October 25, 2007
Two Scientists Predict Climate Models Never Can Be Accurate

Some phenomena of nature are too complex to predict?

It now appears that the estimates will never get much better. The reason lies with feedbacks in the climate system. For example, as the temperature increases, less snow will be present at the poles. Less snow means less sunlight reflected back into space, which means more warming.

These positive feedbacks accelerate global warming and also introduce uncertainty into estimates of climate sensitivity, say Gerard Roe and Marcia Baker of the University of Washington in Seattle.

Lucky (or unlucky) for us, I think we are going to run out of oil before we can melt the polar ice caps. The (not very accurate) models that assume big atmospheric carbon dioxide increases in the 21st century are making an unrealistic assumption. The big run-up in oil prices is signalling the coming end of the oil era. We should move past the oil era debates and start focusing on how to move more easily into the post-fossil fuels era.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 October 25 11:25 PM  Climate Trends

Michael G.R. said at October 26, 2007 9:09 AM:

I seriously doubt we'll run out of fossil fuels before we can cause massive damage (and so does Tim Flannery, btw). We still have lots of oil -- remember, peak oil is just the halfway point and will mostly influence the price -- and coal (lots and lots of it), the worse of the worse.

Alex said at October 26, 2007 11:59 AM:

At the rate we're currently going, I think at some point we will be able to accurately model the climate. From what I hear IBM has something on the drawing table that is going to bust Moore's Law. And as an aside has anyone seen The Great Global Warming Scandal, its a documentary by the BBC, personally I think that anthropogenic CO2 has an extremely small effect on the climate, and the heating is caused by an increase in solar activity.

Ken said at October 26, 2007 7:09 PM:

Coal is a bigger source of GHG's than oil and with oil supply reaching it's limits whilst demand is insatiable the temptation to try coal to oil processes will be near irresistible and that's more CO2 intensive than from crude oil.

If people are prepared to accept the assertions of The Great Global Warming Swindle without question but not accept the work of working scientist - and the thorough debunking they've done of this mistake filled and misleading doco - then they no doubt would think that anthropogenic CO2 has a small effect. When every peak science body finds the science and the scientific arguments for AGW compelling, it takes more than a thoroughly discredited BBC Documentary to persuade me they are all wrong. Especially when it requires that all that science does know about climate is dismissed in favour of a hypothesis for which there is no convincing evidence (particularly the lack of recent increase in solar activity).

John Faughnan said at October 27, 2007 7:56 PM:

You've repeated the "run out of oil" meme before, but it's nowhere near right. See this:


It's the coal, as noted above. We have far, far too much coal.

It may indeed be true that we aren't going to be able to model climate effectively. It may be truly chaotic. So far the data has been consistently worse than our models predicted ...

So are you still a global warming skeptic? It's been one of your "weak points" (in my opinion) for a year or two.

Randall Parker said at October 27, 2007 9:04 PM:


A few points:

1) I'm not so focused on the science of CO2 warming effect. My main focus is on fossil fuels reserves and the development of substitute technologies. I think the people who fear global warming have just made the assumption we have enough fossil fuels to burn without looking hard at the evidence.

2) Yes, I really do think we are going to run out of oil before we can melt the polar ice caps. I do not see how your link addresses the oil reserves exhaustion problem. Do you think we aren't close to peak oil? I can provide references for the Peak Oil argument. For example, right now the world is at an oil production plateau. I read a lot more about this topic than I post about here.

3) I think it would be cheap and easy to cool down the planet if we had to. Gregory Benford has proposed one planet cooling method and Oliver Wingenter has proposed another. My main reservation is that the oceans could become too acidified if we let CO2 concentrations go high and do climate engineering.

4) Coal: American coal reserves might not be so big. CalTech prof David Rutledge thinks the entire world's coal reserves might not be so big. But I'm thinking either we don't have that much coal or rising opposition to coal will reduce how much we end up using.

So are you chiefly concerned about the coal? Or do you also think we have a lot more oil to extract? If you think the latter you ought to start listening to growing number of voices in the oil industry who are becoming pessimistic about future oil production.

Here are some peak oil predictions:

  • 2006-2007 Bakhitari, A.M.S. Iranian Oil Executive
  • 2007-2009 Simmons, M.R. Investment banker
  • After 2007 Skrebowski, C. Petroleum journal Editor
  • Before 2009 Deffeyes, K.S. Oil company geologist (ret.)
  • Before 2010 Goodstein, D. Vice Provost, Cal Tech
  • Around 2010 Campbell, C.J. Oil company geologist (ret.)
  • After 2010 World Energy Council World Non-Government Org.
  • 2010-2020 Laherrere, J. Oil company geologist (ret.)
  • 2016 EIA nominal case DOE analysis/ information
  • After 2020 CERA Energy consultants
  • 2025 or later Shell Major oil company
  • No visible peak Lynch, M.C. Energy economist
momochan said at October 29, 2007 1:15 PM:
I think that anthropogenic CO2 has an extremely small effect on the climate, and the heating is caused by an increase in solar activity.

In a nonlinear system, a small input can have implications down the road that are much larger. The small input could trigger positive feedbacks that amplify the direction of the input.

Also, the data do not support the idea of an increase in solar activity. Actually the temperatures that have been rising have been the nighttime lows. This is consistent with greenhouse-gas-induced warming, because the mechanism is that these gases trap some infrared that would have radiated out into space at night. If solar activity were the cause of rising temperatures, the daytime highs would be rising more than the nighttime lows.

Engineer-Poet said at October 29, 2007 7:15 PM:

Randal, you forgot the peak-oil prediction of Thanksgiving Day (US), 2005 by Kenneth Deffeyes.

So far it looks like the peak for crude+condensate was May 2005.

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