Contrasting climate change claims

Two very contrasting articles via real Politics on climate change – one claiming “No ice has been lost by Greenland…” and the other “the Greenland ice sheet is melting at its fastest rate in at least 400 years”.

Conrad Black at National Post – Thirty years of climate hysterics being proven wrong over and over again

It is 30 years this past week that Dr. James Hansen, then well into the first of more than three decades as head of the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)-Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testified to a U.S. Senate committee that the then-current heat wave in Washington was caused by the relationship between “the greenhouse effect and observed warming.” This was the starting gun of a mighty debate about the existence, cause and consequences of global warming.

In his testimony, Hansen described three possible courses for the world’s climate, depending on public policy.

It is the third result that has occurred: unchanged world temperatures since 2000, apart from 2015-2016; then the temperature rose slightly after a heavy El Nino, and then receded again although world carbon emissions have increased moderately.

He gives no evidence of that claim. I’m sure someone else somewhere is saying something similar, but this is from NASA (Goddard Institute for Space Studies) in Global Temperature:

Parallel predictions were made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which forecast temperature increases twice as great as occurred in the period up to 2000, with accelerating increases in the years since, when the temperature has been flat (with the exception of the one year mentioned). Hansen also predicted exceptional warming in the Southeast and Midwest of the United States, which has not occurred either. As his predictions were battered and defied by the facts,

Hansen reinforced his expressions of ecological gloom and in 2007 predicted that all Greenland’s ice would melt and that ocean levels would rise by seven metres within 100 years.

I can’t find evidence of those claims by Hansen. In Scientific reticence and sea level rise (2007) heb talks only of estimates of possible scenarios based on the known science in 2007. he does say “The nonlinearity of the ice sheet problem makes it impossible to accurately predict the sea level change on a specific date. However, as a physicist, I find it almost
inconceivable that BAU climate change would not yield a sea level change of the order of meters on the century timescale”.


We have only had 11 years, but no ice has been lost by Greenland, other than what melts every summer and then forms again, and water levels have not moved appreciably.

In contrast from Scientific American: Greenland Is Melting Faster Than at Any Time in the Last 400 Years

study published this week in Geophysical Research Letters finds that melt rates in western Greenland have been accelerating for the last few decades. Melting is now nearly double what it was at the end of the 19th century, the research suggests. And the scientists say a significant increase in summertime temperatures—to the tune of about 1.2 degrees Celsius since the 1870s—is mainly to blame.

Future warming may only continue to enhance the melting, the researchers warn—a major concern when it comes to future sea-level rise.

The researchers used models informed with historical climate data to investigate some of the climatic factors influencing melt rates from one year to the next over the last century. Fluctuations in ocean temperatures and certain atmospheric circulation patterns were shown to have a major influence on year-to-year variations in melt rates since the 1870s.

That’s important to note, because these oceanic and atmospheric patterns may change under the influence of future climate change. Scientists are still debating how they may be affected, but the new findings suggest that a better understanding will be critical to making accurate short-term predictions about melting and sea-level rise.

The need for ongoing scientific research is obviously important. And most of the current science (as opposed to opinion of people like Black) suggests a growing problem with the effects of climate change. The biggest uncertainty is by how much and over what time period.

I got sidetracked addressing some of Black’s claims. The second article from RealClear: Clmate Change Is Our Most Critical National-Security Challenge

Progressive American politicians must embrace the necessity of dramatic action on climate change as a touchstone. So far, Senator Bernie Sanders has done it the most persuasively, campaigning on addressing climate change, health care, racial justice, and economic inequality as his unvaried quartet of issues, invoked in every speech and backed up with serious legislation that shows a willingness to move with real speed. Other party leaders will back him on one bill or another, and scientists and engineers are now runningfor office.

Seriousness on climate change needs to be a qualification, not an afterthought, for anyone who wants to run for president. Because it’s not an environmental issue; it’s the most crucial security question that humans have ever faced.

There’s a major problem with this – Sanders didn’t even make the presidential election, Trump won and is taking the US into the climate change dark ages, and progressive politics in the US is in disarray.

Warming temperatures melts Arctic ice

Arctic ice is melted every year in what is called Spring and Summer. There is a lot of discussion about how much on average Arctic ice volumes are diminishing, and how much effect global warming/climate change has on this. And whether we should care regardless of case and quantity.

But al lot of scientists do care, and a key part of their research is done by raking ice cores from the Antarctic and the Arctic so they can compare current ice and atmospheric conditions with historical records.

Ancient ice (and gases contained in it) can contain an invaluable historical record.

But there has been a catastrophe in Canada when a freezer malfunction melted 13% of the world’s largest collection of ice cores. Fortunately the damage wasn’t far worse due most of the cores having been moved for the benefit of media.

Guardian: 22,000 years of history evaporates after freezer failure melts Arctic ice cores

Around 13% of cache of ice cylinders extracted from glaciers in Canadian Arctic exposed to high heat in new storage facility at University of Alberta

Within them sits some 80,000 years of history, offering researchers tantalising clues about climate change and the Earth’s past. At least that was the case – until the precious cache of Arctic ice cores was hit by warming temperatures.

The heading (22,000 years) seems to be contradicted by ‘80,000 years of history’ but only some years were lost from the cores.

A freezer malfunction at the University of Alberta in Edmonton has melted part of the world’s largest collection of ice cores from the Canadian Arctic, reducing some of the ancient ice into puddles.

The ice cores – long cylinders extracted from glaciers – contain trapped gasses and particles that offer a glimpse into atmospheric history.

The university had recently acquired the dozen cores, or 1.4km (0.9 miles) of ice, drilled from five locations in the Canadian Arctic, and carefully transported them from Ottawa to Edmonton.

The samples were moved into the university’s brand-new, custom-built C$4m (US$3m) facility earlier this month. Days later, one of the freezers tripped a high-heat alarm.

An ice core from the Penny Ice Cap on Baffin Island lost about a third of its mass, amounting to about 22,000 years of history, while a core from Mount Logan, Canada’s tallest mountain, saw 16,000 years melted away.

But much of the collection was unaffected by the malfunction, thanks to a stroke of luck. A television crew had been documenting the ice core move and had asked that the samples be put in a second freezer because the lighting was better. The university complied, storing nearly 90% of the collection in an unaffected freezer.

The Guardian also has a more common bad story about ice: New study shows worrisome signs for Greenland ice

Right now there are three main reasons that sea levels are rising. First, as ocean waters heat, they expand. Second, melting of ice in Antarctica flows into the ocean. Third, melting of ice on Greenland flows into the ocean. There is other melting, like mountain glaciers, but they are minor factors.

Estimates are that about 270 gigatons of water per year are melting. The melting of an ice sheet like that atop Greenland can occur from the surface as air temperatures and sunlight warm the upper layer of ice. It can also occur from the edges as ice shelves collapse and fall into the oceans in large chunks.

A new study published by the American Geophysical Union in the Geophysical Letters Review journal…

…use gravitometry to obtain a high-quality picture of the land underneath a very fast moving part of Greenland ice called the Jacobshavn Isbrae.

…found that the trough underneath the ice was not symmetrically shaped; the northern part of the trough was deeper than the southern part. Further, the trough was estimated to be 300-400 meters deeper than previously thought. They also showed that the trough is retrograde, which means that it favors a fast retreat of the glacier in the coming years and decades.

Greenland ice is a great analogy for the Earth’s climate. It has inertia, meaning it acts slowly but once it gets going, it’s hard to stop. When the Greenland ice sheet starts to go, it may take a while to melt but it is nearly impossible to stop. Predicting how fast this melt will take is interesting from a scientific vantage point but there are also enormous social and economic consequences. Right now, 150 million people live within a meter (3 feet) of today’s sea level.

This illustrates problems with the complexities of climate research and the difficulties with predictions.

If Greenland ice, Arctic ice and Antarctic ice is on a melting trend it could be like a slow avalanche (over a substantial time period) – if it gets going it could be impossible to stop.

Some say the world is headed for inevitable catastrophe unless we take urgent action.

Some say there’s no problem and climate change is a waste of time and money.

And some say there’s a probable problem but there’s nothing we can do about it.

We could just chant “don’t worry, be happy”, but it is best that research gives us as much information as possible, and this includes warnings of possible major effects.