John Mashey occasionally graces these pages with his comments — a cool, reasoned head on hot issues like global warming/global climate change, despite his history in computers or maybe because of it (which would put the lie to the idea that computer programming explains why so many computer programmers are wacky intelligent design advocates).
Mashey offered a comment over at RealClimate on a post about hoaxer and science parodist Christopher Monckton — a comment you ought to read if you think about Texas ever, and especially if you like the place. It’s comment #413 on that Gigantor blog.
Monckton wrote a letter to the New York Times and attached to it a graph. The graph, it turns out, probably would need to be classified in the fiction section of a library or book store, were it a book. Much discussion occurs, absent any appearance by Monckton himself who does not defend his graphs by pointing to sources that might back what his graphs say, usually.
In short, the post and the extensive comments shed light on the problems of veracity which plague so many who deny either that warming is occurring, or that air pollution from humans might have anything to do with it, or that humans might actually be able to do anything to mitigate the changes or the damage, or that humans ought to act on the topic at all.
So I’ve stolen Mashey’s comment lock, stock and barrel, to give it a little more needed highlight.
If you follow environmental issues much, you probably know Count Christopher Monckton as a man full of braggadocio and bad information on climate. He is known to have worked hard to hoodwink the U.S. Congress with his claims of expertise and policy legitimacy, claiming to be a member of the House of Lords though he is not (some climate change deniers in Congress appear to have fallen for the tale). He pops up at denialist conferences, accuses scientists of peddling false information, and he is a shameless self-promoter.
After much discussion, Mashey turned his attention to claims that Texans don’t know better than Monckton, and other things; Mashey notes that denialists cite Monckton’s performance at a conservative political show in Texas, instead having paid attention to real climate scientists who were meeting just up the road, for free:
AGW’s impact depends on where you live
Texas is Not Scotland, even when a Scottish peer visits
Viscount Monckton lives in the highlands of Scotland (Carie, Rannoch, 57degN, about the same as Juneau, AK, but warmer from Gulf Stream.)
a) SEA LEVEL, STORMS
Most of Scotland (esp the highlands) is well above sea level, and in any case, from Post-Glacial Rebound, it’s going up. [Not true of Southern England.]
Scotland gets lots of regular precipitation. From that, he likely gets ~1690mm or more rainfall/year, noticeably more than Seattle or Vancouver.
Scotland has complex, variable weather systems, with more rain in West than in East, but has frequent precipitation all year.
Scotland’s climate would likely be better with substantial warming. See UK Met Office on Scotland, which one might compare with NASA GISS Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature Change. Scotland average maximum temperatures are 18-19C in the summer, i.e., in most places it might occasionally get up to 70F, although of course it varies by geography. +3C is no big deal. The record maximum was 32.9C (91F), set in 2003. Maybe there is yet a good future for air-conditioning/cooling vendors.
If one does a simple linear regression on both sets of annual data, one finds that SLOPE(Scotland) = .0071C/year, SLOPE(world) = .0057C/year, i.e., Scotland is warming slightly faster than the world as a whole.
The combination of b) and c) is, most likely *good* for agriculture in Scotland. There is plenty of rain, and higher temperatures mean less snow and a longer growing season. Great!
In addition, the British geoscientist/vineyard archaeologist Richard Selley thinks that while it may be too hot for good vineyards in Southern England by 2080, it will be fine for some areas of Scotland.
Future Loch Ness Vineyard: great!
e) OIL+GAS, ENERGY
Fossil fuel production (North Sea oil&gas) is very important to the Scotland economy. Wikipedia claims oil-related employment is 100,000 (out of total population of about 5M).
Scotland has not always been ecstatic to be part of the UK.
The Viscount Monckton spoke for Young Conservatives of Texas, April 28 @ Texas A&M, which of course has a credible Atmospheric Sciences Department. Of course, many of them were unable to hear the Viscount because they were in Austin at CLIMATE CHANGE Impacts on TEXAS WATER, whose proceedings are online. See especially Gerald North on Global Warming and TX Water.
Monckton delivered his message: “no worries, no problems” which might well fit Scotland just fine, at least through his normal life expectancy.
The message was delivered to Texans typically in their 20s, many of whom would expect to see 2060 or 2070, and whose future children, and certainly grandchildren, might well see 2100.
Texas is rather different from Scotland, although with one similarity (oil+gas).
a) SEA LEVEL, STORMS
Texas has a long, low coastline in major hurricane territory.
Brownsville, TX to Port Arthur is a 450-mile drive, with coastal towns like Corpus Christi, Galveston, and Port Arthur listed at 7 feet elevations. The center of Houston is higher, but some the TX coast has subsidence issues, not PGR helping it rise. The Houston Ship Canal and massive amounts of infrastructure are very near sea level. More people live in the Houston metropolitan area + rest of the TX coast than in all of Scotland.
Of course, while North Sea storms can be serious, they are not hurricanes. IF it turns out that the intensity distribution of hurricanes shifts higher, it’s not good, since in the short term (but likely not the long term), storm surge is worse than sea level rise.
Hurricane Rita (2005) and Hurricane Ike (2008) both did serious damage, but in some sense, both “missed” Houston. (Rita turned North, and hit as a Category 3; Ike was down to Category 2 before hitting Galveston).
Scotland: no problem
TX: problems already
Texas is very complex meteorologically, and of course, it’s big, but as seen in the conference mentioned above (start with North’s presentation), one might say:
– The Western and Southern parts may well share in the Hadley-Expansion-induced loss of rain, i.e., longer and stronger droughts, in common with NM, AZ, and Southern CA. Many towns are dependent on water in rivers that come from the center of the state, like the Brazos.
– The NorthEast part will likely get more rain. [North’s comment about I35 versus I45 indicates uncertainty in the models.]
– Rain is likely to be more intense when it happens, but droughts will be more difficult.
Scotland: no problem
Texas A&M is ~31degN, rather nearer the Equator than 57degN.
Wikipedia has a temperature chart. It is rather warmer in TX, but is also more given to extremes.
Scotland: +3C would be dandy,
Texas: +3C not so dandy.
Between b) and c), less water in dry places, more water in wet places, more variations in water, and higher temperatures (hence worse evaporation/precipitation difference) are not good news for TX agriculture, or so says Bruce McCarl, Professor of Agricultural Economics at TAMU.
For audiences unfamiliar with Texas A&M, the “A” originally stood for Agriculture, and people are called Aggies. One might assume that agricultural research is valued.
Politically, “Aggie-land” would not be considered a hotspot of hyper-liberal folks prone to becoming climate “alarmists”.
Scotland: warmer, great! Wine!
Texas: serious stress.
d) OIL+GAS, ENERGY
Here, there is more similarity: fossil fuels are economically important.
On the other hand, Scotland was settled long before the use of petroleum, and while places like the highlands are very sparse, cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow are relatively dense, and many villages are quite walkable. Warmer temperatures mean *lower* heating costs.
Texas has naturally developed in a very different style, and with forthcoming Peak Oil, this may be relevant. In 2006, according to EIA, Texas was #1 in energy consumption, 5th per-capita (after AK, WY, LA, ND) and uses 2X/capita of states like NY or CA. Some of that is inherent in different climate and industry.
Sprawling development in a state with water problems, subject to dangerous weather extremes, and already seriously-dependent on air-conditioning, may end being expensive for the residents.
Scotland: makes money from fossil energy, but it was mostly built without it. Warmer temperatures reduce energy use.
Texas: already uses ~2.5-3X higher energy/capita, compared to Scotland. Warmer temperatures likely raise energy use.
Gerald North’s talk ended by asking:
“Is Texas the most vulnerable state?”
That sounds like an expert on trains, hearing one coming in the distance, standing on the tracks amidst a bunch of kids, trying to get them off the tracks before there’s blood everywhere.
On the other side, someone safely away from tracks keeps telling the kids that experts are wrong, there is no danger, so they can play there as long as they like.