The paper linked below (which I don’t seem to be able to promote discussion about here on Real Climate) suggests heavily modifying the Sahara and maybe also the Australian Outback. There are regional consequences, several of which are mentioned in the paper. Some of those consequences suggest a more modest modifcation of those two deserts.
Funny, the phrase “climate services” suggests to me something like “ecosystem services,” i.e., services provided by the climate to humans. Viewed that way, it would mean things like dependable rainfall, hospitable temperatures and humidities for agriculture, snowpack for freshwater, etc.
The paper [open access “Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming”] linked below (which I don’t seem to be able to promote discussion about here on Real Climate) suggests heavily modifying the Sahara and maybe also the Australian Outback. There are regional consequences, several of which are mentioned in the paper.
The title is a little over the top since the “solution” merely slows global warming down for a while by expanding a carbon sink — and they acknowledge as much in the paper — but next to agrichar/biochar, this is the single most interesting geo-engineering solution at least that I have seen up till this point.
David Benson wrote in 1:
Is this a form of climate service?
Is geoengineering a climate service?
Normally when I think of “climate service” I am thinking of something more along the lines of predictions in the “sweet spot” of climate forecasting (see the section “The sweet spot for climate predictability” of the 13 Jul 2007 “Friday Roundup”) where for the next forty years or so what happens is largely a function of the carbon dioxide we have already emitted rather than the carbon dioxide that we have yet to emit — and thus more or less independent of the emissions scenario. And it would be local forecasting — similar to what DePreSys and the like are aiming for — so that people will know whether investments in building or farming in a given region is a good idea given how the climate will be changing.
This seems a bit more proactive – in the sense that they seek some control over the climate rather than simply taking that change for granted – and global. However, I would hesitate to say that it isn’t a climate service. I would hate to penalize it merely for scale of ambition.
1 David, afforestation in a practical sense becomes tree-farms. We could see a resurgence of log homes, which is a grand way to sequester carbon. This is like the California model but using a renewable source of water. I wonder the resulting slash would be enough to power the pumps and desalination plants. Is fertilization covered in the full paper?
“The title is a little over the top since the “solution” merely slows global warming down for a while by expanding a carbon sink”
“For a while”? Hardly a fair characterization of about 8 GtC/yr new bio-sequestration (a full 8 wedges/yr!), continuing for at least a century…and with appropriate eco-neutral conservation harvest…’forever’!
Does any other single proposal for mitigation come even close “to end(ing) global warming”?
One of the authors of the cited paper ;-) Len Ornstein
“For a while”? Hardly a fair characterization of about 8 GtC/yr new bio-sequestration (a full 8 wedges/yr!), continuing for at least a century… and with appropriate eco-neutral conservation harvest… ‘forever’!
Well, part of what I had been counting on was that the new forests would grow up until there was a balance between carbon entering the sink and carbon leaving the sink, but I see that you are also talking about harvesting the growth — and at 8 GtC/yr, this is roughly equal to the amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere, with 5.5 GtCO2 in emissions and 2.2 GtCO2 due to deforestation. So that could be a “forever” solution to a constant rate of carbon emissions.
But I was also considering exponential growth. At 3% per year, for example, the amount of annual emissions will double in roughly 24 years — and if we continue to shift over to non-traditional fossil fuels (e.g., lower grade coal, Canadian tar sands, and eventually shale and synthetic oil made from coal) the rate at which carbon emissions will accelerate. Then there is population growth, and there are the developing countries – including China and India — where China recently overtook the US as the largest emitter of CO2 (but that was before the current economic crisis — and they do have four times our population). So we aren’t speaking of a century of “end(ing)” global warming.
Nevertheless an additional 8 GtC/yr would buy us a fair amount of time — and more. So it is certainly worth examining.
In New Zealand, our local provider of climate services is NIWA. They just announced that they have bought a new supercomputer. It would seem fairly obvious that having bigger and faster computers would mean that you get better results from your models, right?
Not according to our local brand of deniers, who called the supercomputer a waste of money, declaring that it would only get wrong answers faster than before.
I have heard the denialists make some pretty ludicrous claims before, but this really takes the biscuit. It just shows how desperate their campaign of deceit has become.
It’s just a tiny point, hardly worth mentioning really, but these guys do know that the Sahara, and even more so central Australia, are not empty wastelands but rich and diverse ecosystems in their own right, don’t they? So much destruction in the non-desert areas has already helped to contribute to global warming, and they want to prevent it by destroying the desert areas too? Quite apart from the logistics and energy use and additional environmental destruction in building and placing the irrigation pipes and pumps and other infrastructure to water the deserts? This is like all the other geo-engineering (or do we now call them climate services?) solutions which involve causing a whole different raft of problems to add to the existing ones, anything to avoid facing the reality of the need to reduce CO2 production.
#1 David Benson: I had a quick glance through the paper and couldn’t see where they had costed energy to move the water around on such a vast scale. You would also have to cost in irrigation infrastructure and cost of planting (including energy cost). You would also have to allow that the soil may be unsuited to growing trees as it stands. Maybe they covered some of this but I missed it on a quick read.
#9 CTG: no doubt those self-same denialists are the epitome of efficiency because they are able to arrive at wrong answers at no cost, not even the cost of looking up facts.
This “services” tag is something of a new fashion. IBM has been promoting the concept of Services Science, Management and Engineering (SSME) for a few years. The basic idea is that delivering services, which are intangibles that have value, is complex because you need to manage a range of disparate disciplines and the value proposition is totally in the way you manage and add value to information. (Harder to visualise where you are with a given process when you can’t pick up the product and drop it on your foot to see what it weighs.)
I suppose climate science and its application to society fits this broad definition.
David (#1), so you want to visit an ecological catastrophe on Australia so you can enjoy the delights of high carbon usage for a little longer. How about irrigated afforestation of some of the US deserts for a start.
I would also question the suggested use of the forests as a carbon sink and then harvesting the forests for timber. No matter what such timber is used for it will eventually rot and the carbon recycled. I thought that was one of the major criticisms of Carbon Capture and Sequestration; the possibility that the CO2 will gradually leak out over time. The only way the forests could act as long term carbon sinks is conversion to charcoal and burying it.
That ‘Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming’ paper is just plain stupid. There is a reason the centre of Australia is a desert. It’s ridiculously hot and dry. We have the farm enterprises and ecosystems of Australia’s Murray darling basin are collapsing because there isn’t enough water anymore, and these authors are suggesting we can find enough of the stuff to splash around irrigating forests planted in the middle of nowhere. Loons!
A far more realistic approach is to realise that dry landscapes have their own ecosystems with vegetation composed of species that naturally cope with the extreme aridity and high temperatures. And to be aware that the soils in these places naturally do store carbon, albeit not in much lower densities than ecosystems in wetter areas. Land-use practises are causing these ecosystems and their carbon storage capacities to be degraded. We need to improve those practises. Not go in and tear up the natural ecosystems in some half baked schemes that are very unlikely to work if we plunder all the available aquifers and build vast arrays of power stations in order to desalinate and pump water.
Besides that, the Bilbies will not be impressed.
Australia’ interior is vast, but it is not barren. As with the beautiful deserts of the US you can only conclude that if you ignore all the cactus and other plants, lizards, birds, insects, mammals, and even frogs and fish etc.
Regarding decadal forecasting, I’ve read the NewScientist article and taken a look at the actual presentation, where it is suggested that we might see one or two decades of stability or even cooling. Considering the precedent comments on Keenlyside et al. 2008 or Swanson & Tsonis 2009 I’m surprised at the leniency toward Latif’s statements. Is there something new? Does RC go along with the possibility of a transient cooling period of an order of decades?
the biggest outcome I see is the usual denialist nonsense about Fred Pearce (a reputed scientist!) reporting about M. Natif (an IPCC author!) bragging that all that warming and cooling is due to NAO – as reported in the New Scientist article.
From the article:
“Latif predicted that in the next few years a natural cooling trend would dominate over warming caused by humans. The cooling would be down to cyclical changes to ocean currents and temperatures in the North Atlantic, a feature known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).”
I fear that’s all we are going to hear about climate services :(
“Climate models were originally designed to provide the large picture of our climate system”
Well,as you go on to say, this is only because doing anything else was not, and may still not be, technically feasible.
I’m not sure that simply chucking vast amounts of money and supercomputer time at the problem is necessarily going to improve matters by as much as hoped. There are still going to be multiple processes that occur on scales smaller than can be modelled.
Do you think that there is going to be a prediction of what effect global warming will have on ENSO, or the Indian Monsoon [or..] before it actually happens?
I’m not convinced it is possible. That doesn’t mean the scientists shouldn’t try, but should that be the emphasis?
Perhaps climate science should try to concentrate on those questions which are technically more likely to be solved, which I think are more to do with actually how much warming occurs and how that affects sea level rise (eg ocean heat content, glacier mass balance). There is also the related issue of at what point (in temperature rise; GHG levels; time) mountain glaciers, that are important for irrigation, will be lost (particularly in the Himalayas, but also more generally).
One message from this meeting was that climate change may greatly increase the importance of longer term dynamical forecasts (say 6 months ahead).
As Rasmus discusses, the limitations and difficulties in extracting practical information from climate forecasts on this timescale didn’t seem to be universally appreciated. The modellers were much more cautious than some of the people looking for applications, e.g. in development agencies. Quite a bit of communicating to do, I’d say.
I.e. if the boss doesn’t understand, he won’t understand he can’t get the answers he wants.
How many times has someone been told to get a test set up in three days and an answer from the test within another day, when the procedures take three days to produce an answer?
In this case, some policy makers want “when will the GIS melt?” and do NOT want “by 2100″ because that’s three generations or more away. “5% chance by 2020″ doesn’t work either because that’s too low a chance and the consequential answer “95% between 2020 and 2100″ is significant but has the same problem as saying “by 2100″.
We could do with policy makers working out what questions CAN be answered and asking THOSE questions.
And that requires working out what an answer to those questions means to what they want to do.
Climate scientists don’t know what the policy makers can do, so they can’t help here. Or not much, anyway.
I would like to know how plausible such a long pause in warming would be, because until now I’ve always thought that it was quite unlikely (here, here or here). But I’m surprised that it hasn’t earned any critical comment in this RC post. Such a long pause would foster a lot of skepticism. :(
[Response: We’re working on a post on the whole topic… – gavin]
I for one am not convinced that simply providing more accurate information will actually result in more action.
We have more than enough information, it is easy to read and easy to access, yet we do practically nothing.
Information alone, especially big scale, remote in time and space information, isn’t good at motivating behaviour change. It is good at scaring people and making them feel helpless.
We need wide cultural change, which encompasses both personal and political action, because both are needed. In fact personal change will lead to both cultural and political change, in democracies at least.
We have enough facts about climate change, we don’t need to forecast the temperature in Berkshire on 25 May, 2037 to know that we need to do something and urgently. What we need are mechanisms that encourage and allow us to act positively.
Climate Services…..sounds like “double speak” to me!
Adaptation is not the answer,just another diversion!
The reality is, Lawyers are calling the shots, based on seen and unforeseen potential liabilities.
While so called economists, are overly concerned with the wallets of the present beneficiaries of the Fossil Fuel industry, which is neither Capitalist or Democratic. The folks whom benefit at present must either participate in replacement technologies or become the next generation of buggy whip manufactures, this is the type of adaption that Services the Climate.
Fossil Fuel powered electrical generating facilities are the problem, and replacement is the Adaptation that Services the Climate, and therefore the solution.
As soon as replacement technologies are available, they will be replaced.
I will hazard a guess that perhaps one of your learned readers could corroborate: replacement of these facilities alone, globally would reduce emissions to below 1990 levels.
Re Latif (#15, 16, 22), first check out what he did and didn’t say (PPT, MP3, my notes here and at NS). Second, I think the relevant published work (which I overlooked yesterday) is Keenlyside et al 2008, where Latif and others did indeed suggest that “global surface temperature may not increase over the next decade” or even that there might be a slight cooling relative to the 1994-2004 mean.
Does anyone share my opinion that geoengineering is not the way to go. Iron seeding, converting the Sahara and Outback all have hidden consequences. We have conducted too many experiments and though we know more about Earth System science now than in the past we certainly do not know everything.
I feel the only way to go is to attack the problem at the source.
How much fossil fuel carbon would be released in trying to convert and maintain a forested Sahara and Outback? How much destruction to natural ecosystems that are in place can we tolerate?
Comment by Steve Horstmyer — 10 Sep 2009 @ 8:55 AM
This is down scaling and can help communities plan water use or future power needs. The thing that international cooperation can help with is not having the predictions stop at the borders as is done in this case. If you look at how devastated Texas is expected to be in this report, one can guess that Mexico will not do well. We might plan for climate refugees if we had better information. The local impinges on foreign policy and knowing better what to expect can only help.
The main cost of “energy to move the water around” is included in the cost to raise it to the average elevation of the Sahara.
If you look at the driest part of the Outback, which is the part targeted for afforestation, it’s pretty bare.
And the harvest we mainly focus on is for fuel. As a mature forest develops, a eco-neutral conservation harvest is sustainable with a continuing net primary productivity (NNP), as discussed in my accompanying open access editorial essay:
The water required if not “found”, but generated by desalination of seawater, at the coast.
And the driest part of Central Australia – where we site the forest – is pretty darn barren – almost like the Sahara. I suggest you ‘visit’ it with Google Earth!
If ‘sacrifices’ are required to stem global warming, the almost non-existent ecosystems of the central Sahara and Outback seem like reasonable candidates – compared tothe alternatives. Bala and Caldera have demonstrated that afforestation of temperate deserts (e.g., the US South West) won’t do the job.
“Climate models were originally designed to provide the large picture of our climate system”
Well,as you go on to say, this is only because doing anything else was not, and may still not be, technically feasible…
You are taking a position that seems fairly reasonable. However, could you include a last initial with your first name? That is, assuming it isn’t “C.” (It may not be that important, but I have seen someone come through here before with the name “Timothy” and at least one person referred to him as “Timothy Chase.” Come to think of it, last initials might always be nice. That is, unless one’s first name is especially rare.)
Climate services imply supplying climate forecasts of a quality that can be used for planning. That is big deal and includes legal and social responsibilities. The IPCC referred to a sea level rise of 0.59 meter implying a certain precision and accuracy that was belied when they said ice dynamics could add 0.2 meter to that number.
If people are relying on your forecasts for planning, then when give a number like “0.59 meter” you really have to mean plus or minus 0.005 meter, or you get sued, big time. This would be an abrupt end to scientific reticence.
Good climate services would require things like data quality standards. It is going to require using a full range of models, and looking at issues that fall between the cracks of GCM.
Good climate services would require that the climate service provider can prove that are trained in the skills and have real expertise and training. Having a PhD in rocket science may prove that “a climate scientist” is smart, but it would not stand up in a court of law as proving an understanding of climate services. Publishing may demonstrate knowledge of a specific issue, but it does not stand up in a court of law as proving mastery of the entire field.
Once you have climate services conforming to known data quality standards and provided by trained professionals, then you have a product with a very high value. The issue is producing forecasts of known quality. This has never been done. Until this can be done – the whole thing is pie in the sky.
Now, the customer for climate research is the US government, the UN, and a few universities and other NGOs. The market for high quality climate services would include the entire industries of agriculture, transportation, energy, housing, engineering, planning, as well as all of the old buyers of climate research. Corporations are willing to pay highly for forecasts that will stand up in a court of law. Suddenly, there might be some real gold in doing good climate science.
I actually brought up that point with conference participants and leaders but I phrased it differently. We need the improved resolution to get a handle on decadal and interdecadal signals in order to provide better climate prediction for users (farmers/residents of affected regions/nations for planning).
What I said was getting better data is great and will help with relevant climate services, however having better data will not change politicians minds. If our goal is to get political action for mitigation, we need to target the public and policy-makers in order to get them to understand the relevance of the data. Then we get the policy.
Generally, politicians don’t push things that don’t get them votes. But that is general. I’ve met some politicians willing to tell it like it is. They don’t always stay in office though :(
The super computers are to process the data and processes to improve the resolution.
I did discuss with one of the NOAA guys about the shared processing idea and he said there was some discussion of the idea. The only other guys to do that on large scale was the SETI project, I think. But it is feasible.
After hearing one talk, I spoke with the individual who presented the needs. He was calling for an increase in processing power of 10 petaflops minimum of processing power. 5 for atmosphere and 5 for ocean. He gave some good reasoning for ‘the need for speed’, so to speak. Resolving resolution degradation from 200km to 10km (between observational platforms/systems/methods) was one of them. That made sense.
I did not meet a single lawyer at the conference. There were a couple insurance folks though, but just a couple as far as I know. There were around 2500 registrants, mostly scientists, ministers and heads of state.
Everyone took the subject matter and discussions very seriously. The point was to figure out how best to serve the world at large with better climate related information and services.
Climate services is a part of helping farmers and dealing with disaster prediction or ‘risk management’.
I posted a comment right after yours. The title was better before. Now it says it will cool for 10 years and that is simply not predictable, so… weird.
Also, I noticed the article only has our two comments. It is not linked in the climate section, so maybe no one else is seeing it? Otherwise I would have expected to be attacked already for being a climate loon :)
I’m going to try to keep up and play a little whack-a-mole over there. I have not been called an idiot in a few weeks so I need my fix ;)
I think that some forms of geo-engineering are more unpractical than others. Most of the proposals are not revealing all the probable costs and ramifications.
On the other hand, I’m not ruling out things that might help. The reality is that we won’t get out of this unscathed. We may have to do some damage in some areas. The important questions will be how do we do the least damage with the healthiest gain.
The IPCC referred to a sea level rise of 0.59 meter implying a certain precision and accuracy
When did you last read the IPCC report Aaron? Please do. You would find that they
1) give a range from 0.26 to 0.59 m,
2) specify that these bounds are 5th and 95th percentiles, and
3) this is specifically for the A1FI scenario. Other scenarios produce other ranges, extending further the total uncertainty range.
4) And then indeed there is this ice flow thingy…
when give a number like “0.59 meters” you really have to mean plus or minus 0.005 meter
… unless what you really mean is 0.26 – 0.59 m ;-)
Scientists of all people have a handle on uncertainty and how to specify it, Aaron. They may not always get it right; but when they don’t, nobody else does either. Not even for money or backed by official looking pieces of paper.
Timothy Chase (4) — I wasn’t clear. Is publishing a geo-engineering proposal a climate service? Whatever we call it, just proposals need open consideration. This one has many attractive features, including scalability: one builds just enough of it.
Others — By using the wide fire breaks in the forest for algae farms, one produces lots of biomass based fuels which can compete directly with fossil fuels. Despite the desalination and water pumping costs, it may be that such a scheme could largely pay its own way and partially make fossil fuel extraction a thing of the past.
Do recall that several thousand years ago, much of the Sahara was an openwoodland savannah; ecosystems change over time, this would just speed it up. And without this or something similar, the deserts will soon be much to hot for any life forms. So learn to accept that one way or another, things will change.
Comment by David B. Benson — 10 Sep 2009 @ 4:06 PM
Actually, the difficulty in Oz may be (besides the tribal protests) a thing called “rising salt”
The fact that I find things easy to read and understand doesn’t mean anything. I used to work at JPL as one of the engineers there, and I (like most of the people here I think) am a 4 sigma outlier.
When I hitch a ride to the train I talk to people who are NOT posting here and who are not able to understand the science at all, but who ARE willing to believe that people are lying to them, because that is something that governments appear to do just for practice.
Joe Six-Pack isn’t going to “buy” the pronouncements of those pansies in the UN, and he knows damned well that he’s getting shafted. Now the scientists come along and tell him that he’s going to have to pay more for everything, reduce his standard of living and…. oh by the way… Goldman Sachs will make even more money out of this?
That guy is WAY too ready to reckon it a conspiracy… and he does not have the tools to regard it as anything else. Best book I ever saw on this was written by a non-scientist. “Poles Apart” – Gareth Morgan.
One of his points (and he is no dummy) was basically that people (and the media) DO NOT understand the science, that it is not explained well AT THEIR LEVEL, and that there needs to be some organization to help them to that understanding.
I have to agree with Gareth Morgan and I Have to agree that if this function is included in the concept of climate services, it is a very good (if far too late in coming) idea.
However, if regional politicians had justified a large budgetary increase for new levees, they’d have to explain why, and that would involve admitting the concerns over global warming-enhanced hurricane seasons, which was politically unpalatable for Louisiana’s large petroleum and petrochemical industries.
Similarly, could one have used climate predictions to convince the California state government to start doubling their firefighting capacity during summer and fall seasons? What kind of political backlash would the fossil fuel lobby have mounted to claims that more funding was needed due to global warming? Instead, you might hear that global warming is a myth and that the fires are all due to ‘not enough brush being cleared’.
That’s simply for preventive measures – when it comes to actually switching government contracts and subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables, you have even more resistance.
My climate service: I called up my senator and said: “The Davenport Iowa paper had an article about the how corn grew slowly this year and got moldy because July and August were so cool and wet. We got rain that was supposed to land on South Texas. South Texas had a drought. Global warming moved the rain. Thus global warming is raising the price of everything made of corn or fed on corn, like chickens, turkeys and beef.”
They said: “I’ll pass that along to the senator.”
However, if regional politicians had justified a large budgetary increase for new levees, they’d have to explain why, and that would involve admitting the concerns over global warming-enhanced hurricane seasons, which was politically unpalatable for Louisiana’s large petroleum and petrochemical industries.
The levees that failed were US Army Corps of Engineers levees, and local politicians had been complaining about reduced federal funding (they’re not locally funded; the federal funding was siphoned to the Iraq war) for years.
“June 8, 2004: Walter Maestri, emergency management chief for Jefferson Parish, told the Times-Picayune:
Walter Maestri: It appears that the money has been moved in the president’s budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq , and I suppose that’s the price we pay. Nobody locally is happy that the levees can’t be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us.”
September 9, 2009
GAO Report on Wildfire Management
GAO on September 9th published a report “Wildland Fire Management: Federal Agencies Have Taken Important Steps Forward, but Additional, Strategic Action is Needed to Capitalize on Those Steps.” GAO-09-877 . A summary, the GAO Highlights, is contained in this link.
(links for docs at original web page, linked above)
#30 With all due respect, and I am sure you guys are well meaning, perhaps you should try a physical visit instead of using, with all due respect, Google Earth. The Australian deserts, while some are not “pristine” (some grazing, feral animals like cats and camels and rabbits), are still the most undamaged habitats in Australia. If you guys were suggesting reforesting the over-cleared, over-grazed, over-fertilised, areas of eastern and southern Australia which were once woodlands and open forests, then I would applaud (although I hope you don’t have in mind plantation timber like pines or blue gums in monoculture stands). To talk about deserts as if they were wasteland to be made to bloom is, with all due respect, a very nineteenth century concept, and we can’t afford any more nineteenth century thinking. It has what has got us into this mess.
Leonard Ornstein #30:
> The main cost of “energy to move the water around”
> is included in the cost to raise it to the average
> elevation of the Sahara.
I saw that, which is why I thought I must be missing something. Raising water to the average elevation is not the whole energy cost. On the level you need energy to overcome friction and turbulence in the pipes, and you would need to raise the water significantly above the ultimate level to get a decent flow over the whole area using gravity from there on. Even under normal conditions, distributing irrigation evenly is a hard problem: you have to minimize inefficiencies like water more deeply than you need in one area to get enough depth at the minimum.
We are talking about vast areas and volumes of water here; you can’t fudge the calculation without the possibility that you have introduced an error big enough to blow the whole thing away. And that’s aside from questions of whether you will introduce other unwanted consequences. Finding mostly non-fuel alternatives to fossil fuels is the lower-risk option than any other alternative I’ve seen including this. But I’m still listening, mainly because it’s hard to see that rationality will prevail before the problem becomes too extreme to deal with any easy way.
Fred Magyar (48) — As I ponted out above, the additional biomass can be used to produce fuels which compete directly against fossil fuels. This lowers fossil CO2 emissions. Combined with increased use of technologies which produce no CO2 when providing power, it may be possible to have a carbon negative economy. Which would be a very good thing.
I suppose even salt flats have an ecosystem, sand dunes do; microorganisms are almost everywhere. The proposed use of deserts is simply the least worst of the alternatives, IMO. In any case, no desert would be 100% so used.
I suspect the Tunisians, with 14% unemployment, would welcome such a use of southern Tunisia. The Mauritanians, with average per capita income of but $2,100 per year and 30% unemployment, even more so for their stretch of the Sahara.
Comment by David B. Benson — 10 Sep 2009 @ 7:36 PM
However, if regional politicians had justified a large budgetary increase for new levees, they’d have to explain why, and that would involve admitting the concerns over global warming-enhanced hurricane seasons, which was politically unpalatable for Louisiana’s large petroleum and petrochemical industries.
As far back as the 1980s, research at Tulane University had shown that the levees were incapable of protecting New Orleans from the hurricane activity that had been observed up to that time.
Furthermore, I note the article you link to does not mention either global warming climate change. Global warming enhances the dangers New Orleans faces. But even without global warming, the present levee system, as well as the pre-Katrina levee system, would be inadequate. Major hurricane landfalls have been a danger to the gulf coast since at least the end of the last glaciation.
I’m afraid, my friends, that ‘Future History’ will probably relegate all of us to the “THEY told us so, but we didn’t listen….” long after New York and Basra have succoumbed to the waves.
That we may before then, or – when disasters finally stirs us to long overdue action – shortly thereafter, move towards taking a more ‘Global’ Stance towards analyzing and forecasting the Weather; there’s always some Ying with the Yang.
Leonard (#30), Forget Google, go there in person. And it mostly isn’t anywhere near bare. It is a complex ecosystem well adapted to the desert conditions. There certainly are bare areas but mostly they represent salt pans. And if not salt pans then areas with heavy salt loads. In fact in many inland areas the limitation is not lack of water, but too much water. Adding water raises the water table bringing the salt with it.
My question still stands. Why cause an ecological catastrophe in Australia so that the US etc don’t have to face up to their own carbon problems.
You say that establishing forests in North America won’t help because of albedo affects. I have a suggestion. How about removing all the forests from North America (converting them to charcoal for burial) and converting the whole of North America to the equivalent of desert. That will ameliorate some of the global warming for sure.
We may be full of sh*t, but we’re not that full of sh*t.
According to “World agriculture: towards 2015/2030 : an FAO perspective”, world meat production(cows, pigs, mutton, chickens) is predicted to be 3e+11 kg. Assuming a 0.6 dressed to live weight yield, and excrement production proportional to body weight, even if we collected all of that resource, it would only double the methane yield.
(Although politicians may bias the methane yield upwards, this resource is about an order(ordure?&;>) of magnitude too low to even replace just natural gas)
To talk about deserts as if they were wasteland to be made to bloom is, with all due respect, a very nineteenth century concept, and we can’t afford any more nineteenth century thinking. It has what has got us into this mess.
I suspect most of the realists among us understand that (I’ve been active in the conservation of arid and semi-arid lands in the US west).
Screwing up major ecosystems to “save our ass” is even worse than 19th century concepts, because they did it from ignorance. If we do it, it will be from a position of great knowledge of the value of such ecosystems, and an immoral decision to destroy them because we’re not willing to take sufficient action to reduce our CO2 output.
46 BJ said, “it is not explained well AT THEIR LEVEL”
There are two completely incompatible scenarios. The only way to differentiate is to up the discussion beyond easy reach. Most folks will just believe their trusted source anyway.
Additionally, scientists have a language barrier – hypothesis, probabilities, and all those caveats can be made to sound waffly and weaselly:
“They said global ice extent was important. Then it was just the arctic. Now it’s not extent at all but volume. Only one thing pointing towards AGW and suddenly it’s the important one. To top it off, this 10 year cooling trend and the continuing rebound of arctic ice since 2007 is really an increase in the downward slope of the linear trend line??
(No rebuttals allowed which aren’t “at their level”)
“It’s just a tiny point, hardly worth mentioning really, but these guys do know that the Sahara, and even more so central Australia, are not empty wastelands but rich and diverse ecosystems in their own right, don’t they?”
There are no free lunches. What would you rather: replace a desert ecosystem with a tropical rain forest one, or live in a grey skyed diaster zone that another geo-engineering created (suphate injection), or other worse BAU scenarios.
Seems to me there are a few well defined paths, but we quibble over the merits of each.
All those considering afforesting Australia and the Sahara
The energy required for large desalination units is about 3.5 KWh per cubic metre of water produced. This represents about 12.6 M joules of energy to produce 1 KL. To supply one hectare at the suggested rate of 500 mm of water per year would require about 12.6 x 10000 x 0.5 or 6.3 x 10^4 MJ of energy for desalination.
The average height of inland Australia is propably about 300 M so the water would need to be pumped up at a cost of about 1.5 x 10^4 MJ of energy to gain height.
The energy content of coal is about 2.5 x 10^4 MJ per tonne. Assuming an efficiency of 50% in generation (which is rather high), it would take about 6 tonnes of coal to provide water at 300M to 1 hectare of trees, disregarding energy costs of distribution.
Not sure about costs of pumping water long distances but the suggestion of pumping water from the Kimberly in northern Western Australia to Perth, a similar distance to those contemplated, required several times more energy than desalination. Then there is the energy of pumping through small distribution pipes to individual trees which would probably be even greater
So the fixation of carbon per hectare has to be greater than 6 tonnes per year, at least, and possibly much greater, to make the scheme carbon positive if using fossil fuel power. This rate of carbon capture by forests is higher than I have seen in a number of studies which would make the scheme worthless. Of course nuclear power would be the obvious way to go but this would require more than 500 GW of power (for Australia alone), possibly much more depending upon the energy required for water distribution. This would allow carbon sequestration of 0.6 G tonnes of carbon assuming a rate of 3 tonnes per hectare and 2 million square KM.
Secondly, of course, one could look at the original Bala paper that is cited by several people. If you look carefully at the assumptions for their model simulations, they divide the earth up into 3 regions, the tropics, the temperate regions and the boreal regions closer to the poles. They find the only region worth doing such reafforestation is in the tropics. The reason Bala et al. found such a difference between tropics and the other regions is that forests in the tropics generally had good cloud cover whereas those in the temperate regions did not. It was this maintained high albedo along with carbon capture that was so positive.
Yet about 80% of the area of Australia and the Sahara considered by the report of Ornstein et al., is in fact in the temperate regions as defined by Bala et al.; and so according to their model would be unsuitable.
This would seem quite reasonable since inland Australia and probably the Sahara would have a high albedo. Cover it with trees and I bet the same problem would arise as for the temperate regions in the computer model used by Bala et al. That is in balancing decreased albedo with carbon capture. Even with irrigation I doubt that there would be a great chance that it would affect cloud cover significantly.
Thirdly, as I said in a previous post, the vegetation in most areas of inland Australia is in a delicate balance between water levels and salt levels. Irrigation would almost certainly cause problems in most areas and I suspect would make the system not viable anyway.
Plus I like the following quote from Bala et al.
“Finally, we must bear in mind that preservation of ecosystems is a primary goal of preventing global warming, and the destruction of ecosystems to prevent global warming would be a counterproductive and perverse strategy.”
They warned that this should be born in mind when considering deforestation in temperate regions to increase albedo. However I am sure many would also consider it should apply when considering afforestation in other regions to capture carbon; especially when there is a good likelihood it either wouldn’t work or cost too much energy to make it worthwhile.
In reality, both continuing to use fossil fuels and switching to renewables present hard engineering challenges but at least renewables don’t include the insoluble problem of what you do when the fuel runs out.
Edward Greisch says:
10 September 2009 at 5:54 PM:
“We got rain that was supposed to land on South Texas. South Texas had a drought. Global warming moved the rain. Thus global warming is raising the price of everything made of corn or fed on corn, like chickens, turkeys and beef.”
Could you please provide some scientifically verifiable evidence for that statement.
Comment by Richard Steckis — 11 Sep 2009 @ 5:35 AM
Ornstein has not got a clue about the ecological implications of his statement that the desert regions of Australia and the Sahara are canditates for ecoligical sacrifice.
He does not understand that irrigated agriculture of Australian deserts will result in dryland salinity problems of such a magnitude that the artificial forests will die off due to saline water tables rising to the surface. Desert systems are desert systems for a reason and rainfall is not the only limiting factor for vegetative growth.
There would be thousands of biologists such as myself that are outraged at even the possibility of such a thing happening.
People such as Ornstein and David B Benson (#56) have absolutely no knowledge of ecosystems and their importance (ALL OF THEM). Trying to geo-engineer something that cannot be changed by it is nothing short of stupidity.
Comment by Richard Steckis — 11 Sep 2009 @ 5:49 AM
“The Australian deserts, while some are not “pristine” (some grazing, feral animals like cats and camels and rabbits), are still the most undamaged habitats in Australia.”
David, the Australian Outback used to be quite lush lands (how do you think the elephant bird survived if it were like that all the time?). Then humans turned up and turned the land into desert.
Or at least helped.
So “pristine” is hardly the word.
NOTE: Scotland used to be heavily forested until humans cut down the trees to such an extent that the thin soil was unprotected and became unsuitable for sustaining the life it had previously managed.
And they now call those Scottish highlands “pristine countryside”…
“David, the Australian Outback used to be quite lush lands (how do you think the elephant bird survived if it were like that all the time?). Then humans turned up and turned the land into desert.
Or at least helped.”
You are so way off the mark it isn’t funny. To which humans do you refer? Do you not know that the Elephant bird was native to Madagascar and not Australia? Your lack of knowledge of the Australian environment and it’s evolution is breathtaking.
Comment by Richard Steckis — 11 Sep 2009 @ 7:32 AM
I find myself in the awkward position of having to agree with Steckis. Modeling of ecosystems makes modeling the climate look like child’s play. And salinization of soils is but one possible consequence of irrigating the deserts.
Unfortunately, at some point we will run out of good options for mitigating climate change. Andrew asks why Oz would risk ecological catastrophe so the US could continue to pollute. Of course it wouldn’t. It would, however, risk ecological catastrophe to avoid a potentially greater or more imminent one. That is precisely the situation they will likely face. And the rest of the globe will likely be facing similarly unpalatable choices. We have already brought the realization of this scenario much sooner by doing nothing for 20 years. The best way to postpone and minimize this undesirable situation is to take advantage of the opportunities for mitigation that we have now–before they, too, vanish.
A quick clarification: when I put quotes around “biologist”, referring to Richard Steckis, I did so to emphasize that that was his self-descriptor and his implied explanation for his outrage–which I take to be quite sincere–about the Australian afforestation concept.
It belatedly occurs to me that it might be taken as an implied questioning of his credentials as a biologist. No such implication is intended.
Nonetheless, I remain bemused by his lack of concern about the vastly larger negative consequences to the biosphere entrained by AGW. After all, the latter is studied in great depth and breadth, and we have every reason to believe it is already ongoing. The former remains a proposal at the conceptual stage–one among many.
I am in agreement here. One way to put it would be, Mankind has done some stupid things. Because of that he may have to do more stupid things to ry to fix what is broken and maintain reasonable survivability of mankind and what’s left of critical ecosystems.
The question we may have to then face is which decision is the least stupid.
I had a hard time getting my mind around the climate services concept. I think I lost it with the 2008 floods/early warning system portion of that.
Climate, as you all keep reminding us, is not weather. But unique forecasts of individual extreme events — that’s weather, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s somewhere between weather and climate.
In terms of seasonal forecasts, we already have that, to a degree, in the US. NOAA publishes 30 and 90 day outlooks (e.g. they are currently predicting above-average temps in Alaska for the next three months). I’ve never had occasion to use one.
Then, for annual data, there’s an entire industry devoted to predicting crop yields, on behalf of both food producers and commodities speculators. No idea how they work their magic, but I know that there are people gainfully employed doing that.
In terms of extreme events, from my narrow US perspective, I find it hard to figure out what I would do with anything other than immediate information, e.g., projected hurricane paths. For (e.g.) hurricanes, the area of significant damage tends to be pretty localized — there really isn’t much for me to do until I know fairly precisely where the hurricane is heading.
Reliable information on increased likelihood of extreme events in the short run might help governments plan their budgets better, but … really, these days, I doubt it. And really, at all, I doubt it. US government budgets tend to be trend-followers at best. It’s a fair bet that FEMAs budget went up after Katrina, and probably stayed up. (I couldn’t find the data to verify that.) Not because of any prediction of additional risk (though I’m sure there were some), but because they’d had a costly event. As long as the likelihood of these events changes slowly and continuously, then … the dumb trend follower is probably going to be about as good as an actual informed projection, in a practical sense.
Really, when someone says climate services, I think that the end users are individuals who have to make significant long-term investments that can be harmed by climate change within the expected lifespan of the investment. Which grapes to plant, to me that’s the classic question that climate services can help answer. Only secondarily do I think about end-users who may need to invest to deal with the local effects of climate change.
Let me give a specific example. The Federal government provides climate services to me now, in the form of the USDA hardiness zone map. As we now know, that’s just a trend-follower tempered by the judgment of USDA staff. Can your models offer me a (e.g.) a 30 year projection that is substantially better than the USDA’s part-data-part-seat-of-the-pants approach? Better enough that (say) a vinyard operator would preferentially chose to plant varieties based on local knowledge combined with your prediction, as opposed to the current USDA map. If so you have an end user, if not not.
Take rainfall as another example. Presumably, infrastructure is set up based on current conditions plus predicted population growth. I have seen (e.g.) gas-hookup moratoriums and sewer-hookup moratoriums in my area, when the local governments believed the infrastructure could not accommodate additional growth in the short run. What, if anything, do you think the Federal and State governments could do in the face of (e.g.) predicted lower rainfall/snowfall in California? Water-line moratoriums? My guess is that they might talk some, but they aren’t going to (e.g.) build new dams at a faster rate until they have a crisis, or stop houses from being built. Again, I would expect trend-follower behavior. Having some prediction of lower rainfall/snowpack in the background might ease those decisions forward, but I expect that the well will have to run dry before they’ll move forward.
Guess what I’m trying to get at is that everywhere weather prediction has a use, it’s used. Everywhere short-term (extreme event, seasonal, annual) predictions have a use, they are being used. Predicting longer-term probabilities of certain events might help set the tone for discussion, but realistically, I think governments largely react to to the past and just deal with the present.
So my overall take on this is the following. OK, let’s say you can improve general circulation models some. What systematic new opportunities does that open up that do not currently exist? Maybe I’m just too cynical, but I’m having a hard time seeing the new uses for this information. Basically, I see them as offering us modestly improved opportunities for some types of long-term planning. You’d think this would let us plan ahead better. But I think, no, we’re just going to adapt, not plan. So, modestly improved long-term predictions of (e.g.) temperature and rainfall probably aren’t going to change what people and governments do now.
Comment by Christopher Hogan — 11 Sep 2009 @ 9:45 AM
The hominids you speak of (the Aboriginie) did not create deserts. The caused the conversion of the inland forests to grasslands through the use of fire such that it allowed a more manageable suite of game species. This resulted in the extinction of the megafauna.
That is a far cry from creating deserts.
Comment by Richard Steckis — 11 Sep 2009 @ 9:54 AM
The fact is Mark. The Australian deserts are millions of years old. Here is an abstract of a paper by Langford-Smith (1983)
“Recent research on the evolution of Australian desert landforms is reviewed, beginning with the macro-landscapes of Western Australia which have changed little for 200 million years, and the desert river courses of that State which have not been active for about 14 million years. Inland Australia in the early Tertiary was characterized by a near-planar landscape subjected to weathering in a hot, very humid climate, resulting in silcrete duricrust development and subsequent lateritization. Late Oligocene diastrophism warped the landsurface into the structural topographic units of today, including the Lake Eyre Basin, and fractured the duricrust which survived as cappings to relict plateaux and mesas. Lateritization ceased in mid-Miocene c. 14 million years ago, and the late Miocene and Pliocene experienced progressive desiccation. The present desert dunefields formed in the late Pleistocene c. 17 000 years ago. The desert has undergone little change over the last 10 000 years, apart from a minor mid-Holocene phase of relative humidity”
Regardless of whether or not the desert ecosystems are valuable in their own right, you seem to be missing my second point about business as usual simply not being sustainable with these schemes.
We as a species are currently in ecological overshoot. The laws of thermodynamics, specifically the second law, do not allow us to exceed the carrying capacity of our global ecosystems and you are suggesting that what we need to do is just go and disturb a few more ecosystems.
We don’t even fully understand yet how they fit into the overall tapestry and you suggest that modifying them is a reasonable alternative to looking reality in the face and changing our entire paradigm. I find that to be a profoundly arrogant view. The industrial Free Market Capitalist exploitative business model that supports the largess of the few at expense of the misery of the many is dead! Quit trying to beat a very dead horse it’s not going to stand up again so you need to find another alternative.
He does not understand that irrigated agriculture of Australian deserts will result in dryland salinity problems of such a magnitude that the artificial forests will die off due to saline water tables rising to the surface. Desert systems are desert systems for a reason and rainfall is not the only limiting factor for vegetative growth.
I, too, find myself agreeing with Steckis. Visit the Imperial Valley and look at how much water they use to desalinate the soils every so often and then ponder the Salton Sea and ask yourself why it is so salty, and why the ag people allow so much water to flow into it as runoff given the fact that this area of the Mojave gets about 5″-8″ annual rainfall.
There would be thousands of biologists such as myself that are outraged at even the possibility of such a thing happening.
True. And there are thousands of biologists other than yourself who are equally outraged at the implications of AGW and our failure to do anything about it.
Compared to the energy to lift the water to the average elevation of the Sahara, the addition pumping is a small correction. We were trying to calculate something a bit closer than an order of magnitude to set up the argument; especially since there are a large number of other variables, which we discuss further on (level of induced rainfall, value of any sustainable harvest, impact on the required size of the irrigation project by any significant successes at global energy conservation) that could have much larger impacts on the energy bill.
Andrew, #59 and dhogaza, #61:
I’m a biologist. I didn’t mean to demean the ecologies of ‘barren’ deserts. But as has been already noted, in a trade off between destruction of huge global habitats, at the expense of AGW, losing the desert biomes seems like the best anyone has yet proposed. And, as we emphasized in our paper, our proposal works best and cheapest the more successful are global energy conservation efforts.
Andrew Hobbs, #65:
If you would only read our paper, you will find that we made all these calculations, but that our conclusions are different than yours. We discuss the costs of various energy sources for desalination and distribution pumping, from coal to sustainable wood to nuclear, showing as you do, that coal would be a poor choice (at least without CCS). we note: “Powered by sunlight, Eucalyptus trees can sequester about 2 kg of carbon from
about 7.33 kg of atmospheric CO2 for each cubic meter of water transpired (Stape et al. 2004a).” So that’s how afforestation in subtropical deserts can pay off. And our modeling shows that such forest generate cloud cover that substantially and permanently reduces local temperatures, compared to those of the original deserts. Salt problems will certainly preclude afforestation of some portion of the deserts – and this was addressed explicitly. But it’s not the salt itself in the soil, but the Hadley Circulation, that’s responsible for the deserts, and our GCM modeling shows that the Hadley Cell is drastically, and permanently modified by these large wet forests.
Robert Steckis, #70:
As just noted, I too am a biologist. Perhaps if you will read the paper, and if you also understand a bit of climatology, you would appreciate that the large local changes, induced by the irrigated forests, dramatically change the former ecological niche, that ‘was’ the desert.
As for the sacrifice of the desert ecologies to save others, that’s already been addressed.
Rasmus, many thanks for alerting us to this conference, on a topic that I find particularly interesting and important. Great to read a news article about a scientific conference written by a scientist. Looking forward to reading some of the abstracts and other materials.
1. Weather events are events that occur inside climate. Climate is general, in other words normal cliamte for this reagion in this season is… and climate trends are typically gauged by definition by the capacity to see the signal above the noise (currently 30 years). As the understanding improves so will the predictability and that 30 years may get shorter (hopefully all the wasy down to annual gernal forcasting).
Acutally some of that forecasting is possible as noted in the paper discussed earlier surrounding the little new scientist debacle and Mojib Latif. Some trends are becoming better understood based on oceanic cycle variations, ENSO, NAO etc.
Weather is predictable about a week in advance, 2 weeks at best. You can’t make a crop decision based on that data. You need longer term forecasting.
Improving the inter-decadal can provide that and that could be the difference between very high food price fluctuations and even whether or not people starve or not.
“The issue of whether or not politicians are willing to believe in and act on climate projections … ”
Politicians are like Joseph Paine (Claude Rains) from “Mr Smith Goes to Washington.” They aren’t like Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart). They aren’t convinced by arguments. They’re convinced by money. When AGW starts to hurt, they’ll act. Of course, we’ll probably be looking at lots of Tipping Points in our rear view mirrors by then.
The format of the numbers in the IPCC stated upper bound of the range was given as “0.59 meters”. If the range had been from 0.54 to 0.59, then 2 significant digits would have been appropriate. However, the range was from 0.26 – 0.59 so there is really only one significant digit in the statement of the upper bound. You remind us that it is calculated statistically, but what is the quality of the underlying data? Are the uncertainties in the underlying data of a kind that can be reduced by statistical manipulation? Or, does manipulation produce a false sense of accuracy and precision? (See the paragraph on NYC below.) A better format would have been 0.3 – 0.6. However, since ice dynamics was known to be a factor, the actual range should have included the ice dynamics number for a stated range in the table of 0.3 – 0.8 meter. That would have been the proper format (with a foot note on the uncertainty in the ice dynamics number.)
Consider the 0.6 meter sea level rise in NYC last summer. (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/09/090910-sea-levels-rise.html ) This throws a spot light on the uncertainty in the IPCC FAR numbers. And, it is an uncertainty that is not in your SLR model. NYC may be a small spot on the globe, but it is important to a lot of people. Damage to NYC infrastructure would have immediately repercussions in the flows of EU capital and finances. Thus, if you are modeling SLR in the context of human health and safety, NYC must be addressed.
Every time a glaciologist expresses surprise at an ice shelf breaking up or a glacier speeding up, I know that he did not understand the uncertainty of his models and data. Every time a climate scientist expresses surprise at the rapid warming of the Arctic, I know that he did not understand the uncertainty of his models and data. If these guys do not understand the uncertainty of their models and data, then they cannot express that uncertainty in a paper.
Have you ever had your data reviewed by a regulatory agency? Have you ever defended your data in court? I have defended my data in court and to regulatory agencies. I have reviewed data from third parties for regulatory agencies and courts of law. As a member of the ASQC, I help draft QA4 referenced above. I helped draft the ASTM data quality standards (http://www.astm.org/Standards/D5283.htm.) I know something about data quality, and I am appalled at how climate science deals with uncertainty in matters critical to public safety. I understand using the data that you have. I also understand how to express uncertainty clearly. And, climate science does not do that.
Sea level rise is of vital concern to industries subject to regulatory oversight. Can one of those industries take YOUR forecast to their regulators and say, “We can depend on these numbers as stated, to protect the public health and safety!”? Can an industry take your SLR number to their insurer? No, because there is great uncertainty in your numbers that is simply not stated and addressed.
In the hazardous waste industry, where we had uncertainty, and a need to protect public health we put in safety factors of 10, 100, or even a thousand. Where we had multiple sources of uncertainty, we multiplied safety factors, until we had a total safety factors of million or more. It was science dealing with uncertainty in a way that protected public safety. We did not have any bad surprises, we had good surprises. We had another good surprise one last week with dioxin being less evil than we thought it might be. If the IPCC was concerned about protecting public safety they would have proposed a safety factor to compensate for the uncertainties.
Policy makers are making decisions and policy. Does climate science deal with uncertainty in a way that protects the public safety and well being? If the IPCC had properly expressed their ranges, they would not have had to put in the lawyer weasel words that were discussed in the comments on the last post.
Economics, despite it being the most despised and ridiculed of sciences, is IMPORTANT. Without spending our money for climate change mitigation and/or adaptation as efficaciously as possible, we may eventually find ourselves without the resources to do the mitigation and adaptation. (Look at the disaster that is Haiti, for example).
The technology to generate power without fossil fuel already exists, but politics and prejudice stands in the way of a major expansion of nuclear and hydroelectric generating capacity. Cost efficacy often stands in the way of other schemes like tidal and wave power, and geothermal heat extraction. We will keep investing heavily in wind until we realize the massive, unsustainable maintenance headache that we are building. Until we can figure out more economically efficient ways to store energy, solar is going to remain at best a supplemental source of power that helps reduce the use of fossil fuel during the day time. Economics matters!
Climate services that can predict how percipitation will change could be an economically important tool to deciding where it makes sense to increase hydroelectric capacity, and where it doesn’t. It might also impact decisions about building other kinds of generating capacity (need of cooling water, for example). Being able to predict how wind and cloud cover will change would certainly affect investment decisions about wind and solar. The single most important reason for climate services is being able to predict the economic impacts of climate change.
Without considering the economic impacts of decisions we make, we might very well be signing the warrant for our own extinction.
Comment by Geno Canto del Halcon — 11 Sep 2009 @ 3:18 PM
#81 Um no, Aborigines didn’t do any of those things, in spite of popular mythology. Anyone who wants to follow this up further could read extensively here http://www.blognow.com.au/mrpickwick/History_Conquerors/ and http://www.blognow.com.au/mrpickwick/Fire/. Deserts and grasslands and forests are where they are because of climate, soils, topography. The megafauna are extinct because of the major climatic shifts of the late Pleistocene, a frightening portent of what is heading our way again.
David Horton (54) — I lived far out in the Mohave for a year and visited the Australia Outback west of Cairns, Queensland. If one could afford the lifting costs I’d consider transforming some of the Mohave, but certainly do all I could to preserve that part of Queensland. On the other hand, flying from Brisbane to Cairns I saw considerable streches of sand that I would hope could be part of a “green the desert” scheme.
As I have written before, we have to move away from fossil fuells as quickly as may be; I just don’t think it will be that quick. Starting on some “green the desert” projects now strikes me as wise. If starting with Murray-Darling makes most sense, by all means begin there. And I certainly think monocluture is a poor idea; unfortunately might have to begin that way.
Philip Machanick (55) — I agree that water distribution costs have to be considered; the costs of drip irrigation over vast areas has to be understood. I would suggest beginning with more water applied to a smaller area and then learning how to use water more efficiently.
Andrew (59) — It would help if the Australians would face up to their own carbon problems. As for forests in the US, it is beginning to look as if south Texas could become a “green the desert” project.
James (63) — The change would be from desert to woodland savannah, not a tropical rain forest.
Andrew Hobbs (65) — Certainly and absolutely not use fossil fuel to power the “green the desert” projects. Deserts have lots of sun, so I suggest solar thermal to start. Almost carbon neutral but for the CO2 created during manufacture and transport.
John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) (78) — Yes, exactly. Which decision is the less stupid, does not have to be the least. I am in favor of using many modalites at once. Some wind, some solar, some biofuels, some sequestration via growing biomass, some CCS into ultra-mafic rock, … The fact that it might just be possible via greening some of all the world’s deserts simply offers a geo-engineering alternative to be further explored, not necessarily ever fully realized.
Fred Magyar (84) — You appear to have attributed to me views and attitudes I do not possess, stand for or even condone. Please learn to read what is actually written, for example all of this comment. To be quite clear, I strongly favor biofuels used with CCS for carbon negative energy. I strongly favor compressed biochar, deeply buried for further removal of the excess carbon.
Brian Dodge (86) — Thanks. There are ranges of estimates; starting some actual field trials, pilot projects, would help to resolve the uncertainties. Suppose a project storing one gigatonne of carbon per year in biomass. Further suppose all of that is used to replace fossil fuel. That cuts down the current yearly emissions from around 10 GtC to a net 8 GtC; every little bit helps.
Leonard Ornstein (87) — That was clear, think you. You may wish to emphasize that not all of any desert is proposed for complete conversion.
All — Whether you and I have agreed or not, this has been quite a valuable exchange so far, including the various sidepoints I read but to which I did not respond.
Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Sep 2009 @ 4:52 PM
Speaking of disaster predictability
Fred is on the move and has good form
Please read: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/refresh/MIATCDAT2+shtml/112039.shtml http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1316
Fred is forecast to weaken to a remnant low in about 3 days. It may regenerate – but right now there is enough shear over that region to make that unlikely. If Fred did regenerate, it would be nearly guaranteed to encounter a large trough moving from west to east across the Atlantic. These troughs have been coming off the coast of N. America about once a week lately, and such a trough would probably cause Fred to turn north and then recurve away from the east coast. A Fred landfall can’t be completely ruled out, but it’s about as low as it could be for a tropical cyclone that hasn’t completely vanished.
Atlantic hurricane activity this decade has been amazing (about 30-40% above any previous decade), but that doesn’t mean that every year in the decade is necessarily a severe hurricane season. This season got off to a late start, and most of the activity has been unusually far east, and overall it’s been slightly below average (typical for a hurricane season during a mild El Nino).
If the world was in extremis and it really was a matter of survival then I doubt many would oppose such geoengineering schemes. But then we wouldn’t be worrying about harvesting the forests for timber or considering all the economic aspects which the papers talking about such reafforestation schemes do. It is this latter which suggests the authors are thinking about reafforestation as a way of carrying on as normal as possible. It is the latter that offends a lot of sensibilities.
However even then I find the arguments less than persausive. At temperatures where we need to consider geoengineering as a survival mode, I would think that we are going to need ecosystems that can survive in the sort of conditions to which plants and animals have become adapted in Australia and the Sahara. Under those conditions we should really be geoengineering the higher latitude ecosystems because they are the ones which are going to disappear (or will have already disappeared.)
We need to teach climate science some engineering* Aaron, and quickly. It will not be easy. Science is about understanding; engineering is about doing. We have the understanding. It’s doing that’s needed to stop stuffing the atmosphere and oceans with carbon pollution.
Science makes educated guesses about how things are and then tries it’s damnedest to disprove. Engineering accepts what’s known and unknown to get the thing done, with the available resources (like time and cost) and with justifiable confidence (by understanding and managing the risks).
Risk is probability times consequence, and probability includes uncertainty and variability. Uncertainty is what we don’t know about the system (both of Rumsfeld’s kinds), what the model misses, and the measurement deficiencies. So understanding data uncertainty is inherent to understanding risk, therefore inherent to engineering. As is rigor at every step (“justifiable”).
Despite rhetoric, public policy actually relies much more on (nearly silent) engineering than on (much more glamorous) science. Have a look at how your government’s budget is spent. If we want governments to move on climate, we need the thing framed with the public policy rigor that the technocrats relish.
(* That’s engineering, not bulls..t geoengineering.)
Aaron Lewis, You are mixing up science–in which conservative analyses must err on the low side–and engineering–where conservatism requires the analyses to bound from above. Both are needed. However, if you confuse them, you’ll get very confused policy makers.
Andrew Hobbs (99) — Parts of the world are in extermis: North India, Nepal and Kenya come immediately to mind for this season; in prior ones parts of Eastern Europe had difficulties and other parts of Africa much worse ones. Not sure exactly how North China is doind, but from what I read it does not seem to be going well.
Lets start greening portions of some deserts. If we can make the problems go away we can always stop desalinating and pumping water; the deserts rapidly revert to approximately their current state.
Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Sep 2009 @ 9:16 PM
There is already way too much science for any young scientist to learn.
We do not want to put the engineers out of work.
Engineers and scientists have different jobs. Each should do their own job. Then,they cross check each other’s work.
Re:Forestation… Preservation of the so-called natural habitats (remember f.e. the Pacific gyre of plastic waste) is well done, but what about those areas that are experiencing possibly climate related devastation by natural pests and overexploitation by humans, such as the Rocky mountain pine beetle outbreaks, dropping levels of many aquifiers around the world? Shouldn’t these areas be restored to sustainable ecosystems, what ever they might in future be?
Without getting into the question of whether it is good or bad to do it, what kind of plants can build groundcover in the Australian South and South East deserts? What kind of trees and shrubs can handle the many 40+ degrees Celcius days, without dying from the stress? As an example of the kind of climates we need to deal with, a mining town in Western Australia called Marble Bar, boasts a record 161 consecutive days above the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark – see the Guinness Book of Records. It has never been below 0 degrees Celcius since records began. It’s a tough plant that can manage conditions like that.
In the 1970’s efforts were made in South Australia to “reintroduce” native flora on a large scale. That effort showed how difficult it is to do properly. On another blog site we had a recent discussion about preparing trees for planting in South Australia. The success rate was around 15%, meaning only 15% of trees survived.
I personally like the idea of trying to re-establish plantlife and forests where they once were, but I suspect that much of South Australia would be too harsh an environment to make much headway. Catch 22 really, in that well-established forests change the local environment, but a harsh environment works against establishing that forest in the first place.
> we put in safety factors of 10, 100, or even a thousand
…and you can do the same with sea level projections. It’s easy: project 80 m for 2100… there just isn’t more land ice. Find out how useful policy makers would find that…
What you don’t understand is that doing that isn’t the IPCC’s mandate. And this isn’t the way science is done.
Sigh. I’ve pointed this out now three times… have the last word if you like. Doesn’t mean you’re right.
25 Dennis Baker: The best that can be done by replacing coal with other sources of electricity is a 39% cut in CO2 production and that happens ONLY if we go to nuclear power. Wind, solar, geothermal and hydro all require more concrete and much longer transmission lines than nuclear. Note that spent nuclear fuel is recyclable.
David (#102), They are certainly stressed but I do not consider that the world in general is ‘in extremis’. When all aircraft are grounded, power generation from coal has stopped or extremely limited to only producing sufficient for food production, use of liquid fuels are used only for food production etc. That is ‘in extremis’. Anything earlier and all you are doing is sacrificing ecosystems to allow some people to continue their carbon rich lifestyle.
While I was suggesting that Fred ‘could’ become more significant, I did not mean to say it absolutely would.
…and I almost wrote in post #83, if Fred moves north to cooler waters, it dies, if more west it strengthens… then one can add if it goes wnw it hits the trough, cools down… then if it survives the trough and hits the warmer water on the other side… goes… et cetera
I guess I was too lazy or figured most here understand the complications. There are still so many possibilities. If Fred, or any hurricane makes it to the gulf and rolls over the toasty waters…
But yes, sheer, sand, jetstream, pressure zones, depth of warm surface layer, sunspots, galactic cosmic rays, alien landings at Roswell, the iris effect, red matter (saw that in Star Trek this year, etc… lots of stuff to consider.
Martin, don’t _ask_ him to explain, that’s just inviting him to keep disrupting the thread. He knows if he wants discussion he can always point to it, it’s going on at Barry Brooks’s site: http://bravenewclimate.com
You know, there are a number of schemes cooked up by the coal and oil lobby for inclusion in the climate bill that have serious problems, and it directly relates to much of the conversation on this thread. The problem is this:
Setting up “biomass sequestration” projects in Third World countries and claiming that this allows U.S. coal plants to continue operation without adding CO2 to the atmosphere is scientific gibberish.
The essential issue here is that is fossil CO2, not recycled CO2, that coal plants add to the atmosphere. As ocean acidification shows, the important variable is the total amount of carbon circulating through the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere. Slow burial in sediments & peatlands over thousands to millions of years is the only natural carbon removal mechanism; those buried sediments in the right geological arena generate petroleum and other fossil fuels.
Thus, you have to get rid off most of the “carbon offset” mechanisms included in the latest version of the U.S. climate bill, or you are just talking scientific nonsense.
However, the focus on ‘clean coal carbon capture and sequestration’ is also scientific nonsense, so the government really has no problem passing off gibberish as scientific fact. This can most clearly be seen in the “natural gas vs. clean coal with carbon capture” debate. Proponents of coal say that the latter is better.
However, even the most clueless chemist would note that it is going to be far easier to capture carbon from natural gas combustion than from coal combustion – in fact, if you wanted a prototype carbon capture and sequestration system, you’d start with natural gas, because the emission stream is so much cleaner – no sulfur, arsenic, mercury, uranium, etc. to deal with, and no large particulates either. So, why isn’t carbon capture being touted for natural gas combustion?
The reason is that carbon capture is a fraud that is only promoted by the coal industry and several greenwashed oil companies in order to continue business-as-usual, especially in the Canadian tar sands, which the State Department just took a big step to promote by offering a permit for a U.S. export pipeline.
Take a look at the petroleum side of “carbon capture” – all the sponsors have investments in dirty Canadian tar sand oil and similar heavy sour oil projects that are sure to result in even more carbon emissions per gallon of gasoline produced than at present:
DOE, the EU and a Norwegian government group are ‘partners’ on that piece of greenwashing propaganda, along with BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ENI, Petrobras, Shell, StatoilHydro and Suncor – carbon capture is everyone’s favorite PR line.
On the coal side of the fossil fuel equation, see this recent press release from the DOE/FutureGen ‘public-private partnership.’
Next-generation clean coal initiative FutureGen has inked a deal with the US Department of Energy (DoE) that will see the initiative take on a greater share of the funding burden.
The FutureGen Alliance, which will create a pilot clean coal plant and carbon sequestration facility in Illinois, was originally meant to have 11 members. However, the Alliance agreed to increase that number to 20, and to seek more external funding.
The sweetener for the deal is a $17.3m (£10.6m) shared cost Co-operative Agreement with the DoE, which will carry the plant through preliminary design activities.
No one is ever going to apply this non-existent technology to the hundreds of coal plants in the U.S., in Britain, in China, or in India. There will be no lucrative technology transfer deals based on intellectual property. That’s because it doesn’t work.
Even the FutureGen operators have no plans to keep their ‘research project’ in operation – so far, the plan is to sell off the plant components as soon as the ‘research’ is over (they appear to be the same components used in coal-to-gasoline plants)
The current U.S. government response to global warming ranges from the deceptive to the ineffective, and that simply needs to change. We may need to look to China and other nations for realistic and plausible strategies, for example:
The Chinese government is readying a feed-in tariff (FIT) for utility-scale solar plants that will dwarf the country’s previous solar subsidies, and drive a wave of investment into the sector, according to Suntech.
If you want to pursue carbon capture, forget about using it to mitigate fossil fuels – BUT, it can be used to generate hydrocarbon fuels from atmospheric and oceanic CO2, and even, eventually, to convert CO2 to stable chemical forms like graphite.
“… While satellites provide accurate and expansive coverage of ice in the Arctic Ocean, the records are relatively new. Satellites have only monitored sea ice extent since 1973. NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) has been on the task since 2003, allowing researchers to estimate ice thickness as well.
To extend the record, Kwok and Drew Rothrock of the University of Washington, Seattle, recently combined the high spatial coverage from satellites with a longer record from Cold War submarines to piece together a history of ice thickness that spans close to 50 years.
Analysis of the new record shows that since a peak in 1980, sea ice thickness has declined 53 percent. “It’s an astonishing number,” Kwok said. The study, published online August 6 in Geophysical Research Letters, shows that the current thinning of Arctic sea ice has actually been going on for quite some time….”
But the vast larger part of Barrow and Cornwallis was Ice free in August, with sail boat and catamaran reaching it . Hard to see how they made it with this map… Submarines had it right, glad to see that they are useful for peaceful purposes.
Donald Oats (105) — I will suggest considering Acacia species as potentially suitable. The plan is to water the trees, which should help with the heat stress.
Andrew Hobbs (108) — People are starving in Nepal, tha’s not “in extremis”? People are dying of thirst, not to mention hunger, in Kenya.
In addition the coastal BC black bears have almost all died due to the failure of the chum salmon runs. Not “in extremis”? Not a ecosystem change.
Farmers in North India, maybe also in Murray-Darling, committing suicide, occasioned by crop failure from lack of water. Not “in extermis”?
A “green the deserts” plan takes years to put into place. Far better to begin at once.
Comment by David B. Benson — 12 Sep 2009 @ 2:55 PM
> water the trees
Until someone doesn’t, then they burn. Artificial tree farms especially outside the natural range of the plants can’t replace ecosystems, because they require services that aren’t available reliably.
Show me a plan that first saves the forests — and the ecosystems — in the Amazon and Canada and Siberia, and lets them get back to their mature state in a couple of centuries. Nothing could work faster than that.
And don’t worry all that much about the beetles because there’s nothing much humans can do about them. But they’re sure to provide a boom in woodpeckers.
Ike says, wisely
> you have to get rid off most of the “carbon offset” mechanisms included
> in the latest version of the U.S. climate bill, or you are just talking
> scientific nonsense.
Amen. Back before I got a clue about how big climate problems were, I was doing preservation (acres of temperate rainforest) and restoration (forest fire rehab) on my own account with my own money, starting in the 1970s. Even then I picked property above the geologically most recent high sea level stand, thinking longterm, knowing melting was coming.
I just got offered roughly $30,000 to commit ten acres of that 2nd growth rainforest to a carbon offset program — a onetime payment for a 100-year commitment to specified timber stocking. They’d resell that to someone who wanted to buy a carbon offset, after documenting it and recording a land use plan, and taking a percentage.
On the one hand it looks like a good program — better than people logging everything off their property. On the other, leaving it alone makes it wildlife habitat instead of tree-farm. And that amount wouldn’t likely even pay the county taxes for the period of the commitment.
But that’s ecosystem services, not climate services. I keep thinking there has to be some way a mature wildlife habitat can pay its own taxes and be left alone. But that’s Stone’s old failed argument from “Should Trees Have Standing” — the law didn’t go that way.
France seems to be getting this right. Carbon tax.
Comment by David B. Benson — 12 Sep 2009 @ 5:09 PM
Daivd B. Benson: you’re doing a good job of convincing several of us that the trees thing is not viable.
#112 Ike Solem: I recently did a search on carbon sequestration schemes and as I recall found 4 that were at least full-scale demonstration projects, and they were all natural gas power plants. The likelihood that the concept will work at acceptable cost with dirty fuel sources like coal is low. You need to pre-process the fuel (e.g. coal gasification) to stand a reasonable chance, which adds another whole slew of problems.
This takes me back to an earlier observation. Almost every major change in the energy economy requires solving hard engineering problems. At least renewables get rid of another intractable problem: coping with depletion of fuel. So why bother with all this other junk, unless you are in the business of profiting from depletion of fuel? (Hint: check what happens to earnings of oil producers at times of shortage.)
Please stop now David. You’re way OT, and you clearly know little about inland Australia. Less about the engineering and agricultural challenges of irrigation there.
1. Water is a viscous fluid. When moving it huge distances to deliver to individual trees, friction is the dominant energy term. It can exceed gravity by one or two orders in a flat place like Australia.
2. Inland Aus soils are salty, poorly structured and ancient. Phosphorous from where? Salt leached to where? By what gradient?
3. Evap there is about 3m. So why would 0.5m of irrig. be sufficient? Some wild optimism about increased humidity? Hint again: Insolation is the dominant term. You need clouds, not humidity, to reduce evap.
4. Inland Aus burns whenever there’s biomass to burn. Lightning ignition is ubiquitous. And you prevent that with 0.5m?
5. Notoryctes typhlops is vastly more interesting than Ursus arctos. Leave the poor bugger alone.]
Philip Machanick (120) — Viable: feasible; capable of being done with means at hand and circumstances as they are.
Certainly the means are at hand and the circumstances even require some greening of some deserts. On the other hand, the viability of coal CCS has yet to be demonstrated, it seems.
Comment by David B. Benson — 12 Sep 2009 @ 6:46 PM
David Oats, #10:
David B. Benson already mentioned Acacia – which was also explicitly mentioned in our paper (you really ought to read it!).
In the early stages of establishing a forest in a desert, watering demands per unit leaf area will be much higher than when the forest is fairly mature. But the total leaf area will be much smaller. The irrigation system has to be built to satisfy the much larger demands of the mature forest, so although more water has to be ‘wasted’ per tree, during establishment – for example, to keep the saplings cool – that ‘waste’ ends up being only a small part of the maintenance costs, averaged over decades. In general, all costs during establishment will run higher, but become ‘unimportant’ when amortized over a decade or more. Such costs include some soil preparation for each sapling; some shelter – and most importantly, careful monitoring of the health of the crop – to avoid the miserable success rates (15%) that you quote.
Another issue with afforestation, or indeed any free air capture form of geoengineering, is that it is the time integral of past capture that matures, not the current rate (I’m assuming we’ve hit some sort of warming based climate ememrgency, here). The only geoengineering schemes that cam rapidly cool the planet, should we see ourselves entering an emergency period are the short wave (I think this is now called SRM Solar Radiation Management). Schemes that rely upon gradual removal of CO2, are useful, but will take a long time to have an effect.
I want to put in my two cents on the issue of offsets. I share the concern about the reality of the offsets -will the carbon really be sequestered longterm? But, I think we have a different nerterm issue. That issue involves being able to get some sort of global climate pact signed within the next couple of years. Lacking that, and we are screwed. And, I think the key is getting to most recalitrant big economy on board, and that country is the US. I’d much rather have some serious compromises at this point than no bill whatsoever. The former situation is far from the ideal, but the later outcome is a complete disaster. And I think we are quite close to that outcome. So, I’m prepared to compromise a lot, just to get something started.
David. Acacias are native to Australia and Southern Africa. I think those in the Negev desert are introduced (although I could be wrong). They are also notoriously slow growing with only a shrubby habit in desert areas but some species assume a significant tree habit in more temperate and high rainfall zones (e.g. Golden Wattle in Australia).
Comment by Richard Steckis — 12 Sep 2009 @ 11:02 PM
Hear Hear Glen.
Comment by Richard Steckis — 12 Sep 2009 @ 11:12 PM
#119 David B. Benson.
David. On further investigation, it seems that the Negev Acacias are native to that region. This means that geographic range of the family is much wider than I thought.
Comment by Richard Steckis — 12 Sep 2009 @ 11:19 PM
Maybe OT, but president Sarkozy is proposing a national CO2 tax system not unlike the one proposed by Jim Hansen. Much more complicated of course.
I find it interesting the response David Benson’s link to the reforestation article has generated. While I too am skeptical, it does raise fact that we will eventually have to adopt some significant and probably unpalatable strategies if we are to get through the projected maximum human population of 9 billion people without a massive crash.
We are overstretching our environment already, and we do not know how flexible it will be. Ultimately, environmentalism may be confronted with a question not of how we preserve ecosystems, but of which ones we can sacrifice in the name of our own survival. And of course, the longer we wait to take action, the more unpalatable our options will be.
Thomas says: “That issue involves being able to get some sort of global climate pact signed within the next couple of years. Lacking that, and we are screwed.”
Well, I’m sure the permafrost carbon is eagerly awaiting the outcome of Copenhagen before it decides how to respond to the current Arctic temperature increase.
You can’t ‘roll back’ global warming – all you can do, at present, is stop altering the atmospheric composition via fossil fuel combustion. This means we’ll have to adapt to the first tier of global warming effects – drought and flooding and severe weather in once-productive agricultural regions being perhaps the main concern, as well as massive species extinction due to rapid habitat loss.
A pact to eliminate fossil fuel combustion is really what is needed, but political cowardice at the international level keeps that off the table – instead, we have scientifically dubious and unsubstantiated proposals like coal carbon sequestration and biomass carbon offsets.
This is just a delaying game. In the end, the elimination of coal and oil and gas as energy sources is needed – well before they run out (Complete exploitation of global fossil fuel reserves would push CO2 up to 1500 ppm plus). That of course requires an extremely ambitious renewable energy infrastructure program to replace that energy demand – not the band-aid solutions being proffered at the federal U.S. level.
Here’s an idea for biochar & sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere. I don’t have any idea about the feasiblity, but why green deserts (or perhaps in addition to doing so), when we could take all the yard waste in very vegetative productive areas, like South Texas, and turn it into biochar. You see tons and tons of yard waste (palm & live oak branches, shrub trimmings) on the curbs in our neighborhoods every 5 weeks to be hauled away by the city — and I think turned into mulch. We have a 5 foot high pile of such right now in our front yard just waiting to be hauled.
They say in our area, if you plant your foot, it might grow a body, so productive is our vegetation (except in July-August when it’s very hot). But the moringa tree keeps growing — nothing, not drought, not flood, not poor soil, nothing can stop it from growing, shooting up 30 feet in a few years. Since it also provides good food (leaves and drumsticks), my husband has been loathe to include it in our yard waste pile, but now we’re going to throw a bunch of branches on, make it into a 6 foot pile.
Why not have some very very low CO2 emitting biochar thingies in each city that hauls away such massive amounts of yard waste that would not only produce char pellets to be plowed into agri lands (increasing their productivity), but also uses the energy it captures to run the process, and captures other useful byproducts? Such tech exists, but I don’t know how expensive it would be, and whether selling the biochar soil amendment to local seed&feed and garden shops might help offset its costs.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 13 Sep 2009 @ 9:48 AM
BTW, I provide this free climate service. I tell people that they better shape up and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, or we all may have to ship out to oblivion. Of course, no one listens, even tho it’s free.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 13 Sep 2009 @ 9:50 AM
Just for the record, my comment did not show up on Accuweather’s website.
I’m guessing that the blog owner (of that item) is Joe Bastardi.
Maybe in this case it is Accubias
My comment as follows:
The graph to which you are referring (Monckton graph) is a misrepresentation of data. The IPCC trend is a 100 year trend line that has been misrepresented and juxtaposed against a short term cooling trend that is within the bounds of natural variation.
Joe Bastardi essentially used Lord Moncktons arguments which have already been debunked. You can see the graph Joe Bastardi used on the two top web page links below.
Acacias are also native to the Sahel and all of northern Africa. Some are very fast growing, when the water supply is adequate. And they are legumes, so they add soluble nitrogen to the soil which other plants get to use.
If you’ll read our paper, you’ll learn that the GCM runs robustly demonstrate that the forests generate considerable cloudiness as well as rain!
As mentioned above, during establishment (before the forest can change the local climate) soil preparation (including some local ‘fertilization’) and ‘excess’ irrigation will be required to support the ‘new crop’.
Acacias — achoo! Nasty allergy problem from those, at least in California.
But seriously, someone should do the tradeoff comparing restoring the Amazon and Canadian and Siberian forests, versus creating new ones in Australia.
Less money flowing into Australia, more money flowing into the Amazon — how’s that sound?
GlenFergus (121) — Leonard Ornstein et al. suggested the Australian Outback, not me. I propose starting in Tunisia and Mauritania.
David Horton (126) — Yes, after reading the Wikipedia article. Acacias have been introduced in the American Southwest.
Richard Steckis (127) — Despite being slow growing, starting with some Acacia species might the best in very dry deserts.
Thomas (125) — Yes, slow and fairly safe. So we ought to start now. Since some parts of the world already have or can forsee emergencies and this will obviously spread.
All — Another scheme is so-called artificial trees with CO2 sequestratiion in ultra-mafic rock, or even in under ocean basalt. I think this would work and might be less expensive than greening deserts. There is no pilot project AFAIK. I don’t know how to even approximately price such a scheme.
Every method I have looked at, and can approximately price, for actually permanently removing the ecess carbon from the active carbon cycle always comes in at a price which, if supplied by a carbon tax, about doubles the cost of coal. Is an equitable climate worth that?
Comment by David B. Benson — 13 Sep 2009 @ 1:49 PM
Philip M says:
“Ike Solem: I recently did a search on carbon sequestration schemes and as I recall found 4 that were at least full-scale demonstration projects, and they were all natural gas power plants.”
I’ve seen these kinds of claims before, and they’re always characterized by a lack of names or specifics – it’s just a completely dishonest claim, probably made for PR purposes. Flat-out lying to further one’s agenda – that’s not exactly surprising, this is the fossil fuel lobby we’re talking about. There’s also the issue of putting “full-scale” next to “demonstration” – but one thing you can be sure of, the performance characteristics of these demonstration projects are not going to be made publicly available, and they’ll be hidden from FOIA requests because they are being run by the “private partners” of the DOE. It really seems to be a massive fraud that will never be implemented at any scale.
For example, I would expect CO2 capture booster Chevron to include a carbon capture and sequestration scheme for their new giant $42 billion Gorgon natural gas project in Australia. They intend to liquefy the gas (by burning gas to power the process) and ship it to China and other local regions – which will result in massive on-site CO2 emissions.
Chevron has a plan to capture and sequester all that carbon – carbon capture, in their words, is “safe” and “cost-effective”. Likewise, they are only selling their liquefied gas to consumers who have natural gas plants that capture all their emissions – they are, after all, a model of “corporate responsibility” and that is seen by their public-private partnership with the DOE, the EU, ConocoPhilips, BP and some other fossil fuel companies:
Ray Ladbury (132) — Indeed. If you are skeptical, kindly work out preliminary cost figures for air capture from aritifical trees. Then add about $7 per tonne of CO2 for injection into ultra-mafic rock formations. We need to try that as well and we have no time to lose.
Ike Solem (133) — Actually, it is conceivable, although expensive, to lower CO2 concentrations once we all stop the emission of additional fossil based CO2. For example, deeply bury biochar.
Lynn Vincentnathan (134) — Good plan. Every little bit helps. Make it happen!
Comment by David B. Benson — 13 Sep 2009 @ 3:36 PM
Here is an older paper on air capture, but at least there are cost estimates.
The paper suggests about $20 per tonne of CO2 captured. However, I am unable to locate any followup paper, just a press release.
First Successful Demonstration of Carbon Dioxide Air Capture Technology Achieved http://www.physorg.com/news96732819.html
as well as the similar one from Univ. Calgary.
So use the above figure with an additional $7 per tonne for sequestration. With emissions of about 37 gigatonnes per year, that’s about one trillion dollars per year to remove all emissions.
Comment by David B. Benson — 13 Sep 2009 @ 4:43 PM
“Common sense dictates that a trace gas needed for life on the planet would not be the cause for destroying life on the planet.”
Lynn’s idea probably should count as a “stabilization wedge.” I did some informal research a few months back, and the amounts of waste wood in America’s urban areas is enough to provide something like 10% of electrical demand (IIRC), if it’s burnt as biofuel. So the amount of char could be quite sizable. Of course, you’ve got a lot of trucking of waste wood to do, with concomitant carbon footprint, but the wood gets trucked around to whatever disposal method is used anyway.
David, The indigenous tribes have been fighting a losing battle against the advance of the Sahara for decades if not centuries. All I’m saying is that I don’t think that trend will be easy to reverse, and that we could make things worse by trying. I planted trees in Africa in the Sahel. The survival rate was low. Ecosystems are complex entities. You know this. I’m not saying dismiss it out of hand, but give it the same respect you would any other geoengineering project.
Ray Ladbury (147) — Sure, but starting some pilot projects near the sea coasts in Tunisia and Mauritania would help by starting the learning curve and settling the actual costs. Both are so far from the Sahel as to have no effect initially.
Comment by David B. Benson — 13 Sep 2009 @ 6:09 PM
David H, keep googling, you may find more; Interlibrary Lo-an can get you a copy of the whole book.
With regard to the planting of irrigated forests in inland Australia and in other such places:
I’m 99.9% sure it could not be done due to
a) The astronomical amount of water it would take.
b) The incomprehensibly huge amount of infrastructure that would have to be put in place to get water to every tree (imagine the emissions involved in constructing and installing pipes to every tree across an area of 2 million square kilometres, let alone in pushing the water there).
c) It would cause salinity on a scale that would make the dryland salinity catastrophes currently under way in Southern Australia look like minor inconveniences.
But beside all this, I don’t understand where the water will come from once we have exhausted our existing precious aquifers. The deserts of inland Australia, the Sahara and southern Africa go all the way to the western coasts of the continents. There are entire oceans of water to their west, presumably evaporating vast amounts of water into the air every day. But this does not cause significant rain to fall on those coasts. If you can solve that, and don’t mind the salt-wracked landscapes that occur as a result, then perhaps you might be able to plant forests on the areas that don’t go salty as the saline ground waters rise.
Beside all that, you’ll first have to go in and dispossess all the traditional peoples who live there (although admittedly in Australia we demonstrated a remarkable capacity for doing this, until we started to feel so ashamed of ourselves a few decades back that we stopped and granted them legal rights to their own land).
One of the basic precepts of law and justice is that one has a right to face ones accuser. How bout you give your real name along with silly questions?
Isn’t it interesting that climate services is not yet been fully born and there are apparently already conspiracy theories about how RealClimate is getting “climate service funding from George Sorros, Moveon.org, and the Daily Kos”
Actually, I don’t think George Soros, moveon.org or the daily kos are member states of the United Nations. I could be wrong, but don’t you have to be a nation first???
Do you know the first thing about climatology? Have you ever even cracked a climatology textbook? Without looking it up on Wikipedia, could you write down the equation of radiative transfer with a gun to your head and your family next to die if you gave the wrong answer? I’d be interested in an honest answer.
Leonard Ornstein says:
13 September 2009 at 11:35 AM
“Acacias are also native to the Sahel and all of northern Africa.”
You are quite correct. I guess that being an Aussie we tend to claim Acacias as our own. After all, of the over 1400 species, 1000 of them are Australian.
Despite this. Geo-engineering of any description is an ecological and potential climate disaster just waiting to happen. You cannot know all of the consequences of the engineering project that you champion. And the so-called robustness of all your GCM runs fills me with absolutely no confidence.
Comment by Richard Steckis — 14 Sep 2009 @ 7:18 AM
Why did so many of you hop all over don for asking a question?
I know why — you immediately judged him as a troll.
That might be so — or maybe he was just asking because someone else fed him some bull.
Replies made with civility will go a long way toward engaging others in possibly productive dialog. I think our President said said something to that effect. It is all part of “loving your enemies.”
As one who has written several times in the media about the reality of the IPCC findings, I make this observation: Much of the pitter-patter back and forth a people comment on the very fine articles posted here is childish, mean, and tends to put anyone with a genuine question off. Examples abound, but I will refrain from pointing them out.
To forstall the obvious rebuttals (some chance, but not much), I will also observe that there are some who post here who have shown — over many posts — that they really are trolls. Even these people can be spoken to with politeness, even as their misconceptions are firmly dismissed.
Some of you have a real gift for the sarcastic phrase. Such retorts go a long way in creating heat, not light, on discussions of issues. Ask yourself — would your mama approve of what you just were about to post?
In sum: It is possible to disagree in a cilil manner.
“Why did so many of you hop all over don for asking a question?”
This is a blog site, not reality. So nobody hopped all over don.
And there’s little evidence to show that a verbal drubbing was given to don. Since his post of #105, there have been two answering his assertion with “acacias should work” and one post saying that biomass sequestration is a bad idea (and no mention of don).
Did you decide that lack of effusive gratitude constitutes “hopping all over don” and assumed that this was for some vague reason of “you thought him a troll”?
And please note that if someone reads some bull and takes it as true, then what, really, did they to with the IPCC reports? It’s not like they are unable to be found. If they are so open to ideas, why didn’t they read the IPCC stuff?
In my post #152 I remarked in a manner that might be interpreted by Burgy as hopping all over him. Although I don’t think I was unduly harsh in context of the insinuated sarcasm/accusatory inference in his post #138 where don said:
I’m curious, do you brave people get your climate service funding from George Sorros, Moveon.org, and the Daily Kos?
But I don’t think my post is inappropriate all things considered.
I’ve never understood why yard waste has to be hauled away from the curb to some central area to be disposed of. Why don’t we promote the idea that people keep their lawn clippings and leaves on their own property as a better way of recyling? On a local level we could implement this kind recycling by taxing heavily the removal of yard waste. I spread my cut grass underneath my bushes and the stuff dries up to almost nothing. In the fall, the bushes get trimmed and fed into a chipper along with all the leaves. That reduces the volume of the material considerably and it’s easily spread around the yard as mulch. We could cut down on trucks hauling yard waste and return yard waste to the soil it came from. We could also cut down on all the obnoxious leaf blowers screaming all year that blow every tiny bit of leaf matter off of manicured lawns.
Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Sep 2009 @ 5:34 PM
> I’ve never understood why yard waste has to be hauled away
William, your local fire department and vector control office will explain to you that not everyone has enough space available for such composting without causing risks for the neighbors. They’ll be glad to talk to you. Your local agencies will know the reasons for your location quite well.
Just for the record, my name is Donald Oats, not David Oats; no offence taken :-)
My questions in my post #10 are intended in the spirit of enquiry. My statements concerning tree failure rates is not to discourage but rather to provide an appreciation of what we are up against when the rubber hits the road, so to speak. My old boss Bill Henderson used to grow trees and plant them on his property as part of a greening effort in SA. There are real challenges – not insurmountable – in getting inital cover stable enough that the boundary plants offer some protection to the interior plants on the plantation.
One idea I’ve got that might be possible is to use the water not just for irrigation but also for energy storage. The arid “wastelands” of South Australia (my town of Murray Bridge included) are some height above sea level. If water is pumped from the low lying coastal areas where desalination takes place up to the plantation area, it could be stored in pools. If it is engineered to provide a fairly steep drop, some of the water could be used as hydro-generation, and at the base of the drop, stored for re-pumping back up again, when more power is being generated from the wind farms you’ve got earmarked for the energy to pump the desalinated water in the first place.
In other words, I’m proposing to markedly increase the scale of the wind farms and to make extra use of water being pumped uphill; allow some to recirculate through to generate hydro power (eg at night) and this may go some way to providing extra revenue.
While the engineering task to add extra pools, an underground drop with turbines for hydrogeneration etc, is large, the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme in Australia shows that projects of this size can be accomplished.
I wouldn’t want to write your plan off; indeed, I hope something like that is achievable as land reclamation after desertification is becoming more important by the day. Climate change for South Australia and other parts of interior Australia is likely going towards a more severe desert climate.
One thing that I wouldn’t like to see though is the use of subterranean acquifer water as some of the supply to any plantation. However, it would be an interesting question as to whether desalinated water could be stored in the ancient acquifers – my understanding is that in the western part of South Australia and across the border into WA, there is a vast network of underground caves and lakes. Worth looking into.
Donald Oats (166) — Pumped hydro could well be part of a completely worked out plan. However, the need for extra generation is usually during the afternoon and into the evening; a minor point. In any case, irrigation schemes usually incorporate fairly sizable resevoirs of water stored against future demand.
Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Sep 2009 @ 8:03 PM
Craig Allen, #151:
Cutting down trees caused the salinity (by allowing ground water to rise and evaporate) now putting them back causes salinity by some thought experiment.
Either we wait (in vain) for earth scientists to invent a cure, or we start to do something, this seems like a nice way to start. Hindsight from failed experiments should stand in good stead.
My engineering background says CCS, Artificial Trees, Economics and BAU are not going to mix together nicely.
#165 Hank, It is important to note, especially for “its cooling since 98″ chaps and gals, that a weaker El Nino gives similar, at times warmer Global Temperatures. This point is almost always missed, a metric of a climate opinion should be judged by comparisons which creates the correct perspective. Not doing so reflects poorly on the analyst. So for 2005 to exceed 1998 GT wise, look at the graph, the answer is there, the globe is warming
despite ENSO variations not because EL-Nino is strong.
When I regress NASA GISS temperature anomalies 1880-2007 on multiple independent variables, I find that the PDO index accounts for about 4% of the variance. So it’s a real influence, but a minor one. Nonetheless, you’ll find plenty of deniers who insist that global warming is due to the PDO, AMO, ENSO, or whatever cool acronym they read about most recently on a denier blog.
“Cutting down trees caused the salinity (by allowing ground water to rise and evaporate) now putting them back causes salinity by some thought experiment.
Mostly correct on the first part, though it doesn’t always rise to the surface, it might be a little below the surface. The act of growing trees by itself does not raise the water table, the irrigation part can if not done very carefully.
Most tree planting in salt affected places is done with very little or no irrigation for that reason. Quite large areas of Australia have been sea bed at one time or another. There are also large areas that have not.
If you are going to try and revegetate areas that have not been deforested since European settlement then some form of irrigation is going to be necessary, the climate is already too harsh for our dry climate trees to establish by themselves.
Quite apart from the issue of asking the people who do already have a right to the land (to pay for others transgressions, nothing they had much to do with), ecosystem destruction, and the enormous rates of evaporation some thought will need to be given to predators, mainly rabbits, camels and wallabies in the drier areas.
I think the idea generally has merit but, it would be much easier and less destructive to start revegetating the huge areas where we know trees once grew, then we don’t need massive infrastructure inputs to get the job done. Put the money into larger incentives to plant trees, or just to let them grow, with better average returns than dry land cattle or goat grazing. Carbon Credits don’t quite make the grade, aside from their counter productive emissions offset side.
Your post here raises other important concerns, though likely not the ones you thought you were raising.
Everyone’s mama is different, but if mama cares about her kids and grandkids, I think she would approve of these chastisements aimed at reducing the silly factor, clever retorts, or even the use of a blunt phrase once in a while, in response to anything that gets in the way of the health and well being of her offspring.
As far as ‘civil manner’. Everything needs context. Delays in mitigation of AGW and adaptation will be costly. The toll will be measured in rising costs and human limits in adaptability while the economic system is further and further strained. Therefore, participation in the delay game due to ineptitude, no matter how innocent, or guilty, in origin is merely costing society that much more. How civil is dons question really?
don, came in here and asked a question with a veiled accusation in it, whether intentionally, or not.
It is the sort of question that would come from someone that believes this is all just a grand conspiracy to make scientists rich.
Why are you hopping all over those that have responded to him addressing facts and reasonable perspectives?
Also, just because you speak with what appears to be a civil tongue, does not mean that you are speaking in a civil manner (short and long term considered).
In other words, your post #156 can be interpreted as a retort and an admonition without meaningful substance in perspective of the problem of AGW. You have freedom of speech yes, but putting perfume on a pile of garbage does not change the character of the garbage, but merely the superficial impression to the nasally aware and visually impaired.
There are trolls, and there are concern trolls. Trolling is a sophisticated multiplayer gaming approach to disruptive conversation. The Troll FAQ is easy to find and, while more Usenet- than web-centered in its terms, does a very good job of how the tag-team approach is executed.
The goal is usually to get regular participants in the forum arguing with each other either about an offtopic notion or about demeanor and politeness.
You know how to find the FAQ. You know if you’ve already read it.
No doubt we’ll hear more on this, but it’s worth pointing out that Swanson and Tsonis have just published a paper in PNAS describing an analysis of internal variability contribution to the 20th century global anomaly trend.
The consider that the net contribution of internal variability (which they consider to be pretty much exclusively related to ocean dynamics) to 20th century warming is close to zero. However (in their analysis) internal variability was responsible for a significant amount of the 1910-1940 warming, much of the 1940-1970 temperature “statis” and some of the post-70’s warming. The residual externally-forced (greenhouse) contribution is a pretty monotonic warming that resembles a quadratic fit to the actual 20th century global temperature anomaly.
I wonder if there is a little bit of a shift in our understanding of 20th century warming contributions, first with a “down playing” of solar contributions to early 20th century warming, and now with an increasing role for internal (ocean) variability and less of a role for aerosols to mid 20th century temperature “statis”. Will be interesting to see how this plays out. The anthropogenic greenhouse contributions remains as strong as ever…
Hank, I don’t disagree with a lot of what you say in #175. However, whilst it may be true that there are (plenty of) trolls contributing it is not true that the majority of readers (commentators & users) will have the experience of the Usenet veterans. It costs nothing to respond to potential troll posts with respect & dignity (at least at first). To respond with bile, patronising comments and the like costs goodwill and risks alienating less ‘battle-scarred’ readers. Speaking personally, I tend not to delve into the comments at RC much any more as I tend to come away feeling slightly soiled by the sickening bile often displayed by some regular commentators (of course it’s not half as bad as certain denier sites which leave me despairing of the human race, but the point still stands).
As Burgy points out, many comments on these threads come across as childish and mean. Is this really the public face the AGW commentators wish to show?
You can refute without name-calling, and you’re probably going to be more, not less, effective.
Of course, that doesn’t invalidate Hank’s advice in general. In fact, for a real troll there’s nothing more tasty or nutritious than a good, childish insult. Your best tactic against them is the one Hercules used on Antaeus.
Aside — I asked the hosts of that NOAA page on ice core drilling and got a prompt and cheerful reply.
“Yes, that page could stand to be brought into the current century! I’ll update it shortly…”
Lesson being, when you do find outdated or incorrect information, see if the person maintaining the blog page will update or correct it. That’s a strong test to apply to a source you’re wondering about.
178 Chris – The Republicans just said that a guy who called Republicans “***holes” was too decisive to be allowed to work in the administration. The Hypocrite card will certainly be played and we’ll have another resignation. Ah, the pageantry of politics.
Climate services are a difficult sell until this issue gets beyond partisan politics. Climate services smells a lot like scientists setting policy. It will be difficult to stay out of a big fight.
I think the idea generally has merit but, it would be much easier and less destructive to start revegatating the huge areas where we know trees once grew, then we don’t need massive infrastructure inputs to get the job done. Put the money into larger incentives to plant trees, or just to let them grow, with better average returns than dry land cattle or goat grazing. Carbon Credits don’t quite make the grade, aside from their counter productive emissions offset side.
The trouble is that the Amazonians et al want crops and grazing and wealth producing infrastructure not rain forests. WE want THEM to have rain forest.
So either we make it worth while (financially) for them to do so or we pursue alternatives.
Leonard Ornstein #160, James #168, Paul Segal #173:
Salinity is caused when ground-waters rise to near the surface. In arid parts of the Australian inland (and other desert and semi-arid regions of the World) the mosaic of trees and shrubs extend their roots systems out in a matrix through the top foot of soil and are able to catch most of the rain as it falls, preventing it from getting down to lower strata. Once the vegetation is cleared, as has occurred on a massive scale in our semi-arid mallee woodlands, the water penetrates and ground waters rise. Salt is not present in the inland subsoils because of ancient inland seas millions of years ago. Rather it is an accumulation of the low concentrations of ions present in rain water, and is ultimately from the ocean. Even if ground waters are initially fresh, as they rise through strata that contain salt they bring it to the surface.
Irrigation in arid and semi arid landscapes is an alternative route to the same end point.
The afforestation proposal will create a third route to the same end – even if the irrigation is done perfectly with no excess water – because it is designed to increase rainfall, which will of course increase the downward movement of water through the strata across vast areas of landscape down-wind of the irrigated forests.
But setting aside this issue, let’s examine some of the other aspects.
In your paper Leonard, you suggest creating a vast array of desalination plants along the coast and pumping the water inland along aquaducts. It would then have to be distributed to the plantations across millions of square kilometers and sprayed onto the trees at exact rates in order to minimise subsoil penetration. (the aquaducts may get the water to the plantations, but a monumental amount of infrastructure and energy would still be needed to get it to the trees).
Sensibly you would not use the Eucalyptus species suggested – E. grandis – which is indigenous to the cooler, relatively humid, high rainfall east coast ranges. Rather, you would plant a mix of the extremely hardy ‘Mallee’ Eucalyptus trees and shrubs. Mallee woodlands naturally occur in the sub-arid regions of southern Western Australia, SOuth Australia and Victoria. The plants can live for hundreds of years, forming massive ligno-tubers below ground. And they coppice after fire, sending up dozens of thin trunks from each lignotuber. The lignotubers ensure that the carbon is permanently sequestered regardless of the massive fires that will periodically rip through the new plantations. And there are experiments underway in Western Australia with mallee plantations that will be harvested regularly for biofuel. These operations will take advantage of the coppicing – the machinery cuts the trunks at ground level and new ones sprout. They can be harvested every 5 to 10 years. Mallee trees and shrubs are drought, heat and frost tolerant, and thrive in low nutrient soils. Ideally you would also plant a broad suit of the other species that naturally grow interspersed with mallees so that every square inch of soil is occupied. There are several thousand species to choose from.
Some quick volume and cost calculations:
My hometown is at the cusp between the mallee woodlands and the saltbush drylands in South Australia. The average rainfall is (was) 10 inches or about 250mm. If you take that as the application rate you would need in order to support your new mallee plantations, then to irrigate 1 million square kilometers, you would need about 250,000,000,000 kilolitres. To account for losses through evaporation along the aquaduct network, and for the higher temperatures in the interior you would have to double that at least, so we get 500,000,000,000 kilolitres. A quick Google search reveals that the cost of desalinized water is about $1 per kilolitre (depending on how you generate your electricity). So we need to find $500,000,000,000 per year to keep this forest going. (And that doesn’t include the infrastructure and pumping costs!) Mind you, perhaps after 100 years we will have enough carbon stored away in all those ligno-tubers, and we can just let it all die and leaving an interesting mosaic of saline scalds, dead burn out forests, and decaying infrastructure.
Sorry to be negative. The scheme just seems to be a very expensive, destructive, probably ineffective alternative to actually reducing emissions.
It’s an interesting though experiment though. I wonder if the scheme of shooting giant geysers of seawater into the air off continental west coasts in order to raise atmospheric humidity might achieve the same effect?
“This guy” (Andrew Freedman) is right for the wrong reasons. Liars don’t deserve respect. As a matter of passionate personal belief, I do not respect anyone that doesn’t respect physical reality.
I may pretend respect for such folks as a matter of debating tactic — if I remember in time after my anger has subsided. I try to remember that my real audience is not the liar (or the victim, often with little formal education or science savvy, that was lied to and got enlisted as a liar-by-proxy), it is the multitude of quiet readers honestly trying to learn something. They deserve a respectful tone.
Regarding Antaeus: Heracles held him up so he could crush and kill him. Are you suggesting crushing and killing deniers, as the story suggests?
Furthermore, my interpretation of the story in the context of denialism is that when deniers stand on the ‘facts’ learned on denialist web sites (which largely do not have scientific basis in the larger context of the body of science) then their story is so weak as to be easily killed if you remove them from their foundation.
While true in concept, extricating them from the foundation of a belief can not be done by lifting them physically. One needs to directly combat the belief itself and reason combined with evidence is the best weapon.
Since most of what they say is either a lie (known or not) or facts out of context, and based in belief rather than evidence or models, then the battle must occur by attacking the belief itself with evidence and reason. There is actually no other way to do this.
Wrong is wrong, no matter how many people are hugging each other.
If you want a hug fest go visit a commune.
I don’t see those that understand AGW as childish and mean, but rather direct and succinct. Your pointing it out is actually, in my view, an immature attempt to paint yourself as ‘mature’ while painting others with a label ‘childish and mean’ that when weighed in context of what we hear from the other side of the debate (the denialists) is actually quite immature (on your part), or interpreted could be considered ‘childish and mean’, when extrapolated to its logical conclusion given the context.
I don’t see a lot of the AGW side throwing bile around? Neither do I see unnecessary name calling? I’m sure you can find instances of such but in what context, and was it really unnecessary name calling, or did it have reason and substance in context?
In contrast, what you find on denialist sites is much more effusive and derogatory. Have you actually read Lord Moncktons work. Insults. veiled and unveiled, intertwined with pompous arrogance. If you disagree with my assessment, prove it – Read his work. If you don’t like people that are direct, their are I’m sure other web sites where people entertain each other with obtuse, obfuscative and like mannered veiled pleasantries of such ilk. Otherwise, take a serious look at the denial sites and those like Lord Monckton. There is a time for everything, pleasantry and direct communication. Choose your battlefield first, then choose your weapon.
It is bizarre to hear denialists on their sites calling people liars, morons, idiots and such, and then to hear you both say people here need to be nicer.
Note: Maybe Chris S. and Kevin McKinney are unwittingly, or knowingly, playing the tag team trolling technique in saying people here (in RC) are meanies and not being kind and loving (by not hugging those that are obviously ignorant and/or naive)?
Of course, the story they refer to is not about hugging though, it’s about killing your opponent, or in the metaphor, killing their belief.
The problem of communicating the science is complex and it is easy to get lost in the debate of mannerism, but even that is largely a red herring to distract from the real issues.
Let’s stick to the science and its relevant issues as best we can. It’s complicated enough without adding whether or not we might offend. People get offended by all kinds of things. Like the phrase: ‘AGW is going to be very expensive and we should try to mitigate the future costs’.
You can’t not offend. It’s a debate of which the foundation for denialists is mythology, and the foundation for those that understand it is science; let’s just do it as civilly as possible and not distract too much.
If I’m playing at trolls it is unwitting – I am though rehashing some of the ground I tried to cover in the Girma thread at Deltoid (before it became the ongoing trainwreck it now is).
I spend a fair bit of time in ‘science outreach’ activities as part of my role as a Stemnet Science Ambassador. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been approached by a member of the public (often, but not always, elderly) who proudly spouts the latest guff he’s (it’s almost always a he) read in the Telegraph or the Mail as if he’s discovered the achilles heel of all science. Do you think I’d get anywhere in laughing in his face & calling him a stupid liar? I think I’d get the sack!
It would do us all well to remember that not everyone in the world has been following the climate debate very closely and that a basic google search will throw up as many (or more) denialist sites as sites that cover the science with any honesty. People are going to be exposed to denialist claptrap – this is a matter of fact. How can any one commentator be sure that the regurgitation of such claptrap here is “trolling” or an inexperienced “seeker after truth” with possibly clumsy phrasing. At the top of this page is a response to don from BPL “Do you know the first thing about climatology? Have you ever even cracked a climatology textbook? Without looking it up on Wikipedia, could you write down the equation of radiative transfer with a gun to your head and your family next to die if you gave the wrong answer? I’d be interested in an honest answer.” Now, don may well deserve to be metaphorically threatened with a gun to his head and accused obliquely of dishonesty. Or he may not – I don’t know, and neither would anyone else (the comment “…brave people…” may be an indication of trollism or it may be a figure of speech, can we be sure which it is?) including the multitude of quiet readers honestly trying to learn something (thanks Martin V.).
As I said earlier, it costs nothing to at least attempt to remain civil at first. I agree that you can’t not offend, but surely we (as a community) can have enough self respect to not confuse ‘direct’ with ‘mean’ and to appreciate that the battle for hearts and minds will not be won by thrashing around attacking any voices of doubt indiscriminately but rather through patience and explanation. I’ve pasted my “ideal scenario” for dealing with denier comments from the Girma thread @ Deltoid at the end of this (of course, it needs refining but it would be a start).*
With regard to #187: As I stated in #177 the comments here are not half as bad as certain other sites but that does not negate my point. “Monkton did it too” is no better argument than “Clinton/Gore did it too”. I also had a paragraph on being accused of immaturity for attempting to raise the tone but, in the spirit of civility I’ve removed it.
*The scenario I’m envisaging would negate the need for expending too much energy on refuting long debumked claims. I’ll try a bit harder to spell it out:
Stage 1) A question is asked that may appear to originate from the denialsphere, or it may not. Respondent(s): “That’s covered here (link) have a look and come back to us. (IMPORTANT: every responder gives the same link)
Stage 2a) Questioner returns with further questions related to the link given – these also may be denier memes but they show they have read the initial link. Respondant(s): “Good point – see here (link) for further work in this area”
Stage 2b) Questioner returns with further questions that make it clear that they have not read the link. Respondant(s): “You don’t seem to have read the last post come back when you have (no further reponse)
Stage 2c) Questioner returns with unrelated question to his/her first. Respondant(s): “Did you check the link I gave you earlier – what did you think? (No further response until 2a is fulfilled or 3b occurs)
Stage 3a) Questioner returns with further related questions – continue linking to answers.
Stage 3b) Questioner continues to ignore the link(s) given or continues to post unrelated FUD. Respondant(s) “Dhogaza, Mark etc. he’s all yours, have at it”
There, no extra work, no chance of accusations of ad hom or unreasonableness and denialist memes firmly refuted.
Now, this approach requires two things – a repository of standard (good) answers to possible questions and, more importantly a degree of co-ordination amongst the AGW blog community that we have not yet seen. We know that there is such a community – it includes such regular commentators as (in no particular order) BPL, dhogaza, Hank Roberts, Marion Delgado, Eli, Truesceptic, ScruffyDan, John P Reissman, tamino, MAB, Penguindreams, CM, Ray Ladbury, Greenfyre, Timothy Chase, frankbi, Mark, Mark Byrne etc. etc. (apologies to those I’ve left out). If this community can come together & form a united front refusing to be distracted by FUD then we can start chipping away at the edifice of crud that the deniers have constructed.
One last thing – although the questioner may be a denialist troll, there may be genuine seekers for knowledge “lurking” looking for the answers and looking to see if the answers they’ve been given by the Watts crowd have any traction – these are the people we should be taking into account in these exchanges.
Aggression never works in the teaching environment, we must view these comments threads as opportunities to teach, not get our rocks off shouting down the ignorant.
What amazes me is that so many people rush to these denialist sites and read what’s there and come away and don’t bother to read up on that last site AT ALL.
If yhey don’t do that, what, really, is the difference between a troll and one of your obscenely naive “seekers of truth”? After all, the didn’t seek very hard, did they. Then never even looked at what the AGW position WAS, did they?
Some of your points are well taken. I suggest that you compare your calculations with the ones in our paper.
Eucalyptus Grandis was ‘chosen’ because it’s well-studied, and very productive at the latitudes of the Sahara and Outback. We noted that monoculture is probably not the way to go.
Sprinkling is also probably not appropriate – nor are open aqueducts.
When it rains, you don’t irrigate, so with appropriate monitoring, salt can be kept out of the root zones.
Ours is certainly a ‘monstrous’ proposal – but for a monstrous problem.
And we show it costs out at a fraction of a dollar per ‘equivalent gallon of gasoline’, as a ‘tax’ for the CO2 released when it’s burned. It also would provide an ‘endless’ sustainable renewable supply of carbon to replace nonrenewable dwindling fossil carbon – for use as fuels and ‘petrochemicals’.
You have made a good point. But there are many battlegrounds and on different battlegrounds one needs different weapons. Sometimes a feather is more effective than a hammer but it all depends on the situation.
I may be quite foolish at times and possibly display a bit of wisdom now and then, but I always try to notice where I stand when i speak. The message is the same, but the angle of swift and parry may be different.
I do also agree with BPL in his questions. Let’s just look specifically at “Do you know the first thing about climatology?”
This is a fair question along with it’s follow-up. While I understand that one might be able to catch more flies with sugar, one might also utilize a fly swatter now and again. Both sides of the argument have validity, but circumstance has a hand in determining the method of response.
Many make blind statements that have less to do with reality and more to do with what they read on the internets. Then we have the time factor. This is a critical issue. Delay is money and potential lost to save an economy that will be strained to survive. We can go around hugging folks all day but if they don’t learn the context of the perspective they brought to the table, then hugging is just a feel good delay that does not advance knowledge or understanding.
There are so many delicate aspects and nuances in communication.
Most are quite civil here, but I admit I sometimes use a feather and other times choose the hammer, sometimes sugar and sometimes a fly swatter. I don’t pretend to have enough wisdom to know precisely what is most effective at a given moment but do exercise what caution I am capable of.
I suppose my main point is that its not always immature to choose a harsher instrument in method, sometimes its just getting to the point.
Your method idea has some substance to it, but with the myriad of minds and perspectives involved no single angle answers all questions. And many have their preferred links to answer the question. I made a bunch of arguments on the OSS site mainly because I did not want to have to search for answers every time someone asked a question.
Lastly, if someone comes in here or any where with a question that is seeking in nature rather than accusatory, then that person will be treated in accord with the tone. But many a time it is copy and paste arguments and accusations, that are so blatantly recognizable that many here have been there, done that so many times it is dizzying.
Aggression does work sometimes. There are different types of aggression, an aggressive presentation can work in some circumstances and in others it may not but it depends on the audience. Most of the RC regulars are so good at presenting wonderfully education material and perspectives and do so on a regular basis. Ad homs are prone to offense but most here do attack the argument… sometimes mud fights happen. So, point taken, but there are many roads that lead to Rome, Paris, or better understanding.
#189. I’ll answer your question with one of my own – Why do so many Brits get their news (& views) from the likes of the Daily mail & the Sun?
The difference between a troll & a naive “sot” is that one knows what it’s doing & the other (by definition) doesn’t. There are many reason denialist sites appeal to the “sot” – particularly the less educated – but I’ll throw three out there: 1) They are easy to read. 2) They are reassuring. 3) They appeal to the political leanings of a certain brand of individual (i.e. it’s all a pinko plot!)
Can I draw people’s attention to tamino’s Open Thread 16 and the differing approaches to the question raised by KenM? On the one hand we have some commentators giving a civil answer to the question thus advancing the discussion, on the other we have “I smell a troll”. Which looks better to an outsider?
I think I’ve strayed far enough OT and will attempt to leave further comment on the “Communicating Science” thread which seems much more germane to this discussion.
John, the “hug” thing was mostly joking, further to Hank’s response. I’m sorry you took it so earnestly! The core that I’d stand by is that, for a hardened troll, non-response is the only tactic that reliably works. (In the Antaeus metaphor, the body-slam to Earth stands in for a forceful verbal “put-down.” Suspension stands in for response.) I can think of a deliberate troll attack on this very site in the last couple of months; in the end you just have to stop rising to the bait. (Perhaps you can think of the incident I have in mind, too.)
I like what Chris S. has to say. In my (on-going) interactions with denialists I mostly try to resist the temptation to insult. (Rhetorical gotchas, I don’t mind so much, providing that there’s logical substance as well as rhetoric.) And I’m certainly not shy to say “With all due respect, you are wrong about. . .” if that is indeed the case.
The key, IMO, is that you are really writing for the third-person reader–you’re not going to convince a hardened denialist–so you want to appear (and really be, for that matter) more reasonable, specific and well-informed than he/she is. This goes along with Hank’s recurring point–don’t rehash the crud, but do give good information, including cites.
Finally, I certainly agree with you that the levels of vitriol here are much lower than at typical denialist sites. That’s the biggest reason that I can rarely stomach visiting sites such as WUWT. Well, that and the smugness.
On a separate topic, it looks as though we may have hit the sea ice minimum extent for 2009. It’s too early to say for sure, of course–a further decline is still a possibility–but as of today we are about 10% or so up from the value on the 13th, which was about 5.24 million km2.
I regret it from the political/rhetorical point of view, as it is “spinnable” from the denialist point of view as a “recovery”–something I’d hoped not to have to deal with in the run-up to Copenhagen. (Have to hope the participants there are too “grown-up” to be overly influenced by such nonsense from the denialosphere.)
Barton PL (re #153 to “don”), I have to confess I couldn’t write down the equation from memory with or without a gun to my head, and right now Wikipedia isn’t sure it can, either — it’s labeled “dubious”. Maybe you are setting the required knowledge bar a mite high and a more elementary challenge would do.
Which brings me to a survival tip from Scandinavian folklore for encounters with trolls: quickly ask the troll how old it is, then quietly saunter away while the troll (often quite old and invariably *very* dim) ponders the question.
To the degrees applicable, I stand corrected. Furthermore, apologies may be in order to you and Chris S, though I believe my general point still stands. We will need many types of communication to achieve the goal of better understanding. No matter the path clarity and context will help. Decorum is applicable to the extent relevant to circumstance.
Yes, there have been a few troll attacks as far as I can tell. Some of the folks in here are much better at certain types of argument than I, and I am always learning from their ability. I try, and I’m sure others try, to keep third party listeners in mind in responses.
I sometimes get quite frustrated because wasted time means larger costs. In Geneva, at the WCC-3 I saw some evidence that when combined with other things I am aware of have pushed me to move more aggressively. The time factor is critical and we need to get past the phantoms. I’m heading back to Geneva to see if I can make some more progress.
One of the most interesting things I heard at the conference came from a lunch conversation. We were discussing the problem of delay and a minister from Africa said, “If the lion is eating the lamb, why should the goat worry.” He made his point very well. Somehow, we are going to need to figure out how to work together, or end up on tomorrows menu, so to speak.
There are many ways to explain things John and civility is one way of achieving things, but it is not the only way.
Sometimes if you want to make a point, you have to turn over a few tables. Other times you might want to be more civil.
I’m sure Stephen Carter explains it all quite well, but I don’t think civility works in all situations, though it certainly has its place and its advantages.
As to my post to you, I don’t think it was so uncivil. It was merely a response. What is civil may be a matter of interpretation though. Was it actually inadequate in courtesy and politeness?
I illustrated my point, but I don’t think it was uncivil. I think it is discourteous and impolite of many to delay the argument regarding AGW as it impacts policy. That is uncivil. Especially when weighed in the context of the future impacts.
I do understand what you are trying to say though and again the catching flies with honey thing is sometimes appropriate, but sometimes a fly swatter can come in quite handy.
I’m not encouraging being uncivil in discourse but rather that, all things considered, even a discourse, veiled, or sincerely steeped in civility can be the most uncivil of things when weighed in context. There is a lot to consider here.
You post, in part: “As to my post to you, I don’t think it was so uncivil. It was merely a response. What is civil may be a matter of interpretation though. Was it actually inadequate in courtesy and politeness?
I took it as such, when you said:
“Also, just because you speak with what appears to be a civil tongue, does not mean that you are speaking in a civil manner (short and long term considered).
In other words, your post #156 can be interpreted as a retort and an admonition without meaningful substance in perspective of the problem of AGW. You have freedom of speech yes, but putting perfume on a pile of garbage does not change the character of the garbage, but merely the superficial impression to the nasally aware and visually impaired.”
Perhaps I was being over-sensitive. But later you posted: “Your pointing it out is actually, in my view, an immature attempt to paint yourself as ‘mature’ while painting others with a label ‘childish and mean’ that when weighed in context of what we hear from the other side of the debate (the denialists) is actually quite immature (on your part), or interpreted could be considered ‘childish and mean’, when extrapolated to its logical conclusion given the context.”
In general, I appreciate your posts; I learn from them. I look forward to continued posts from you and the others here.
I think you have raised the the essential point to which I was referring. By inferring it is more mature to be civil and others are being childish and mean by not being civil then you are essentially inferring that you are more mature by being civil. At least that is how I read the inference.
The reality is there are many ways this argument can be won and being civil is one of them. Remember when Jesus turned over the tables in the temple. Do you think he would not have turned over the tables had he read Stephen Carters book?
My point is it is good to be civil, generally speaking, but that which may be considered uncivil in certain circumstances may also be beneficial, even though it was not as uncivil as other arguments based on involved perspectives. There are degrees which we are dealing with in this debate and sometimes, once in awhile, a very direct retort (to what may be or perceived to be an uncivil question or perspective) may be in order to achieve a desired effect of communication be it for the recipient of the response, or the third party reader, to understand the succinct nature and well reasoned basis of the point being made.
In other words, I think we also need to be aware of the complex nature of what gets the point across in varied circumstances as well as what is an appropriate response (though that is also a matter of interpretation).
I apologize if I read your post incorrectly but I do think that there are many ways that can be effective, though some may seem more uncivil than others. I have been successful with direct confrontation of issues that some might consider sensitive, and i have been successful with more civil presentation. There is more than one way to skin a cat apparently.