Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
Location
New England, USA
Title
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
Bio
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.

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JULY 20, 2010 9:30AM

The Coming Tsunami of Heat Waves

Rate: 36 Flag

This article has been updated in some very minor ways. A dagger (†) appears next to each change to remind people to see the footnote at the end for an explanation of the update.

Even a Conservative Look Ahead is Scary

Noah Diffenbaugh, assistant professor of environmental Earth system science at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, was interviewed by Tom Ashbrook last Thursday on NPR's On Point about a recently released Stanford University study that concludes that heat waves could be commonplace in the US by 2039. If you missed the interview, you can click here to listen. It was a very interesting discussion. The study findings are also discussed in Scientific American.

DIFFENBAUGH

... We've looked at both the hottest season that occurred in the second half of the century at each location in the United States and we've also looked at the longest heat wave that occurred also in the second half of the twentieth century and then we've looked forward over the next three decades and we've found that both of those measures increase substantially with relatively modest global warming over the next thirty years.

ASHBROOK

So you're looking at the summers, you say, for example, the hottest heat waves between 1951 and 1999. I mean, those are the heat waves that just make people kind of want to lay down and just die, and sometimes literally do that, as tens of thousands did in Europe in 2003. I was there, saw that. You're saying those could be—what—every other year? Even more than that, in parts of the country?

DIFFENBAUGH

Yeah, for most of the country, by the decade of the 2030's, so the period between 20 and 30 years from now, our projections indicate that most of the country could see five of those summers every--within that decade. So what was the hottest summer of five decades occurring five times in a single decade. And much of the country actually could see even greater intensification. In the western United States, we see values up to nine times in a single decade.

What's worrisome to me about these quoted remarks is this phrase: “both of those measures increase substantially with relatively modest global warming.” If you're not used to reading dispassionate words by scientists, let me help you out here because he's just trying to read off the data calmly and not be all alarmist:

First, he is talking about a substantial effect—what may be some pretty dire situations occurring in a pretty near timeframe.

But I think the phrase “with relatively modest global warming” is the real key to interpreting these remarks. This can be read as if he had said “I'm basing this on the most conservative a quite conservative projection of temperature change I can find. That is, some argue, this is the mininum badness you should expect. These substantial effects involving increased heat wave intensity and frequency may well be a best-case scenario—what you can hope for if all goes well.” My personal feeling is that you should not expect us to be lucky enough to get this minimum little effect, so I personally read this as “expect worse, and expect it sooner.”

At one point in the interview, he was pressed more about that issue:

ASHBROOK

You're anticipating extreme heat events but you're not basing this on an extreme greenhouse gas scenario. You're talking about a one degree Celsius rise in temperatures or about 2 Fahrenheit, which is not considered the extreme of where we may go globally.

DIFFENBAUGH

No, this is actually a moderate global warming and in fact some people argue that this is a committed warming over the next 30 years that given the emissions of greenhouse gases that have already occurred, given population growth and industrialization, that there is basically no way to avoid that level of warming over the next three decades or so, and that's really why we were interested in looking at that period, kind of changing directions a little bit. Instead of looking at really extreme global warming, asking for the global warming that is likely to occur in the relatively near term and, in fact, it's within the envelope that international governments are currently considering as part of the Copenhagen accord. ...

The Everpresent Skeptic

In the modern media environment, no show about science is ever complete without an outspoken critic to explain “the other side.” In this case, Ashbrook invited Bjorn Lomborg, academic and environmental writer and author of Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming. Although Lomborg made a few common sense observations about the need to “cool our cities” and get off of fossil fuels, he almost made my blood boil with these ridiculous comments:

LOMBORG

The US is much less vulnerable to heat waves than, for instance, Europe is because there's much more prevalent use of air conditioning. And that's certainly the short term way to fix many of the problems for people in heatwaves. ... I am saying we have to remember that there's also many cold deaths that will be avoided from global warming and we cannot just talk about this issue only saying there's going to be more heat deaths without also recognizing there's going to be fewer cold deaths and very clearly if you look at the last half century most Americans have very clearly said they would actually prefer to go places that are warmer. People don't move to Wisconsin when they retire. ...

Lomborg portrays the problem of Climate Change in an almost cartoonish way, as if only people are affected by it, so that if those people go inside and switch on some air conditioning, the problem goes away. Unfortunately, all manner of problems are still occurring even as people stick their heads in the metaphorical sand.

The world is increasingly dependent on farming to work perfectly in order to support our still-growing population, but discussed elsewhere in this interview with some other participants were issues related to the effect of this heat on crops, for example. The issue isn't just one of gentle and even warming, but rather one of extreme and unpredictable weather that even with careful crop controls may yield more crop failures. In the metaphor of the stock market, we're more and more heavily leveraged and making the assumption that such leveraging will be allowed to go up and up and up. We're behaving like there's no possibility of a crash, and we should know better. We need to keep a close eye on the food supply because no matter how bad you think bank run is, a food run is going to be much uglier.

And speaking of the food supply, there's a whole food chain out there and a great deal of it depends on the coral reefs. Warming itself, as well as the increases in CO2 which are helping to drive it, are killing the coral reefs. A great deal of the food chain depends on fish that live in those reefs. It isn't like we'll see some coral dying from the heat but other coral that is presently freezing suddenly able to survive. It doesn't work that way. Corals take a long time to form and yet most of these climate effects are short-term. There may not be enough time for the ecosystem to adapt. History suggests that rapid change of the environment can be deadly.

To offer another example, it's conjectured that the ecosystem of various areas relies on cold to keep pest insects in check. In some places the cold keeps various insects away altogether. In other places the cold is enough to kill off large parts of the insect populations every winter. Warming may create circumstances that are more friendly to such insects. Invasive species may move in, while species already present may reproduce in unusually large numbers. That can pose big problems for forests, for crops, and even for people.

What's to be done?

Is there an obvious answer—something we should be doing? Diffenbaugh says at one point, “I think that there are trade-offs and I don't know that there is a clear silver bullet where there will be no costs and only benefits.” I think he's right about that.

But it's time for a vigorous public debate. It can't be postponed. It's time for this to take center stage. I know everyone's worried about jobs and the economy, but my personal take is that Climate Change is a bigger problem even than that. And, anyway, if we're going to have to retool our society anyway, we might as well do it in the knowledge of how we're going to confront these changes, so we can come up with a solution to our financial woes that isn't fighting whatever solution we need for the climate.


If you got value from this post, please "rate" it.

† There is a “robust discussion” (some have used harsher terms) that followed the original publication of this article. You're welcome and encouraged to read the comments for a discussion of that. Some of the discussion is tedious in tone and length, but there is some substance to the disagreement, so I've tried to make a few small textual updates in the article itself to address that.

All changes made between the original and this update are clearly marked. In particular, all changes, including inserted words, have a light pink background (like the background of this box). All deleted words are explicitly marked with a line through them like this.

The disagreement seems to center on my the use of the words “most conservative” and “minimal” my interpretation of Diffenbaugh's remarks. There are different ways to define what might be adequately conservative, and it's not a matter of science but of human judgment which of these is best, so I've removed references that seem to suggest that only one interpretation is possible.

Moreover, in this article I am not interpreting his paper, but his remarks. There seemed to be some confusion about that—although I think I was quite clear that I was reporting on the interview. Diffenbaugh seems comfortable with his own characterization of the study parameters as being intentionally conservative, as illustrated by the fact that he volunteers the notion that some people argue it's “committed warming.” He also later emphasizes, in a response I didn't previously quote, that he was trying hard to be skeptical himself, which implies he thinks his approach is conservative:

DIFFENBAUGH

... I think the science is so hard. And I think it takes so much personal and collective energy to do it objectively and as rigorously as we possibly can. For me personally, that's where all my effort goes, is to being as objective as possible and doing the most rigorous, skeptical science that we possibly can. ...

And yet, for all that rigor and skepticism, he chose these numbers and got these results. I would be remiss not to conclude that he thinks this is the very definition of a conservative projection. Others might make different studies or conclude different things. But it sounds to me like I've got his intent. And I've explained why. You can, of course, judge for yourself.


My thanks to Kanuk for helping me decide what specific correction to make here.  He didn't get the last say on the precise wording, but his advice was quite specific and helpful.

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Gack. I listened to this cheery little interview while driving into the Big City in ninety something heat. The whole crop thing was particularly depressing. This was a good discussion Kent.
I need to go away and come back to this. My immediate thought is that I want to go back to the initial days of Obama speak. Was it the campaign or early days in the White House? Environmental changes that might stun us at first but that ultimately would help us stand against changes such as you mention here. I don't know how many battles you can fight at the same time and be successful. When was the last time we say it happen? I thought this team would be different and yet, one by one standards fall and the parties play political games of hopscotch with our lives and everyone's future.

I need to let this set for a while.
Greenheron, yeah, it's really frustrating to hear stuff like that when it's already hot. But it helps bring the matter into focus.

Anna, I totally empathize with you on the disappointment with Obama. He has actually done some good things, but not nearly enough. All one can say is “better than McCain would have,” which is damning with faint praise.

Bonnie, if nature is self-correcting, it's doing it like the body self-corrects for a fever, by getting rid of the parasite that is causing the problem: us. I'd like to find a better way... Maybe something that involves our continued survival.
Interesting post Kent! Down here in Florida, I can't believe that some of our legislators are saying we shouldn't be banning oil drilling in the Gulf. All this while oil is still gushing. ( does anyone honestly believe BP? )
Sometimes I think I am lucky that the larger part of my life is already past me. I sure wouldn't want to be a kid born today! They are going to have it really rough in a world that is growing hotter every year!
Kenny, I agree you're in a terribly vulnerable area that should be more active politically on this matter. In a venue like yours so dependent on its beaches and its being a tolerable place to visit for vacation, they should care really a lot about issues like this. It's already too hot for many in the summertime, and for that to extend into the fall would be bad. Also, sea level rise and increased hurricanes should be on everyone's mind. But you're right, the fact that they aren't taking the opportunity to blame the oil spill is interesting—for the Republicans, maybe it's that admitting a man-made thing could have an effect on climate would not play well. As for the Democrats, I just don't understand their excuse for all-too-timid action.
One thing I am unclear about is whether or not we would get year-round warming. My understanding (if you can even call it that) is that global warming results in more extremes--so extreme heat might be followed by colder-than-average winters in some places.

I used to joke with my former father-in-law that we should leave our cars running over night to hasten global warming. We both lived in Wisconsin at the time and this was our version of gallows humor on 20-below-zero days. But as climate change has become more evident and we've all been offered a better education about it (would that more of us would take up that offer), the picture it paints has become more nuanced. Not "better"; I'd say "worse" actually. But not as simple as "Hey, Wisconsin will be a great place to live then!" Rather, it might be along the lines of "Oh, great. Horrible winters followed by deadly summers."

Oh, and the [expletive deleted] who thinks that air conditioning will make it all fine has obviously never lived through a "power overload" day when the demand stresses the grid to the breaking point. Or received a $500 electric bill for one month's service, which usually ends up with people of limited means ending up unable to use the AC at all because they have to spend months paying off that one bill.

It is a disaster, plain and simple.
That is so funny about Lomborg and the air conditioning. Only not. Just wait until dengue fever is endemic in Denmark. Then he may change his tune.
Kent. thanks for this informative look at what we might be in for very soon. This summer we have had a period of heat with little rain and I have seen the toll taken on a number of trees and vegetation. The trees that have lost leaves or have dried up leaves might survive but it does call into question the effects on agriculture. Most farmers are not set up to irrigate vast acres of crops and are totally dependent on rainfall.

Regarding the really dumb idea of air conditioning as the big answer by Lomborg, he might want to read: "The Solar 'Katrina' Storm That Could Take Our Power Grid Out For Years" that was in "Huffington Post" last week. Talk about another disaster waiting to happen . . . if major parts of our power grid and various electrical transformers are knocked out by a major blast of EMP (electromagnetic pulse) from the Sun we will be in the kind of trouble we have never seen before in the modern era!
Susan, as I understand it, the warming air means the world's weather patterns are changed but not evenly. Water, for example, stores heat and releases it in different ways than land, which reflects some of it (in some places, not others, and in differing amounts). That's like having a room with a fan in it pushing the air—it doesn't move the air evenly. It matters where you stand. Those things will then cause warm air to bunch and cool air to bunch, and the result is wider swings in temperature, which could mean colder winters sometimes even, but more often than not will mean warmer ones, perhaps sometimes in some places snow will just go away entirely some or all years.

If you listen to the report, it says the weather out East is more variable to begin with so it's hard for their statistical models to make predictions, but the weather to the West is less variable and they can make what they think are some statistically supported predictions. He used words like “robust signal” to describe their findings for the West and said they had trouble getting “signal” as they reviewed data farther east. That doesn't mean the East won't have weirdness, just that they can't predict it. He was trying hard not to extrapolate.
Mumblety, it's sad that some people can learn only by seeing. I've heard that's what is supposed to separate the apes from man—the ability to be told about something without seeing it and still to learn it.

Des, you're right. And that's my point. A lot of prep is needed for this. And it's not just the crops. We need regular old garden variety trees to survive, too. If the climate changes so they're not happy, that's also a problem (and aggravated by the pest issue).
How am I suppose to enjoy the rest of my life now?
Man always screws up and sometime nature cannot come back
Rated with hugs
Algis, all time is precious. One never knows what will happen. Enjoy any of it you can, just the same as you always would. But spend some of the time working to help the situation.

Linda, let's hope we can work together to fix things. But delaying will not help.
Argh, that makes my blood boil, too, Kent. Sure, A/C can be a temporary solution if only one region is experiencing a heat wave and everyone can afford air conditioning and the power grid can stand up to the fact that it will become necessarily for survival (among the elderly and small children, at least). Gah. Does this guy live on our planet?

Great informative post, and good translation of the science-speak. Thanks!
See this

http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2010/07/russia-swelters-in-heatwave-and-worst.html

The food shortages will be something frightful if this continues.
Maybe we'll starve to death first.
Saturn, I'm always happy to help with translations of that kind where I'm able.

Jan, yes, things like you mention should not be seen as distant anomalies. They should be regarded as opportunities for study so we can be prepared.

FLW, sigh... Bad things never seem to come in ones. (Anyone lacking context should flip over to FLW's post today, Dear Congress, We the People are Starving.)
When I look at the continuing increase in violent weather that we've experienced in the Chicago area and across the Midwest in recent years, I have no doubt about global warming.

I've certainly experienced cycles of variation between hot years and cool ones, dry years and wet ones, but I've never seen the number of violent storms that we're having now.

We've seen dramatic increases in damage from high winds, hail, tornadoes, lightning, flooding, etc. Then we have all the secondary effects - mosquitoes (highest count in many years), mold, overloaded sewer systems....

What we can do to help the earth heal itself? A few thoughts: Pave less land, remove some of the pavement we've got, and replace some of what can't be removed with a permeable material. Pavement creates heat. So do idling cars stuck in traffic. Restore some green space. Do more transit-oriented development to increase density, reduce the need for private cars, reduce traffic congestion, and reduce pollution. Stop urban sprawl. Improve public transit.

I could go on....
Lomborg is proof that degrees, book deals, and notoriety are uncorrelated with common sense. As for the heat waves, I'm going to start sharpening my hunting and gathering skills.
Very interesting post.

Another thing is that such problems can't be looked at in isolation but have to be seen in the context of other problems. Take, for example, this from the Wikipedia article on the "water crisis" --

"According to the California Department of Water Resources, if more supplies aren’t found by 2020, the region will face a shortfall nearly as great as the amount consumed today."

So you take an existing water problem, and put heat waves on top of that, and you end up with a far worse problem, especially since you can't grow food without water.

Unfortunately you can't grow food without oil either. At least not the way we grow food. As many have noted, modern agriculture is basically a way to turn oil into food. As oil becomes more expensive, food becomes more expensive, both because of the oil required to grow the food and the oil required to transport it.

If what is typically called the "peak oil" problem hits around the same time as the water problem AND the heat wave problem, then I fear the total food problem is much greater than the sum of its parts.
Bikepsychobabble, you've hit on one of my hot button topics - how much of our cities and towns are given over to cars, at the expense of people. As someone who travels mostly by Segway (due to disability), I observe daily how people are crowded out by cars, but how little notice is given to the fact. Just yesterday, I had to turn back from crossing the freeway, so that a wheelchair could pass. One narrow sidewalk connecting the two sides of town, plus two narrow bike lanes that I'd be terrified to use, as they cross heavily-used freeway entrances -- and four wide lanes for the cars.

Except for our system of bike trails -- largely built on former railroad right of ways, everywhere you turn, cars get several times the space of all other forms of human transport. Their needs get precedence at intersections. Multi-billion-dollar bridges accommodate only cars.

People even drive monster cars because they are afraid of other cars -- an arms race to all our detriment.

But I'm not sure pavement is really a big contributor to the planetary heating. However, it IS clearly a contributor to the heat island effect, which will make this so much worse in the cities.

Kent, I'm really pretty pissed that the climatologists and their sloppy data-handling techniques, and lack of tracability and transparency. This has given sceptics a wholly undeserved opening. Scepticism is critical to science, but the flaws in their scientific technique have allowed a blurring of the line between denialism and scepticism.

I really think scientific data handling needs a wholesale overhaul. We need a transparent, robust, permanent repository of scientific data as it is captured, with details of how it is captured. This will eliminate a lot of the cases of scientific fraud by those motivated by advancing their careers, as well as a lot of careless mistakes.

It will mean a change of attitude toward pre-publication release, and to publication itself. Papers should be required to be backed up with independently reproducible analysis by anyone, starting from the raw data, and the data handling criteria used need to be explicit.

In my experience, the medical research field does a better job of this than anybody else. They've moved toward advance registration of trials, to counter the publication bias toward "positive" results. Statistical analysis techniques come under great scrutiny.

Yet, the data itself is unavailable. I can't do my own alternative analysis. Metaanalysis is limited to the published results -- not the underlying data, and studies often cannot be usefully compared as a result of differing analytic techniques. And it can't include data from studies not published. (That's problematic either way -- lack of peer review, or publication bias? But if the data is there, some degree of peer review may be possible without publication).

Anyway, the result is, we have this needless debate over whether anthropic climate change is a fraud.

Actually, the whole question of anthropic or not is irrelevant to this particular aspect anyway.
bikepsycho, I'm with you on the restoring of green places. That one seems non-controversial.

hatchetface, I think we'll all need different coping mechanisms over the coming years. Even just the changes in the economy could be enough to justify that.

mishima, the synergistic interactions are a big concern of mine, yes. Problems do not neatly line up and wait in line to come in an orderly fashion, and often they have worse effects in combination.

Firestorm, thanks for your comments. I'm sure Noah (the lead on the study) has a reason for the numbers he chooses to base it on, and it's to him, not to me, that you should address objections. I'm just reporting what he said, and trying to interpret it. I don't think he would have gone to all that trouble to be objective and then used gratuitously inflated numbers, so I do think he meant what I interpreted it as. You may be challenging the validity of his choices, but that wouldn't be my error.

I do happen to disagree that assuming a temperature rise less than one degree this century is safe or conserative. I think that's a fantasy. I have a planned post on why I think so. You won't like that post either. You seem not to like anything I write. It's not sciencey enough for you. I don't know why you read my writing at all. But you're welcome to read that, too, and to show up and say why you didn't like it either, if that's what you're of a mind to do.

Bob, nice to see you. Some interesting ideas there. My only concern would be that rolling out different ways of doing things could take time we don't have. But I don't disagree with you in principle. Maybe you should write a blog post on the transparency issue for science, though. I don't even disagree in principle with the kinds of questions Firestorm asks above, for example, but I think there should be a mechanism for asking them in an organized way, so the discussion was available for peer review, not scattered over blogs everywhere.
And with the heat waves comes desertification. So all that cropland in the Midwest and elsewhere --- goodbye.
Lefty, thanks for visiting. Some of the naysayers think growing land will just move north. Even if that were all that happened, and it can't be, that's still bad. In that simplistic universe, it would mean the US would lose GDP to Canada, so there would be an economic drain on the US right there. And even within the US, some farmers would be left without land to farm, creating the dreaded “wealth redistribution” the political Right is always so fearful of. But as with all wealth redistribution, you have to hope that the new recipients can handle it. Lottery winners are often found not to be good at it, and to end up losing it again. Let's hope the same would not be true of farmland. In fact, farms will be harder to manage in the future and it won't be a task for newcomers. So it's all around messy.
Firestorm, the problem with your position here is that it basically says that no one who is not a scientist is entitled to have any useful opinion at all. And you appear to set yourself to be the judge of who will be counted as a scientist. You don't present your opinion as opinion, but as absolute fact, which is what you're accusing me of having done inappropriately. I guess when you do it, it's right though. Anyway, the reason I post stuff like this to a blog is so that people can offer other opinions and anyone reading along can see those opinions. You've made your point. You must feel pretty good. Everyone can go and not worry now. I know I feel so much better myself knowing you're on top of all of this.
Just to clarify my remark, I'm not advancing myself as someone who is a scientist. I'm just analyzing, and I claim that's not only my right as a citizen but my duty. You're welcome to offer analysis, too, but don't expect me to just bow to your analysis as superior to mine unless you make a case that sways me. When I say you're deciding who's a scientist, this is a scientist publishing the paper and I don't think I've misquoted or misconstrued him, other than to add interpretation.

Even before you commented, by the way, I sent him email saying I had heard his interview and had written about him. I offered to him that if he saw anything wrong, I'd be happy to make a correction. (I don't think that's totally characteristic of people who are frauds. But you may have a different notion on that matter, too.)

Did you, by the way, seek to talk to him? Did you obtain his paper? Did you study his data? Or are you just asserting that you, after reading my article, have superior knowledge to someone who spent 2 years researching this? I'm curious what scientific foundation you have for asserting that I'm wrong for wanting to trust his results. I happen to choose to believe his report over yours. Am I allowed that, or is that against science, too? (It's a rhetorical question, though if you insist on responding, feel free.)

I don't know if he'll have the time to read much less respond to my post. But if you get him to send me mail saying I have misquoted him, I'll certainly and gladly post a correction. Meanwhile, I stand by what I wrote.
Bob - Sounds like we're on the same page on many related issues. The amount of land dedicated to the car is rather alarming. The number of one-person vehicles and the monster car escalation are equally unhealthy for many reasons.

Chicago is getting more trails. The older ones are within existing parks, while the newer ones are rail-trail conversions. The trails help but don't fully compensate for the number of areas that have bottlenecks like the one you describe at an expressway. We have a few similar locations that have been responsible for cyclist deaths and injuries because there really was no safe way to get past through that expressway viaduct except in a motor vehicle.

I hope that our Illinois Complete Streets law will help to overcome those barriers, but it will take time. If streets are safer for cyclists, then more people are likely to ride, and we should see a reduction in traffic congestion and pollution.
I think everybody should have the right to tell her/his idea about 'the AGW hypothesis' ('global warming'), regardless if the person is scientist or not.

Personally I haven't been a believer of 'the AGW hypothesis' much more than about two weeks' time, about ten years ago. So I don't take very seriously talks about 'heat waves', etc.

It is maybe easy to became quite convinced that actually global temperatures are bound to go down for some time from now on, if you look at the sea surface temperatures, which have been going down and down quite long times already.

Please see for example here:

http://www.drroyspencer.com/2010/06/global-average-sea-surface-temperatures-continue-their-plunge/

Personally I think that the reason for that cooling is the sun. The energy coming from the sun started to go down some time ago.

The bigger amount of co2 in the atmosphere probably has got quite little effect on the global temperature, because even if the co2 in the atmosphere has still risen, temperatures have gone slightly down during this century.

My expectations are that even co2 will start going down because it will start sinking in those cooled waters.
Does Al Gore know about this?
I've been reading Kent since my arrival here and have learned much from, not only his scholarly approach to matters, but his eloquent tolerance of critics like firestorm mcgrew. Frankly, I don't know where he finds the patience to tolerate dogs nipping at his feet.

firestorm makes me wish there was an ignore feature to OS.


-R-
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I do think the food issue is the most alarmist to me Kent. Even a small change in the heat will certainly make a huge difference in the Midwestern US where so many thousands of acres of commodity wheat and soybeans and corn are grown. Millions of gallons of water is already used there to irrigate these crops and nearly all is pumped from underground aquifers. Even a very slight warm up will cause the price of these three crops go up and up. Feed stocks and human food will become extremely expensive. I do not know what will happen then. I hesitate to even think about it.
Just the price of food going up is a scary thought. Food riots are not pretty and they have happened often in modern history. Just look what happened in the middle east two years ago. Bread lines and riots for bread.
could in happen in this country??
I expect that is one reason for the food stamp program. People who are not hungry are less likely to fight the gov't.
The most dangerous animal on the planet is a man with his back against the wall and nothing left to lose..........
Firestorm McGrew - You have made clear, on more than one post, that you don't think Kent understands the science well enough to talk about it. In fact, you seem to believe that only credentialed (?) climate scientists should be allowed to offer an opinion on these issues. We get that. We all do. Really. You can stop now.

It would be much more useful if you would address the issues instead of Kent. That is, if you don't think we are all too ill-informed to be part of any conversation about this issue.
bikepsycho, that complete street thing is an interesting idea. Holding to this topic, maybe the idea could be extended from just allowing people and cars to allowing trees as well. :)

Hannu, I am not familiar with the specific issue you cite so I have no immediate response. It's not necessarily in conflict with any of the other findings, though. A great deal of ice is falling into the sea and until that ice melts, may tend to have a cooling effect. But just like ice that melts in a glass keeping your drink cool, it doesn't last unless you have an ongoing source of chilling. Eventually you're just left with a glass of warm water (or water diluted into something else). Nonetheless, because I disagree with you doesn't mean you can't have a seat at the table. I would encourage you to see my next post in this series, probably out tomorrow or Thursday. It speaks specifically to those who still aren't convinced.

But additionally, I will say one other thing about AGW. My personal feeling is that the man-made issue is separable from the other issue (the "is it warming" issue). But if you separate it out, I would argue that if you don't believe that man caused the problem, then it is worse, not better, unless you can say how it will get fixed. It is not adequate to simply believe God will fix it. Because, frankly, if there is a God and he wants it fixed, he'll overcome our meager attempts to fudge with it. But if there is no one watching out for us, and if we didn't cause it, it means all the things that mankind has ever done do not affect things, and it means the problem of fixing things is even bigger than anything we have ever done before. It would be more reassuring knowing we had caused it because that actually proves we have tools at our disposal that are on the right scale to address the issue. But by far the history of the Universe is that in most places the world is harsh and life either never exists or gets killed off. Our odds are not good if we're just assuming the Universe cares enough on its own to fix things “just because.”
Blackflon, I don't know. If you see him, you can tell him I'd be happy to talk to him about it.

Mark, I appreciate your kind support. The thing is, in these situations, it's only Firestorm that's portraying me as closed. I'm interested in his take. I just don't think it's necessary to call me a fraud in order to say he disagrees. I understand why he disagrees, but words like that project mental state and suggest that my goal is to confuse people deliberately. I may be completely wrong, but my goal is not to confuse anyone. In fact, I would say of the political opposition that this is true a lot, too. There may be some who've figured out how to make money on making up stuff, but most people are just honestly trying to muddle through it as best they can, just like me. You can check the bank balance of most of us and know that we're not getting rich off of our opinion on this, so what would be the motive of either me or the people who disagree with me to be “fraudulent.” That kind of rhetoric serves no one, it seems to me.
Linda, I wish you success in keeping people informed. That's certainly an important aspect of the total planning process.

Mission, I think you're right about food stamps. Keeping people fed is an important human rights thing, but people don't go down easily when their human rights are violated, so there's a social safety aspect as well.
Firestorm, I'm tricking no one. I published the actual text from which I derived my opinion, and I explained the precise way in which I arrived at the opinion I have. You're certainly welcome to disagree. I don't think I or anyone would bat an eye if you simply left out all the nonsense where you unscientifically assert non-truths about my motives and just dived in and spoke about your area of competence. You act like everyone is ignoring your credential, but I've seen no one do that. What I have seen people do is say that if you're going to be obnoxious, they'd rather not listen to you. Sadly, I think this issue is important enough that at some point I'll probably take the time to slug through what you've said and see if there's anything important I'm overlooking or if you're just overblowing my opinion in the way you say you wish I wouldn't overblow someone else's. But, while I don't plan to ignore you, just for today, I'm just going to let you speak your piece and not respond. I'll save reading what you've said for another day when I don't have to contend with all the extra noise and can take it at the pace I'd prefer.
I've just signed up for Hatchetface's seminar.
Absolutely right. What a simplistic fool, the apologist.
Thanks, Kent for always giving us well-researched and accurate articles.
Coyote, sounds like an interesting class. Maybe I'll sign up, too. (I wonder if he knows he's teaching it.)

O'Steph, hi. Thanks for the support. (As for accuracy, make sure to read the discussion, since Firestorm accuses me of other than accurate information. I don't happen to agree with his criticisms of me and my motives, but I wouldn't want to be accused of trying to fool anyone so I suggest reading the interchange yourself. I'm just a concerned citizen trying to make sense of things as best I can, and like anyone, I'm fallible. That's why I try to offer sources and rationales, so that people can make up their own minds and not rely just on me.)

Watch for part 2 in this 3-part series in the morning, by the way...
If I could weigh in on the science, interpretation &c. First know I'm a fraud. With that, I think Kent got it wrong. He's written more here than his interpretation of another's comments. He's conjectured, hypothesized. He's cited research. None of it his.

But what's more interesting is the framing of the temporal scale of GW as modular. All roads exponential eventually go linear. And so the rate at which warming ensues tends linear in the long run. When we're all dead. When Kent and McGruber are both right.
thanks for writing about this topic. It's been a great discussion. My contribution is more questions with a bit of personal experience.

What happens if you eliminate cars from the roads in a city?

Who pays for road construction and maintenance?
do the traffic laws differ?
do we require showers in every workplace?
What will be the change in medical requirements?
(I was bicycling over 2000 miles per year and did nothing for my weight, cholesterol, triglycerides etc. I became diabetic anyway. Also spent two years on antibiotics because of bike riding. Google "perianal damage bicycle". If you like sex, you may swear off an upright bicycle forever).

Heat management in living space. I use air-conditioners because if my office goes above 80°, I can't work, all I do is sleep. The second reason is I have smokers on both sides of my apartment. Sometimes, all I can smells tobacco so on goes the AC. The usual result of speaking to them is a minor change for a couple days then they forget and go back to old habits.

Higher density housing. The town I live in is 13,000 people. There's nothing in walking distance (i.e. 10 minutes or less each way) except one convenience store which has a 50% premium on all prices. Even though I'm in the city, density isn't high enough to support more than two supermarkets and they are on the other side of town, a 30 minute walk if you are very very fit.

In order to close this gap, we would need to move the entire population, all 13,000 people into a 2/10 mile diameter area. That's a lot of very high apartments with very little public space (i.e. barbecue, picnic tables etc.) close by. When you have large-scale buildings, you have tremendous heat buildup and the only way to remove it is with air-conditioning. Flats in a tower have no cross ventilation so there's no way to remove the heat especially if you have a sunny exposure.

the important question here is how do you pay for such a major reworking of living space?
If you were forced to live like this, would life be worth living?
(hint: even though I live in a small city, I am a 20 minute walk to major reservoir, dark skies, loons, and rainbow trout. That's a place worth living in. )

Everything discussed is really about heat management (production, disbursement etc.). Obviously we need to reduce the heat we produce directly and indirectly (appliances and CO2) so that we need to move less of it around. We need to find some way to demand higher efficiency appliances and get our demand satisfied. It will come at a cost in actual dollars that may be hard to swallow when you can buy a cheap ass Chinese piece of junk for much less.

And one more question, how much is your time worth to you? Economists calculate the value of your time as roughly $50 per hour. If taking public transit drops your heat footprint will cost you two hours per day, is that heat footprint drop really worth $100?
I just love all knowing scientists like mcgrew, who are known for their meticulous attention to detail but can't discern markINjapan from markFROMjapan.

Your, already, diminished credibility just dropped another notch.
another heat report

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2010/07/nrcagw-20100720.html

A new report from the National Research Council quantifies, per degree of warming, several anticipated effects and impacts of global warming, including changes in streamflow, wildfires, crop productivity, extreme hot summers, and sea level rise.

The report stresses that choices made now about carbon dioxide emissions reductions will affect climate change impacts experienced not just over the next few decades but also in coming centuries and millennia. Because CO2 in the atmosphere is long-lived, it can effectively lock the Earth and future generations into a range of impacts, some of which could become very severe.

However, the report does not recommend any particular stabilization target, noting that choosing among different targets is a policy choice rather than strictly a scientific one because of questions of values regarding how much risk or damage to people or to nature might be considered too much.
Firestorm, it seems to me you are mistaking Kent for some random journalism major with no science background. I find it VERY interesting the assumptions that you make about Kent's background.

Kent went to MIT. He worked at MIT. I know, because I worked with him there. Physics is a requirement at MIT. The physics in molecular physics is not particularly relevant to climatology.

However, the tools that Kent worked on at MIT were heavily used by physicists, chemists, and yes, even the meteorology department.

I read research papers all the time, in many fields. I am quite certain Kent does as well.

I think his background qualifies him to comment on climatology every bit as much as yours does.

And your assumptions about Kent's background -- and your willingly to attack him on the basis of those assumptions -- should be a big red flag for anyone wondering about your personal credibility and intellectual honesty.

I readily admit there are major problems with climatology research -- see my earlier comment.

However, what you are doing is exactly what you accuse Kent of doing. You are cherry-picking reports based on a pre-selected conclusion. Given your background, you ought to be far more sensitive to this issue. Another big red flag.

The basic anti-AGW argument boils down to "mankind couldn't possibly affect the environment globally" -- that is, it seems to offend their belief system.

The proper response, IMO, is that "Hey, there are all these problems with your methodology. If we make these alternative assumptions, we get a much smaller effect size."

I see these problems all the time in every field that relies on statistics. You may not be so familiar with it in the molecular field.

It is appropriate to argue about how certain or uncertain or the interpretation of data.

However, the anti-AGW folks are engaged in a campaign, with an agenda, with corporate funding that is often obscured, in the media.

I won't argue if you argue the reverse is true. But it's important to separate that from the science, on either side.

But here's the deal. What is the magnitude of the harm done if you pick the wrong side? Which is the conservative course?

I argue that there is very little harm in erroneously assuming CO2 is a problem, especially compared with the opposite error.

There is economic harm, yes, especially with bad policies (and I happen to think cap-and-trade is a bad approach).

But if you consider CO2 as a proxy for inefficiency and pollution, there is great benefit, including direct economic benefit, toward working for its reduction. Reduction in CO2 production will drive efficiency, and lower oil consumption, which has a direct economic benefit for everyone but the short-term benefit of oil producers. That also has a major benefit for world stability.

So while I support the process of criticism of the current state of climate research, I cannot endorse the implied agenda.
Not having scientific expertise in the discussed disciplines I cannot comment on the validity of the evidence but the comment on the agendas involved seem very pertinent to me. The overwhelming scientific opinions seem to lay in the direction of accepting that there is a real human factor in global warming and I see little reason for the multitudes of scientific experts in many different areas to become alarmed except that the dangers are very real. The agendas of the large corporate powers are involved in continuing unmolested in intensifying the factors causing the problems as it is profitable for them. There is no question, as exhibited from the various extractive industries in their general disregard for human welfare in their profitable operations, that they have a very real motive in disregarding the blatant danger signals. Therefore their denials are extremely suspicious.

Basically this is very much a basic problem survival of both humanity and all the intricate interlocked systems of life as we know it. I have no doubts that some form of life will survive this major disaster but it is unlikely to be anything recognizable that we now know although it may contain small residues of current life. The horror of the transition is unimaginable except through one of the latest Hollywood disaster films which we might find delightfully entertaining in the abstract but not particularly amusing in reality. I am old enough to probably miss the worst but I have grandchildren and I feel disgraced that the world they are about to enter is the result of my generation and those directly previous.
"A great deal of ice is falling into the sea and until that ice melts, may tend to have a cooling effect. But just like ice that melts in a glass keeping your drink cool, it doesn't last unless you have an ongoing source of chilling."

At present is doesn't look like that there would be more ice falling into the sea. The total amount of ice on the planet has been about constant during the time we have had reliable measurements. And global temperatures might go from now on down.

I wrote above that it seems to be that global temperatures seem to be going down instead of going up. I inferred that from the sea surface temperatures going down. That is probably not from more ice falling into the sea, because that thing has not much more happened. As told I'm personally thinking that chilling, which has happened is because of the changing solar radiation.

Heat waves people are talking about might have something to do with el nino el nina phenomena just changing.

The heat wave thing seems to be one more alarmist idea from the media. Today's media seems to like to spread all kinds of disaster news.

But many leading scientists don't believe on the AGW agenda at all. There are real disagreements among scientists if the total temperatures will from now on go down or up.
This site
http://www.logicalscience.com/consensus/consensusD1.htm

indicates that global warming is real and dangerous. I wonder what agenda is assumed that all these diverse scientific communities are proclaiming false dangers
Gah! Not Lomberg! He's such a tool. Excellent post. The deniers such as Conservapedia whitter on about the cold winters whilst totally failing to get the point that the more energy in the form of heat that we pump into the atmosphere then the more extreme our weather will become.
Rated!
Kent,

This is well-written and makes good points.

“…as if only people are affected by it …”

Too many people fail to recognize the interconnectedness of everything, environmentally speaking. Short-sightedness is a common human frailty that isn’t going away any time soon. And there is the fact that so many are concerned with more immediate survival issues, as you point out, which the self-interested and greedy corporatists use to full advantage.

Ignorance and the dollar rule the day. The “air conditioning” comment is exemplar of this, and this from what would be considered an above average intellect. I doubt he meant to say that only people will be affected, but regardless, the comment is absurd in this context, being indicative of exactly the kind of negligence in thought of which I speak.

I find it difficult to even muster much of a comment through my disgust with so much of what is occurring these days.

RATED
I find claims like crop failure and people dying of heat to be unlikely.
People adjust crops to climate. People move. Since the invention of the air conditioner, there's been a migration south. It's not like Maine, Vermont, Wyoming and the Dakotas are overpopulated.

I'm convinced global warming is a reality, but far from convinced that any of the measures proposed or taken will make much of a dent.

Take Copenhagen or Kyoto. If the US fails to meet objectives for cutting CO2, it is supposed to buy credits. Is this ever going to work? Are Americans going to pay taxes so some other country (and plenty of them, like Russia, have credits due to failed industry, rather than environmental virtue) can benefit? Or will voters want that money invested in American CO2-reducing businesses? We breathe smog and pay them to breathe fresh air? Yeah, that's going to be a vote-winner.
Malusinka, so if you actually see those things happen, they'll be cause for alarm for you? Please see my post today (the second in this series) which speaks more directly to those who think the bad things won't happen.
I meant as a result of long term global warming. In this heat wave, crops and people are dying, although, here in Russia, they are dying from drinking too much vodka and jumping in lakes and rivers and being too drunk to swim, not of heat stroke.
Personally I'm nowadays more worried about the possibility that in the future it will be colder than warmer than in the present time.

Some highly qualified climatologists as Richard Lindzen say that the feedback from co2 forcing seems to be strongly negative, so that any higher co2 content in the atmosphere would have practically no impact at all.

IPCC reports completely left out those scenarios. IPCC reports seem to be quite biased to predict only warmer future times.

My concern is that the sun radiation is going now down, and we know from the past that it meant colder times. The future might be similar.

The present heat waves and cold waves seem to be because of somewhat unusual winds, which seem to be influenced by the rapid transition of the pacific sea waters from warmer to cooler phases.
"There is not a plausible physical mechanism to cause greenhouse forced cooling for any substantial length of time."

Of course you are right with that. Please note that I did not write that there would be any 'greenhouse forced cooling'.

I wrote that some notably scientists like Lindzen are of the opinion that the feedback of co2 is negative so that it has practically no effect at all.

Cooling I think will come because of less radiation from the sun in the future.

Lindzen's opinion on that idea is of course different. It is my opinion influenced by some leading solar scientists.
Firestorm, the climatologists struggle with the physics, too. Honesty about a difficult problem hardly justifies discounting the conclusions one reaches. It seems you have mistaken this for an admission of not knowing basic physics.

Yes, CO2 is a molecule. Whoopee! But to think that understanding the interactions of that molecule with photons gives you a lock on phenomena happening at such a hugely different scale is, well, naive.

Relevant, and a quite important part of the picture, yes, but hardly adequate to understand the overall system.

Let me ask you, how much have you worked with the Navier-Stokes equations? Can you explain to me (never mind the general audience) the assumptions behind them, and where they appear in the equations?

Can you, without looking anything up, explain their relevance to this discussion? You may be able to do these things -- I hope so -- but they're not directly relevant to molecular physics, so you're entirely excused if you don't.

(My wife uses them for simulating physical effects for movies, so explaining them in detail is still quite fresh in my mind.)

I realize that you need to attack Kent's authority, because you want to counter with your own selected authorities. But making this about Kent's credentials isn't going to work; can we just stick to facts, data, interpretations, and basic questions like "how do you make decisions of great import when you have imperfect information?".
I think that no prediction of the future temperatures based on any IPCC's ideas is much 'conservative'. Any really 'conservative' scenario starts with the idea that any more concentration of co2 in the atmosphere has got practically no influence on the global temperature at all.

I admit I believed some weeks on IPCC predictions about 'global warming'. But after getting to know about Richard Lindzen's excellent general articles and Hoyt's writings about the subject I lost my belief quite quickly. I think that everybody interested in the subject should read at least this:

http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv15n2/reg15n2g.html

Hoyt has written some excellent books. There is quite much his thinking available in the Net, too.

Hoyt, D. V. (1979): Variations in sunspot structure and climate. Clim. Change 2, 79-92.
Hoyt, D. V. and Schatten, K. H. (1997): The role of the sun in climate change. New York-Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997.

IPCC's 'AR4' says explicitly that they don't know about the feedback, how big it is and they don't know even if it is positive or negative. Anyway they are omitting all the research, which seems to show that the feedback really is negative. Recent research articles by Lindzen seem to show exactly that.

My estimation about the much talk of 'global warming' is about as follows:

1) The 'AGW' research became very much political already from the beginning. And the research became influenced by big monies available from some politicians and from nuclear industries to support the 'global warming' scenario.

2) Especially 'the climate gate scandal' seems to show that researchers related to IPCC became quite much biased to twist their results to show more warming than it has actually happened. IPCC reports are not very reliable and there are quite many clear errors.

3) It seems to be that Lindzen and others telling the same were right from the beginning to say that the feedback from co2 forging is negative and more of its concentration in the atmosphere has very little influence on the temperature.

4) My further opinion is that Landscheidt and before him for example Fairbridge have shown that it is possible to predict solar cycles. With his thinking you can start here:


http://www.schulphysik.de/klima/landscheidt/iceage.htm


5) I'm expecting the global temperatures to go down from now on. Because of the sun radiation going down. I think that the modest rise of the global temperature in the end of the 20. century was because of the high levels of the radiation by the sun.

6) I might be wrong with the above. But I have nothing against developing new energy devices. I have nothing against saving energy.

About co2 I don't know... probably more co2 in the atmosphere would do more good than bad. But we humans maybe can't do much for it. I think that even co2 concentration in the atmosphere will start going down, because it will sink in cooled waters. We have got very little proof that the present higher levels of co2 are results of humans at all. I think that co2 is higher in the atmosphere now than in the quite recent past because of little higher temperatures, and that happened because of the high solar radiation.
I'm thinking I'll just move.... to the North Pole!!
'Firestorm McGrew' wrote:

"In my opinion, we cannot use press release after press release to scare people into one position or another. The scientific debate represented by on going research in all fields makes using science in a policy debate very difficult. There are great uncertainties and those uncertainties can be played up to stifle real debate, as we have seen after Climategate and all the controversies surrounding so-called 'grey-literature' used in working groups one and two of the AR4."

I think that it was mainly quite well said. To get people more and more scared about 'the climate change' by more and more newspaper articles is sometimes maybe not good.

But people of course should have the freedom to tell somewhere their opinion. Here at OS of course people have got the right to write what they want and to limit the comments as they like, too. (For example if the author of the original blog doesn't like my comments here, he can delete them. I can write them on my own blog, if I want.)

I hope that the discussion here would continue. Until now it has been mainly wealthy and civil. People here have obviously got very diverse backgrounds. And it would be good to tolerate very diverse viewpoints?

Coming back to the original subject matter.

As we know professional climatologists differ quite a lot concerning the question, if the amount of the concentration of co2 in the atmosphere has got much power to change temperatures of the globe.

I think that sometimes it is good to listen real specialists of the field, such as Richard Lindzen for example; he has worked long times as the professor of climatology at MIT. In comparision for example Hansen is trained in the field of the space physics. Later he became known as an advocate of 'the global warming theory'.

Personally I don't see much unusual with the present climate at all. As told above I think that the modest global temperature rise in the end of the 20. century happened because of the high level solar radiation. Now I'm expecting the solar raditation to go somewhat down and with that global temperatures to go down, too.
"I think that the modest rise of the global temperature in the end of the 20. century was because of the high levels of the radiation by the sun.'

I think you need some citations for these statements."

--------

This is my short description backing those statements.

1)

During the last ten years or so, global temperatures have remained about the same. At the same time the concentration of co2 in the atmosphere has still rised.

It seems to be the case that there is another 'driver' for global temperatures than the concentration of co2 in the atmosphere.

2)

There are high level climatologists, especially Richard Lindzen, who have demonstrated that the feedback of co2 in the atmoshere is so negative, that any more concentration of co2 would have almost zero influence on the global temperature.

About the latest research by Lindzen please read
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/11/some-comments-on-the-lindzen-and-choi-2009-feedback-study/

That link provides comments by the really well-known climatologist Roy Spencer to Lindzen's study. The link to the orginal study by Lindzen and Choi is provided there.

I think that Lindzen is mainly correct. His latest study has still got drawbacks, but basically I think that he is right. Co2 concentration in the atmosphere has got very little effect on the temperature.

Please read Lindzen's old general article about 'global warming', too. I provided the link to that above.

3)

The obvious choice to look for the reasons of the modest temperature rise in the end of 20. century is the sun.

We know that the total solar radiation has been uncommonly high in the end of the 20. century, highest in last 1000 years. On the other hand we know that the high level of the solar radiation started to go down during the present century.

4)

Various solar scientists, notably Hoyt have demonstrated that rough global temprature curves of 20. century have followed quite well the changing total solar radiation during that time.

A good picture about that by Hoyt you can see here:

http://www.john-daly.com/solar/fig5.gif

It is from:

[39] Hoyt, D. V. & Schatten, K. H.: The role of the sun in climate change. New York-Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997, 61, 70, 86, 184,188,194, 214.

And you can find other references (and many other useful hings) to Hoyt's work here:

http://www.john-daly.com/solar/solar.htm :
SOLAR ACTIVITY: A DOMINANT FACTOR IN CLIMATE DYNAMICS by Dr Theodor Landscheidt

5)

You probably know about the research by Danish scientists , especially H. Svensmark and E. Friis-Christensen.

a)
They have shown that the amount of solar radiation has influences on cloud coverages on the globe. The less there is solar radiation the more there is cloud coverage.

b)
It has been generally estimated that even if the atmosphere’s CO2 content doubled, its (direct) effect would be cancelled out if the cloud cover expanded by 1%.

c)
I think (fllowing Lindzen) that the feedback of that co2 content in the atmosphere is negative so that the indirect (real) effect is almost zero...

One of the original publications by those Danish scientists is this one:

Svensmark, H. & Friis-Christensen, E.: Variation of cosmic ray flux and global cloud coverage - a missing link in solarclimate relationships. J. Atm. Sol. Terr. Phys. 59 (1997), 1225.

There are many later studies by those Danish scientits. You can find in the Net.

6)

a)
I think that Landscheidt was right. The solar radiation will go further down. And it will have an inderect effect to the temperature by the mentioned 'Svensmark effect'.

b)
I think that Lindzen is correct, too. Even if the concentration of co2 in the atmosphere would still go up for some time, its real effect on the temperature would be almost zero.

---

By searching in the Net you can find many original articles by the scientists as mentinod above.
"we cannot just talk about this issue only saying there's going to be more heat deaths without also recognizing there's going to be fewer cold deaths"

How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways.

I've heard Lomborg speak before, and while I'm in agreement with his position that we need to carefully examine trade-offs when battling global warming, his remarks in this case are truly stupid. First off, one can always add more clothes when things get excessively cold -- as mountain climbers and antarctic researchers prove everyday, but once you've stripped naked, there's not much more you can do about excessive heat.

As for his assertion you can go inside and turn up the a/c, someone who purports to be a scientific expert on these matters ought to have sense enough to know that increased use of air conditioning will lead to even more global warming because of dependence on fossil-fueled power plants .
P.S. Canada looks better with every passing day
Kent,

I finally had the chance to examine the documents and links that were provided above. The work of Diffenbaugh and his colleagues is indeed based an average (or often called expected) value: a 1-degree C increase over the next 30 years, which is also what was estimated by the IPCC committee for the same time period (discussed in the link you provided). This point is irrelevant, since you’re reporting his words and not his study. In the interview, it is obvious that he implies that his work is based on a conservative* estimate, since he claims that the value he used is based on already committed warming (according to some folks), which means that it is already too late to do anything about it. Furthermore, he seems to imply that there are direr scenarios out there, which he refers to as extreme warming. The fact that he used a 1-degree C for his analysis does not mean that other researchers believe that this should be the mean value. There are also a lot of climate models out there, which predict different values (as expected) and I’m certain the various authors of these models may claim different mean values, what constitutes a conservative estimate or a minimum value. In any case, I feel sorry the way you were treated though. Not cool.

*Here are some definitions:

Conservative estimate

Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate.

A conservative estimate is one that is cautious to avoid excess in approximating the quantity, degree, or worth of something.


Moderate:

Being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme: a moderate price.

Perhaps using “most” conservative or “minimum” value may not be the most appropriate terminology, but so what? Does it mean that your personal character needs to be attacked?
Kanuk, thanks very much for your constructive‡ comments both here and in PM. This was very helpful in sorting out what repairs to make. It's been tricky to find the time in my busy schedule to review anything of this detail and to make targeted fixes. As you can easily see, I've made some adjustments to the piece based on your suggestions.

‡Kent's definition of “constructive” comments: Many people think constructive means said in a nice tone. All things being equal, I'd prefer a kind tone, as anyone would, but I count as constructive comments anything that is specific enough to easily act upon. (That's no guarantee I'll act, but at least it means, by definition, that I know what is being asked of me.) Even if shouted in anger, words like “Change the spelling of x to y in line 37!” are constructive, while even if uttered in a polite tone words like “There's a misspelling.” are not constructive. Your comments in PM and here finally got to the root of the matter, giving me something to easily act upon, and are greatly appreciated.
Firestorm, you asked about the phrase “he chose these numbers and got these results.”

My point was that you might feel his numbers were not the most conservative numbers. And yet, my sense is that he felt they were the most realistically conservative numbers. That is, had he thought that other numbers were more realistically conservative, I think he would have based his research on them. He speaks in the interview (and again I stress I have not read the paper even though I now finally have access to it—simple matter of lack of time) that he picked what he thought were conservative. That is, he said “Instead of looking at really extreme global warming, asking for the global warming that is likely to occur in the relatively near term.” I assume he would have picked lower numbers if he thought those likely. That's a subjective assessment—the choice of what to work through. The results of the study are conditional on the inputs, and he describes them mostly in words (well, maybe numbers of heat waves, but no heavy math). That's what I meant by the numbers he got—the result of mashing through his inputs.

So in the revision I've tried to clarify that there is some art in figuring out what numeric values constitute an appropriate filler for the qualitative names “likely” or “conservative” or “baked-in.” But he says there's basis for believing this was a good baseline, alluding to the IPCC conclusions.

You say, “I find it hard to believe that you found this interview interesting in of itself without reference to the paper.” Well, we're definitely into the non-scientific when you talk about what interests people. :) But since you're curious, the thing that caught my attention was the number of firm assertions in this interview, not just by him but by others. These are not pretty numbers, but both he and a couple of the other people speaking seemed quite confident that this was a solid result. It would take me a long time, more time than I have, to bumble through the numbers and make any sense, and even then it would be error-prone. So I rely on what others say and on how they say it.

In general, I would say that Climate Researchers are too timid in what they say. I'll have more to say on that in my next segment (which is not quite done, but coming hopefully in a few days). It is mostly left to the peanut gallery to inject emotion into this. But this is something like watching the Viet Nam war, where it was reported in a kind of sanitary way for a long time, but eventually television made it more personal. There has been a lot of debate about whether objective reporting of things like that means staying clear of the horrors of war or diving into them. Either has its drawbacks. And this is like that. At some level, the clinical discussion you want is important, but at another level, keeping it clinical is exactly what we must not do, or we as a society may die. Seriously. Can I prove that? No, I can't. But then, I also don't believe it for completely spurious reasons.

You remark on the fact that the data is not predictive in some parts of the US. I heard and believe that. However, let me just add that I'm familiar with this meta-phenomenon and here's an effect I'd like to avoid: There are lots of studies that go like this: Researcher A decides that maybe if women eat more Ingredient A in their diet, it will act to inhibit pregnancy. However, it turns out that Ingredient A is a deadly poison and they all just fall over dead. How is this reported in the science journal? “Ingredient A found fatal to women less than 30.” And then the media picks it up, and women less than 30 panic. Meanwhile other women and all men go about life. Even though Ingredient A is probably fatal to them, too.

It's true. We don't really know if the heat on the east coast will get hotter because this data didn't show it. But as a population, we must distinguish between things not tested (or not tested adequately) and claims actively disproven. We have to read between the lines.

I did some reading between the lines here. I exposed my methodology, which is why you're able to pick on it. You call that bad journalism, or maybe something like that—I'm paraphrasing here. But I call it discourse. Had I not posted it,there would have been no discussion here on this. And I think we'd all be worse off. I strongly believe that the willingness to make some blunders and get corrected is an essential aspect of getting this problem solved. The absolute worst thing that could come of this would be for people to be afraid to speak for fear of being shouted down by people who know better, but who are not themselves speaking (or being heard).
Firestorm, it's a good set of questions.

You write “I think there is also confusion stemming from the fact that because each of us is coming from different perspectives, we use words we think each other should understand, but have different meanings in different contexts.” And that covers most of what I would say in specific response to the wording issue, so I'll leave it with you having the last word on that.

You salso said, “Because you have not read the pertinent literature on the specific topic (I have not either for the most part), it's easy for us to draw a confused conclusion about what this research actual speaks to.” Certainly this is so, so again I'll leave that statement as kind of the last word on that matter.

Thanks for focusing back in on the issues. I'm happy to discuss those. Though I sort of feel like this discussion thread mechanism gets weak when discussions get long, and it's better to start anew somewhere than to have them run forever. Perhaps after I get done with the third part of my planned series, I can come back to it.