Digging up the dirt on Singer

The dirt, in this case, is that he was once fairly sensible. In particular, he edited two books published by D Reidel:Global effects of environmental pollution, 1970, which was the proceedings of a Symposium, organised by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Dallas, Texas, December, 1968. ISBN 90-2777-0151-2 if you're interested; shelf-mark 334.2.c.95.254 south front 3, if you're in the UL. And The Changing Global Environment, 1975 (£55, paperback! Whew, the hardcover has a RRP of £100, but amazon offers it for £101 and is proud of the fact. Odd). ISBN 9027704023, shelf mark 200.c.97.1617. South wing 5. It even got a review in Boundary Layer Met (but I don't know wot that sez cos its pay-only).

The second is an updated version of the first, so its a bit of a mystery why the UL puts them so far apart.

This post isn't really about Singer. Its history of climatology, for which you want Spencer Wearts excellent webpage (better still, buy his book). But I'll throw in a nice bit from the intro by Singer to the second book:

We can now turn to the... question and ask whether changes in climate are necessarily bad... I am persuaded to think that any climate change is bad because of the investments and adaptions that have been made by human beings and all the things that support human existence on this globe. Even minor fluctuations of climate could... inundate coastal cities (by raising sea levels).

JA has a post on this topic in which Thomas Palm provides that Singer quote.

Singer is only the editor, but he puts a couple of his papers in the second book. From the prologue One classic example, well documented, is the rise in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 produced by the intensive burning of fossil fuels... while there is little argument concerning the existence of such an increase, there is no agreement as to the consequences... on world climate. Or the intro to section 3 (the climate bit): The effects are not at all well understood....

There are many aspects to the volume - its not all or even mostly about CO2 - theres a pile of ocean pollution for example. I'm only going to pick out the CO2 stuff.

The Dependence of Atmospheric Temperature on the Concentration of Carbon Dioxide by Manabe. Uses a 1-d R-C model (essentially this is Manabe and Wetherald, 1967 repeated) to find that doubling (halving) CO2 increases (decreases) temperature by about 2.3 oC. But he notes that they really need a 3d GCM. He also notes the water vapour feedback, and the stratospheric cooling from adding CO2. The advantage of this paper over M+W67 is that there is some motivation and an actual prediction: "Suppose the concentration of CO2 increases by about 25% from 1900 to 2000 as the UN Dept of Social and Economic Affairs predicts, the resulting increase of surface temperature would be about 0.8oC, which may have significant effect on the climate of the earths surface". Which was about right.

Climatic effects of atmospheric pollution by Bryson and Wendland. Finds that CO2, dust and sunspots contributed 71%, 8% and 5% of the temperature variation since 1880 [Interestingly, this bit gets deleted from the 1975 version, and is replaced with a ref to M+W, and a graph showing that CO2 and T variations don't match well]. Weirdly say that "It has been argued that the CO2 increase was the work of man also, in the burning of fossil fuels, but Deevy has pointed out, the radiocarbon evidence suggests that the increase does not appear to be of fossil carbon...". This survives into the 1975 version. Abstract says "Since 1940.. turbidity appears to have exceeded the effect of rising carbon dioxide, resulting in a rapid downward trend of temperature. There is no indication that these trends will be reversed..." but that text is not supported by the article itself.

A preliminary evaluation of atmospheric pollution as a cause of the global temperature fluctuation of the past century J Murray Mitchell, Jr. Remarks confined to CO2 and particulates - dust and smoke (== aerosol?). T has warmed from 1880 to 1940 by 0.6 oC, followed by cooling of 0.2-0.3 oC. Concludes that CO2 has been much more effective in changing T that antropogenic particulates, but that CO2 has caused only 1/3 of the 0.6 oC warming, and suspects that the cooling is from natural particulates rather than human ones. Then some rather confusing and unceratin stuff about whether particulates or CO2 will dominate in the future.

Climate change and the influence of Man's activities on the global environment William Kellogg. Uncertainties; CO2 warming, particulates probably cooling, From the above one can, and probably should, conclude that man can influence the climate... this influence... must be that of a warming, especially in the Northern Hemisphere.

Environmental effects of energy production Singer. Lots of vagueness: the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is quite certain and supported by reliable measurements. Its effect on climate is uncertain.

So... where does this leave the great Global cooling debate? Even more on my side I think: there is really little evidence for concern about new ice ages from these two books, and mostly uncertainty, and verging on the side of warming, though with some vagueness from Bryson on aerosols. He doesn't get to say "human volcano".


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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 period 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.

By Dr. Francis T. Manns (not verified) on 08 Jun 2007 #permalink

The CO2 arguments are limited by the lack of data except for a recent publication by Ernst Georg Beck which surveys 180 years of CO2 chemical analyses and demopnstrates clearly that the varioation over the past 180 years is quite wide. CO2 has been as high as 400ppm in 1942. Looks like IPCC has cooked the books again. The IPCC is not a scientific panel by any means.

Most blogs are scientific wasteland as well. This argumentum ads hominem is similar the the mind control exercised by the German state or the USSR - free speech and debate have lost their value to most Americans. Sad and dangerous.

[You reveal yourself by believing Beck so uncritically. See http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/beck-to-the-futur… -W]

By Fran Manns, Ph… (not verified) on 08 Jun 2007 #permalink

Awww, William got in before me.
You can leave your qualifications at home, Francis, we are not impressed by them.

As for CO2 measurement, the answer is that the original methods used were pants. They could be altered by any number of accidents, and also they often sampled in cities and industrial areas, which of course show higher levels of CO2. If you get a bunch of people in a room, close the windows, then check the CO2 levels you can easily get in excess of 1000ppm, but this does not mean that the atmosphere as a whole has that concentration.

Then sunspots- how come the sunspot cycle has not been particularly bad for the last 30 years, yet it has been warming all that time? Perhaps because the peopel who try and link it all to sunspots are talking out their backside?

CO2 is the effect, not the cause of the warming.

Eggs are the effect, not the cause of chickens.

This argumentum ads hominem is similar the the mind control exercised by the German state or the USSR

Ah, the irony... ;)