Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day: Climate Change from the Arizona perspective

Today is Blog Action Day ’09, “an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance.” The theme for 2009 is Climate Change, the same theme as Earth Science Week in the U.S. Nearly 10,000 bloggers are participating from 150 countries.

The predicted impacts of climate change have been well described as particularly severe in the Southwestern US, with warmer temperatures, more droughts, and more episodic rainfall. For many, this still seems to be something in the far off future. But I just saw a sobering article in the journal Science that caught my attention.

Sustained CO2 levels over 400 ppm during the Miocene period about 20 million years ago, are associated with sea levels 25-40 m (80-130 ft) higher than today.

Jonathan Overpeck ("Peck"), co-director of the Univ. of Arizona's Institute for Earth and the Environment, is one of the co-authors of the 2007 IPCC study that won the Nobel Prize. He is quoted saying, "If anyone still doubts the link between CO2 and climate, they should read this paper."

The article says the study authors predict we will pass the 400 ppm level within a decade. In the Miocene, that level occurred with temperatures about 3-6C (5-11F) higher than today.

An article on BBC News, notes that the International Energy Agency expect greenhouse gases peaking at 510 ppm equivalent before stabilizing at 450 ppm. Peck however, warns that "We don't know where the critical CO2 or temperature threshold is beyond which ice sheet collapse is inevitable."

So, for all of us desert rats waiting for California to fall into the sea along the San Andreas fault, perhaps a more realistic scenario is the Gulf of California expanding northward into the state as sea level rises. Beach front property either way.


  1. Jonathan DuHamel5:37 PM

    It seems that Overpeck and the authors of that study are cherry-pickers. Atmospheric carbon dioxide began to decline in Early Cretaceous time, possibly due to formation of coal. Temperatures didn’t begin to decline until about 34 million years ago. If the study went back to only 20 million years ago, naturally there would seem to be a correlation where none exists.

    I wrote to one of the authors of the paper (Pearson) asking about this. So far I have received no reply.

    And, as far as I am aware, Overpeck has presented no credible empirical evidence that carbon dioxide has a significant effect on temperature. The cherry-picking study doesn’t qualify, nice try though.

  2. I've spoken at length with one of Governor Brewer's advisers on the topic of global warming and Arizona's association with the Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade plan. It would appear from your blog here that you are in opposition to the views held by the Governor's office.

    An obvious question arises: if the Governor stripped the "State Geologist" title from you for having an opposing viewpoint, would you argue that such an action is unjust, or would you say the same action taken against the former Oregon state climatologist was inappropriate? Story link here:

  3. Roald, I take exception to your interpretation that I am in opposition to the Governor. You seem to be looking to create a fight where one doesn't exist.

    My experience with the Governor's office is that she and her staff are looking for authoritative information to help them in making complex policy decisions. I try to provide them with the best data and interpretations I can.

    I serve at the Governor's pleasure. If you want me fired because I commented about a scientific paper, then let her know.

  4. It is not my desire to have you fired, silenced, or minimized in any way. Such tactics are favored by extremist IPCC followers who want to ensure opposing viewpoints aren't heard, like what was described in the 4th paragraph in this story about columnist George Will I could link to numerous other examples, one in Arizona happened during Governor Napolitano's time when her own Climate Change Action Group decided not to consider opposing viewpoints about the global warming issue - from pg 25 of this 1.5 Mb PDF file:

    "While some CCAG members may hold differing opinions about the science of climate change, the CCAG agreed at the outset of its deliberations not to debate climate change science in order to achieve the directive of Executive Order 2005-02 and move the CCAG process forward."

    I categorically do not endorse citizens demanding outright censorship of the press, nor policymakers shutting down debate. Such actions beg for inadequately informed decision making.

    That was the gist of my question: if the Governor's office chose for whatever reason to openly turn away your information out-of-hand, while further pointing out that it is suspect because you are merely a geologist and not a climatologist, you would say the Governor unfairly lets political ideology override proper debate of scientific findings, correct?

  5. Roald, you are trying to put words in my mouth that I did not say, about events that have not happened, based on your conjectures.

    I may be "merely a geologist," but I'm not going to play fantasy politics with you.

  6. Your words are "perhaps a more realistic scenario is the Gulf of California expanding northward into the state as sea level rises", in the context of CO2 generated by humans, since you the BBC article. Correct?

    You need not trust my assertions that Governor Brewer and her environment advisers hold a contrary view about the extent of human-induced global warming, I'd strongly advise you to dig into that yourself.

    By not offering an opinion on the matter concerning George Taylor in Oregon and a similar situation that could conceivably happen to you, is it safe for us to assume you have no objection when a state administrator out-of-hand rejects the information offered by a scientist in an advisory capacity within state government (however specific or vague that scientist's designation may be)?