Care of the North Pole

5

When you were young did you send letters to Santa care of the North Pole? Do your children? Your grandchildren? Grand old tradition isn’t it, a bit of our cultural history, but it is going to be hard to keep it going more than a few years. “How can Santa live at the North Pole when there is no ice there in the Summer? He would drown.” Heading that way inexorably and fast. About to break another record for least Summer ice, even lower than 2007, down and down it goes. An alien watching from one of those new planets we keep discovering would be stunned that a massive ice cap could be disappearing in a few decades, might wipe the lens of his telescope thinking there was something mucky on it.

This is crazy stuff. We have been behaving like a bunch of workmen holding spades. “Wanna start Fred?” “After you Tom” “Nah, Bob first” “I’m not starting until Jim does” and so on. Eventually Charlie sighs, leans forward and digs the first spadeful of dirt out. “Oh, that’s how you do it” “Well, if he’s digging I’ll join in” “Ok, many hands make light work”. That’s really what putting a price on carbon in Australia is about – one small spadeful for a man, one giant leap for mankind. And it is a small step, couldn’t be smaller. Painless too. A few big companies will pay a price on the CO2 they produce. Will look for ways to decrease the price they pay and increase their profits – their competitors will be. If they pass on the cost you might have to pay a tiny amount more on some goods – you’ll get more back in compensation. If you reduce your use of high CO2 goods you’ll make even more profit. That’s it. In spite of what you might have heard you won’t be paying “carbon tax”, you will be making money through the various compensation mechanisms, sort of like Santa Claus bringing little presents. No tax. So what that small group of protesters was on about the other day I don’t know, got me beat. Or were they holding signs up saying “No thanks, don’t want money”? “Go away Santa Claus”? Might have missed them.

Look there are people with a vested interest in this. We have to reduce fossil fuel use over the coming years. No question about it. If you are a fossil fuel producer this is certainly not a case of all your christmases coming at once. On the contrary, you don’t have too many christmases left. Time you diversified your business interests. Stop frightening people into thinking they’re going to be taxed. Stop getting Tony Abbott to do your dirty work for you in trying to block this tiny first move – you live on this planet too.

And I bet your grandchildren will want to write to Santa at the North Pole. What are you going to tell them? “Oh that’s just history”? or “Yes, we had to give Santa a bit of a hand there, his feet were getting wet, fixed now though. Have you got an envelope?”

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5 comments on “Care of the North Pole

  1. Eric Snyder says:

    Just to make sure the record is clear, I am not a “denier!” I am 100% “pro-science” too! That being said, I do think for myself and am skeptical whenever the gov’t finds another thing to regulate; in this case carbon emissions.

    When you look at the Danish Meteorological Institutes’s graph of sea ice over the past 5 years, there is evidence of “change” in the amount of ice cover (http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/icecover.uk.php). It fluctuates much like ocean currents and weather phenomena do. The DMI also reports there has been little temperature change since 1958.

    NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies states that the Arctic (http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/shindell_02/) atmosphere has “gradually cooled over the past few decades.”

    A fascinating collection of opinions of what’s happening in the Arctic by international scientists from varying disciplines, academia, ngo’s, as well as gov’t orgs give solid ”scientific” arguments for AGW as well as refuting it, http://icecap.us/images/uploads/Scientists_Counter_Latest_Arctic.pdf. In my opinion, when there is no clear consensus in science, there’s no clear conclusion.

    Of course, I don’t believe in the mythical Santa Claus and would never instruct or encourage my grandchildren to write to an imaginary being as is the tribal practice of some primitive cultures. So, this isn’t a serious issue to me.

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    • David Horton says:

      Will come back to the dreadful Mr Morano and the link you provided later. His character and ideology and previous behaviour does matter – the misinformation about global warming comes from people like him, determined that no environmental concern will ever be allowed to impede increasing profits for energy companies. The tiny handful of scientists (eg Spencer) expressing “doubt” also comes from that far right ideological swamp.

      But back to the “evidence” you provided about the Arctic. Not sure whether you didn’t read these links, just accepted that they were a problem, based on denier web sites like Morano’s, or did read them but didn’t understand them.

      First one you say “Danish Meteorological Institutes’s graph of sea ice over the past 5 years, there is evidence of “change” in the amount of ice cover (http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/icecover.uk.php). It fluctuates much like ocean currents and weather phenomena do. The DMI also reports there has been little temperature change since 1958.”

      But if you had just clicked on the “Arctic” button, elsewhere on same site http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/index.uk.php the DMI says “Since the 1970s the extent of sea ice has been measured from satellites. From these measurements we know that the sea ice extent today is significantly smaller than 30 years ago. During the past 10 years the melting of sea ice has accelerated, and especially during the ice extent minimum in September large changes are observed. The sea ice in the northern hemisphere have never been thinner and more vulnerable. ”

      Curious, is it not? Let’s go back to your claim. You say the graph of sea ice extent over the last 5 years just shows “fluctuations”. Indeed it does – it is a graph showing the seasonal fluctuation through the year! But in addition it compares each part of the year (ie like with like, summer with summer etc) across the five years to show how ice extent is decreasing even over that time period. There are similar graphs going back to 2002. They show a rapid decrease in ice area in every month, though especially in summer months. The year 2007 showed an especially low level, probably because of weather conditions, with a bit of increase in ice area (but not of thickness) in 2008-2010 (will come back to this), but 2011 has been matching 2007 through the year and may even incredibly be lower in September than 2007.

      I was puzzled by your comment that the DMI found “little temperature change since 1958″, since this would be shattering world wide news in being different to every other finding by every other country. Looks like you, or whoever you got this from, are referring to this http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php.

      Now again this is a measure of change (of temperatures this time, not ice) through the year, presented in a different way. The green line shows the average daily mean temperature every day, calculated for the period 1958-2010. The red line shows the mean temperatures each day this year. The graph shows clearly considerably higher daily temps than average in the winter-spring period, summer temps fluctuating around the average, autumn temps look like being above average, but we will see. So, nothing to do with long term averages as such (we, and they, know they have been markedly increasing since the 1970s) but to do with the particular pattern of increase this year. I assume they have included it here because those high temperatures in the early part of 2011 have probably been a major factor in melting as much ice as in 2007.

      Coming back to that “recovery” in 2008, the DMI has a graphic here http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/index.uk.php, showing the relative proportions of thin “winter ice” and thick “multi year ice”. Important because, obviously, it is much easier and quicker to melt thin ice than thick. From 200-2009 the proportion of thin ice keeps increasing, thick ice decreasing, which is why volume of ice, a more significant measure, though harder to measure, keeps decreasing too). Will come back to this again later.

      Incidentally while we are on this ice stuff a discussion here and graph http://www.skepticalscience.com/news.php?n=1002 shows Arctic ice volume decreasing from 1980 to 2011, with decrease accelerating (as DMI pointed out) over the last 5 years or so, with 2010-2011 setting new record lows. The other graph, just out of interest, shows that sea ice area has also been decreasing from 1980, with a fast rate of decrease in September and a slower rate in March.

      OK, your next link is an even more curious choice (not least because it is a publication from 1998, lot of research and warming, since then). You say “NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies states that the Arctic (http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/shindell_02/) atmosphere has “gradually cooled over the past few decades.”” Um, no, that isn’t what they say but “the Arctic stratosphere has gradually cooled over the past few decades.” You see the difference – not atmosphere, stratosphere? As they go on to point out – “While the build-up of greenhouse gases leads to global warming at Earth’s surface, it also cools the stratosphere”. This is the mechanism by which CO2 and other greenhouse gases keep the planet warm – heat leaving the surface of the Earth and lower atmosphere doesn’t have a free passage to stratosphere because of reactions with the CO2 molecules. So the stratosphere, from where heat normally heads off into space, balancing the input from the sun, becomes cooler, has less heat to lose. With less heat leaving the planet the overall temperature rises. The fact that the stratosphere is cooling is one of the fundamental pieces of climatology showing what is going on. There is a good diagram here http://www.skepticalscience.com/How-we-know-were-causing-global-warming-in-single-graphic.html .

      So precisely the opposite of what you thought the link was showing, it was in fact a study of the ozone layer – examining whether, since we know the globe is warming and stratosphere cooling, this could be also affecting the ozone layer. They were writing at a time when the regulation of the use of CFCs was coming in, and would start to reduce the loss of ozone from the upper atmosphere and shrink the hole in the ozone layer, and they were wondering if global warming would reduce the effects of this. Their conclusion is that yes it will, starting about now. Bit of a worry for fair skinned people like me in particular. But more of a worry in the northern hemisphere, because, as I understand what they are saying, the warming will have more of an effect in north than south (the south has always been worse). Guess melanoma levels, already high in Australia, will start to rise in Europe and north America.

      Which brings me back to the nasty Mr Morano. The link you provide is a Gish Gallop (named for the style of Duane Gish, creationist, who responds to scientific facts by spouting all kinds of irrelevant material in a fast monotone) of cherry picking http://icecap.us/images/uploads/Scientists_Counter_Latest_Arctic.pdf. The people quoted in supposed rebuttal of this that and the other include a biologist, meteorologist, emeritus biogeographer and various journalists and newspapers. The ones with supposed climate qualifications seem to be from obscure institutions in Russia and Germany. An observation here is responded to by an anecdote from there, a film crew travelling in the Arctic and finding it “cold” is treated at length as uproariously funny because of course if they found it cold the planet can’t be warming.

      The thing was compiled in 2008 and Morano makes much of the increase in sea ice area from 2007, a remarkably dishonest proceeding as I pointed out above, and just from the very obvious fact that a declining graph still has ups and downs around a mean. He seems to think that the ice warming from underneath (ie through warming seas) as well as from above somehow disproves the observation that the amount of thick ice is declining and proportion of thin ice increasing and disproves global warming. He pretends that climatologists don’t take into account year to year variations on weather patterns. Similarly he makes much of the incredible proposition that the two poles are behaving (he says) differently. Since the Arctic consists of an ice cap floating on water and surrounded by land masses, in a hemisphere consisting mainly of land; while the Antarctic is a huge ice covered continent, surrounded by great oceans in a hemisphere dominated by water, the different responses are neither unexpected (it would be astonishing if they were the same) nor unknown. Nevertheless the Antarctic seas are warming, and ice is breaking off from the edges of the continent in big bits. Whatever is happening to the thin layer of sea ice is irrelevant.

      Look I’m sure you mean well. I guess you think that what Morano has assembled in that bit shows some kind of “debate” between scientists on what is happening to the Arctic in particular and global warming in general, it doesn’t. But it is designed to appear as if it does and continue to cause confusion among the public and prevent any actions to reduce greenhouse gas production (which incidentally most countries seem to be approaching not by regulation but by the market mechanism of putting a price on CO2 production). There is no debate among scientists on the matter. The reason for the actions of Morano and people like him is clear. Sadly they have succeeded so far.

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  2. David Horton says:

    Needs a long reply, and haven’t had chance. In the meantime your homework is to look up Mark Morano, decide if you think he is someone you would want to give a character reference for.

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  3. Eric Snyder says:

    OK, I read up on Marc Morano and I honestly had not heard his name before. But I see he worked with Inhofe (OK USA Cong.) and Fox News and now has his own blog site opposing warming. I couldn’t find anything on his formal training so I’m not sure about that. As far as his character goes, I couldn’t draw any firm conclusions. But, I don’t think simply disagreeing about warming impugns ones character. The jury’s still out in my opinion.

    My point was not to attack AGW but to simply point out that there are many credible scientists who disagree. In my mind, when there is a large field of qualified folks who do disagree, there’s no firm conclusion to be had.

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  4. Eric Snyder says:

    Thank you for the truly “marathon task” David. It is both educational and challenging and I do appreciate the effort you put into your rebuttal.

    You were absolutely right, I should have dug deeper on the DMI site. I see the point about the sea ice increasing in volume but still thin. And, I get the thin ice melting faster than thick. As far as the comment about the relatively constant temps, I could not find the actual source on the DMI site (I read another article that quoted that site making the statement) and I should have done that before ever making the quote.

    And, yes, I did misquote (albeit unintentionally) the GISS statement when I wrote atmosphere instead of stratosphere. Although, I do think that technically the stratosphere is part of the atmosphere. That being said, I have done some study on the cooling statosphere actually being an indication of warming. I will certainly look into this more closely.

    The “Gish Gallop” (never heard that term before) was not meant as anything other than what appeared to me to be credible evidence of a significant number of qualified opinions and studies in opposition to AGW. I am not a scientist but have a bit of common sense. My sense tells me that when there is this much debate about a “scientific i’ssue that wants to increase the size of gov’t, it makes me wary.

    As far as Marc Morano goes, I really hadn’t even heard his name until you asked me to check him out. Other than his association with Inhofe, Fox News, and his blog site, you can’t learn that much about him. That in itself would raise a red flag if I were to consider him as a source for factual info. But, that being said, I would not call the man’s character into question simply because he stands in disagreement with AGW; I’m kind of in that boat myself!

    But, I do have an open mind and will continue to inform and (with your help as well as others) educate myself about this important issue. Thanks again for taking the time to educate me from your point of view.

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