Josh Willis of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2003 completed the deployment of 3000 oceanic robots that dive 1 kilometer deep and record the water temperature. The unexpected result is that the robots have found that the ocean cooled slightly in the past 4 years. Willis also says that the oceans contain almost ten times the amount of heat as the atmosphere so the ocean temperature is much more critical to watch. Compounding the mystery is the fact that the oceans have risen by one centimeter in the past 4 years which is much more than was forecast. A cooling ocean should be falling not rising. He says the fall is offset by icemelt in Greenland and Antarctica but the meltwaters aren’t nearly enough to account for the rise. In another refreshingly canded admission Willis says that global climate models do not adequately account for the effect of clouds and they have no current instrumentation to measure global cloud behavior. He suspects that clouds act as a thermostat to limit how warm and how cold the earth can get. I’ve read elsewhere and have blogged it here that global warming models don’t account for precipitation and increased precipitation might also be a thermostat – when the atmosphere warms up we get a faster water cycle, a faster water cycle means more evaporation, and it takes a lot of heat to evaporate water. Increased rainfall essentially acts like a global swamp cooler.
The long and the short of all this is that blaming CO2 for any negative or potentially negative effects at this point in time is just a lot of hot air (figuratively not literally). In the meantime we do know three things that are undisputed:
1) a warm wet world is better than a cold dry world
2) food crops grow better and faster when given more warmth and carbon dioxide
3) reducing the CO2 in the atmosphere is a costly undertaking that will put further strain on the global economy
So there exists a very real possibility that attempts to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere will have far worse consequences than doing nothing. It will certainly cost a lot to do it starting right away. If it can be done at all it will take 50 years before any benefits start kicking in. If it can be done in 50 years it might be disastrous to the world food supply, especially if the climate cools (for whatever reason) simultaneous to the CO2 reduction. At the very least the whole situation needs to be studied a lot more before action is taken. If we take action based on incomplete climate models we’re just asking for trouble. Look before you leap.
Read more here: The Mystery of Global Warming’s Missing Heat by Richard Harris