Mark's environmentsal panic attack

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Wed Jun 7 21:16:08 MDT 2000


    Reread the "remembrance" article you just posted, and everywhere the
author quite openly speculates in one direction, do so in the opposite.

    For example:

The interglacial period that began about 130,000 years BP (before present)
often called the "Eemian." Regional temperatures were sometimes 1 to 2° C
higher than those of the Holocene interglacial. However, there is less
evidence that the temperature changes were globally synchronous, so in terms
of global temperature change, conditions in the Eemian--once again--may not
have been much different from the present.

*   *   *

    Notice the construction of the argument. The evidence is temperatures
were 1-2 degrees centigrade higher. There is less evidence to show this
occurred simultaneously. But reading all the fine print which I don't
reproduce here, there is also less evidence to show this DID NOT occur
simultaneously. Assigning processes dates is just too dicey. So in terms of
global temperature change the Eemian could well have been very much
different from the present, or could well NOT have been much different from
the present. We just don't know.

    Another example:

    An application of our understanding of ten to 100 year variability may
found in the present debate over several features of the temperature history
of the last 100 years, and the fact that surface temperature has not
consistently risen during this time at the rate predicted by simple
greenhouse warming. The period from the 1950s through the early 1970s
exhibited a cooling trend; and while global temperatures have been high over
the last fifteen years, they have also been relatively stable.

    Those who challenge greenhouse warming predictions point to such
patterns as
indications that the model predictions are seriously in error. However, most
climatologists point out that natural oscillations of a decadal-scale can
modify a greenhouse warming signal during the present, relatively early
stage of the perturbation. This is but one example where an historical
perspective can give insight into what at first appears as a troubling
discrepancy between models and observations.

    Were "natural" climatic variations of the sort that have characterized
last 1000 years to recur in the next 100 years or so, they could modify the
expected effects of increased greenhouse gases: either masking an underlying
upward trend during the early stages of a greenhouse warming or accelerating
the rate at which it occurs. From what we know, however, the effect--either
way--might not be great: only the extreme 1.0° C cooling estimate for the
Little Ice Age approaches in magnitude the smallest temperature perturbation
that is now projected for the end of the next century.

* * *

    Notice the line of argument here. Does the empirical data, on its face,
support the global warming hypothesis based on global circulation models?
No, it does not. Now for the "spin":

    "However, most
climatologists point out that natural oscillations of a decadal-scale can
modify a greenhouse warming signal during the present, relatively early
stage of the perturbation. This is but one example where an historical
perspective can give insight into what at first appears as a troubling
discrepancy between models and observations."

    Notice what just happened. What had to be proved --global warming-- is
now assumed to have happened, only it has been masked. But precisely the
opposite could be the case, i.e., "normal" decadal variations instead of
largely "masking" and underlying warming "signal" might be "masking"
underlying stability or declining temperature trends. Again, we just don't

    It is only by *assuming* that, at bottom, the "simple greenhouse
warming" is correct, that we can get to the point where the data can be
correctly massaged to support the greenhouse warming hypotheses.

    At best, the argument presented is that the temperature record does not
necessarily refute the global warming hypothesis.

*   *   *

    Actually, in addition to the discussion two years ago, we had a similar
discussion here a year ago.

    I did a fair bit of reading then and it seemed to me that things had not
yet shaken out in terms of the science. One very significant problem is that
there is as yet no clear understanding of the
evaporation-cloud-precipitation cycle and whether it is a net plus or minus
on global warming.

    I suspect at some point it has to become a negative feedback element,
for, clearly, something prevented a runaway "venus" effect when CO2 levels
were several percent in the atmosphere. Evaporation cools the surface and
takes the heat up where it can be more easily dissipated. Clouds reflect
sunlight but at the same time trap heat. How it all shakes out at the end,
that's the $64,000 question on global warming.

    I continue to insist that the evidence suggests that there is a strong
and as yet not understood mechanism or series of mechanisms that keeps the
earth within a *relatively* narrow range of temperatures. You argue that
instead there are "frightening" lurches back and forth. Yes, there are, but
the point is these never go into full, runaway mode. You insist that the
reflection of sunlight from the surface by ice isn't enough to cause runaway
glaciation. But, clearly, something HAS been causing ice ages. So far the
explanations for both the ice ages and their ending are speculative,
nothing is known for sure. The main argument for their being linked to
changes in the earth's orbit and axis of rotation in relation to the sun is
their recurrent, periodical nature.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Mark Jones" <jones118 at>
To: "marxism at lists. panix. com" <marxism at>
Sent: Tuesday, June 06, 2000 9:43 AM
Subject: FW: Mark's environmentsal panic attack

Jose wrote:

> > Contrary to Mark's assertion, the changes aren't "unquantifiable." The
> truth
> > is that the scientists just plain don't know, that's all.

This is the position taken by the Cardinals who refused to look thru
Galileo's telescope. Your instant dismissals of the huge volume of work
being done on the causes and consequences of anthropogenic climate change,
by earth scientists, paelogeologists, climatologists, paleoclimatologists,
evolutionary scientists, oceanologists, metereologists, astrophysicists and
others simply puts you, by your own act, outside the realm of discourse.
They just plain DO know an awful lot, but it seems you just plain don't WANT
to know. I can't help you with that.

Of course, to lay persons like you and me much of what they do is
inscrutable whatever efforts at divination and synthesis we make, and that
obviously makes arguable if not actually tendentious, any epistemological
and political conclusions we try to draw from their work. But then, the
specialisms are so sharp that they have lots of problems understanding each
other. We must not be paralysed or ashamed to try. Syncretism is the task of
the hour and we have to make the effort however time-consuming and difficult
it may be, just as, let's say, Marx read Liebig and Lenin, poor fellow,
struggled with Mach and quantum theory. You can be an ostrich if you want,
but not me. Otherwise our Marxism is not as their's was. This is one reason
why I shamelessly put large and seemingly indigestible chunks of the latest
peer-reviewed stuff on paleoclimatology, for example, in front of our
collective eyes. Because we must *make the effort*, otherwise we are
actually no better than Judith Butler or Slavoj Zizek and the other peddlers
of bones, bits of the True Cross and astrological charms who pass themselves
off as the incarnators of contemporary social theory.

This is hard but we must do it also to avoid the necessity of indulging the
likes of Ralph Nader as our leaders, for only if we learn to speak with
great confidence and authority about quite fundamental issues, and to demand
and require that our views be taken seriously and acted upon, can we be
leaders or change-agents ourselves. I am saying that there is a profound
general crisis and one of its terms or labels is 'anthropogenic global
warming', and I back up my statements with sufficient weight of
authoritative science, and with sufficient logical reasoning, for you to
have to take it a little more seriously than you do, or face the risk of not
being taken seriously yourself. Because if I am right and the large body of
scientists who think it's true, are actually right then ignoring us will not
make the problem go away it will only make it worse, and I repeat that the
problem is about (a) the continuing viability of the terrestrial biosphere,
whivch has been breached (b) about the possible effects of climate change
due to greenhouse gases ALREADY emitted, ie, irreversible changes which are
already happening, wehich cannot be stopped, which may take centuries or
millennia to unfold fully but which also impact the lives of our children
and even our own lives. And (c) the cumulative weight of the processes
unleashed by industrioal capitalism, and the positive feedback effects set
in motion, are so large that they do make it impossible for capitalism to
survive (as Marx and Lenin both believed) and that the question then becomes
one of how we manage the transition in such a way that as many of the values
and assets of civilisation are preserved, and that suffering and damage to
people and the environment is minimised ( these as you know where very much
Lenin's immediate concerns after 1918: not how to destroy bourgeois culture
and civilisation, but how to preserve its main assets and achievements).

> they build
> a
> > climate model that accounts for at least the KNOWN facts, like
> glaciation,
> > THEN we'll have something a little more SOLID to work with than this
> > neo-luddite "if people did it, it must be bad" attitude.

This is simply not serious. You can't simply dismiss the models which embody
huge masses of data about insolation and orbital effects as well as coupled
climate-ocean simulations and which incorporate the known physics of global
warming by greenhouse gases with new data about albedo effects and the
Milankovitch and other cosmological cycles, all of which do indeed explain a
great deal about glaciation; the models have ALREADY  shown their predictive
capabilities; global warming IS happening and to say as you go on to do that
> > The claimed anthropogenic climate changes are but small
> variations within
> > the rage of average temperatures and other climactic conditions
> the earth
> > has been known to have had, even in recent millenia.

is simply to ignore well-attested facts and put yourself in the camp of
denialists like Fred Singer and Gregg Easterbrook, ie, corporate spokesmen.
Nobody seriously believes any more that "anthropogenic climate changes are
small": the question is not even, how big are they, the question is how to
minimise what are already certain to be catastrophic effects by reducing
carbon emissions; and that is actually a life and death matter for

> >Glacial periods lead to a
> reduction in
> > heat-trapping greenhouse gases, and the covering of a
> significant part of
> > the planet with a highly reflective layer of material -- ice.
> So why don't
> > we get runaway glaciation?

Meaning what exactly? Albedo effects alone were never enough to produce
runaway glaciation but the fact remains that for stretches of 200m years at
a time the whole planet WAS indeed covered in thick ice; most likely because
of the movement of the entire solar system relative to other cosmic bodies,
and/or because the earth was floating through a large dust and gas cloud
which blocked out the sun. There is no "unfailing and highly effective
negative feedback mechanism we do not understand"; there is only evidence of
enoprmous INSTABILITY with the world's climate system flipping from one more
or less long lived state to another with terrifying rapidity: Ice Ages and
Interglacials begin and end not in the couirse of millennia or even
centuries, but over just a few years, ie within a human lifetime. That's
what the geology shows.

Most of what follows is (I'm sorry to say it) the standard mish-mash of
misunderstandings seasoned with misplaced contempt, which you find among all
global warming denialists. James Heartfield used to say the same things in
almost word for word the same ways, and he too was very scornful about the
alleged religious manias of anyone who takes seriously such things as the
impact of global warming on marine life. After a while, James Heartfiled was
obliged to shut up and in the end he slunk off of his own accord, because
the evidence is just too overhwelming to deny so easily and
contemptuously. I think I'll post some of those arguments,
and people can see what I mean, and just how repetitive the
mantras of the denialists actually are.

In the two years since the last time we debated it, all that has changed is
that the evidence for global warming has become much stronger; and it goes
with new evidence about the devastating effects of recarbonisation on the
chemistry of topsoil. I'm gonna post more on that too.


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