    Just because we disagree with someone on issues such as climate change doesn’t mean we hope for bad consequences for them. Besides, in the case of global warming I hope Fritz is right (but doubt that he is).

  14. 14
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Fritz was saying that flood insurance and homeowner’s insurance led people to build homes in places they should not. That’s the moral hazard argument. 🙂

  15. 15
    Fritz says:

    Eclectic — I live within (albeit large) spiting distance of a large volcano, so I am not immune for living in a place with some danger.
    The water level at New York City has risen by a meter or so in the last century and you don’t hear people wailing about it.
    I am not impressed with the idea that we have to make huge expenses to the entire economy because the sea level may rise by a couple of meters over the next century.

  16. 16
    Fritz says:

    Eclectic is correct.
    I’m not saying that people never built near the ocean — but sensible people built things they wanted to preserve a bit inland.
    Shoreline structures, at least in Southern California, are at far more risk because of dams blocking sand movement than they are from a few feet of sea level rise.
    There was a storm in, I  believe, 1940 that washed over Mission Beach into Mission Bay in San Diego.  If that same storm happened again next winter it would cause an amazing amount of property damage.  Not because of global warming, but because hae built expensive houses and businesses right at the ocean and because the beach has mostly disappeared (because of river dams), so storms have no buffer.   But, of course, when (not if) that storm happens again in San Diego, the destruction will be blamed on Global Warming.

  17. 17
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Of course, Fritz, the people who have built right up to the ocean on Mission Beach are not people dependent on insurance to do so. They are (in the main) the wealthy and the priveleged who believe the risk is worth the advantages of living right there on the ocean. It’s much like the wealthy and priveleged folks who build houses in places like Malibu, Pacific Palisades, and Laguna Beach… where a flood/fire cycle makes construction extremely risky, even away from the coast. They have mudslides in the winter rain and fires in the summer, and houses are wiped out left and right.
    Certainly, they are insured, I’m not denying that. But the prevailing factor is not insurance, it’s the belief that money will protect them from nature in its own right. Premiums for flood and fire insurance in Malibu, CA are (justly) much higher than premiums for flood and fire insurance in Upland, CA. People move there knowing the risk, seeing the news on tv every year, because they believe their money makes them safe.
    Many of them find out they don’t have the resources they believe they do and end up crying to the government for relief, despite the fact that it was confidence in their wealth that led them to take such risks.

  18. 18
    Eclectic Radical says:

    And of course, most of them are self-proclaimed conservatives opposed to government relief for anyone else. 😉

  19. 19
    Fritz says:

    I think it is likely that people who build in Malibu may not be sensible.  🙂

  20. 20
    Eclectic Radical says:

    When I was a Republican, people kept telling me that we were the party of common sense. Are you suggesting it was not true? 😉

  21. 21
    Ron Chusid says:

    Ignoring the question of whether the Repubicans were the party of common sense in the past, whatever they were back then they are far more extreme, and show less  common sense, today.

  22. 22
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I was trying to be funny again. I really need to stop doing that.

  23. 23
    David Meiser says:

    Where Scientists Were Wrong On Climate Change http://bit.ly/JXVu2

  24. 24
    dhmeiser says:

    Where Scientists Were Wrong On Climate Change http://bit.ly/JXVu2

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