Alleviating Paul Krugman’s Fears

by Julie Walsh on September 29, 2009

Mr Krugman in Sunday’s New York Times is worried.

In  his article “Cassandras of Science” he says, “What’s driving this new pessimism? Partly it’s the fact that some predicted changes, like a decline in Arctic Sea ice, are happening much faster than expected. Partly it’s growing evidence that feedback loops amplifying the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are stronger than previously realized. For example, it has long been understood that global warming will cause the tundra to thaw, releasing carbon dioxide, which will cause even more warming, but new research shows far more carbon locked in the permafrost than previously thought, which means a much bigger feedback effect.”

He’s worried about the Arctic ice. Here’s the latest, though. Information from the National Snow and Ice Data Center shows that the Arctic has been rebounding for the past two years. (It hasn’t recovered yet, though.) The minimum sea ice extent in September of 2007 was 4.3 million square kilometers. In 2008, it was 4.7 mill sq km. And in 2009, it was 5.1 mill sq km. If the Arctic ice continues to rebound at this rate of 0.4 mill sq km per year, in two years it will be back to the level seen in 2006 of 5.9 mill sq km. And if it continues at this rate for three years? It will pass the Arctic sea ice minimum in 1995 of 6.1 mill sq km.

Krugman is also worried about the warming tundra releasing carbon dioxide and methane. But CO2Science .org says, “Another scare story came from a scientist who said the last IPCC report underestimated the vast amount of carbon contained in the world’s permafrost, which could be released to the air by rising temperatures. However, a detailed study of this phenomenon (Delisle, 2007) indicates that “permafrost will mostly prevail in this century in areas north of 70°N,” even for an unbelievable warming of 8°C, and that “permafrost will survive at depth in most areas between 60° to 70°N.” This scenario is also supported by the small amount of organic carbon released from permafrost during previous periods of warming, such as the Medieval Warm Period and Holocene Climatic Optimum, when no significant methane excursions were detected in ice core records of either Antarctica or Greenland.” If the Medieval Warm Period, which was warmer than today, didn’t have increased methane, then we won’t see it either.

If Mr Krugman is concerned about the sea bed deposits of methane called clathrates, he would be comforted reading about this six-year study by Petrenko at the University of Colorado, then. Petrenko says, “The results definitely help us to say that it doesn’t seem methane clathrates respond to warming by releasing lots of methane into the atmosphere, which is really good news for global warming.” Petrenko also said that temperatures in Greenland 12,000 years ago had increased about 10 degrees Celsius in 20 years. But it took 150 years for methane levels in the atmosphere to increase by 50 percent. Therefore, the methane did not contribute to that increase.

Arctic hockey stick graphs that claim that the Arctic is warmer now than in the past two thousand years such as this one, rely upon “previously published data from glacial ice and tree rings that were calibrated against the instrumental temperature record.” That tree ring data is now known to have been incorrect. When those graphs are corrected, they will  likely show that around 1000AD the Arctic was warmer but that runaway global warming obviously did not occur.

I can understand that Krugman hasn’t followed the science, but to make comments like this one, Krugman just looks very deceived: “And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.” The money behind “green” is actually enormous.

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