Stabilizing Feedbacks in the Climate System



Stabilizing Feedbacks in the Climate System // Published on Mar 3, 2017

We often hear about “positive” (accelerating) feedbacks in the climate system speeding up rates of change, even exponentially.

I tell the story of some powerful “negative” stabilizing (braking, arresting, slowing) feedbacks (physical & human) that most people are not aware of. I talk about how the equilibrium Earth temperature is derived, & how Stefan-Boltzmann emissions send energy to space balancing incoming solar energy.


About paulbeckwith

Well known climate science educator; Part-time Geography professor (climatology, oceanography, environmental issues), University of Ottawa. Physicist. Engineer. Master's Degree in Science in Laser Optics, Bachelors of Engineering, in Engineering Physics. Won Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario gold medal. Also interested in investment and start-ups in climate solutions, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Avid chess player, and likes restoring old homes. Married with children.
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4 Responses to Stabilizing Feedbacks in the Climate System

  1. David Brettell says:

    Regarding your recent video.
    “easily put sulfur into the atmosphere” Sounds easier said than done. I think a number of countries might object. I understood the math and explanation but doesn’t the planet still heat up until an equilibrium point is reached, i.e. when the planet is hotter? How is that a negative feedback? The planet is still hotter. Regarding a tipping point for the people, my local observation is the complete opposite, I see a population unaware or hiding from climate change and I honestly don’t see that changing as explained by Monbiot today I look forward to seeing your video reply to global dimming and any other negative feedbacks you have.


  2. longboren says:

    I am a fan of yours, despite the tone of this comment. I understand your objections to the near term human extinction argument. Despite the exponential trends involved, there is likely to be steps involved or several different stages. Also I certainly hope the theory is incorrect at least for my lifetime the lifetimes of people I know. However your argument that there is no scientific basis for human extinction is a little weak. Species go extinct all of the time, and lately more so than ever. Two years, ten years, 100 years, 1000 years, who knows; whenever it happens I’m sure that it will be a surprise. However the argument that when humans have their back to the wall, they will respond also has little scientific basis. Certainly I hope that you are right, but on what evidence? If a country is attacked from outside, I think you can find all sorts of historical examples. But with respect to the countries that have the wherewithal to respond, the attack is essentially from within, which means entrenched interests are involved. Man’s capacity to delude himself is the second most powerful force in the universe, and when we realize the self delusion, the most powerful force takes over – inertia! …And even if we were to respond would our response be timely? What if nature had already been pushed beyond certain (and for the most part, unknown) tipping points? If we engaged in reducing solar radiation reaching the atmosphere, would we be able to keep it up in the face of some other human caused catastrophe? I think what it comes down to is that you have a difference of opinion on this matter, which should be acknowledged and discussed on both sides, so that you and Guy McPherson can get on with the important work spreading the word about abrupt climate change.


  3. Dale Lanan says:

    Political Science Dept meeting the college of physics under the umbrella of the Old Oak Tree of $ in a world based on the stuff isn’t aware of the entropy rise of frequency increase as Earth Kelvin rises ~ HZ, Habitable Zone frequency of ideas capable of shaking the trees in a way for harmonics to sing the meaning of peaceful endeavor for fun… Like a fundamental law of the universe involving the rise of specie intelligence past its ability to control over-take of consequence ~HZ Range. But if we align the value of work (watts) to best home in on best service to restore Earth to type M flying space in, within Habitable zone,, then we ‘capability’ the wish of others I bet for House 2C. So keep the lid on the number of variables within the study of math and madness of poly-Sci and focus on what fun it would be to increase simplicity aimed at truth within an Open System 2C,,,
    Think of the stories that can be made in future if we, getting our act together can pull out’ of dive at lowest altitude for safe landing’ the hang glider of thought at //distance sympathetic in wish…
    I’m outside range of error for making mistakes in learning and communicating but not in hoping.


  4. Glenn Davis says:

    I was very angery when I first heard this rant because of your passive agessive need to mock other scientist possible more qualified than yourself to discuss extinction and habitat. I believe you do good things. I just wish you wouldn’t act like an envious, scarred tempestuous child.


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