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iamjulian

Our sun and climate change

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I studied climate science as part of my degree and have always been of the opinion that global warming is, to a degree, caused or at least greatly influenced by the way we have unlocked so much carbon in the form of oil and coal. Whenever a climate change story comes up on Times Online, the most popular comments are from people who seem to be on a soap box about how climate change is 100% natural and the man made part is just a government rouse to increase taxes.

I have seen good arguments both for and against, but I read Sir Patrick Moore saying that he believes climate change is 100% due to cycles in sun spots and the sun in general. OK so he's not a climate scientist, but his opinion has made me question my own a bit more.

Any thoughts? Is the sun completely in control, or are we in part to blame?

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I'm a 'regular' on two other forums and both climate change/global warming threads turned into war. So, publically, I have no thoughts at all... :)

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The climate change "experts" tried to rubbish the idea that the sun had any effect on climate change, but have recently been forced to admit that the sun does indeed influence the climate. The real question is not that does the sun influence climate change but rather by how much. I believe while the sun is the single largest factor driving climate change mankind's actions are accelerating it.

John

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If the atmosphere were a liquid, we would be at the bottom of a 10-metre pool. If you think about it, that's not very much and I can easily see how we could be mucking it up big time.

I am pretty sure we are putting unprecedented stress on the system but I can't say I'm convinced about the models used to project 100 years ahead.

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What I found really telling, was getting some perspective.

I've become rather aware/wary of just how much Eugenics has been behind so much of the whole 'Environmental' movement, for 40 years or so now. This is the philosophy that was behind Nazism, along with its pseudo scientific 'blood and soil' gobbledegook (which I don't think is any coincidence, and the associated concept of 'bumping off' vast numbers of humanity that so many supposed 'Environmentalists' spout, doesn't seem to be any coincidence either).

I say that having been an enthusiastic 'environmentalist' for the whole of that period. Perhaps best considered, as an enthusiastic supporter, of the David Bellamy School of Environmentalism.

Right, to the perspective.

The atmosphere 'engine', is the Ocean(s). Specifically, the top 100ft layer (which gets the best concentration of light).

The Ocean(s) make up roughly 70% of the surface area of the Planet. The land therefore, makes up roughly 30% of the surface area.

The total amount of agricultural land that we use as a species, is about 8% of the land area. That equates to about 2.4% of the surface area of the Planet as a whole. Most of that agricultural land, isn't even farmed efficiently.

Our civilization footprint, has been measured. This is the total area used for houses, villages, towns, cities, industrial parks, shopping centres, powerstations, roads, etc. It is 0.04% of the land surface.

When you think about it, agricultural land would indeed massively dwarf developed land, and 'wilderness' does indeed massively dwarf agricultural land. You can see this for yourself, if you drive around a rather developed part of the World, called Europe.

To err on the safe side, let's call that developed footprint 0.04% of the Planet, and that gives a complete human footprint, including agricultural land, of 2.44%.

For some added perspective, over 50% of our species now live in cities.

Just because we can now travel to places fairly speedily, doesn't mean the World has 'shrunk'. It's still as big as it ever was.

Ignoring everything else (such as the impact species like termites alone can and do have, which can dwarf so many of the things we do as part of living, the very poor role that trees have in the environment - grasses are far more efficient in many respects than trees, for example, etc), I think that 2.44% probably is in line with the maximum possible impact we are having on our Planet.

Some impacts from us might be bad, other impacts might be good. We are a natural part of this biosphere, after all, and a vital and even essential component of that biosphere, is CO2.

Life is carbon based, after all, and there's a lot to suggest that the Planet has been suffering from a pretty acute shortage of CO2, for quite a while now.

Plus, why are we calling perfectly natural elements, 'pollutants'? eta: If we want to dramatically reduce CO2 output, why don't we just bin the catalytic converters from vehicles? They turn pretty much everything into CO2 - is that why we were made to fit them, so people could then have an excuse to tax us on carbon? Well, you do have to wonder, don't you? eta2: have a look at that other 'pollutant' called methane too, and have a look at how much of that termites produce.

I do worry about people saying silly things like 'the Oceans are acidifying due to CO2!'. They don't seem to comprehend where limestone comes from, they don't seem to comprehend what limestone gives off when it is heated up, they don't seem to comprehend the ph of limestone, and just how much there is of it around in the Oceans (the White Cliffs of Dover, seem utterly lost on them).

Perhaps what I worry about most though, is young children being deliberately frightened at young ages, the deliberate scaremongering, that is being done on television, as well as in their schools.

That sort of nonsense, needs to stop.

Edited by Ogri

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In the last 300 years we have burnt vast quantities of coal, oil and gas all of which took milions and millions of years to lock up in the ground by various processes. The sudden release of all this CO2 into the atmosphere IMO must be changing the make up of the atmosphere and therefore affecting the climate. The question remains whether this is enough of an effect to cause dramatic changes in the next 100 years. I doubt it.

What annoys me is when I read headlines or here from the green brigade that we are 'killing the planet' we may kill our own race and maybe some life on it but not the Earth only greater forces can do that ie the Sun.

Chris BSc Earth Science.

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well put ogri... what a lot of pro anti carbon emmision groups wont tell you is that the end of the ice age came about because the earth changed its axis slightly, the start of the ice age came about because the earth changed its axis... see a pattern emerging? Im all for recycling, reducing carbon emmisions etc... but when faced with the fact that the earth can carry on regardless of what we do to it the 'evidence' of global warming just doesnt make sense... just my opinion, and i expect to be shot down in flames for it

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well put ogri... what a lot of pro anti carbon emmision groups wont tell you is that the end of the ice age came about because the earth changed its axis slightly, the start of the ice age came about because the earth changed its axis... see a pattern emerging? Im all for recycling, reducing carbon emmisions etc... but when faced with the fact that the earth can carry on regardless of what we do to it the 'evidence' of global warming just doesnt make sense... just my opinion, and i expect to be shot down in flames for it

If my memory serves me correctly I think changes in the tilt of the earths axis and the shape of the orbit are called Milankovitch Cycles and they certainly have an effect on our climate.

Edited by Chris H

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.... the start of the ice age came about because the earth changed its axis...

When this happens again it will come in handy that we can warm the old planet up a bit when we need to ..... :)

I'll get me coat ........

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I went to an interesting talk which charted temperatures over the life of the earth not just the last few 100 years. Interstingly the earth switches between two steady states of about 12 and 20c if I recall. We are at the cool end at the moment. Why these two states ..no answer..

But plotting CO2 over the period against temperature..no correlation at all..

I guess its far more complex than we shall ever really understand...

Also real global warming is as the sun gradually gets hotter over the next ...millions of years...

Mark

www.bristolweather.org.uk

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I think man is just plain arrogant if we believe we can change something as massive as this planets ecosystem to the point that we are endangering everything that shares this planet. My own belief is that its a natural cycle helped along a little by fossil fuel burning for sure but not to the extent that some will have you believe. Politicians without doubt have hyped this up to justify the green taxes etc etc, if we really were in danger of killing this planet don't you think more would have come out of Copenhagen?

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My own opinion on this subject:

Nothing will ever be done to change anything that we, as a species, are doing to the planet/environment, unless one mutlinational company or other can gain HUGE profit from so doing.

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My own opinion on this subject:

Nothing will ever be done to change anything that we, as a species, are doing to the planet/environment, unless one mutlinational company or other can gain HUGE profit from so doing.

Agreed and whatever would be needed to be done would be huge politically and no politician or party will commit suicide by implementing the ban on fossil fuels.......if that was the cause :D

Time to buy shares in fusion technology :)

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I think man is just plain arrogant if we believe we can change something as massive as this planets ecosystem to the point that we are endangering everything that shares this planet.

If we had continued to use (and increased our use of) CFCs, the world would have no ozone layer left and it is doubtful that there would be any life on land after a few years of that (according to New Scientist).

Therefore, I think it is arrogant to believe that we CANNOT change something as massive as the planets ecosystem. We are the only species which does not adapt to the environment, but rather adapts the environment to suit ourselves - and there are nearly 7 billion of us greedily consuming and using up natural resources which took millions of years to form and will take millions of years to be replaced.

I also think its is arrogant to say that "this much CO2" will cause "this many degrees increase" as the cliamte system is quite chaotic.

On the other hand, although the climate system is complicated and not fully understood, it is a fact that since 1960 atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by 20% (File:Mauna Loa Carbon Dioxide-en.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) and in a laboratory it can be easily demonstrated that an atmosphere with a higher CO2 level heats up more easily.

Isnt it better to err on the side of caution, especially as we need to ween ourselves off of the dwindling fossil fuels anyway.

W

PS - I was going to say that i also think it is arrogant for people to wade into a discussion quoting things that they have read without actually having performed any practical research themselves - but the hypocrisy of this statement would have completely undermined my argument - so Im not going to say it. :)

Edited by Wurzil

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I don't think there has to be such a black and white reasoning to all this.

On one side we have people saying its not industry

Another saying it is industry

Others saying its natural

and a minority saying there is no change at all

I would safely say that you could include the first three of that list and there-in would lie your answer. Global warming cannot solely be linked to one source, there are a number of factors involved.

However, as stated above the fact that over the last 300 years we have produced far more levels of CO2 etc then it is probable that global warming has increased more than it should of naturally.

The Earth goes through periods of cooling and warming, you can see that from mass extinctions, glacial tracts and other forms. I would be quite inclined to state that human technology and industry are a key factor in this current period of climatic change.

On a personal note it is something we can't really ignore, I dare say the environment is a much larger worry than the banking crisis. You can argue this case by saying we aren't seeing that many effects of global warming (yet) but I can retort with did you see the banking crisis occuring months or years before it happened?....probably not.

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in a laboratory it can be easily demonstrated that an atmosphere with a higher CO2 level heats up more.

The way I understand it is that a planetary atmosphere has a temperature profile (high temperature at the surface, low temperature at the space boundary). Increasing greenhouse gases increases the temperature at the bottom but does not affect the temperature at the top as that is determined by the planetary albedo (the reflectivity, essentially). The big unknown is whether greenhouse gases can affect the albedo by changing the cloud cover or surface ice cover. So, yes, the first order effect is a sharpening of the temperature gradient but it's very difficult to compute the repercussions of that on the distribution of water vapour and water ice.

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not to mention the cyanobacteria that produced the oxygen in the atmosphere and precipitated the largest extinction event in Earth's history...

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Beavers adapt their environment to better suit their needs by building dams...

Outdoors: Meet Scotland's furriest lodgers – the beaver families of Knapdale - Scotsman.com

Point taken - there is a fine line between adapting and interacting with the environment (which i think we may have crossed).

All living things interact with the environment in one way or another. I think that the difference between our adaptations and other species' interactions, is the lack of synergy between ourselves and the environment - animal behaviour evolves over long periods which allows the environment to keep up and harmonise. Any species which does not form a harmony with the environment (like us) normally kills itself off in the process.

W

Edited by Wurzil

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What I don't understand is, we've been warming since before the end of the last ice age, approx 18,000 years, so why is this last 100 years any different? Bearing in mind that we've been warmer and had more co2 in the atmosphere in the past, without industry of any kind.

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The way I understand it is that a planetary atmosphere has a temperature profile (high temperature at the surface, low temperature at the space boundary). Increasing greenhouse gases increases the temperature at the bottom but does not affect the temperature at the top as that is determined by the planetary albedo (the reflectivity, essentially). The big unknown is whether greenhouse gases can affect the albedo by changing the cloud cover or surface ice cover. So, yes, the first order effect is a sharpening of the temperature gradient but it's very difficult to compute the repercussions of that on the distribution of water vapour and water ice.

Agreed - there are so many variables and feedback loops that make the Earth's climate beautifully complex.

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Bearing in mind that we've been warmer and had more co2 in the atmosphere in the past, without industry of any kind.

I think it's the rate of change that is unmatched.

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George:"Time to buy shares in fusion technology :D"

While there's bound to be great opportunities with fusion at some point (that it will give us a 'star engine' propulsion system capable of getting us to Mars in a week, and the outer edge of the Solar System in 3 weeks, being the most exciting prospects for me personally). Even in the 'not too distant future', there is a fission technology that offers us a lot of the advantages of fusion, along with great inherent safety, low volume nuclear waste, effectively 'built in' waste reprocessing, as well as the capability of reprocessing waste from conventional reactors, to the extent that the longest life components are vastly reduced in volume for storage, plus have to be kept for only 300 years, instead of many 1,000's of years.

The LFTR Thorium fuelled reactor.

It was run successfully in the 1960's for at least 4 years, and was capable of being switched off on a Friday night when people went home, and switched on again Monday morning when people came in. It has the huge benefit of being 'load responsive' too (given that the design was researching use as an aircraft propulsion system).

They run at atmospheric pressure so don't need vastly expensive pressurised containment, they are rubbish for producing weapon grade materials, and have no value as a target for terrorists at all.

They'd be good propulsion systems power plants for ships, and small and cheap enough to build alongside desalination plants so they could drive drip agriculture and provide clean drinking water all around the World too. Costs per KW hour would likely be around 1p.

Plus, we wouldn't be wanting for electricity if the wind stops blowing or the sky is cloudy.

There's loads of Thorium around, possibly even millions of years worth of fuel around the Solar System, and they will comfortably and cleanly carry us to Fusion.

We need to get designing and building them.

Edited by Ogri

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I think it's the rate of change that is unmatched.

I think it's been shown clearly that previous rates of change have been pretty much identical, and I've seen comparison charts easily demonstrating it, and they seem 'typical' of interglacial optimums.

Those changes can go dramatically the other way too mind.

Think on the circumstances where the temperature drops so fast, that a Mammoth can get frozen so fast, that it doesn't have the time to even swallow or spit out the mouthful of buttercups and daisies it's chewing, and which then lasted so long, that the Mammoth is still stuck frozen in permafrost, many 1,000's of years later . . . . . . . .

If it can drop in temperature that fast, likely it can climb in temperature that fast.

It wouldn't surprise me if just such a climb was responsible for the 100 year drought that ended the Egyptian Old Kingdom, circa 2,200 BC.

Edited by Ogri

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