Why Climate Change is a cult-

I really enjoy the tweets from the Aerogram since they provide well-curated content. However this third-party article on Monsoon dispersion of pollution is simply rife with generalities and polemicism, high by even BP’s well-worn standards.

The article starts off on a fascinating note:

As South Asia burns fossil fuels, researchers from Germany say the clockwise-spinning storm pulls the emissions high into the troposphere. There, lightning-fueled chemical reactions transform the pollutants into more stable forms, which fall to earth as harmless rain.

A paen to Mother India cleaning up after her messy spawn. However before we could take any consolation in the good news:

By combining these measurements with computer models of air circulation, the researchers tracked the path of the contaminants and how they changed as they reached higher altitudes.

As expected, at lower altitudes, the South Asian monsoon did disperse pollutants over a wide region, including distant areas like Tibet. However, the scientists also found that the monsoon pulled the polluted air from the atmosphere into the much higher troposphere, where with the assistance of the storm’s lightning, it reacted with other gases, and could be washed out by the rain.

Note they use simulated models to track the pollutants so in a way this isn’t verified or empirical based science. It would have been good to actually validate pollution levels in places like Tibet etc. And then for the final piece de resistance:

Unfortunately, Lelieveld told VOA, “the monsoon is weakening, which can reduce the cleaning mechanism. We also believe that the air pollution contributes to a weakening of the monsoon.” He added, “Intuitively, if the monsoon weakens, the pollution will stay more near the ground rather than being transported upward.”

This is a comment that wouldn’t have even passed muster in our own threads. How do we know the Monsoon is weakening and how do know that air pollution is weakening the Monsoon.

I do think it’s fairly straightforward and uncontroversial to state that we should pollute less but it’s increasingly evident that anthropogenic pollution isn’t as clear-cut a topic as we think it is. The Earth does seem to have some feedback mechanisms and it’s also worth reflect if the human scale of pollution can match natural events (like a volcano eruption etc).

We live in a liberal-defined shibboleth and these new orthodoxies are sometimes even more pernicious than the ones of yore since these are draped in the values and ideals of the enlightenment. Please note I’m not necessarily espousing one view over the other but we as learnt in BP; argument from authority (experts) is a logical fallacy and the article above reeks of it.

30 thoughts on “Why Climate Change is a cult-”

  1. This is my current area of research, specifically ocean circulation rather than atmospheric, but of course, they are both important for a precipitation system like the monsoon.

    The monsoon is principally driven by land sea temperature differences, most importantly those between extremely hot NW India & Pakistan, and the much cooler Indian ocean. Till recently the ocean was warming faster than the land, so the gradient was decreasing, resulting in weaker monsoons. More recently, the land has been warming faster than the ocean, which has offset some of the earlier weakening. These analyses are all based on empirical observations.

    Regarding simulations and modeling, the principal technique used is inverse modeling. Existing observations are used to calibrate physical models based on conservation laws, but with unknown
    closure parameters. These calibrated models are then used to reproduce some other measurements, and predict the future. The main challenge for this methodology is the lack of data and model errors, but their predictions do try and take this into account.

    1. Thanks Vikram; none of these details were in the article hence my post. It just assumes a level of prior knowledge and was sloppily written.

      I’m not denying climate change; I just prefer context.

      Is the land warming faster than the ocean because of us?

    2. Vikram

      Dont know about changing land ocean temperature differences. But for sure, the water carrying capacity of the atmosphere increases exponentially. (see graph in link below) leading to stronger monsoons. Not only stronger, the water is dumped like from a bucket (a feature of precipitation as water carrying capacity increases). This leads to situs where you can have a 25% of historic rainfall in a few hours. Also means unmanageable floods.

      Another issuse I have noticed. SL has two monsoons, South West (as the sun travels northward) and the North East (as sun travels south). The last two years no real SW and NW monsoon. The clouds and rain from the East and south east.
      If you can lay hands on time series of cloud cover for Indian Ocean very obvious. I just look at hourly satellite imagery from the IMD. Hopefully, someone will write about it soon.

      Was a oceanographer (experimental) and ended up doing climate in a previous life.

      Anyways from my blog post re Climate Change written for some skeptics.
      First my personal opinion, I think whatever the consequences of increased human activity such as C02 emissions, increased population and deforestation are already baked into whats going to happen in the next 30-40 years. The consequences maybe (and its a big maybe) mitigated by actions now, but it will be 30-40 years before results will be seen. I’ll be dead by then, so I have decided not worry my little head over whether mitigating strategies will work or not, but to have exit strategies for probable outcomes.


        1. Monsoon is an Indian Language word, mausam (mosam in Sinhala). The word Monsoon started getting used to describe as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation.

          From wiki
          The major monsoon systems of the world consist of the West African and Asia-Australian monsoons. The inclusion of the North and South American monsoons with incomplete wind reversal has been debated.

          So to your question re good or bad.
          Life in South Asia is defined by monsoons. The life giving rain, winds to sail the ocean etc. Too much and you have huge floods. Too little and drought. I’ll take too much and hope the floods can be managed or work around. Quite hard to work around a drought.

          does it mean we’re all dead in 30/40yrs?
          I will be dead, dont expect/wish to live till 90/100.

          But it will be a period of immense climate change. How will NYC cope with huge burst of rainfall and flooding of subways. Will the California have a continuing a multi decadal droughts. Water Wars?.
          Can make some probable prediction, but which politician is going to commit to an action plan to prevent probable issues a decade ahead.

          On the other hand the big and smart money have already baked probable climate change scenarios into their bets. The startup (5 people) weather derivatives company I worked for lost 60 million in one season because they did not take into account the warming in that past decade (2000). That was an wake up call for wall street. Try getting flood insurance, 100 year events are the norm. Every one and their son is trying to corner water rights in certain areas.

          Yes, wall streeters publicly deny Climate change, possibly because they dont want to pay taxes or whatever for mitigation. In private they busy making Climate change related bets.

  2. I’m not a scientist and have no idea whether the monsoon is weakening or not. But I do think it is worth noting that Delhi is among the most polluted cities in the world. I read an article a while back where diplomats were refusing to take up posts in Delhi, because they didn’t want to make their children breathe that air. Lahore is also quite polluted, but nowhere near Delhi levels (yet).


    1. Delhi’s pollution has its roots in politics. Farmers are the most important voting group in India, especially places like UP and Haryana, and the pollution is in large part due to the farm waste burning. Curbing this without compensating farmers would be political suicide.

      Delhi otherwise would not be as polluted, the city has a good public transport network and is densely populated, meaning over a third of all trips only involve walking.

      I dont think Lahore is as densely populated as Delhi.

      1. Lahore has 10 million people. Delhi has about 19 million (so about the same as Karachi).

        Anyway, pollution from India has cross border effects. When the air in Lahore becomes unbearable, it’s because of crop burning in Indian Punjab.

        There is not really a way of reliably measuring air quality in Pakistan but anecdotally when people come from Delhi to Lahore they remark that they can actually breathe.

      2. Aren’t there a lot of people who live in Gurgaon and work in Delhi?

        In Lahore, there are a lot of people who live in DHA Phase whatever (I think we are now up to Phase 10 or something and fast approaching the Wagah border) or Bahria Town. Most of these people’s jobs (if they are white-collar jobs) are in Lahore city proper. All these people have to commute to work in their cars.

        There is a metro bus (overground) that runs in Lahore city but it is very much for the masses and not something the rich would ever use. It’s crowded and not comfortable. I’ve been on it when we were visiting the Fort and the Masjid in the inner city.

          1. It’s my impression that a lot of people who work in Delhi live in either Gurgaon (I refuse to use the BJP’s new name for the suburb) or in NOIDA.

            The AAP Chief Minister tried some alternate day car thing. But I have no idea how well that worked.

          2. Noida and Gurgaon are on the metro. Its kind of like DC, where the system spans two states and the capital. The majority of white collar jobs are in these satellite cities now, building restrictions are lower, land is cheaper ect. So you have a skyline of sorts in Gurgaon that you won’t see in Delhi proper.

          3. girmit,
            That was my impression. Though in DC, people who live out in Reston and Silver Spring still need to come into the city proper for work. Most people in the DC area work for the government, either directly or indirectly.

            Of course, if you’re in IT, your job may very well be in Reston.

  3. My understanding is that the high levels of fine particulate matter are a regional problem, not necessarily based on an urban area. Straw burning is practiced all over the subcontinent but its particularly problematic in the north/northwest plains because they are in a geographic cul-de-sac where the air can’t easily pass beyond the himalayas, or something like that.

  4. Have a feeling that we are at the same stage with water scarcity, we were on climate change in the 70s.

  5. Climate change is real. People in England say over the 40 years the winters aren’t that cold. Heck, southern England is producing wine nowadays due to warming. This was unheard if in previous centuries. Unrestricted emission of co2 by millions of vehicles day and night has an effect over many decades.

          1. Will try, in the meantime


            “On Independence Day, 1975, the then Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal (later defence minister) was addressing the parade in Rohtak, where my parents then lived….
            …… And third was his insight into why Indiraji had signed the Simla Agreement with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. At Simla, he said, Bhutto fell at Indira’s feet and begged for mercy. As he finally raised himself, Indiraji noticed his trousers were wet. So she took pity, signed the Simla Agreement, and returned 93,000 prisoners……
            …. But the third, given its diplomatic fallout, was unacceptable even to dictator Indira. Instructions were accordingly sent to all newspapers to delete his comments on Simla and Bhutto. ”

            Our braggadocio are no less than the Pakistanis 😛

          2. Perhaps ZAB was a just a good negotiator? I believe Mrs. G wanted to make the Ceasefire Line in Kashmir permanent but ZAB refused and so it was just made into a “Line of Control”. Indians are forever blaming her for not punishing Pakistan enough.

            ZAB took his daughter to the Simla agreement. I somehow doubt he would ever have fallen at Mrs. G’s feet.

  6. Climate change is definitely a thing in South Asia. I doubt many Himalayan glaciers will survive till the middle of the century, though things are apparently not so bad in the Karakorams. Apparently the micro-climate there is actually stabilising the glaciers unlike in the rest is the Himalayas.

    I grew up in Mumbai and Hyderabad without A/C’s, and it was perfectly fine. But even places like Pune and Coimbatore, known for their moderate climates, are burning hot in summers now. Speaking of A/C’s one of my favourite passages in Mohsen Hamid’s Moth Smoke is when the protagonist classifies the inhabitants of Lahore by their consumption of Air conditioning. Really enjoyed that book back in the day.

    During my visits to Barcelona, Lisbon and Rome to meet friends last year I was struck by the number of Bangladeshis in these cities. Most of them seem to be listlessly wandering around, or selling illegal beer under the noses of the cops. I won’t be surprised if they’re climate-change migrants, that’s a reality that the world will have to accept.

    “It has been estimated by the UN IPCC’s reports and analysis that a one-metre sea level rise in the south of the country will entail a 17-20% loss of territory to the sea, meaning that Bangladesh will lose up to 20% of its current landmass. It is going to create a very large climate refugee population.”


    Many of them will end up in Europe, many more will go to India. How will India be able to deal with this?

    1. No, those Bangladeshis in Europe are not destitute climate change refugees. They mostly belong to lower middle income class with some fixed assets. It cost quite a significant amount of money to illegally attempt to go to Europe or North America, minimum 10,000 dollars. People sell their property or use family savings to try to go to Europe. Many of those youths are also college educated at least. Their is a hierarchy of illegal economic migrants from Bangladesh. The destitute/climate refugees try to go to India, people with some savings try to go Malaysia, Middle East. Middle Income try to go to Europe.

    2. “It has been estimated by the UN IPCC’s reports and analysis that a one-metre sea level rise in the south of the country will entail a 17-20% loss of territory to the sea, meaning that Bangladesh will lose up to 20% of its current landmass. It is going to create a very large climate refugee population.”

      this only holds if bdesh stays so rural. if the cities could absorb them they wouldn’t need to go elsewhere.

      a lot of these estimates/projections act as if economics doesn’t change the variables/parameters over time (for good or ill).

      1. Dont know enough about Bdesh geography to comment.

        In SL km inland will give breathing space for another century or so (I think).

        I get worried (academically) about coastal cities and apartment living, specially the newer one dependent on elevators/electricity. Also you are dependent on govt/collective decisions.

        So what happens when the electricity gets cut off, there is limited supply of LPG for cooking.

        My little neck of the woods, seems ideal. 20m above sea level with a river (fed from the hills) border. No electricity/LPG plenty of firewood.

        I have a bit of prepper thinking. No, i dont have guns and a big stash of canned food.

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