Horrible English weather

Its all rather manky here: cold, thin snow semi-melted by rain and refrozen. Urgh.

Which brings up the obvious question: if I could suddenly make the world, or at least this little bit of it, 2 degrees warmer all year round, would I be better or worse off? I’m just thinking of direct response, mind you, so leaving out any ecological problems and assuming no change in precipitation. +2 oC would mean that we never had snow and hardly ever had frosts. That latter would make breaking up the soil each winter a bit harder (and would have lots of ecological repercussions, but I’m ignoring them, only thinking of me). But it would make the summers too hot. They already are a bit too hot, every other year has a week (ish) when its hot enough to make it unpleasant to sleep at night. But on balance, I think it would be an overall gain: there is more unpleasantly cold winter than there is unpleasantly hot summer.

Saying things like that inevitably makes me suspected of being an evil septic (even folks at work have started to comment) so I suppose I’ll take a stab at sketching out my position (again). My last go was I’d like us to slow down, step back and take a far longer term perspective on life and values. Vast swathes of things that we currently do simply don’t need to be done at all. I’d like us to do this because we could all be happier, and the environment less damaged. But I don’t see any real chance of this happening, absent some external shock, because sitting quietly tends to get overwhelmed by doing. On the CO2 front, my position is still that a “vast geophysical experiment” is a bad idea: we know enough to know that we don’t know what is going to happen to a sufficient degree of accuracy to know that we’re safe. I think that’s pretty clear. Its a slightly weaker version of what mt has been saying ever since the days when sci.env was worth reading (or posting to). But this is, obviously, a much weaker position than “we’re all going to die/become homeless/be flooded by refugees/become poor from rising sea levels real soon now” or somesuch. I’m sure I had a post somewhere looking at the top reasons why we should worry about climate change, but I can’t find it now, so you’ll have to be content with these ramblings (somewhere in the middle, about Bali).

[Update: (a) with thanks to Eli (b) it was quite beautiful comnig in this morning. But cold.

Also: http://www.dilbert.com/fast/2009-01-06/

Or: http://www.dilbert.com/fast/2009-01-05/ -W]

Comments

  1. “We” means something different for climate change depending on whether you live in England or Bangladesh. Read the OECD report if you want more details on how many millions will see their land and livelihood disappear. I am sure your life in England would be a little better for it. If you can justify supporting a status quo that will result in the destruction of large swathes of Bangladesh, surely, you can also spare Scotland for those climate refugees, good bargain, eh what? But I am guessing you’re not going to be lobbying your government to create a “climate refugee” visa!

    Face it mate, millions of people suffer so we who live in the west can live in our mansions watching our flat screen TVs and driving our cars around. The least you can do is appreciate that fact and show some empathy for those less fortunate than you.

    And I picked Bangladesh as a random example. Tropical and subtropical regions will see greater effects than temperate regions. But, it is not all peaches and cream for you folks either, see this bbc report. Some parts of your country will be flooded as well.

    [I think from the tone of your comment you’ve failed to understand my position. Ah well. For the record, I have no TV, flat screen or otherwise, and I don’t live in a mansion. I do admit to having a half share in a car. Bangladesh is probably your best bet for an example of a country worst affected by SLR. Of course, we already have many Bangladesh immingrants to this country already, most obviously they run the best curry houses. Perhaps you would support *reducing* the temperature by 2 oC, to gain them more land? But of course the answers are: they would probably rather migrate locally, but politics won’t let them; they would rather not live on marginal land that floods most years, but someone will always get pushed to the margins (see Malthus or Darwin for details).

    BTW, unlike you I’m *not* sure my life would be better for a warmer temperature (I thought I’d said that pretty clearly: I wasn’t considering any second order effects, though its true that SLR won’t affect us here -W]

  2. #2 Eli Rabett
    2009/01/05

    Obviously you need the temporal heat pump to move energy efficiently from summer to winter. This is called Hawaii, a place Obama left for Chicago where the damn thing works in reverse. No accounting for taste.

    The scariest thing Eli remembers about Bangladesh is the large number of deaths when the temperature went below 45 F one year. Ah,there it is
    http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/ACOS-64C5KV?OpenDocument

  3. #3 P. Lewis
    2009/01/05

    Yes, but an extra 2°C would give you a lot more sticky sleepless summer nights (probably).

    [True. Curable by (dare we say it) air conditioning, at a rather lower energy cost than winter heating -W]

    And the recent mild winters have already been touted as the cause of blue tongue outbreaks in Blighty.

    Split the difference (sort of…): have it 1°C warmer instead.

    Interesting take by The Olive Ridley Crawl, though, who’s guide to going metric suggests 20°C is room temperature (never more than 18°C in my household; currently 17°C and about -7°C outside at 02:15 — doing my bit) and 25°C is a warm room (which is a positively Saharan midday scenario to moi).

    Another notable guideline on going metric is a 14 cm penis. Not in this house! Keep going! (Of course, perhaps flaccid is intimated… No!).

    The one that really intrigues me though is the 3L two-litre bottle. Tha’s almost 3 quarts int’ an almost 2 quart bottle it seems to me.

  4. #4 bigTom
    2009/01/05

    It all depends upon your tastes for things. When I lived in Northern Wisconsin (a heck of a lot colder than anywhere UK), I would have been a lot happier if things were 2C colder. I was a real cross-country ski type, it was never too cold to enjoy the out-of-doors, but all too frequently too warm to maintain decent snow quality. And it seems that environments, and population density moves with the climate as well, warm things up, and the population density contours move north at about the same pace as the isotherms.

    Now I’m in California, snow is too long a drive away to be worth bothering with. But 2C colder, and many of the local plants would die from frost damage, and I’d have to invest in window scrapers…

    The best thing about weather/climate is that it is uncontrolled. Imagine how boring the natural world would be, if humans everywhere could choose their local climate. It would be subtropical everywhere, with just enough precipitation for crops, and no inconvenient seasonal variation. And the environment would look the same everywhere, there would be no place to go to see a novel environment.

    [I agree. Different folks want different things, and the same people different things during their lives. There is a bit in C S Lewis using the seasonal cycle as evidence for god -W]

  5. #5 Nicolas Nierenberg
    2009/01/06

    One thing I find interesting is that according to Crutem3 it is about .7C warmer globally now then the decade when I was born. And much of that warming is in the high latitudes. Yet everyone will tell you how different the weather is now then it used to be.

    Here in La Jolla I guess it was supposed to be 15.3C instead of 16C today.

  6. #6 Adam
    2009/01/06

    2C cooler in winter and 1-2C warmer in summer for me please. Maybe I should move to the Continent? ;)

    For now, where I am, I like this weather (would prefer a bit more snow at times), but it should guarantee a reasonable bluebell display in the woods outside the back of the house, and it does give good views of the moors. The wife would argue for the complete opposite, but then she was the one who insisted on living near the in-laws – otherwise we’d be living in the SW.

    As for the heating/cooling of houses, I’ll bet our houses aren’t as well insulated as many Scandinavian ones. I’ve seen some designs where a 4/5 bedroom house is warmed to a decent degree by a single wood-burning stove.

    [I believe this is true. Partly its cultural inertia, partly its because our builders are cr*p, partly its because fuel isn’t expensive enough. Recent shocks may help, but we’re stuck with all the built stock for a fair while -W]

    Finally, I reckon central heating bills are increased by 25% by the “incompatibility factor” of marriage – whereby you rarely get a couple who agree on when the central heating should be on or off. If people were married off more rationally, half the houses would have their ch on half as much (the others would be uneffected).

  7. #7 mugwump
    2009/01/06

    I’d like us to slow down, step back and take a far longer term perspective on life and values. Vast swathes of things that we currently do simply don’t need to be done at all. I’d like us to do this because we could all be happier…

    Why do you presume to know what would make me happier?

    By most measures I am a big consumer. I have 5 children. Two (big) cars. A big house. 3 flat-screen TVs. But hey, I am happy. I’d be a lot less happy if I had to live in a smaller house, have fewer children, drive smaller cars and have fewer TVs.

    I get that some people like to live simpler lives than me. That’s fine. But why are *you* unhappy if I live the way *I* want? Nothing I do affects you in the least.

    [False, obviously -W]

  8. #8 mugwump
    2009/01/06

    [False, obviously -W]

    Alright, apart from commenting on your blog – which affect you can avoid completely by automatically sending my comments to /dev/null should you so choose – how else does my lifestyle affect you?

    [I’ll give you some hints:

    – My house electricity comes from a nuclear power station so there’s little impact from any carbon (not that there would be even if I lived off coal-fired power, but we don’t need to have that argument). The 2 or 3 cubic centimeters of high grade waste attributable to my family’s annual electricity consumption is currently stored on-site, but as soon as Nevada gets its act together it will be buried down a dirty great hole.

    – My children are all quite intelligent and hence will likely be large net taxpayers once they join the workforce, so if you have any relatives in the US my kids will be paying for their retirement.

    – My cars consume a little more gas than small cars but as I telecommute, our overall family gas consumption is probably less than most. And when my cars die, they’ll be melted down to make more cars.

    – My TVs are mostly made out of sand, which last time I checked wasn’t particularly scarce.

    ]

    [Assuming you don’t have your own personal nuke, then it makes little sense to say all your electric comes CO2 free. You’re part of your nations power grid, and I doubt you’re french. Etc -W]

  9. #9 mugwump
    2009/01/06

    [Assuming you don’t have your own personal nuke, then it makes little sense to say all your electric comes CO2 free. You’re part of your nations power grid, and I doubt you’re french. Etc -W]

    So lobby for more nukes, not less consumption.

    Even allowing that my consumption affects your wellbeing via CO2 (a stretch if ever I saw one), your solution – drastically reducing everyone’s consumption – will have far greater negative impact than the small inconvenience you may feel due to slightly warmer weather.

    [I disagree. I think we’d all be happier, including you. But I accept that I have presented no evidence in favour of this view, so you’re fully entitled to disbelieve me. OTOH your ignoring of all the real science being the impacts of CO2 makes me doubt that you’d listen anyway -W]

    If you don’t like consumerism just ignore it. No one’s forcing you to play. Be content in your vegetable patch…

    [You must realise how silly that is. I can’t ignore your CO2, or the roar of the M11, or the cars clogging cambridge streets, or… -W]

  10. #10 mugwump
    2009/01/07

    [You must realise how silly that is. I can’t ignore your CO2, or the roar of the M11, or the cars clogging cambridge streets, or… -W]

    Sure you can. CO2 is not an issue, as you already admitted: even if it does get warmer your life will be better. If you don’t like the roar of the M11, move. The Cambridge streets are there for transport; if you don’t like sitting in traffic move closer to work or get a job somewhere else with less traffic.

    See, you have options. But instead of changing your own life to maximize your enjoyment, you want to change everyone else’s to maximize your enjoyment. It is the ultimate in selfishness,

  11. #11 mugwump
    2009/01/07

    I disagree. I think we’d all be happier, including you.

    Don’t you see that’s the height of arrogance? I don’t presume to know better than you what would make you happy, but you presume to know the same for me?

    If you let people do what they want they spend a lot of time and effort optimizing their own happiness. History has shown that almost all interference in that process by outsiders possessed of some misguided Utopian ideal results in overall lower levels of happiness.

    Used to be I lived just down the road from a Quaker community. They seemed to be happy, but I could never be happy living as they did. What is wonderful about modern democracy and free markets is that there’s room for both of us.

  12. #12 mugwump
    2009/01/07

    OTOH your ignoring of all the real science being the impacts of CO2 makes me doubt that you’d listen anyway -W]

    I am not some “septic” hack. I have a PhD in hard science (mathematics). A pretty successful academic career before I moved to industry (current H index of 15, at least based on a rough google scholar estimate). When I look at the CO2 question I see a heck of a lot of propaganda but precious little “real” science. What there is is very inconclusive.

    One example. I have been arguing for some time now that the estimates of climate sensitivity from 20th century modeling are bunk because of the appearance of aerosol forcing in the denominator of the sensitivity estimate. I have made this point on many leading climate blogs, including realclimate, and been thoroughly poo-pooed by the cognoscenti for my efforts. Now we find that none other than Hansen is making the same point.

    Hansen of course wants us to believe his paleo estimates, but they in turn suffer from unjustified assumptions about dT/dF.

    In “real” science we don’t sweep the assumptions under the carpet and hope no-one will notice. We identify and publicize them because they usually point the way to new research.

  13. #13 mugwump
    2009/01/07

    My bad, I mean “Amish” not “Quaker”.

  14. #14 Steve L
    2009/01/07

    Almost everything I do affects everyone else in the least (at least).

  15. #15 P. Lewis
    2009/01/07

    Almost everything I do affects everyone else in the least (at least).

    Ah! You must be the butterfly!

  16. #16 Eli Rabett
    2009/01/08

    Float like a butterfly, …ah heck

    Anyhow, mugwamp makes the usual libertarian mistake which has its roots in the Rousseau’s stupidity of the natural man (aka the Noble Savage)and was adopted wholesale by Hollywood through the lens of Turner’s American Frontier. This later was turned to farce by Ayn Rand, and we hope not tragedy by Alan Greenspan. It is no accident that this mental disease is strongest in the US, Australia but somewhat attenuated in New Zealand.

    As John Donne said, no man is an island. You want to make a living pulling a wood stick through the soil to make a small furrow, be my guest, but until you hit that point we are all interdependent. Maybe you make as much individual difference to my life as the average ant in a hill, but let me put it nicely. If you really think that you make no difference to me why should I care what happens to you and yours?

  17. #17 Eli Rabett
    2009/01/08

    Oh yeah, Mugwamp, why do you think Hansen and everyone has been calling for more work on aerosols for the last 20 years and why do you think more work has been done. Your ignorance is our problem.

  18. #18 weathercast forecaster
    2011/02/18

    One thing I find interesting is that according to Crutem3 it is about .7C warmer globally now then the decade when I was born. And much of that warming is in the high latitudes. Yet everyone will tell you how different the weather is now then it used to be.

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