Today the Utah Valley Sierra Forum will host BYU climatologist Richard Gill at the Provo Library. The talk is called ‘Global Warming: Fact or Fiction?‘
I will be live blogging this event at 7:00 PM MST so be ready for a good discussion. (If for some reason I can’t get internet access, I’ll post my notes later that evening.)
Ok, we are live. (Note I’m not going to pay attention to spelling or grammar in the interest of keeping the experience going!)
Dr. Gill received his Ph.D, from Colorado State and came to us at BYU from Washington State. His office is two doors down from mine and he is breathtakingly smart and wonderfully nice. He is a popular teacher and does a and incredible job of explaining complex topics. What follows is my interpretation of his presentation and will suffer the usual problems of translation compounded by my never having done this before.
Global Warming Fact or Fiction
There is a crowd of about 75 the room holds about 100 and people are still filtering in.
Meeting open. Talking about rock quarry in Rock Canyon. Needs to stop.
Gill takes the floor. Show of hands who believe in GW is natural about 80% raise hands. 15% human caused. %5 think Hoax.
Where is understanding of human climate interactions. He is an ecosystem ecology. Three years at Duke working on climate.
Tells story about inuit village that has been affected. Ice forming later, melting earlier, lost 30% of island due to storm surge. Village had to be moved.
What is the role of science. Science should be an adversarial system. Skepticism is good, but we need to continually return to data.
How many think we are having. We are .02 of a percentage of being normal.
Here is a plot of Provo average:
Weather is not the scale to talk about climate change.
We know C02 affects atmosphere this is not a debate.
Svante Arrhenius thought that humans could not affect climate change.
Three ways to be skeptical:
Climate is not changing in unusual ways.
Climate is changing but impacts are small and possible positive.
Climate is changing in harmful ways.
Climate From ice core data we see that C02 follows temperature.
Warming period from 140 until 2007, 2008 was a cooler year. What is the proper scale to look at with climate. There is lots of variation. We must be careful how we interpret data. Or do we look at broader trend.
Parts of globe are much warmer (polar regions) others are cooler.
How else can we look at this. Geologists have been measuring and see the crust is warming from top down.
Glaciers are retreating globally. Northern migration of species.
How do we attribute this to humans?
Are changes consistent with models of change.
Radiative Forcing: If you look at expectation from atmosphere changes in Atmospheric gases. We expect a 1.63 change. If warming was from solar cycles you would see certain signatures, most dramatic would be in night time warming, Tropospheric warming. if gases you see other signatures. We see the gases signature.
Models that model past data project into the future do well. To get the outcomes we see is only explainable by human additions having an impact. Many models tell the same story.
The future under models:
In Rocky Mountains based on climate change slightly wetter but about 3 degrees hotter.
Palmer drought index. Two drougts one in 50′s we just came out of the last one.
2006-2030 Drought will be like it was between 2000-2003, because of hotter temperatures. Much less water for hydropower, crops, and biodiversity.
World wide effects may destabilize countries. Urban settings may be worse.
Public Health: disease specific some places may gain Malaria others lose it.
The amount of Carbon in the atmosphere can go into sinks to store more carbon: Ocean, trees, & soil.
His own research is on this. He has grown trees in chambers with different gradients of CO2. So they can look at CO2 in different periods of the Earth (interglacial and such). Research says soil sinks may be full.
Also worked on Duke Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment. Bathe a forest area in CO2 to levels we expect 100 years from now. Trees grow better at first but absorption is limited.
Personal Choices (low lying fruit): Personal choices (use less energy).
Innovated Public Private Partnerships. Cities use 75% of Energy. Growing green markets. Right now things like Hybrid Buses are very expensive, too much for a city, but multiple cities, combining efforts drove price down. Example, Seattle & Chicago work together made it possible.
Becoming more efficient allows us to be free of control by oil producers.
Action will be very hard. Fundamental changes in technology of energy generation are needed.
Impediments: We use 1920 infrastructure for moving energy around.
We need innovations to store energy more efficiently and more affordable so windmills can store energy when wind is not blowing.
Policy Innovations. Democrats and Republicans have joined efforts.
Bad Ideas: Ethanol. It takes 70 years of growing corns to become carbon neutral. Net effect negative.
Realities: Hard, but old technologies need replacement. Innovation. Market forces.
Today’s Choices Have Consequences:
If we take action world will be warmer but not as warm as if we do nothing. Choices we make in policy and personal actions will make a difference.
End talk. Questions:
Audience: Models are not useful it’s all based on models.
Gill: Alternative is to do nothing. Or do we bring together our best physicists, science and use our best thinking and quantitate tools.
The scientists involved are not arguing about the models they are arguing the about the magnitude of change.
Q: Are the loss of trees in South America increasing rate of change.
Gill: Buffers give us time.
Q: What was the the atmosphere like in Carboniferous and wasn’t that higher.
Gill: Much warmer in the past. Temperature varies 15 degrees in geologic time, but never have we seen a degree change in a century.
Q: Why isn’t water more important in these calculations. Water is the major Green House Gas. To say that temperature isn’t influenced by sun is not right.
Gill: We can’t control water. This is taken into account in the models.
Q: What will Utah look like when there is seven degree change.
Gill: Skiing will go down. Winter recreation will slide. Rain fed Ag. impossible.
Q: Carbon can only increase temperature so much 1.6 degrees, why are we worried.
Gill: As CO2 increases, water vapor increases, which is the most important green house gas.
Q: Way to complex question on absorption bands in water. Water swamps everything.
Gill: Water in upper troposphere disappears and that’s where green house maters.
Q: Radioactive decay is what makes life possible any affect on temperature.
Q: Has water vapor increased in Last 100 years.
Gill: No. But there is much local variation. Some local climates dominate.
Q: Senator from Oklahoma lists studies and individuals who disagree with IPC report on climate change.
Gill: Skepticism is not bad. Debate is good, but most of these were not in the field. Other have asked to have name removed. But open debate is good.
Q: What about cow methane? Isn’t that a contributer.
Gill: Rice more significant source, but it is a source.
Q: Could you summarize.
Gill: Two minute version. Climate is warming. We can calculate a probability to the chance it is human caused, that is 90% chance it is human caused. This is dominated by industrial nations. Could it be a hoax? The way science is done a hoax would be hard to maintain in the way science operates. If someone can debunk it they would be famous. The current climate of science this would be impossible to maintain.
Q: What is your take on future of humanity?
Gill: I am optimistic. We have become to politicized about this. Science should supersede the politics.
Q: Given the scientific consensus isn’t it up to the skeptics to deal with the data and make their case? Isn’t this a sign that it is based on ideology.
Gill: We need to ask the skeptics to use the same tools we use. To produce the models that make their case. They have not dealt with the data in the same vigorous way. He welcomes the skeptics to do this.
Q: Temperature plot between 1940 and 1950. I was a senior in high school the climatologists were predicting an ice age based on the dip.
Gill: It is a myth that climatologists were arguing this (or very few where) but there was debate then. We have more extensive data and methods. But we can have fun. Why was there warming during World War II? It might be the way they took temperatures it may be an artifact but who knows. But coal and aerosols burned and so the flat part prior to 1960 may have been cooling by these, then in 1970 clean air act let the global warming continue.
Q: How good are the models today?
Gill: They are extraordinary and sometimes run for weeks and even months. How are model tested? By modelers are given blind data. Many modelers working independently get same answer. No model, across many modelers, has not seen this warming.
Moderator: Has anyone’s mind been changed? No not really.