13 March 2006

Climate Change: Must Read - The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

I just finished reading Tim Flannery's new book, The Weather Makers. It's the most cogent take on the issue of climate change I've yet read. Flannery mixes history, science, and activism to make the case that now is the time to act if we want to have a reasonable shot at stemming its most potent impacts.

It is a case Flannery makes with a healthy dose of facts from the scientific literature -- he seems to have access to every major peer reviewed article on the subject.

In the end, I wanted Flannery to offer more than just the usual advice for simple lifestyle changes. But I recognize the need to give readers some small, practical, do-it-at-home steps to take. The real changes need to happen at the industry, policy, and investment arenas.

This minor flaw aside, I'm recommending The Weather Makers to everyone I know -- climate skeptic or believer -- as a must read.

And I was delighted to see the book prominently displayed on the front table in a Dallas-Fort Worth airport bookstore last week. Maybe there is hope we've reached a tipping point in understanding on the climate crisis. Let's hope we're not too late.

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Anonymous said...

I just heard Flannery on "Fresh Air", and he made an incredibly innumerate comment; he said the 2C rise in global temperature is a more than 10% rise in temperature, since the global average is only 13.5C.

That is idiotic and suggests he is no scientist. In order to calculate % increase in temperature you need to use a scale that starts at absolute zero, such as Kelvin, not a scale with an arbitrary zero like Celsius or Fahrenheit. It made me skeptical of his expertise.

The Green Skeptic said...

I reached out to Flannery and also listened to NPR's Fresh Air broadcast on their archives.

What Flannery actually said was, "What the scientists can say is that all the models suggest that there will be a certain degree of warming, somewhere between 2 and 11 degrees...2 degrees is a very substantial amount of warming. After all, the surface temperature of our planet before the industrial revolution was only 13.7 degrees...so the proportionate increase of 2 degrees on top of that is quite large."

This does not appear to be the same as what you heard.

The Green Skeptic said...

Here is how Flannery responded to my email, sent through his publisher:

"I cannot remember my exact words, but I think the listener misheard me.

I would have said a large or significant increase, I think.

Best wishes,

Tim Flannery"

Unknown said...

The anonymous comment was a more accurate reflection of what was implied and even what now Flannery seems to believe.

Just look at the numbers:

13.7C = 286.85K

so for a 2C rise

15.7C = 288.85K

Proportionately: 288.85/286.85

is 1.00697 or a 0.697% increase

He is of course working with the ratio 15.7/13.7

which is 1.14599 or a 14.599% increase

Flannery's serious error is made all the forceful by his follow on comment "if you or I suffered a proportionate increase in temperature of that scale we'd be dead".

And indeed working on the basis of his nonsense analysis, a 37C (=98.6F) normal body temperature becomes 42.4C (108.32F) so pretty much dead, although apparently 115F has been survived...

The correct analysis would be a 0.697% absolute increase, yielding a body temperature of 102.5F: so feverish but alive and kicking...

Of course over the last century or so the increase in global mean temperatures has been approximately 0.6C, which translates to a percentage of 0.21% in absolute temperature terms.

In other words there would have to be a 4 or 5 times bigger change than last century over this next to reach the "heights" of an absolute temperature change of 1%.

One day we'll all be IPCC-sceptics.

The Green Skeptic said...

Here's a recent explanation from a trusted source, Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate, worth reading his post and the comments that follow: