Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bring back the dinosaurs, cries Anthony Watts

Sou | 8:50 PM Go to the first of 13 comments. Add a comment

You read some really dumb stuff on denier blogs. Today there's one article that really takes the cake.

Anthony Watts is claiming that if Earth heats up by four degrees or more, it won't matter a damn because - dinosaurs! (Archived here).

I don't know if Anthony really believes what he writes or if he is dumb ignorant. Here is some of what he wrote:
...According to Wikipedia, the mean global temperature during the Cretaceous was 18c, 4c higher than today’s global temperature. The CO2 level in the Cretaceous was around 1700ppm, over 4x higher than today’s 400ppm.
...What can we learn from the the Cretaceous? In my opinion, the lesson from the Cretaceous is – we have nothing to fear from CO2. 

You can read his full article in the archive here.

When the rate of extinction vastly exceeds the rate of speciation, then its described as an extinction event. This usually happens when something changes on Earth and the change is so great that plants and animals and microbes cannot adapt. And there isn't time for there to evolve life forms that are suited to the changed conditions.

What we're doing now is causing very, very rapid change.

The current extinction event that we're seeing the start of is going to happen much faster than what occurred over most previous extinctions. In terms of time, it's closer to the pace of change of Anthony's biggest fear, which he voices often, that a large asteroid will hit earth. In fact he even mentioned it in this article. Anthony wrote:
And if our civilisation has any money to spare on preparations for possible disasters, we should be spending that money on building meteor defences, not on trying to curb harmless CO2 emissions.
And he linked to an older article of his: A problem that is bigger than global warming. He's voiced this same fear at other times, too, which I've written about before.

Some scientists have warned that we are embarking on a bigger, more rapid change, that will be ten times faster than any in the past 65 million years. You might recall the paper by Noah Diffenbaugh and Christopher Field, where they wrote:
Inertia toward continued emissions creates potential 21st-century global warming that is comparable in magnitude to that of the largest global changes in the past 65 million years but is orders of magnitude more rapid. The rate of warming implies a velocity of climate change and required range shifts of up to several kilometers per year, raising the prospect of daunting challenges for ecosystems, especially in the context of extensive land use and degradation, changes in frequency and severity of extreme events, and interactions with other stresses.

Anthony is worried about an event that would cause massive change on a scale similar to what we are causing by burning CO2, but for which the likelihood is decidedly lower,  What he gets most wrong is that it isn't the end result that's the problem, it's the speed with which change happens. That's why anything that can be done to slow or stop the change is not merely desirable, it's essential for species living here today.

The other thing that Anthony doesn't mention is that during the Cretaceous, there weren't any humans around. In fact there weren't even any primates at all. The first primates didn't appear until around ten to fifteen million years after the end of the Cretaceous. There was nothing like seven billion plus people living in crowded cities and countries. There were no humans to worry about relocating entire nations (like Bangladesh and Egypt and the Netherlands). There weren't any human-like ancestors around to have to be concerned about transport or communications infrastructure, or wonder how billions of people will fare if large areas of land become so hot that mammals cannot live there.

You get the picture better than me, I expect. Certainly better than Anthony Watts.

From the WUWT comments

I wondered how many people at WUWT would point out the absurdity of Anthony's article.  I didn't find anyone, though there were some comments that went part of the way.

Anthony was talking about a period that lasted around 80,000,000 years and cnxtim talks about eighteen years?
November 4, 2014 at 9:06 am
With respect;
“dial up the CO2 level, and actually see what really happens? ”
this “experiment” has already been observed in real life over the last 18 years..

Over that eighteen years, the surface has heated up by at least 0.2 degrees Celsius, a rise that probably would have taken several centuries in the Cretaceous. Lots of ice has melted and the oceans have stored an awful lot of heat. I mean this is people who have been chatting about climate - some for more than a decade and they've learnt nothing. Zilch. They've probably gone backwards in knowledge.

One person hit on the real issue here. Joel Pedro wrote:
November 4, 2014 at 1:57 pm
Speaking of elephants.. the one in the room here is the *rate of temperature change*. We can all agree that the life abounded in the high temperatures of the Cretaceous but the issue is what happens if the climate reaches those temperatures within the next couple of centuries. Can life adapt that quickly? The geological record would suggest many species may not (consider e.g the mass extinction event triggered by the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum).

...which brought out nutters like Ron House who wrote:
November 4, 2014 at 6:19 pm
Joel Pedro, the temperature went from 13C to 24C in just the last few hours. And I’m still alive!!!! And you say we have centuries to prepare for a 2C change? If you think that’s a problem, what on earth are you smoking?

...and dbstealey who weirdly thinks that global temperatures change by "tens of degrees within a decade or two just before the Holocene"

November 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm
Joel Pedro,
The rate of temperature change just before the current Holocene was on the order of tens of degrees, within only a decade or two:
[archived link http://postimg.org/image/67p8ha6wz/]
Pretty big elephant, eh? And since we came out of it OK, I would say we adapted pretty well.
Smokey (dbstealey) referred to one of  his many charts that he puts up without understanding the first thing about them. In this case his chart was marked "Central Greenland" and showed the Younger Dryas event which affected the Northern Hemisphere, with effects observed in Greenland in particular. He seemed to think that what happened in Greenland happened everywhere. It didn't. Not only that, his "tens of degrees" turns out to have been up to around 14C on the Greenland summit.

Joel Pedro tried to set dbstealey straight, but I think Smokey's head is made of wood. I've never seen any instance where anything anyone says has changed his warped thinking about anything.
November 4, 2014 at 3:05 pm
The temperature change Richard Alley is taking about there is on the Greenland ice sheet (where there is not a lot of biodiversity). Around the rest of the world the *total* warming between the Last Glacial Maximum ca. 22,0000 years ago to the onset of the Holocene 11,700 years ago was more like 2 to 3 degrees C (see e.g Schmittner et al., Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1203513). So the projected global rates of change are one or two orders of magnitude slower than during the last glacial to interglacial transition.
The point that climate can change more abruptly in some regions than in others is an important one all the same. Its why people like Wally Broecker, who knows a lot about these things, says we shouldn’t go poking the climate beast with sticks.

climatereflections needs to reflect some more. He's way off beam.  Does he really and truly think that Canada will just turn into Florida? That fish and birds and animals and plants in Canada will simply make way for alligators and mangrove swamps? And what happens to Florida? What happens to the hottest places on Earth, the driest and the wettest?
November 4, 2014 at 9:30 am
Individually, we can see what a +2C world would be like by looking a bit south of where we live (or north, for those in the southern hemisphere). You can pull out the temperature maps, find where you live, and then look for a place that has a climate +2C above yours. You want to find out what a +2C world would be like for you, individually, on the ground, relatively close to where you live? Easy. Get in the car and drive for a few hours.
For many of us, a +2C world would mean moving closer to Florida, or San Diego, or Cancun, or the Hawaiian Islands. Not too scary. Indeed, most of us save up money during the year so we can go spend a week or two in such locales. 

Mick thinks that all it means is that it won't get quite as cold in winter but otherwise everything will remain the same. These chaps have no concept of what it takes to change an average temperature of the entire world.
November 4, 2014 at 6:00 pm
So instead of – 10 C in the winter, it would get to a balmy – 8 where i live ? doesnt sound like Hawaii to me. big deal

There are plenty more dumb comments where those came from if you want to explore the limited intellectual capacity and dull imagination of the denialist mind.

How will they stop what they've started?

One thing that surprised me is that the WUWT-ers all seemed to think that the world will be successful in limiting the rise in global average surface temperature to two degrees. Yet at the same time many of them want to "bring it on". They aren't quite bright enough to ask themselves the question: if we "bring it on" - who's going to put on the brakes when we get "brung on"? How is the temperature rise going to be limited to two degrees? What happens at four degrees or six degrees? And if it gets above seven degrees then parts of the world won't be habitable. It'll be beyond the tolerance of mammalian physiology.

No-one shares Anthony Watts' meteor phobia

Oh and one other thing is quite clear. There is no-one at WUWT who shares Anthony Watts' meteor phobia. There were only six people out of the 175 comments (so far) who mentioned the word "meteor" and it wasn't that they were scared shitless like Anthony is. The rest were mostly talking about warming and geology.

Diffenbaugh, Noah S., and Christopher B. Field. "Changes in ecologically critical terrestrial climate conditions." Science 341, no. 6145 (2013): 486-492.  DOI: 10.1126/science.1237123 


  1. I don't know how to describe this kind of argument as anything other than incredibly dumb! If all we were worried about was whether or not there will still be life on the planet in 100, or 1000, years time, then we can stop worrying. I'm pretty confident that there will be (unless something completely unexpected were to happen). As you say, though, the concern is whether or not the changes we are forcing on our climate will allow billions of humans to continue existing as we are today and to increase the number of people who are able to have a decent quality of life.

    1. I'm thinking Anthony's getting a bit reckless again. The strength of the IPCC reports and the media reaction may have shaken him a bit.

      Expect to read more "OMG it's insects" over coming weeks. He hasn't had much to offer on climate lately and is relying on Tedious Tisdale and nonsense from the rattier end of town, like Tim Ball and Eric Worrall and John Coleman. His other regulars (Wondering Willis and the potty peer) aren't contributing much. I think they are busy. And he can't keep copying press releases of scientific papers or people will start to wonder.

      Writing blog articles all by himself is definitely not one of Anthony's strengths.

    2. "The strength of the IPCC reports and the media reaction may have shaken him a bit."

      Wasn't it not that long ago that Watts - courtesy of Matt Ridley - was assuring his mindless worshippers that the IPCC reports were going to be significantly watered down this time around?

  2. Good to know that Watts wants to be associated with dinosaurs

    1. Ya gotta move up in this world , you know...

      R the anon

  3. Sou you are treasure. Thank you.

  4. How will they stop what they've started?

    A very good question. I almost worry for their sanity.

  5. Richard Alley, in his famous AGU lecture of a few years ago (viewable here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RffPSrRpq_g) mentioned that during the height of the Cretaceous/Eocene "hothouse" climate, tropical sea-surface temperatures reached (or possibly exceeded) 100 deg F.

    Now, consider the implications of that -- with 100F+ sea-surface temperatures, you could see atmospheric dew-points approaching 100F. i.e., you could have conditions where you have 100 degree temperatures with 100% humidity.

    Google up a heat-index calculator and punch in 100 for the temperature and humidity. You will get a heat-index exceeding 190 degrees F!

    In conditions like that, everyone caught outside for more than a few hours will die of heat-stroke. **Everyone**.

    If conditions on the Earth returned to those of the Cretaceous Period, a very large fraction of the planet (including virtually all of the tropics and large portions of the Earth's temperate zones) would be completely uninhabitable by humans.

    So even though life thrived during the Cretaceous & Eocene we humans wouldn't, because we are physically unable to tolerate Cretaceous/Eocene heat and humidity.

    A return to the Cretaceous/Eocene would mean the end of human civilization -- full stop.

    But don't try explaining any of this to Watts and his followers -- it's *much* too complicated.

  6. WUWT has its own resident dinosaur in the form of Willis Eschenbach. Until recently I thought WUWT should be renamed "Willis Eschenbach Travelogue" or WET. I attempted to take him to task over several unscientific and actually untruthful statements he made as he blustered through The Most Important Sea Level Graph, but he just ignored my comments and fudged onward as usual. (fudge; verb intransitive: to continue an unsupportable argument whilst remaining evidentially barren).

    He apparently thinks (no, he does think, he said so!) that a difference of 4 mm/year SLR between two locations is "statistically insignificant", based on more blather (polite-speak for bullshit).

    Dinosaurs of whatever species are doomed to extinction - very little brain, and an ego the size of a small blue-green planet.

    There - that feels better - totally off-topic, but it needed saying somewhere, and here's as good a place as any.

    1. Saying Willis's brain is similar in size to a dinosaur's is an insult to Troodon

  7. Contrarians think about their science the way they think about their politics, they want "term limits". They believe that the longer you practice your craft, the further you get from the "real" people and the "real world". Experience and wisdom is not valued if it is the "wrong" kind. Contrarians resent career scientists, especially career scientists whose product bleeds into contrarian economic interest. The way to diminish the influence of "careerist" is to slander and cutoff their funding; and ideally, get them booted out of a job.


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