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15
Oct 06
Sun

Comment on global warming

First of all, I haven’t seen An Inconvenient Truth. Second of all, I’m not disputing in this post that global warming is likely to be occurring. However, I do have a bone to pick with people who think that Saturday’s beautiful 36 degree weather is “yet another sign of global warming so why doesn’t the government do anything about it?”

Global warming only requires a relatively small change in mean surface temperature to cause significant changes in the global environment. Let’s check out from Wikipedia and see what we find with regard to temperature projections over the next century.

Models referenced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) project that global temperatures may increase between 1.4 and 5.8 °C (2.5 to 10.5 °F) between 1990 and 2100. The uncertainty in this range results from both the difficulty of estimating the volume of future greenhouse gas emissions and uncertainty about climate sensitivity.

Assume the most aggressive estimate of a rise in average temperature over the next century holds true: a 6°C rise over 100 years. A temperature change that large would be pretty horrific. But taken a year at a time, that’s only a rise of 0.06°C each year (on average). No one can feel a temperature difference that small. Let’s look at it another way. If we add the average daily temperatures throughout the year (“Yearly Aggregate”), a 0.06°C rise in the average temperature means that the following year should yield a Yearly Aggregate of about 22 degrees more. In practical terms, this could be manifested in a 3 week period where the temperature is one degree warmer, or it could be manifested in a three day heat wave where the temperature is 7 degrees warmer than the average temperature for that time of year. So my point is that given this, it just doesn’t make sense to say “Summer came early this year” and point to that anecdotal gut feeling as corroborating scientific evidence of rising temperatures. It basically shouldn’t be possible to notice global warming just by looking at the temperature report on the news or counting how many beach days there were last summer. The temperature differences are just too small for the average Joe to notice, even over a 10 year period. Therefore, the throwaway lines about the weather just don’t hold water.

Of course, if someone provided me with a better reason, then I might agree with those anecdotal observations. Perhaps something along the lines of – global warming causes more extremes in temperature, so you get more hotter-than-average days and more colder-than-average days (though on balance, there are more hot days than cold ones) which means it’s more noticeable. But I’d only be guessing there.

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