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  1. OT here, but there’s not yet a September Open Thread–and “Let The Games Begin,” which was really attractive from a title POV, is apparently closed to commenting. However, 800 words on the RNC and the ironies it posed from a climatically-informed perspective can be found here:

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 5 Sep 2012 @ 7:18 PM

  2. I imagine many have seen the paper (or more likely press reports of it) that claims that a very large amount of organic carbon lies under the Antarctic ice sheet. The presumption is that this carbon could be released following a retreat of (part of) the ice sheet. I think that would be useful to discuss.

    Comment by Thomas — 5 Sep 2012 @ 10:15 PM

  3. I note that there are now 12 trackers on this page, up from 6.
    Facebook social plugins
    Invite media
    Media Innovation Group
    Resonate Networks
    Scorecard Research Beacon

    I repeat: are all these necessary to ?


    Comment by sidd — 5 Sep 2012 @ 10:19 PM

  4. Oddly, after I clicked submit on the last comment, the number fell back to 6.
    Addthi, Facebook, Sitemeter,Google,Scorecard,SpecificClick remain.


    Comment by sidd — 5 Sep 2012 @ 10:21 PM

  5. 1 Kevin McKinney: And that Image was courtesy of Al Jazeera! Another irony.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 5 Sep 2012 @ 10:50 PM

  6. Well Review has it flaws and I am more and more for open review… If you want to laugh and perhaps cry this is a… article:

    Comment by Magnus W — 6 Sep 2012 @ 3:23 AM

  7. A 13 minutes slot on BBC2 Newsnight programme last night (5 Sept) BBCi player 35 – 48 mins (I’m told works inside UK only) addressed the loss of Arctic ice. It was effectively a trailer for a BBC2 documentary which is going out in October following Peter Wadhams professor of Ocean Physics, and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge.
    This was followed by a session with Paxman asking denialist questions of Natalie Bennett (the new leader of the UK Green Party) & some very odd, almost comic, statements from has-been Tory MP Peter Lilley (who is recently published by the lunatic GWPF).

    Apart from addressing the subject (full marks for that – there was even a PIOMAS animation (a bit small to see) that turned into a 3D PIOMAS graph!), the main feature worthy of comment was a repeating of the ‘an ice-free summer Arctic effectively doubles mankind’s contribution to warming’ last heard of from Lovelock. Presumably this is Wadhams, although it was only attributed to “scientists say” on the programme.

    Lilley likely provides himself a hostage to fortune saying he is as one with the IPCC. He was actually wriggling & saying the IPCC who are the experts don’t predict ice-free summers until after 2070 so the BBC’s film was a hoax. And anyway we had melts in the 30s. Sadly when Lilley came so so close to winning an award for excessive comedy, Paxman interupted the flow.

    Comment by MARodger — 6 Sep 2012 @ 4:00 AM

  8. Natural Oscillations can be relatively easily calculated from interaction of the solar and the Earth’s magnetic fields
    Dr. Schmidt may be dismissive of the idea but his colleagues from JPL are not:
    If Dr. Schmidt (or any other identifiable scientist) may be interested to know more I am happy to forward details.

    Comment by vukcevic — 6 Sep 2012 @ 4:12 AM

  9. Further to previous post, this BBC web-news item on the programme explicitly attributes “the equivilant of about 20 years of additional CO2 being added by man” to Prof Wadhams, although ‘what’ is equivilant here is not entirely clear.
    (20 years-worth would be about 0.5Wm^-2 ? which is higher than recent figures for an ice-free summer arctic (0.3 Wm^-2), but then the 0.5 is just starting to approach the level of TOA energy imbalance.)

    Comment by MARodger — 6 Sep 2012 @ 4:27 AM

  10. Any comments on this recent sea level study by Meehl et al, particularly their figure 3:

    It seems this shows a risk of 10-12 meters of sea level rise by 2300 under BAU. If so that would be a lot more than other estimates I’ve seen so far.

    Comment by Lennart van der Linde — 6 Sep 2012 @ 6:27 AM

  11. I did not see the program but professor Wadham was also mentioned on Neven’s iceblog. I do think his numbers is an overestimate. He assumed a reduction albedo from 0.6 to 0.1 for ice-free conditions, which is fine, but he did not take into account that the cloud-cover over the Arctic Ocean in summer is 80-90 %. Unless I have misunderstoood other points in his estimate he his forcing estimate is a factor of 5 too high.

    Comment by Øyvind Seland — 6 Sep 2012 @ 6:48 AM

  12. I have a question…. If most of the heat from global warming is going into the oceans and the oceans have very deep currents, when can we expect the btus to reappear?

    I can’t figure out if this is a smart question or a very dumb question.

    [Response: Not a dumb question, particularly since there is a lot of confusion on this point. Basically, it is never going to ‘reappear’ (as long as we are not actively reducing CO2 below current levels). The OHC change is a measure of the planetary imbalance, and so indicates how much the planet still needs to warm to come into equilibrium with the forcing, but that isn’t a statement about the specific joules. – gavin]

    Comment by Joe J. — 6 Sep 2012 @ 8:26 AM

  13. sidd @ 3&4 – As the last time you brought up your problem with your cookie jar, the only cookies set at RC are ‘site meter’ and ‘add this’, the rest come from other places you’re visiting [including links you click to from here] and ‘add this’ items you use, I have never picked up any of those others you list from RC. The reason the “number dropped back to 6” is because your most recent active cookies that were held in memory ‘dropped out’ – they ‘expired’ or noted you were no longer where you picked them up..
    So I repeat from last time, don’t blame it on RC, delete all cookies from sites you log in to when you leave them, particularly anything google related, and as a “safe surfing” habit, delete all cookies regularly. Also if you use the IE browser, you might consider changing to Firefox or Opera.

    Comment by flxible — 6 Sep 2012 @ 8:52 AM

  14. sidd, as before — flxible is right.
    (Google Custom Search option is at upper right corner of each page)

    In other news, David Brin (“Contrary Brin” blog) has a blunt answer to someone:

    “… your simplistic dogma that no planning at all can be allowed in an economy is not only historically inaccurate and naive, it is (the concept and not you!) utterly hypocritical.

    Please consider the possibility that what you see is NOT what you get. Read about “FIBM vs GAR” or Faith in Blind Markets vs Guided Allocation of Resources.

    Those who proclaim loudest that bureaucrats cannot allocate well are conniving for a return to the 6000 years when far smaller groups of far stupider lords would allocate instead. Market “blindness” is fictitious and undesirable anyway.

    What we need and want is COMPETITION so that inevitable human delusions are caught by competitors. This can be done artificially in government (Adam Smith recommended it as one tool!) and or organically in a healthy market. But you don’t get a healthy market with “blindness” or zero regulation. Have I proof of that?

    Only 6000 years of proof.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Sep 2012 @ 10:22 AM

  15. The news of the month is the plummet in American CO2 emissions. They’re now back to early 1990’s rates. The decline may slow but the trend will continue – ironically, America will likely hit its Kyoto targets … by accident. Natural gas from fracking is in takeoff mode. Power generation from coal has dropped from 50% of the static total to 34% in just half a dozen years. Demand for thermal coal dropped 10% last year alone (100 million tons. Natural gas is so cheap and ubiquitous and cheap and domestic and … cheap … that for the very first time all it took was a(nother) very warm winter to produce a ski-slope:

    This is the tough place – there are environmental downsides to water and geo-formations. But the pollution ends up inside the USA instead of butter-knife spread around the world’s atmosphere. And it’s the first piece of solid emission reduction in years … even tho its best parallel is the miracle germ response that killed the Martians in War of the Worlds.

    Comment by owl905 — 6 Sep 2012 @ 10:26 AM

  16. What was sea level the last time CO2 went up to 400? 450?

    What difference might the decline of Arctic ice make for sea level in 2060? 2100?

    If we burn all the planet’s reduced carbon, we’re cooked. Supposing we stop burning coal by 2050 (approximately assumed under BAU?)and lose our sulfate aerosol cooling. How might this effect the conclusions of the present semi-empirical approach to estimating sea level in 2100?

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 6 Sep 2012 @ 11:11 AM

  17. I wanted to ask again a question i posted in the last UV which closed before there was an answer.

    I am wondering about the possibility of hurricanes along California during the Miocene. Not only was it much more tropical, but there was a warm, shallow (200 – 600 ft) deep inland sea. This sea may may also have been warmed from below by volcanic activity at places along the coast the time. There was massive upwelling (Monterey formation) and a strong (on or offshore) breeze. Hurricanes or other sea sprites?

    If so, is there a chance that hurricanes, which are now occasional to Mexico, could begin to move upcoast to California?

    Gavin or others?

    Comment by Ron R. — 6 Sep 2012 @ 11:48 AM

  18. @12 & the response
    I would offer a guess: possibly via the ocean conveyor belt some of it eventually ends in the Arctic Ocean, and since energy is required to turn ice into water (most of the ice and its melting is below the surface), small fraction of it may have ‘reappeared’ this August, but on the other hand I could be wrong.

    Comment by vukcevic — 6 Sep 2012 @ 12:18 PM

  19. Put that coffee down….. Joe Bastardi uses screengrab of DMI Arctic SST map to pronounce… “rapid rebound in sea ice confirms theory that low amount was because of storm causing abnormal min #dramatic-1 week!

    [Response: It isn’t obvious to me that he even noticed that the map is of temperature, not sea ice. – gavin]

    Comment by J Bowers — 6 Sep 2012 @ 1:37 PM

  20. I just read michael mann’s book. OMG hope the threat mails have stopped. Good job.

    Now I want to ask about the pliocene, the most recent time that the co2 in the atmosphere was as high or higher compared to today’s levels. Apart from the sea level rise (25 meters!) what else do we know about this period? Do we know for example if the climate of the southern europe was similar to todays North Africa’s?

    Comment by za22 — 6 Sep 2012 @ 1:53 PM

  21. 19 J Bowers

    Mr “Sea ice Recovery” Bastardi has it wrong again, looking back at 2011 we see the same melt pattern:




    Bastardi wants to show a single storm melting the ice pack more, while Laptev and East Siberian sea wasn’t affected being so far away from the low pressure centre. 2008 to 2011 melts show a similar pattern than 2012 meaning its daily tides, dominant sea current and dominant winds which caused the melts to be shaped this way.
    The brief presence of an intense cyclone west of the Arctic Archipelago didn’t do much. The sum total of this storm is not as big, but it was strong because of the open water already present and also melted some ice by mixing because of the warmer sea water present before the storm. Bastardi is a better snake oil salesman!

    Comment by wayne davidson — 6 Sep 2012 @ 2:22 PM

  22. Re:Tracking

    I took Mr.flxible and Mr.Robert’s suggestion. I created a new user account on a clean linux install into which I am logged now. Never used, no cookies, no history, no cache. I see the same trackers. These are not cookies. For example, the site has the browser execute two separate pieces of javascript, one of which places a 1×1 gif on this page display. Specificclick execute one piece of javascript, with similar intent. I see at least one gif and 4 pieces of javascript from Addthis. I do not intend, at the moment, to track each of these down any further. I trust that the realclimate team has reasons to enable all these, but I would like to have some idea as to why all this is necessary.


    [Response: Addthis, facebook and sitemeter are installed for social bookmarking and site metering. Neither ‘specificclick’ nor ‘scorecardresearch’ have any software installed on this site (as far as I can tell) and neither appear in the page source or info. What tool are you using to assess these things? – gavin]

    Comment by sidd — 6 Sep 2012 @ 3:01 PM

  23. Romney and the Republicans making fun of sea level rise just above sea level in Tampa Florida.

    Perhaps someday this clip will make Romney the poster boy for this age of global warming denial.

    Comment by Tom Adams — 6 Sep 2012 @ 3:33 PM

  24. vukcevic — 6 Sep 2012: Natural Oscillations can be relatively easily calculated from interaction of the solar and the Earth’s magnetic fields…

    Your reference to NASA/JPL states:

    “Our research demonstrates that, for the past 160 years, decadal and longer-period changes in atmospheric temperature correspond to changes in Earth’s length of day if we remove the very significant effect of atmospheric warming attributed to the buildup of greenhouse gases due to mankind’s enterprise…”

    Again demonstrating (in their data) that anthropogenic global warming is over and above that of natural variations. If you are (as I believe you have in previous threads) asserting that natural variations are responsible for current climate change, you have contradicted your own point.

    Comment by KR — 6 Sep 2012 @ 3:43 PM

  25. sidd – see here, the RC folks may want to read it too, although it’s old news. The addthis box may be a bit more problematic [RC take note], but even the browsers now have it as an add on, and if you don’t use it what effect can it have on your privacy?

    If you are not getting actual cookies from these things you are not being “tracked”, they’re simply gathering more web-surf data to suck money from someone. If you want protection from cookies, use your browsers settings, starting with checking that you receive cookies only from sites you visit, not 3rd parties – you can also disable javascript and Flash on your browser, or regularly delete all ‘persistent data’ in the Flash Player Settings Manager, or block any site you choose there, because it’s Flash that’s doing what you don’t like.

    Bottom line, stop blaming the dysfunctional nature of the web and the way you use your browser on RC, they’re climate scientists not hackers.

    Comment by flxible — 6 Sep 2012 @ 3:47 PM

  26. “[Response: It isn’t obvious to me that he even noticed that the map is of temperature, not sea ice. – gavin]”

    Possible, but to get two different dated maps you need to move your mouse to the dropdowns at the left, where we find…. ;)

    Comment by J Bowers — 6 Sep 2012 @ 4:46 PM

  27. Re: #24 Comment by KR — 6 Sep 2012
    What I demonstrated in the graph is de-trended data (not the anomaly, there is a difference) i.e. any long term rise is eliminated, and the calculated interaction between solar and the Earth’s magnetic fields.
    The NASA –JPL also says:
    So what mechanism is driving these correlations? Dickey said scientists aren’t sure yet, but she offered some hypotheses.
    Since scientists know air temperature can’t affect movements of Earth’s core or Earth’s length of day to the extent observed, one possibility is the movements of Earth’s core might disturb Earth’s magnetic shielding of charged-particle (i.e., cosmic ray) fluxes that have been hypothesized to affect the formation of clouds. This could affect how much of the sun’s energy is reflected back to space and how much is absorbed by our planet. Other possibilities are that some other core process could be having a more indirect effect on climate, or that an external (e.g. solar) process affects the core and climate simultaneously.
    You say: … I believe you have in previous threads asserting that natural variations are responsible for current climate change
    I do not wish to interfere with your beliefs, it is a matter of a personal choice.

    Comment by vukcevic — 6 Sep 2012 @ 5:06 PM

  28. owl905,

    ‘ironically, America will likely hit its Kyoto targets … by accident.’

    US commitment would have been a reduction, by 2012, to 93% of 1990 levels.

    Note that the story you link is talking about first-quarter emissions only. In terms of annual figures I can find two sources – 1) an IEA 2011 report (page 46, 2009 US emissions were 107% of 1990 levels); 2) a 2012 EPA report (page 4, 2010 US emissions were 112% or 114% of 1990 levels, depending on whether you look at total CO2 emissions or just those from fossil fuel combustion).

    Obviously the proof will be in 2012 annual emissions figures but, based on the information in so far, I can’t see any way the US will get close to its (rejected) target.

    Comment by Paul S — 6 Sep 2012 @ 5:13 PM

  29. Thanks for the response, Dr. Schmidt. I am using some custom code, similar to ‘Ghostery’, but with some additional features and sandboxing. But I see that Ghostery agrees with my results. As Mr. Flxible points out, some of the additional trackers are invoked by sitemeter. Flash is not the culprit, my tests were done with flash (indeed all add-ons) disabled. However, contrary to his assertion, I assign no blame to realclimate. And cookies are not necessary to track viewing patterns.

    In any event, this forum is not the place to discuss privacy issues. I merely desired some explanation, which Dr. Schmidt has been gracious enough to provide.

    One last point: I have, for my sins, and to my regret been somewhat involved in some very large data agglomeration over more than a decade and a half. I can state that only 5 to 10 clicks are required to uniquely identify 99.9% of the humans behind the browsers. I further regret that I am bound not to divulge any more detail. You may take this as you will, I make this comment for those who care.


    Comment by sidd — 6 Sep 2012 @ 5:38 PM

  30. I’d like to address a comment by owl905 above:

    The news of the month is the plummet in American CO2 emissions. They’re now back to early 1990′s rates. The decline may slow but the trend will continue – ironically, America will likely hit its Kyoto targets … by accident. Natural gas from fracking is in takeoff mode.

    With fracking, I wonder if the reduction in CO2 emissions isn’t being offset entirely by increased methane emissions. The movie Gasland (which all of you should see if you haven’t already) made it clear that methane leaks were widespread in fracked fields. There was one impressive scene in the movie where a creek had methane bubbling furiously, enough so that it could be ignited. Another scene taken at night with infrared photography showed warm methane leaking from wells. And numerous times it was demonstrated how there was methane in well water. Most of the time, of course, you can’t see methane – it’s invisible.

    Considering that methane is about 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, the supposed environmental benefit of America’s natural gas boom may be illusory.

    I’d be curious to know if anybody is even studying this problem. Figuring out how much methane is leaking may not be possible. I don’t know how one could measure this since it’s happening over such a widesprad area.

    Comment by Candide — 6 Sep 2012 @ 5:48 PM

  31. I’d like to address a comment by owl905 above:

    The news of the month is the plummet in American CO2 emissions. They’re now back to early 1990′s rates. The decline may slow but the trend will continue – ironically, America will likely hit its Kyoto targets … by accident. Natural gas from fracking is in takeoff mode.

    With fracking, I wonder if the reduction in CO2 emissions isn’t being offset entirely by increased methane emissions. The movie Gasland (which all of you should see if you haven’t already) made it clear that methane leaks were widespread in fracked fields. There was one impressive scene in the movie where a creek had methane bubbling furiously, enough so that it could be ignited. Another scene taken at night with infrared photography showed warm methane leaking from wells. And numerous times it was demonstrated how there was methane in well water. Most of the time, of course, you can’t see methane – it’s invisible.

    Considering that methane is about 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, the supposed environmental benefit of America’s natural gas boom may be illusory.

    I’d be curious to know if anybody is even studying this problem. Figuring out how much methane is leaking may not be possible. I don’t know how one could measure this since it’s happening over such a widespread area.

    Comment by Candide — 6 Sep 2012 @ 5:50 PM

  32. James Hansen is sometimes accused of overstating his case, but I find him controversial for an entirely different reason: he consistently portrays climate change as an intergenerational injustice. His argument is that climate change violates the civil rights of future generations, including the right to a livable world. To my knowledge no one else with comparable scientific reputation is making this argument so forcefully and publicly. It’s clever and plays well because 1) civil society avows egalitarianism, 2) people are justifiably proud of the significant progress that’s been made towards that goal, and 3) climate change threatens to wipe out that progress in short order (along with much else).

    Unfortunately, extending civil rights to future generations isn’t new: pro-lifers have been using this gambit for decades, with considerable success. Hansen hasn’t made any public statements on abortion to my knowledge, nor does it seem likely that he would, whatever his private views are, but his otherwise laudable meme is nonetheless potentially entangled with religious oppression of women. The right of future generations to a livable world needs to be distinguished from the right of women to make their own reproductive choices. I don’t find this difficult, but I suspect many Americans will have trouble getting their heads around it. It’s a PR problem that Hansen may not have considered.

    A more serious criticism of Hansen’s intergenerational justice meme is that it doesn’t go far enough. I propose a more strident alternative: war on the future. The idea is that we’ve declared war against future generations, and we’re winning. Victory means no future, for our species and countless others. This may seem absurd, but in my experience paradoxes are very useful in PR, because they expose hidden assumptions. Here the assumption is that climate change is merely an injustice to future generations, when in fact it’s an existential threat, the type of threat that wars are usually fought over. Injustice implies the possibility of compensation, but in the worst-case scenario, future generations won’t even get the opportunity to bitterly resent us, because they won’t exist. War on the future is also totally asymmetric: future generations can’t defend themselves, because they’re not here yet.

    WWII and the Manhattan project are commonly used as analogies for the global effort that will be needed to mitigate climate change, and this is part of my inspiration, but “winning the war on the future” is primarily inspired by Jeremy Jackson’s work. Daniel Pauly’s shifting baselines feel mild-mannered compared to Jackson’s incendiary “How we wrecked the ocean” presentation, which he starts by telling the audience that everything he ever studied disappeared during his lifetime. Jackson very effectively communicates devastation and irreversible loss, not only with his emotional intensity and relentless examples, but also by using vivid metaphors such as “silent ocean” and “the rise of slime.” Similarly visceral memes are desperately needed in the struggle to wake people up to the reality and consequences of climate change.

    There are many versions of Jackson’s presentation, but my favorite is here: Silent Ocean – Perspectives on Ocean Science

    Comment by Chris Korda — 6 Sep 2012 @ 6:18 PM

  33. Matt Ridley has done something very naughty to the British environment.

    Comment by Russell — 6 Sep 2012 @ 6:46 PM

  34. Jeff Masters Blog has a great summary and discussion of the Arctic Sea Ice Loss at It’s definitely worth a look

    Comment by Tokodave — 6 Sep 2012 @ 8:42 PM

  35. > Jeremy Jackson

    I was with you up to this line, in which you are mistaken:

    > vivid metaphors such as “silent ocean” and “the rise of slime.”

    Those are not metaphors.

    The ocean is not _totally_ silent, and the slime has not _entirely_ risen.
    But we’re already far gone along both those courses. That’s reality.

    We f’ed up.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Sep 2012 @ 9:01 PM

  36. I’d be curious in a comparison of which climate indicators have moved faster than predicted (say, in the TAR) and which have moved more slowly:

    eg, Arctic sea ice, sea level rise have both seen more rapid change than we might have expected. Global average surface temperature slower (though it can be explained by ENSO + solar variability). etc…


    Comment by MMM — 6 Sep 2012 @ 9:18 PM

  37. President Obama specifically named Climate Change as a real issue in his acceptance speech tonight. I love the visibility, but I think it’s sad that so many other of our leaders in the U.S. deny that it is real.

    Comment by A.R. Davenport — 6 Sep 2012 @ 10:20 PM

  38. Those are not metaphors.

    It was originally “memes” but I didn’t want to use the word twice in a row. What I meant was symbols, images, figures of speech. Facts by themselves aren’t always enough to inspire people to action, it also takes passion and skillful use of language. I value Jackson’s fervor and rhetoric just as much as his science. He connects his audience emotionally with the decline of the ocean, by showing how it affects him personally, and Hansen tries to do the same with climate change.


    Pinch me! I can’t believe my ears. The President of the United States just said the words “climate change” in front of millions of people! Now there’s a change I can believe in!

    And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future.

    Comment by Chris Korda — 6 Sep 2012 @ 10:44 PM

  39. 33
    A rising slime may shift all ships, Mister Roberts, but metaphors tend to slip their moorings in election years.

    The gush of pish and tosh in the wake of Katrins recalls how Vermont’s governor promised aid to Whiite River Junction residents :

    ” Swept away in a terrible conflagration by the floodwaters” of the 1938 hurricane.

    Comment by Russell — 7 Sep 2012 @ 1:15 AM

  40. I’m thinking that rain falling through a warmer atmosphere, either directly onto the oceans, or via rivers, will be a major driver in transferring heat from sky to sea (or alternatively, if the rain is warmer than in previous decades but still colder than the sea, still in absolute terms causing less local cooling of the sea) anyone know of information on this?

    Comment by Andrew W — 7 Sep 2012 @ 3:51 AM

  41. Gavin, is there a reason why your site does not link external links to new tabs. It’s slightly annoying to have to go back or alternatively to force the new tab explicitly.

    [Response: I’ve implemented this. If anyone complains strongly, I’ll revert it, but for the timebeing, you should be happy. – gavin]

    Comment by SellaTheChemist — 7 Sep 2012 @ 3:55 AM

  42. Davenport,

    Up until now, the issue had taken a back seat in the election. The following give a little perspective on the reasons.

    According to a recent poll, 44% of the voters thought it was not an important issue. Compare that to other issues, and one can see why the candidates have trod carefully around this.

    The conventions did serve to highlight the issue. How this plays out in the campaign will be interesting. With the sluggish economy, people are reluctant to spend on programs that do improve their pocketbooks.

    Comment by Dan H. — 7 Sep 2012 @ 6:54 AM

  43. @ SellaTheChemist

    In all modern browesers click with the middle mouse button and the link will apear in a new tab ;)

    Comment by za22 — 7 Sep 2012 @ 8:13 AM

  44. Hope this is wrong.

    Comment by Ron R. — 7 Sep 2012 @ 9:38 AM

  45. Soon and Briggs in WaPo say BEST project confirms sun driving temperature increase. The graph’s data is highlighted in comments as being wrong, citing Laut & Gundermann(2000) and Laut(2003).

    Comment by J Bowers — 7 Sep 2012 @ 9:40 AM

  46. Willie Soon again.

    Will he soon change his mind?

    Solar distracts thought.

    Cherry pick some more.

    Confuse issues and ones self.

    Missing truth what for?

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 7 Sep 2012 @ 10:02 AM

  47. @45There is a rather large difference between the WaPo and the WaTimes. One is reasonably centrist, the other is run by the Moonies.

    That should be all you need to know about the “science”.

    Comment by jgnfld — 7 Sep 2012 @ 10:21 AM

  48. Candide per comment 31

    The EPA is studying methane from fracking, perhaps a little late to the game.

    Open path detectors are useful for wide area monitoring:

    Comment by Tom Adams — 7 Sep 2012 @ 10:56 AM

  49. Re- Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 7 Sep 2012 @ 10:02 AM:

    Good haiku (I live near Ukiah).


    Comment by Steve Fish — 7 Sep 2012 @ 11:46 AM

  50. > J Bowers says:
    > Soon and Briggs in WaPo

    That’s not from the Washington Post — check where the link actually goes.
    I’m sure it’s a typo. But as Mr. Reagan said, “trust, but verify.”

    —– VERIFY —-

    Always check the actual link hidden behind abbreviated or short links.
    They make for nice tidy readable pages and enable malware to be hidden on them.

    Firefox, Opera allow crooks to hide an entire phish site in a link

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Sep 2012 @ 11:49 AM

  51. Effects of “adaptation” are strange and unpredictable. Maple syrup harvests in NE U.S. collapse, rising value of syrup leads to a vast theft of strategic reserves of maple syrup held by friendly neighbors to the north:

    “The [Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers] is currently evaluating the scope of the situation. The empty barrels found on site suggest that their contents had been emptied into other containers in view of illegal distribution. In total, the burglarized warehouse held over 10 million pounds of maple syrup amounting to over 30 million dollars in value.

    The marketing of the stolen maple syrup will affect the entire maple industry. It is crucial to identify those responsible for this crime.

    In addition, several American states saw a very low, indeed catastrophic, harvest during the 2012 season. The Quebec harvest, however, remained normal. The Federation`s maple syrup inventories supply markets during periods of weaker harvests and can, therefore, be considered a global strategic reserve.”

    Quebec Maple Syrup Producers Robbed, $30 Million Worth Of Maple Syrup Stolen From Company Warehouse

    Begin hording; I’m going to do a John Denver and install a storage tank in my yard.

    Is there a futures market for this stuff?

    Comment by dbostrom — 7 Sep 2012 @ 11:50 AM

  52. Gavin – I do not know that you reduced any confusion among lay people like me. Trenberth said the additional heat being found in the oceans could come back to haunt us. I do not understand what you’ve said, but my hunch is you’re saying as long as the current energy imbalance exists, the system is gaining energy as time goes by. I assume you mean its moving around within the system does not count as a reappearance. If the energy imbalance were to go the other way, then I assume you mean the heat would reappear in terms of its imminent exit to space. If not that, I don’t have a clue what you mean.

    [Response: I don’t know what Trenberth is referring to specifically i.e. whether he is speaking metaphorically or literally. But the Ocean Heat content increase is effectively irreversible. The heat being sequestered in the deep ocean is not coming back anytime in the next thousand years or so. – gavin]

    Comment by JCH — 7 Sep 2012 @ 11:51 AM

  53. How about the difficulty of heat getting -into- the ocean? How long before our charge card is impolitely declined when we present the tab for our ongoing drunken spree?

    Bad metaphor actually; I suppose it’ll be more a matter of raised eyebrows and increasingly watered-down drinks, leading to a shocking hangover.

    Comment by dbostrom — 7 Sep 2012 @ 12:48 PM

  54. @50 Hank. It was my error. Got my Wa’s mixed up being a Brit and all.

    Comment by J Bowers — 7 Sep 2012 @ 4:31 PM

  55. Some days ago a leading newspaper in my country, “Aftenposten” (“The Evening Post”) presented the postulates in this article:,y.2006,no.4,content.true,page.1,css.print/issue.aspx

    in a very positive tone (but the journalist hadn’t understood any of the arguments in the article, it appeared. At least he wasn’t capable of presenting them to the public without wreaking heavoc to most of elementary atmosphere physics etc.)

    I then read this article and understood a whole lot more, but still I must admit, that I’m not very convinced by the theory of mr. Seager.

    Firstly I can’t understand what happens to the waves in the jet stream and to the polar front’s movements – they seem to disappear completely?

    Secondly, he doesn’t offer any explanation for the causes of the younger dryas cooling, the sudden coolings during the Weichsel ice age etc. etc.

    Thirdly he does’t seem to reflect on *what causes the cool airmasses arriving at the north american east coast to warm up again when crossing the Atlantic from southwest towards northeast, if not overwhelmingly the warm surface waters of the Gulf Stream and the north Atlantic Stream*?

    Therefore Seager does not understand why the west coasts of Portugal, France, Ireland, Scotland and Norway are clearly warmer than the west coast parts of the north american continent at the same latitudes (f.ex. the alaskan west coast is considerably colder than the norwegian west coast as far as I know). In fact he does not mention or discuss these facts at all.

    Some of his (?) figures seems somewhat enigmatic to me. Especially fig.s 5 and 6.

    Could anyone of the experts here enlighten me/us a little about the subject and tell me where I (and/or f. ex. Wally Broecker here: ) may be mistaken?

    Comment by Karsten V. Johansen — 7 Sep 2012 @ 4:38 PM

  56. Andrew W @40 — The heat transfer is rather insignificant.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 Sep 2012 @ 5:22 PM

  57. Re: vukcevic @ 6 Sep 2012 5:06 PM

    You say: I believe you have in previous threads asserting that natural variations are responsible for current climate change

    I do not wish to interfere with your beliefs, it is a matter of a personal choice.

    My beliefs in this regard are supported by your statements such as:

    “Temperatures track very accurately interaction between the solar and the Earth’s magnetic fields”

    or this one:

    “Geomagnetic oscillations compared to the CET (Central England Temperature) spectrum, which is far more robust and I suggest correct
    GMF 85yr, 50yr, 35yr
    CET 90yr, 55yr, 35yr”

    I’m afraid that such statements do _not_ give me the impression that you agree with radiative forcing of anthropogenic CO2, or in fact any significant human influence on temperature changes.

    Comment by KR — 7 Sep 2012 @ 5:40 PM

  58. Re Chris Korda @ 32 – in search of a distinction (this doesn’t address the whole of the two issues, one of which is mostly OT I believe and so I won’t add any more than what I previously said, which is…)

    see this, which was a clarification/add on to what I meant by this (3rd paragraph), and this (2nd part) .

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 7 Sep 2012 @ 6:29 PM

  59. Re Hank Roberts @ 14 – I’ve now read the whole thing (sans many comments). Wow! (Part of that reaction due to my having had some similar thoughts** ((where is gar…) capitalism itself should have some *tendency* to put the ‘best/brightest’ in charge; aren’t labor unions a part of free enterprise? (natural law…) Humans are natural – ergo regulated and quasi-free markets are natural (as is love, as is war, …), etc.; (~CEOs/where is gar…) no matter how unregulated a market it, at some point sombody is allocating something; big business becomming sort of government…; etc.) But did I miss something – for whom was his blunt answer (or does it matter)?

    **-planted in my mind when I read “Earth” when I was ~12/13-ish? Actually, “Complexity” probably had something to do with it, too… etc.
    (One section reminded me of Fareed Zakaria’s “The Future of Freedom”)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 7 Sep 2012 @ 7:01 PM

  60. Not sure if this is appropriate or not, but since it’s ‘Unforced Variations’…

    I’ve just written a draft of a paper that will form a chapter of my economics PhD. It’s an economics of climate change paper and I’ll get plenty of comments from economists in the department. I’d be very interested in also getting comments from climate scientists though, especially on my accuracy in describing the position of climate scientists and the climate science ‘community’.

    The paper can be viewed at and I can be contacted at

    Comment by dcomerf — 7 Sep 2012 @ 7:11 PM

  61. Re 52 JCH – my impression – though I may not have read enough of the original source – was that if temperature was not rising as rapidly because the ocean was heating up faster than expected for the time being, eventually this could stop and the temperature would rise faster (?) or maybe it was a reference to heat capacity in general (that there is ‘warming in the pipeline’).

    Re 40 Andrew W – The water cycle is an important part (the larger part) of convective heat flux from the surface to the atmosphere, although net radiation is generally significant. I’m not sure if it makes sense to isolate one part like that, though. (from memory:) I think tropopause-level forcing for CO2 is greater than surface forcing; thus the atmosphere to some extent would tend to warm first and then a resulting reduction in (the vertical heat flux of) convection would lead to surface warming. However, the water vapor feedback is, I think, supposed to be stronger at the surface than at the tropopause, which would tend to lead to surface warming first, then an increase in convection… The ocean would generally be cooled by rain (which tends to be cooler than the air (unless the cloud touches the surface, there would tend to be some evaporative cooling of the rain; anyway it’s falling from higher-up and temperature tends to decrease with height (with the exception of fronts and the like (gust fronts), nocturnal inversions, etc.)). But except for snowfall, there is no latent heat uptake when the rain hits the surface, whereas there is evaporative cooling when the water goes back up, much larger than the sensible heat associated with a few K difference in temperature.

    There is an upper mixed layer of the ocean which comes to equilibrium with climate forcing *relatively* fast due to *limited* heat capacity. Using τ = C/(B-F) = C*ECS , using ECS = 0.75 K*m^2/W and C ~= 200 MJ/(K*m^2), τ ~= 150 Ms ~= 5 years (That’s the e-folding time; you have to multiply it by some factor to get closer to equilibrium). That C is approximately what you’d get from a global 50 m deep layer of water (which would be a bit deeper when compressed into oceanic areas (I’ve seen different numbers given for the depth of the mixed layer – of course it varies regionally and seasonally). You only get roughly 10 MJ/(K*m^2) for sensible heat of the atmosphere; I think (from memory) the latent heat of additional water vapor is of a similar order of magnitude to that. Etc.) Exchange with the deeper ocean limits the rate of additional oceanic heating.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 7 Sep 2012 @ 7:43 PM

  62. Re my last comment:

    You only get roughly 10 MJ/(K*m^2)

    Since the troposphere and stratosphere are going in opposite directions, you’d want to use tropospheric C (after stratospheric adjustment (to instantaneous forcing – there is some stratospheric response to surface+tropospheric warming too but I think it’s supposed to be small)), which I remember being something like 85 % of the atmosphere (by mass and thus by C).

    And re my comment in July :

    It’s not like the Greenland ice sheet is now set to fall completely apart within a decade after one time with nearly all the surface near or above freezing, but it’s going to keep shrinking.” [new paragraph] “At least not for a very long time.” … that last part should have been in () and placed right after ‘within a decade’.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 7 Sep 2012 @ 7:55 PM

  63. I ask because I’ve recently once again come across the claim that CO2 can’t warm the oceans because the downward IR won’t penetrate the ocean mm thick skin layer. Those waving this claim imply that there’s no other mechanism to warm the oceans.

    [Response: Nonsense. And easily demonstrated nonsense at that – how do these people explain the increase in ocean heat content? Or even the everyday heat exchange that is ongoing all the time? Evidently there must be mechanisms that transfer heat between the atmosphere and ocean. You can see them in the wake of a hurricane – where wind stirring transfers warm water to depth, and then atmospheric fluxes restore the surface heat content. Those fluxes include solar radiation, latent and sensible heat as well as long wave radiation combined with mechanical stirring from winds and waves. – gavin]

    Comment by Andrew W — 7 Sep 2012 @ 8:39 PM

  64. Re 55 Karsten V. Johansen – I’m not sure specifically about the size of the role of the Gulf Stream in heating Europe vs Kuroshio heating the Pacific Northwest, but the explanation of atmospheric waves made sense to me.

    Specifically, the momentum equations for a fluid on a rotating planet can be analyzed and it can be shown that, absent viscous or diabatic processes (radiant or sensible or latent, or frictional (or for that matter, chemical, electical, or nuclear) net heating or cooling, or mixing, as opposed to adiabatic temperatue changes), and with some simplifying approximations (ignore the small ‘curvature terms’), using potential temperature as a vertical coordinate, there is a quantity called potential vorticity (PV) which is conserved following fluid motion. This is the measure of angular momentum mentioned in the “American Scientist” article – with a clarification – the article seems to be describing a barotropic version, which applies to an unstratified fluid layer.

    PV is proportional to absolute vorticity divided by fluid layer thickness (since mass is conserved, the fluid layer thickness is in terms of mass per unit area. If the situation allows an approximation of incompressibility, then volume per unit area (or just depth) can be used instead). Sticking with the vertical component of vorticity, absolute vorticity is equal to planetary vorticity (the vorticity of the rotation of the solid Earth about the local vertical, which is proportional to the sine of the latitude and happens to be equal to the coriolis parameter f (for just horizontal components, coriolis acceleration = f*(cross product of velocity and a unit vector pointing up), and the relative vorticity, which is the vorticity of the wind (or currents) – this actually has two parts: a curvature/orbital vorticity (requires a curvature of streamlines) and shear vorticity (the change in speed across streamlines). In a stratified fluid, the rate of change of pressure relative to potential density (or potential temperature in the atmosphere) can play the role of fluid layer thickness in the proportionality with PV – which may then be called ‘IPV’ or ‘isentropic potential vorticity’.

    (PS potential temperature is the temperature that a substance will have if brought adiabatically to a reference pressure. The potential density is the density it would then have. In the above, potential density must be used in the ocean because changes in salinity can affect it independently of potential temperature. Variations in water vapor and liquid water content in clouds can do this in the atmosphere but they tend to have small effects on density for familiar conditions and can for some purposes be ignored.)

    PV and IPV are very powerful concepts – it is possible, with boundary conditions and an assumed relationship (like geostrophy or gradient wind balance) to reconstruct a flow pattern from an IPV distribution, and with the assumption that IPV is conserved, the flow pattern determines how IPV is redistributed.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 7 Sep 2012 @ 8:48 PM

  65. dcomerf @60 — Your paper seems largely sensible to this amateur. However, it is quite clear that a rapid warming of even just 2 degrees Celcius (2 K) will place great stresses on the living environment, so great (I think) as to constitute a catastrophe. One should think in terms of geologic time; from Present (1950 CE) until that 2 K of warming is but an instant of geologic time and in that sense is already a forseeable catastrophic tipping point.

    Indeed I think we are more than half way (measured from Present) to a mere 1 K warming and Terra has already experienced economically quite damaging events in various regions; at a 1 K warming it will be rather terrible. So I opine that a 2 K goal is far, far too large to be bourne.

    One useful book to read is Mark Lynas’s “Six Degrees”:

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 Sep 2012 @ 8:59 PM

  66. My understanding of “ocean heat” is as follows:

    The problem is not that there is heat in the ocean, but rather that there ISN’T heat in the ocean (yet).

    (Using the common informal meaning of “heat” as energy or temperature, not the formal thermodynamic definition as energy flow from temperature difference!)

    The ocean is accumulating energy at present, and the rate at which energy is being accumulated through heating of the ocean is effectively equal to the difference between what energy Earth absorbs from the Sun, and what energy it emits back to space. The energy imbalance at the Top Of Atmosphere, in other words.

    There are two major significant drivers of the energy imbalance at present times. One is the increasing atmospheric greenhouse effect, which means that less energy gets out to space for a given surface temperature. The other is the increasing surface temperature, which increases the energy out into space. These will, eventually, come into approximate balance. Right now, they are not.

    It’s technically incorrect to say that there’s some kind of energy in the ocean now which is going to be a problem later. What there is in the ocean is an energy flux (or energy per unit time) that is now going into heating of the ocean. There’s an energy flux down into the ocean which eventually, as the Earth gets back into approximate equilibrium sometime in the future, will be an energy flux back out into space, driven by a higher surface temperature and a warmer ocean.

    This is also called “warming in the pipeline”.

    Thermodynamic terminology is a pain. (And I’ve done the usual thing here with technical misuse of the term “heat”.) I can see how someone might speak of ocean heat coming back to haunt us. There is a flow of energy into the ocean which is going to result in temperature changes in the future; and we can’t avoid that. It’s already implicit in the CURRENT atmospheric greenhouse. Stopping atmospheric changes right now would still mean that flow of heat into the ocean is going to bring about increasing temperatures in the future.

    But it’s really easy to get mixed up in terminology.

    Have I got the picture about right there?

    Comment by Chris Ho-Stuart — 7 Sep 2012 @ 9:00 PM

  67. > is now
    since when?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Sep 2012 @ 9:19 PM

  68. Re 63 response: Of course it’s nonsense, so here’s an example:

    Comment by Andrew W — 7 Sep 2012 @ 10:15 PM

  69. Re 55 Karsten V. Johansen (cont.) …

    (PS it is possible for an adiabatic process to include latent heating/cooling. Due to the kinetics of phase changes (nucleation, diffusion of matter and energy down gradients), etc (activation energy where chemical reactions are involved), some entropy will be produced, but if the approach to thermodynamic equilibrium is sufficiently fast relative to pressure changes, the process can be approximated as isentropic (reversable, and adiabatic). However, in the atmosphere, it is potential temperature defined by dry (no condensation/evaporation etc.) adiabatic processes that tends to either increase with height or stay constant in mixed layers, and the seperation of condensed water from the air in which it condensed generally leads to irreversability (gain in entropy, non-adiabatic), so it is convenient to distinguish between dry adiabatic and moist adiabatic processes), and it is easier to describe IPV using potential temperature defined by dry adiabatic processes as a vertical coordinate.)

    Anyway, the flow (wind/current velocity field) and (I)PV can be described as sums of components, such as anomalies plus some background/basic/reference state. Within each group (velocity and PV seperately), they add linearly to the total, but (I think**) the relationship between a PV anomaly and the velocity field associated with it can depend on the rest of the components, although linear superposition can be a good approximation for weak anomalies.

    The velocity field around a (anti)cyclonic PV anomaly will itself be (anti)cyclonic; if the PV anomaly is of limited extent, the velocity anomaly can extend beyond the PV anomaly. A relatively horizontally large PV anomaly with sharp edges can have a calm central area with a jet-like flow around its boundary. Jets in general are associated with sharper PV gradients.

    Because of the distribution of planetary vorticity (which is to a very very good approximation, constant), (I)PV generally tends to become more cyclonic towards the poles. With this gradient direction, if (I)PV contours are brought closer together, eastward (westerly) flows occur; if farther apart, flow may be in the opposite direction (or if relatively farther apart, flow may be westerly but weaker).

    With such a north-south PV gradient, North-south displacments of fluid produce PV anomalies, which induce relative vorticity anomalies and associated flow patterns. A wavy displacment field causes a flow field that acts to produce a wavy displacment field that is shifted from the original; the overall effect is that (I)PV anomalies propagate in the presence of a background (I)PV gradient, giving rise to ‘vorticity waves’.

    Setting aside the flow pattern, regions of thinner fluid layers tend to have larger (I)PV; this can be from underlying topography, or variations in the top of the fluid layer. In a stratified fluid, one can think of many layers that each thin-out approaching an underlying or overlying boundary – thus, gradients in potential density at a boundary are like IPV gradients and in fact, using the same relationship (geostrophy or gradient-wind balance), surface potential they induce flow patterns like IPV anomalies do (consider the flow pattern associated with the IPV anomaly across the other side of the boundary that would be necessary to induce the potential density anomaly itself).

    Any such PV (or surface potential density) gradient can support vorticity waves. Phase propagation is always directed with increasing cyclonic PV to the right (at some angle), but a region of wave activity propagates with group velocity, which depends on the orientation of the waves and the wavelength – in a stratified fluid it can have vertical as well as horizontal components.

    Waves can produce velocity fields that extend into regions of opposing (I)PV gradients, where there can be counter-propagating waves. These waves can interact – for a range of wavelengths and other conditions, they will act to maintain a phase relationship that leads to mutual amplification. With surface potential temperature tending to increase equatorward and cyclonic IPV in the atmosphere tending to increase poleward, such counterpropagating waves can occur and grow (via baroclinic instability).

    The waves discussed in the article are of the ‘quasi-stationary’ sort. The wavelengths are too long to maintain a phase relationship required for baroclinic instability. A freely propagating quasi-stationary wave has sufficient wavelength to be able to propagate (refering to phase propagation) through the air with a speed similar to the speed the air is moving (and in the opposite direction). If air is flowing over topography, a voricity wave can be forced (it will tilt back into the flow with height so that the group velocity is away from the source (although this tilt may be small within a given vertical extent, such as in the troposphere, I think**); this transports a momentum flux upward, so that the tendency for topography to impeed flow can bypass intermediate layers and act to slow down flow at some higher level where the wave amplitude leads to nonlinear wave breaking (see ‘sudden stratospheric warming’). I think (from memory**) the wave response to flow over topography is supposed to be largest near wavelengths which would freely propagate in the opposite direction at the same speed (resonance). While phase propagation is limited in direction, a global wave pattern can form as wave activity spreads out with group velocities of a spectrum of forced waves; this behavior can also result from wave forcing by diabatic anomalies, such as atmospheric heating over a warm SST anomaly (see also ‘ENSO’).

    Baroclinic waves aren’t eliminated from this picture; they occur on top of it (although I think they interact with it too. Extratropical storm track activity produces momentum fluxes as well as heat fluxes, which reshape the PV distribution, etc.)

    Oceanic gyres can also be described in terms of PV. I think they might be described as standing vorticity waves.

    Of course diabatic and viscous processes occur, but these don’t generally mask such behavior, they just modify it (or in some cases, force it).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 7 Sep 2012 @ 11:18 PM

  70. Hank asks in #67:
    >> is now
    > since when?

    It’s tough to know who you are asking; but since I used the phrase “is now” in the prior comment #66, I’ll take a stab:

    I said:
    > What there is in the ocean is an energy flux (or energy per unit time) that is now going into heating of the ocean.

    The present imbalance and consequent flow of heat into the ocean has most likely been since the mid twentieth century, I think. Sorry if I picked the wrong “is now”.

    Comment by Chris Ho-Stuart — 8 Sep 2012 @ 12:24 AM

  71. Chris Ho-Stuart, what you are saying makes no sense to me. If the system is in equilibrium, would not OHC remain roughly the same? What I have been imaging is equilibrium means the heat going into the oceans would equal the heat leaving the oceans.

    The way I understand it, that would be the point where the pipeline runs dry. The warming would be over with. The enhanced greenhouse effect would have finished its job of bringing the earth’s system into balance.

    When Trenberth made his comment I figured he meant natural variation, in the form of El Nino, would lead to 1998-style boosts in the GMT. My assumption has been that during a El Nino heat leaves the ocean and warms the SAT. I’m starting to doubt this now.

    In 1998, if not from the oceans, from where did the additional warmth come?

    [Response: There are obviously anomalous fluxes to and from the ocean due to ENSO – though the numbers are small in the aggregate. But ENSO is mainly an upper ocean phenomenon and does not show up much (if at all) in even the 0-700m ocean heat content record (unlike volcanoes, whose effects are clear). – gavin]

    Comment by JCH — 8 Sep 2012 @ 12:28 AM

  72. Paul @28 –
    “US commitment would have been a reduction, by 2012, to 93% of 1990 levels.” Extended by Rio to 2017-2020. They’ll probably make it.

    “2010 US emissions were 112% or 114% of 1990 levels”

    Baseline of early 90s was 1992. The decline for 2010-2012 is pronounced.

    “Obviously the proof will be in 2012 annual emissions figures ”

    The proof of the ‘make by accident’ will be in 2017. The benny would be making it by 2015, and taking a miraculous leadership revival role.

    The criticism of 1st-quarter is unwarranted, since it’s a quarter-over-quarter comparison. However, the trend and flow shows the same thing in the Economist article:

    Candide @30. “if the reduction in CO2 emissions isn’t being offset entirely by increased methane emission ”

    Methane is the combustion input, not the pollution by-product.

    “It is very clear that combustion of natural gas in power plants produces substantially less — about half — the carbon dioxide (CO2) that is produced by a coal fired power plant for the same amount of electricity produced.”

    Although the step is a huzzah, environmental concerns continue about precombustion escape in seepage, pipelines, and storage:

    Gasland is good, but two Cornell studies have come out recently – one has an estimate of 7.9% with a second-study rebuttal of less than 2%:

    The EPA has already enacted legislation that is aimed at carcinogen agents, but has a ripple effect of reducing methane escape.

    It isn’t perfect, but it’s world-wide headlines, and it’s one of the biggest pushback against rising GHG emissions to date.

    Apologies to both posters for the delayed response.

    Comment by owl905 — 8 Sep 2012 @ 12:51 AM

  73. As wind affects Earth’s rotation thus the length of a day, and storms are expected to strengthen the warmer it gets, wouldn’t this be evidence that climate change really will mess up your days? Okay, by fractions of a millisecond, but…

    Comment by J Bowers — 8 Sep 2012 @ 2:32 AM

  74. Andrew W., Is it your correspondent’s contention that the skin layer is a static boundary layer? Has [edit] he ever been to the ocean? Does he not realize that there are these things called “waves” and “wind” that are continually breaking up the surface layer?

    [edit – less name calling please]

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Sep 2012 @ 6:54 AM

  75. Re: #57 KR says: 7 Sep 2012 at 5:40 PM

    KR (It would be nice to know to whom one is addressing, feels a bit odd communicating to a couple of letters)
    You say: I’m afraid that such statements …….

    KR, there is noting to be afraid of
    My website contains more than 300 graphs (not all listed) of various ‘correlations’ some true some coincidental. Some data show long term temperature changes natural or forced and some none, here are two examples from the longest and the most scrutinized temperature records:
    Now compare two sections from the second graph
    coincidence? Maybe, or maybe not.
    The graph you quote
    It shows de-trended values not anomalies, either data is wrong (from giss, noa, sidc and ethz all world reputable institutions), my email is on the graph so if you request more details, I shall be happy to provide it, for any of the above.
    As far as raditive forcing of GHG is concerned multitude of expert opinions is available, my interest is natural i.e.unfoced variations as the thread suggests.
    Dr. Schmidt and I went to the same university (albeit different degrees, mine is only an MSc in applied engineering) but that is not reason that we should agree. We look at the same data from different stand point of view and get to different conclusions.
    KR, as I said , there is noting to be afraid of about that.

    Comment by vukcevic — 8 Sep 2012 @ 7:04 AM

  76. Apologies if this has already been posted.

    Takeaway line (for me, at least):

    “The main conclusion of this paper is a qualitative detection of high and over the years increasing methane mixing ratios in areas coinciding with predicted locations of methane hydrates.”

    Sounds like pretty good evidence that methane hydrate release has begun and is accelerating. The main question now is what is the rate of accelerate, and will that rate be further increased by a newly ice-free (or nearly so) Arctic Ocean.

    Comment by wili — 8 Sep 2012 @ 11:30 AM

  77. Re 63,68 Andrew W –

    You’ll find people who don’t get how the climate system’s energy fluxes work in equilibrium, so they will have trouble imagining how disequilibrium works too. Some will say that the 2nd law of thermodynamics forbids heat to flow from cold to hot and thus backradiation can’t exist (untrue in two ways*1*), or that the greenhouse effect amounts to a perpetual motion machine and suggests that you could put something in a microwave and have it heat itself up with no added energy, etc. Perhaps some of the confusion is based on mixing up climatic equilibrium with thermodynamic equilibrium.

    In thermodynamic equilibrium, all processes are occuring in a balanced way. Energy and matter are shifting back and forth via molecular collisions, photons, diffusion, etc, in a balanced way so that there is no net macroscopic change. It is not a complete absence of microscopic activity. Matter and energy spontaneously tend to diffuse from whereever they are, change form from whatever form they have, as allowed by a lack of kinetic barriers. In thermodynamic disequilibrium, their distributions are not equilibrium distributions, so there is more diffusing from one place or changing from one form than is diffusing or changing in the opposite direction – this drives the distributions toward thermodynamic equilbrium (which is not necessarily a homogeneous distribution because … gravity, etc.). The kinetic barriers or holes in those barriers work both ways and thus can’t spontaneously allow thermodynamic disequilibrium to increase in isolation. Of course, the approach to equillibrium of one system may drive some disequilibrium in another if they are coupled in a sufficient way. (PS macroscopic disequilibrium can be significant even if disequilbrium of small volumes is small – such that any small volume might be approximated as being at LTE and isothermal, etc.)

    In climatic equilibrium (by metaphor, and literally as applied to hydrology) water flows into the top of a bucket at the same rate that it drains from the bottom of the bucket into another lower bucket, etc. Entropy is created in various places but doesn’t build up because the outflow is greater than inflow by that amount. In thermodynamic equilibrium, each bucket is floating within the next bucket, so the number of water molecules leaving each bucket hole is the same as that entering the same hole; there is no source of additional water and the outermost bucket has no hole.

    Energy is flowing into the climate system as solar radiation (and geothermal and tidal energy, and of course meteors, other solar energy, other geologic energy, other stars, etc…, but those are generally so small for the Earth they can generally be ignored except very locally for some geothermal activity). From where it is absorbed it will build up until the concentration allows it to flow out at the same rate it enters. It will generally go through multiple steps before it leaves the system entirely (Setting aside conversion to mechanical energy and back, more such steps would tend to increase the temperature of the warmest parts, so that there are sufficient temperature differences to drive a sufficient net flux at each step). The greenhouse effect slows the outflow (by increasing the number of steps (decreasing the photon mean travel distance from emission to absorption) and/or by decreasing the window with a smaller number of steps (widenning the bands that block the warmest parts from emitting directly to space, etc.) without directly affecting the inflow (solar heating), so that concentration increases until sufficient to drive enough outflow to restore balance. A greenhouse effect can occur in solids such as on Triton (see S2E1 of “How the Universe Works”). If the Earth’s mantle were made transparent, the core-mantle boundary would cool dramatically. A winter coat slows the release of heat (radiative, sensible, and latent) from a person’s body. Etc.

    In the global average, the surface of the Earth absorbs solar radiation and emits LW (longwave, a.k.a. terrestrial) radiation as well as sensible and latent heat (because pure radiative equilibrium would make the lower atmosphere unstable to convection, convection happens, so that the surface experiences net radiant heating and the troposphere experiences net radiant cooling. Greenhouse agents allow the troposphere to experience ongoing cooling, but without them all heat escaping the climate system would come directly from the surface – the surface would cool, and resulting changes in convection would cool part of the atmosphere (although parts of the atmosphere heated directly from the sun would tend to warm up). When a troposphere exists, convection tends to maintain an equilibrium lapse rate (generally), so the whole troposphere+surface shift in temperature in response to changes in net radiant outflow/inflow at the tropopause. The tropopause itself may shift in the process; if there is no troposphere then one could say the tropopause rests on the surface).

    Solar heating of the ocean penetrates farther down than net LW cooling, and of course, evaporative cooling occurs at the surface – and that also increases density by increasing salinity; all of these processes would combine to drive convection in the uppermost ocean even without wind-driven mixing (although salinity can’t always be increased at the surface -there’s rain, etc.).

    Anyway, the greenhouse effect most directly heats the ocean by decreasing net LW cooling at the surface; this would slow any upward heat transport to the surface (thermally-driven convection or forced convection by winds and their effects) from where solar heating occurs. Heat builds up until balance is restored (and mechanically-forced motions can push some heat downward).

    Indirectly, changes in convection could also act to warm the ocean (reducing evaporative and/or sensible net cooling) – or they could cool the ocean – it depends – whatever happens the surface will tend to warm due to positive radiative forcing at the tropopause (see above).


    – heat can spontaneously flow up a temperature gradient if it the enthalpy of some substance which is diffusing down a concentration gradient. For example, cold water may be farther cooled evaporatively by a warm air mass if the air is sufficiently dry. Ice was once made this way in ancient Persia.

    – backradiation is allowed only in so much as radiation is allowed in the other direction at the same part of the spectrum; that amount will be a greater flux because of the temperature difference between surface and atmosphere. Even if surface emmissivity were low, the reduction in emission would be partly compensated by the reflection of backradiation, so the net flux will be from hot to cold. So long as emission and absorption occur at LTE and setting aside various oddball conditions (such as a rapid change in temperature relative to photon travel time), the net flux at any given frequency and polarization and direction (per unit solid angle) (emission into and absorption from), and thus in total (all frequencies, polarizations, and over a whole sphere of solid angle), from place (volume small enough to be isothermal) of emission to place of absorption, is always from hotter to colder, but it is generally the difference between two fluxes in opposite directions. Even more generally, one can assign a brightness temperature to any given population of photons sufficiently defined to be isothermal, and consider the net fluxes between photons and other matter, etc.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 8 Sep 2012 @ 1:38 PM

  78. Re my 69, 64 re 55 Karsten V. Johansen –

    CORRECTION: (I)PV is proportional to the absolute voriticity DIVIDED BY layer thickness (as mass per unit area; in a continuously stratified fluid, use mass per unit area per unit vertical change in potential density (or potential temperature)). (A thinner layer has ‘greater potential’ to have an increase in absolute vorticity by horizontal convergence, which requires layer thickenning.)

    CLARIFICATION: When an (I)PV anomaly is produced by advection (transport) or some other process, an adjustment process tends to occur to restore or maintain a balance relationship between the flow and the layer thickness (via the thickness’s effect on pressure gradients) – this is the relationship that would be used to derive a velocity field from an (I)PV distribution. The adjustment process occurs because an imbalance leads to some (additional) acceleration; inertia-gravity waves are emitted in the process (the most familiar example of a gravity wave is probably water waves one would see in the ocean – those are surface waves; there are also internal waves occuring at sharp density changes within a fluid or occuring in continuously stratified fluids; the ‘inertia-‘ part comes from the coriolis effect, which is significant for low-frequency waves). The adjustment process involves horizontal convergence or divergence – taking into account planetary vorticity and conservation of angular momentum, convergence tends to make the flow’s relative vorticity more cyclonic.

    Examples: – with no initial flow:

    southward or northward displacements produce cyclonic or anticyclonic PV anomalies. Absolute vorticity would be conserved without some adjustment, so relative vorticity increases as planetary vorticity decreases with equatorward displacement. But this is not balanced without pressure variations. Divergence occurs to thin-out fluid layers, producing a low pressure center or line about which the flow is cyclonic; the flow is reduced in the process. (If in a continuously stratified fluid, the lowering pressure will produce (adiabatically) a cold region at lower levels; thus this is a cold-core low which must increase in strength away from the surface (or a warm-core high which does the same).)

    over topography, downslope or upslope displamements produce cyclonic or anticyclonic (I)PV anomalies by producing regions with a thinner or thicker fluid layer. No velocity field is produced directly without adjustment. Convergence into a thinner region (with lower pressure) increases the pressure and thickness while increasing cyclonic relative vorticity. If occuring in a continuously stratified fluid, the effective IPV anomaly is really a potential density anomaly at the surface, and the anomaly’s flow pattern decreases in strength away from the surface (it would be a warm-core low or cold-core high).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 8 Sep 2012 @ 2:05 PM

  79. “I ask because I’ve recently once again come across the claim that CO2 can’t warm the oceans because the downward IR won’t penetrate the ocean mm thick skin layer. Those waving this claim imply that there’s no other mechanism to warm the oceans.”

    I came across something like this a few years back–basically, the author re-imagined “absorption/emission=reflection.”


    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 8 Sep 2012 @ 3:30 PM

  80. Can anyone point me to work on how long raised CO2 levels and ice-free conditions would last if we succeed in melting the polar ice-caps? I think I’ve seen something indicating this would be on the order of hundreds of thousands or millions of years, through increased weathering, as the orbital and inclination changes thought to be responsible for recent ice ages would be insufficient. Is this correct?

    Thanks in advance.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 8 Sep 2012 @ 4:09 PM

  81. Andrew W, Science of Doom goes into the detail of longwave heating the ocean
    here. HTH.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 8 Sep 2012 @ 4:16 PM

  82. I would like to know if a small reduction of relevant observed rates of change (OHC or other) in the last decade is partially attributable to global (economic) recession. Is this a possibility, in principle?

    [Response: No. The timescales for the carbon cycle and ocean thermal inertia are too long for any recent blips in emissions to have an effect. – gavin]

    Comment by Patrick — 8 Sep 2012 @ 6:09 PM

  83. I’m seeing the bizarre claim that melting the ice cap will cool the Earth, bringing about an ice age. The “logic” is that with the ice cap melted, the Arctic ocean can let more heat escape which normally would be trapped under the ice. Obviously hogwash.

    I do wonder: is there a sea temperature at the pole such that the ocean loses more heat in winter than it gains in summer?

    Comment by numerobis — 8 Sep 2012 @ 6:26 PM

  84. Nick Gotts @80 — Next glacial is postponed for about 100,000 years. Arctic sea ice will return before then.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 Sep 2012 @ 6:42 PM

  85. Thanks for the Jeremy Jackson reference, and to Russell for some alleviating and aggravating humor – bodacious Boadicea!

    patrick thanks also for your continuing efforts …

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 8 Sep 2012 @ 7:31 PM

  86. That is, Patrick027, didn’t want you to think I wasn’t still faintly pursuing knowledge.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 8 Sep 2012 @ 7:37 PM

  87. Re 81 Phil Scadden (re Andrew W) – great link;

    I just love this line in the comments responding to “tallbloke’:

    I don’t think you understand the scientific method because once you have done lots of experiments you can apply those results to new problems. That is what I have done here.

    PS I see Bryan is illustrating the case of one who doesn’t understand the 2nd Law fully, and especially in the case of radiation, or how the energy fluxes work; and he mentions’s ‘Gords solar heater’ – Gord has attained infamy, apparently. Without backradiation, an object isolated from the heat capacity of the rest of the surface material and amb-ient air, and kept out of the sun (or moonlight, etc.) will more quickly cool toward absolute zero (at lower temperatures, a small amount of radiant intensity can make a big difference in equilibrium temperature, though I’m not quantitatively familiar with moonlight in that context (well, same solid angle in sky, assuming Lambertian reflection, divide solar flux per unit area by (1 AU/solar radius)^2 and then account for albedo…). What a parabolic (or any approximating shape) can do is focus the darkness of the backradiation near zenith on an object (you don’t need precision optics in this case – unless you’re aiming at a small hole in the clouds (or between trees or skyscrapers) – because at least in clear sky conditions, the brightness temperature varies relatively gradually over angle). Absent an inversion of sufficient opacity, backradiation brightness and thus brightness temperature will decrease away from the horizon (you are looking through less air looking straight up, and the closer warmer layers block less of the greater darkness of the upper cooler layers – towards the atmospheric window, absent clouds, the whole atmosphere blocks less of the darkness of space.

    PS I choose to stick with the greenhouse analogy. Energy out is of a different form than energy in, thus the fluxes can be regulated seperately in principle (setting aside the dual role of clouds, etc.); if you partially shut the outlet, energy builds up until it can force it’s way through fast enough to restore (a new) equilibrium.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 8 Sep 2012 @ 8:07 PM

  88. Re Andrew W – there is of course the partially seperate matter of heating the deep ocean. Given sufficient time, absent any deep ocean mixing/convection, the temperature would tend towards nearly isothermal, with enough of a temperature gradient to support a geothermal heat flux from the seafloor. The deep ocean is kept cooler than that because deep water is generally formed in relatively cold conditions at the surface. If deep water forms under warmed conditions than an increase in temperature will eventually fill the ocean depths that way (and eventually affect the temperature of cold upwelling water). If deep water formation is simply shut off, than we’d have a somewhat (not sure just how much) more rapid warming toward an equilibrium climate. Wind-driven upwelling would still pull water up, where it would warm and eventually join the mixed layer, so warming could still happen that way. I’m not sure where the state of the science is on this, but I think there’s an idea that in the geologic past (Cretacious, I think), deep water formed from warm salty water masses at lower latitudes (today there is a contribution from Mediterranean water sinking into the Atlantic, though not all the way to the bottom).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 8 Sep 2012 @ 8:35 PM

  89. Re Susan Anderson – thanks.

    (re Russel – “Boudicca” :) – is the reference because of the spirals (Celtic art?) or is the name a common reference in the UK to any such sculpture? – just curious.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 8 Sep 2012 @ 8:42 PM

  90. Re my 86 “toward absolute zero” – make that something like 3 K (?) or whatever space is radiatively.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 8 Sep 2012 @ 10:10 PM

  91. @ Nick Gotts

    We know that, per Tzedakis et al 2012, “glacial inception would require CO2 concentrations below preindustrial levels of 280 ppmv” (for reference, we are at about 394 right now…and climbing).

    Earlier, Tyrrell et al 2007 examined this, concluding that we have already skipped the next glacial epoch. Furthermore, Tyrrell concludes that if we continue our present fossil fuel consumption, we will skip the next 5 glacial epochs. So no glacial epochs the next million years…

    Comment by Daniel Bailey — 8 Sep 2012 @ 10:28 PM

  92. > junkscience

    Consider the context; be wary of where you find it and what’s lacking there.

    When you point to copies of papers it’s always better to point to the original.

    There, the reader can see what else is being written, and follow up citing papers to see what else is being written.

    Sites like Milloy’s offering a few selected copies of papers wrap them in PR spin that misleads the naive reader, rather than pointing to more resources.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Sep 2012 @ 11:15 PM

  93. Nick Gotts @80
    David Archers The Long Thaw is a very good read on the topic.

    Comment by MS — 9 Sep 2012 @ 5:31 AM

  94. OT for Patrick027 and anyone interested:

    Boudicca = Boadicea = warrior queen: “Boudica, also known as Boadicea and known in Welsh as Buddug was queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.” Wikipedia, died AD 61, Britannia

    This is lots of fun but I mustn’t encourage anyone to join me in this timewasting activity: the images on my search are a real study

    The idea of calling a repurposing of a slag heap an environmental mitigation is both humorous and appalling and I thought Russell nailed it.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 9 Sep 2012 @ 6:39 AM

  95. RE 64, 69 and 78 Patrick 027:

    Thank you for your efforts! – I’ll take some time to try to understand as much as I can.

    My view is from the side of glaciation history etc. (Dansgaard-Oeschger
    events, Younger Dryas etc.): what happens, when the North Atlantic Drift/
    the thermohaline circulation (or at least parts of it)is “turned off” f.ex.
    by a big input of (fresh) meltwater to the North Atlantic (or to the polar
    basin)? Is it really possible to explain the huge temperature shifts
    then suddenly arising with the theory of Seager? I mean, he has to take away (in his models) the Rockies to get cooling. But they were there almost unchanged during all the enourmous climate shifts during the quaternary. How will he then explain what happened, if his hypothesis about Western Europe’s climate is correct?

    In O’Hare et al., “Weather, Climate and Climate Change” (Essex 2005), p. 70
    they have a fig. 3.8 displaying the enormous temperature anomalies relative to latitude around the globe. There you can see, f.ex. that Norway (where I live), northern Scotland, eastern Iceland and the sea in between has a mean temperature anomaly for january relative to latitude of no less than plus 20 degrees C. This in contrast to the much smaller differences recognized by Seager in his modelling. At the same latitudes, western Canada/Alaska has an anomaly of just plus 12 degrees C (and covering a much smaller area). It seems that the fig. mentioned is almost the same at this (p. 282, fig. 27-8) but with the temperatures in F in stead of C.

    Comment by Karsten V. Johansen — 9 Sep 2012 @ 6:51 AM

  96. David Benson@84 and particularly Daniel Bailey@91 – thanks very much. The immediate trigger for the question was someone claiming that the next ice age would arrive on schedule despite AGW; but I’m also developing a scenario for a novel set partly some tens of thousands of years in the future, with melted ice-caps.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 9 Sep 2012 @ 6:57 AM

  97. #87–“Backradiation” is a fascinating thing, to me at least, and observations can be made with no great level of technical sophistication. In fact, they were, and quite rigorously too, in the case of this classic of early climate science:

    An incomplete history of succeeding work in the area can be found here:

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 Sep 2012 @ 7:33 AM

  98. numerobis #83: I’m seeing the bizarre claim that melting the ice cap will cool the earth, bringing about an ice age

    At first, yes, I think there will be some short-term cooling from the melting. It’s basic thermodynamics, in this case sort of an evaporative swamp cooler effect. Don’t know how much cooling though. However when the ice is gone then I’d expect temps to rise. My guess on the second part of your question about heat storage at the poles, I tend to think most of it is stored outside the poles in the lower latitudes. Others can correct me.

    I wonder though how much extra warming there is each year after (and because of) the arctic ice disappearing.

    Comment by Ron R. — 9 Sep 2012 @ 11:18 AM

  99. I think you need a citation to explain “swamp cooling” whatever that might mean. Melting the ice caps isn’t going to cool the planet; it rearranges things somewhat.

    The “ice age” notion is an exaggeration of the issues about changes in ocean circulation.

    Try here:,5&cites=9655729569414500406&scipsc=

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Sep 2012 @ 12:02 PM

  100. Thanks to MS@93 as well – David Archer’s book looks like essential research material if i’m ever going to write my novel!

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 9 Sep 2012 @ 1:19 PM

  101. Can the Group parse this WUWT description of a very strange transient microclimate in the Black Rock Desert :

    “The burning of The Man on Friday night was a rowdy affair, people yelling and screaming, art cars playing loud music. The most amazing part to me was a strange meteorological phenomenon.

    As The Man was burning, the heat downwind was so intense that it set up dust devils. I was forcefully reminded of why the current climate models can’t model the climate. The dust devils were just one of the many ways that the surface cools itself when it gets too hot. They arise spontaneously as needed, for example when the surface is heated by a fire, and they move huge amounts of energy from the surface aloft.

    You can see a few of the dust devils on the right. They arose just to the right of the fire, one after another, and they spun downwind until they dissipated. Clearly, once they were created they could continue to exist despite moving into cooler areas, and thus they were able to cool the surface down to below the temperature needed to initiate their creation. This “overshoot” is nowhere represented in the climate models.”

    Comment by Russell — 9 Sep 2012 @ 1:26 PM

  102. The Facts Behind th Frack is a great Feature in Science News about hydraulic fracturing, the process of pumping fluid kilometers beneath the surface to cause the bedrock to break and release methane. Very well cited for those who also want to consult the primary literature.

    DOH, I failed the recaptcha, and now it’s telling me that my comment is a duplicate. I hope this gets through noww.

    Comment by Unsettled Scientist — 9 Sep 2012 @ 2:03 PM

  103. re 95 Karsten V. Johansen – I’ve gone off a bit on a tangent from what you wanted to know. For anyone interested I plan to continue that tangent in another comment(s)… but I don’t know if I’d be of much help with your question. I can only brainstorm suggestions right now:

    Looking at Fig 7.10 (p 186) in “Global Physical Climatology” by Dennis L. Hartmann (1994), SSTs in DJF (Dec-Feb) seem like about 2 or a bit more K warmer around 60 deg N around Brittain-Scandinavia than around western North America – it’s a bit hard to judge on that map though, because the latitude lines are curved and only shown every 30 deg. Fig 7.11 shows the deviation from zonal average, but it’s for July – but it seems like ~ 2 K difference.

    I wonder if wind speed might play a role – (there’s a temperature map there too).

    Also, much of Norway has no analogous part in North America, because Alaska juts out to the west toward Siberia (The Kuroshio current’s extension runs south and not north of Alaska) (Fig 7.7 in Hartmann).

    While Seager mentioned mean flow with a southerly component, there will be N-NW winds too and those don’t always need to cross over the bulk of the ocean to get to British Columbia, depending on angle (the part they cross is a corner of the ocean).

    The quasistationary flow pattern is shaped by heat as well as topography – maybe it could have been altered during the Younger Dryas.

    Also, it occurs to me that if it were the case that The Atlantic and Pacific were not so different now in (helping to) bringing warmth to northwestern coasts, this is actually not mutually exclusive with a difference when only the Atlantic is flooded with meltwater.

    Hartmann’s fig. 7.16 seems to show a larger poleward energy flux by the ocean, at least in the Northern Hemisphere; fig. 7.17 shows that the northward energy flux in the Pacific ocean drops below that of the Atlantic away from low northern latitudes (~5 to 13 deg N, give or take) in both directions (the Atlantic seems to be pulling energy out of the Southern Hemisphere; the Pacific is also to a lesser extent; the Indian ocean takes energy out of the Northern Hemisphere), and northward energy transport in the Pacific drops to ~ 0 around 40 deg N while the Atlantic is still over half a PetaWatt there (and it continues to carry ~ 0.1 or more PW up to ~ 70 deg N, where the domain of the figure cuts off). Of course this may be old info in need of updating (the sources cited for figs 7.16 and 7.17 are from 1984 and 1985) and the text on p. 198 mentions large uncertainties.

    I’m thinking both atmospheric and oceanic flows contribute to the differences between the two coasts.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 9 Sep 2012 @ 2:23 PM

  104. Russell – There’s nothing “strange” about dust devils, they’re fairly common in the right conditions, and the very large fire of the Burning Man in late evening on the desert is about as perfect a condition as possible, see here. A pretty straight forward redistribution of heat in a relatively small area. Having been raised in the Arizona desert I can attest that dust devils do little to “cool the surface” and it’s highly unlikely they have any effect on climate, being a result of very localized weather.

    Comment by flxible — 9 Sep 2012 @ 2:24 PM

  105. > strange transient microclimate

    WUTspeak for “didn’t bother trying to look it up”

    see, e.g.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Sep 2012 @ 2:25 PM

  106. Presumably, the dust devils move that heat right up through the atmosphere and on into outer space. I wonder if HAARP is involved.

    Comment by Don Gisselbeck — 9 Sep 2012 @ 2:35 PM

  107. The Burning Man Festival is the final nail in the coffin of CAGW. Who needs fancy supercomputers when you’ve got sleeve tattoos, a welding torch and no access to decent toilets?

    Comment by dbostrom — 9 Sep 2012 @ 2:53 PM

  108. A healthy economy is essential for enlightened action to reduce CO2. People looking to fill their basic needs have trouble seeing the importance of global action on climate. For the USA, a healthy economy is something that requires political action. The right path would revitalize the economy with minimal additional CO2.

    Many commentators have said there is a need for sign of leadership which would require a big thing, like the Interstate Highway System for example.

    I am suggesting that a big thing could be a National Water System which would provide universal irrigation to end the effects of drought and flood. But the biggest part would be the vastly expanded agriculture which could come from turning under-used land into productive farm land, especially in the West.

    I maintain this is a constructive proposal for economic revitalization with minimal CO2 generation as needed.

    Vote for this at: to encourage a path to a revitalized economy.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 9 Sep 2012 @ 3:07 PM

  109. 106 Don Gisselbeck:

    “‪High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program‬
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Not to be confused with Project HARP, the High Altitude Research Project.
    High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program Research Station

    The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is an ionospheric research program jointly funded by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the University of Alaska, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
    Built by BAE Advanced Technologies (BAEAT), its purpose is to analyze the ionosphere and investigate the potential for developing ionospheric enhancement technology for radio communications and surveillance. The HAARP program operates a major sub-arctic facility, named the HAARP Research Station, on an Air Force–owned site near Gakona, Alaska.
    The most prominent instrument at the HAARP Station is the Ionospheric Research Instrument (IRI), a high-power radio frequency transmitter facility operating in the high frequency (HF) band. The IRI is used to temporarily excite a limited area of the ionosphere. Other instruments, such as a VHF and a UHF radar, a fluxgate magnetometer, a digisonde, and an induction magnetometer, are used to study the physical processes that occur in the excited region.
    Work on the HAARP Station began in 1993. The current working IRI was completed in 2007, and its prime contractor was BAE Systems Advanced Technologies.[1] As of 2008, HAARP had incurred around $250 million in tax-funded construction and operating costs. ………

    HAARP has been blamed by conspiracy theorists for a range of events, including numerous natural disasters. Various scientists have commented that HAARP is an attractive target for conspiracy theorists because according to computer scientist David Naiditch, “its purpose seems deeply mysterious to the scientifically uninformed”.

    ………..According to HAARP’s management, the project strives for openness, and all activities are logged and publicly available. Scientists without security clearances, even foreign nationals, are routinely allowed on site. The HAARP facility regularly (once a year on most years according to the HAARP home page) hosts open houses, during which time any civilian may tour the entire facility. In addition, scientific results obtained with HAARP are routinely published in major research journals (such as Geophysical Research Letters, or Journal of Geophysical Research), written both by university scientists (American and foreign) or by U.S. Department of Defense research lab scientists. Each summer, the HAARP holds a summer school for visiting students, including foreign nationals, giving them an opportunity to do research with one of the world’s foremost research instruments.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 9 Sep 2012 @ 3:45 PM

  110. Nick Gotts @96 — The best chance of triggering a descent into a glacial (not an “ice age” as Terra has been, and continues to be desspite AGW, in an ice age for the last 2.588 million years) was right about now. AGW canceled this attempt. Whether or not the attempt would have succeeded is not clear as the orbital forcing is somewhat shrimpy; an entire issue of The Holocene was recently devoted to this question; W.F. Ruddiman’s contributions are surely available on his web site.

    The next minor stab is in about 20,000 years but that orbital forcing is much smaller and so is probably ignorable, both in an alternate future without AGW and surely in our future. However the orbital forcing in about 100,000 years is deep and so with considerable certainty will result in a glacial, despite the last remnants of AGW still in the atmosphere; see David Archer’s book.

    Some thousands of years from now (and persisting for a long time indeed) the sea level will be much, much higher. You may care to check for estimates from the mid-Pliocene and mid-Miocene as being roughly comperable as to what is going to happen, but roughly 50–60 meters seems about right to me. [If you find better estimates for those two periods in the past, please post as I’d like to know.]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 9 Sep 2012 @ 5:54 PM

  111. I’ve heard a lot of discussion, from Jennifer Francis of Rutgers and from others, about the lowering of the temperature difference between the Arctic and lower latitudes leading to weakening of the jet stream, which in turn leads to greater amplitude of the Rossby waves as well as slower movement of those waves–leading to the blocking patterns we’ve seen in the last few years.

    But the biggest lost of difference between Arctic and lower latitude temps should be in the lowest altitudes of the troposphere. As you move up into the stratosphere, hasn’t the temperature up there actually cooled some above the Arctic while staying relatively stable in lower latitudes?

    If so, why would there be such a strong effect on the jet stream? Isn’t that up closer to stratospheric heights?

    Thanks ahead of time for any light anyone can throw in my general direction on this.

    (And apologies ahead of time to Hank for my not having done adequate web searches to find the answers myself.)

    (reCapch: “it r sur help”!)

    Comment by wili — 9 Sep 2012 @ 7:45 PM

  112. It used to be believed -or at least conjectured in some circles that an ice-free arctic ocean might provide enough moisture to seed the buildup of land ice, initiating a glacial epoch. That conjecture at least makes logical sense. I have heard that average snowfalls in interior Alaska and even maximum snowdepths have been increasing. However despite greater snowpacks, the date when the ground becomes snowfree has gotten earlier, which strongly implies that increased temperatures will more than make up for any increased precipitation.

    Comment by Thomas — 9 Sep 2012 @ 7:47 PM

  113. 89

    The bulldozed decor of Jencks’s ‘lady of Northumbria’ earthwork could be Pictish or Celtic in intent, but as the Picts are an anoymous lot, I went with the familiar.

    Your earlier observation that ” If the Earth’s mantle were made transparent, the core-mantle boundary would cool dramatically” is spectacularly true-

    Diamond anvil experiments on the melting point of iron at >300 gigapascal suggest the Earth ‘s incandescent core rival sthe surface of the sun in color temperature

    This means deep enough underfoot there is a virtual heliopause at which the upwelling radiative flux from a borehole would be bright as the sun in the sky.

    Comment by Russell — 9 Sep 2012 @ 9:48 PM

  114. Re 111 wili – geostrophic wind shear is proportional to the temperature gradient. The level of (relative) maximum (or minimum) speed will be found where the temperature gradient flips direction. I think this tends to be at the tropopause (with some exceptions?). Thus keeping the wind at the surface constant, reducing the temperature gradient, even if only in the lower atmosphere, will reduce westerly winds above that level. Of course, why would winds near the surface necessarily stay constant? Also, with stratospheric cooling and with the poleward downward slope of the tropopause, the temperature gradient near tropopause should actually be enhanced – especially at jets where there are drops in tropopause height (?). (And a higher tropopause, with higher jet maxima, would partly offset the effect of decreased shear on the jet speed).

    But if the gradient in geopotential height of isobaric surfaces (proportional to warmth below that level, if pressure at the surface is unchanged) is reduced, the same geopotential anomaly values would lead to higher-amplitude (in terms of meridional displacement) waves in the flow…

    I haven’t actually watched those videos yet; I guess I tend to save watching for when I’m done reading and writing. But I should set a time for it.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 10 Sep 2012 @ 12:03 AM

  115. Hank Roberts 9 Sep 2012 at 12:02 PM:
    I think you need a citation to explain “swamp cooling” whatever that might mean.

    Sorry, my word choice. Most people are familiar with swamp coolers. Evaporative cooling is better. I’m no expert but my understanding is that as the ice melts, both the water and air around must initially cool. The cooling would naturally be greatest in that local region. As the ice and colder water begin to achieve equilibrium with warmer water temps would, of course, be rising.

    Melting the ice caps isn’t going to cool the planet; it rearranges things somewhat.

    That’s true in normal situation. In one though where global temps continue to rise (for whatever reason) the ocean temps with have to find a new, higher equilibrium. So after a period of initial cooling, if nothing happens to check the warming, that initial cooling will slow, stop then reverse and begin to rise.

    I think this paper shows the influence that loss or gain of pole sea ice can have far from where it occurs. See under: 5.1.3. Tropics and subtropics.

    This leads me to a question which has probably been answered numerous times here before. Could a dumping of cold Arctic water in the sea from melting ice actually temporarily speed up the THC, that is until sea temps begin to equalize at which time it slows the stops?

    And my usual disclaimer: If I’ve messed this up my apologies.

    Comment by Ron R. — 10 Sep 2012 @ 2:25 AM

  116. JCH,

    The Trenberth quote is specifically about what is dealt with in this study. SkS did a quick write up on that and had a part which may answer your question about the heat ‘haunt’.

    Ocean heat coming back to haunt us?

    Not only does the climate model-based study, Meehl (2011), show heat is buried into deeper ocean layers when global surface temperatures stall, but it also presents plausible mechanisms in ocean circulation that transport heat down to the deep ocean. The general pattern of sea surface temperature during these hiatus periods is very reminiscent of a La Niña-like climate state.

    The regular nature of these hiatus decades in the climate model, indicate that they are simply periods of natural variability, which occur even in the presence of a long-term warming trend. This is supported by historic observations (Figure 1), which shows roughly decade-long hiatus periods in upper ocean heat content during the 1960s to 1970s, and the 1980s to 1990s.

    The natural variability ‘flip-side’ to these hiatus decades, are periods where there is greater-than-average surface warming (see inset in Figure 2). So at some point in the very near future we can probably expect surface temperatures to gather up a head of steam, and begin rising at a rapid rate.

    I believe this is what Trenberth meant. I’m sure he knows the nature of the heat that is basically gone when circulated into the deep ocean layers.

    When you put that together with what Gavin said:

    …Basically, it is never going to ‘reappear’ (as long as we are not actively reducing CO2 below current levels). The OHC change is a measure of the planetary imbalance, and so indicates how much the planet still needs to warm to come into equilibrium with the forcing…

    Although there is a leak in the bucket, because of the imbalance, it quickly fills back up. It clears things up, I believe. I was once confused about this too and certain individuals took advantage of the confusing nature of the problem.

    Comment by grypo — 10 Sep 2012 @ 8:02 AM

  117. Ron R. asked:

    “This leads me to a question which has probably been answered numerous times here before. Could a dumping of cold Arctic water in the sea from melting ice actually temporarily speed up the THC, that is until sea temps begin to equalize at which time it slows the stops?”

    IMHO, the answer is no! The THC sinks in the Arctic because the salty water, brought from the Caribbean by the Gulf Stream, sinks when it cools. The water from melting sea ice is fresher than normal sea water and would float over the surface so halting the THC.

    In theory the melting of Arctic sea ice should have covered the ocean with fresh water so allowing it to refreeze earlier this autumn. On the other hand, if it has been well mixed with the saline sub surface water by storms and tides, then it may reform more slowly than usual as happened in 2007. Presumably, this was due to the lack of a solid surface above which the air temperature can fall below -10 C needed for the ice to reform.

    Cheers, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 10 Sep 2012 @ 8:18 AM

  118. numerobis,

    You are probably referring to the Ewing-Donn hypothesis:

    Why recent data has shown a warmer Arctic during the ice ages, no evidence has been found that the ocean was ice-free.

    Comment by Dan H. — 10 Sep 2012 @ 9:03 AM

  119. Anyone else reading the Dog Stars? Haven’t read fiction in a while, but this one turned out to be a page turner. As they put it over at Climate Progress, a good story about climate change that does not even mention the words climate change.

    Comment by Alexandre — 10 Sep 2012 @ 9:18 AM

  120. Grypo – thanks.

    I found a couple of articles about 1998, and they cited the El Nino as the cause of the additional warmth that year, so I’m going to continue to operate under the notion that record years/hotter years are primarily caused by El Nino. But it does make sense El Nino is piggybacked on other oscillations.

    Comment by JCH — 10 Sep 2012 @ 9:21 AM

  121. Re:116 grypo

    Your leak seems to have been quickly plugged. If the leak continues indefinitely it has to be accounted for in the heat balance equation, the bucket fills at a slower rate.

    Prevailing wisdom seems to have it that the deep ocean is not capable of on-going take up of heat due to its supposedly stationary deep water.

    Deep ocean currents are very slow to be sure, but even so it represents a significant capacity to move heat. Current studies by Pochapsky at Hudson Laboratories of Columbia Univ. in the 1960s showed definite water movement in deep regions, contrary to reports by some significant authorities (associated with Lamont I think and maybe Scripps). And the thermohaline circulation most certainly operates to cause vertical heat transport.

    Steady melting of sea ice supports the notion of increasing ocean heat content. Measurements of sea level are a little less convincing.

    Still, I have yet to find a satisfying discussion of the deep heat situation, though I continue to look for more from the Argos project.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 10 Sep 2012 @ 10:22 AM

  122. @ Ron R & Alistair

    Permanent Ice cover in the Arctic in the past resulted in a highly stratified water column; saltier with depth, warmer with depth, but denser with depth because the positive salt density gradient was larger than the negative temperature density gradient. The areas of the Greenland and Barents seas that melted annually pumped sinking brine into the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Current as they refroze, expelling salt brought in by the Gulf Stream. The areas now melting out in the Kara, Laptev, East Siberian, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas, and in the Central Arctic Basin have salt mixed into the surface layers by wind and waves; as they freeze in the fall, cold brine will be expelled and sink through the formerly stratified layers of the deep arctic waters, and eventually flow over the Greenland-Spitsbergen Sill at the bottom of the Fram Strait, joining the AMOC. Inflow of surface/shallow waters to replace the new sources of brine will draw warm Atlantic water further into the Arctic – another positive feedback in addition to albedo loss, and which operates out of phase with insolation. The larger areas melting & freezing compared to decades ago may pump enough more brine into the AMOC to increase its flow.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 10 Sep 2012 @ 12:48 PM

  123. What is your best estimate of when we will get an ice free Arctic? Site owners or anyone else?

    Comment by Oakwood — 10 Sep 2012 @ 6:07 PM

  124. Thanks for the comments Brian and Alastair. It’s a sadly vicious cycle. Temps climb, the ice melts, the ice melts, temps climb. When the ice is finally gone, or past a certain point, we’ll be longing for the good ‘ol days. If we’re still around.

    Comment by Ron R. — 10 Sep 2012 @ 10:02 PM

  125. #123–Oakwood, I’m thinking 2016, for no good reason except that volume losses over the last several years, combined with the qualitatively different behavior of the pack during melt season, makes me think it will be soon. (And 2016 would be the last year to fall within Maslowski’s 2013 +/- 3–I don’t think it will be next year, though after this season I wouldn’t rule it out, either.)

    Totally made-up un-quantified amateur gut feeling–so if you go out and bet on Intrade based on my comment, it’s your lookout, not mine! ;-)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Sep 2012 @ 10:45 PM

  126. Kevin, I think Maslowski projected 2016 +/- 3 yrs.
    So you would be right in the middle with 2016.

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 11 Sep 2012 @ 4:37 AM

  127. Oakwood,
    I am going with 2028. That is based on the loss of sea ice area over the past 15 years. Of course all this could change if the North Atlantic starting pumping more (less) warm water into the Arctic.

    Comment by Dan H. — 11 Sep 2012 @ 6:07 AM

  128. Thanks Patrick, @ 114. Do I read your comment “with stratospheric cooling and with the poleward downward slope of the tropopause, the temperature gradient near tropopause should actually be enhanced – especially at jets where there are drops in tropopause height (?)” to mean that you also find this result a bit puzzling.

    It’s obviously a complex system (as is everything related to climate), so perhaps others could also pipe in a throw some light (or at least a bit of glimmer)?

    (And reCaptcha gives the answer: “cannot, acieyi” (I’ve been called worse”).)

    Comment by wili — 11 Sep 2012 @ 8:39 AM

  129. I am going with 2028.

    Then I’m going with 2028 too, because Dan H. clearly knows how these things work.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 11 Sep 2012 @ 9:32 AM

  130. Just wondering about RC’s having an ongoing side thread: Solutions. We hear all about the problems, very little about how to solve them.

    I’ll offer some ideas:

    First off shelve large-scale geo-engineering. Things which cannot be controlled or recalled once they are in place. For example, dumping nano-sized aluminized particles in the atmosphere to reflect the sun. For one thing, how are you going to undo that if you need to? Why might you need to? Well what if there were a large unexpected volcanic eruption that threw a lot of aerosols up. Or maybe there would be something that we don’t want concentrated at the surface like radiation. For another, they would be extremely hazardous to breathe, so even if they worked it would be a Phyrric victory.

    Here’s one possible “solution”: Position giant solar powered air-cleaners around urban areas, perhaps designed like the Seattle Space Needle. Their numbers would be dependent upon the population or on industrial density.

    They can also be positioned on top of sky scrapers. Smaller ones on top of buildings like houses. Even if they can’t remove the carbon that is too high up they can help check ongoing ground level emissions.

    Where to get the money for all this? As mentioned before, in the US there are almost trillion dollars a year going to the war machine. New bombs and bombers. It’s as if the expiration date on each year’s end on the following December 31. Come on! How many times over do we need to be able to blow up the world? Rounding out that trillion dollars is money going to subside big dirty energy, an outrage if ever there were one.

    That money should also be used to outfit the country in clean alternatives. Solar or portable wind power on every home. As much as possible.

    Plant more trees. Make it a national campaign.

    Begin a concerted effort to educate people about population issues, overpopuation being at the heart of all of our other desperate environmental problems.

    Stop playing footsie with dirty energy. These guys don’t care, that much should be obvious by now. Require the highest standards for energy efficiency. If it’s possible do it. Publicly expose and disavow politicians and influencers secretly in their employ.

    Now do something similar in every country.

    There are any number of other solutions, but the short of it is, stop the non-sense and get serious. Deal with these issues. Environmental problems should not be solely the domain of NGOs, they should be officially front and center.

    Comment by Ron R. — 11 Sep 2012 @ 10:06 AM

  131. It all depends on what people mean by “ice free”. And you can rely on the fact that anyone with a vested interest will have a strange and baffling definition of “ice free” that they change to suit their purpose.

    I think the Arctic will be substantially ice free when no first year ice survives the whole year, and multiyear ice extent falls below 1 million sq km.

    The Arctic will be definitively ice free when drift ice concentration drops below 15% everywhere in the Arctic, and then, ultimately, it will reach zero by all measures.

    Climate scientists aren’t going to use the last given definition, since the last remainders of multiyear ice and icebergs calved from fast ice and glaciers will make it difficult to make that final call.

    Deniers, on the converse hand, will cling to any rapidly melting chunk of ice, no matter where it came from, claiming that it’s not really “ice free”.

    Comment by Didactylos — 11 Sep 2012 @ 10:31 AM

  132. We need to think about the physics of the positive feedbacks. When there was ice covering the Arctic in the Summer, there was modest decrease in the ice volume. When significant open water appeared, then many synergistic positive feedbacks occurred. Overall, the mass, momentum, and energy barrier between the atmosphere and ocean that the ice provided was gone in the open water regions. This allowed solar absorption to replace solar reflection, and result in water heating. Warmer water (and associated permafrost and wetlands thawing) resulted in at least the increase of two GHGs in the atmosphere: methane and water vapor, thereby increasing the heat containment. More and warmer open water created enabling conditions for stronger cyclones, fragmenting the ice and accelerating its melting, and enhancing convective mixing and transport in the ocean. Elimination of the no-slip condition of both the ice on the atmosphere and on the ocean allowed convective enhancement of the diffusion of mass and energy through the water column.

    The bottom line is that once significant open water occurred, it appears that Nature ‘pulled out all the stops’ to accelerate the ice decline as rapidly as possible. If this ‘pulling out all the stops’ is the precedent for how Nature implements climate change, it means that the past will be a poor and very conservative indicator of the future. My vote is for ice disappearance much sooner than later, and a rapid acceleration of the other climate change feedback mechanisms as well. Since these positive feedback mechanisms go in one direction, and are self-reinforcing, the decline may be precipitous.

    Comment by Superman1 — 11 Sep 2012 @ 10:49 AM

  133. #126–“Kevin, I think Maslowski projected 2016 +/- 3 yrs.”

    D’oh! I think you are right. That’s probably the real reason that 2016 popped into my tired brain late last night…

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 11 Sep 2012 @ 12:53 PM

  134. Thomas said, “Then I’m going with 2028 too, because Dan H. clearly knows how these things work.”

    Dan H going for a date perhaps sooner than the average climate scientist certainly is surprising, and will color my interpretations of and responses to his comments in the future.

    I’m sticking with my long-standing 2020 date because of ego and comedic value. Something about not seeing ice with 2020….

    In reality, weather happens, and we don’t know how big the residual ice pack will be or how long it will survive.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 11 Sep 2012 @ 2:30 PM

  135. #130, geoengineering:

    We might make an attempt to harvest the methane in the Arctic before it is released to the atmosphere. Use it instead of other natural gas sources. I don’t know if that’s feasible or not.

    Comment by Charlie H — 11 Sep 2012 @ 4:32 PM

  136. There was a paper in 2009

    linking acceleration in PIG to gravitational stress increase, as the slope steepens from differential thinning and melt. I was looking for similar results from GIS. Any pointers ?


    Comment by sidd — 11 Sep 2012 @ 4:51 PM

  137. Jim Larsen #134,

    “In reality, weather happens, and we don’t know how big the residual ice pack will be or how long it will survive.”

    For all operational and functional purposes, the ice is gone. Yes, it shows up on the sensors as occupying space, but for most purposes it has died. David Barber talks about a mission to the Arctic in the Summer a few years ago. He went to regions labeled by the sensors as thick multi-year ice. The ship didn’t miss a beat cutting through the ice. The ice had rotted clear through, and was offering no resistance to the ship. All we’re doing now is waiting for the corpse to decay.

    Comment by Superman1 — 11 Sep 2012 @ 5:07 PM

  138. Ron R. #130,

    “Stop playing footsie with dirty energy. These guys don’t care, that much should be obvious by now. Require the highest standards for energy efficiency. If it’s possible do it. Publicly expose and disavow politicians and influencers secretly in their employ.”

    The first step in solving a problem is identifying the problem. The second step is developing the motivation and will to solve the problem. The third step is identifying the cause of the problem. The fourth step is removing the cause of the problem, and the fifth step is solving the problem.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see any of the posters on this blog addressing the total problem in full. It has two components. We all recognize the technical component, but in reality it is subservient to the sociopolitical component. The fundamental problem is that we the energy consumers have become addicted to a lifestyle that only the intensive use of fossil energy can fulfill (at least at present). We want our huge SUVs (even with one occupant usually), we want our huge McMansions, we want our long commutes to a pastoral home in the country, we want to travel to as many destinations as we can afford, we want our highly processed toys, etc. We are so addicted to this intensive use of energy that we are willing to trade the survival of our progeny to satisfy our addiction.

    The energy companies are like the drug ‘pushers’; they are ready, willing, and able to exploit our addiction to the fullest. The fossil energy workers are dependent on maximal fossil energy production to support a comfortable lifestyle, and they have no desire to alter the status quo.

    The politicians recognize 1) the electorate has no interest in giving up their addiction, 2) many of their largest donors represent the fossil fuel producers, and 3) their fossil fuel workers like the status quo. Therefore, the politicians have no incentives to change the status quo, and we are seeing this with Republicans and Democrats alike.

    So, you can go after the energy companies and politicians all you want, but that is like the old parable of looking for the keys under the lamp-post (that’s where the light is) rather than looking for the keys where they were dropped. That’s also why I believe the problem is intractable. People who are heavy drug users or heavy smokers or who have other heavy addictions many times will die rather than surrendering their addictions. That’s what we have today with fossil energy.

    Comment by Superman1 — 11 Sep 2012 @ 5:30 PM

  139. Kevin McKinney #125,

    “(And 2016 would be the last year to fall within Maslowski’s 2013 +/- 3–I don’t think it will be next year, though after this season I wouldn’t rule it out, either.)”

    Maslowski used a regional model. How accurately did that incorporate positive feedbacks from other regions? Also, I don’t believe his model incorporated methane feedbacks, and I’m not sure about enhanced water vapor feedbacks. I suspect even his worst case may be overly optimistic because of these omissions. My experience with nonlinear dynamical systems shows that not much of a positive feedback is needed to drive some sensitive systems over the cliff. This may be one of them.

    Comment by Superman1 — 11 Sep 2012 @ 5:40 PM

  140. 137 Superman1 said, “For all operational and functional purposes, the ice is gone.”

    I don’t disagree. We’re at the point where most first year ice melts out. It’s an unusual position where novice and expert climate scientist are similarly without a clue.

    Remember WW2. The Manhattan project had zero assurances of success, but smart folks projected that it was the way to the future. Ditto today’s ice and climate science.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 11 Sep 2012 @ 11:50 PM

  141. #135–“We might make an attempt to harvest the methane in the Arctic before it is released to the atmosphere. Use it instead of other natural gas sources. I don’t know if that’s feasible or not.”

    It’s not currently feasible, as I understand it, but there are folks trying to make it so for the clathrate component. If I understand Dr. Archer’s comments on methane correctly, it wouldn’t help much anyway, though the folks who made money on it would doubtlessly be happy for a while.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 12 Sep 2012 @ 6:29 AM

  142. I will disagree with superman1’s comment. While the summer minimum area has fallen by 3 million sq. km over the past three decades (to less than half), the winter maximum has decreased by less than 2 million (with little change since 2002). Much has been made of this “first-year ice,” but it would take just a few cold summers to grow into multi-year ice, and stem the decline.

    This year, we witnessed a large drop in the minimum, corresponding to storms, currents, higher Arctic temperatures, etc. Nature always seems to exxaggerate these changes, prior to a pull back, and similar to five years ago, I would expect that the sea ice minimum will be higher next year. That said, I do not envision a return to the higher minimums of 4 million sq. km, but would be surprised to see this year’s record minimum broken in the next few years.

    Comment by Dan H. — 12 Sep 2012 @ 7:37 AM

  143. One of the usual suspects, Pat Michaels is playing games with the drought index in Mitt’s back yard

    – Please whack-a mole at will

    Comment by Russell — 12 Sep 2012 @ 9:47 AM

  144. I believe Dan H. because he sounds like he knows what he is talking about.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 12 Sep 2012 @ 10:13 AM

  145. Dan H. Just out of curiosity, where are these “few cold summers” going to come from?

    Comment by Tokodave — 12 Sep 2012 @ 10:41 AM

  146. >That said, I do not envision a return to the higher minimums of 4 million sq. km

    But do you envision an ice-free Arctic in about 15 years. The ice maximum declining slower than the minimum is hardly comforting, both are in decline and neither is growing. As you say, much has been made of the first-year ice, people think it means growth when really it’s all disappearing.

    Comment by Unsettled Scientist — 12 Sep 2012 @ 11:07 AM

  147. > solutions
    Over in the Arctic Sea Ice thread Jim Larsen mentioned:

    >> Fossil fuels are useless to their owners when
    >> left in the ground, and wildly profitable at
    >> any price or tax rate when drilled.

    It’s a definition problem. Once carbon is burned it becomes CO2, in the atmosphere and oceans. It becomes a _commons_ rather than a _property_ so it’s everybody’s problem.

    But while carbon is in the ground, it’s _property_.

    There’s the answer — give the businesses that _own_ the carbon in the ground credit for sequestering all the carbon they haven’t dug or drilled yet, as though they had removed it from the global commons and hidden it away.

    They can use the the “pay me or I”ll shoot this dog” market theory.


    “subsequent agedbalm” says ReCaptcha.
    The oracle has weighed in, I think this is the solution.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Sep 2012 @ 11:09 AM

  148. “it would take just a few cold summers to grow into multi-year ice”

    I would expect to see unfounded optimism on certain websites out there, but hearing it from someone who has been reading RealClimate for some years is quite astounding.

    There is no guarantee of new records next year. However, the albedo changes, temperature changes and ice thickness changes make further records in the next few years absolutely inevitable, and absolutely rule out anything you can describe as a “recovery”. Failing to break the record next year is not a recovery. If you go down that insane path, then you end up Going Up the Down Escalator.

    May I finally point out that close to zero first year ice has survived until its first birthday? This essentially means that thickness reductions have reached the point where any first year ice can melt, no matter how far north it is. That means zero ice to “grow into multi-year ice”.

    Comment by Didactylos — 12 Sep 2012 @ 11:36 AM

  149. Dan H,

    “I will disagree with superman1′s comment. While the summer minimum area has fallen by 3 million sq. km over the past three decades (to less than half), the winter maximum has decreased by less than 2 million (with little change since 2002). Much has been made of this “first-year ice,” but it would take just a few cold summers to grow into multi-year ice, and stem the decline.”

    Even though area has dropped substantially, it is a misleading metric, as you well know. Ice volume is a more informative metric. The ice volume decline has been inexorable, according to the PIOMAS charts and associated measurements.

    Equally importantly, when you consider the physics of what is happening, as I outlined very briefly in #132 above, there is a ‘domino effect’ on the ice. When significant open water appeared, Nature pulled out all the stops by bringing in every self-reinforcing positive feedback phenomenon to accelerate the decline. I suspect that is Nature’s Hamiltonian principle for how it will deal with climate change across the board, not only the Arctic, and we are in for a faster ride downhill than anyone is projecting. Even the best of climate models today don’t incorporate many, if not most, of the positive feedback effects. Anyone who has dealt with nonlinear dynamical systems understands the dramatic impact even modest positive feedback mechanisms can have on the solution, much less the potential impacts of neglected positive feedbacks such as the voluminous methane releases in the Arctic.

    Comment by Superman1 — 12 Sep 2012 @ 12:05 PM

  150. That said, I do not envision a return to the higher minimums of 4 million sq. km, but would be surprised to see this year’s record minimum broken in the next few years.

    Let history be our guide. What’s “a few?”

    Comment by dbostrom — 12 Sep 2012 @ 12:51 PM

  151. 273 Chris D said on the arctic ice thread, “Suppose, for example, that CAFE standards have limited consumption”

    1. CAFE standards are broken. electrical vehicles are given a 2/3rds benefit for no reason at all. This means that CAFE increases just force emissions from oil to coal and methane. NO carbon reduction at all. It’s all about externalizing.

    2. My post was about the world, not the USA. Yep, drop US consumption of oil and oil prices will drop, but that will increase oil consumption, as oil production is based on essentially free production VS any old price. So, drop the price and producers scramble to INCREASE production to make up for the shortfall. Seriously, what will Saudi do if their GNP drops by ~60%? Drill, baby, drill.

    The potential market for oil at $25 a barrel is HUGE. Drop oil prices through conservation, and you just increase the market. All those 3rd worlders suddenly can afford to ditch the bicycle… (Damn them! So uppity…)

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 12 Sep 2012 @ 1:25 PM

  152. Jim Larsen, are you making the “long tailpipe” argument? You should know that’s flawed, even without making the further point that coal and gas also need replacing with renewables.

    Comment by Didactylos — 12 Sep 2012 @ 4:22 PM

  153. To change the subject from Arctic to Antarctic for a second,

    Many of you will remember the ‘skeptic’ blogosphere Steig-bashing frenzy after O’Donnell et al 2010 was published.

    New bolehole data is available from Orsi et al 2012, which again confirms Steig’s reconstructed trend at the WAIS divide.

    Over at WUWT, I am trying to get a scientific answer on what Orsi et al means for the results of the O’Donnell et al paper.

    Now, you need to kind of wrestle your way through the ad hominems and Steig-bashing (starting with the title), or you can start here where it gets very interesting :

    after which Nic Lewis eventually states this :

    The OLMC reconstruction 1957-2006 trend at Orsi’s borehole location is 0.13 C/decade below the mean of Steig’s and Orsi’s trends. Increasing the OLMC trend of the (infilled) Byrd station record by 0.13 C/decade to reflect that difference would leave the overall OLMC 1957-2006 continental trend below 0.07 C/decade – still insignificant.

    In other words, if the O’Donnell et al reconstructed trend at the WAIS divide would be adjusted to the Orsi et al borehole data, the overall trend result from O’Donnell et al for the entire continent would become +0.07 C/decade +/- 0.08 C/decade.

    Which reduces the claims that O’Donnell shows that “whole of the continent is not warming” to a rasor-thing margin.
    That’s quite interesting, no ?

    Now I have TWO co-authors (Nic Lewis and Jeff Condon) giving arguments that are over my head :
    “…PCA creates false resonances in the spatial temperature information. These show up as Chadni patterns…” and I am
    “confusing Steig’s reconstruction trend for the grid cell containing Byrd with Steig’s actual trend for the infilled Byrd station record”, and “Steig’s 1957-2006 trend for the infilled Byrd station record was only 0.135 C/decade, NOT 0.23 C/decade”.

    What does that all mean, and are these comments relevant to O’Donnell at al’s trend reconstruction in the face of new temperature data (such as the Orsi et al borehole data) ?

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 12 Sep 2012 @ 5:14 PM

  154. Didactylos #148,

    This may be a repeat; CAPTCHA is causing me problems.

    “I would expect to see unfounded optimism on certain websites out there, but hearing it from someone who has been reading RealClimate for some years is quite astounding.”

    Let me place your comment in its larger context. There is a belief on blogs such as this that if only the electorate were to get the Truth about climate change, there would be major actions taken to dodge the bullet. Further, the blame for no action on climate change is usually placed upon the ‘deniers’, the fossil fuel companies that they faithfully serve, and the politicians that are bought and owned by these companies. My ‘take’ is that this is all a game. The electorate knows reasonably well that harm is being done to the climate. The central problem is that this knowledge is insufficient to spur the electorate into serious action.

    Basically, the electorate is addicted to a lifestyle that requires the intensive energy use that only fossil fuel can provide today. Like any addict, they are willing to do whatever it takes to satisfy their addiction, even if it means sacrificing the survivability of their progeny. The deniers are what Lenin used to call ‘useful idiots’. I don’t believe anyone takes them seriously, or even listens to them. The energy addicts may point to the deniers’ ravings to help justify their continued addiction. But, it’s convenient to point to the deniers, or the fossil fuel companies or the politicians for the source of inaction, rather than to the real problem, ourselves.

    I personally cannot understand what makes the deniers tick, or why they would spend time on a Web site such as this spouting what is obvious nonsense. But, they are the ‘shell’, and if we are to get out of this stalemate, we need to concentrate on the ‘pea’.

    Are their similar precedents in history? Take smoking, for example. In the early 50s, when I was at the smoking initiation age, it was well known that people who had been smoking for a few years had numerous sore throats, and some developed ‘smoker’s cough’. It was also well known that people who had smoked for a number of years could have emphysema or circulatory problems such as Burger’s Disease. and, we all knew people in their 40s and 50s who had developed lung cancer. Nevertheless, I don’t believe any of us were dissuaded from smoking because of the knowledge of potential adverse consequences. It was the macho thing to do, and there was strong peer pressure to do it. Advertisements bolstered the positive images.

    Smoking had its myriad deniers, bought and paid for by the tobacco companies. But, smokers would only reference them to help justify continuance of their habit; nobody believed their nonsense.

    In 1964, the Surgeon General’s Report on smoking was issued, documenting its myriad problems. The evidence was probably ‘harder’ than that for some of the climate change predictions today. What impact did this relatively ‘hard’ information have on the smoking community?

    According to an interview I heard a couple of years ago with the NYT reporter who covers the tobacco industry, the answer was essentially none. 42% of the adults in 1964 smoked, and essentially none discontinued as a result of the report. What dropped the smoking rate to the 21% level today was economic penalties such as higher taxes and prices, mandates such as smoking exclusion zones, and some advertisement effect.

    Now, one might argue that the 1964 Report enabled the economic penalties and the mandates. I would argue that it helped, but the real reason the penalties and mandates were enacted was that 60% of the adult population did not smoke, and many, like myself, were offended by the smell. It was the will of the majority that smoking should be penalized and confined, and the Report was the tool that was used to justify the ‘will’.

    In the intensive energy use case, the numbers are amplified and reversed. Rather than 42% addicts as in the smoking case, we probably have 95% or more addicts in the intensive energy use case. That’s why no action will be taken, no economic mandates or penalties will be issued, and no political initiatives will be taken. Unlike smoking, the energy addicts are the super-majority, and they will determine what actions the politicians take and what is done to the fossil fuel companies.

    So, while your quote above is certainly valid, it’s being wasted on a nonsensical comment. We are the problem, and until we can be persuaded to alter our energy addiction radically, the problem will not be solved. As my other posts have shown, I believe we have gone past the point of no return already, but even if we haven’t, I see no initiatives to stop the train from going over the cliff.

    Comment by Superman1 — 12 Sep 2012 @ 6:03 PM

  155. >> climate models today don’t incorporate many,
    >> if not most, of the positive feedback effects.

    Citation would be helpful.
    Got a list of what’s identified and weighed but not in the models?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Sep 2012 @ 7:04 PM

  156. Here is some kryptonite for Superman 1’s argument. Read “The Carbon Buster’s Home Energy Handbook,” by Godo Stoyke, where one can learn how to save money while reducing atmospheric carbon. The charts of such things as embodied energy and maintenance energy are fascinating, and the savings can be considerable.

    The actual cost of a pair of polyester pants and a superhero costume is pretty high. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 12 Sep 2012 @ 7:54 PM

  157. Re 151 Jim Larsen –

    Jevon’s paradox?

    An element of truth, of course. At least for the more familiar supply-demand slopes, If someone reduces their consumption, prices tend to fall, so others will tend to consume more.

    But if others consumed exactly as much to keep the total consumption the same, prices would tend to remain the same (or at least on the same trajectory). The price has to stay lower in order to sustain the increase in consumption, so the increase in consumption must be limited somehow. That depends on the slopes of supply and demand. Add in the effect of some country also voluntarily reducing their production – the price would have to rise to keep global production the same.

    PS yes, EV’s mpgs are weird.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 12 Sep 2012 @ 8:55 PM

  158. for ‘Solutions’ (not saying this is the best price on the thing or that I know anything about it, except I’ve read these things exist — people who monitor their electricty use realtime reportedly use less)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Sep 2012 @ 9:18 PM

  159. > solutions
    Or there’s the much less expensive tool that’s been around a while: Kill A Watt™, for example

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 12 Sep 2012 @ 9:20 PM

  160. “Nature always seems to exxaggerate these changes, prior to a pull back, and similar to five years ago, I would expect that the sea ice minimum will be higher next year.”

    Expect away, Dan. You may be right, but forgive me if my expectations differ–I expect we’re in really new territory here, and what we have seen in the past may not be much of a guide to what comes next.

    Some reasons I think so can be gleaned from an article I just published:

    (And, FWIW, statements beginning with “Nature always seems…” always seem to make me, er, skeptical.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 12 Sep 2012 @ 9:26 PM

  161. The description of a new National Academies book on Himalayan glaciers starts: “Scientific evidence shows that most glaciers in South Asia’s Hindu Kush Himalayan region are retreating,”

    Andy Revkin translated this as “The bottom line — in sync with other recent analysis — is that the region is seeing a mix of changes, with glaciers growing in some places and shrinking in others and impacts on water supplies mostly inconsequential for decades to come.”

    Must be an election year.

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 12 Sep 2012 @ 10:16 PM

  162. Re 130 Ron R. – a solution not for AGW in the near term, but maybe in some future situation(?): Giant space mirror/shade. Alternative – a lot of little ones (remote controlled steering with gyroscopes and solar-powered…?) . Key point: preferentially block the solar IR – specifically/especially the parts that tend to get absorbed by water vapor in the troposphere – therefore a cooling effect without the same reduction in global precipitation that one would get with aerosols (also may be important in considering photosynthesis and solar energy, depending on just how much cooling we’re trying to accomplish – although if the problem is the brightenning sun (~100s of millions of years from now?), simply blocking the whole spectrum may be just fine).

    If we were going to emit aerosols I’d suggest something like crushed dunite. If it falls out to quickly at least it may take some CO2 with it – it would be interesting to compare the size of the two effects.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 12 Sep 2012 @ 11:37 PM

  163. 152 Didact asks, “are you making the “long tailpipe” argument?”

    Heavens no. I’m saying that fossil fuels are way cheap except externalities. Thus, every barrel, every ton of coal, every cubic foot of methane WILL sell to somebody at some price. Yep, current electric cars produce more CO2 than fossil fuel cars, and that will remain the case for as long as current cars are still on the road, so every electric vehicle sold today makes global warming worse, but that’s minor. More important is that fossil fuel producers have no choice but to sell at any price. $100 a barrel? $50 a barrel? $25 a barrel? Still the same decision for the producer – drill, baby, drill before somebody stops the party by taxing fossil fuels out of the market and enforces the decision by embargoing nations that continue to consume. Coal is the current example. We as a nation chose to drop our coal consumption. This had little effect on coal production. We can drop our oil consumption as well, and similarly it will have little effect on oil production. Seriously, can you imagine a scenario where Saudi Arabia decides pumping oil for $2 and selling it for $25 isn’t worth the effort? Can you imagine a scenario where $25/barrel oil isn’t snatched up by somebody? Can you imagine renewables dropping to the actual cost of production for fossil fuels ($2-20/barrel)? If not, then obviously pricing or national policies can’t change oil/coal/gas production enough to matter, and there will ALWAYS be a willing buyer at a price above the cost of production. Drop the price, and producers MUST increase production. If the US burns coal and methane instead of oil, it just frees up somebody else to snatch up even more oil at a lower price.

    The math is clear. 350 million = 25%. 7,000 million can slurp up 100% easily even if billions abstain.

    The marketplace simply can’t drop fossil fuel production, and since we don’t have a one world government, there will always be willing consumers. All we can do by electrifying our cars is make gasoline cheaper for other folks, which means more gas will be consumed. (If the consumer is poorer, then producers will drop prices to match the ability to pay, and increase production to maintain profits.)

    We tend to focus on the inelasticity of demand, but the REAL issue is inelasticity of supply. Drop consumption by 10% and prices will plummet. Producers simply can’t drop their production – even a cartel like OPEC has to struggle to drop production a couple percent. Once drilled, a well is essentially free money. Who’s gonna shut off their free-money machine?

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 12 Sep 2012 @ 11:55 PM

  164. re: 159 Kill-a-Watt, etc
    These things are so hard to use :-)
    A 12-year-old girl next door and her friend did a 2-week project where they checked their houses, found different profiles, vampires, etc, wrote up a nice project for school.

    I think they knocked off 20% of the usage just by having measured.
    Everybody I know who has ever done this has been surprised and gotten easy savings.

    Jevons is highly over-interpreted.
    The number of miles someone drives is not directly proportional to the gas price, that is, there is an elasticity curve and it is not linear. Nobody would spend every minute in their car just because gas price went to zero.

    Some electric utilities used tiered pricing, and if someone does efficiency improvements that lower their tier, they don’t turn around and try to use more to get back into a more expensive tier.

    Comment by John Mashey — 13 Sep 2012 @ 1:56 AM

  165. “Jevon’s paradox?”

    Not exactly. Fossil fuel producers are surely aware that they are a doomed species. 100 years from now nobody is going to be buying fossil fuels. Thus, producers have a great incentive to sell as much as possible as soon as possible. Since fossil fuels are like software – essentially no cost per unit sold – price is irrelevant to production. This totally destroys the stereotypical demand/production curves.

    The result is that price simply doesn’t matter. It’s a game. Charge as much as you can while pretending you could withhold production if prices were lower, but regardless of market forces, you WILL produce as much as humanly possible, and lower prices actually provide incentive for increased production. It’s amazing that the oil companies have been able to collude enough to prevent over-capacity. Seriously, can you imagine a FREE marketplace where a product sells for 1000% of its cost and yet production doesn’t increase beyond demand?

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 13 Sep 2012 @ 2:12 AM

  166. If I may, I would like to ask a very open-thready question, otherwise completely off topic.
    It’s a basic question about atmospheric CO2. I occasionally talk to undergraduates about soil carbon storage, and relative global quantities in the air and ground comes up. To give perspective, I’ve estimated that if all the CO2 in the atmosphere was reduced to a layer of dry ice at the ground surface, it would be about 4 mm thick. Can anyone with a more knowledge confirm/refute this?

    Comment by Dan Riseborough — 13 Sep 2012 @ 8:10 AM

  167. “can you imagine a FREE marketplace where a product sells for 1000% of its cost and yet production doesn’t increase beyond demand?” hmmmm…cigarettes?

    Keep in mind that it’s not just the private companies, bad as they are. A lot of the top oil producers have state-owned companies like ARAMCO. And of course these same countries have formed OPEC specifically to control prices.

    As to your other argument, it seems to boil down to “if I don’t do it, somebody else will”–not generally considered the highest level of moral justification for despicable behavior (burning up our children’s future).

    (reCaptcha: come one do wel)

    Comment by wili — 13 Sep 2012 @ 8:25 AM

  168. Science works by refutation of the hypothesis. The contrarians’ hypothesis is that our CO2 will not cause serious problems because Climate Sensitivity (CS) is low. They are coy about putting a number to it, but some go for 0 – 0.5*C.

    This figure, and any figure below 1.5*C is refutable, is it not?

    Would it not help (to some extend at least) for the climate science community to issue a monograph that decisively refutes the contrarian hypothesis? Although nothing will stop the core ideologues, there are many genuinely confused journalists and politicians who are influenced by the obbligato of doubt played by the fossil fuel lobby.

    They may not fully understand the science, but they can understand “disproven”, and a wider perception of the fact that the contrarians have no elastic in their low CS knickers may help us all to move on with the business of decarbonising the world economy.

    Worth a shot?

    Comment by Richard Lawson — 13 Sep 2012 @ 9:26 AM

  169. Dan Riseborough @165
    4mm sounds a bit on the low side to me!
    CO2=c400ppm at 2.13GtC/ppm = 850GtC = 3,200GtCO2.
    Dry ice sg = c1.5 so your layer has volume = 2,400e9 m^3 & area 510e12 m^2.
    Thus thickness = 2.4/510 = 0.0047 m = 4.7 mm.
    But then I may have placed a decimal point upside down here, or forgotten to divide by the number I first thought of. Arithmetic never was a strong point of mine.

    Comment by MARodger — 13 Sep 2012 @ 9:28 AM

  170. Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 12 Sep 2012 @ 11:55 PM and — 13 Sep 2012 @ 2:12 AM:

    Take a deep breath, have some milk and cookies, and take a nap. Then, start referencing your statements. E.g. – “current electric cars produce more CO2 than fossil fuel cars;” – 25$ or 2$/barrel petroleum production cost; -“Drop the price, and producers MUST increase production.”


    Comment by Steve Fish — 13 Sep 2012 @ 9:49 AM

  171. Re- Comment by Dan Riseborough — 13 Sep 2012 @ 8:10 AM:

    A good teaching gambit when talking about how a small amount of CO2 can have a big influence on temperature is to compare this to the effect of a 1 mil (250 micron) plastic sheet covering the earth that was either silvered or flat black. Like tetrodotoxin, a small amount can be dangerous. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 13 Sep 2012 @ 10:00 AM

  172. Patrick 027 says:
    > orbiting … Key point: preferentially block the solar IR

    What? What’s the point of blocking the solar IR?

    The infrared from the atmosphere is most of our problem.

    A citation every now and then to support ideas would be helpful

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Sep 2012 @ 10:31 AM

  173. Jim Larsen:”…essentially no cost per unit sold – price is irrelevant to production.”

    Say what? Uh, Dude, if this were true, would it make sense to drill in deep water? …in the Arctic? And then there are refining costs. Methinks somebody needs to review supply and demand.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 13 Sep 2012 @ 10:57 AM

  174. MARoger @169: Thanks – I consider getting within 20% pretty good at this point. I based my calculation on a unit area at the surface, which underestimates the volume of the column. I was most concerned about getting the order of magnitude right.

    Comment by Dan Riseborough — 13 Sep 2012 @ 11:06 AM

  175. Patrick 027 at 11:37 PM.

    It may be that we might not even need to block out that much sun. Consider that the hottest point on the planet at any given time of the year is the point directly facing it. Areas with glancing rays are a lot cooler, with cooling increasing in proportion to angle. Thus summer and winter. If we simply focused on the focal point, keep the filter in a solar (not geo obviously) orbit, say mid way (not clear on that) between the earth and the moon such that that point is, wherever it is on the earth at any given time of the year, shaded that may be enough to offset increased warming due to CO2.

    Perhaps easier said then done.

    Comment by Ron R. — 13 Sep 2012 @ 11:36 AM

  176. #169 MARoger #165 #174 Dan Riseborough

    Or, slightly more accurately,

    CO2=c391ppm at 2.13GtC/ppm = 833GtC = 3,054GtCO2.
    Dry ice sg = c1.56 so your layer has volume = 2,308e9 m^3 & area 510e12 m^2.
    Thus thickness = 2.308/510 = 0.0045 m = (perhaps only about) 4.5 mm.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 13 Sep 2012 @ 12:50 PM

  177. Ron R. re extraterrestrial solar shading: Perhaps easier said then done.

    A solidly qualified candidate for understatement of the year!

    Comment by dbostrom — 13 Sep 2012 @ 1:31 PM

  178. Re- my comment — 13 Sep 2012 @ 10:00 AM:

    Oops, I screwed up my decimal. 1 mil would be 25 microns. 25.4 to be exact. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 13 Sep 2012 @ 1:33 PM

  179. > sun. Consider that the hottest point on the planet at any given time
    > of the year is the point directly facing it

    Using your own logic?

    Try citing an actual measurement; this may help:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Sep 2012 @ 2:11 PM

  180. simon abingdon @176
    Goodness. You appear to be demonstrating arithmetical skills almost as dire as mine. The operative phrase you use is certainly “slightly more accurately.
    The most significant of the errors I managed @169 was in converting weight to volume. Dry Ice sg is actually rather variable (I see 1.4 – 1.6 quoted on Wikipedia & down as low as 1.2 elsewhere). But my attempt to divide by a quoted 1.5 turned into dividing by 1.333. So all in all, at 1.5sg it appears Dan Riseborough’s 20% error pretty much shrinks, not to your 12.5%, but to a massive zero. Hurrah.

    For the record as graphed here, average annual CO2 is now above 393ppm.

    Comment by MARodger — 13 Sep 2012 @ 2:52 PM

  181. > filter in a solar (not geo obviously) orbit, say mid
    > way (not clear on that) between the earth and the moon

    You’re thinking of L1:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Sep 2012 @ 3:10 PM

  182. Hank, what that page talks about is records. Sure there are individual places that are hotter than others. However you will notice that those record breaking locations are latitudinally all very similar. That’s because that’s where the sun hits the earth most directly. Place a screen on that trajectory between the earth and sun.

    I know you know this but here’s quote:

    The same also holds for the Earth. The rays of the summer sun, high in the sky, arrive at a steep angle and heat the land much more than those of the winter sun, which hit at a shallow angle. Although the length of the day is an important factor in explaining why summers are hot and winter cold, the angle of sunlight is probably more important. In the arctic summer, even though the sun shines 24 hours a day, it produces only moderate warmth, because it skims around the horizon and its light arrives at a low angle.

    Comment by Ron R. — 13 Sep 2012 @ 3:55 PM

  183. Hank Roberts at 3:10 PM: You’re thinking of L1:

    Ah, thanks. Hadn’t seen this comment before. That looks about right. I note though this:

    Side-effects include that, if this lens were built and global warming were avoided, there would be less incentive to reduce greenhouse gases, and humans might continue to produce too much carbon dioxide until it caused some other environmental catastrophe, such as a chemical change in ocean water that could be disastrous to ocean life.[12]

    Anyway, that’s one solution. Maybe we should start lighting candles rather than just cursing the darkness.

    Comment by Ron R. — 13 Sep 2012 @ 4:23 PM

  184. Sorry. Looking at that wiki page I think I got distracted and forgot my point. The picture of the L1, yes, but that shows it shielding the entire planet. I’m not sure that would be necessary. Again, maybe just shielding a portion of it, at the latitude where it hits the most directly would be enough. Much more doable at least.

    The idea of using mirrors or blocking it out entirely at a certain point though would not be advisable of course for a variety of reasons. But filtering it, allowing a diminished percentage of rays through which, taking into account the fact that more is bouncing around within the atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect, one could adjust the light to reflect normalcy I would think.

    Comment by Ron R. — 13 Sep 2012 @ 5:08 PM

  185. Summer Rain More Likely Over Drier Soils, New Satellite Data Show
    which comes as a surprise?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 13 Sep 2012 @ 5:40 PM

  186. I’m trying to estimate how far down are we in the climate hole we have dug, and is it possible to dig our way out. If we use pre-industrial temperature as the base, we are about 0.8 C above that today. Already, we are seeing a sharp increase in extreme events, as Hansen’s recent paper has shown, we are probably seeing the disappearance of at least the Summer Arctic sea ice, and we are seeing substantive increases in Arctic methane emissions from the permafrost, wetlands, and water column. What is the evidence that precludes our being at the initial stages of a runaway positive feedback loop even at this level of temperature increase?

    Irrespective of future CO2 emissions, we have a ‘climate commitment’ of temperature increase from CO2 already placed in the atmosphere of about 0.7 C, due to lags in the system. That brings us to a temperature increase in a few decades of about 1.5 C. What is the evidence that precludes our being at some stage of a runaway positive feedback loop at this more substantive level of temperature increase?

    Now, in the limiting case that we terminate CO2 emissions tomorrow, the fossil sulphate aerosols that were placed in the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion will be naturally flushed in a relatively short time. These aerosols had a cooling effect on the Earth by effectively increasing its albedo, and the cooling effect will now be gone. The full heating due to the CO2 forcing will now be displayed. Different papers give different values for this aerosol increase, due to different assumptions on climate sensitivity and aerosol forcing, but recent papers estimate it could be as much as 1.0 C, or even higher. So, in a few decades, the total of the above temperature increases would be on the order of 2.5 C, with the possibility of being perhaps slightly higher.

    Now, these estimates are for what we have done to the climate so far. They do not include future CO2 increases, nor do they include the major positive feedbacks. Is there any evidence that we can avoid a runaway positive feedback loop at the 2.5 C temperature increase, seeing the feedbacks that have already come into play? In other words, is the game over based on what we have done to this point in time, never mind the additional damage we will do with continued fossil fuel combustion?

    Comment by Superman1 — 13 Sep 2012 @ 6:51 PM

  187. RC community,

    Below is a segment from an email I recently received regarding statements made by a scientist at APL. I am not an expert at remote sensing, so would greatly appreciate your responses to the statements made below. Many thanks in advance.

    “As far as I know, there is no reliable measure of average Earth temperature from space. There are many long-term Earth based measurements of temperature and CO2 from a variety of places that are used to try to reconstruct the “average” surface temperature.

    The solar input is measured from space and there are about 30 years of high quality measurements by a half dozen or more spacecraft. However, the intercalibration among the separate satellites is not as good as needed. Each spacecraft has measurements of relative changes that are very good. They are looking at changes of 0.1% or less and the baseline offset from one spacecraft to another is larger than that. The lifetime of a single spacecraft is 3 to 10 years. So when they try to assemble a long-term trend they have to make their best estimate of the baseline offsets and some significant uncertainty remains. The NASA planned CLARREO mission is being designed to have the best absolute calibration of any mission so far. But it is still a few years off and it will then take a decade or more to start to get a measure of absolute solar input changes.”

    Comment by Neil — 13 Sep 2012 @ 6:52 PM

  188. >The picture of the L1, yes, but that shows it shielding the entire planet. I’m not sure that would be necessary.

    It shows a diffraction, not a shadow. It is not blocking the sunlight, it is dispersing it. You wouldn’t want to go the other way and concentrate the light.

    Comment by Unsettled Scientist — 13 Sep 2012 @ 7:00 PM

  189. Re Hank Roberts – 172 – see “Global Physical Climatology” by Dennis L. Hartmann, for example.

    A majority of solar (mainly SW) heating occurs at (or somewhat under, as in the ocean) the surface, but a significant amount does occur in the atmosphere – some UV heating in the stratosphere, of course, and a larger amount in the troposphere, where SW radiation (but not visible – it’s IR but not LW (not terrestrial) is absorbed by water vapor, and some by clouds, and other gases. If this were absorbed at the surface instead, it wouldn’t have any effect on tropopause-level forcing (setting aside the increase in albedo by allowing more radiation the opportunity to be scattered/reflected), but it would increase the net radiant heating of the surface and thus increase convective cooling. On the other hand, if this radiation were blocked from reaching the Earth entirely, it would contribute (negatively) to tropopause-level forcing without affecting convection (specifically refering to that portion which is absorbed – of course atmospheric absorption depends on the sun’s angle (thus on latitude and time of year as well as day) and atmospheric H2O and clouds (and surface elevation), etc, so in practice it may be hard to have a cooling effect without reducing solar heating of the surface at all.

    (PS if you are going to selectively block wavelengths of radiation from reaching the Earth, be careful in the UV, because – my understanding is – shorter wavelength UV is necessary to produce ozone, which then absorbs longer wavelength UV.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 13 Sep 2012 @ 7:05 PM

  190. > “As far as I know, there is no reliable measure of average Earth temperature from space.”

    Take it a step further even, there is no measure of Earth temperatures from space, at all. There is no such thing as a satellite thermometer, only a satellite model (as Stephen Schneider once put it).

    Comment by Unsettled Scientist — 13 Sep 2012 @ 7:20 PM

  191. re 143 Russell –

    I did a quick read-through; I may have skipped a few parts.

    1. a heads up – I only openned it up in a new tab, and I closed some sort of popup that appeared in front of it. When I minimized the windows that I myself openned, I found one that had appeared on it’s own, that said something like ‘Whoa, are you sure you want to go there’ – from my antivirus/security software.

    So make sure you’ve got something like a ‘Site Advisor’ running when you go to that (Russell’s provided link).

    2. I won’t go back and I’m probably not the best person to comment on it anyway, but …
    … I didn’t get how everything was derived or what exactly all the charts were about (it was a quick look that I took), but one thing that occured to me-

    if they averaged the PDSI for the whole country, or even just the 48 contiguous states (plus DC?), this would smush some floods into some droughts.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 13 Sep 2012 @ 8:06 PM

  192. I found one that had appeared on it’s own, that said something like ‘Whoa, are you sure you want to go there’ – from my antivirus/security software.

    To be clear, there was the option of contuing to whatever that window was supposed to be. So the window itself was not openned by my security software – that just (I believe) prevented the window from going automatically to whatever it was supposed to be.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 13 Sep 2012 @ 8:14 PM

  193. Ron R,
    A solar shield at L1 would not block the entire face of the sun, just enough to compensate for CO2 TOA forcing.

    Rather than a “solution” to reduce GHG induced global warming, it is more interesting to see what the cost would be per ton CO2 emitted.

    That puts a price on CO2, and thus we could balance that cost against alternatives.

    So here is my back-of-the-envelope calculation on how much it would cost to put a space mirror in place that compensated for forcing caused by one ton CO2 :

    To get an idea of how large the mirror would need to compensate for one ton CO2 emitted, we can calculate the ‘forcing’ that ton causes (since a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere from 280->560 ppmv causes about 3.7 W/m^2 forcing).

    If you do the calculations with that it turns out that every ton of CO2 that we add to the atmosphere creates about 1 kW extra forcing (heating) for the planet and thus we need a space mirror of about 1 m^2.

    Next, the study below suggests that we could make autonomous operating space mirrors of micron-thin material which have a mass of only 4 gram/m^2. Current launch costs to bring a payload into high orbit (L1) is about $20,000 per kg. So the launch costs alone for a 4 gram 1 m^2 mirror which compensated for 1 ton CO2 is about $80.

    $80/ton CO2 is some $300/ton Carbon. And that’s just the launch cost.

    I’m sure that we can do much better things if we were only to recognized the real cost of repairing (some of) the disturbances that our carbon emissions cause.

    Either way, here is a NASA-supported study that investigates a hypothetical system that could possibly block enough sunlight to compensate for our current emission rate :

    Which proposes an 2km long electromagnetic canon mounted on a 5km mountain top, which fires a 1 ton payload (of about a million highly autonomous operating mirrors) into the L1 point.

    It needs fire every 5 minutes, non-stop, 24/7, just to compensate for our current emission rate.

    Great read.

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 13 Sep 2012 @ 8:36 PM

  194. Rob Dekker thanks for the link. Interesting. It may be a great idea but just reading your comments and the abstract, and playing devil’s advocate here, a few comments.

    1. I have doubts that “micron-thin material which have a mass of only 4 gram/m^2” would make it into space without major distortion or destruction.

    2. Shooting these mirrors from a giant cannon doesn’t sound terribly precise.

    3. Has their been an estimation about how many of these little mirrors would fail to make it into space and would fall back to earth? I’d guess it would be a lot of them. About how long these light weights would hover in the atmosphere with possible damage to airplanes, disruption to satellite signals etc? About the harm to animals such as sea fauna that might ingest them?

    4. What happens at reentry time (perhaps they’d burn up)?

    5. A discharge (which I assume would be mighty loud) every 5 minutes, non-stop, 24/7, just to compensate for our current emission rate? Wow.

    6. Honestly this sounds like it would be another undoable geoengineering “solution” which more closely resembles littering to me. And lastly,

    7. I’m not sure the $3,000,000,000,000 price tag for a mere 50 years is going to sit well with most people.

    Comment by Ron R. — 13 Sep 2012 @ 10:38 PM

  195. Ray and Steve,

    Steve, I used the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf as representative of state of the art for electrical VS gas vehicles. The Prius gets 50MPG and the Leaf gets 99/3= 33MPGe (Gotta divide by 3 to account for power plant inefficiency and transmission losses. I assumed that our mix of coal, n-word, CH4, and renewables is about as carbon intensive as oil. I welcome data if someone wants to do the figures.) Adjust the Leaf upwards since over its 15 year life renewables and CH4 will reduce the carbon intensity of the grid, but the Prius will still win the carbon game. (Unless Secular A is elected World President – then the Leaf wins!)

    The primary costs for oil and gas are from finding the field, drilling the wells, and building the infrastructure needed to get the product to market. Wells, super tankers and pipelines are heavy on capitalization cost and light on operating costs. I’m pretty sure refineries are similar. Once built, the entire supply chain has an incredibly high gross margin, and also has little residual value besides scrap (you can’t move a well, and what are you going to do with a super tanker besides ship fossil fuel?). My post is limited to the time period after the well is producing, and it totally ignores sunk costs, as business decisions also ignore sunk cost. Coal is different, so this analysis doesn’t apply to coal.

    Look at fig 3, which shows current fields’ production through 2035. That is our baseline, as it represents oil which has already been paid for. It is free energy, or at least pre-paid.

    The USA is attempting to slowly drop consumption while massively increasing production. Most every country with the ability is following the same policy. That effort simply frees up the current fields’ production for others to consume. Since the costs are paid up front, current field owners have an easy decision. Pump. Pump. Pump regardless of price – perhaps even at a net loss as long as operating costs are covered. This means the world is taking the next level shown in the figure, discovered fields which haven’t been developed yet, which is a serious danger, as it means CO2 emissions won’t decrease very much.

    We are at the decision point right now. The existing field production curve matches a reasonable worldwide carbon plan. Thus, drilling new wells is folly, as once drilled, their costs are pre-paid, and so they become free money machines as well.

    So every well drilled, every pipeline built, every tanker constructed from now on is pure-t-insanity. We already have all the fossil fuel production capacity that our planet can handle. We can stop fossil fuel development now, we can take Hank’s suggestion later (pay producers to not produce – won’t it be a hoot if we replace Saudi with expensive deep water wells and then have to pay Saudi anyway!), or we can bake the planet. So take your pick: cheap, incredibly expensive, or fatal.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 13 Sep 2012 @ 10:50 PM

  196. ocean pH change is happening faster than atmospheric CO2 is increasing; a sunshade would make it worse, unless the sunshade is made out of frozen CO2 extracted from our atmosphere.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Sep 2012 @ 11:11 PM

  197. John M. Wallace, Peter V. Hobbs, “Atmospheric Science – An Introductory Survey”. Academic Press, New York, Toronto, 1977. [when, of the two closest cities, one is in the same country but the closest is not, which is the proper one to give?]

    Dennis L. Hartmann, “Global Physical Climatology”. Academic Press, New York, Toronto, 1994.

    Hartmann, p.28:
    Location absorbed: % of TOA insolation ( 342 W/m2) absorbed
    Stratosphere: 3
    Troposphere: 17
    Surface: 50

    Hartmann, p.27:
    The stratospheric 3 % : mostly O3 and O2; ~ 0.5 % from CO2 and H2O vapor.
    The tropospheric 17 % : 13 % from H2O vapor, 3 % from clouds, 1 % from CO2, O3, and oxygen together.

    Hartmann p. 31 fig. 2.6, 2.7, and text p.30 –
    highest daily average insolation at TOA is approximately found at (or near?* – I could go through the calculation to verify but I won’t right now…) summer solstice poles (some deviation will be found due to eccentricity of orbit).

    Hartmann p. 49: O2 is dissociated by wavelengths shorter than about 200 nm; O3 is dissociated by radiation between 200 and 300 nm [I’d guess it could be dissociated by shorter wavelengths too, but those are perhaps blocked by O2].

    Wallace and Hobbs pp.328-:

    wavelengths shorter than 100 nm (3 ppm of TOA insolation) absorbed mostly above 90 km, ionizes N2, O2, and O.

    (footnote on p.328) near 120 nm, a “narrow spectral “window”” allows penetration down to 60-90 km, ionized nitric oxide, “believed” to produce D-layer.

    radiation from 100 to 200 nm (0.01 % of TOA insolation) absorbed 50-110 km, “virtually all absorbed” in photodissociation of O2.

    radiation from 200 to 310 nm (1.75 % of TOA insolation) absorbed 30-60 km, photodissociates O3.

    longer wavelengths – 98+ % of TOA insolation – about 17 % of that is absorbed by H2O vapor.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 13 Sep 2012 @ 11:15 PM

  198. last part of last comment: should cite: Wallace and Hobbs pp.328-330:

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 13 Sep 2012 @ 11:18 PM

  199. 173 Ray said, “Say what? Uh, Dude, if this were true, would it make sense to drill in deep water? …in the Arctic? ”

    You’re confusing profit with gross margin.

    A decision to drill is based on expected profit, all the while knowing that additional production will degrade the profitability of one’s current production. Once made, the decision is not revokable. This means that fossil fuel companies only drill if the expected profit is immense, ensuring that even if prices drop profits will still be made. After the well is drilled, everything changes. The producer is locked in, profit becomes irrelevant and gross margin rules. Since gross margin is huge in fossil fuels, dropping production is insane, assuming collusion isn’t involved.

    A well drilled is a well pumped dry. The only decision point is before a single drop gets to market. It’s like software. You spend big bucks up front, and every barrel/program sold doesn’t increase costs much at all, but one can have a gross margin of 90% and still lose money. In that situation, you still sell as much as possible, even though you’re losing money.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 14 Sep 2012 @ 12:24 AM

  200. Well I read a bit more and was commenting when suddenly the page was gone as were my comments so I’ll try again.

    I see they address at least one of my prior questions about surviving the launch by proposing shielding for each “flyer”.

    Other quotes and comments.

    At the end of their life, the flyers will have to be replaced if atmospheric carbon levels remain dangerously high


    They also say: If it were to become apparent over the next decade or two that disastrous climate change driven by warming was in fact likely or even in progress…

    The author doesn’t sound too sure about that.

    And that “replaced” part, do they mean launching another 16 trillion flyers every 50 years?? Sheesh! I’m wondering if all that debris would be a hazard to future space travel or satellites and how much of it will be coming back to earth as high-tech litter.

    The dead ones that find their way back to Earth could present a threat to Earth-orbiting spacecraft, but hopefully no greater than the annual flux of a million, 1-g micrometeorites, or the 30 million debris objects in low-Earth orbit that weigh ≈1 g. This issue needs to be analyzed…. It seems, however, that this threat could be held to a level no more than that presented by the ≈100 1-ton natural objects that hit the Earth annually.

    Hopefully? The author’s reasoning here does not at all negate the issue. In what way does one unavoidable and undesirable occurrence excuse another intentional one? That kind of reasoning is akin to tobacco companies rationalizing away the deaths of tens of thousands of people a year because, hey, that many die from non-smoking related lung cancer anyway.

    To transport the total sunshade mass of 20 million tons [16 trillion flyers and 20 million armatures], a total of 20 million launches will be needed, given flyer payloads of 1,000 kg.


    The cloud cross-section would be comparable to the size of the Earth and its length much greater, ≈100,000 km.

    Again, wow!

    And if flyer construction and transportation costs each can be held in the region of $1 trillion total, then a project total including development and operations of <$5 trillion seems also possible.

    Hmm. What started out as “a few trillion” is now under $5 trillion – and that’s IF other costs can be held down.

    It would make no sense to plan on building and replenishing ever larger space sunshades to counter continuing and increasing use of fossil fuel.

    Sure it would if they could be made better, easier and cheaper than this – sorry – this boondoggle.

    To be honest this paper reads like an advertisement. It sounds like a bad idea.

    Personally, I don’t think we should be implementing any solution that cannot be easily undone if necessary.

    Anyway, while I don’t think it’s the best idea Rob, still, thank you for the link.

    Comment by Ron R. — 14 Sep 2012 @ 1:33 AM

  201. Oh, one last thing.

    To transport the total sunshade mass of 20 million tons [16 trillion flyers and 20 million armatures], a total of 20 million launches will be needed, given flyer payloads of 1,000 kg.

    Sounds like a lot of resources.

    Comment by Ron R. — 14 Sep 2012 @ 1:42 AM

  202. Ron R,

    The technical challenges with the space “sun shades” project that you mention are probably only the tip of the ice berg.
    The author of the paper has considered many of such issues, and I am impressed with the level of detail in working out feasible technical solutions to the problem, but even from his story is obvious that many technical breakthroughs are needed before we could even begin launching such solar shades into space on such a massive scale.

    On huge assumption for example is that launch cost to bring payload into high orbit would be reduced from the current $20,000/kg to the $50/kg that is needed to keep the project within the $ 3 trillion price tag.

    The author’s closing notes are revealing in that sense :

    In conclusion, it must be stressed that the value of the space sunshade is its potential to avert dangerous abrupt climate change found to be imminent or in progress. It would make no sense to plan on building and replenishing ever larger space sunshades to counter continuing and increasing use of fossil fuel. The same massive level of technology innovation and financial investment needed for the sunshade could, if also applied to renewable energy, surely yield better and permanent solutions. A number of technologies hold great promise, given appropriate investment (3).

    My main point goes one step further : We do not want to get to the point where everyone on the planet agrees that “dangerous abrupt climate change found to be imminent or in progress”.

    My parents told me, and I tell my kids : “If you make a mess, you have to clean it up”.
    So far, there is ZERO cost to emitting GHGs.

    Instead, drafting geo-engineering plans gives us a sense of the cost of what it takes to clean up after ourselves. So carbon can have a price on it, which we can use to choose better alternative.

    Geo-engineering plans (as well as carbon-sequestration plans) may be one way to actually determine what the cleanup cost is for the mess we are making for our future generations.

    From my heart, I really hope that we as a species have enough “anticipation” capability and “discipline” to put a price on the risks that we are taking. Before it’s so late that we have to actually DO geo-engineering and solve all the problems that come with that.

    And then find out that we can’t fix all the problems.

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 14 Sep 2012 @ 3:44 AM

  203. Jim Larsen,
    With all due respect, you are full of beer and beans. The oil counts for a minority of the cost. Processing of the petroleum is not free. Those plants are expensive–both to build and maintain. Look into the economics before spouting off.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Sep 2012 @ 4:25 AM

  204. “A well drilled is a well pumped dry. The only decision point is before a single drop gets to market”

    Given what you’ve just said, the decision point would seem to be quite a bit earlier–before they start drilling, or even before they start prospecting.

    I think not enough emphasis has been placed on the supply side. We have to insist that corporations and countries stop un-sequestering carbon by pulling ff’s out of the ground, period. Start with a rapid reduction in the rate of coal extraction. Since 80 some percent of the world coal comes from five countries, this would not require the whole world to sign on, just the top producers (US, China, Russia, Australia, and South Africa, iirc).

    Then oil could go on a slightly slower trajectory of draw down, and NG yet slower. But the un-sequestering of all these sources has to be seen now as what it is–a crime against humanity and against life.

    Of course, this leads to the old question–who will bell the cat? (And how?)

    Comment by wili — 14 Sep 2012 @ 6:40 AM

  205. Just been looking at the jim petitt graph for ice volume ‘death spiral’, and that would strongly indicate that an ice free summer arctic will happen sometime this decade and yet the projections for ice area and extent indicate a time around 2025+. Now surely the ice volume graph is the one we should be concentrating on as nil volume= nil area/extent. Could someone please clear up that glich in my understanding.
    Thinking post arctic summer ice here… how will an ice free arctic even for 1-2 months of the summer affect the melt pattern for the rest of the year? In my understanding it will greatly change the pattern as I’m expecting that nowhere near as much ice will be formed for the remaining months and the ice quality will be very poor. As the arctic ocean quickly begins to warm under a ‘calm air’ scenraio that probably would not be as bad since the hightened hydrologic cycle should cause appreciably more snow to fall thus trying to regain eqilibrium. What I don’t believe anyone really has come to grips with yet is how will increased ocean evaporation at the arctic latittudes affect the air currents and air masses? What I do have a strong hunch is when we do reach ice free conditions for even part of the year-all hell will break loose astonishingly quickly.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 14 Sep 2012 @ 7:30 AM

  206. Lawrence Coleman #205,

    ” What I do have a strong hunch is when we do reach ice free conditions for even part of the year-all hell will break loose astonishingly quickly.”

    I have addressed this issue in previous posts. Briefly, I believe all Hell broke loose when substantial open water appeared in the Arctic sea. Many new phenomena appeared that contributed to positive feedback, all synergistically reinforcing each other. Forgetting about the models with their myriad limitations, when one visualizes the physics of what is happening, it is crystal clear that Nature is pulling out all the stops to eliminate the ice.

    We humans like to think of slow agonizing declines. We keep people on life support who have no chance of regaining any effective consciousness, and we prolong other endeavors. That’s not how Nature tends to operate. When the day arrives that the slowest gazelle in the pack cannot outrun the fastest lion in the pride, he’s finished, and the end is usually brutal and swift. I believe the physics of what is happening to the Arctic sea ice is a template for the other effects of global warming. I don’t believe these ‘evolutionary’ predictions that are reported in the Press, or in much of the technical literature. They are not based on models that contain all the known phenomena that contribute to positive feedback loops, and they especially don’t show the effects of the synergies of these positive feedback phenomena. My reading of the physics is that the aged gazelle is a much better model of what we have in store for us.

    “Now surely the ice volume graph is the one we should be concentrating on as nil volume= nil area/extent.”

    The global situation appears monolithic with respect to climate change, and any metrics selected to describe this situation should have similar profiles. Sea ice area/extent are not the best choice because of their inconsistency.

    I used to do computational fluid dynamics. Initially, researchers would solve the flowfield problems using variables such as pressure, temperature, velocity, etc. Their values could vary tremendously within the flowfield, especially near and across discontinuities, and this would wreak havoc with the stability of the numerical solutions. When the community switched to conservation variables, such as mass, momentum, and energy, the numerical oscillations decreased substantially, because these variables were essentially unaffected by discontinuities et al.

    That’s what we need to describe the evolution of climate change. Hansen had a good idea in his recent paper using numbers of extreme events. They tend to trend monolithically, and if one type of extreme is down this year, another type will be up, and the overall sum will increase. So, we need integral-type metrics or maybe even ‘signatures’ of metric combinations that are not dependent on any one of the components to convey the message. The ‘deniers’ will focus on non-monolithicity of the components, but presenting integral monolithic metrics will make their job much more difficult, and will convey the true nature of what is happening to the public, and the research community as well.

    Comment by Superman1 — 14 Sep 2012 @ 9:20 AM

  207. Superman1 wrote: “We humans like to think of slow agonizing declines.”

    Actually, I find that I don’t really much like to think of slow agonizing declines. But that’s just me.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 14 Sep 2012 @ 10:01 AM

  208. Rob Dekker @ 3:44 AM: Instead, drafting geo-engineering plans gives us a sense of the cost of what it takes to clean up after ourselves.

    Aye. Good point. Maybe if we put a monetary and environmental price tag on after the fact clean up the powers that be will take notice. I heard a saying once, There’s never time to do things right the first time, but there’s always time to do it over. If we know something is inevitable, something that we have to do and should do now, it’s better to just do it and get it over with than keep putting it off (to a time when conditions may have deteriorated and waste all that time). To borrow a phrase, Just do it.

    The same massive level of technology innovation and financial investment needed for the sunshade could, if also applied to renewable energy, surely yield better and permanent solutions. A number of technologies hold great promise, given appropriate investment.

    Right. But it’s discouraging, the blatant corruption by those in power to preserve the status quo. Sometimes I fell like we’re still living in ancient Rome, or that we as a species have a death wish, what with all of our many assaults on the environment.

    Anyway, it’s good to divert our energies toward solutions rather than just griping about how bad things are. Thanks.

    Comment by Ron R. — 14 Sep 2012 @ 10:25 AM

  209. SecularAnimist #207,

    “Actually, I find that I don’t really much like to think of slow agonizing declines. But that’s just me.”

    Wrong choice of words. Should have used ‘tend’ rather than ‘like’.

    Comment by Superman1 — 14 Sep 2012 @ 10:47 AM

  210. Superman1 wrote: “We humans like to think of slow agonizing declines.”

    SecularAnimist: Actually, I find that I don’t really much like to think of slow agonizing declines. But that’s just me.

    I understand what he means. Look at all the disaster movies out. It’s been non-stop since The Towering Inferno. Problem is, while it may be fun to watch cataclysms when they happen on the big screen to other people, disasters are never fun and are always a lot worse when they happen to you in real life.

    Comment by Ron R. — 14 Sep 2012 @ 10:59 AM

  211. Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 13 Sep 2012 @ 10:50 PM currently #195:

    An all-electric vehicle gets 99mpg (gallon of what?) which you have to divide by three? Please document this strange formula.

    You “assume that our mix of coal, n-word, CH4, and renewables is about as carbon intensive as oil.” No assuming. How much CO2 for each? How much per mile in an electric vehicle?

    You have made a bunch of unsupported assumptions about the cost of producing a barrel of oil (no actual numbers) and eliminated a large chunk (no numbers) in support of your previous $2-$25/barrel oil. Document this.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 14 Sep 2012 @ 11:02 AM

  212. Patrick, the supply/demand curves for fossil fuel are not “in the present”. Producers decide whether to increase capacity based on projected price perhaps 5 years in the future. Yes, they can make minor changes in existing production, but such decisions have future ramifications. I read an article about how Iraq had messed up their fields by producing too fast. Basically, production is a slow decline, bumped up periodically by a decision to develop a new field.

    Consumers make some decisions immediately. Increase the price, and they drive a bit less or heat/cool the house a degree less. But mostly, they are stuck with the house, the commute and the car they own. And even if they sell the house and car, somebody else will own them, thus reducing consumption not a jot until the house and car become landfill (or the house is upgraded). Want to help the planet? Don’t sell the SUV and buy a Prius, burn the SUV and take the loss.

    So, increase or decrease the price, and you hear cries of anguish and joy, but production and consumption don’t change much. Here’s an estimate of costs for fossil fuels.

    Note that lifting costs are from $6 to $13 a barrel. (I’ve read lower figures, down to $2 a barrel for Saudi, but let’s stick with these figures) Thus, the owners of all existing fields will pump as long as oil remains above $13 a barrel. I think it is safe to assume that price point is a given.

    Look at US offshore figures. $52 a barrel total. Producers will drill if they believe the minimum price ~5 years in the future will be well above $52. Say they’re wrong, and oil is $40 a barrel in 2017. What does the producer do? Well, lifting costs are $10, so they pump like mad, losing $12 a barrel. Since they’re recovering losses, the incentive to pump might even increase – panic does that sort of thing.

    Oil prices are kinda like the game of Chicken. Consumers and suppliers buy infrastructure that locks each into a set pattern. After that, neither has any bargaining power at all, other than faking it. Thus, traditional supply and demand curves are inappropriate.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 14 Sep 2012 @ 12:01 PM

  213. American Medical Association 2012
    CSAPH Report 4-A-12
    … an emerging consensus has come to acknowledge the effects of widespread nighttime artificial lighting, including the:
    1) impact of artificial lighting on human health, primarily through disruption of circadian biological rhythms or sleep;
    2) intersection of ocular physiology, vehicle headlamps, nighttime lighting schemes, and harmful glare;
    3) energy cost of wasted and unnecessary electric light; and
    4) impact of novel light at night on wildlife and vegetation….
    … this report evaluates the effects of pervasive nighttime lighting on human health and performance. Concerns related to energy cost, effects on wildlife and vegetation, and esthetics are also briefly noted.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Sep 2012 @ 12:13 PM

  214. 203 Ray said, “With all due respect, you are full of beer and beans. The oil counts for a minority of the cost. Processing of the petroleum is not free. Those plants are expensive–both to build and maintain. Look into the economics before spouting off.”

    Uh, I did. You tell me how the economics work for refineries if we drop ff production by half. Capital costs CAN’T be recovered except by production. Or explain how a refinery can be unbuilt? Perhaps you need to take your own advice?

    Here you go: 30-60 CENTS a gallon. Gee, at $3.75 a gallon, that 50 cents surely is the deciding factor, right?

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 14 Sep 2012 @ 1:00 PM

  215. OK, to make it clear, markets are either increasing or decreasing. In an increasing market, capital costs are way important. You build a refinery or drill a well because it will be profitable.

    Conversely, in a decreasing market, capital costs are sunk. Therefore, they can be set to $0 and only operating costs matter. Old versions of Windows still sell at what might be considered a net loss, but at a fantastic profit in reality as the capital cost has been set to $0.

    Given that we live on Earth, and Earth requires that we enter a declining market for fossil fuels for which all required capital costs have already been paid, capital costs are irrelevant to business decisions, other than the decision to commit planetary suicide.

    So, Ray, you can join the climate change deniers, or you can accept reality. Economics either follows physics or it leads to death and destruction.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 14 Sep 2012 @ 1:27 PM

  216. And $100/barrel divided by 42 = $2.38 a gallon, which is a MAJORITY of $3.75 a gallon. (fiddle the numbers as desired, but the point is solid.)

    Seriously, dude, when you read a comment that feels wrong, you ought to do some research before shouting beer and beans…

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 14 Sep 2012 @ 1:38 PM

    ” one of the most interesting documents Freedom of Information (FOI) discosures from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has uncovered is the all-caps transcript of a speech on climate communications delivered by one of the department’s officials. The presentation, which Guardian journalist Leo Hickman publicised along with other documents, reflects on the handling of the Climategate email hack, advocating better engagement with the public on tangible aspects of climate science.”
    Climategate, caps-lock, skeptic rebuttals and industry chats: DECC’s FOI treasure trove

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Sep 2012 @ 2:40 PM

  218. Well pur Jim

    Comment by Dan H. — 14 Sep 2012 @ 2:55 PM

  219. Solar shades sound wonderful until we get close enough to see details emerge. Kind of like simple, fuzzy canals on Mars turning to a myriad of little fragments of rock, dust once we’d zoomed in on the planet enough to gain some acuity.

    The shades remind me of space power systems. Shiny, but the numbers are cruel. Let alone launch costs, etc. what happens when the inefficiency of transmission systems needs to be disposed of? 90% efficient leaves a big problem called incandescence if it’s ignored. That’s another interesting exploration.

    Boondoggle about sums it up, though the costs of funding studies are probably worth it for accidental collisions with useful information.

    Comment by dbostrom — 14 Sep 2012 @ 3:15 PM

  220. Are there any reputable scientists out there that see a suspicious negative forcing component in their recent observations? I am trying to find a long-lived SOx indirect effect or (am concerned) that I am finding evidence of climate remediation. help???

    not allowing a second post of the first due to incorrect captcha

    Comment by jjm — 14 Sep 2012 @ 4:06 PM

  221. Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 14 Sep 2012 @ 12:01 PM, currently #212:

    OK, so we now have the Lifting Cost per barrel ( ) that is greater than your $2/ barrel figure. Now add in the cost of development and drilling, refining, transportation before and after refining, marketing, and the actual number of gallons of gasoline that resulted. This is like extracting teeth and, therefore, supports the beer and beans hypothesis. With a little more evidence the hypothesis will become a theory. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 14 Sep 2012 @ 4:09 PM

  222. Re 211 Steve Fish – That reasoning is based on the understanding that the 99 mpg figure comes from equating a kWh of electricity with a kWh of the heat (enthalpy, presumably) of oxidizing gasoline.

    Given the prevalence of fuels in our present energy supply, it is understandable to want to convert electricity to fuel equivalent for comparison purposes or to be able to express the whole in terms of one type of energy – the EIA does this, for example (unfortunately in different units. It would be nice if they had the option to see all tables in GW). But they have the good sense to take into account the efficiency of conversion of fuel to electricity (the place this gets tricky is in CHP power plants, but those are a small fraction of the total – try looking around here ). If a large amount of primary energy were nonfuel (or non-fuel to us – the sun is fusion power of course but we aren’t the ones making that happen so…), and most easily accounted for as electrical energy, and if we wanted more fuel (for combusting) than could be readily obtained in other ways, then fuel might instead be produced from electricity and fuel would be given in electrical equivalent with a very different conversion factor. (Of course fuel->electricity and the reverse could happen in the same overall supply system, because of temporal and spatial variations).

    Anyway, it would be ideal to give the mpg value in terms of the amount of gasoline that would have to be burned in a power plant to produce the necessary electricity, including transmission+distribution losses. But we don’t tend to use gasoline that way, other fuels have different EROEIs and LC’s, etc.

    If the economic savings from converting to (PH)EVs were diverted to (or used to smooth the way for) clean energy investments, though, then the bigger picture would look better for them.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 14 Sep 2012 @ 5:03 PM

  223. re solar shade – my point about UV was that, as far as I understand it, if we reduced the wrong part of the UV spectrum (shorter than ~200 nm), we could end up increasing the amount of UV that reaches the surface.

    About launching things into space – might it be easier to steer a small asteroid into the L1 position and periodically set off explosions to produce dust clouds (or maybe that would actually be much harder)? Of course, if the forward scattering dominates and/or the cloud’s area is too large, we could have the reverse of the intended effect. (Actually, explosions would needlessly scatter the dust. Just have a robot with a shovel…)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 14 Sep 2012 @ 5:10 PM

  224. Re- Comment by Patrick 027 — 14 Sep 2012 @ 5:03 PM currently at 221:

    I thought that the 99mpg figure consists of something like you say, but Jim Larsen should document it and explain why it then must be divided by three to substantiate his claim that electric vehicles are more carbon intensive than hybrids and ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. I suspect that power plant efficiency is not very different than an ICE engine and that power line transmission losses are not much greater than gasoline truck transport of gasoline, so one third seems out of line. What would be most useful to know is the actual pollution/mile in an electric car for each of the different electricity generating technologies. Larsen should stop making claims and refusing to document them. If what he says is true, I would like to know why and how. If he doesn’t know he shouldn’t post.

    People who can’t back up their claims are not trustworthy. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 14 Sep 2012 @ 8:16 PM

  225. > suspicious negative forcing component

    How would you identify something like that?
    This is a few years old (2010); since then?
    “… earthshine data shows increasing albedo from 1999 to 2003 but little to no trend from 2003. Satellites show little to no trend since 2000. The radiative forcing from albedo changes in recent years appears to be minimal.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Sep 2012 @ 8:18 PM

  226. Re Steve Fish – I think some of us may have gotten into this and some other recent topics sometime over a year ago. I’ll have to look back through earlier unforced variations (unless someone else remembers just where exactly those comments were – anyone?). Just off the top of my head, some improvement in efficiency just from going from ‘conventional’ to HEV comes from regenerative breaking, lack of idling, and maybe increased transmission efficiency (?). I vaguely recall 40 % efficiency being stated for *some* IC engines…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 14 Sep 2012 @ 11:04 PM

  227. 221 Steve F wondered about lifting costs.

    Yes, I decided to accept $6 because it was easy and didn’t matter, but slap me with it and I’ll go for the facts:

    “It is costing Saudi Arabia dear to burn through so much oil. With “lifting” costs of $3 to $5 a barrel the fuel is cheap”

    So $3/barrel is the lowest, according to The Economist. (I’m reading it as some wells in Saudi are $3, and some are $5) Thus, my perhaps decade old remembered reference was pretty durn accurate, eh? A bit of inflation, a bit of difference of opinion, a bit of aging in Saudi’s wells, and it’s a bulls-eye when the reference is $100/barrel. (and IIRC I qualified $2 with “perhaps” or about”. If not, I pseudo-apologise) Market fluctuations during transit is as/more important to Saudi and their customers as/than lifting cost. Quibbling about gnats, you are.

    And you’re trying to backdoor sunk costs! Those supertankers exist. Ditto wells, pipelines, refineries, even gas stations. This is NOT about oil/CH4 VS refinery/pipeline/tanker. It’s about sunk capital cost VS operating cost throughout the supply chain. Construction is based on profit. Retirement is based on operating cost. Never the twain shall meet. Let’s look at refineries:

    “The refinery complex will cost about $10 billion to build,….and process up to 400,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel each day.”

    At 30-60 cents/gallon gross, operating costs had better be way small for a $10 bil investment to pay off.

    And as fig 3 in the link way above shows, all fossil capital investment needed to supply the world with as much fuel as we can afford to burn has already been made. This ain’t Monopoly. You can’t sell that refinery back to the bank. Future capital investment in fossil fuels is not just a waste of money, but a recipe for planetary disaster as turning off a massively capital intensive operation is almost impossible.

    Seriously, look at fig 3 again. It is the KEY to my entire argument. Compare it to what the scientists here are telling us we NEED to do and tell me if you believe the drilling of a single additional well is smart. Yeah, we can whine, but Saudi got to their oil first (not literally true, but you get the drift), and they ain’t gonna stop pumping just because we want our turn. Maybe we can drill our wells and then bomb Saudi….

    Got any other teeth to pull? :-)

    By the way, though a barrel is 42 gallons, you get ~44.2 gallons of product. Values vary, but again, it’s quibbling.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 14 Sep 2012 @ 11:07 PM

  228. 224 Steve F said, “. Larsen should stop making claims and refusing to document them.”

    Hey, dude, I’ve documented every single thing I’ve been challenged on. Yeah, I make statements based on blatantly obvious common knowledge (or so I thought) and don’t cite them until somebody demands I explain the obvious. Since you’re now challenging my divide by three rule of thumb, I’ll, as always, document:

    “ratings are based on EPA’s formula, in which 33.7 kilowatt hours of electricity is equivalent to one gallon of gasoline,”

    “Gasoline (base)[2] 1.0000 100.00% 114,000 33.41” <–33.41 KWH

    So, 33.41 or 33.7, eh, rounding error. So MPGe is based on 100% efficiency for power plants and transmission.

    "To express the efficiency of a generator or power plant as a percentage, divide the equivalent Btu content of a kWh of electricity (which is 3,412 Btu) by the heat rate. For example, if the heat rate is 10,140 Btu, the efficiency is 34%; if the heat rate is 7,500 Btu, the efficiency is 45%."

    Click on the historical link and you'll find that in 2010 efficiency was from 8,185 for CH4 to 10,415 for coal and 10,984 for oil. So, perhaps 36%.

    "Transmitting electricity at high voltage reduces the fraction of energy lost to resistance, which averages around 7%."

    0.36 * 0.93 = 33.5%. QED :-)

    Now it's your turn, Steve. Document a SINGLE instance where I refused to provide a cite OR my cite OR ANYBODY ELSE'S CITE invalidated ANY point I have made during this discussion. Seriously, this is a recurring theme. I make an obvious statement, some folks think it's outrageous, and I wander off to the web to provide a random cite. After 20 or 30 times I'd expect folks to actually take 30 seconds to check before spouting, but nope, they always stick their foot in their mouth….

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 15 Sep 2012 @ 12:07 AM

  229. 204 wili said, “Of course, this leads to the old question–who will bell the cat? ”

    EXACTLY! We want us to make $48/barrel while refusing Saudi’s $97/barrel. As if, eh?

    You boiled down my argument to perfection!

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 15 Sep 2012 @ 1:16 AM

  230. Completely off topic and personal question to Ray Ladbury:
    Did You, once upon a time, use to post in the forum of the project, or do I confuse You with
    someone else here.


    Comment by Marcus — 15 Sep 2012 @ 2:45 AM

  231. So, 33.41 or 33.7, eh, rounding error. So MPGe is based on 100% efficiency for power plants and transmission.

    And your comparison assumes 100% efficiency for the movement of gasoline from the ground, through the refinery, and to the local pump used to fill the car.

    You’re oversimplifying in order to get the result you want.

    Comment by dhogaza — 15 Sep 2012 @ 8:06 AM

  232. My guess is that the EPA has thought of such things, and lo and behold, it appears they do.

    They make available a CO2 emissions calculator here:

    In my region (heavy on hydro) total end-to-end CO2 emissions are estimated at 150g/mile for a Nissan Leaf, compared to 500g/mile for the average gasoline car.

    Comment by dhogaza — 15 Sep 2012 @ 8:12 AM

  233. Re the carbon intensity of US electricity.
    The US EPA MPGe works out at 89gC/kWh. On what they base this, I know not. I have come across a figure for primary energy carbon intensity for the US electric grid at 18gC/MJ = 65 gC/kWh. The UK electric grid carbon intensity for power deliverd is about 130g/kWh. The US figure (which I have seen but cannot remember) is higher but not by much. Perhaps 150 gC/kWh would be about right.
    It does imply that to compare petrol & electric cars, MPGe should be multiplied by a figure a little less than 2.

    Comment by MARodger — 15 Sep 2012 @ 10:19 AM

  234. dhogaza,

    Excellent point about MPG (which Steve F also alluded to). I should have taken the time to do a similar bit with MPG as I did with MPGe. This site says it’s about 19% losses. (though I just glanced, and the site doesn’t feel robust) So, a second rule of thumb is you have to multiply MPG by 4/5ths to get to reality. So, the Prius T3, which gets 60.3MPG really gets about 48MPG, and the regular Prius’s 50MPG becomes 40MPG. Compare to the Leaf’s 33MPGe, and either Prius still wins.

    Nifty calculator. Thanks! But there’s a couple inaccuracies. The odds that a Leaf purchaser would buy a SUV instead are about 0%, so “average car” isn’t the proper comparison. I’ll go out on an unsubstantiated limb and say 99.9% of Leaf purchasers would have bought the Pruis or something with similar efficiency instead. Plus, energy spent in manufacture is different. All those batteries take KWH to build. Also, the actual CO2 contribution of an electrical load is determined by what was added to the grid to provide that power. N-word and renewables are generally the first to go on line, as they have low/no fuel costs. So the last-KWH-produced is probably going to be fossil. I’ll stop quibbling now and just go with your calculator:

    The calculator didn’t have the regular Prius, but it has the plug-in version and assumed 28% electrical propulsion. Using US average, the Leaf spews 230 grams/mile and the Prius spews 210. So, your cite says the Leaf makes global warming worse. Thanks for confirming my claim.

    Now, in France the Leaf is golden!

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 15 Sep 2012 @ 10:36 AM

  235. Hi Marcus,
    No. I’ve never posted at Looks interesting, though.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Sep 2012 @ 11:25 AM

  236. Seems we’ve found a replacement for the “argument that will never be agreed.”

    Decay, so to speak.

    Comment by dbostrom — 15 Sep 2012 @ 1:03 PM

  237. I’ll go out on an unsubstantiated limb and say 99.9% of Leaf purchasers would have bought the Pruis or something with similar efficiency instead.

    Nice goalpost move from “electric vs. gasoline powered car” to “electric vs. gasoline hybrid car” … also I didn’t see the bit on the calculator page that states that their “average car” is an SUV.

    Jim’s earlier statement:

    current electric cars produce more CO2 than fossil fuel cars, and that will remain the case for as long as current cars are still on the road, so every electric vehicle sold today makes global warming worse

    EPA calcuator suggests 500g/mile for your average fossil fuel car, 230g/mile for the Leaf.

    Post-goalpost move:

    The calculator didn’t have the regular Prius, but it has the plug-in version and assumed 28% electrical propulsion. Using US average, the Leaf spews 230 grams/mile and the Prius spews 210. So, your cite says the Leaf makes global warming worse.

    Worse than the Prius PHEV, not the average gasoline car.

    Your first claim was that electric cars like the leaf emit THREE TIMES AS MUCH carbon as existing gasoline cars. Even if we allow your goalpost move (I’m not, perhaps the more generously-minded among the readers will) 230g/mi is not 3x the 210g/mi stated for the Prius PHEV (which is also partially an electric vehicle, so by your rationale ought to be worse than the standard Prius).

    You’re just playing games.

    Comment by dhogaza — 15 Sep 2012 @ 1:07 PM

  238. And, Jim, no one here is going to argue against the need to continue to support renewables such as wind and solar power, reduction of coal-fired power plants, etc. This is needed regardless of the number of EVs on the road. Each coal-fired watt that’s replaced by a renewable makes the EV look better …

    Comment by dhogaza — 15 Sep 2012 @ 1:09 PM

  239. Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 14 Sep 2012 @ 11:07 PM and subsequent:

    First, my name is Steve Fish. Steve F is another guy who posts here sometimes and this kind of confusion has been annoying for some people on this forum in the past (e.g. Septic Mathew). You’re Jim Larsen. I’m Steve Fish. So that’s what you call me. That, or His Fishness, Stevo, or El Steverino if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

    Second, you now admit that your multiple recent posts were wrong and you didn’t provide accurate and appropriate documentation. Dhogazqa has pretty much nailed down your claims regarding electric vehicles and in my area the Leaf emits only 24% as much CO2 as the average new vehicle and is better than the Prius (in CA the Leaf is golden). Even in Missouri, the state most dependent on coal for electricity per person ( ) the electrics are much better.

    Also, lifting cost as per US Legal Definitions that I linked above “consists of those deductible costs incurred in the production of oil and gas after completion of drilling and before its removal from the property for sale or transportation.” The expense of just pumping crude is a small component of the actual cost of a barrel of oil.

    As this is an educational site, it is only polite to provide accurate information and relevant sources so others can learn and follow a discussion. This is also how scientists communicate accurately.

    I agree with Dhogaza’s disclaimer at ~238. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 15 Sep 2012 @ 2:05 PM

  240. Digging into the calculator’s details page, “On average, 8,887 grams of CO2 are emitted from burning one gallon of gasoline”

    8,887/40 = 222 grams/mile for the regular Prius. Close race, but it still beats the Leaf’s 230, so I can still do the happy dance. But the Leaf will drop its emissions a bit over its lifetime, so perhaps it’s a statistical tie. Add in the last-KWH and manufacturing stuff, and I’m convinced my original claim was correct, but I’ll modify it slightly to “Assuming the alternative is a 50MPG car, mid-size electric cars sold in the USA today will not help with AGW”

    Interestingly, the details page contradicts the calculator. It says plug-in hybrids are assumed to be 64% electric while the calculator says the Prius was rated using 28.8%.

    I wasn’t convinced Wiki was right about the Prius T3, and yep, other sources say it’s bunk.

    And on the horizon is VW’s 282MPG XL1.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 15 Sep 2012 @ 2:30 PM

  241. @Jim Larsen:

    Actually, coal plants are among the first you turn on, because you don’t want to toggle them on/off. Toggling wind and hydro plant is almost free. Hydro makes a good battery even: restrict streamflow at night and the water piles up ready to gush through during peak times.

    If you’re building new plants, you’re going to build whatever is cheapest, including political considerations. Right now in much of the West that’s coal, gas, and wind. In places with carbon taxes, coal gets a lot more expensive. In Quebec, hydro is king because there are major rivers with politically powerless people living on their banks.

    Comment by numerobis — 15 Sep 2012 @ 3:16 PM

  242. Oops:

    “…. large changes in the precipitation extremes: about 100% increase for the annual top 10% heavy precipitation and about 20% decrease for the light and moderate precipitation for one degree warming in the global temperature. These changes can substantially increase the risk of floods as well as droughts, thus severely affecting the global ecosystems.”

    How much do precipitation extremes change in a warming climate?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Sep 2012 @ 3:42 PM

  243. “The best thing you can do with science today is use it to explore the present. Earth is the alien planet now.”
    —William Gibson in an interview on CNN, August 26, 1997.
    (from Wikipedia)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Sep 2012 @ 3:48 PM

  244. Hank Roberts #242,

    Equally important is their perceived reason for the climate models not predicting this increase in extremes accurately:

    “In comparison, coupled climate models are capable of simulating the shape of the change in precipitation intensity, but underestimate the magnitude of the change by about one order of magnitude. The most likely reason of the underestimation is that the typical spatial resolution of climate models is too coarse to resolve atmospheric convection.”

    This leads to the question: what else are the models underestimating by an order of magnitude, or more? And, given the ‘climate commitment’, or the temperature time lags of the CO2 forcing, the temperatures that are eliminating the polar ice cap and causing these massive increases in the extremes are from the CO2 we placed in the atmosphere ending decades ago. I would like to see an accurate estimation of the effects resulting from the CO2 we have placed in the atmosphere to date.

    Comment by Superman1 — 15 Sep 2012 @ 5:50 PM

  245. Jim Larsen:

    8,887/40 = 222 grams/mile for the regular Prius. Close race, but it still beats the Leaf’s 230

    I see we’re back to ignoring the CO2 emissions involved with drilling, transporting crude, refining, and transporting gasoline to the local pump. Tch tch, Jim.

    I’ll modify it slightly to “Assuming the alternative is a 50MPG car, mid-size electric cars sold in the USA today will not help with AGW

    That’s a substantial walk-back from your original position … it is equivalent to saying that electric cars are substantially better than the average gasoline car in the city, the opposite of your original claim.

    And, as I pointed out long ago, in my region it’s 150gr/mi, while emissions for the hybrid will remain the same. That’s a 1/3 advantage for the electric car in my region.

    You are only able to turn “better” into “not better” by moving the goalpost from gasoline cars to hybrids. The hybrid vs. electric argument’s not particularly controversial, which is one reason why hybrids are popular and is why the EPA calculator site is there – it’s to help you decide which is more CO2-friendly in your region given the sources of electricity available to you. They don’t bother with traditional gasoline vehicles because they suck in terms of CO2 emissions vs. both hybrids and ev.

    People might pay more attention to you if you were to say something like “OK, I was wrong to claim that pure gasoline cars emit less CO2 than gasoline cars when considering the entire energy delivery system, but hybrids are just about as good as electrics”. Instead, you’ve moved the goalposts a couple of times and declared victory.

    EVs also have the substantial benefit of not contributing to local smog and the ensuing health problems that come with smog.

    Comment by dhogaza — 15 Sep 2012 @ 5:58 PM

  246. And on the horizon is VW’s 282MPG XL1.

    Thought to come in at more like 150 mpg using US mileage calculations.

    How does it do it? By being a PHEV with a 21 mile EV range. So all of your arguments about EVs will weigh equally against the VW XL1 to the extent that the latter’s driven as an EV.

    Comment by dhogaza — 15 Sep 2012 @ 6:02 PM

  247. Jim Larsen et al,

    The debate on electric vs gas vehicles, and among the different electric vehicles, is interesting, but it suggests the following. A three-pack a day smoker goes for his annual physical checkup. The Dr. tells him he has Stage 4 lung cancer. The smoker goes home, and argues with his wife whether he should cut back to two packs a day or 2 1/2 packs.

    That’s where we are today. As I have posted previously, if we were to eliminate fossil fuel combustion tomorrow, we will have generated a temperature increase over pre-industrial of from 2.5 to 3.0 C. Of this total, we have a temperature increase today of 0.8 C, we have a ‘climate commitment’ of about 0.7 C due to the temperature lag from the CO2 forcing, and we will have a temperature increase of about 1.0-1.5 C from the disappearance of the fossil sulphates that have been masking the true CO2 temperature increase with their increased albedo. A total temperature increase of this magnitude, which does not include the major positive feedbacks we are seeing already, will probably not stabilize at 2.5-3.0 C, and will exhibit some type of runaway. This is Stage 4 cancer applied to climate!

    So, our chain smoker above, if he wants to survive, needs not only to give up smoking completely, but needs to explore the Hail Mary pass of radical therapy, perhaps something like Gerson Therapy to eradicate the damage from the cancer. And, if we want to survive the climate catastrophe, that’s our choice. It is pointless to debate the benefits/disadvantages of the auto equivalent of Marlboros vs Camels. How do we eliminate fossil fuels completely ASAP, and how do we increase the albedo/remove CO2 from the atmosphere ASAP? We’re almost out of time.

    P.S. A NYT article ( described a comparison of electric and gas vehicles, where the conclusion was:

    “In a worst-case situation, with electric power generated from a high proportion of coal — as it is in a wide swath of the country’s midsection — an electric car or a plug-in hybrid will generate slightly more full-cycle global-warming emissions, as the report calls the greenhouse gases, than the best gasoline-engine subcompact. In areas where the cleanest electricity is available — regions served by hydroelectric, natural gas or nuclear generating plants — greenhouse gas emissions may be less than half that of today’s best gasoline-engine vehicles.” Intuitively, that’s what one would expect.

    Comment by Superman1 — 15 Sep 2012 @ 6:18 PM

  248. Those interested in theoretical climatology may wish to read

    Dmitry Dolgopyat
    Repulsion from Resonances
    Memoires de la Societe Mathematique de France 128
    (Available from the American Mathematics Society in Canadan, Mexico & US)

    From the blurb:
    The author considers slow-fast systems with periodic fast motion and integrable slow motion in the presence of both weak and strong resonances. … The Markov process consists of the motion along the trajectories of a vector field with occasional jumps. …

    Comment by David B. Benson — 15 Sep 2012 @ 6:22 PM

  249. From ,

    the effective efficiency of the car (a ‘conventional car’, it appears) is 9 %. This counts the energy used to overcome aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance as well as accessories.

    The efficiencies of the engine itself and the driveline itself are about 37.6 % and 69.2 %, respectively, with a product of 26.0 %. This would be the efficiency without idling or braking, but assumes no use of accessories.

    Keeping the energy usage for accessories in constant proportion to that used for aerodynamic drag + rolling resistance (the ratio is 2.2/6.8 ~= 0.3235):

    (PS I don’t know how realistic these numbers are. I increased engine efficiency by 20 %, which seems quite reasonable considering the statement that some engines (diesels) are 30 to 35 % more efficient)

    reducing breaking losses (relative to energy delivered by the driveline) by 90 % (regenerative breaking round-trip efficiency), and raising driveline efficiency to the same value (the idea being that this is round trip efficiency of mechanical->electrical->mechanical energy in each case),

    reducing idling losses (relative to what is delivered to the driveline) by 90 %,

    and using engine efficiency of ~ 45.12 %,

    The overall efficiency is now 37.0 %, 4.11 times better, requiring only 24.3 % of the original energy input. (With no engine improvement, it’s 30.8 % efficiency, 3.43 times better, 29.2 % of original energy input.)

    But if there were no idling or braking in the first place:
    Using the original engine and driveline: 28.1 % efficiency
    Improvements: 41.6 % efficiency, 1.48 times better, requiring 67.6 % of the original energy input. (With no engine improvement, it’s 34.7 % efficiency, 1.23 times better, 81.1 % of original energy input.)

    There is a link in that first link to what is identified as the source – I haven’t checked those numbers.


    Comment by Patrick 027 — 15 Sep 2012 @ 7:15 PM

  250. … The ‘not being sure if numbers were realistic’ applies to all the improvements I tried out. So it’s a sample calculation, which may turn out to be useful.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 15 Sep 2012 @ 7:18 PM

  251. …”I increased engine efficiency by 20 %, which seems quite reasonable considering the statement that some engines (diesels) are 30 to 35 % more efficient)“… I multiplied the given efficiency by 1.2 (I didn’t add 20 % to 37.6 %); I assume the statement about diesels was meant in the same way.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 15 Sep 2012 @ 7:22 PM

  252. … of course, presumably at higher speed, at least some accessories (AC/vent, radio) would be a smaller fraction of the energy put into motion. Not sure about power steering.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 15 Sep 2012 @ 7:30 PM

  253. Patrick 027:

    (PS I don’t know how realistic these numbers are. I increased engine efficiency by 20 %, which seems quite reasonable considering the statement that some engines (diesels) are 30 to 35 % more efficient)

    Hybrid drivetrains such as that used by Toyota increase efficiency in a couple of different ways that might not be obvious:

    1. Allows the use of atkinson cycle engines, which are more efficient but offer low torque (the electric motor makes up for the latter).

    2. Intelligent management of the electric engine allows the management system to much more frequently keep the engine’s RPMs in the engine’s most efficient range, for instance when climbing a moderate hill at highway speed.

    3. Diesels such as the TDI are more efficient in terms of mpgs than an equivalent gasoline engine. But remember that this is partially because diesel fuel is denser (contains more hydrocarbons per unit) than gasoline, and that burning a gallon of diesel therefore releases more carbon than burning a gallon of gasoline (on the order of 20%).

    But if there were no idling or braking in the first place

    Turning off the engine is one reason why hybrids do so well in city driving. The hybrid can start moving with the electric engine while the engine’s being restarted therefore keeping the car reasonably response when lights turn to green, etc.

    Comment by dhogaza — 15 Sep 2012 @ 7:39 PM

  254. superman1

    . A three-pack a day smoker goes for his annual physical checkup. The Dr. tells him he has Stage 4 lung cancer. The smoker goes home, and argues with his wife whether he should cut back to two packs a day or 2 1/2 packs.

    That’s where we are today.

    Well, I guess we can all give up and die then, if only impossible-to-achieve solutions are on the table.

    Comment by dhogaza — 15 Sep 2012 @ 7:40 PM

  255. … replacing the improved driveline and regenerative breaking efficiencies with 64 %, but reducing improved idling losses to zero, and with no change in engine efficiency (kept at 37.6 %), the improved car is now 22.7 % efficient, 2.52 times the original (with braking and idling); for idealized highway driving, it is actually a bit less efficient than the original, because of a reduction in driveline efficiency from the original 69.2 %.

    These numbers make sense given the footnotes here , but I thought motor and generator efficiencies could be significantly better than that.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 15 Sep 2012 @ 7:43 PM

  256. Superman1 @244 — Having thoroughly studied Ray Pierrehumbert’s “Principles of Planetary Climate” I don’t think that is correct. Terra’s climate response is immediate. It is true that a simple linear system approximation contains a lag of sorts right at the beginning of a ramp in the input, but that sort of ramp was over by decades ago. It is true that once a ramp becomes constant again a linear system will contiue to climb in its reponse for awhile. So this simplified analysis suggests a perceived delay in response simply because the chnage of response is too small to be noticeable for some time.

    I hope this is clarifying and at least not producing more confusion than it eliminates.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 15 Sep 2012 @ 8:36 PM

  257. 237 dhogaza said, “Nice goalpost move from “electric vs. gasoline powered car” to “electric vs. gasoline hybrid car” … also I didn’t see the bit on the calculator page that states that their “average car” is an SUV.”

    No goalpost movement at all. I assume you just had your eyes closed and ran smack into it. I said the Leaf and Prius were the basis for my comparison way back at 195. I subsequently explained my reasoning – you won’t find many Leaf owners who wouldn’t have bought a Prius or Insight or perhaps a small diesel if no EVs were available. Please provide some logic or data which supports your implied claim that Leaf owners woulda bought any old average car, or agree that “average car” isn’t the appropriate metric. And you’re confusing the MPGe adjustment with CO2 emissions, also in 195. I never said EV CO2 was triple, just worse than the Prius:

    195 Me: “I used the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf as representative of state of the art for electrical VS gas vehicles. The Prius gets 50MPG and the Leaf gets 99/3= 33MPGe”

    Yep, I mentioned that SUVs are included in “average car” calculations even though a Leaf buyer surely wouldn’t consider a gas SUV, but your conclusion that that equates to the “average car is an SUV” makes zero sense.

    Three strikes, but keep swinging! :-)

    245 dhogaza said, 8,887/40 “I see we’re back to ignoring the CO2 emissions involved with…”

    40 is 20% lower than 50. Four!

    241 Numerobis said, “Toggling wind and hydro plant is almost free”.

    Excellent point. Hydro is a great battery on a daily basis, but not seasonally, and in the stereotypical example, a wet spring, hydro is hard to curtail. I keep making the mistake of segregating hydro from renewables when discussing energy. I guess my mind thinks of “old energy” VS “new energy”.

    With wind curtailment you lose production and you’ve still gotta pay the non-producer to make up for lost subsidies, or at least that’s the policy that seems to be evolving as a result of PNW spring surpluses. Not as free…

    “A typical coal plant can turn down to about 20 percent of its rated capacity, as compared to 40 percent for natural gas combined cycle units”

    So ff is easily adjusted, to a degree. The link talks about early morning, when changes in demand are quick. Curtail wind while you’re ramping up coal in preparation. Cycling a 500MW plant down to 36% only costs $13k (chart on p10), so toggling ff is also pretty cheap, as long as it’s done over hours, and not below minimum operating levels. One alternative to wind curtailment is to ramp up later and use peaker plants to handle the spike.

    Obviously, the last-KWH issue is way more complicated than a desire to use non-ff sources first. I learned something, including that I can’t answer the question. Thanks!

    Steve Fish, I apologize about misstating your name. I truncate last names, but you already told me about your Steve F issue.

    “you now admit that your multiple recent posts were wrong and you didn’t provide accurate and appropriate documentation.”

    Uh, no. I’ve documented everything (correct me if I left anything out), and nobody has provided a cite or valid logic which conflicts significantly with anything I have said other than my last-KWH goof.

    Your attempt to limit Leaf figures to your town is absurd. In my zip code the Leaf spews 300 grams, according to the handy calculator. We could argue about whose town is superior, but the average for the country (or the world) is the only sane metric. (Though that brings up the idea of only selling EVs in areas with low-carbon grids)

    The Prius may actually spew less than 222 grams because we blend in ethanol. I say “may” because the issue is fraught with disagreement.

    “A 2007 study by Argonne National Laboratory found that when these entire fuel life cycles are considered, using corn-based ethanol instead of gasoline reduces life cycle GHG emissions by 19% to 52%, depending on the source of energy used during ethanol production (see graph). Using cellulosic ethanol provides an even greater benefit—reducing GHG emissions by up to 86%”

    “That means cellulosic ethanol could be produced for as little as $2 a gallon” so that 86% figure might come into play quite soon – though like all predictions, tis probably optimistic, but obviously, liquid fueled cars aren’t just fossil, and that will increase when cellulosic ethanol takes off.

    Your point that the figures don’t include drilling energy would be well-taken IF you documented how much energy is involved and IF you included power plant and transmission line construction energy, along with drilling energy for fossil fuels burned in power plants – along with all that concrete in dams and steel in turbines. Our unstated assumption that renewables are carbon-free is obviously wrong.

    Stuff gets left out initially, and we drill down. I think that’s appropriate. Like, I noted that MPGe needs division by 3. Since we’ve discussed this previously, I felt documentation would be a waste of bandwidth – but folks must have missed it, so I provided documentation.

    You talked of adjustments required for MPG (a grand addition to the discussion), but strangely, you neglected to document or even quantify, so I did it for you.

    I’m still waiting for you to document your claim that I refuse to document, and now I’m waiting for you to document where I admitted that my posts were wrong (except Numerobis’ catch) and that I don’t document. Please don’t fall back on: My comment…your Say What?…my clarification and documentation.. as error or lack of documentation on my part. I already spew too many words here, so I document what I think is appropriate, curtail my words, and expand if needed afterwards. You can be assured I will modify my decisions as to what to document or explain in detail because of this conversation. It makes little sense to conserve bandwidth if it results in long and unhappy discussions.

    Maybe I shouldn’t push, but since your ongoing lack of documentation also involves a personal insult, please provide the documentation you’ve been asked for or apologize. (Or make the ironic choice of refusing to document)

    One can fish the web for desired numbers or go the “technically incorrect” route, but that’s petty, so, find errors that invalidate my logic, along with an instance where I refused to document, please.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 16 Sep 2012 @ 1:42 AM

  258. 245 dhogaza said, “I’ll modify it slightly to “Assuming the alternative is a 50MPG car, mid-size electric cars sold in the USA today will not help with AGW

    That’s a substantial walk-back from your original position”

    I was being accommodating, and didn’t really change anything. “will not help” only leaves the essentially impossible case of exactly equal as a difference from my original statement, as clarified in 195, that the Leaf emits more than the Prius. The Carbon Calculator says I’m right – 230 VS 222. Sure we could (and did) quibble about construction costs or whatever, but unless you can document that, ya gotta go with the data we have. So, cite or accept.

    Mangling a quote by leaving off “I’m convinced my original claim was correct, but” to change a friendly accommodation into a retraction is wrong. Why did you do that?

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 16 Sep 2012 @ 2:35 AM

  259. David Benson #256,

    “Terra’s climate response is immediate.”

    Not true. From a recent paper on the ‘Climate Trap’: “after the emission shutdown, the warming persists for a long time owing to the
    slow decays of the atmospheric burden of long-lived GHGs (e.g. CO2 and SF6)….and heat storage in the deep ocean”. This effect of thermal inertia is well-known and not in dispute. The only disagreement I have seen is whether the temperature increase will be 0.6 C or 0.7 C.

    Comment by Superman1 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 5:53 AM

  260. dhogoza #254,

    “Well, I guess we can all give up and die then, if only impossible-to-achieve solutions are on the table.”

    Well, what do people faced with Stage 4 cancer do? Most follow conventional solutions that result in early demise. A very few will take a radical approach, like Gerson Therapy, to try and reverse the damage.

    For climate change, we seem to have received the diagnosis of Stage 4, but our response is to conduct business as usual. We are not even taking the climate analogies to chemotherapy or radiation. I believe the reason is that we are not willing to face the ‘side-effects’ of the rigorous therapy that would give us the slightest possibilty of ameliorating climate change. We have essentially ‘given up’, as you say, but we conceal this by using much more flowery language about our response.

    Comment by Superman1 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 6:02 AM

  261. To correct my numbers @233, I forget (I’m good at that) US gallons are so small. Thus if in the US electric grid emissions of 18gC/MJ Primary Energy = 65 gC/KWh, the EPA’s 33.7kWh emissions = 1 petrol gallon(US) emissions = 74 gC/KWh. This is now within the error encompassed by such calculations.

    But suddenly this argument about electric cars in the US appears badly off-track.

    What I now find hard to cope with is the implied assertion in this thread that the EPA has created a massively flawed system for comparing petrol & electric cars. (I get very exercised when the European version which uses gCO2/km, exercised to the point of suggesting summary execution for those responsible. The EPA system being implied here is ten times worse!)

    This graphic of a Monroney label is saying the EPA are promoting the petrol/electric comparison using the Primary Energy, that the Nissan Leaf achieves 99 mpg(US)e or 34 kWh(e) = the Primary Energy use by the power station which emits roughly 65 or 74 gC/kWh.
    Conversely, in this thread, folk are saying the 34 kWh(e) is measured where the car is plugged in, where generation & transmission losses increase emissions to roughly 160gC/kWh. This would mean the EPA’s Monroney label is presenting incredibly deceptive information.

    Which is right?
    In a form that even I can understand, you would expect a bog-standard small European electric car to achieve 25% better than a small Diesel one, thus about 75 gCO2/km. A small electric car would thus be emitting an equivilant of 68mpg(UK) = 56 mpg(US). But the EPA mpg tests are known to give higher mpg that European ones. From WikipediaEU fuel consumption numbers tend to be considerably lower than corresponding US EPA test results for the same vehicle. For example, the 2011 Honda CR-Z with a six-speed manual transmission is rated 6.1/4.4 l/100 km in Europe and 7.6/6.4 l/100 km in the United States.” If these double-numbers are combined 55:45 (as per the EPA test, no idea about the European one), this would give the EPA mpg = (7.6*55+6.4*45)/(6.1*55+4.4*45) = 1.32 Euro mpg (US gallon adjusted). Thus a small electric car would achieve 75 mpg(US)e using EPA tests.
    For a bog-standard electric car to do this, it is not infeasible for a Nissan Leaf to be achieving 99 mpg(US)e, directly equatable to petrol mpg(US). Conversely, 75 mpg(US)e is far too high for it to be as described in this thread.

    A parting thought. The carbon footprint of getting the petrol into a car’s tank is probably similar to the carbon footprint of getting the coal etc to the powerstation.

    Comment by MARodger — 16 Sep 2012 @ 8:34 AM

  262. All this chatter about the efficiency [or not] of EVs is really very pointless, the US “vehicle fleet” continues to increase in size and age without any sign of slowing – current vehicle tech of any flavor will do nothing to stop, or even slow, the climatic steamroller as long as mobility via “personal transport” is the backbone of society and the global economy.

    Comment by flxible — 16 Sep 2012 @ 9:20 AM

  263. MARodger #261,

    “This would mean the EPA’s Monroney label is presenting incredibly deceptive information.”

    I have not studied this issue in detail, so I cannot comment on your specifics. But, in terms of the EPA being deceptive, I would offer the following. I spent decades in the Federal government, and over a decade in the private sector. The government employees seemed to have three major objectives, all related to money and security. First, do whatever it takes to grow the agency budget, because that’s typically how rewards are generated. Second, do whatever is necessary to insure you will have a job until retirement; that’s the main reason that whistle-blowing by Federal employees is essentially non-existant. Third, do whatever is necessary to prepare the way for a cushy job in academia or industry when you retire; that means not offending the political and especially the commercial interests in any way. If there is the choice between issuing the truth and adversely impacting any of these three requirements, the truth will go by the wayside.

    The FCC and NIH have blatantly lied about the health impacts of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, including lying about the necessary limits for no damage. The FDA has consistently lied about the safety of drugs; see David Graham’s testimony before Congress in the mid-2000s time period. Why would you expect the EPA to be the oasis in this desert of truth?

    I have learned not to believe anything the government issues until I have checked it from the premier literature myself. And, based on who funds the premier literature research, and what are the motivations of the funders, I tend to check the premier literature from multiple directions as well. The one constant here is lying by the government, in order to mollify their industry supporters.

    The biggest lies are now coming in the area of climate change. I believe it is no accident that all the models have tended to underpredict the severity of what is occurring, that there is a paucity of data on critical events such as methane releases in the Arctic, and that we are being told the situation can still be turned around if we pull in our belts slightly.

    Comment by Superman1 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 9:34 AM

  264. Superman, don’t you mean overpredict? Most seem to think that we are already too far gone to do much about it. Other than that, I tend to agree with your gobernment assessment.

    Comment by Dan H. — 16 Sep 2012 @ 10:19 AM

  265. Superman 1: “For climate change, we seem to have received the diagnosis of Stage 4, but our response is to conduct business as usual.”

    Oh, horsecrap. I get so fricking tired of fricking amateurs pronouncing the fricking patient dead over the protests of the fricking patient.

    Yes, the problem is tough. I would note that we could have presumed that from the fact that we haven’t found a solution. How’s about you tell us something we don’t know.

    Here’s the deal. If we’d started back in the 80s developing a new energy infrastructure in earnest, we’d be a whole lot closer to having one than we are now. So what is needed is to do whatever we can to buy time, so the smart people can come up with a solution to bail humanity out of the situation it’s greed and stupidity have brought it to–just like every other time in history.

    So, either push in the right direction or kindly stand out of the way. There are no innocent observers. You either make things better or you make things worse. Choose.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Sep 2012 @ 12:49 PM

  266. Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 16 Sep 2012 @ 1:42 AM:

    In your comment #163 you say- “current electric cars produce more CO2 than fossil fuel cars”- and you have been asked to document the accuracy of this statement. You have not. In contrast, the emissions calculator says that a Leaf (or a Prius) would produce less CO2 than the average new car, even in a state where coal is the biggest percentage of electrical generation.

    Your frequent very long, rambling, and disorganized posts in which you refuse to admit error, your moving of goalposts, and your minimal and inappropriate documentation, are all disrupting and I refuse to feed this behavior any further. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 16 Sep 2012 @ 12:49 PM

  267. Re- Comment by Superman1 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 9:34 AM:

    So, you are saying that everybody in government regulatory agencies, NIH scientists, and climate scientists are corrupted, and academic jobs are cushy. Man, I think you forgot to put on your tinfoil hat and those rays are getting to you. This is boring. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 16 Sep 2012 @ 12:56 PM

  268. re 259 Superman1 – what was meant be immediate was that the climate’s disequilibrium tends to decay ~ exponentially to whatever new equilibrium would be sustained by whatever forcing (this is an approximation using only Charney-type feedbacks and a fixed heat capacity; the heat capacity for longer-term variations will be higher because more of the deep ocean gets involved (also the penetration of temperature change goes deeper into the land surface, though that isn’t a big contribution), and longer term changes can have larger ice sheet feedbacks and biogeochemical feedbacks). That much anthropogenic forcing remains after we stop emitting doesn’t alter that.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 1:51 PM

  269. Steve Fish #266,

    “So, you are saying that everybody in government regulatory agencies, NIH scientists, and climate scientists are corrupted, and academic jobs are cushy.”

    Jim Larsen is spot on in his assessment of your comments; pure spin. Here’s what I actually said:

    “The FCC and NIH have blatantly lied about the health impacts of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, including lying about the necessary limits for no damage. The FDA has consistently lied about the safety of drugs; see David Graham’s testimony before Congress in the mid-2000s time period. Why would you expect the EPA to be the oasis in this desert of truth?”

    In terms of academic jobs, everyone I knew who retired from government and went to academia did quite well in drawing from two pots of money, and their prior government contacts helped insure the second pot was quite full.

    But, if you want to believe everything your government tells you. go right ahead. When they tell you that Iran has WMD and we need to go to war, I’m sure you’ll be the first to enlist.

    Comment by Superman1 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 2:54 PM


    “… the 2012 version shows that planting zones have been shifting northward as winters become more mild. But a researcher contends that this long-awaited map is already outdated.

    Nir Krakauer, an assistant professor of civil engineering at the Grove School of Engineering at City College of New York, has overhauled the U.S.D.A.’s hardiness map to better account for recent temperature changes. Unlike the U.S.D.A., which came up with its planting zones by using average annual minimum temperatures from 1975 to 2005, Dr. Krakauer looked at long-term temperature trends, including recent data that shows that winter temperatures are increasing more rapidly than summer temperatures. His results were published this week in Advances in Meteorology.”

    And, alas:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Sep 2012 @ 3:02 PM

  271. Ray Ladbury #264,

    “Yes, the problem is tough. I would note that we could have presumed that from the fact that we haven’t found a solution. How’s about you tell us something we don’t know.”

    There’s very little I see on any of these blogs that is absolutely new. But, when a thread like the present one is dominated by a discussion of different vehicles all of which rely on a fossil source and all of which involve a heat cycle between the source and the work output, then my view is that is not addressing the serious problem we face. What many people either do not realize or are not willing to admit consciously is that even if we terminate fossil fuel combustion tomorrow, we go under. If they did, they would not propose any solution that involves the use of fossil fuels.

    “Here’s the deal. If we’d started back in the 80s developing a new energy infrastructure in earnest, we’d be a whole lot closer to having one than we are now. So what is needed is to do whatever we can to buy time, so the smart people can come up with a solution to bail humanity out of the situation it’s greed and stupidity have brought it to–just like every other time in history.”

    Well, there were a number of us (myself included) who recognized myriad problems with depending on a fossil fuel-driven energy economy, and proposed solutions back in the 70s. Most credible ones were nuclear-based, and there were a variety of options. Except for some unique geographical anomalies, like being near a geothermal site, the so-called renewables were not viewed as a good impedance match to the high intensity energy requirements of modern life and commerce. Unfortunately, there were enough people opposed to nuclear that its development and implementation lay dormant in the USA for three decades. Like our cancer example, had we done something then when the first symptoms were beginning to appear, our chances of avoiding Stage 4 would have been much higher.

    “So, either push in the right direction or kindly stand out of the way. There are no innocent observers. You either make things better or you make things worse. Choose.”

    Well, the first step in solving the problem is identifying the problem correctly. I don’t believe most posters, any government officials or politicians, and most climate scientists have identified the seriousness of the problem. That is not the same as saying they don’t recognize the seriousness. I believe they do, but for their own reasons, they are not willing to state it to the public. I would bet that Sen. Inhofe recognizes the problem, but to state the truth in an oil state like Oklahoma would be political suicide. I believe contributing to the full identification of the problem is being part of the solution.

    Now, as for a specific technical solution, I have little credible to offer. If my scenario is the correct one, that we have already committed to an unsustainable climate and the feedbacks will only make it far worse, then at a minimum we need to terminate all fossil fuel combustion yesterday. But, that will not be adequate. We need to reduce the heat input to the total climate system. That could involve removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, injecting substances to increase the albedo, establishing shields in Space to protect part of the Earth from the Sun, or some combination of the above.

    What do I believe the chances of the above succeeding are? All these technical possibilities are true Hail Mary passes, and would require a true Hail Mary moment to succeed. Additionally, there is zero chance that fossil fuel use could be terminated in the near future; my prognosis is increased use of fossil fuel, based on everything I read and see.

    So, if you believe telling the truth is standing in the way, then proceed with your fantasies about solving the problem. But, recognize that they are fantasies.

    Comment by Superman1 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 3:25 PM

  272. Re 253 dhogaza – thanks

    Re 261 MARodger – I think EROEI for gasoline (prior to combustion losses) is ~ 5, but I’ll have to get back to you with a source. From here: , coal is way up at 80, however, some of those numbers look way way way way way way off (solar power in particular is much better than stated – maybe once upon a time it was so pathetic, but not now).

    Re Jim Larsen – one thing I’ve wondered is how flexible the refining process is – in the sense of: what is the minimum fraction of energy that can be processed into fuel (or just gasoline in particular), with all other products going toward chemical feedstocks, lubricants, etc? (I realize there’s variation depending on oil source, but I’m wondering how fixed the ratios of products are for any given type of crude.)

    reCAPTCHA is telling me that matseeds are Great!

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 3:35 PM

  273. Superman 1: “I have little credible to offer.”

    All that verbiage, and the above phrase is the only honest, sincere and useful thing you had to say.

    As I said, you make things better, or you make things worse.

    Here’s a hint: Trumpeting your moral superiority isn’t making things better.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Sep 2012 @ 4:01 PM

  274. 261 MARodger said, “A parting thought. The carbon footprint of getting the petrol into a car’s tank is probably similar to the carbon footprint of getting the coal etc to the powerstation.”

    dhogaza’s EPA’s carbon calculator’s details page says it’s 6% for electrical and 20% for gasoline. They calculate electrical transmission losses separately (but don’t disclose them, referencing eGRID2010 Version 1.1, whatever that is) I think that’s about 7%. So, 13% VS 20%. I don’t know if they include CH4 leaks or construction energy, though they do include drilling and refining.

    I think the EPA chose their MPGe technique because they’re trying to promote EVs. All gasoline and 100% efficient makes for easy figuring, but 100% efficiency is ridiculous and only 1% of electricity is oil-based. MPGe requires apples to oranges comparisons, so any number they/we come up with will be wrong, but divide by 2 or 3 and you’ll get a reasonable estimate with which to compare to MPG. (see post 228 for an analysis that comes up with 3. I’ve done others that say 2. Currently, I think divide by 2 is superior.)

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 16 Sep 2012 @ 4:27 PM

  275. Can anyone point to a good commentary or analysis of :

    In particular, is its use of methane global warming potentials kosher? It looks a bit dodgy to me, to calculate GWP from local temperature anomalies.

    Comment by Alastair McKinstry — 16 Sep 2012 @ 4:34 PM

  276. I think the EPA chose their MPGe technique because they’re trying to promote EVs.

    No, it’s because they’re measuring vehicle, not system efficiency. Nothing wrong or misleading or dishonest about that.

    Comment by dhogaza — 16 Sep 2012 @ 4:47 PM

  277. 265 Steve F said, “In your comment #163 you say- “current electric cars produce more CO2 than fossil fuel cars”- and you have been asked to document the accuracy of this statement. You have not.”

    163 was hyperbole and I quickly clarified that in 195 (or call it a retraction and replacement if you think I’m lying about my intent and meaning, or even if you don’t understand the definition of hyperbole.) Either way, yet again, you’re wrong when you say “You have not”. I did and have repeatedly noted that explanation.

    So you DID take the “my comment…your Say What?…my clarification” technical-escape-hatch, and even now refuse to acknowledge the clarification. Since you surely saw and absorbed at least one instance, I can only conclude that your “You have not.” is not a mistake, but [self-edit]. (I didn’t see your objection to my naming conventions as much as you didn’t see my clarification, so I took your cue as to how to react. Sound fair?)

    Want a technical escape hatch? The emissions from the DEVELOPMENT of EVs are astounding. Thus, today’s EVs probably produce more CO2 than the average car even before they’re constructed. (I believe the “Prius is worse than a Hummer” paper used that technique)

    Take a writing class and learn the uses of hyperbole.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 16 Sep 2012 @ 5:15 PM

  278. Alastair, I can’t speak to the particulars of this analysis, but I would be wary of things put out by the AMEG folks.

    I think they are right to be alarmed by our situation, but wrong to jump to geo-engineering schemes, which, as far as I can see, always lead to unintended (sometimes rather horrific) consequences.

    Most of the papers they put out start with some well-founded concerns and then extrapolate beyond what the data support, in my experience. Perhaps someone else with more time available today and more expertise in the field could pull apart the particular faults of this piece (assume there are some to be found)?

    Comment by wili — 16 Sep 2012 @ 5:35 PM

  279. About EROEI:
    (ps if you just read the url, note the article is dissecting and debunking the claim.
    … on the other hand, if you use gasoline to make ethanol (this is of course oversimplied but a more general point may still stand), you still end up with more energy than if you just use the gasoline instead of the ethanol that would have been***. But (rhetorical question) is the gain worth the effort (and other inputs)?)

    PS this was corn ethanol, not sugarcane, and I presume not the cellulosic kind. It’s not algae diesel either.

    ***- actually, though, you sorta/kinda/in a way don’t because you could have done something else with the corn, bla bla bla…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 6:06 PM

  280. Alastair McKinstry #274,

    I have seen his proposals on this topic before. He is building a hypothetical superstructure on a foundation of increased methane release observations. I will leave it to someone doing research in this specific area to comment on the specifics.

    The author had a handful of publications in the premier peer-reviewed literature in the 80s up to the mid-90s, and hasn’t had anything in the database I examined since then. His publications were all in petroleum geology journals, and I guess some of the present topic could be viewed as geology.

    But, there is an inconsistency here. He has been posting on the present topic on the Web for at least a decade. If his approach was credible, why wouldn’t he have submitted it to a real journal for publication. This is an important topic, and if it had any basis in fact, I would think a number of journals would be most interested. So, I’m very leery of its credibility.

    Comment by Superman1 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 6:17 PM

  281. Last month I posted some capacity factors for electricity generation in the U.S. This (see near the end) points out one way those calculations could be goofed up. Although I think I used a 10 year cummulative generation divided by 10 year sum of capacity, which would partly avoid the problem (and it was based on summer net generation capacity, which would be in summer, approx. in the middle of the year, right?) – however, where there is exponential growth and in particular if the last year dominates … well …

    anyway, the article itself tries to estimate capacity factor by averaging two year-end capacity values to get an average capacity for the year – but that too will overestimate capacity and thus underestimate capacity factor if there is exponential growth on a monthly-seasonal scale. But I could imagine there could be a seasonal cycle in installation (???) which could also throw values off, …

    anyway, not to get too OT, but just some things to keep in mind if you’re looking into this, and having posted about this earlier, I wanted to note a source of possible error in what I posted.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 6:24 PM

  282. I know how Gavin Schmidt is loath to use the word ‘exponential’ in his descriptions but looking at cryosat2’s ice volume graph certianly is looking increasingly that way. Anyone wanting to wager on an summer ice free 2017?
    I’ve come up with a good analogy to describe permanant perennial ice as opposed to seasonal ice… Imagine perennial ice as being like processed timber or multiply. Layer over layer over layer of tightly compressed ice thousands of layers thick all orientated at slightly differest directions depending on prevailing winds. If one layer is porus or fractured the adjacent layers above and below it are probably smooth and homogenous. That is why processed wood is significantly stronger than a single plank of raw cut timber.
    This season we truly are in uncharted territory even though this is close to the PIOMAS predictions. Apart from the the famed actic cyclone the weather conditions have been rather average suggesting that the majority of the melt is happening from below bourne out by the ice volume charts. Even the record min for ice area/extent in 2007 was not out of the ballpark with realtion to the last 5 or 6 mins within the last 10 years. However this latest catastrophy certainly is. It is now 9/17 and it is still going down…where it will eventually stop no-one knows. The chart producers keep having to recalibrate their graphs lower and lower.
    Am I right in thinking that when we get to the ice free state it will pretty well immediately extend the ice free period by maybe 1.5-2 months as ice is not going to form on the ocean that is still above freezing?.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 16 Sep 2012 @ 8:35 PM

  283. Thanks for your perspective, LC. I still can’t quite get my mind around the fact that all that multi-year, really thick ice that used to dominate much of the central Arctic basin is now completely gone, vanished. What’s left is to what used to be there, as some shreds of wet toilet paper are to a thick woolen cap–no comparison even if they cover (a shrinking portion) of the same territory.

    I have no idea if this sloppy remnant will vanish in the next couple years (following the exponential curve you mention) or will persist in ever-shrinking shreds (following a Gompertz curve) that last a couple more decades. It hardly seems to matter at this point, since the heavy lifting has already happened–the vast majority of the volume of ice that once dominated the top of the globe year-round is now gone, and I see no chance of it coming back withing human time scales.

    I just had a (to me) depressing 55th birthday with family all around. I mentioned the loss of the polar ice cap. Nearly everyone else was talking about the plane trips they were taking to various places around the country and globe. These are socially and politically conscious, intelligent, caring people. But making serious changes in their own lifestyles doesn’t seem remotely on their radar.

    If even these good folks are going about their lives as usual in spite of the fundamental disruption of basic nature of the planet, I have no hope that the majority will ever willingly adopt lifestyles that are remotely supportable by the planet we actually live on.

    Comment by wili — 16 Sep 2012 @ 11:07 PM

  284. “I know how Gavin Schmidt is loath to use the word ‘exponential’ in his descriptions but looking at cryosat2′s ice volume graph certianly is looking increasingly that way. Anyone wanting to wager on an summer ice free 2017?”

    IIRC, Gavin had said something to the effect that little in nature followed an exponential trajectory for long.

    I was thinking… that makes sense. since the exponential is an unstable/unsustainable trajectory, either running quickly to zero, or out beyond the quantitative bounds of the physical system. Usually that’s the sign of a model blowing up.

    But isn’t that the point here in 2012? That is, might we not be seeing a quasi-exponential trajectory that, indeed, will not be sustained for long–because the physical system will actually zero out?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 16 Sep 2012 @ 11:07 PM

  285. 271 Patrick asked, “how flexible the refining process is”

    Depends on the refinery.

    “Refineries that can produce a wide range of products out of essentially any crude mix will have the highest gross margin per barrel. However, flexibility costs money. When evaluating flexibility, we carefully consider available markets, crudes, and trends to determine whether this can be justified.”

    275 dhogaza said, “No, it’s because they’re measuring vehicle, not system efficiency.”

    Of course they’re not dishonest. The original decision, made on CAFE back in 1988, was to multiply alternative mileage by 6.67, showing their obvious intent, and proving my point. When migrating to MPGe, they went through focus groups and whatnot, resulting in lots of confusion. They eventually decided to give EVs the advantage another way. Instead of using their already in place formula, they changed to tank-to-wheels, giving EVs a 2:1 or 3:1 advantage, so they actually helped EVs less as compared to the CAFE formula. (the neutral decision would be well-to-wheels, and then increasing by 25% to account for gasoline’s well-to-tank efficiency, resulting exactly in MPG “equivalent”, just as the name says.) Read the following, and then decide:

    278 Patrick, the EROI for gasoline appears to be based on all non-atmospheric carbon. So, of the total both for pumping and being pumped, you get ~.8 back.

    I think corn ethanol is probably a waste. Letting the field go back to nature and sequestering carbon takes no effort, energy, or water and builds soil instead of eroding it. Beets and sugar cane make more sense and the Holy Grail is cellulosic – waste, scrap, brush and grass to fuel. With cellulosic ethanol, EVs make a whole lot less sense, and vodka becomes insanely cheap. President Bush might just have been a bit ahead of his time.

    As you know, CO2 figures for ethanol are all over the map. Here’s the UK govt’s take. They say US corn is a tad better than coal but worse than oil, while Brazilian sugar cane is awesome:

    (And I’m swearing off hyperbole. It doesn’t work on this forum)

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 16 Sep 2012 @ 11:24 PM

  286. 264 Ray Ladbury. All very well reminiscing that we should have laid the groundwork for a new energy infrastructure in 1980 but the fact is- we didn’t and now quite simply it’s too late as superman quite rightly keeps pointing out. I’m buddhist by nature so my natural instinct is to try to see things as they are and not as I wish/hope or pretend they are. Case in point..if we miraculously did cut carbon pollution tomorrow the affects of CO2 would be more or less linearly decreasing over the next few millennia coupled with that the irreversible decay of the tundra and permafrost with the many 100’s of Gtonnes of CH4 that will quickly release. Not to mention the only just freezing methane compounds under the arctic sea already issuing gas as we type. er..has anyone seen the pink elephant in the room yet?
    The world only has a finite budget to deal with CC, so let’s concentrate our respective finances on climate adaptation and management while it’s still possible to do so. I still advocate emissions reduction to maximise the time we have left but let’s not go overboard with that one, we should balance emissions reduction with adaptation strategies don’t you agree?

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 17 Sep 2012 @ 1:17 AM

  287. Hi Jim Larsen @273.

    I did revisit your comment @228. You are show the that gasoline/USElectic ratio for energy (1gal/33.4kWh) and the carbon intensity ratio (1gal/33.7kWh) are very similar. (This is not so surprising as, carbon intensity-wise, oil (ie gasoline) is about average for FFs. And high coal use in electric generation would be counter-balanced by nuclear & renewables.)

    You then make a mental leap that is surely unwarranted. “So MPGe is based on 100% efficiency for power plants and transmission.” And then you attempt to factor in the generation & transmission losses in the electric grid and reduce the efficiency of the electric vehicle accordingly.

    I attempted to show @261 that 99mpg(US)e for a Nissan Leaf electric car was not an unreasonable efficiency while halving it (or more) as you were suggesting was unreasonable. Perhaps another angle would help.

    According to Wikipedia a petrol engine is only. 25-30% “…even when the engine is operating at its point of maximum thermal efficiency.” And when it is not, which it usually isn’t because the engine operates via a series of fixed gears and at varying power levels, the average efficiency is even lower. (It is possible but I would suggest not useful to consider the technological fixes that could improve that low efficiency, unhelpful as the technological ‘stake-in-the-ground’ is required to keep the discussion realistic.) Let us, for sake of argument, err on the generous side & set the average efficiency of a petrol car engine in providing the required power to a shaft spinning at the required speed at 25%.

    An electric motor is embarrasingly efficient. It can approach 100% at rated power levels and is still blinding high under varying speed & reduced power demand.
    Now I think the idea of 40% efficiency from power station boiler room to plug is an acceptable figure here. To drop the overall power.station/electric.vehicle efficiency below the petrol (& thus as shown @228 make electric carbon emissions higher), the efficiency of the electric motor would have to be below 25/40=38%. In other words the ‘plug-to-wheel’ efficiency of the electric vehicle has to be a lot more efficient than the ‘tank-to-wheel’ efficiency of petrol by a factor of 38/25=150%. Electric vehicles easily exceed this which is why good old Wikipedia (that fails on quoting actual electric motor efficiency) saysElectric vehicle ‘tank-to-wheels’ efficiency is about a factor of 3 higher than internal combustion engine vehicles,” or 300%. (I think that is somewhat high, but the Wiki ref is from the EV industry. Battery weight is a concern for cars with useful range. This may be what is being fudged.)

    Just like the petrol vehicle, the electric vehicle has technologies waiting in the wings to improve efficiency. Argument over the promise of on-board technologies for electric or internal combustion engines can be made either way. But the killer advantage is the promise of reducing the carbon intensity of the electric supply.

    I hope this is persuasive in showing that carbon emissions from driving electric cars is not a challenge confronting their widespread adoption.

    Comment by MARodger — 17 Sep 2012 @ 7:02 AM

  288. There is an excellent post in Neven’s ice blog this morning by a commenter named Lewis, and I want to emphasize and embellish its main points (excerpted).

    “Thus far, with oil at around $100 and global coal and gas prices keeping pace, renewables aren’t even covering the annual rise in fossil energy demand as a couple of billion people aspire to one fifth of US consumption rates. They do help somewhat to stop prices spiking, but the notion that they displace any fossil fuels is just seductive hype – any fossil fuels locally displaced are bought and burnt elsewhere.”

    This point has been made a number of times on RealClimate, but I’m not sure how enthusiastically it has been accepted.

    In addressing an emissions control treaty that eliminates CO2 by 2050, he states:

    “Yet an emissions control treaty, however stringent, cannot of itself control the warming to which we’re committed. Devi (another commenter) remarked blithely how :-
    “More than 3 degrees will lead not only to very significant alterations to the climate but also the onset of positive feedback loops”
    when in reality we are committed to:
    0.8C realized
    0.7C pipeline time-lagged
    0.6C phase-out emissions via a near-zero by 2050 treaty
    2.1 loss-of-sulphate-parasol multiplier
    4.41C of warming.

    That multiplier is the median of Hansen’s finding btw, so, if he’s as right as he’s tended to be, the final figure is +/- 0.6C

    Given the pipeline time lag after the treaty ended emissions in 2050, we’d be looking at around 4.4C of warming by 2080, which allows around 70 years of intensifying warming for Devi’s “onset” of those interactive mega-feedbacks.

    The problem with this view is that at least 6 out of seven are already accelerating under just 0.8C of warming, and they didn’t start yesterday:-

    Rising water vapour had begun by 1940s;
    cryosphere decline by 1950s;
    microbial decay of peatbogs by 1960s;
    rising permafrost melt by 1970s;
    rising forest combustion by 1980s;
    rising global soils desiccation by 1990s;
    – and what’s happened to methane hydrates in the 2000’s is still “awaiting publication.”

    Our best efforts at emissions control give around seventy years of additional warming to empower those interactive feedbacks, when it looks from present events in the arctic as if we can’t afford even seven years.”

    For potential solutions, he suggests:

    “Both modes of Geo-E (Albedo Restoration AND Carbon Recovery) are patently required as the complements to the emissions control treaty for a commensurate response to change our climate prospects, but both could and likely would be done really badly if left to the motivations of corporate nationalism.”

    His temperature increase numbers, which reflect the real-world prospect of continuing fossil fuel combustion, and the probable unreal-world assumption of termination of fossil fuel combustion by 2050, use similar assumptions to mine when I computed the extreme case of ending fossil fuel combustion today. He has quantified (to some extent) the non-feedback lower bound of what could be expected if we continue fossil fuel combustion. In my view, there is no way his high temperature increases of four degrees could be stabilized with the feedbacks he mentioned, and others he omitted.

    His proposed solutions are a Hail Mary approach, and may be in reality all that we have left. But, he has stated the gravity of the problem, and proposed solutions commensurate with the problem. h
    Unfortunately, many solutions I have seen discussed on the present site are equivalent to comparisons of which brand of aspirin to take for treating Stage 4 cancer.

    Comment by Superman1 — 17 Sep 2012 @ 7:52 AM

  289. Lawrence Coleman,
    As I recall, the Buddha was not an advocate of complacency. I believe the Eight-fold path emphasizes right effort, as well as right view and right intention.

    Saying “It’s too late,” is simply stupidity. We will not avoid serious consequences from climate change–that is a given. However, it is not too late to make things better than they would be otherwise, nor to make things much worse than they have to be. Actions matter. Truth matters.

    Every gram of carbon we do not put into the atmosphere buys time, and as we have squandered 30 years now, time is our most valuable commodity. You can do what you want. I’m going to keep fighting the anti-science ass clams and trying to come up with solutions if that is all right with you.

    [Response:Excellent comment Ray. Where these people get off saying “it’s too late” and other defeatist crap I really have no idea. But they sure as hell don’t know what they’re talking about, and even if they did, they’d try to say something positive instead of promoting hopelessness if they were trying to actually help things.–Jim]

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Sep 2012 @ 7:59 AM

  290. Lawrence Coleman #286,

    “264 Ray Ladbury. All very well reminiscing that we should have laid the groundwork for a new energy infrastructure in 1980 but the fact is- we didn’t and now quite simply it’s too late as superman quite rightly keeps pointing out. I’m buddhist by nature so my natural instinct is to try to see things as they are and not as I wish/hope or pretend they are. Case in point..if we miraculously did cut carbon pollution tomorrow the affects of CO2 would be more or less linearly decreasing over the next few millennia coupled with that the irreversible decay of the tundra and permafrost with the many 100′s of Gtonnes of CH4 that will quickly release. Not to mention the only just freezing methane compounds under the arctic sea already issuing gas as we type. er..has anyone seen the pink elephant in the room yet?”

    Excellent comment. I would add that even if we terminated “carbon pollution tomorrow”, we would still see an additional temperature increase due to the ‘climate commitment’ and the elimination of the fossil sulphates. And, this is without feedbacks. With feedbacks, as we are seeing today and as enumerated in my post 288, I don’t see how even this ‘modest’ temperature increase can be stabilized.

    Certainly, it makes sense to minimize additional carbon pollution wherever we can; it may buy some time to allow us to think of a way out. But, if we have truly started down the road to a self-reinforcing positive feedback system, the future is grim. I have studied other systems that used a trigger to ignite combustion and go into self-sustaining ‘burn’ mode. What happens is that the system loses memory of the ignition process fairly rapidly, and ‘burn’ takes on a life of its own.

    Comment by Superman1 — 17 Sep 2012 @ 8:44 AM

  291. Re- Comment by Superman1 — 16 Sep 2012 @ 2:54 PM:

    I would like to check something with you. In post #263 you did call many thousands of climate scientists from many different nations liars, without any proof whatsoever, when you said-

    “The biggest lies are now coming in the area of climate change. I believe it is no accident that all the models have tended to underpredict the severity of what is occurring, that there is a paucity of data on critical events such as methane releases in the Arctic, and that we are being told the situation can still be turned around if we pull in our belts slightly.”

    Did I spin that? Perhaps you meant that just the modelers lied and all the others are remaining silent? Could you please clear this up because, for scientists, this is a very serious charge.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 17 Sep 2012 @ 12:09 PM

  292. Ray @ 289: Saying “It’s too late,” is simply stupidity.

    Yes. It’s sort of like the person that has to bail out of a burning airplane. It’s too late to avoid the failure of the airplane, but who will you take advice from:

    – the person that says “pull the rip cord on your parachute”?

    – or the person that says “even with the parachute open, you’re still falling and will still hit the ground, so why bother”?

    Comment by Bob Loblaw — 17 Sep 2012 @ 1:00 PM

  293. Lawrence Coleman wrote: “The world only has a finite budget to deal with CC, so let’s concentrate our respective finances on climate adaptation and management while it’s still possible to do so. I still advocate emissions reduction to maximise the time we have left but let’s not go overboard with that one, we should balance emissions reduction with adaptation strategies don’t you agree?”

    I certainly don’t agree, and in fact, I have no idea what you mean by “balance emissions reduction with adaptation strategies”.

    I don’t accept your apparent premise that any resources that go to “adaptation” must necessarily be subtracted from the resources that we can commit to reducing emissions (which is what I guess you mean by “balancing”).

    If we are to have any hope of limiting AGW to levels where “adaptation” is even conceivable, we simply MUST reduce emissions as much as possible, as fast as possible. There is no way around that. If we don’t do that, then any efforts at “adaptation” are an exercise in futility, a lost cause.

    Further, reducing emissions cannot be viewed only as a “cost”. The most obvious example being the elimination of waste (vast amounts of energy are wasted in the USA) and drastically increasing efficiency, which has had, continues to have, and will continue to have huge economic benefits.

    And the urgent, rapid deployment of non-fossil fuel energy technologies, e.g. wind and solar, is not all about cost either — in fact even the early stages of widespread deployment and scaling up of those technologies is already having great economic benefits (e.g. creating more jobs than the economy in general, and contributing significantly to the economies of the states where those industries are growing fast).

    Additionally, those technologies — especially small-scale, distributed photovoltaics — can bring electricity to hundreds of millions of people in the developing world who currently have NO access to electricity, and thereby stimulate economic development where it is most needed.

    It’s not really a matter of the “cost” of reducing emissions — it’s a matter of transferring vast amounts of wealth from the fossil fuel corporations to other sectors of the industrial economy. Of course, the fossil fuel corporations see that as a “cost”. And they want you to see it that way too.

    Finally, many of the most important steps needed to reduce emissions will also help with “adaptation”. For example, the highly distributed, decentralized, redundant, smart “electricity Internet” that’s needed to fully integrate diverse renewable energy sources and local storage at all scales, will also be more fault-tolerant and better able to withstand the onslaught of AGW-driven weather of mass destruction. And the organic agriculture practices that can not only greatly reduce GHG emissions from agriculture, but actually sequester large amounts of carbon in the soil, have also been shown to give higher yields than conventional agriculture in drought conditions.

    Lawrence, I am not accusing you of this, but I see the notion “it’s too late for reducing emissions, let’s put our resources into adaptation” as just the latest slogan in the fossil fuel industry’s decades-long list of “reasons” for not reducing CO2 emissions as rapidly as possible. It’s just more stalling.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Sep 2012 @ 1:09 PM

  294. Bob Loblaw wrote: “It’s sort of like the person that has to bail out of a burning airplane.”

    Here’s the metaphor that I think is appropriate.

    If you are in a car speeding towards a concrete wall, you want to take your foot off the accelerator and slam on the brakes, even if you cannot possibly stop the car before it hits the wall — because the slower the car is going when it does hit the wall, the less damage there will be. Indeed, slowing the car even a small amount could be the difference between life and death for the passengers.

    On the other hand, if you are in a car speeding towards a cliff with a 100 foot sheer drop onto jagged rocks, it doesn’t really matter whether you slow the car down before you reach the cliff. If you can’t stop the car before it reaches the cliff, then you are going to be splattered on the rocks below, and it doesn’t make any difference whether the car is going 80 MPH or 8 MPH when it goes over the cliff.

    Now the thing is, we don’t know whether AGW is like the concrete wall, or like the cliff. And whichever it is, we also don’t know whether we can stop the car before it hits the wall or goes over the cliff.

    In that circumstance, it seems to me the appropriate thing to do is to slam on the brakes, and hope that AGW is like the wall — and slam on the brakes that much harder, in case it is like the cliff, and hope we can stop the car before it goes over the edge.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Sep 2012 @ 1:23 PM

  295. I think the essential discussion must be what is the role of truth (or at least the most accurate picture of our current situation and likely near future that we can obtain) in our discussions of climate change.

    Do we avoid discussing data and trends that suggest that CC is proceeding and will be proceeding far faster than nearly anyone had expected because it might be discouraging to some people? I, for one, would like to sort out as accurately as possible where we are, even if the truth is grim. And I would hope those discussing it with me are arguing from their side based on their own best understanding of the information, not based on some pop-psych notion of how the truth may affect me or others.

    Having said this, I myself struggle with how to present even moderate versions of our current situation to students. I think most of them also want to know as accurately as possible what the best science tells us the situation is. I try to do that, mostly, and to hold back my gloomier speculations about accelerations of things from feedbacks, etc. But even presenting the widely accepted (in the scientific community) picture gets me labeled as “Dr. Doom.”

    I think, ultimately, people end up feeling most hopeless and demoralized if they get the sense that absolutely everyone is telling them lies or massaging the data one way or the other, either for the disgusting reasons of the denialists, or for other nobler perhaps but still patronizing (at least) reasons.

    Churchill didn’t try to persuade the British people that an invasion by the Germans was impossible. He presented it as a clear probability, but in the face of this grim possibility, he also rallied his people with his famous “We will fight them on the beaches…” speech.

    I think that, rather than minimizing the possible grimness of future scenarios, we need to admit that the climatic equivalent of invasion is well within the realm of possibility, and start rallying people with similarly Churchillian fervor. I sense that this is something of what McKibben is hoping to do by focusing on the central culprits of the story–those profiting enormously from un-sequestering vast quantities of carbon which they know will be dumped into the atmosphere at no (immediate) cost to them.

    Comment by wili — 17 Sep 2012 @ 2:16 PM

  296. Lawrence Coleman wrote: “The world only has a finite budget to deal with CC, so let’s concentrate our respective finances on climate adaptation and management …we should balance emissions reduction with adaptation strategies don’t you agree?”

    If I may follow up on my previous reply to this comment, which as I wrote earlier, I understand to be saying that emissions reductions are all about cost, and that given our “finite budget”, any resources put into adaptation must be deducted from (“balanced with”) those needed for adaptation …

    A new study from the National Wildlife Foundation, “The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy” (PDF), states that “over 1,300 gigawatts (GW) of energy generation potential has been identified” on the Atlantic coast of the USA, and that “harnessing just a fraction of our offshore wind resource —- 52 GW —- could power about 14 million U.S. homes with local, pollution-free energy while creating over $200 billion in new economic activity along the coast … research shows that approximately 300,000 jobs … could result from a robust American offshore wind industry … the New York Independent System Operator has found that for every 1,000 MW of wind on the system, consumers save $300 million in wholesale energy costs.”

    That doesn’t sound to me like a burden on our “finite budget”. It sounds like growing the pie.

    We need to stop thinking and talking about non-fossil fuel energy technologies and efficiency as if they were only “costs” — as a burden on our economy. That is a view propounded by the fossil fuel corporations, who simply don’t want to see trillions of dollars in investment and wealth moving from them to other sectors of the economy.

    The reality is that the measures needed to rapidly reduce GHG emissions are also the very things that we need to do to to build a new economy — a new industrial revolution — that will enable robust, resilient and sustainable prosperity for all, especially in the face of the destructive consequences of AGW that are now unavoidable.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Sep 2012 @ 3:03 PM

  297. Steve Fish #291,
    “I would like to check something with you. In post #263 you did call many thousands of climate scientists from many different nations liars, without any proof whatsoever, when you said-

    “The biggest lies are now coming in the area of climate change. I believe it is no accident that all the models have tended to underpredict the severity of what is occurring, that there is a paucity of data on critical events such as methane releases in the Arctic, and that we are being told the situation can still be turned around if we pull in our belts slightly.”

    Did I spin that? Perhaps you meant that just the modelers lied and all the others are remaining silent? Could you please clear this up because, for scientists, this is a very serious charge.”

    In #263, I established a context. I pointed out specific examples where the government lied, including Dr. David Graham’s expose of how the FDA approved drugs that were unsafe ( I concluded that, based on my own experience within government as well as years in the private sector dealing with government, I would not trust anything that comes out of government without strong verification. I will give one further example to embellish the context, then will address climate change specifically.
    In 2002-2003, in the buildup to the Iraq invasion, there was an unspoken reality about Iraq’s capabilities and intentions relative to waging war. From what we see now, and what was obvious to a number of us at the time, the ‘front-line’ intel and DoD analysts had the reality of Iraq’s ‘intent and capability’ more or less correct in their analysis. However, as this information went up the line in their agencies, it was ‘cherry-picked’ and spun to fit a pre-conceived agenda. When it reached the highest levels of government, it was ‘cherry-picked’ and spun much further. What the public received was a completely distorted picture of Iraq’s ‘capability and intent’ as a result of this ‘cherry-picking’. I call that ‘lying’. Equally bad, none of the hundreds of officials who knew that the truth was not being presented to the public did anything to correct this distortion. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people around the world died.

    Now, it is obvious to most of us on this blog what the reality of climate change is. From our present perspective of no credible tangible method for extracting the carbon from the atmosphere or raising the albedo, at the very best, the climate change prospects are extremely grim, and at the worst, we are on the edge of a holocaust. Who or where in government is relaying this information to the public? The politicians (who work for government) are saying either there is nothing wrong, or we should have some modest concerns. But, even the ones who discuss concerns give the impression that with modest lifestyle changes, we can avoid the worst of climate change. You may call it ‘subjective interpretation’; I call it lying!

    What about the researchers and scientists? How many are conveying the message I and others have conveyed on this blog about the severity of the temperature increases even without further fossil fuel combustion and feedbacks, much less what will happen when the reality of myriad synergistic feedbacks and further fossil fuel combustion is included? Almost every researcher that acknowledges there is a serious problem ends with a sliver of hope about a five or ten or fifteen year window in which corrective action could be taken to avoid the really serious consequences. On what evidence is this hope based; I have yet to see anything other than hand-waving fantasies presented?
    While the specific research studies may be accurate based on the databases and algorithms used, the assumptions, and the analyses, those who use these results to draw larger conclusions are ‘lying’, from my perspective, by not providing the full context. They are really no different from the bureaucrats in the State Department, the intel agencies, and the DoD who failed to tell the whole story to the public in 2002, when they knew better.

    In terms of the models and the measurements, from my experience in government I find it inconceivable that a problem of this magnitude has such a paucity of measurements in critical areas like methane fluxes, and has models that consistently under-predict the observations. Having done modeling myself, I realize there is much flexibility in what assumptions are made, what phenomena are included, what parameters are chosen, and a host of other actions that can determine the results. I find it inconceivable that the DoD and intel agencies would plan for the future based on the type of models, model results, and measurements that have been reported to the public. I would need to see the models and measurements the intel agencies and DoD are using before commenting further on the inconsistencies that I am seeing in the accuracy of model predictions, the paucity of measurement data, and the gap between the actual severity of the situation and what we are being told.

    We are not getting the full picture of the severity of the climate change problem from the government, and the truth is being covered-up/withheld. You can defend this process all you want, and play semantic games with how we describe it.

    Comment by Superman1 — 17 Sep 2012 @ 3:06 PM

  298. Shorter Superman1 – since “the government” has been known to lie in the past, the “government” and all mainstream climate science researchers must be lying about the severity of upcoming global warming.

    A fair number of denialists say the same thing, and base their conclusion that there’s nothing to worry about on this conspiracy theory.

    Interesting to see someone apply the same logic and derive an equally fallacious, though opposite, conclusion …

    Comment by dhogaza — 17 Sep 2012 @ 3:26 PM

  299. Superman – Just a quick look finds the Department of Defense is one government voice calling for someone to “collate” the research and observations, maybe you could fill them in on your understanding of it all. Why blame “THE Government” and all scientists for your perception of the political reality of our social/economic structure?
    There are many who communicate their understanding of the situation, starting with Dr Hansen, but also including many others if you look. There is also a big pot of money with an interest in maintaining “profit as usual”. If you know all the details of climate complexity, start writing some papers and make some accurate near-term predictions of the course of the future. Lay out all your insights for the politicians who otherwise can only focus on pleasing their campaign donors. Don’t just holler that “the sky is falling”.

    Comment by flxible — 17 Sep 2012 @ 3:33 PM

  300. @295 Dan Miller worked on the road show for “An Inconvenient Truth,” but tired of Gore’s policy of sugarcoating facts and limiting direness to avoid sowing despair (staying with the “hope budget”). Dan was motivated to make “A REALLY Inconvenient Truth” by his belief that “people like to be told the truth, even if it’s not very pretty.”

    I don’t see why it’s controversial for superman1 to claim that climate science consistently underestimates the rate of change. Climate change is a direct consequence of technological optimism, and our response to it is being determined by that same world-view. In this sense geoengineering is the ultimate business as usual.

    Re Churchill: If only our present leaders were up to the task…

    Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have now entered upon a period of danger … The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences. … We cannot avoid this period; we are in it now. -Churchill, 12 November 1936

    @superman1, what’s up with the references to Gerson Therapy? Are you merely using it as a metaphor for desperation, or are you actually asserting that it can cure cancer?

    Comment by Chris Korda — 17 Sep 2012 @ 3:45 PM

  301. DHogoza #298,

    “298.Shorter Superman1 – since “the government” has been known to lie in the past, the “government” and all mainstream climate science researchers must be lying about the severity of upcoming global warming.”

    I am amazed at the amount of spin, misquotes, and taking out of context that occurs on this site, a supposedly science-oriented site. My point is that I have seen government statements and reports lie in many different areas, and that I accept no statements or studies without further verification. I don’t see why that should be so difficult to understand.

    Now, in climate change, we see a huge gap between what we are told by government and its funded scientists, and what we on this site believe to be the reality. There may be different ways of explaining this gap; my choice is ‘lying’. Now, can I prove it in court: no. There is insufficent accuracy in the science today that shows the government’s predictions are correct or our estimations are correct. But, there are many problem areas where the information is incomplete and highly uncertain, and decisions need to be based on other criteria.

    For different reasons, the politicians and the researchers have incentives not to present the full climate change picture in its stark, and I believe grim, reality. It’s fundamentally no different from the Iraq situation I described above.

    Now, rather than keep repeating myself, let me throw the ball back in your court. Do you believe the climate situation is as grim as has been proposed by some of us, and do you believe the government is not representing the seriousness of the situation to the public? If you believe both are true, what is your explanation for the gap?

    Comment by Superman1 — 17 Sep 2012 @ 3:59 PM

  302. re Superman1 @ 288 – “Rising water vapour had begun by 1940s;” – this is a fast feedback – a very important one, but out of place in the context in which you were working (ie it’s included in Charney sensitivity).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Sep 2012 @ 4:01 PM

  303. 1) Prof. Lewandowsky’s blog is a better forum to demonstrate conspiracist ideation. I hear he’s collecting material.

    2)Probably will be lucky to avoid 2C total rise in temperature. Effects on the hydrological cycle are probably as bad. And a meter of SLR even over century is a bleak prospect.

    3)But I prefer to do what i can. Someone tells me there is no use in me planting trees or conserving KwH or treading more lightly on our planet, that it’s too late, that nothing can or will be done, that doom is nigh, that governments are lying, that scientists are obscuring the truth, that is their privilege. And it is my privilege to make my own judgements. Sometimes that judgement is to killfile the doom monger.

    4)Suggest that this forum split off the climate science threads from the climate policy threads.

    5)Speaking of science, Jokimaki brings news of a paper by Shiu et al in GRL:
    showing more evidence of shifting distribution of precipitation.


    Comment by sidd — 17 Sep 2012 @ 4:16 PM

  304. Yes denialists derive incorrect conclusions from government malfeasance, but that doesn’t disprove government malfeasance. Why should it be surprising that governments have an interest in maintaining the status quo? Suppose I wave a magic wand and instantly replace humanity’s energy infrastructure with a zero-carbon equivalent. What is the value of the remaining fossil fuel deposits? Should I expect the current owners of those deposits to welcome the change? Think of Dubai, an imperial palace surrounded by desert, dedicated to opulence, built by slave labor and financed by mining the future. In what reality will the sheiks of the UAE gladly embrace a future that reduces them to just another impoverished nation, by making their windfall worthless? Do they believe they’re going to heaven regardless? Does Romney believe the Mormon dogma that riches acquired in this life determine placement in the next? What difference does it make as long as the powerful behave as though such things were true?

    Comment by Chris Korda — 17 Sep 2012 @ 4:19 PM

  305. re 304 Chris Korda – besides your point, but Middle Eastern-oil countries would not completely lose their status in a solar-dominated world (see DESERTEC).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Sep 2012 @ 4:31 PM

  306. superman1:

    Now, in climate change, we see a huge gap between what we are told by government and its funded scientists, and what we on this site believe to be the reality.

    That would be the royal “we”, I assume, since it’s clear that many of us disagree with you.

    Also, note that those who run this site are largely government funded, and gavin, for instance, is a government employee, so you’re in essence calling the people who run this site liars.

    Comment by dhogaza — 17 Sep 2012 @ 4:34 PM

  307. Superman1 wrote: “no credible tangible method for extracting the carbon from the atmosphere”

    That’s not true. Organic agriculture and reforestation can sequester carbon in soil and biomass and draw down the already dangerous anthropogenic excess of atmospheric CO2.

    [Response:Thank you for your patience with these knuckleheads Animist.–Jim]

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Sep 2012 @ 4:40 PM

  308. Of course one thing that for sure will help is planting lotsa trees:

    Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming
    in which the full paper is open access (pdf).

    Comment by David B. Benson — 17 Sep 2012 @ 4:58 PM

  309. (Must… not… …touch… …the… capslock key…)

    Shame on PBS!!:

    [Response:Absolutely outrageous, signs of the times. PBS is typically above that level.–Jim]

    Comment by caerbannog — 17 Sep 2012 @ 5:29 PM

  310. PBS gives Watts a bully pulpit …

    Lord preserve us …

    Comment by dhogaza — 17 Sep 2012 @ 5:35 PM

  311. Alastair McDonald wrote: “So long as scientists … refuse to face up to the urgency and to the impossibility of getting any action”

    I don’t think that scientists are “refusing” to face up to the “urgency”.

    Indeed the only reason that you, or I, or anyone else even knows about the “urgency” is because the scientists have told us about it. They have been telling us about it for at least a generation.

    And the “impossibility of getting any action” is not a scientific problem, it’s a political problem. Which means that it is up to all of us, not just the scientists, to deal with.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 Sep 2012 @ 5:41 PM

  312. Alistair, how will ‘facing the impossibility of getting action’ ‘undoom’ us?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 17 Sep 2012 @ 6:04 PM

  313. Alistair, Superman 1 and Chris Korda,

    What unmitigated, utter pathetic twaddle. All of you ought to feel ashamed. Utterly ashamed.

    The scientific community has been fighting this fight for 30 years. Where the hell were you?

    Al Gore has been at it for 40 years. Where the hell were you?

    This blog has been at it going on a decade. Where the hell were you?

    Your self-serving, self-congratulatory, ignorant and unjustified attacks on science, government and scientists are sickening. They accomplish nothing beyond inflating your already over-inflated egos. Do us a favor and get off of our side.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Sep 2012 @ 6:06 PM

  314. Alistair McDonald: So long as scientists such as yourself and Ray Ladbury refuse to face up to the urgency and to the impossibility of getting any action then we are all doomed.

    How should scientists respond to cues that they’re to remain mute on the subjects of their expertise as they pertain to policy? What if communicating the information they have to offer is consistently criticized as “advocacy?”

    Informed choices can be made between policy alternatives but offering cues to how to choose may be termed “advocacy,” even though it may be impossible to ignore one alternative’s faulty nature when offering genuinely neutral guidance.

    The very term “advocacy” is losing meaning and is being turned into a mild epithet as well as broadened in scope.

    The mere identification of facts let alone so-called “advocacy” can be career-wrecking. See the case of Monnett and Gleason. Michael Mann could hardly be said to have made a cakewalk by virtue of his risky discovery but things can be much, much worse as Monnett and Gleason’s case illustrates.

    Are the rest of us in front on this, or are we expecting others to stick their necks out, with us walking behind? How many of us did anything to defend M&G? How many have contributed to CSDF?

    Comment by dbostrom — 17 Sep 2012 @ 6:13 PM

  315. David,
    Interesting paper. Better start planting.

    Comment by Charles — 17 Sep 2012 @ 6:31 PM

  316. I had a quick look at David’s Sahara/Australia paper.

    Where on earth do they think they might get 1000mm pa in a succession of El Nino years like our last dance to this depressing tune? I can see that using advance notice of La Nina years we could be ready to plant largish areas in western and southern Queensland as the floods recede. Planting and irrigating in ordinary or El Nino years looks like a classic recipe for ruining the fairly unwonderful soil by salinity – the same way we’ve wrecked a whole lot of better soils by poor farming practice. In an El Nino year the evaporation rates would exceed the watering rates by multiples of 3 or more.

    Irrigating the whole 200,000sq km of the limestone Nullarbor Plain looks to be even more of a challenge. It’s called ‘null arbor’ (Latin for ‘no tree’) for a very good reason. The average rainfall at Ceduna is less than 300mm – and that’s near the coast!

    I’d be happy to see a proposal for reestablishing tree and scrub cover for farmland that should never have seen a plough or a hard hoof in the first place. There’s 10s of 1000s of sq km that would benefit mightily from that sort of proposal. But the idea of turning Coober Pedy or Broken Hill into a forest would need a lot more work before I’d be interested.

    Comment by adelady — 17 Sep 2012 @ 7:57 PM

  317. @313

    All of you ought to feel ashamed.

    People should certainly feel ashamed of themselves, but not for criticizing scientists or the government. People should feel ashamed of their hubris which has emptied the ocean and is wrecking the climate. They should feel ashamed of covering earth with concrete and asphalt, and sacrificing their own children for the short-term wealth of a tiny elite. But don’t worry, I’m not on your side.

    Comment by Chris Korda — 17 Sep 2012 @ 8:37 PM


    Electric power sector emissions (found by dividing table 11.3e by table 8.2b)
    g CO2 / kWhe, average of 2001-2010, average of 2006-2010
    (averages are not weighted by kWh per year)
    (these are not life-cycle emissions; I’m pretty sure it’s just the combustion of the fuel at the power plant)

    coal: 993.9 , 995.9
    petroleum: 902.2 , 935.1
    natural gas: 471.2 , 451.1

    total fossil fuels, sort’a (I just summed coal, petroleum, and natural gas emissions, and divided by total fossil fuel electricity – this may have missed some things):
    851.8 , 832.2

    geothermal: less than: 34.1 , less than 33.5
    (I don’t know how much less – it could be 30, it could be zero – the emissions table just indicates the geothermal emissions were less than 0.5 million metric tons).

    Total (including biomass generation and excluding biomass emissions):
    605.9 , 589.0

    g C instead (using 12/44 ratio g C / g CO2, so really just 2 significant figures):

    coal: 271 , 272
    petroleum: 246 , 255
    natural gas: 129 , 123

    total fossil fuels, sort’a: 232 , 227

    geothermal (less than): 9.3 , 9.1

    total: 165.2 , 160.6

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Sep 2012 @ 8:44 PM

  319. … didn’t account for T&D losses.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Sep 2012 @ 8:47 PM

  320. Caerbannog “Shame on PBS”.

    Instead of taking on Watts for his cherry-picking and the slander and the absense of science on his blog as well as the on-going insults at scientists, the PBS interviewer actually is doing most of the “leading” talking with suggestive questions that scientists are motivated by “money involved and grants”, that the records are inaccurate etc etc ?

    Is that some kind of joke by PBS ?
    It looks like a Heartland-sponsored WSJ op-ed.

    Who is paying for this segment on OUR public radio network ?

    Either way, I just posted this comment over at PBS :

    After the spectacular mega-melt of Arctic sea ice to levels far below even the worst case scenarios of the IPCC projections, a hottest July in recorded history and significant heat waves and drought across the Northern Hemisphere, I am rather surprised that PBS News Hour decided to interview a non-scientist who still questions the science, humiliates scientists on his blog, and believes the main issue is Urban Heat Island effect.

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 17 Sep 2012 @ 9:08 PM

  321. adelady @316 — Its not my paper, I merely linked to it.

    A most reasonable approach is to use (unmentionable here on Real Climate) power source for the desalinization of sea water and the pumping of the resulting fresh water into the interior. The interest in the two deserts proposed is that once the tree farms are well established some rain would fall so that it would be necessary to supply only about 1/2 of the total requirement.

    Since fresh water would in any case be in short supply I assume that these massive projects would use drip irrigation.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 17 Sep 2012 @ 9:14 PM

  322. Ray Ladbury #313,

    “The scientific community has been fighting this fight for 30 years…… Do us a favor and get off of our side.”

    There’s the problem. ‘You’ve’ been “fighting this fight for 30 years”, and what have you accomplished in ameliorating climate change in any significant way? Bupkis!

    Anyone who wants to introduce a new product knows the first step is to do a market survey, and identify demand. Had ‘you’ done that for products to bypass climate change, you would have found that all the major climate change stakeholders were, and still are, comfortable with the status quo. Until that hurdle is overcome, and you come to grips with the central problem, ‘your’ efforts are in vain. Given the realities of what is available today, and what is necessary to solve the problem, I’m not sure a feasible solution exists.

    From my estimates of the completely unachievable case of ending all fossil fuel combustion tomorrow, we would reach temperature levels that I don’t believe could be sustained because of feedbacks that we are observing today. To solve this foundational problem, extremely drastic steps are required. The public is not being told this, and if they were, I don’t believe that, at this point in time, they would be willing to make the sacrifices necessary.

    I am struck by the parallels between climate change and cellular phones. Lennart Hardell, one of the world’s leading oncology epidemiologists, has shown that heavy cell phone use (thirty minutes per day) for a decade doubles the odds for some types of adult brain cancer and quintiples the odds for people who start as children. Yet, he and people like Henry Lai have suffered the same types of assaults as Michael Mann et al. How many people have changed their use of cell phones based on this knowledge; probably the same number that have changed their fossil fuel use knowing about its potential impact on climate change.

    In both cases, the central problem is addiction. For climate change, the average consumer is addicted to the high energy intensity lifestyle driven by ‘cheap’ fossil fuels, and for cell phones, the average consumer is addicted to ‘cheap’ and convenient wireless communications at all times and locations. And, there are many examples that people will die before surrendering their addictions. Yes, there are those who exploit these addictions substantially, like the fossil companies for climate change, and the vendors for cell phones, and the members of the research community and the media who do their bidding. They all should be reprimanded and punished, but without the driving force of the public’s addictions, they would get nowhere.

    “The scientific community has been fighting this fight for 30 years. Where the hell were you?”

    I answered this once, but I’ll repeat it. Thirty-five years ago, I was pushing advanced nuclear concepts to replace fossil-driven power plants. There were, and still are, reasons to eliminate fossil fuel other than climate change impact. At the time, we had an Administration that was hostile to promoting nuclear power, and there was no support on that front. In addition, there was an ‘environmental’ movement that strongly opposed nuclear, and was only promoting ‘renewables’. Had we moved forward on nuclear at that time in a big way, we might have been able to ameliorate climate change to some degree. Nuclear had its own set of problems, but in my view, it was the lesser of two evils.

    ” Do us a favor and get off of our side.”

    I don’t know who is included in ‘our’, but given ‘your’ track record, and the reasons for your track record, I have no inclination to join ‘your’ specific team. I want to reverse this Stage 4 cancer of climate change we are facing, not take two aspirins and call the Doctor in the morning.

    Comment by Superman1 — 18 Sep 2012 @ 5:54 AM

  323. dbostrum asked ‘How should scientists respond to cues that they’re to remain mute on the subjects of their expertise as they pertain to policy? What if communicating the information they have to offer is consistently criticized as “advocacy?”’

    Scientists will always be criticised by the Skeptics. If they follow my advice they will be called alarmists. But they should not use that as an excuse for not telling the truth.

    It is not the job of climate scientists to advocate policies. Politicians have to decide whether to raise taxes or remove subsidies. Geo-engineering is the province of engineers and international agreements. It is climate scientists’s job to warn the public of the dangers if no action is taken. But those dangers are so horrific that scientists find it difficult to accept them. So long as scientists refuse to contemplate the worst case scenario, far less spell it out, then there is little hope of the public demanding the action that is needed. That is the log jam I am trying to breach.

    But you can see how the opposite effect is produced by my clumsy efforts :-(

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 18 Sep 2012 @ 6:19 AM

  324. 294 SecularA said, “towards a concrete wall,”

    More like Ghostbuster’s marshmallow monster. Even the loss of the arctic ice cap is ever so soft. (even cushy for oil and shipping.)

    295 wili, when talking to students or friends, I’d focus on ocean and biosphere absorption, which isn’t based on our emissions, but on temperature and concentration. Rule of thumb is half our current rate, so we need to cut our emissions in half and hold our breath, hoping the planet doesn’t spring too many leaks. It gets less effective every decade, but it gives us time to cure the cancer, as Superman puts it. That sort of reduction is not beyond a typical town’s abilities.

    287 MaRodger, Hi back. :-)

    ” surely unwarranted: “So MPGe is based on 100% efficiency” ”

    Re-read 228. 34k(?) is the total energy derived from burning a gallon of gas. MPGe says putting 34k(?) energy into the battery equals one gallon of gas. So, assuming the grid were fed only with gasoline, MPGe says the grid is 100% efficient. Do the apples to oranges conversions for wind/solar/coal/hydro/CH4 and combine. Way messy and it changes by a factor of 2 simply by moving from my house to dhogaza’s. Easier to just go 100% efficient and help edge EVs into the market.

    “An electric motor is embarrasingly efficient… …the electric vehicle has technologies waiting in the wings to improve efficiency.”

    Considering only the drive train, batteries are already very efficient too, so I don’t see much headroom. Reduced battery weight will help. Braking will improve, too. 25% improvement in store for EVs?

    Your 25% potential efficiency estimate for liquids is low. The best ship diesels get over 50% efficiency. Unlike “normal” cars, a series hybrid can always operate near maximum efficiency. Atkinson engines are more efficient than diesels for the same compression ratio, so they will surely catch up to biodiesels as injection improvements allow for diesel-like ratios. Counting losses in the “electric transmission”, 35-40% should be doable. Compare to 15-20?% now and that’s 100% improvement for liquid fuels, and that’s not even counting braking and battery improvements.

    Liquid fuel waits for breakthroughs in biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol. Batteries wait for breakthroughs in weight and recharging rate. I think all four will be solved soon enough, so our decisions on what infrastructure to build should be based on that premise.

    “carbon emissions from driving electric cars is not a challenge confronting their widespread adoption.”

    Absolutely. Arguing over which is less carbon intensive is talking peanuts. Today, on an apples to apples comparison, both are about the same because both use fossil. In the future, neither will. So, letting current or future emissions enter into your thoughts when choosing future vehicles’ energy storage medium is dumb. The Prius and Leaf of the future will both be 100% renewable.

    Liquid fuel cars have the added benefits of lower vehicle cost, waste heat, no range anxiety, and an existing distribution network. Some can be fuelled with electricity at a reduced range.

    EVs have the benefits of superior handling, no exhaust (but compared to a 50% efficient alcohol engine – well, folks spike their gas with alcohol to pass emissions tests), and less maintenance, but have bigger batteries for potential replacement.

    The choice seems to be between spending $40K on an EV (rebates are transfers, not a reduction in cost), or $40k on BOTH a liquid-fuelled car and a ground source heat pump to replace your CH4 furnace.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 18 Sep 2012 @ 6:30 AM

  325. add to prev post:

    and your inefficient air to air AC unit.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 18 Sep 2012 @ 7:23 AM

  326. Rob Dekker #320,

    “Is that some kind of joke by PBS ?”

    At the risk of being on the receiving end of spears by the faithful, I offer the following. PBS, and public broadcasting stations in general, receive about 15% of their funding from the Federal government, mainly through CPB. As in every other human endeavor, the Golden Rule is followed: he who has the Gold sets the Rules. PBS does not want to lose this support, so they will not go out of their way to offend the sponsor. In practice, this is no different from how the Federal workers operate, and how those who receive Federal grants or contracts operate.

    So, as I have stated previously, if the politicians and government in general do not want to present the stark facts about the reality of climate change to the public, this philosophy will ripple down to their employees and grant recipients. Congress in particular can exert strong budgetary pressure by authorizing and appropriating funds for PBS, and given that a majority of the House of Representatives openly state their hostility to climate change amelioration actions (what they believe may be far different), PBS has to tread a narrow line in order to receive funding. That’s all you’re seeing with this particular program.

    Comment by Superman1 — 18 Sep 2012 @ 7:27 AM

  327. Sorry David, I only realised I’d written it that way afterwards.

    Drip irrigation? It’s expensive enough for a vineyard or an orchard. I’d be more inclined to look at restoring the original roughish landscape and focus plantings on natural swales and other depressions to start with. Reestablishing original tree cover in areas around the Flinders Ranges and salt tolerant species around Lake Eyre would be a more sensible starting point. Broken Hill and similar areas throughout the centre can support not much more than mulga, eremophilas or saltbush.

    I know eucalyptus species are variable, but these people suggest using throughout the interior and the southern dry areas a sub-tropical tree commonly known as flooded gum. **Nothing** in the Nullarbor has ever grown 100m tall nor are there any flooded or sub-tropical environments, let alone the damp, fertile soils of Australia’s east coast.

    I’d like to see recalculations of carbon sequestration numbers using a more realistic selection of dry, salt and infertile soil tolerant species. Once these were established, areas showing benefits from the expected increased rainfall could be used to introduce thirstier, larger growing species.

    Comment by adelady — 18 Sep 2012 @ 7:30 AM

  328. Chris Korda, you have made it abundantly clear that you are on nobody’s side but your own.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Sep 2012 @ 8:03 AM

  329. JL, thanks for your points.

    Unfortunately, the oceans seem to be slowing down this service of absorbing half the carbon we spew into the atmosphere:

    “decline of ocean as carbon sink”

    “The ocean can’t keep up with the amount of carbon dioxide we are putting in the atmosphere”

    Comment by wili — 18 Sep 2012 @ 8:05 AM

  330. Superman1 wrote: “PBS, and public broadcasting stations in general, receive about 15% of their funding from the Federal government, mainly through CPB … they will not go out of their way to offend the sponsor.”

    PBS has received millions of dollars from David Koch, of the fossil fuel corporation Koch Industries, one of the biggest funders of global warming denialist propaganda in the world — including the Heartland Institute which equates climate scientists with the Unabomber and Osama Bin Laden — and a huge financial backer of politicians who oppose and obstruct any action to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, especially coal. Indeed, Koch is conspicuously named on PBS broadcasts as a “sponsor” of the science program Nova.

    Yet you think the problem with PBS is that it is funded by “the government”, and that it is “government scientists” who are “lying” about global warming. In support of this you offer nothing but vacuous, derogatory generalities about “the government” unsupported by any facts.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 18 Sep 2012 @ 10:35 AM


    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Sep 2012 @ 12:13 PM

  332. Superman1:

    PBS, and public broadcasting stations in general, receive about 15% of their funding from the Federal government

    It used to be much higher, and it got cut deeply precisely because PBS *did* offend conservatives in goverment, despite your claim that PBS won’t “offend their [government] sponsor”. Conservatives fixed that by changing not only the funding structure, but governance.

    Now, as pointed out above, they get large sums of money from Koch, oil companies, etc. Corporate sponsership was always part of their budget, but as the need for more became greater, PBS began to run corporate commercials allowing sponsors to tout their message in a way the could not do in earlier days.

    Given that government doesn’t universally reject climate science, and given that government funding only accounts for about 15% of their budget, your claim doesn’t hold water.

    Comment by dhogaza — 18 Sep 2012 @ 12:41 PM

  333. Ray @328:

    you are on nobody’s side but your own.

    Not true. I’m on the side of non-humans. I would prefer to see voluntary population reduction and orderly shutdown, but I’ll settle for collapse if that’s what it takes. A hothouse climate doesn’t favor mammals. Long-term, things are looking up for reptiles.

    PS On the unpopular subject of criticizing scientists, the latest “brutal logic” from Dr. Kevin Anderson and Dr. Alice Bows, A new paradigm for climate change:

    On the back of the Rio+20 conference Professor Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Manchester and Dr Alice Bows, Sustainable Consumption Institute argue that “how climate change science is conducted, communicated and translated into policy must be radically transformed if ‘dangerous’ climate change is to be averted”. They provocatively suggest the scientific community has contributed to a misguided belief that incremental adjustments in economic incentives, “a carbon tax here, a little emissions trading there and the odd voluntary agreement thrown in for good measure” will deliver the necessary reductions in emissions. They proceed to criticise the dominance of a financial mentality and how many within the scientific community underplay the severity of their analysis to ensure their conclusions support the orthodoxy of economic growth.

    With carbon dioxide emissions in 2011 up 3.2% on 2010, which itself rose by almost 6% on 2009, they argue that it is time to “leave the market economists to fight amongst themselves over the ‘right price’ of carbon … the world is moving on and we need to have the audacity to think differently and conceive of alternative futures”. They conclude that “Civil society needs scientists to do science free of the constraints of a failed economics”, and that whilst “decisions on how to respond to climate change are the product of many constituencies … science is important amongst these and needs to be communicated clearly, honestly and without fear.”

    Comment by Chris Korda — 18 Sep 2012 @ 3:46 PM

  334. Regarding PBS funding, this may help:

    Roughly 15% comes from the Federal government, through CPB, as stated by superman1. However, when you total up all the state, local, and collegiate dollars, the total government revenue swells to 44%. Private donors account for about 27%, with businesses and foundations contributing another 22%.

    It would hard not to offend somebody, with that wide array of sponsorship.

    Comment by Dan H. — 18 Sep 2012 @ 4:03 PM

  335. Korda, do you have even the faintest inkling of how a collapse of human population would affect ecosystems on this planet? Do you expect humans to watch meekly as their children starve? Here’s a hint there are regions of scarcity in India where one cannot find trees–none. All chopped down hundreds of years ago for firewood.

    If you think a catastrophic collapse of human population would benefit any lifeform more complicated than a bacterium, you are delusional. If you care about anything on this planet, you had better pray for a soft landing. Or better yet, get off your privileged ass and do something to make it happen.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Sep 2012 @ 4:38 PM

  336. Dan H.: “It would hard not to offend somebody, with that wide array of sponsorship.”

    What a pity they chose to offend the truth.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Sep 2012 @ 4:48 PM

  337. adelady @327 — Since the desalination and pumping costs are about US$4/tonne it strikes me as sensible to use the water as efficiently as possible.

    Any plan which lessens the amount of carbon sequestered per year means that much of the excess CO2 is not captured. There are many alternatives, including also greening the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Penninsula. Whichever alternative is the least cost per annum and is otherwise politically feasible ought to be put in motion.

    So far we got nothin’.

    [Response:I can appreciate that last statement David, but these kinds of schemes have to be considered carefully and there are enormous potential problems with many of them, including this one. Growing trees where they will grow is one thing; trying to force them to grow where they wouldn’t otherwise–on a large scale– is another thing altogether.–Jim]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 18 Sep 2012 @ 4:57 PM

  338. 296 SecularA said, “the New York Independent System Operator has found that for every 1,000 MW of wind on the system, consumers save $300 million in wholesale energy costs.”

    That doesn’t sound to me like a burden on our “finite budget”. It sounds like growing the pie.”

    Pies include all stakeholders. My guess is that the taxpayers’ slice gets smaller.

    You and Superman1 might have some similarities. No choice but to reduce as fast as possible VS no choice but to watch ourselves die…

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 18 Sep 2012 @ 4:59 PM

  339. 329 wili quoted, “”But with this re-ventilation, there’s some places where actually it doesn’t get put away into the deep ocean for long at all, re-ventilating in the time-scale of a decade.””

    Sounded way scary until I hit that. The effects are already mostly included in our sum-total figures. A decade’s CO2 farts based on the previous decade’s pre-farts are offset by the decade’s pre-farts. No biggie, unless I’m misreading.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 18 Sep 2012 @ 5:24 PM

  340. Ray,
    I am not at all sure that they offended the truth. They is ample evidence that it has been oversold.

    [Response: How can the truth be ‘oversold’? – gavin]

    Comment by Charles — 18 Sep 2012 @ 6:58 PM

  341. Comet May Have Exploded Over Canada 12,900 Years Ago After All
    It seems there is now quite good evidence for the Clovis comet.

    But the most interesting finds at Topper are only indicated at the very end.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 18 Sep 2012 @ 7:01 PM

  342. JL, I can’t quite follow your logic.

    Carbon that was thought to be taken out of the atmosphere for a long time, we now know is coming back quite quickly. In fairly short order this largely eliminates the nearly fifty % of our emissions that we thought the oceans were locking away. But to echo your final sentence, I may be misunderstanding something.

    Comment by wili — 18 Sep 2012 @ 7:13 PM

  343. Re- Comment by Superman1 — 18 Sep 2012 @ 5:54 AM 322

    It just keeps getting worse. First you identify the climate scientists as liars and now, by the same logic, you have outed that lying Lennart Hardell. Well, there is a little difference. There is no known physical mechanism by which the 60 cycle from your refrigerator, or 2 watts of radiation from your mobile phone, can affect living tissue adversely. Epidemiology is correlation without causation. So you should be saying that Hardell is lying about the cause while completely ignoring the several other obvious potential causes for the small correlation that has been detected by the scientific community. In contrast, climate scientists have a well established physical cause, can demonstrate a large effect, and have a whole UN agency to help them collate the science in a convenient form for us and the policy makers. Lying by omission?


    Capcha says gredos rest. We can only hope.

    Comment by Steve Fish — 18 Sep 2012 @ 8:01 PM

  344. Comment by Chris Korda — 18 Sep 2012 @ 3:46 PM:

    It would be helpful if you could point to where “the scientific community has contributed to a misguided belief that incremental adjustments in economic incentives.” I am sure that there are a few climate scientists who express their opinions about carbon taxes and such publicly, but the whole community? I must have missed something or, perhaps, Manchester and Bows are just blowing smoke.

    A little help would be appreciated. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 18 Sep 2012 @ 8:18 PM

  345. Jim Boulding (reply @337) — Trees grew fine in China Lake CA (Mojave desert) the year I lived there. Watering was advisable as it only rained once in that year.

    Larger and longer experiences with desert irrigation can be found noticably in Israel and in the Imperial valley CA, surely elsewhere. Growing trees in deserts takes H2O and sometimes some of the NKPS micronutrients; have to control locusts and other pests.

    Sure there will be problems but often simply learning by trial and (hopefully not too many) errors is nearly the best we can do. Obviously the study in question is preliminary (and it doesn’t seem anybody has a follow-on). My plain just guess is that such a scheme would require a goodly portion of US$750 billion per annum. [To put that figure in proportion, it is the Institue of Medicine’s recent estimate of what is just wasted in medicanl/hospital practice in the USA.] Obviously such a sizable budget has room for scientific studies as the engineering, construction and silviculture.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 18 Sep 2012 @ 9:15 PM

  346. 341 wili said, “Carbon that was thought to be taken out of the atmosphere for a long time, we now know is coming back quite quickly.”

    Not ‘is coming back’ but ‘has mostly already come back, and the bit that hasn’t will do so within a decade’

    We have the Keeling curve, which is the sum total of all carbon emissions and uptakes. Who cares whether that includes very short term storage? My fear was that it takes 50-100 years for the CO2 to reappear. The article increases my fear for that possibility.

    SecularA, if you’re looking for another analogy, perhaps Death by 1000 cuts? It hurts a tad at first, and some of you dies (blood). Things get progressively painful but you don’t all die for a very long time.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 18 Sep 2012 @ 9:59 PM

  347. @343 Steve Fish:

    I must have missed something

    Why not simply read their paper? I don’t have access to it, but maybe you do. I’m all for defending the honor of climate scientists but that means throwing Kevin and Bows out the front door, i.e. refuting their results. You could start by sending a letter to Nature.

    Comment by Chris Korda — 18 Sep 2012 @ 10:08 PM

  348. Cheers Alistair, stay Arctic cool! Ray is a great tutor, spends a lot of his valuable time explaining correct science, RC guys are wonderful, they do their best against the Giant energy industries to dumb to figure out that we need to burn H2, not carbon which bonds with hydrogen in the form of an oil molecule. I am an optimist thinking especially back about our distant ancestors, even before the world was invented by the Scottish! They had vague ideas about the universe, as we do, , but survived 3 million years… Now I really get motivated by the good news, Danish and German economies doing great despite banking collapse, in part due to renewable energy. Also encouraged by the Japan and Germany deadlines to end nuclear reactors destined to be replaced by renewables and cleaner energy such as as natural gas. So most countries are getting by as usual, but making better surviving somewhat happy, but caring more for the planet we live on. I can’t wait to see NY bankers figure out how to invest and make cash with renewables, they are probably smarter than the oil chemists having not cracked hydrogen from Carbon.
    ….. A Clue electricity which may come from wind may help!

    Comment by wayne davidson — 18 Sep 2012 @ 10:20 PM

  349. @335 Ray Ladbury:

    do you have even the faintest inkling of how a collapse of human population would affect ecosystems

    I do, thanks to Alan Weisman’s classic “The World Without Us.” Or if you’re in a hurry, you could watch “Life After People” which covers similar topics. A few thousand years would erase most evidence of human presence on Earth besides a few monuments like Mount Rushmore, radioactive waste, plastics, and of course, climate change. But not to worry: “If the planet can recover from the Permian, it can recover from the human.” (from Josie Appleton’s review).

    you are delusional … get off your privileged ass

    Your ad hominem attacks are bizarre and outrageous. I find it fascinating that RC tolerates such incivility. If this is indicative of how scientists normally communicate, no wonder they don’t want their emails leaked. You obviously don’t know the first thing about me.

    Comment by Chris Korda — 18 Sep 2012 @ 10:25 PM

  350. MaRodger on MPGe,

    There is no “proper’ formula. How many gallons of CH4 equal one gallon of gas? You try to do a formula that is fair, but it’s artificial. I think any MPGe number from 1:1 (correct as is) to 3:1 (my original opinion) is defensible.

    I think the best formula is a random experiment, which the Prius and Leaf happen to be. Carbon average for US is 1:1, Mpge to Mpg is 2:1. So, the ‘best’ conversion is cut MPGe by a factor of 2.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 18 Sep 2012 @ 10:32 PM

  351. On operating costs:

    You’ll save money on operating costs with an EV, ‘more than all of it’? consisting of road (and other) tax avoidance, the over-supply of both coal and CH4, and the perennial small shortage of oil, as maintained by Saudi Arabia.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 18 Sep 2012 @ 10:47 PM

  352. 348 wayne D said, ” Also encouraged by the Japan and Germany deadlines to end n______”

    From a climactic standpoint, shutting down a low carbon investment before proper retirement is a bad thing. Building a new low carbon energy widget is a different matter.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 18 Sep 2012 @ 11:16 PM

  353. 335 Ray L said, “If you think a catastrophic collapse of human population would benefit any lifeform more complicated than a bacterium, you are delusional.”

    Beautiful, and it frustrates me that the only reason I saw your post is because it was subsequently referenced.

    MODERATORS: I assume that the problem is that posts get flagged by your software and require human intervention. Assuming the sort is Received Time, could you change it to Accepted Time? Or even just change Received Time when manual intervention is required.

    347 Chris K said, “Why not simply read their paper? I don’t have access to it”

    Don’t know if this applies, but If one is having a dispute for which the critical piece of evidence isn’t known by the disputer, then I’d say the disputer is blowing smoke.

    349 Chris K,

    The World Without Us says nothing about the events which would result from an involuntary human population collapse. It pretty much assumes that everything else would do just fine. Ray is 100000000000% correct, and TWWU omitted that key fact.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 18 Sep 2012 @ 11:48 PM

  354. Chris K,

    For a grand example of a human population collapse, study Leningrad in WW2, where rats and humans competed to have the last remaining biomass. Both survived on the other.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 18 Sep 2012 @ 11:53 PM

  355. 348 wayne davidson: I get from
    that Germans are paying 26.3 euro cents/kWh and Danes are paying 30.5 euro cents/kWh. I am paying 7 and a half US cents per KWh. 1 Euro = 1.33385 US dollar. Germans are paying 35 US cents per KWh. Danes are paying 40.68 US cents per KWh Why? Because they are buying a lot of “renewable” energy. In Germany, renewables were 16.8% of production. What is the price going to be when they get to 100% renewables?
    “the useful service lives of wind turbines is about 20 years and of solar panels about 25 years versus 40 to 60 years for existing energy production units.” Existing energy production units are nuclear and coal.


    The Germans are paying $1.71 per kilowatt hour for renewable energy, assuming that nuclear + coal costs the same as what I am paying and ignoring the life expectancy of the machines. So double or triple the cost per kilowatt hour for renewable energy to $3.42 or $5.13. !?

    I would like to see your or anybody else’s analysis of how much renewable energy costs in Germany and Denmark. I hope you were being sarcastic. Moderator, do you have any hints on this problem?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 19 Sep 2012 @ 12:28 AM

  356. And I have to re-visit this.

    The out-of-ordering of comments has caused me to have lengthy arguments with people I consider friends (because one of us simply never saw the other’s comment), and has also hurt my understanding of the science. If anybody who actually reads this comment knows any of the mods, would you please push for a fix? Inserting a comment backwards in the list has too many bad ramifications. When submitted is not terribly important as compared to available to be read. Thanks.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 19 Sep 2012 @ 1:28 AM

  357. And to help future communcations, though Ray L is 100000000% correct about his collapse ramifications, he’s technically wrong, as many species we can’t eat, exploit, or out-compete will thrive. Rats and flies…

    So accept the truth Ray L speaks, or thrash him for being technically incorrect.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 19 Sep 2012 @ 1:46 AM

  358. Jim on wind: Pies include all stakeholders. My guess is that the taxpayers’ slice gets smaller.

    Can somebody please explain how money is vanished from the economy when it’s collected and spent through the government?

    We don’t complain that money goes poof when we pay our mandatory licensing fee by purchasing a cup full of soda sporting an NFL logo we didn’t want and which does nothing beneficial for the product we intended to purchase, but bring government into the picture and–suddenly– money is believed to magically disappear, never to be seen again.

    How’s that work? Civil servants don’t eat, have no corporeal existence? Dollars are taken out of circulation?

    We include the scent nobody ever asked for that goes on lavatory tissue as part of GDP, but revenue paid by taxpayers for the purpose building durable and beneficial infrastructure simply disappears? The workers who build things for government are not paid, apparently. Slave labor in the United State in the 21st century. Who knew?

    Comment by dbostrom — 19 Sep 2012 @ 3:13 AM

  359. Chris Korda,
    Allow me to educate you. An ad hominem attack has the form: “Chris Korda is an ass, so you should not listen to him.”

    What I have said is a simple insult. Hint: Using Latin to make yourself look intelligent works better if you actually understand what the Latin says.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Sep 2012 @ 4:15 AM

  360. Jim Larsen @350.

    I do not know if you really wish me to answer to the question you pose or whether you pose it rhetorically for some reason that I cannot yet fathom.

    There is no “proper’ formula. How many gallons of CH4 equal one gallon of gas?” Assuming you talk of LNG & gasoline, the answer is 2.

    Comment by MARodger — 19 Sep 2012 @ 5:08 AM

  361. Chris Korda #349,

    “you are delusional … get off your privileged ass

    Your ad hominem attacks are bizarre and outrageous. I find it fascinating that RC tolerates such incivility. If this is indicative of how scientists normally communicate, no wonder they don’t want their emails leaked. You obviously don’t know the first thing about me.”

    I agree with your comment about Ladbury’s ad hominem attacks. I find that when people have to resort to the use of invective, explitives, and hyperbole, it is a tacit admission of defeat.

    Comment by Superman1 — 19 Sep 2012 @ 5:35 AM

  362. Steve Fish #343,

    “It just keeps getting worse. First you identify the climate scientists as liars and now, by the same logic, you have outed that lying Lennart Hardell. Well, there is a little difference. There is no known physical mechanism by which the 60 cycle from your refrigerator, or 2 watts of radiation from your mobile phone, can affect living tissue adversely. Epidemiology is correlation without causation. So you should be saying that Hardell is lying about the cause while completely ignoring the several other obvious potential causes for the small correlation that has been detected by the scientific community. In contrast, climate scientists have a well established physical cause, can demonstrate a large effect, and have a whole UN agency to help them collate the science in a convenient form for us and the policy makers. Lying by omission?”

    The way you continually distort my postings, and the message you clumsily try to present, makes me believe your full-time job is for one of these infamous three-letter Agencies near the DC Beltway. Hardell is the modern Diogenes; he is not alone in showing the devastating potential and actual effects of electromagnetic non-ionizing radiation. There is a large amount of laboratory and clinical evidence supporting EMF damage, but the discipline has its own ‘deniers’ like WUWT, Goddard, and, it appears, yourself.

    There’s nothing new here. The book Merchants of Doubt shows this deliberate sowing of confusion among many fields, including climate change; the same phony arguments you present to deny EMF effects were used decades ago to ‘show’ how smoking was harmless. Don’t you guys ever get tired of spinning the truth?

    Comment by Superman1 — 19 Sep 2012 @ 5:48 AM

  363. Chris Korda,

    Why not simply read their paper? I don’t have access to it, but maybe you do.

    It’s only $18 to purchase the paper. Should not break the bank.

    Even though you did not read the paper, you quote Anderson and Bows :

    science is important amongst these and needs to be communicated clearly, honestly and without fear

    so, could you maybe identify which scientists in your opinion have best communicated clearly, honestly and without fear their scientific findings to the public ?

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 19 Sep 2012 @ 5:49 AM

  364. I see NSIDC have updated, with this year’s startling record minimum sea ice extent just days away, and with this odd snippet:

    The situation in the Northwest Passage this year also contrasts with 2007. Both the narrow and shallow southern route used by the late polar explorer Roald Amundsen and the wide and deep northern route through the Parry Channel opened in 2007. This year only the southern route has opened. According to Stephen Howell of the Canadian Ice Service, rapid ice loss occurred in the Parry Channel in July. However, due in part to the August storm, a subsequent influx of multiyear ice from the north has kept at least some of the channel blocked.

    Sign of the times that we appear to have redefined “open”, given that the Parry Channel looks to have been navigable for weeks. (And I guess that “the (very) late … Roald Amundsen” could just be meant to refer to his era of exploration?)

    Comment by GlenF — 19 Sep 2012 @ 6:46 AM

  365. Jim Larsen #338,

    “You and Superman1 might have some similarities. No choice but to reduce as fast as possible VS no choice but to watch ourselves die…”

    The reality may not be A vs B; the reality may be A and B, if all we’re doing is reducing emissions.

    I really like the analogy between the three-pack a day chain smoker who gets diagnosed with Stage3-Stage 4 lung cancer, and our present climate change predicament. If he cuts his smoking in half, that may delay the end very slightly. But, even if he stops smoking, and stays with conventional therapy, that may make little difference in the outcome. In my view, barring a ‘miracle’, his only chance, and it is a slim chance, is to try some radical therapy like Gerson Therapy, where one gets at the root of the disease and tries to eliminate it as deeply as possible.

    I have posted (on this site) excerpts from myriad journal papers that try to estimate future temperature increases from different emission scenarios, including zero emission. Even without feedbacks, which we observe happening and increasing today, they are estimating total temperature increases on the order of 2 C to 3 C if we terminate CO2 emissions today. I see no evidence that increases of this magnitude can be stabilized, and if we add in feedbacks, the chances of stability are even lessened. Predicting decreasing temperatures forty or fifty years after CO2 emissions have ceased may not be relevant; once the match is struck and burn has commenced (autopilot feedback has been triggered), stopping further striking has no effect.

    So, I don’t consider my views on the grim reality of what may happen as the ‘extreme’; it is only ‘extreme’ if the Pablum we are being fed by much of the community is considered the ‘norm’. I view the harsh reality (from today’s vantage point) as the ‘norm’, and the Pablum we are being fed as the ‘extreme’.

    Now, I don’t disagree with your thesis of cutting back on emissions wherever we can. The projection models are by no means perfect, and if there is a window, certainly reduced emissions will help achieve it. And, who knows, a credible technical fix could emerge to prevent some level of runaway temperatures, and maybe even revert to where we were thirty years ago. But, recognize that even significant CO2 emission reductions are still cutting down the numbers of cigarettes; they are not placing the lung cancer in remission.

    Comment by Superman1 — 19 Sep 2012 @ 7:55 AM

  366. DHogoza #332,

    “Given that government doesn’t universally reject climate science, and given that government funding only accounts for about 15% of their budget, your claim doesn’t hold water.”

    You have little understanding of organizations that get funding from the government. I’ve dealt with organizations that get far less from the government than 15%, and they will go to great lengths to preserve that funding, for myriad reasons. I suspect that government response plays a large role in PBS’ programming decisions.

    That does not preclude their being influenced by other sponsors. Obviously, Koch et al want to see a certain message conveyed, and that will contribute to PBS’ decision-making.

    But, maybe it’s time you faced reality. The fossil companies don’t want the message conveyed that their product is harming the environment, and to the degree they and their allies contribute to PBS, that viewpoint will result. The fossil fuel energy workers want to keep their present jobs, as we saw in the near-riot that almost resulted from the brief offshore drilling moratorium following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and PBS will respond to that constituency. The politicians on both sides of the aisle don’t want the seriousness of the problem known for myriad reasons, and since they control some of the PBS budget, their viewpoint will be accommodated. And, the average viewers of PBS, you and me, don’t want to be told that we can’t have our large one-driver SUVs, that we can’t travel wherever and whenever we want, that we can’t have our large McMansions, that we can’t have all our products that require intensive energy use to process, and PBS recognizes that unfortunate reality as well. So, PBS is merely responding to the demands of their sponsors and their audience, and until those demands can be altered, especially those of the consumers, nothing will change.

    Comment by Superman1 — 19 Sep 2012 @ 8:12 AM

  367. [edit OT]

    Comment by Superman1 — 19 Sep 2012 @ 8:29 AM

  368. re: How can the truth be oversold?

    In the recent past, Pakistan lost 2 years of its agricultural production to flood. Pakistan, as you all know, has nuclear weapns. And an active Islamist political movement. The Arab Spring revolts originated in uprisings over food prices.

    These facts are not disconnected.

    Now, we went to war over the (false) assertion that Iraq had WMDs. We lost thousands of our own citizans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis over the scantest POSSIBILITY that anti-Americans would get nukes. But we (by that I mean our leaders) just blankly accept that nothing needs be done to mitigate global warming which would help reduce the amount of political unrest in a volatile region. In fact, Romney recently ridiculed the idea of AGW.

    You can’t make this stuff up. The cynicism of the denialist crowd suggests that misanthropy is a sentimental affectation. But I don’t want that kind of outcome. So, yes, sell AGW. Sell it loudly. Persistently. Constantly, if needs be.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 19 Sep 2012 @ 9:15 AM

  369. What I’m getting from Superman1 is:

    1. “Government scientists” are lying about global warming.

    2. It’s too late to do anything about it, so why bother.

    Which sounds to me like just what the fossil fuel corporations would come up with at this point in the public discourse:

    Don’t trust the scientists.
    Don’t do anything about the problem.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 19 Sep 2012 @ 10:07 AM

  370. Superman1 wrote: “I agree with your comment about Ladbury’s ad hominem attacks”

    Oh, look, another commenter who has no idea what “ad hominem” means.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 19 Sep 2012 @ 10:09 AM

  371. #352 Jim Larsen, Shutting down plants which produce Plutonium Ingredient for nuclear bombs and also horrendous devastating fallout from catastrophes havin devastated parts of beautiful Ukraine and Japan is not a bad thing!!!!!. It is absolutely wonderful news! Engineers think it a death blow for their jobs, harghhhh they need to think in 3 D looking at dollar signs in the sky fly by at every moment the wind blows.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 19 Sep 2012 @ 10:27 AM

  372. Superman1: “I find that when people have to resort to the use of invective, explitives, and hyperbole, it is a tacit admission of defeat.”

    On the contrary, it is merely all your pathetic arguments and pretensions are worth. [edit]

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Sep 2012 @ 10:35 AM

  373. [edit: enough]

    Comment by Superman1 — 19 Sep 2012 @ 11:57 AM

  374. 363 Rob D said, “It’s only $18 to purchase the paper. Should not break the bank.”

    Say there’s two papers I might enjoy perusing a day…

    371 Wayne D, my sentence began ‘From a climactic standpoint’. Tell me how plutonium affects climate.

    Superman1, I respect the heck out of SecularA. I’d read a long post of his and learn something every time. I almost didn’t make the comment because even the hint that you two share the smallest of similarities is an incredible insult to SecularA.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 19 Sep 2012 @ 12:54 PM

  375. Re- Comment by Chris Korda — 18 Sep 2012 @ 10:08 PM ~#347:

    So, instead of just a link you have cut and pasted a long description of a paper that doesn’t sound very complementary to climate scientists, on a site run by climate scientists, and you haven’t read the paper. Further, you want me to buy it and tell you what you have pasted. Sheesh!


    Comment by Steve Fish — 19 Sep 2012 @ 1:11 PM

  376. David B said, “My prefer is to actually go enough below the preferred level to regrow ice sheets and glaciers to the extent practicable… …around 270 ppm”

    I think we had a slight miscommunication. I thought the group was talking about what we have to do. You’re talking optimal.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 19 Sep 2012 @ 1:37 PM

  377. Wayne D, your comments are of a banned nature and they translate to:

    “Climate change is less of a concern to me than risk to small numbers of people (when compared to billions)”

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 19 Sep 2012 @ 1:58 PM

  378. #374 Jim Easy one, If you cant live in a radioactive climate why bother having one in the first place.

    #335 Edward

    “”the useful service lives of wind turbines is about 20 years and of solar panels about 25 years versus 40 to 60 years for existing energy production units.” Existing energy production units are nuclear and coal.


    The Germans are paying $1.71 per kilowatt hour for renewable energy, assuming that nuclear + coal costs the same as what I am paying and ignoring the life expectancy of the machines. So double or triple the cost per ki”

    Well another easy one, they build the turbines, old generation though ( there are better designs in the pipeline), and for the new ones they will build again, jobs jobs jobs, great engineering technical jobs, making the economy strong. Even if $1.71 KWHr seems a bit high the money is spent internally, reinforcing the economy to the better. From the stand point of another Fukushima or Thchernobyl international disasters, Nuclear have huge environmental costs, having spread fallout all over the world.
    A wind turbine does not do the same thing when it fails. And the challenge for science is to make them better cleaner for the longest times to come, need I say more? About good interesting challenging jobs.
    Congratulations to the people of Japan and Germany! We will eventually catch up with you.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 19 Sep 2012 @ 2:41 PM

  379. Re- Comment by Superman1 — 19 Sep 2012 @ 5:48 AM ~#363:

    Correlation is not causation. If there is no direct link between a scientist’s favorite cause and an effect, then they had best get busy and search out the link. If you think that there is a known physical mechanism that explains how non-ionizing radiation can cause disease in living tissue, I would be glad to hear about it. Otherwise the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a choice, although there are better candidates that could be more easily tested.

    When looking at a complicated scientific area it is best to look at the whole field and find a consensus if there is one. It seems to me that what you have been doing with respect to climate science and non-ionizing radiation research, and other topics, is to form a strong opinion about the topic, cherry pick the evidence that you agree with, and then demonize (e.g. calling liar) those that you don’t agree with. The number of nefarious groups you have identified keeps growing. This looks like conspiracy theory to me.

    With regard to your views specifically about climate science and scientists, I challenge you to elucidate a couple of climate topics on which you have demonstrable evidence of lying or any kind of malfeasance on the part of climate scientists as a group. Remember, that your unsupported opinion carries no weight (You may recall Dirty Harry’s pithy expression of this notion). Also, please provide citations to research findings.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 19 Sep 2012 @ 2:50 PM

  380. Gavin,
    The truth is not being oversold – that is impossible. However, there have been those who portrayed future events as happening much sooner than forecast, giving the impression of imminent danger (or protraying the events without a timeline). The thought was that people would act too slowly, if they felt that the consequences were too far in the future to affect them. As scientists, we were split over this action, as it appeared less than honest. The approach appeared to work, as support for government action increased significantly.

    However, as with all questionable tactics, the chickens came home to roost. There were some who made proclamations that were easily refuted in short time; Dan posted a short list earlier (along with some appropriate quotes). When people realized what was occurring, they rebelled. Now, support is less than it was before this occurred. Any attempt to return to such a tactic would likely be met with similar results. We scientists have worked too hard on this to allow support to dwindle because of the overzealous.

    [Response: Pick any subject you like and you can find people who say dumb things at the extremes. Your argument can be made for any of them regardless of the merit of the point that the mainstream is making. People on the fringes who want attention will always exist. All that one can do is make sure that when people hear the loudest voices, they are reminded of the where and how the serious statements are made. It is also very easy to quote sensible people’s words shorn of caveats and complications and make it seem that they are being extreme and people that focus on those examples instead of paying attention to the National Academies or the IPCC reports are choosing to be distracted. While I and others can point to sources of better information and help give context, we can’t force everyone to only talk about what I find substantive. – gavin]

    Comment by Charles — 19 Sep 2012 @ 3:09 PM

  381. How is this even possible? record high sea temps “all the way to the bottom?”

    I have felt for a long time that climate sensitivity is much higher than most think. The melt in the Arctic, not just a little affected by sea temps, made that clear, particularly in the most recent years when meteorological conditions weren’t as conducive to melt as 2007 yet the thinning went o9n setting records virtually every year for volume.

    I see these “anomalous” temps as a harbinger of the new normal. Somehow, somewhere along the line, we are underestimating the amount of energy being kept on this planet. I will not be at all surprised when studies start indicating this.

    Boy, are we in trouble.

    Simplification, simplification, simplification.

    Comment by Killian — 19 Sep 2012 @ 3:28 PM

  382. Charles: “…there have been those who portrayed future events as happening much sooner than forecast…”

    “The thought was that…”

    “There were some who…”

    Really, could you possibly have been more vague? How can you expect us to take responsibility for the actions (unspecified) of people (unnamed) motivated by (who knows what)

    Charles, abandon the passive voice. It is not your friend. Give names, examples. Be concrete. Otherwise you simply come across as a concern troll.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Sep 2012 @ 3:36 PM

  383. Charles wrote: “there have been those who portrayed future events as happening much sooner than forecast … Now, support is less than it was before this occurred”

    And of course, current events demonstrate that they were correct.

    Which is why, contrary to your unsupported assertions, public support for action to address global warming is stronger than ever.

    Charles wrote: “We scientists have worked too hard”

    Are you a scientist? Because, with all due respect, you sound more like a global warming denier posting scripted talking points.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 19 Sep 2012 @ 3:53 PM

  384. from the 2010 National Academy of Sciences report, “Advancing the Science of Climate Change”:

    “Finally, aerosol emissions represent an important dilemma facing policy makers trying to limit the magnitude of future climate change. If aerosol emissions are reduced for health reasons, or as a result of actions taken to reduce GHG emissions, the net negative climate forcing associated with aerosols would decline much more rapidly than the positive forcing associated with GHGs due to the much shorter atmospheric lifetime of aerosols, and this could potentially lead to a rapid acceleration of global warming (see, e.g., Arneth et al., 2009). Understanding the many and diverse effects of aerosols is also important for helping policymakers evaluate proposals to artificially increase the amount of aerosols in the stratosphere in an attempt to offset global warming (see Chapter 15).”

    Comment by Doug Meyer — 19 Sep 2012 @ 3:57 PM

  385. Mr. Charles wrote, on the 19th of September, at 3:09 PM, complaining of dire predictions made that had not yet come to pass. How then shall we evaluate dire predictions that have come to pass, and indeed very much sooner than expected, or those that are worse than predicted. For the first, the much quicker decline of arctic sea ice than thought possible. For the second, underprediction of intensification of hydrological cycles. For a combination, the phenological and other biological evidence of the stampede poleward and upward of living things.


    Comment by sidd — 19 Sep 2012 @ 4:12 PM

  386. Jim Larsen @322 — Somewhere above about 285 ppm arctic melt will continue. To restore the climatic conditions for industrialized agriculture requires returning to the best conditions prevailing in the past 150 years or so.

    One has to have a goal in order to discuss what we have to do.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 19 Sep 2012 @ 4:30 PM

  387. > there have been those who portrayed future events ….
    > As scientists, we were split over this action,
    > as it appeared less than honest …..


    “Charles” — you say you are a scientist?
    In what field?
    Where did you, or someone you know, make false claims?

    It’s important to find an actual instance of this, as it’s so often alleged by people who think someone did it somewhere — Google finds the usual “masterresource’ and “C3” and “SPPI” stuff, but you wouldn’t be relying on that as evidence.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Sep 2012 @ 5:07 PM

  388. David B. Benson wrote: “One has to have a goal in order to discuss what we have to do.”

    I really don’t get these sorts of discussions.

    Global average CO2 levels for 2011 were over 390 ppm and were measured at 400 ppm over the Arctic in May 2012 according to NOAA, and the global average is expected to reach 400 ppm around 2016.

    Meanwhile, global CO2 emissions reached their highest levels ever recorded in 2011, increasing more than 3 percent over 2010.

    Under these circumstances, debating the CO2 levels that we would ultimately need to manipulate up and down to control the Earth’s climate and prevent ice ages seems pointless and absurd.

    We know “what we have to do”. We have to stop the growth of CO2 emissions immediately and then begin to reduce emissions just as rapidly as we possibly can, to reach zero emissions as soon as possible. That means phasing out all fossil fuels as fast as possible, and ending deforestation and other destructive “land use changes”.

    And while we are doing that we also need to be engaging in a massive global reforestation effort and converting to organic agriculture to draw down and sequester the already dangerous anthropogenic excess of CO2 in soils and biomass.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 19 Sep 2012 @ 6:15 PM

  389. The point of my comment at 384 is to raise the issue of lying by omission. If emissions reductions and (extremely dangerous) geoengineering are BOTH required, then say so, all the time. (Or is it felt that overall climate forcing does not need to be reduced this century?)

    Comment by Doug Meyer — 19 Sep 2012 @ 6:18 PM

  390. The Quaternary started with a bang:
    but did the bolide impact cause the Quarternary?

    [The reCAPTCHA oracle states Dumble Rock which I leave to your imagination as to the interpretation.]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 19 Sep 2012 @ 6:51 PM

  391. I came back to look for an answer to my question (what is the mass balance of Arctic sea ice melting and Antarctic sea ice increasing), but it was apparently deemed unworthy of discussion. I would think this question is relevant to the site, and it certainly rises above the average level of discourse on this particular page of the thread.

    Comment by AJ — 19 Sep 2012 @ 6:54 PM

  392. Wow!
    I am surprised by how people can so readily deny that which is contrary to their own opinion. Secular said, “public support for action to address global warming is stronger than ever,” yet a recent poll shows just the opposite.

    Indeed, the issue ranked near the bottom of a current poll of American election issues:

    How about this fringe statement of 25m sea level rise by the end of the century?

    [Response: Now that’s just what I was talking about. You haven’t even read, or possibly not understood, what is being discussed. Instead you have invented a claim that you consider alarmist and with no further ado proceeded to assume that this was in fact the claim made. There is no defence for the writer against the blatant misrepresentation of their words. And you appear to be so un-self conscious of the fact that you are making things up that you actually give the link – presumably confident that anyone curious enough to click through will similarly see only the fantasy you wish for them. Sorry to disappoint, but this completely pedestrian misrepresentation is neither novel nor interesting. – gavin]

    Often accompanied by an image of this sort.

    How about this famous speech about global warming leading to increased hurricane activity?

    Yet, this has not materialized.

    [Response: Not what was said. Again. – gavin]

    I am sure that everyone is familiar with Maslowski’s ice-free Arctic by 2013. Even with this summer’s record low, few people see this occurring within a year, let alone this decade. It could happen thereaftet, if the trend continues.

    [Response: Maslowski (and now Wadhams) are indeed on the fringe on this. Their predictions have not been endorsed by IPCC, National Academies, Royal Societies or acted on by policy makers. I consider their statements on ice free summers as little more than speculation. Yet you think these statements by are somehow equivalent? Again, you are guilty of willful conflation for the sake of rhetoric. Boring. – gavin]

    How about this dire prepdiction?

    Interestingly, when someone predicts a lower rise, they are attacked viciously on this site, but when they predict a similar higher rise, they are praised. Yet, both predictions are just as extreme.

    [Response: Nonsense. – gavin]

    Yes Gavin, fringes will always exists. However, I am not referring to those. Fringe groups exist in just about every aspect, but influence very few people. Why do so many people here think that a few fringe groups can influence the majority of the people? Also, why do so many try to counter some obviously lowball predictions, with comparable highend predictions? If we just stick with the current data, the masses might just come onboard.

    By the way Hank, I am an environmental chemist. My specialty is in oil-related events, and have more than a passing interest in climate change.

    Comment by Charles — 19 Sep 2012 @ 6:58 PM

  393. Charles @~380, that is an anti-masterpiece, nauseatingly full of innuendo and remarkably short (possibly absent) of facts or clarity.

    Lack of knowledge is not a sin, but pretending to know what you don’t is wrong. In a world rapidly reacting to the most invasive species ever, your negativity no longer gets a pass as idle discussion. It is misdirection.

    In addition, your English is poor.

    Please make clear statements and back them up. Everyone else should not feed him.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 19 Sep 2012 @ 7:43 PM

  394. SecularAnimist @388 — I agree. Clearly there is plenty of time to settle on just how low CO2 concentrations need to go. The first goal is to stop increasing and the second is to start decreasing.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 19 Sep 2012 @ 8:57 PM

  395. AJ: The term mass balance doesn’t have a great deal of meaning when applied to sea ice. Mass balance is the difference between ice accumulation and ice loss, and sea ice, being seasonal, flips between the two twice every year, freezing then melting.

    I suppose what you are actually asking is what is the difference between sea ice volume at either pole. This is complicated by the fact that the seasons are out of phase at either pole, and the comparison will be different depending which season you choose.

    Now you have to ask what data is available, and what data is interesting. Antarctic sea ice diminishes almost to zero every year – just a small fringe around ice shelves and icebergs (often from disintegrating ice shelves). The winter Antarctic sea ice is also uninteresting, since it is thin first year ice that won’t survive until the next year. The Arctic is a different story, however, since we have good estimates of ice volume, and a trend that is both substantial and highly statistically significant.

    And this is why Antarctica is ignored in most discussions of sea ice, since the summer ice and the trends are so negligible, and the physical processes causing the trends are so different.

    If you want to make the comparison anyway, you will have to find a reliable estimate of Antarctic sea ice volume at the summer minimum.

    Comment by Didactylos — 19 Sep 2012 @ 9:13 PM

  396. Charles seems to be confused by the difference between claims of what may happen, and what will happen.

    And let’s not forget that Maslowski’s forecasts have been far, far closer than nearly every other scientist modelling the Arctic. Are we going to quibble if he is off by a few years in one direction rather than the other, when other scientists are going to miss the mark by many decades? Let’s not forget, too, that there remains a realistic probability that the Arctic will indeed be substantially ice free next year.

    Comment by Didactylos — 19 Sep 2012 @ 9:28 PM

  397. Re 358 dbostrom – yes! There have been some bridges to nowhere, but some of what is considered waste as such isn’t that at all. Still, there is the question of what gives the most return. It’s very logical to suppose that free markets – or at least markets – are more likely to achieve greater efficiency (absent unregulated/untaxed externalities and some other issues), however, humans aren’t completely rational and at least some irrationality can be predictable, and see Hank Roberts @ 14 (and my response @ 59 too).

    Re 361 – Superman1 – “I agree with your comment about Ladbury’s ad hominem attacks. I find that when people have to resort to the use of invective, explitives, and hyperbole, it is a tacit admission of defeat.

    It can be that. It can also be out of frustration from a victory that the other side refuses to acknowledge. (That’s not so much directed at you as it is to … wel, remember when Buzz Aldrin punched that guy? The point is, when we know we’re right the others are clearly wrong, you might say that about their ad homs, but the ad homs themselves are not the best evidence upon which to base victory).

    and re your 366 – how many climate deniers watch PBS all that much? Anyway… okay, I’m not going to say the government hasn’t been corrupted to some extent. See Jason Jone’s recent expose on waste in intelligence in particular (Daily Show) (But in that case, it doesn’t matter what the employees do, just that it continues to take as many of them as possible to do it (?) – that is, if things are as the seem, (?)). (But see also Hank Roberts @ 14 ). (Some of the waste that gets popularized isn’t actually waste, or at least it’s not wasteful like a bridge-to-nowhere. Those shrimp running on a treadmill had a purpose. Seriously! Unfortunately I can’t find the website that explained it.) True that there has been Lysenkoism and Mao-style farming, but in this country, James Hansen has still managed to get his word out, even when it seems a bit beyond likely (Could Venusian conditions be readily achievable in the near geologic future – ask Chris Colose). And climate models do what they do; they aren’t tuned to underestimate sensitivity – they aren’t tuned to fit a trend (see RC’s FAQ on climate modelling parts 1 and 2) – they don’t included everything and it’s my understanding that the way feedback could potentially vary with climate leads to the long tail in probability, although I’ve read recently that the confidence interval has been narrowed by combining results from different methods (paleoclimate, historical, models, etc.)… There’s distinctions between the work the scientists are producing and how it is communicated with the public and what the media focuses on, etc, etc.

    Re Chris Korda – you spent so much time arguing with Secular Animist in August on that point (whether or not humans should try to stick around and make it work) and now you give the impression that you’ve gone farther than Secular Animist ever actually meant to (see his clarifying remark). I’m confused.

    Re Edward Greisch – first, to be very clear, I’m not stating this to be anti-(you-know-what) and while I don’t know about some of the technological particulars that wayne davidson’s talking about (risks), I would argue against his perspective on high prices (I prefer ‘efficient stimulus’). But at least on solar panels, I really do think you are underselling their lifespans. The cuttoff is when output no longer justifies the costs of BOS (equipment and land/roof space) – when it is more economical to replace it, which isn’t necessarily at the performance threshold given on the warranties. An individual may want to insure his/her property, but for the fleet, it is the average panel’s survival and performance that matters. (Also, CO2eq/kWhe not that high (and will decrease as clean energy takes over; note EROEIs) – over a year ago you were using old numbers, see my links in unforced August – (you asked a question on another thread sometime in the last few weeks) (and to be very clear, I’m not endorsing all of the numbers in the links I provided, meaning that some of the emissions stated for n____ are not of the lifecycle that many would think… (I actually agree with **some** of the criticisms I’ve read at BNC of the Jacobson-Delucchi work)… I obviously can’t go farther into the details of what I’m thinking about here because I want the moderators to like me; the point is – look at the numbers for solar and wind).)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Sep 2012 @ 9:35 PM

  398. re 366 – I meant to include this
    Science is so powerful that it drags us kicking and screaming towards the truth despite our best efforts to avoid it.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Sep 2012 @ 9:43 PM

  399. Maslowski’s projection is for 2016 +/- 3 years, i.e. anywhere from 2013 to 2019. Note how Charles turns this into “by 2013.” I expect he takes the same care with his environmental chemistry work.

    [Response: Maslowski has been quite loose about this prediction over the years, though your formulation is the most recent. For instance, here or in the original NYT piece. As was discussed in the PIOMAS post, no justification for these extrapolations has been given, and I consider predictions based on them to be hugely over-confident. – gavin]

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 19 Sep 2012 @ 9:52 PM

  400. @AJ re relative mass balance of sea ice melting in the Arctic and around Antarctica

    Most of the sea ice around Antarctica melts out and reforms every year. See min bout 3 million, max around 18-19 million. It only reaches 1.5-2 meters thick at max, and the positive trend is small compared to the total – There is no trend at minimum in Antarctica, but the negative trend of the Arctic minimum is large, and this is the ice that used to be permanent – see

    Even if the lost ice in the Arctic had been the same thickness as in the Antarctic, the losses would be greater, since the area is greater; and in fact the ice that has gone missing in the Arctic used to be much thicker. The global net mass balance of lost ice is much greater than the global decline in area –

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 19 Sep 2012 @ 10:26 PM

  401. Charles, Maslowski’s speculation was 2016 +- 3 years, and so far 2019 is looking pretty good. As SecularA said, those wacko extremist outliers are looking prescient.

    291 AJ asked, ” (what is the mass balance of Arctic sea ice melting and Antarctic sea ice increasing)”

    There are two types of sea ice: seasonal and multi-year, and they act on the climate in different fashions. Historically, we had one ice cap’s worth of each. The Southern Ocean around Antarctica was seasonal and the Arctic Ocean was multi-year.

    Both types insulate the ocean in winter, making global warming worse, but in summer seasonal ice melts and lets sunlight into the ocean, making global warming worse, while multi-year ice remains in summer, making global warming better.

    We are now switching over to 2 seasonal caps and no multi-year cap.

    Say you owned an igloo (Antarctic sea ice) and some ice in your pants (Arctic sea ice). You take the ice out of your pants, and use it to make your igloo thicker. I suspect you’d feel a tad warmer, even though your total ice hasn’t changed.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 19 Sep 2012 @ 10:46 PM

  402. 386 David B said, “Somewhere above about 285 ppm arctic melt will continue.”

    So no miscommunication, but no cite yet either.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 19 Sep 2012 @ 10:54 PM

  403. Arctic Ocean being completely ice free in summer will be a dramatic event, but I think its more of local Arctic significance rather than affecting the wider world of weather. Having observed the cold temperature North Pole not really moving much during this past summer seems to indicate that the remaining very thin sea ice has had a small weather impact and will be largely overshadowed by towering Greenland , the last bastion of ice in the Northern Hemisphere. So I am not sure if its worth getting excited over “the look” of no sea ice at all while the climate change will be steadied by Greenland over several summers to come. So the remaining ice pack may be smaller or larger than 2012 minima extent for decades to come, what may be left protected and preserved by Greenland, clouds, sea currents and tides, all while continental shelves of Russia US and Scandinavia will be ice free. We tend to forget a lot that the ice free North Pole is the next tangible event long before there will be no sea ice at all during summer.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 19 Sep 2012 @ 11:38 PM

  404. In simpler terms; There will be a much larger wide open Arctic Ocean every summer for decades, unless there will be a dramatic climate changing event. The effect of the remaining sea ice will be far lesser than the sea ice coverage of the 70’s for instance.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 19 Sep 2012 @ 11:56 PM

  405. Gavin said (regarding Maslowski’s projections of 2016 +/- 3 years for an “ice free” Arctic summer) :

    no justification for these extrapolations has been given, and I consider predictions based on them to be hugely over-confident.

    I understand your position that any prediction based on only a sub-set of the uncertainties in the Arctic (in Maslowski’s case, ocean heat flux), could be considered “over-confident”. However, designating the claim as having “no justification” seems a bit premature.

    If Maslowski can conclude on ocean heat flux increase alone that volume will decrease significantly (which seems to be supported by basic physics of ice melt), and that this will possibly lead to ice-free summers within a decade, then it may be good to see if we can refute that argument with GCM simulation results, which, after all take many more climatic variables into account, or with observations of Arctic sea ice. Let’s look at the evidence :

    Arctic sea ice extent seems to have bottomed out at 3.36 million km^2, a whopping 800 k km^2 below the previous record minimum in 2007, and the reasons for this significant decline seems to be reduction of ice thickness (volume), exactly what Maslowski was projecting. Also, ice extent is some 4 sigmas below the CMIP3 trends, and still some 2 sigmas below the most recent CMIP5 trends, with the additional issue that CMIP5 models do not capture ice volume field nor increased ocean heat flux, nor reduced snow cover in spring and early summer very well at all.

    So we may ask the question if there is any more “justification” to accept extrapolations based on GCMs (projecting ice free Arctic late in this century) versus extrapolations based on Maslowski’s high-resolution ocean heat flux models.

    Don’t get me wrong, Gavin, I completely respect the significant effort of climate scientists to model the response of the Arctic to GHG forcing. The Arctic, with all its feedback mechanisms is arguably the most difficult area to model.

    But there comes a point where it may be time to point out that Nature may be following more of the upper-end of the Bell curve of possibilities, rather than the lower-end that is being argued by climate change contrarians.

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 20 Sep 2012 @ 3:34 AM

  406. For references :

    Stoeve’s assessment of how well CMIP5 models replicate ice volume distributions :
    which is… not well at all.

    And that we may be aguing about the lower-end of the Bell curve, while Nature may be following the higher end :

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 20 Sep 2012 @ 3:48 AM

  407. Re Prediction of an ice-free Arctic.
    The original (or I suppost it is) 2007 NYT article mentioned @392Response is here. WRT 2013, it says no more than “At least one researcher, Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, projects a blue Arctic Ocean in summers by 2013” while it quotes other scientists, for instance Marifa Holland who warns against expecting an ice-free Arctic in 2012-17.

    The Maslowski prediction is dealt with directly in this 2007 BBC item, it being the result of a study using ice levels 1979-2004. In the aftermath of the 2007 melt, Maslowski does not hold back calling it “Our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer” that “may be … already too conservative” in light of the 2007 melt. But he also adds “In the end, it will just melt away quite suddenly. It might not be as early as 2013 but it will be soon, much earlier than 2040.” and discussing the previous accepted wisdom concludes “My thinking on this is that 2030 is not an unreasonable date to be thinking of.”

    Of course Maslowski’s quotes are not being cherrypicked denialists this year as he didn’t used the magic word “2012” that adorns this year’s calendars. The man who did use 2012 was NASA’s Jay Zwally of whom the National Geographic said in 2007 This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: “At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.”
    So he wasn’t entirely predicting an ice-free 2012. He was more explaining 2007 in terms of a nearly ice-free future. But that doesn’t stop denialists misrepresenting him. Apparently 2012 isn’t at all ice-free like the dumb-ass scientist said it would be because there’s two Alaskas-worth out there unmelted. Wow!

    Strangely, it occurs to me that “Wow!” is exactly what self-proclaimed scientist Charles@392 said just before he read too much into a title that said “NASA: 2 degrees temp rise will cause 25m sea level rise.” He somehow decided it must be meant to apply to 2100 and was thus entirely preposterous. Perhaps this was why he didn’t bother to appraise himself of what the article actually said before waving it joyously at us here. Myself, I will overlook this act of stupidity. After all I have been know to get a bit miffed with folk projecting preposterous sea level rises. But then, I do get more exercised by the arrant fools who fail to consider that continung sea level rise will also be a nasty problem after 2100.

    Comment by MARodger — 20 Sep 2012 @ 4:56 AM

  408. Gavin,
    Part of the confusion with Hansen’s statement on 25m sea level rise, is that he said the last time the world was 2C warmer, sea levels were 25m higher. He says that we will see 2C by 2100. Many people have put 2 and 2 together and arrived at 25m by 2100.

    [Response: So Hansen is to blame when people can’t read? The same error was made by some headlines after the Overpeck et al paper in 2008 – and just as in this case, scientists have pushed back and got corrections made and added context. Yet they are apparently still to blame that people like Charles and these others can’t in fact add 2+2 correctly? Are we supposed to never mention what sea-level was like at the Eemian or Pliocene? – gavin]

    This has led to these various fringe-element photos:

    Also, check out the covers of these “fringe” publications:

    It sure does seem that there are those willing to let these “fringe” groups spread the most pessimistic views in order to gain support.

    [Response: These are newsstand covers – hardly the place to look for nuances. In any case, one cover is about record tornadoes not climate, one is a dumb piece in a sports magazine, two others are unproblematic in any way. You too are guilty of labelling things as extreme in order to support rhetorical points. It’s boring. – gavin]

    Comment by Dan H. — 20 Sep 2012 @ 8:18 AM

  409. Dr. Inferno at Denial Depot referred recently to “Watts Law: A record low in Arctic ice is a sign that a Recovery has begun. Such an event occurred in summer 2007.”
    Right on cue, Over at Wattsupwiththat there’s a post with the title “Sea Ice News Volume 3 number 13 – 2012 Arctic sea ice minimum reached, it’s all gain from here”.

    Comment by Phil L — 20 Sep 2012 @ 8:56 AM

  410. Ray Ladbury wrote at #359: “What I have said is a simple insult.”

    Thank you for posting that. One of my pet peeves is people who mistake insults for ad hominem fallacies.

    Good insults are an art form and should be appreciated as such, not denigrated as mere rhetorical fallacies.

    [Response: Actually, neither insults nor ad homs are particularly welcome here. None of us really has time to moderate this kind of stuff, and frankly we resent the time it takes to police the various slanging matches. Please stick to the substance and try out the art of the insult somewhere else. Thanks. – gavin]

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 20 Sep 2012 @ 10:03 AM

  411. Gavin,
    The question was whether global warming was being “oversold.” This is what is being picked up in the news, and what the majority of people are seeing – not well-informed scientists or “fringe” groups. Those that stepping in to correct the media misrepresentations were quickly labelled, “deniers” or “voodoo scientists.” Your retreat to the literary nuance, and subsequent blaming the masses, may be a larger part of the reason that people are distrustful of climate scientists. You do neither yourself, nor the movement any favors with this type of response. It is no wonder some posters consider this site as having “cherry-picking” repsonses.

    [Response: Oh please. Now climate scientists are responsible for the lamentable state the media too? You have to have been living in a cave not to be aware that the media has a bias towards sensationalism and controversy as opposed to nuance and substance on complex issues: “Can their toothbrush be killing your children? More at 11….” (answer: No). Scientists are actually at the vanguard of trying to improve matters – by providing more context, trying to do a better job of communications and criticising the media when they screws up. No doubt you prodigious googling skills will find many examples (which I am sure you will not hesitate to share with the commenters here). But because it serves a rhetorical purpose, you continue to blame scientists for the lack of science knowledge among headline writers and cover artists, rather than tackling the institutional fault lines that are actually the cause. And when scientists go out of their way to point people to reliable sources instead of soundbites, you respond that we can’t be trusted and that this is cherry-picking. Brilliant! Your epistemic bubble is complete. – gavin]

    Comment by Dan H. — 20 Sep 2012 @ 10:40 AM

  412. Gavin,
    Do you live under a shoe? Of course the media has a bias towards sensationalism. That is exactly why Hansen, Gore, Muller, and a host of others have directly to that venue to make claims that would not hold water in a scientific journal.

    [Response: Gore is not a scientist, and I have certainly criticised Muller’s leap into the fray via press release prior to the publication of his groups papers. Your claim relating to statement about Hansen is less valid – almost all of his statements are backed up by his papers. – gavin]

    Be honest, are you actively criticizing those who make extreme claims towards exaggerated warming effects, or only those who make similar claims towards no warming?

    [Response: Both – I have (and will do some more) criticised Maslowski and Wadhams for their claims about the Arctic, NGOs who have claimed impossible warming rates, people who talk too glibly about running away tipping points of no return etc. There are many more critiques in the inline comments on this site when people have asked questions about specific issues that arise in the media. I’m not sure how you imagine I am supposed to monitor the entirety of the media output and police it for accuracy. – gavin]

    What about the [edit – pejorative] who have criticized those scientists who are providing more context (Jairam Ramesh sound familiar?)? If not, maybe you could google it, since you feel that anyone who disagrees with you has no scientific skills.

    [Response: Never heard of him. Wikipedia says he’s an economist, so I’m not sure what I’m supposed to looking for. And you have it completely wrong (again) – ask any scientist who has seen me at meetings or has corresponded with me: I disagree with a lot of people – some of whom have mad scientific skillz. But I also take exception to unsubstantiated claims made by people who have none. Note however, the disagreements are about the claims, not the people. – gavin]

    You seem to want to blame everyone else for the failings of climate scientists, and that the scientists, themselves, are above reproach. Why you think certain scientists can be trusted and others cannot, seems to just reinforce your cherry-picking stereotype. Instead of blaming scientists, why not try to work them to achieve a greater understanding? Closed-mindedness does little to enhance scientific understanding.

    [Response: Calling you out on your rhetorical excess is equivalent to “closed mindedness”? Ha. On the larger point, of course certain scientists are more trustworthy on some issues than others on other issues. Obvious no? Which is precisely why I spend most time pointing people to the collective assessments from IPCC and NRC etc. since they are much less affected by any single person’s bias or trustworthiness. I have never claimed that climate scientists (or any other scientists) are perfect human beings – but that is just another strawman. – gavin]

    Comment by Dan H. — 20 Sep 2012 @ 11:28 AM

  413. Gavin #411,

    There is ‘cherry-picking’ going on here. I responded in detail last evening to three postings directed at my comments, and not one of these responses was posted. Since then, further comments by the original posters have been posted. That’s the kind of ‘cherry-picking’ I would expect from Watts, not from this site.

    [Response: The thread was getting out of control and being hijacked by excessive and tendentious comment wars (including some of yours but others as well). Substantive comments will be posted but please take a time out and try and moderate the zeal. There is nothing that is worth saying that won’t wait for a calmer discussion. – gavin]

    Comment by Superman1 — 20 Sep 2012 @ 11:52 AM

  414. > (in Maslowski’s case, ocean heat flux)

    Dr. M. works at the Navy Postgraduate School.

    I’ve never seen reference to any data he may be using that isn’t publicly available.

    The U.S. Navy must have information about, for example, ocean heat fluxes — in detail — that isn’t published.

    Would there be any hints in the hallway conversations outside meetings that Dr. M. and his students are able to rely on such information in making their projections?

    You can find public information along these lines, coarse-grained and farily old:

    will find you this (powerpoint, you’d have to download it)

    Warm Core Eddies…/ppt/…/Ocean%20fronts%20and%20Eddies.p...

    File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint – Quick View
    Inter-leaving of warm and cold water masses along front can cause shallow … Submarines may attempt to avoid detection by transiting parallel to fronts; If the front … wind direction opposes current direction and decreases when wind and current … Decreases the Mixed Layer Depth (MLD) and the Sonic Layer Depth (SLD) …

    That has some detailed maps of ocean heat fluxes.

    It has a link to


    Shorter question: I know the IPCC and the scientific community in general has to work with published science. Otherwise you go off the rails and end up with assertions that can’t be supported.

    I also know the military has equipment and data far better than is available to the public in areas relevant to military operations. Remember the “Two military spy telescopes, just as big and powerful as Hubble, donated to NASA — Jun 5, 2012” — they have old_discards_ as good as the best current equipment.

    Now look at the Arctic Ocean — it’s brand new for almost all military operations aside from the very limited submarine use. And submarines have been kept lurking under the ice for decades as part of the strategic nuclear deterrent, ready and waiting to launch missiles to blow up the enemy’s glowing ashes if the enemy were so foolish as to start a nuclear war. And other submarines and other equipment must have been all over under the ice to find and kill the enemy’s equipment.

    And now — the ice is melting and the sunlight is shining in. And that changes the whole question of how to hide your assets, which is part of their job.

    Of course they must be collecting data frantically to go with whatever they’ve collected for decades.

    Of course they can’t disclose it– this is brand new warfare possible, entirely new conditions in a changed world.

    But — is there any hint Dr. M. might be using such information to project _when_ the ice will be mostly gone?

    There’s a serious military timeline to consider — when do they need to have what equipment in service where.

    And if we’re going to see war over oil under the oceans — as China and Japan are threatening in the Pacific — it’s apt to be in the Arctic.

    Just, you know, speculating here.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Sep 2012 @ 11:54 AM

  415. Re 403 wayne davidson – (because you refered to a relative lack of summer SST changes) – the water absorbs solar energy and needs to release more heat in the winter before ice can form again.

    Re 401 Jim Larsen – “Both types insulate the ocean in winter, making global warming worse” – made me think of another geoengineering idea: continually bulldoze winter sea ice into small spaces (near Greenland?) to keep openning up more spaces for heat to be released and ice to freeze. It would be a weird winter but you could have thicker ice (and snow?) at the end of it. I’m guessing it’s not practical.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 20 Sep 2012 @ 11:58 AM

  416. Gavin,
    Thank you for your responses, and not bore holing my posts. I will end here, with the hopes that you will continue to take exception and point out exaggerated unsubstantiated claims (granted we may disagree on what constitutes these claims, but that is minor).

    By the way, Jairam Ramesh was the Indian environmental minister who released the report by glaciologist Vijay Raina detailing that the Himalayan glacier retreat had not excellerated over the past 50 years, and that the IPCC predictions were recklessly alarmist. Pachauri called this report, “voodoo science.”

    [Response: Pachauri was right. The discussion of global warming and glaciers in that report (Ch 8) was rubbish. (Note for other readers, this report made no mention of the IPCC error related the 2035 date – it doesn’t even mention the IPCC). Why Ramesh should be consider a paragon for this report is a little mysterious. – gavin]

    Comment by Dan H. — 20 Sep 2012 @ 1:32 PM

  417. Interesting bit on NPR this morning:
    Why Mental Pictures Can Sway Your Moral Judgment

    Verbal v. visual thinking. Made me wonder if images illustrating climate change should include more of the ugliness that’s implied. You know, pictures you probably wouldn’t want hanging in your dining room but that are powerful nonetheless.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 20 Sep 2012 @ 1:39 PM

  418. 415 Patrick mused, ” I’m guessing it’s not practical.”

    My favorite is netting the Fram and other straights, but stacking ice is a grand one, too.

    recaptcha has an opinion: seemed etsour

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 20 Sep 2012 @ 2:17 PM

  419. Gavin, Hansen papers backing him up is nice and important, but his predictions coming through is the most critical thing. What would Einstein relativity be without gravitational lensing proved by an eclipse captured by Eddington? Hansen passed the ultimate peer, simple observational reality. While other scientists have written mistakes even when peer reviewed. Attention must be given to those who were correct. This is how peer review gets checked.

    Patrick, there are live models of the Arctic Ocean basin, Baffin Bay and Hudson Bay, both enclosed by land with a narrow strait to the Atlantic Baffin is my favourite, and it used to have ice year round, sinking whalers regularly, it is next to Greenland and has a similar circulation to the Arctic ocean. Eventually sst’s became so strong that it lost its year round pack not so long ago about 1993??. So warmer sst’s is indeed key. All should keep in mind that Killer whales were observed attacking and eating Narwhals near Pond Inlet this year, an important observation of warming. I don’t think its necessary to be fixated with an image fantasy of no ice at all when theory driven prediction from the past needs reality of the right now in order to prove like Eddington.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 20 Sep 2012 @ 2:17 PM

  420. 417 Radge H, thanks.

    How about an orbital desert scene – desert for thousands of miles – zooming in to where two middle aged friends are talking while waiting to die. “You take the last sip, Joe.” One talks about his mother, who did everything she could to ensure nothing bad ever happened to her baby, while fading the scene to a small young mother driving her son to school in a huge Abrams tank, spewing carbon all the way…

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 20 Sep 2012 @ 2:34 PM

  421. Trance Song: The Rate of Climate Change

    This disco-dance track has a climate science theme, featuring samples from James Hansen. Maybe this is another way for messaging and to address the unprecedented crisis we face. To help bring awareness to the topic of climate change and it’s implications. I am not aware of many climate related songs, though maybe this is interesting for some, enjoy :)

    Comment by prokaryotes — 20 Sep 2012 @ 3:09 PM

  422. Jim Larsen @402 — I stated that poorly. Check when the last growing glacier in Switzerland stopped and began shrinking. Then use the ice core records of CO2 to determine the concentration at that date. That’ll be a suitable approximation.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Sep 2012 @ 5:56 PM

  423. Insults aside, @313 I’m accused of doing “nothing” to combat climate change. My response is as follows:

    1. I have not procreated and never will.
    2. I’ve been a strict vegetarian for more than thirty years.
    3. I founded a 501&#40c)(3) educational foundation dedicated to restoring balance between humans and non-humans via voluntary population reduction. Since 1992 we’ve reached millions of people via art, music, culture jamming, and agitprop, and inspired many of them to not procreate or eat animals.

    You may not agree with the strategy or the tactics but this certainly isn’t “nothing”.

    If history is any guide, people will only change course if they’re forced to by external events, or they’re persuaded by a new point of view with sufficient emotional charge to overcome their stubbornness. I’ve been concentrating on the latter, though I freely admit the former is becoming more likely.

    Climate change will not be avoided or even mitigated without deep cultural evolution. Technological change will not be enough. In many ways it’s rapid technological change, and the hubris associated with it, that got us into this mess. I would like to see less self-righteousness, elitism, and contempt for non-scientists, and more discussion of culture, socialization, and particularly the relationship between science and power.

    Comment by Chris Korda — 20 Sep 2012 @ 6:15 PM

  424. Jim @ 420 
    I’ve noticed that a lot of imagery tends to be either rather beautiful or tawdry but not especially thought provoking in and of itself re AGW.  Even a melting glacier looks glamorous, and aerial shots tend to be appealing in an abstract sort of way. A dried up cornfield just looks dusty. It’s problematic.  Plus real ugliness will often have multiple causes.

    Prokaryotes @ 421

    Comment by Radge Havers — 20 Sep 2012 @ 9:21 PM

  425. wayne davidson: when we see larger areas of open water in the Arctic earlier in the melting season, closer to the summer solstice, we will see some very large SST anomalies.

    This year, we saw large areas with less than 15% ice, but a small fraction of ice still remained in these areas until very late in the melting season. I don’t need to lecture you about the physics involved.

    The Arctic basin is virtually* a closed system. Albedo changes and consequent SST changes are going to have a very significant local effect – even if modelling these effects leaves some uncertainty over what may happen.

    * Not literally, and on short timescales.

    Comment by Didactylos — 20 Sep 2012 @ 11:23 PM

  426. Dan H said #409 :

    Part of the confusion with Hansen’s statement on 25m sea level rise, is that he said the last time the world was 2C warmer, sea levels were 25m higher. Many people have put 2 and 2 together and arrived at 25m by 2100.

    Would you kindly point out a few examples of people that arrived at 25m by 2100 ?
    So far the only one arriving at that conclusion is Dan H in #409.

    and in 411 :

    The question was whether global warming was being – oversold.-

    Actually the question was “How can the truth be ‘oversold’?”
    But since Charles and you changed that back to the assertion in Watts’ PBS piece, lets look at some evidence that “the global warming crowd oversells its message”.

    So, I’ve been looking, but it seems that neither you, nor Watts in his PBS interview, nor any one of the commenters on the 3 online PBS pieces that followed, are able to give even ONE example of where “global warming was being oversold”. Not just evidence of overselling in scientific literature, but even more astounding, not even in mainstream media either !

    Watts spends most of his interview handwaving at “climategate” and “opinion polls” and motives (“lots of money involved”), without actually even giving a single example of where the still unidentified “global warming crowd oversells its message”.
    Now, that’s interesting, no ?

    The only concrete challenge that Watts brings up (against Muller’s data set) is the UHI effect. Unfortunately for Watts, we all know what Fall et al 2010 found after investigating a very large number of stations :

    The lack of a substantial average temperature difference across classes, once the geographical distribution of stations is taken into account, is also consistent with the lack of significant trend differences in average temperatures – .average temperature trends were statistically indistinguishable across classes.

    So, who exactly is overselling exactly which message again ?

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 21 Sep 2012 @ 2:17 AM

  427. Chris Korda said

    I would like to see less self-righteousness, elitism, and contempt for non-scientists, and more discussion of culture, socialization, and particularly the relationship between science and power.

    Considering the increasingly hostile behavior against scientists and their ‘inconvenient’ findings, by a large number of our politicians and prominent media networks, as well as industies that may be adversely affected by these scientific findings, allow me to rephrase your statement to this :

    I would like to see less self-righteousness, elitism, and contempt for scientists, and more discussion of culture, socialization, and particularly the relationship between industy interests and power.

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 21 Sep 2012 @ 2:52 AM

  428. 422 David B,

    Thanks, and it isn’t interesting enough to me to investigate. My thoughts are that if 285 happens to be needed and our efforts only get to 350, we can wait or we can give things a nudge with a temporary aerosol emission in the best possible place and time, finishing the deal quite easily, and with better control than mere CO2 reductions.

    Since we’re in a natural temperature decline, just not losing means we win eventually.

    However, and unfortunately, I think even voicing a number is incredibly damaging. The complex relationship between current atmospheric/ocean concentrations and future equilibrium is generally lost on most folks, so it translates to, “We need to get to 285-350 and we’re at 390 and not stopping soon.”

    The options are to believe the speaker is nuts, or that we’re all going to die and there is no chance to change things, so WTF.

    The reality is that if we get below the then-current biosphere and ocean uptake, then we can pretty easily patch any leaks the planet springs. Want a cooler June in the Arctic? Not exactly rocket science – well, maybe, but we’ve got rocket scientists.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 21 Sep 2012 @ 3:01 AM

  429. David B, I meant not interesting enough for me to investigate at this moment, but please enlighten me as much as you like. :-)

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 21 Sep 2012 @ 3:25 AM

  430. Really bad wording. “My thoughts are” was meant to reduce everything that followed to mere opinion, and “rocket scientists” to show how seriously difficult things are. Just showing optimism.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 21 Sep 2012 @ 4:59 AM

  431. Chris Korda,
    OK. Truce. I was out of line. I take back 50% of the nasty things I said about you. ;-)

    My wife and I are also nonbreeders and mostly vegetarian (we do eat venison culled from the overpopulation of deer in our area, and when traveling pretty much whatever is put in front of us).

    I agree that cultural transformation is essential if humans are to survive. However, one of the changes that needs to happen is that people need to start listening to what science is telling them, even when–no, especially when–those truths are inconvenient. I think it is arguable that science with its emphasis on facts, evidence and inquiry has done more to transform humanity in just 400 years than any other human institution has done in the previous ~10000 years of civilization. I think that this transformational power is one of the reasons why scientists often face hostility from conservative elements of society.

    As such, I am used to coming under fire from the right. When I start scientists start receiving enfilade fire from the left, I tend to react harshly–particularly because I know of no group of people more devoted to truth than scientists.

    I believe in science. It works. And I would suggest that you will not transform society in any useful way without it.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 21 Sep 2012 @ 8:43 AM

  432. Chris Korda wrote: “Climate change will not be avoided or even mitigated without deep cultural evolution. Technological change will not be enough.”

    You may be correct. In which case, we are doomed.

    We simply don’t have time for “deep cultural evolution” to address the problem of anthropogenic global warming. We need to stop the growth of GHG emissions immediately (within a few years at most), and then begin drastic reductions to near zero within perhaps 10 years, if we are to have any hope of avoiding the worst outcomes of AGW. That’s just not enough time for “deep cultural evolution” to have any effect on anything.

    We are going to have to solve this problem with the culture we have, not the culture we wish we had. It’s a quick technological fix — or nothing.

    The good news is that the technological fixes we need are readily available, and can be implemented much more easily, much faster, and at much lower cost than most people realize — and this can certainly be done within the context of our existing “cultural” norms. Indeed, the technological fixes that are needed can be the basis of a New Industrial Revolution that can create more humane, egalitarian and sustainable prosperity for people all over the world.

    The bad news is that the entrenched wealth and power of the fossil fuel corporations is a huge obstacle to making that happen. And that’s why we have been stuck for an entire generation.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 Sep 2012 @ 9:55 AM

  433. > Since we’re in a natural temperature decline

    Can’t assume that the conditions causing a natural slow decline are still in place behind the human changes.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Sep 2012 @ 10:58 AM

  434. Sorry I missed the discussion on electric vehicle efficiency. It seemed to be confusing, though some commenters here seemed to comprehend the basics.

    One can count all the impacts for any kind of fuel and so forth, but there is no avoiding the fact that heat engines are the dominant basis of energy for transportation. Although Joule showed ‘equivalence’ of mechanical energy and heat, it took Lord Kelvin to knock some sense into his head, explaining the process does not really work for conversion from heat to mechanical energy.

    Efficiency of heat engines is the issue addressed in the MPG rating of cars, where a gallon of gasoline produces 33.4 kWhr of heat energy and the miles that a car can go on that heat energy is meaningful. It might be reasonable to make a definition of MPGE based on heat energy and miles travelled for electric vehicles, but the heat engine has to be specified. But a battery and electric motor do not a heat engine make, neither is the wall socket. Producing 33.4 kWhr of electricity takes something like 60 to 110 kWhr of heat in a power plant. The EPA formula ignores the difference between 33.4 and 60 – 110. That is a falsehood of large magnitude. Call it what you want. I call it embarrassing that an educated nation would accept such nonsense, and especially distressing that those that assert to an education in physics would not rise in an uproar of protest.

    The next point of importance is the idea of impact on CO2 of using electricity. Here the notion of marginal response has to be recognized. It is comparable to marginal income tax rate, which is the rate for the last dollar, more or less. For electric power, as long as there is reserve capacity in natural gas based equipment, and that fuel cost is lowest for similarly available capacity, then that will be the generation base used. The efficiency will not be that of the latest combined cycle natural gas equipment since that is equipment that is fully in use, regardless of load variations. A fair rating is around 40% which is where natural gas production averaged around three years ago. If natural gas goes back to traditional price levels, or if it goes to European prices, coal will become the marginal response and a fair notion of efficiency is more like 33%.

    True, there are sloppy car engines that do worse, but we have a solid demonstration of practical engines such as the Prius engine that has been measured at 35% to 38% by Argonne. Diesel engines for cars are in the same range. The various machinery arrangements that get power from engines to wheels remain to be compared, but we know that a combination of batteries and electric motors is generally lossy compared to simple mechanical drive trains. (That is why Toyota uses the synergy drive to make best use of whichever drive train is most efficient.)

    So the reality is that the efficiencies of various carefully designed drive systems are not that much different. Of course, when figuring CO2, it is much better if the fuel involved is natural gas, about 50% more for gasoline, and double for coal. Unfortunately, it is likely that coal will return to its long held position as the very cheapest source of heat.

    By far bigger gain could be had with high efficiency aerodynamics, but that will have to wait for a different attitude from the car market.

    In the meantime, the best I can do is an electric tractor which can be seen at the website shown. I hope some of this group will see the point.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 21 Sep 2012 @ 12:57 PM

  435. Ray Ladbury wrote: “I think it is arguable that science with its emphasis on facts, evidence and inquiry has done more to transform humanity in just 400 years than any other human institution has done in the previous ~10000 years of civilization.”

    I think it is arguable that empiricism — which is the heart of science — is responsible for essentially all of humanity’s advancements throughout all of human history and pre-history.

    By the way, yesterday (September 20) was the anniversary of the founding of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1848. Garrison Keillor had a short and very interesting commentary on his radio program “The Writer’s Almanac”, which among other things noted that “the term ‘scientist’ had been coined in English just 15 years earlier”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 Sep 2012 @ 1:23 PM

  436. Hank Roberts @433 — Orbital forcing suggests a natural cooling for the next millennium or so.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 21 Sep 2012 @ 4:44 PM

  437. 435 Secular,

    Under Thomas Jefferson who was looking to build a Nation, I have my reservations about what to call the Lewis and Clark form of science that Garrison Keillor is referring to in his commentary.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 21 Sep 2012 @ 5:30 PM

  438. Re 434 “Here the notion of marginal response has to be recognized. It is comparable to marginal income tax rate, which is the rate for the last dollar, more or less. For electric power, as long as there is reserve capacity in natural gas based equipment, and that fuel cost is lowest for similarly available capacity, then that will be the generation base used.

    – Overall generation capacity and capacity factors: highlights the importance of changing electricity sources

    – with regard to which part of the electricity supply infrastructure is being used for whatever purpose, the same could be said for any other usage of electricity, unless time of day, year, and geographic location is specified, in which case there will be some consequences for unstored/’short’ distance wind/solar.

    (Although it may be that storage of otherwise stranded or overly cheap (via demand-supply) wind+solar (after (pumped storage or not) hydroelectric and CSP, geothermal?, n??, AA-CAES responses) may sometimes/often take the form of renewable fuel production, which could go toward (P)HEVs, or space or water heating, and/or some industries, and/or CSP backup – see prior comments this and last month’s unforced variations – someone had provided an interesting link about that…).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 21 Sep 2012 @ 5:32 PM

  439. 431 Ray Ladbury,

    I tend to agree that scientists as a group are more devoted to truth than many others, but when that group is passive in the face of blatant fallacy from government, that being the definition of MPGE from the EPA, then devotion to truth is not apparent.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 21 Sep 2012 @ 5:37 PM

    – “undulatus asperatus”
    I’ve totally seen those before!

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 21 Sep 2012 @ 5:41 PM

    – “undulatus asperatus”
    I’ve totally seen those before! (Not a climate change, just a type of cloud that hasn’t been officially recognized yet.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 21 Sep 2012 @ 7:10 PM

  442. @435 SecularAnimist:

    I think it is arguable that empiricism – which is the heart of science – is responsible for essentially all of humanity’s advancements throughout all of human history and pre-history.

    This is almost a dictionary definition of scientism. Please try to imagine the emotional impact this statement has on artists. Have they contributed nothing to humanity’s advancement? Are the contents of museums useless rubbish? Should we empty them out and repurpose the buildings as laboratories or factories? What is advancement? Is it inherently good, or does its goodness depend on what we’re advancing towards?

    I’m not being rhetorical or provocative. I’m trying to understand how we got into this mess in the first place, so I can more effectively inspire myself and others to deal with it. Robert Pirsig raised similar questions in his 1974 inquiry into values, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” He described pervasive technological ugliness, and hypothesized that its source was a split between art and science, or between what he called the “classic” and “romantic” world-views. He then attempted to save reason from its own self-devouring logic, by positing pre-intellectual awareness (which he called “Quality”) as the source of both subjects and objects. In my view his solution was naive and retreated into mysticism, but regardless it apparently didn’t work, because forty years later we’re no closer to a resolution, and the ugliness Pirsig was describing has blossomed into the greatest threat in human history.

    In a famous passage Pirsig used realism to prove the existence of his central term, “by subtracting Quality from a description of the world as we know it”. His description could just as easily describe a world in which “empiricism … is responsible for essentially all of humanity’s advancements.”

    We have been listening to scientists, maybe not about climate change, but about nearly everything else, for hundreds of years, and the results are increasingly ghastly. Even scientists are scared. If scientists are now going to tell us that there’s no hope without even more drastic technological change, they would be wise to adopt some humility, and acknowledge that mistakes were made, instead of preaching science as a glorious march to advancement.

    I know it seems like I’m attacking science but it’s more subtle than that. I’m an engineer. I work with scientists and use math and logic all day long, and I don’t doubt for a second that science “works”, in the pragmatic sense that our explanations of phenomena can improve with time and effort. What I’m questioning is the notion that science is neutral, or as Pirsig would say, Quality-free. Art isn’t just “whatever you like” and there’s more to life than being right.

    “We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.”
    -Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

    Comment by Chris Korda — 21 Sep 2012 @ 8:12 PM

  443. Chris Korda writes on the 21st of September, 2012 at 8:12 PM:

    “What I’m questioning is the notion that science is neutral, … ”

    Mr. Korda, several thoughts came to me when I read your comment, but they would be much more appropriate on a climate ethics blog, such as the one at penn state or climatechangefork, and so I think would yours.


    Comment by sidd — 21 Sep 2012 @ 10:51 PM

  444. Re Chris Korda – the problem is not with science but with ourselves.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 21 Sep 2012 @ 11:03 PM

  445. Chris Korda

    Hmm, well it seems to me it’s not the science that’s ugly. You could say that postmodernism, however, is profoundly ugly. For that matter not all art in museums is intended to be beautiful.

    Perhaps you should ask what is science at the service of? My old painting/art history professor used to say that art has always been at the service of something.  Look around you: lots of art being used to sell and promote all kinds of dehumanizing, toxic filth.

    If there’s a dichotomy between art and science, I’d like to suggest that it’s not where you seem to be drawing it.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 21 Sep 2012 @ 11:46 PM

  446. 433 Hank said, “Can’t assume that the conditions causing a natural slow decline are still in place behind the human changes.”

    Orbital cycles and geography are set. The statement was predicated with an immediate-ish peak and a drift back to 350, with the clock beginning only after 350 is achieved. By then we surely won’t be emitting significant aerosols. So land use is left? Our knocking around the china shop surely has unforseen consequences, but still I think the assumption is reasonable.

    My post was about focusing on carbon sinks rather than atmospheric concentration, as well as to clearly separate acute and chronic climate change. (acute = CO2 is going UP; chronic is CO2 is above 280-350) I think it’s the way to bring the public on board solutions-wise. Buy a 50MPG car, a ground source heat pump, a solar water heater, maybe a few PV cells, and insulate the heck out of your house. A little federal subsidy, a little federal financing, and BOOM! You’ve solved(?) acute climate change for the USA. From there, as they wear out, replace CH4 plant with low-carbon emitters. Coal plants can go on a reasonable attrition basis. Building a very few new CH4 plants might be justifiable, but they last a very long time, so such construction commits to a lot of CO2 or a lot of lost use of a capital asset. The oceans will drop us to and below 350, and then we get to choose our climate, puffing GHGs generally and/or or aerosols in specific locations and seasons. I hope it is clear that this in no way resembles the denialist meme of spewing CO2 and then covering the stench with a gallon of eau de aerosol.

    One easy way to help climate is to include expected energy costs in loan applications. If one pays $100 a month less in utilities, then one should qualify for a $100 higher payment. Suddenly, super-insulation and a ground source heat pump become viable choices for the average consumer, especially for a new house.

    434 Jim B, we discussed what I called “the last KWH”. It quickly became apparent that the subject is fraught with variables. Perhaps a better visual is total capacity. We’re building wind/solar as fast as politically possible, so it’s not affected by EV construction. In fact, since EVs and wind/solar compete for the same pot-o-subsidies, building an EV reduces wind/solar. in contrast, we’re shutting down coal as it makes sense. So, add a coal-plant’s worth of EVs, and one coal plant won’t shut down, plus some wind/solar won’t get built. (CH4 complicates but shouldn’t invalidate)

    On wind, I read an article on a company which has already started the post-subsidy layoffs. Total insanity, and it isn’t in not renewing the subsidy, but in writing a subsidy that violates the first rule of subsidies:

    Subsidies *MUST* have tapered tails. Tax changes should be handled similarly.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 22 Sep 2012 @ 12:33 AM

  447. The debate about geoengineering has to enter a new phase. Within a year, as science digests 2012’s data and 2013’s becomes available, we may know that the Arctic ice cap will disappear essentially immediately if left to “natural” devices. We can prevent the loss pretty cheaply and with certainty, but with unknown consequences. I’m finding it hard to imagine an unknown consequence bigger than the loss of Arctic sea ice, and I’d consider allowing the ice cap to disappear the larger “experiment”, when deciding whether to experiment.

    The sole reasonable objection seems to lie with public opinion. If we delay this tipping point, then people will be encouraged to believe all tipping points are solvable. [edit – less hyperbole please]

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 22 Sep 2012 @ 12:53 AM

  448. 439 Jim B said, “that group is passive in the face of blatant fallacy from government, that being the definition of MPGE from the EPA,”

    dhogaza explained that. MPGe is defined as tank-to-wheels, just as MPG is. Upstream losses, which are significant for both, are ignored, as are low-carbon sources. Scientifically impeccable. The stickers also have CO2 g/mile, which is the figure you’re looking for. What’s missing, I think, is what arguably MPG VS MPGe “should” be based on: cash out of the customer’s pocket. Using that metric, I shouldn’t MPGe figures be way higher?

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 22 Sep 2012 @ 1:58 AM

  449. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company@434,

    You are definitely not correct when you say that with use of mpg(e), “the heat engine has to be specified.”
    The whole concept of mpg(e) is to allow a direct comparison in mpg(e) between an EV &, say, a petrol-fuelled Prius equiped with any blindingly-advanced engine and drive systems you wish to mention. The “heat engine” and the thermal cycle it uses remains irrelevant. It is the fuel used that is specifed within the mpg(e). Indeed, the latest diesel should also use an mpg(e) because the carbon intensity of diesel per gallon is not identical to petrol. Ditto LPG. The point of mpg(e) is that if a vehicle is up to snuff wrt emissions, its mpg(e) will show it, irrespective of particulars of engine or fuel.

    You are also incorrect in suggesting that the a US gallon’s worth of CO2 is released getting 33.4 kWh of electric(US) to a plug-in point for an EV.
    The figure used by the EPA is 33.7 kWh and this is the primary energy used at the power station to create the electricity for the EV. It thus includes the generation and transmission losses.

    You mention the marginal emissions, that extra electric demand will be supplied by a mix of fuels that may not have a carbon intensity equal to the average for all electricity supply.
    To suggest this will be ‘dirtier’ electricity is wrong. If the EV fleet is plugged in during off-peak periods, the fuel could well be the ‘cleanest’ of electricity. It should also be considered that the mix of elecrtic will get ‘cleaner’ (hopefully) with time, something petrol could have achieved with ‘clean’ biofuel had that technology come good. (May be it still could.) And there is much talk (as Patrick 027@438 does) of the benefits of the significant levels of electrical storeage that would be available from the mass adoption of EV, thus assisting the ‘cleaning’ of electricity for all user.

    As for “far bigger gains,” you propose aerodynamics is the avenue to pursue. I would suggest there are many useful considerations that lie beyond a vehicle’s mechnaical efficiencies, for instance size & weight of car, the speed it is driven at, its handling (eg acceleration & braking, tyre pressures, etc), non-driving power demands, how far it is driven and how often.

    Comment by MARodger — 22 Sep 2012 @ 4:49 AM

  450. Chris Korda@441,
    I actually like SecularAnimist’s use of the term ’empricism’. The last 400 years are not truly characerised by the notion of scientific advance providing the goodies. Were Watt, Murdock, Stephenson or Brunell ustilising scientific knowledge or were they practising engineering? Surely it was the latter. Were they even inspired by some scientifc possibility? Probably not. Where science has played an essential part to the last 400 years is by sustaining the technological advances through the last century, an essential requirement.
    And how did we get here? Myself, I blame Abraham Derby who was the first man to invent a use for fossil fuels beyond cooking & warming rooms. And if you want to blame the Chinese for all these emissions, they did have a go at coal-made steel centuries before Derby.
    As for your questioning, perhaps you seek Soft Systems.

    Comment by MARodger — 22 Sep 2012 @ 4:58 AM

  451. > So land use is left?

    Oceans. Species composition of ocean plankton can change in two weeks, different species do very different things with the available resources.

    We don’t even know what was there before we started changing it.

    “If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”

    “We grieve only for what we know.”

    — Aldo Leopold

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Sep 2012 @ 10:29 AM

  452. 447 Jim Larsen and by reference dhogaza

    I base my complaint on having read the EPA Rule that defines the formula.

    MPGE pretends to be based on tank to wheels, but they fail to find the tank for electric vehicles. One can speculate that the battery is their idea of a tank but they make no mention of battery losses either, though battery losses are negligible compared to the real energy lost as heat discharged from the power plant heat engine.

    Let’s face it, they think the public is like the lazy freshman who confuses kWhr of heat with kWhr of electricity on the basis of the units of measurement.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 22 Sep 2012 @ 11:41 AM

  453. re448 Marodger

    I stand corrected (sort of) about the constant, having remembered 33.4 instead of the 33.7. Well maybe I just defer to you on this constant since a 1% variation is of no consequence.

    Like the US EPA, you are massively incorrect if you believe electricity is a fuel. That would be consistent though with your assertion that the heat engine and thermal cycle are irrelevant.

    I hope I did not suggest anything so erroneous as a gallon’s worth of CO2 is released to get 33.4 (or 33.7) kWhr of electricity. If any heat engine that uses gallons of anything is the generating equipment, two to three gallons of whatever would be needed, and both the heat and CO2 would be released accordingly.

    Some day there might be renewable options that can survive on their merits, though storage is a big hurdle here. The only storage in site would be gated hydro, which is incredibly efficient. Gated hydro just holds water in reserve until needed to fill the gap when renewables are off, thus incurring no losses. Gated hydro could be included as part of the National Water Project.

    Drag coefficients of .04 have been achieved, compared to EV drag coefficients ranging from .2 to .3. The potential gain here is enormous compared to the things you mentioned, except for driving very slowly. But as I said, that will have to wait.

    The tractor shown at the listed website is light weight and moves very slowly indeed. And it is an EV as presently configured. (It is not new in industrial equipment to use electric drive for things like fork lifts.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 22 Sep 2012 @ 12:13 PM

  454. Chris Korda, with all due respect, I don’t think you understand what “empiricism” means — or at least, you don’t understand what I mean by it.

    Empiricism, most simply, is the principle that if you want to know how things are, you must look and see.

    It has nothing to do with “scientism” — on the contrary, I would say that “scientism” is a fate that may befall those who fail to keep science anchored in empiricism.

    Nor does empiricism negate “art”, and indeed the actual practice of any art form is essentially empirical — the only way to find out “what works” as art is to try stuff and see.

    It’s interesting that you should mention Zen, since Buddhism, and especially Zen, is radically empirical — the Buddha taught that enlightenment could be found only through the direct observation of actual experience, and Zen meditation is, of course, a particularly intensive practice of doing just that. In the Kalama Sutra, Buddha said that nothing should be “taken on faith”, even his own teachings, which should only be accepted when his listeners had put them to the test and “knew for themselves” that they were effective. And what is Pirsig’s book, if not an account of his own deeply and courageously empirical investigation of his own consciousness?

    And, really, your critique of “scientism” is itself empirical, since it is based on observing the actual consequences of the attitudes you are challenging.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 Sep 2012 @ 12:39 PM

  455. Chris Korda, I agree with your comments. However one shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction one gets when posting in a forum populated by science people.

    I’m sure there are books out there that detail the failings of science (by which I mean the scientific community as a whole). First though we need to give science it’s due. Thanks to science many of us now live relatively comfortable, if predictable, lives. We have a place to go if we get sick and a pleasant way to get there. We have houses filled with all manner of technology to make our lives more convenient and fun, televisions and iphones, cameras and refrigerators filled with a variety of food from around the world. We no longer need to shiver in the cold, we can just throw a switch and have instant warmth. We no longer have to worry too much about four-legged predators grabbing us in the night (now it’s the two-legged version).

    But there have been failings as well. To point out just a few:

    Science failed when it decided to become joined at the hip with the military/industrial complex, taking it’s money and doing it’s business without question.

    It failed when it decided to launch into nuclear. Einstein himself had real misgivings which were not heeded. Since then we’ve all had to live with the ever present threat and reality of Mutually Assured Destruction and multiple Fukushimas.

    It failed when it embraced antibiotics without thinking of the evolutionary capability of microorganisms to evolve in response. Now we are left vulnerable to the next superbug.

    It failed when it created toxic herbicides and pesticides which have polluted much of the world, sickening and killing millions. True, it provided a generation’s worth of (tainted) food, but now that bugs and weeds are developing resistance to our most toxic poisons we are having to create and use even worse ones.

    It failed when it got into genetic modification, the splicing of the genes of one species into another, totally unrelated species, under the old simplistic and convenient notion that one gene = one function. Now we are learning how truly interconnected and complex the genome is, yet we also have between a hundred and two hundred million acres of agricultural and wild lands and much of our diet irretrievably filled with the stuff while warnings about their environmental and health hazards continue to mount. Yet now anyone can mess around with life’s fundamentals from the convenience of their kitchen tables.

    It’s failing with nanotechnology. In it’s love for miniaturization and acceleration, of newness for the sake of newness without considering possible consequences, nano is putting at risk our health with things that can easily cross the blood/brain/organ barriers. And now, unbelievably, they found within a host of foods, and in personal items like socks, (to make them taste better and be less smelly) and all without even a need to label them so that intelligent people can opt out. One of the many regulations that Dubya did away.

    It fails when it continues to view the world from a purely reductionist standpoint, people who see the fundamentals of nature as a game, like lincoln logs, that they can simply tear down, shift around and reconstruct in whatever image they desire without an appreciation for, and before fully comprehending, the many complex processes that went into making the lovely and unique living planet we have.

    Science fails when, in it’s giddyness for discovery, it throws all caution to the wind. When it refuses to recognize that there should be limits, times when we should just say, no, we won’t go there.

    It fails when it too often remains silent on issues of policy and ethics, preferring the easier course of invention, and leaving the thorny questions of it’s creations, and often the negative results therefrom, to others to deal with.

    Inevitably in these discussions someone will point out the hypocrisy of using a computer that resulted from science to criticize it. But that same science also gave us the missile and the tank. Hopefully we can criticize those.

    To be clear, there have been (a comparatively few) scientific voices in the wilderness warning about these things all along, but they have tended to get lost, at least in the public mind, within the general acquiescence of the larger community.

    The process of discovery is a beautiful one, but one needs to handle it with intelligence and care, otherwise we’re only children playing with matches.

    Comment by Ron R. — 22 Sep 2012 @ 1:08 PM

  456. > It [science] failed when it decided to launch into nuclear.

    Disagree, you even point out that you have a place to go when you get sick… I guess you think MRIs are failures? Nuclear physics is not simply making bombs and power plants. Who paid for the bombs? That’s the problem, not our understanding of the atomic nucleus.

    > It failed when it got into genetic modification, the splicing of the genes of one species into another, totally unrelated species, under the old simplistic and convenient notion that one gene = one function.

    You fail to understand what genetic modification is. Splicing genes from one species into another totally unrelated species is, again, just one example of a technology you deride based on that one application. What you speak of is called transgenic modification, there are many other types of genetic modification. For one example, cisgenic modification is inserting genes from the same species, or a sexually compatible species.

    I’m not going to bother with your whole tirade, I think these two examples are sufficient to show how ignorance of the science makes people say foolish and highly generalized things like this, “Yet now anyone can mess around with life’s fundamentals from the convenience of their kitchen tables.” Yeah, right!

    It’s not the hypocrisy of that tirade which is glaring to the educated, it is the ignorance of science that jumps out from all the highly simplistic generalizations. When you just say “no, I won’t go there,” you stop learning and don’t even understand of what you speak against.

    Just say Know!

    Comment by Unsettled Scientist — 22 Sep 2012 @ 2:48 PM

  457. Ron R wrote: “Science failed when …”

    I have to ask you, what is this “science” that you speak of?

    Is it really science that “failed”? Has the investigation of phenomena through empirical observation, through testing our ideas about and models of reality and experience against actual, careful, impartial observation “failed”?

    I ask because the rest of your comment does not mention any such failures of science itself.

    What you are talking about boils down to the failure of human beings to apply and use the knowledge of the phenomenal world — and the power over the phenomenal world — that science has given us in ways that you and I would consider good and beneficial, and instead to use that knowledge (or to ignore it!) and power in ways that are bad and harmful.

    That does not reflect a failure of science. What it reflects is human values.

    The same scientific knowledge that informs and empowers us to live in harmony with the rest of life on Earth, with other species, with ecosystems and with the biosphere as a whole, IF that’s what we value and what we choose to do, also gives us the power to dominate, degrade and destroy other species, ecosystems and the Earth’s biosphere, if that is what we value and choose to do.

    Science is not at the heart of the problems that you and Chris Korda have eloquently described — at the heart of those problems is ignorance, greed and hatred. Of those three, ignorance is the most fundamental, and science — which is fundamentally the practice of looking deeply into phenomena so as to see and understand how things really are — is the antidote for ignorance.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 Sep 2012 @ 2:52 PM

  458. From

    ‘Planetary emergency’ due to Arctic melt, experts warn
    Mariano Andrade
    September 20, 2012

    Experts warned of a “planetary emergency” due to the unforeseen global consequences of Arctic ice melt, including methane gas released from permafrost regions currently under ice …

    “Between 1979 and 2012, we have a decline of 13 percent per decade in the sea ice, accelerating from six percent between 1979 and 2000,” said oceanographer Wieslaw Maslowski with the US Naval Postgraduate School, speaking at the Greenpeace event. “If this trend continues we will not have sea ice by the end of this decade,” said Maslowski.

    While these figures are worse than the early estimates they come as no surprise to scientists, said NASA climate expert James Hansen, who also spoke at the Greenpeace event.

    “We are in a planetary emergency,” said Hansen, decrying “the gap between what is understood by scientific community and what is known by the public.”

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 Sep 2012 @ 2:58 PM

  459. > science failed

    You’re blaming the tool.

    That would be foolish. Look at what science has been saying

    Now ask yourself — who have you been listening to?

    The junkscience guy? He’s a market-industry PR source.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Sep 2012 @ 3:03 PM

  460. To add more positives.


    The natural sciences, I love them.

    Science has helped to explain the world and the universe around us, to show us beauty we would otherwise never know existed, to intrigue our imaginations, and to banish old superstitions which paralyzed so many people with fear for so long. Those are no small accomplishments.

    On the other hand it’s success has led to a world vastly overpopulated by a single species and swiftly heading toward the cliff of no return.

    There are wonderful positives – and horrendous negatives – with science. It is a powerful tool that should be handled as such, while it’s limitations honestly acknowledged. But it should not be worshipped.

    Comment by Ron R. — 22 Sep 2012 @ 3:36 PM

  461. Unsettled Scientist. Your two examples, MRIs and cisgenic modification, are quite minor in comparison to the major uses of these technologies which have potential to, have and are doing vast harm. Does the use of the minor justify the existence of the major? I don’t think so.

    I think these two examples are sufficient to show how ignorance of the science makes people say foolish and highly generalized things like this, “Yet now anyone can mess around with life’s fundamentals from the convenience of their kitchen tables.” Yeah, right!

    I can provide links to all my assertions if necessary.

    SecularAnimist says: I have to ask you, what is this “science” that you speak of?

    Hank Roberts says: You’re blaming the tool.

    No. Reread what I said. I’m sure there are books out there that detail the failings of science (by which I mean the scientific community as a whole).

    Not science itself.

    Now ask yourself — who have you been listening to? The junkscience guy? He’s a market-industry PR source.

    No, I have no interest in junk science. Don’t visit those sites.

    Comment by Ron R. — 22 Sep 2012 @ 4:17 PM

  462. Warming Ocean Could Start Big Shift of Antarctic Ice
    Despite the headline, well written and informative.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 22 Sep 2012 @ 4:55 PM

  463. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company @453.

    I would suggest definitions of “fuel” or the storage of lumpy power supply or drag factors are not germaine to the issue here.

    In attempting to get an understanding of this EPA mpg(e), I should make plain that I am on the wrong side of the Atlantic so I am freshly come to this matter. I began @261 above where I calculated that when based on the expected standards of European cars carbon efficiency, a small EV should achieve 75 mpg(US)e calculated using primary energy (in terms of powerstation fuel). 75mpg is a little lower than the EPA quoted 99 mpg(US)e for the Leaf but I felt at the time close enough.
    A second approach @287 considered roughly-quoted efficiencies for power stations, electric motors & petrol engines. It found the measure of primary energy even more fitting for the EPA’s mpg(US)e.

    One thing I do learn now. The EPA’s description of mpg(e) makes clear that mpg(US)e is measuring energy and not carbon intensity. This is a step in the right direction although not helpful in concluding this matter as the average primary energy use & the average carbon intensity for US electric appears very similar. And the EPA are a little ambiguous with their wording with one equivilance back to front and the other talking of “a unit of fuel” not the units of fuel.
    The implication if this EPA description is that the mpg(US)e power is purchased elecrtcity in kWh but the description is written by someone who evidently didn’t know how to write it. Perhaps they also didn’t know what they were writing about either!

    So I now try a third approach to see where this will get me. In UK, a car seller is making a monetary comparison between petrol costs & a Nissan Leaf EV charged using Economy 7 electric with a 1:7 day:night tariff ratio. Petrol is quoted at £6.10p a gallon. British Gas is selling Economy 7 at 15.7p daytime & 6.0p nighttime. So the average kWh = ((6*7)+15.7)/8 = 7.2p.
    The comparison is that a gallon cost of fuel will pay for electric to power the car 348 miles (thus 348 mpg(imp). Thus 610/7.2 = 84.6 kWh are used, or 84.7/33.7 = 2.51 gallons (US) to travel 348 miles = 138 mpg. Thus now need converting from European testing to EPA testing (see comment @261) Thus the Leaf would achieve 115 *1.32 = 183 mpg(US)e assuming the EPA measure kWh at the plug and not as the primary energy used at the powerstation.

    So this is coming out a bit low for primary energy but massively high for plug energy. It is very close to the 75mpg(US)e-plug I calculated first time round. But I am not entirely happy that this is resolved. The EPA/EU convertion for the mpg test is a leap of faith really.
    And an awful lot of talk is saying it is plug energy. The web (& this thread) is alive with such talk. But strangely that is all I see – all talk and not a jot of evidence offered.

    So where next. Well I have now enquired of Nissan UK to see if the word “kWh” is in their vocabulary. Their Leaf brochure manages not to mention such things (although I was surprised to see it weighs 1,600 kg. Not exactly a light car).

    Comment by MARodger — 22 Sep 2012 @ 5:37 PM

  464. Jim B on MPGe:

    1. Emissions based? No. Carbon emissions are not considered at all for MPGe. Any discussion of emissions when talking about MPGe is flawed. (But quickly becomes inevitable)
    2. Energy based? Yes.
    2. Using energy of fuel used? No. The number used is for gasoline, which isn’t used on the grid. MPGe STARTS with a fake (wrong) number.
    4. Doesn’t credit EVs 32% for low-carbon emissions
    5. Doesn’t charge EVs 6% and gas 20% for supply chain.
    6. Doesn’t charge EVs 65% for generation and transmission losses.

    All those ignored credits and charges look to be of a similar magnitude in total for EVs and gas, eh? For now, I divide by two to convert MPGe to MPG, based both on rough math and the Prius VS Leaf numbers.

    But I don’t think energy or emissions are the correct metrics. Both REQUIRE fudging and result in numbers so confusing that reasonable people will cry, “Foul!” Instead, as I’ve said, the consumer wants to know about two separate things:

    1. How much carbon will the car spew per mile?
    2. How much is it going to cost me per mile to drive?

    The first question is answered with grams/mile. It’s foolish to use MPGe to sorta-kinda give a second number somewhat related to grams/mile but not really. Instead, if MPGe were made money-based, MPGe would answer the second question, giving the consumer perfect and complete information. The conversion would be easy and wouldn’t cause issues like the dissonance of imaginary perfect gasoline to electron converters.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 22 Sep 2012 @ 5:56 PM

  465. 70 Chris D said, “If you are putting your foot on the brake when there is a traffic mishap, it is an accident, if you are putting your foot on the gas, it is intentional. You have not considered culpability in your three cases.”

    A better analogy might be a carbon-drunk-driver careening down the road at four times the speed limit. Though he hits the brakes, the accident is his fault.

    My solution includes both that all people have equal carbon rights and an acknowledgement that we are where we are. With a 20 year phase-in, each country is allowed what they emit now, sloping into the future to their rightful share. The US would have a decline while an individual in an undeveloped nation would actually be allowed to buy a car. I think my “plan” takes care of your culpability issue.

    Dan H, I’m seeing words claiming no current acceleration, or even deceleration for sea level rise. Others objected, but I stipulated. Since I stipulated, please answer without reference to past or current sea level rise.

    Substantiate that Hansen and many others are wrong in predicting that sea level rise will accelerate in the future, assuming the standard scenarios.

    Recaptcha says: Crazy assurnot

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 22 Sep 2012 @ 6:54 PM

  466. > scientists

    You should read those links from the public health literature.

    And listen to this, slowly and thoughtfully:

    You should also remember Sturgeon’s Law.
    It just doesn’t get any better than that.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Sep 2012 @ 7:00 PM

  467. 451 Hank said, “Oceans.”

    OK. Land/ocean use/abuse matter, but snow is, and land is where snow does its best albedo-magic. Yep, ocean acidification could really get nasty on the way to 280-350. Lots of possibilities, such as the food chain stuff you linked to, but I think it’s pretty certain that the orbital forcing will remain essentially intact.

    Chris D,

    Here’s efficiencies for cars in various countries, all adjusted to be US gallons on a US CAFE cycle. The EU gets 49MPG. China gets 36. You equated braking with innocence. The EU has increased 10MPG from 2002 to 2012. China increased 7MPG from 2002 to 2009. Extrapolate to 2012: 10MPG.

    Most countries are braking at 8-10MPG/decade. The US braked at 2.2MPG/decade. Plus, the US was already dead last at 26MPG.

    So, by your own moral code, should the USA be “fined” for causing an accident by refusing to adequately brake?

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 22 Sep 2012 @ 10:24 PM

  468. The Arctic sea-ice modelers for the last IPCC report have given hot-head catastrophists (amongst which some would include myself) an enormous gift–

    Every time there is now a scientific consensus that, say, sea-bed methane hydrates can’t possibly destabilize catastrophically on a time frame that would significantly multiply the rate of GW in the coming decades, they (we) can say:

    “Sure–that from the same people who said the Arctic Ocean would not even approach ice free conditions till near the end of the century, and more likely not for centuries, yet here we are with nearly ice-free conditions in September of 2012…”

    Just sayin’

    Comment by wili — 23 Sep 2012 @ 12:09 AM

  469. 464 Jim Larsen,

    As near as I can tell, we mostly agree, though your #4 is not entirely correct in my view. I am guessing this is based on an assumed natural gas as the marginal response. And there is good reason to believe this to be the case in this immediate time frame. Maybe not in the long term.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 23 Sep 2012 @ 12:43 AM

  470. wili 468, the IPCC may consider studying the newish steadier Rossby wave circulation patterns which favours feeding Cyclones to the Arctic a certain feedback of heat made so by a weakened ice state.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 23 Sep 2012 @ 9:31 AM

  471. > scientists

    “Occupational health is an especially difficult public health field to make things change because there are very strong forces operating and enormous economical stakes”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Sep 2012 @ 1:08 PM

  472. A natural experiment in the offing, though for a “next week” rather than “next generations'” problem people can affect:

    “… “If everyone reacts by saying that these were false claims last time and just jumps on the road, it could be a disaster,” he said. “It could be a nightmare.”

    Mr. Yaroslavsky said he thought that in the end “there will probably be a little more traffic than there was in July of 2011.”’

    “People have more obligations in September,” he said. “One thing about Angelenos, if they are experts at nothing else, they are experts at traffic.””

    So we know what they did last time: with drivers, summertime, scared off the road, no ‘carmaggedon’ crush while the freeway was constricted or closed for work.

    Next, bigger event, soon:

    ” things went too smoothly last year. The warnings that congestion would lock up the city were not borne out because drivers … stayed off the roads.

    … Carmageddon II might be a week away, but there are no signs of fear or frenzy….

    This time, appeals to fear and self-preservation are out. Appeals to the good-neighbor communitarian instincts of Angelenos are in, sweetened with discounts …. plan recommended to the city in a report by the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.
    [link to that report at the original web page, clicky above]

    How long til we’re mostly all experts at climate?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Sep 2012 @ 2:40 PM

  473. When talking about the interface between science and society I think it is useful to make some distinctions between the different scientific groups. (Sorry, this grew all by itself.)

    1) Pure science, often called basic science, involves investigators who are just trying to figure how something works. I have known a few that are driven by this to the extent that they match the nerd stereotype of a few years back. These scientists most often work as professors at universities and colleges and fund their research from their institutions (small scale) or from federal or, occasionally, private funding sources. They will rarely make any money from their findings but are self-motivated to explain some phenomenon with evidence good enough that it will convince others in the field of study. There is a strong and trained ethic against faking data, so internally, altogether this group is a meritocracy.

    In contrast, as individuals some (not most) of these folks can be petty, backbiting, and social climbing assholes. But, in any case individual personalities don’t matter at all because the agreed upon group goal is to be factually correct by way of explanatory experiments without cheating. Those that consistently fail to do this eventually will not be able to get funding from unbiased sources and those that cheat are banished. This is all self-correcting because there is always someone who will want to use s finding for their own research, or who will deliberately check them using their own techniques, and so a false conclusion is quickly and embarrassingly displaced. The motivation for this is strong and there have been graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who got a big initial career boost from correcting the findings of an established researcher.

    2) Applied science is a broad category of activities that are a little suspect because they employ scientific methods to achieve a goal. As soon as a goal is introduced it becomes more difficult to maintain objectivity, especially if the goal is monitory. This is not a big problem if, for example, scientists working for a biotech company, that is motivated to find a saleable cure for spinal cord injury, is studying developmental mechanisms that guide axonal growth and guidance in Zebra fish and, importantly, they are allowed to publish in peer reviewed journals.

    Alternatively, if one believes strongly in, or is employed by a company that would benefit from, the removal or development of some process or chemical product then research findings are suspect. They may not be wrong but we are all aware of instances when the findings were checked and the drug protocol study or contract research that supported a product was found to hide the fact that some compound didn’t actually work any better than aspirin or had some hidden very bad side effect. There are only weak checks and balances that often arise from some people getting hurt. When this type of science goes wrong it is usually the basic science types that are the whistleblowers.

    3) Technology (e.g. Biotechnology) is a version of applied science but is frequently just a means to a financial end. Decisions are made by executives in a big corporation that usually have no knowledge of, or care about, any scientific or societal implications of the work. People doing the science are usually not allowed to publish to keep the competition in the dark. There are no checks and balances except profit. I am sure that there are some corporations that do technology responsibly, but I know of others that have not, and without publication and review it is very difficult to tell.

    4) A problem is that the general public and some, apparently, relatively intelligent individuals above in this thread are not aware of the distinctions in the types of science. Often those accusing science of wrongdoing should be directing their animosity elsewhere. Climate science disciplines and the many tens of thousands of other types of scientists in institutions of higher learning, all over the world, are basic scientists and, therefore, trustworthy purveyors scientific findings. Shoot, it might be hundreds of thousands, many society of xxxx conventions attract greater than 20K presenters. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 23 Sep 2012 @ 5:20 PM

  474. Until today I was unfamiliar with Jeremy Grantham. An ultra-contrarian uber-hedge fund manager who funds climate research, quotes Bob Marley and Kenneth Boulding, extols “Limits to Growth”, and explores 400-year scenarios? And that’s just for starters. His latest newsletter Welcome to Dystopia! Entering a long-term and politically dangerous food crisis makes fascinating reading, and addresses many of the issues that are discussed regularly here at RC, admittedly from the point of view of a $97 billion fund that caters to institutions with a minimum of $10 million to invest. For example his take on scientists:

    And do not for a second think that the scientists can be dismissed as exaggerators in the pay of evil foundations as right-wing think tanks would have you believe. The record so far has been one of timid underestimation. Much the majority of scientists hate being in the limelight and live in dread of the accusation of the taint of exaggeration, so severe a crime in the academic world that it is second only to faking data. What the timid scientists forget (this is all driven by career risk just as with institutional investing) is that in this unique case it is underestimating that is dangerous! To put the science clearly in the public domain – a task so far totally failed at – is left to a brave handful of scientists willing to be outspoken. … Talk privately to scientists involved in climate research and you find that they believe that almost everything is worse than they feared and accelerating dangerously.

    (from p. 9, “The negative effect of climate change on grain production”)

    and on growth-ism:

    In earlier pieces I tried to convey the sheer impossibility of any perpetual rate of steady growth in people or physical output: 1% compounded for 3000 years, I noted, would multiply people or possessions by seven trillion times the original number. But for those with shorter horizons, the thermodynamic effect on its own, as we’ve seen, puts a quite separate ceiling of a mere 400 years’ growth in energy use at a modest 2.3% growth a year. Throw in climate change effects and our species would be toast long before 400 years would pass if present trends continue. We simply cannot have exponential growth on a finite planet, but no politicians (understandably) and almost no economists (almost unbelievably) will deal with this topic. The longer we delay in facing up to resource shortage, especially the need to go to renewables, the more severe the problem becomes.

    (from p. 14, “The need for a serious effort now”)

    Comment by Chris Korda — 23 Sep 2012 @ 6:33 PM

  475. I’m on a quest to find peer-reviewed papers specifically testing the enhanced greenhouse effect by raising CO2 levels in a volume of atmosphere in the lab. I’m looking for a fistful of more tightly controlled examples of those experiments you see on youtube.

    Not OLR or DLR in the atmos, not spectroscopic tables, just the meat and potatoes physical lab test.

    Checked every citation for Tyndall’s papers. Nothing. Tried various search terms in google scholar. Nothing.

    I begin to imagine that this experiment has never been submitted for peer review! If anyone knows of such papers, or can tell me the right search terms to use to find them, that would be much appreciated.

    Comment by barry — 23 Sep 2012 @ 6:44 PM

  476. 469 Jim B said, “As near as I can tell, we mostly agree, though your #4 is not entirely correct in my view.”
    Yep. By the way, I’ve been designing hypothetical cars for efficiency since I was a kid. My first attempt had three wheels, where the paired wheels’ hub was to the outside of the tread, which results in the car leaning into curves, or at least counterbalancing the single-wheel’s characteristic.

    I’ve also designed an entirely new type of heat engine, based on the Stirling. I showed the Cyclonic Engine design to the appropriate guy at Georgia Tech. His response was one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received: “We can’t teach that.”

    473 Steve Fish, great analysis. Welcome to the “long and rambling post” club. (OK, yours didn’t ramble)

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 23 Sep 2012 @ 6:49 PM

  477. Oops, forgot to mention, Jim B, 4 isn’t mine, but comments of mine generally evolve as I learn from the discussion.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 23 Sep 2012 @ 6:57 PM

  478. Stratosphere Targets Deep Sea to Shape Climate: North Atlantic ‘Achilles Heel’ Lets Upper Atmosphere Affect the Abyss
    at least points out some of the oddities in the stratospheric polar vortex.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 23 Sep 2012 @ 7:57 PM

  479. SecularAnimist @ 454:

    Empiricism, most simply, is the principle that if you want to know how things are, you must look and see.

    Your definition of empiricism seems highly idiosyncratic, but then you admit as much with “… at least, you don’t understand what I mean by it.” Pirsig uses the conventional definition–all knowledge derives from the senses–and associates it primarily with Hume, whose failure to account for causation roused Kant from dogmatic slumber. Philosophy of science has evolved considerably since then, and Hume’s position, now called direct or naïve empiricism, has largely been superceded by radical empiricism (James), logical positivism, pragmatism (Charles Pierce), critical rationalism (Karl Popper), and so forth. Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality is closely related to pragmatism, as are my own views. Most modern scientists seem to embrace some combination of realism (Einstein’s “the Moon is ‘out there’ even when no one is observing it”), pragmatism (our explanations can improve if we keep trying) and fallibilism (remain open to new evidence, no matter how embarrassing it may be).

    and indeed the actual practice of any art form is essentially empirical

    Pirsig certainly doesn’t consider art empirical, on the contrary, art is clearly on one side of the science/art (classic/romantic, objective/subjective, analytical/emotional) split he’s attempting to heal. Nor is your statement consistent with my personal experience as an artist. In my experience art derives from inspiration which is poorly understood and often manifests itself in dreams and similarly irrational experiences. Pirsig argues that inspiration is as essential to science as it is to art, and uses Poincaré’s creative process as an example, particularly the “wave of crystallization” that Poincaré described as the operation of a “subliminal self”, which intuitively makes aesthetic choices and grasps “universal harmony.”

    To my ear what you’re describing sounds like more like mindfulness, indeed a central tenet of Buddhism. Pirsig describes it as peace of mind, which results from caring, and is a prerequisite for excellence.

    Comment by Chris Korda — 23 Sep 2012 @ 10:15 PM

  480. Someone should find the best way to indicate in a conversion just how big 500 gigatonnes of pure carbon (graphite) would be.

    Words seem to fail me at this point.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 23 Sep 2012 @ 10:28 PM

  481. hmmmm….

    abrupt change in a simple model

    That turned up as I was spurred to search by Russell’s asking whether, in the absence of Arctic sea ice, the atmosphere’s polar vortex will interact with the ocean in interesting ways.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Sep 2012 @ 2:39 AM

  482. how big 500 gigatonnes of pure carbon (graphite) would be

    Convert it to cubic miles and compare it to the famous cubic mile of oil + Eiffel tower image. For water, 500 gigatonnes = 500 km³ = 120 cubic miles. Graphite is around twice as dense as water or oil, so call it 60 cubic miles?

    Comment by Chris Korda — 24 Sep 2012 @ 3:37 AM

  483. Chris Korda wrote: “Most modern scientists seem to embrace some combination of realism (Einstein’s ‘the Moon is out there even when no one is observing it’) …”

    Of course, Einstein lost that argument with Bohr, thanks to the empirical results of the experimental tests of Bell’s Theorem conducted by Alain Aspect and others.

    Chris Korda wrote: “Pirsig uses the conventional definition–all knowledge derives from the senses … Pirsig certainly doesn’t consider art empirical … art derives from inspiration which is poorly understood and often manifests itself in dreams and similarly irrational experiences.”

    Well, lots of things are “poorly understood”. And dreams and “irrational experiences” can be empirically observed just like waking states of consciousness and “rational experiences”. As for all knowledge being derived from the senses, keep in mind that in Buddhism the mind is considered just another sense — as the eye senses light, and the ear senses sound, the mind senses emotions, ideas, thoughts and other “objects of mind”.

    I think we are getting rather far afield here, even for an unforced variations thread.

    In the context of science, empiricism simply means that all ideas, notions, predictions, models, concepts and theories about how things are must be tested against actual observation of how things are.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 24 Sep 2012 @ 9:55 AM

  484. Steve Fish, 23 Sep 2012 at 5:20 PM,

    I agree with your comments re: basic scientists as trustworthy purveyors scientific findings.

    To clarify again, as I wrote above, when I was speaking of science in that post I mean the scientific community as a whole.

    I also said, To be clear, there have been (a comparatively few) scientific voices in the wilderness warning about these things all along, but they have tended to get lost, at least in the public mind, within the general acquiescence of the larger community.

    Animals, people, are tribal, we like to put things into groups because it’s easier that way. We do it with people too, of course, so there’s always this ‘us’ and ‘them’ feeling. It’s why there is so much nationalism. Thus the public also tends to see science as a single unit, with a single voice. When they hear pronouncements, or when policy decisions are made based on some scientific finding, the public believes that Science has spoken. They are often unaware of the battles that may be going on behind the scenes.

    Too often too, once a course has been set upon, scientists clam up and turn off. That may be because they don’t want appear to be going against the flow and become outcasts. This is especially true if the experiment in science is working.

    You’ll notice that in the examples I brought up above, in each case, the science worked, that is, those employed in those fields successfully accomplished what it was they set out to do. And in each case the benefits to humanity seemed obvious (except to the relatively few who delved deeper). Scientists like winning, and no one wants to mess with success. Problem is, while initially beneficial, these successes are turning out to inflict profound harm on the world. In that sense they are failures.

    I’m not talking obviously lame ideas that never took off.

    I’m not talking about outdated theories that contributed little or nothing to our understanding.

    I’m talking about successes that either never should have happened, or that should not have been introduced, at least not until we fully understood the many complex processes involved.

    Science, by which I here mean the scientific community as a whole, failed by not saying “WHOA!” we’re not ready for that yet, if at all, and instead often sung their praises, thus allowing them to explode onto the world. Those are just a few technical examples. As Peter Raven, past president of AAAS says,

    Where do we stand in our efforts to achieve a sustainable world? Clearly, the past half century has been a traumatic one, as the collective impact of human numbers, affluence (consumption per individual) and our choices of technology continue to exploit rapidly an increasing proportion of the world’s resources at an unsustainable rate…. At any event, during a remarkably short period of time, we have lost a quarter of the world’s topsoil and a fifth of its agricultural land, altered the composition of the atmosphere profoundly, and destroyed a major proportion of our forests and other natural habitats without replacing them. Worst of all, we have driven the rate of biological extinction, the permanent loss of species, up several hundred times beyond its historical levels, and are threatened with the loss of a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century. As George Schaller, the noted conservationist, has put it, “We cannot afford another century like this one” (i.e., the 20th century)…. In making the many choices involved in constructing the world of the future, we must go far beyond the mechanical calculations of an Adam Smith to the vision of a Gandhi, who said, “The world contains enough to satisfy every man’s need, but never enough for our greed.”

    Some of the biggest successes of science have led to the dire state we face today. That’s what I mean by ‘failures of science’.

    By the way, good point about the secrecy in biotech. More about that here:,_Genetic_Pollution_and_Monopolism#Planting_In_Secret

    Comment by Ron R. — 24 Sep 2012 @ 12:49 PM

  485. Since I mentioned it, I’ll describe the Cyclonic engine:

    An external combustion engine has three heat exchangers: Hot, Regeneration, and Cold. Regeneration captures heat as the working fluid travels from Hot to Cold, and gives the heat back to the fluid on the return trip. Imagine the three sitting in a row. Looking from one end, you’d see spines and grooves parallel all the way to the other end. Place an insulating cover over all three exchangers, but cut a 1 exchanger sized hole, so you can slide the cover back and forth, exposing whichever exchanger you desire. Note that in doing so the cover will push the working fluid back and forth – the grooves in the exchangers are positively filled, not passively, as is the case in current Stirlings (except Regeneration, which is always positive).

    Take the exchanger strip and curve it into a half circle, then add a second for a full circle. Now, the cover is a circle with two slots cut out and forces are balanced. Add a piston and you’ve got a single cylinder external heat engine that ought to be superior to a Stirling.

    But engineering trumps science, and this one would be the Dickens to build, so for now it’s just an interesting design (and public domain, so feel free to build one!)

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 24 Sep 2012 @ 2:11 PM

  486. “…how big 500 gigatonnes of pure carbon (graphite) would be.”

    500 gigatonnes would be a slab of graphite the size of Malta[1] ~1 km thick, or ~ 20 time the volume of the conical upper part of Mt Fuji[2].

    [1] The top of the cliffs at left center are ~100 m above sea level, and there are 300,000+ people in this photo; most are likely hidden from view.
    [2] from where the slope changes slightly below the snow line. For a human perspective see

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 24 Sep 2012 @ 4:36 PM

  487. Have you seen this?

    Comment by Antonio Sarmiento — 24 Sep 2012 @ 5:42 PM

  488. Chris Korda @482 & Brian Dodge @486 — Thank you. Maybe 20 Mount Fujiyamas of excess carbon will make the point.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 24 Sep 2012 @ 6:11 PM

  489. I just used the RC search. Some of the RC articles came up in French. Why and how do I get them to go back to English?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 24 Sep 2012 @ 9:59 PM

  490. > French
    Click the flag icon

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Sep 2012 @ 11:26 PM

  491. After this year’s jaw-dropping mega-melt of Arctic sea ice, which drops to almost 2 sigma’s the projections of even the latest CMIP5 models (see Stroeve et al 2012), the much-less-talked-about, but even more important decline in spring snow cover over the Northern Hemisphere finally seems to get some well-deserved attention.

    On NPR today :

    Which puts some scientific evidence behind Neven / MA Rodger post in early July :

    Here is the scientific publication in GRL :

    With the interesting quote :

    The rate of loss of June snow cover extent since 1979 (-21.5% decade-1) is greater than the loss of September sea ice extent (-10.8% decade-1) over the same period.

    In other words, snow cover reduces at twice the rate that ice cover reduces.

    Since snow cover anomaly occurs early in the melting season, when the sun is still high in the sky, it warms the Northern Hemisphere much more than ice cover changes. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that the June 2012 snow anomaly has added some 1000 TW to the early melting season, causing extensive wild-fires in the Boreal forests in Siberia (see Siberia on fire), as well as contributed (possibly very significantly) to the 2012 mega-melt of Arctic sea ice.

    Interesting is also that, just like for the Arctic sea ice anomaly, this snow melt anomaly also drops well below the CMIP5 models projections. From the paper :

    Analysis of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) model output shows the marked reductions in June SCE observed since 2005 fall below the zone of model consensus defined by +/-1 standard deviation from the multi-model ensemble mean.

    And the June 2012 snow cover anomaly (6 million km^2) is close to 2 sigma’s below the CMIP5 projections, just like the Arctic sea ice deviation from CMIP5 models.

    It looks like models indeed have a hard time keeping up with the rapid changes of the Northern Hemisphere cryosphere that are unfolding as we speak. I start to wonder if maybe the changes we cause to our environment may unfold more rapidly than the improvement in the models that we need to project these changes.

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 25 Sep 2012 @ 1:43 AM

  492. David B. Benson@488,
    (With warning that my arithmatic is not exactly renowned for being eror-fre) some additional ideas for you.
    Your volume of 500 Gt graphite (ie 250 cu km) is a difficult quantity to put in a visual form as it is on a large scale that we humans are not very used to, but not yet large enough to be a big feature in the geological world.
    It would fill Lake Toba (“Where,” you ask? Indeed you may, but 70-odd thousand years ago you wouldn’t have been asking but wishing it had stayed filled in.) or half of Lake Eirie. Or 5% of Kilimanjaro, 10% of Mt Logan, or 16% of Mt Everest measured from sea level.
    Given this difficulty, to make such volumes work (in a conversation?) it would probably have to be relevant to the audience. Round my way, I could make two Dorsets out of a lump that big.

    If you sought an image not using volume but weight, it would allow comparison with multiples of the worlds heavy human artifacts, trucks or ships (the tonnage doesn’t appear these days, but it would take world shipping all year just to carry it 100 yards at 2008 world cargo volumes) etc, or simply humanity itself where 500Gt = 1,500 times the total human biomass (the figure as of 2005 & for adult population) Or if you are happy with more than one species, 500Gt = the total weight (carbon) of the roughly quarter million plant species that presently populate the earth, apparently.

    The usual “it would stretch from here to there and back many times” type visualisation may work if an apprpriate cross-sectional area for the volume could be found. Perhaps the cross-section of a refuse cart’s compressed load when ejected onto the city dump (say 9 sq m) which would stretch 17 million miles, or 700 times round the world or halfway to Venus.
    Taking a different cross-section to calculate, up-thread Dan Riseborough@166 asked if the atmosphere’s CO2 as dry ice would cover the globe 4mm deep, which it would. Dry ice is 4.4 time more voluminous carbon-wise than graphite & there is 850GtC in the atmosphere so the 500GtC would coat the planet with a layer 0.53mm. Impressive.

    The other dimension also can come in useful for visualisations. If the song was right (& I think it was) it would take 2 men and a boy shovelling since the beginning of the universe to shovel a pile that big, longer if they had Sundays & Public Holidays off.

    However, if you insist on volume, I wonder if the water that could be boiled off by burning the carbon would be more impressive – it would boil dry Lake Superior – and if the lake refills in 18 months, that carbon now in the atmosphere as CO2 would have captured enough energy to do it again.

    Comment by MARodger — 25 Sep 2012 @ 5:38 AM

  493. The NPR radio program “On Point” had a discussion of “A New Low For Arctic Ice”, in which host Tom Ashbrook interviewed climatologist David Robinson from Rutgers University and research scientist Walt Meier from the National Snow & Ice Data Center:

    Note that the comment page on that site is (as usual) dominated by the anti-science conspiracy theory blathering of ignorant deniers.

    Overall, I thought the discussion was good, except for the very end. After the whole discussion had emphasized the extremity of the situation and the gravity of the problems we are certain to face as rapid warming and melting continue, Ashbrook asked Robinson and Meier “OK, if you were king of the world, what would you have us do about this?”

    There is one very clear, very straightforward answer to that question, and these two scientists were handed an opportunity to give that answer in no uncertain terms:

    “We need to stop emitting CO2 completely, as soon as we possibly can, which means that we need to stop burning fossil fuels, and end deforestation. Moreover, we need to find ways to draw down the existing anthropogenic excess of CO2 — which is already causing these dangerous changes in the Arctic and elsewhere — to preindustrial levels.”

    But they didn’t say that. Instead, the two scientific gentlemen, sounding extremely uncomfortable, uttered some vague, uncertain, and tentative sentences — one of them even opined that we have to stop thinking in terms of mitigation and start thinking about adaptation — and ran away from that question as fast as they could.

    So here we have two scientists who, given a chance to inform the public about the seriousness of the problem, did a good job of that — and given a chance to state clearly that urgent action to reduce emissions is needed, squandered that opportunity.

    What good does it do to communicate the science, if you don’t communicate what needs to be done about it, and the urgent necessity of doing it?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 25 Sep 2012 @ 10:02 AM

  494. Mike Roddy says:
    “disinformation in our media is the single biggest factor in America’s laggard or nonexistent climate policies.”

    I’m afraid it just isn’t that simple. No disinformation is required to make the argument against emission reduction strategies without China and India earnestly committing to similar actions. Those that advocate legislative action are limited not only by those that accept potentially dangerous AGW but also have certain “early adopter” or “lead by example” attitudes. Meanwhile those in opposition to action have “skeptics” and those with “late adopter” tendencies within their ranks.

    The practice of slavery might be a good comparison as I’m sure we can all agree that slavery is abhorrent. Certainly history looks favorably on the early adopters of abolishing slavery, but did the late adopters gain from delaying the abolishment of slavery? I’d say in the case of the South (C.S.) any gains made by delaying abolishment of slavery was lost tenfold by hanging on to the point of getting into an ultimately destructive war. I’m sure there’s a lesson there. Managing a late adoption strategy can be problematic but the short term benefits can seem so tempting as to be difficult to resist.

    My point being that even if everyone agreed on the problem that doesn’t mean we’d agree on the solution.

    Comment by John West — 25 Sep 2012 @ 11:00 AM

  495. Re- Comment by John West — 25 Sep 2012 @ 11:00 AM:

    You say “No disinformation is required to make the argument against emission reduction strategies without China and India earnestly committing to similar actions.”

    So your argument is that if the other kids won’t behave then I shouldn’t have to? If you think that this is valid for us then it is also valid for China and India, or anybody else. Every country should be cutting back on CO2 emissions ASAP and this fact stands alone for everyone.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 25 Sep 2012 @ 2:55 PM

  496. MARodger @492 — That is a grade A essay. Thank you.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 25 Sep 2012 @ 4:32 PM

  497. Re 493 Secular Animist – Charge of the scientists’ brigade?: Our’s is not to do or die, ours is but to question why.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Sep 2012 @ 5:09 PM

  498. To John West (Chris would probably agree)- something I wrote for Climate Progress called “What About China and India?”:

    Those countries have coal oligarchies, just as we do. They won’t act first, for many reasons. They are pointing the finger at us more than vice versa, providing Chinese coal barons with cover. My brother Steve, a USF professor (PhD Princeton, Fulbright and Wilson) who studied in Beijing, gave me background information.

    It’s on us more than anyone.

    Comment by Mike Roddy — 25 Sep 2012 @ 7:32 PM

  499. “No disinformation is required to make the argument against emission reduction strategies without China and India earnestly committing to similar actions”

    Do you have some citation that indicates China has not “earnestly committed” to larger reductions than the US ever has? Are you going to stop buying Chinese manufactured goods to help them cut back?

    Comment by flxible — 25 Sep 2012 @ 8:06 PM

  500. Re- Comment by Ron R. — 24 Sep 2012 @ 12:49 PM at ~#484:

    If I understand your post, you agree with my categories of science which make a transition into industry, but think that the real scientists, as a group, should have anticipated and objected to how their descriptions of how things work have been utilized for various unfortunate purposes. I believe that this is an incomplete view and most of the problems that you identify as the responsibility of scientists are actually the fault of business and governmental interests.

    You keep identifying all scientists as a group that you think should be speaking out, but they are not a coherent group, they are members of a profession which, unusually, all use the same simple organizational methods (intuition, hypothesis, yada yada, publish), but work on a very large variety of problems. In fact, scientists do speak out loudly via organizations formed around their knowledge specialties. What you have left out of your argument are economic interest groups that oppose scientific opinion and the more important problem that the general public is unable to differentiate between self-serving made up opinions and scholarly scientific findings.

    As this is a climate forum, consider this- Climate scientists have been speaking out loudly about the CO2 problem for many years via professional organizations, have made a variety of communications in non-scientific publications that were endorsed by prominent scientists, have the public support of all of the world’s Academies of Science and a variety of other professional organizations, have a whole division of the United Nations charged with reviewing emerging climate science and helping the worlds public and governments understand what is happening and the basis of what needs to be done (IPCC), have a variety of internet sites (such as this one ) explaining the science and its implications, have produced many explanatory books, and have a few brave individuals who are willing to take some flack when speaking out, such as Schneider, Gore, Hansen, and Mann (I am sure that others here can fill this list out). Now, do you think that this effort all by itself would not have been successful in the past? The opinions of scientists used to be respected. What is it that you want? Perhaps 10,000 scientists singing Mitch Miller style enthusiastic pro conservation tunes at the Super Bowl half time?

    What I found missing from your argument were the large financial interests, with deep pockets, who conveniently don’t believe in “externalities” and are more interested in short term profits than any inconvenient science. These “robber barons” and their politician and media handmaidens have very easily distracted the general public with a, so called, “balanced” view. Since the tobacco and lead campaigns devised by this group the methods of distraction and delay have become a well-established tactic. Do you remember “9 doctors out of 10 say…” TV commercials.

    If you want an inside view of how this type of coercion works from personal experience, read Michael Mann’s book, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” it is alarming. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 25 Sep 2012 @ 10:04 PM

  501. 490 Hank Roberts Thanks

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 25 Sep 2012 @ 11:24 PM

  502. ARGH!

    (the NYT celebrates Talk Like a Pirate day?)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Sep 2012 @ 11:25 PM

  503. Secular:

    “We need to stop emitting CO2 completely, as soon as we possibly can, which means that we need to stop burning fossil fuels, and end deforestation. Moreover, we need to find ways to draw down the existing anthropogenic excess of CO2 — which is already causing these dangerous changes in the Arctic and elsewhere — to preindustrial levels.”

    Paraphrasing Hank… Arghhh

    No, that wont work. If I was King aside from over nothing, I would model automobile industry productivity, 70 million cars a year, and build wind and solar panels at the same rate and especially yearly innovation upgrade change, exactly where there are coal mines so the guys digging up the coal have descent jobs. The CO2 would drop further if automobiles turned electric, leaving petrol for planes and Hydrogen crackers, and natural gas for power plants. The two scientists skipped the idea of total boycott of CO2 because its too impractical, because we forget that there is a huge energy infrastructure of people dependent on work with that industry. Some countries even depend on it totally, for their own life style standard would collapse instantly if we theoretically drop CO2 the day after tomorrow. Its better to ease in money making renewables, for instance poor saharan and rich saudi arabian countries would become net electricity exporters, much richer, if they had a chance to cover some of that sand with solar panels, and the bedouins could become part time panel cleaners to make a buck or two. If we keep those we forget in mind better change would come faster.

    Comment by Wayne Davidson — 26 Sep 2012 @ 7:58 AM

  504. Wayne, I wrote “stop emitting CO2 completely, as soon as we possibly can” — not “the day after tomorrow”.

    So how quickly is “as soon as we possibly can”?

    I would suggest that it is a lot quicker than “easing in renewables” at a pace that the fossil fuel interests will find comfortable.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 26 Sep 2012 @ 10:43 AM

  505. John West wrote: “No disinformation is required to make the argument against emission reduction strategies without China and India earnestly committing to similar actions.”

    True, no disinformation is required to make that argument — just stupidity. Because that’s a stupid argument.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 26 Sep 2012 @ 10:47 AM

  506. Followups to John West, #494, seemed to think the comment was advocating that the US (or OECD countries, or whatever) should wait for China and India, instead of leading.

    I didn’t get that at all from John’s comment. I thought he was just trying to clarify the way some others think.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 26 Sep 2012 @ 11:08 AM

  507. Steve Fish, 25 Sep 2012 at 10:04 PM.

    Hi Steve. AGW is a very important concern. As such it gets a large amount of attention from the scientific community as it should including, as you point out, this site. It is spoken about in the halls of legislatures and even by Presidents of the US and other first world countries. Papers are publish every day about it. Media stories are written every day about it.

    Where is the similar officially endorsed science site dealing with population, the root cause of all of our major environmental problems? Where is the similar concern, even now at this late date? Sure you can find lots of dusty individual studies out there that have been done over the years, you can find lesser, usually activist, sites devoted to it. It does not compare. The attention given to climate science dwarfs the official attention given to all the other examples of failure I gave. Has a president ever spoken about the need to get ahold of population worldwide (including in first world countries)? Maybe, I don’t know. Doubtful though. Do legislatures daily wrestle with ways to tackle this impending disaster? For decades it was basically one man, Ehrlich, who held the banner warning of overpopulation, and it was NGOs and activists, not the scientific community as a whole (i.e. AAAS, NAS etc.), that took up that banner.

    Where was science in the 50s when most of these issues really began to take off? Cheerleading on the sidelines. Look what we can do! Rah Rah.

    What I am saying is science should have officially stepped back at each of those junctures and looked ahead. Looked down the road for the longterm consequences. Even Native Americans did that. Consider the impact of today’s decisions on the seventh generation.

    It’s true that scientists have a bigger desire to know than most other people. But they are not gods. They are human beings, subject to the same impulses and failings as every one else. They should be respected. They should not be idolized.

    Comment by Ron R. — 26 Sep 2012 @ 11:41 AM

  508. To Wayne at #503:

    ARGH or not, Secularist has it right this time.

    The collapse of the Arctic sea ice sheet is the sound of the front wheels of the global bus going over the edge of the cliff. At that point, a sensible driver doesn’t say to himself, “Hmm, maybe it’s time to start to reduce how quickly I am pushing the pedal to the metal. I certainly can’t do anything more drastic or it may joggle some of the passengers.”

    The time for easing off the gas pedal and coming to a gentle halt was passed miles (=decades) back (and pressing the pedal to the medal=the relentless drive toward eternal global economic growth, was a mistake from the beginning).

    The only two options before us now are a slamming on the brakes as firmly and quickly as possible (which still only has a slight chance of keeping the bus going over the cliff, if that), and going over the cliff.

    Secular understands this.

    Most, even on this site, apparently, do not…yet.

    Comment by wili — 26 Sep 2012 @ 5:35 PM

  509. Protecting the Arctic?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Sep 2012 @ 7:11 PM

  510. An interesting bit of paleoclimatology (which raises a further interesting question).

    Extreme Climate Change Linked to Early Animal Evolution

    Comment by David B. Benson — 26 Sep 2012 @ 7:59 PM

  511. 457 SecularA said, “What you are talking about boils down to the failure of human beings to apply and use the knowledge of the phenomenal world”

    Interesting. Pontious Pilot washed his hands, but one scientist who witnesses the first Bomb test wondered what they had wrought. Just because you the Smart Guy would never nuke civilians, well, tell that to Nagasakians.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 27 Sep 2012 @ 12:06 AM

  512. To clarify,

    Scientists have two “masters”. One is to Science, the advancement of knowledge for its own sake. The second is to immediate effect. Any bit of science is likely to be picked up within a generation if lost the first time. So, the invention of the nuclear bomb in the 1940s was inevitable by the 60s, but the choice of scientists to go down that path directly resulted in the vaporization of two cities. An embargo of Japan, with humanitarian exceptions, would certainly have resulted in Japan’s surrender without risk of Allied lives. Those two cities are on scientists’ heads.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 27 Sep 2012 @ 12:37 AM

  513. Jim Larsen – your consequentialist judgment is misapplied, the outcomes of the use to which any research is put is on the heads of those that use it, otherwise you’ll be blaming these folks for the CO2 problem we’re now facing – or would it be the Persians or Chinese who found the first uses for petroleum – I pick Henry Ford myself for the mass production of the emission spewing vehicles we insist on buying in fleets.

    Comment by flxible — 27 Sep 2012 @ 8:36 AM

  514. Jim
    The decision to bomb Japan was more a military decision than anything else. The effects of an embargo are less certain. The German siege of Leningrad lasted over two years, and they were never able to occupy the city. I imagine an entire country could hold out much longer, perhaps, indefinitely.

    Even without the bombs, the military was planning a vast invasion. By most accounts, the loss of lives would’ve been much higher (both Allied and Japanese). While you may contend that the destruction of those two cities are the result of the scientists involved, you could also say that the rest of Japan (and lives) were spared by the same scientists.

    As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention,” and war generates one of the greatest necessities. Unfortunately, warring governments will use scientific advancements to the destruction of opposing peoples.

    Comment by Dan H. — 27 Sep 2012 @ 8:55 AM

  515. Jim Larsen wrote: “Those two cities are on scientists’ heads.”

    Should American scientists have hidden the discovery of nuclear fission chain reactions from the US government? In the midst of WWII at a time when they had good reason to believe that Nazi Germany was already developing nuclear weapons? Should they have absolutely refused to work on the Manhattan Project, and just said “Let the Nazis build a bomb, we won’t have anything to do with it?”

    More importantly, COULD scientists have hidden the discovery of nuclear fission from the US government?

    Scientists don’t create these things. They discover facts of nature. Nuclear fission is a fact of nature. Genetics is a fact of nature. Knowledge of these facts gives human beings enormous power over nature.

    Your argument would seem to lead to the conclusion that since human beings individually and/or collectively — including scientists, engineers, politicians, military leaders, industrialists, etc. — may choose to use this knowledge in harmful ways, that science as a way of studying and understanding nature should be abandoned and abolished, to make sure that we know as little about it as possible, so we can do less harm. To cower in fear of knowledge.

    Also, I’d point out that there are a number of posts in this thread that refer to “science” as though “science” were some kind of monolithic entity — “science” did this, “science” failed to do that, as though they were saying “the Pentagon did this” or “the Kremlin did that”. There is no monolithic entity, “science”, which “did” any of these things that everyone is railing against.

    Yes, there were nuclear physicists who worked to develop nuclear weapons — and there are also nuclear physicists who have been outspoken leaders of the nuclear disarmament movement.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 27 Sep 2012 @ 10:00 AM

  516. Those two cities are on scientists’ heads.

    No, they’re on Truman’s head, as he ignored requests that the bomb be demonstrated where the Japanese couldn’t miss it, but where damage would be minimalized (off Tokyo Bay, for instance). Requests from leading scientists in the Manhattan Project.

    He also ignored written opinions by a couple dozen of the top US military brass, including Eisenhower, LeMay, Nimitz, Marshall, etc that Japan would fold without use of the bomb:

    “During [Secretary of War Stimson’s] recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude…”

    And later, in 1963, when it was considered anti-american to question the bombing of Hiroshima:

    “…the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”

    At the time of the Japaneses surrender, the US estimated that the USSR would have the atomic bomb by the early 1950s, so I don’t understand his claim that the bome was only inevetible by the 1960s (espionage led to them having it in 1947, with a simple hydrogen-enhanced version by the early 1950s which was not stolen from US designs).

    Germany, Japan, and the USSR all had fission bomb projects during the war.

    Comment by dhogaza — 27 Sep 2012 @ 11:42 AM

  517. Oh, quotes above were Einsenhower …

    This is getting seriously off-topic …

    Comment by dhogaza — 27 Sep 2012 @ 11:43 AM

  518. 514 SecularA said, “Should American scientists have hidden the discovery of nuclear fission chain reactions from the US government? In the midst of WWII at a time when they had good reason to believe that Nazi Germany was already developing nuclear weapons?”

    Excellent question. First and foremost, the Bomb was initiated by a letter from scientists, so it was a deliberate change in scientific direction by scientists specifically for the development of the Bomb.

    Now, in 1939 the decision to build such a weapon at the dawning of a world war might have been proper, necessary, wise, or not. Two cities ended up vapor because of that decision by scientists. Worth it? perhaps.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 27 Sep 2012 @ 11:53 AM

  519. Wrt to WW2 and the end of the Pacific War, more human beings were killed by conventional bombing, incendiaries, than were killed by the two atomic bombs. In the last months of the war, our Naval blockade effectively ended imports of any kind. Bad weather in Japan destroyed their crops; our Naval blockade virtually ended their access to food from the ocean. They were on the verge of starvation. Our bombing campaign was about to concentrate on destroying their food distribution system, which would have left tens of millions with no food at all.

    I seriously doubt the Japanese military would have allowed humanitarian food shipments for the Japanese public.

    In the 12 months after the surrender more Japanese people died from diseases caused by malnutrition than were killed by the atomic bombs. If not for the work of former President Hoover, it would have been far worse. He somehow convinced a very reluctant congress to send emergency food to Japan. On the heads of those scientists are millions of innocent civilians who did not starve to death.

    Comment by JCH — 27 Sep 2012 @ 11:57 AM

  520. Chris D,

    I’d like to actually finish our “blame” discussion. It seems your pattern is to toss blame, then I engage and ask questions, and you go silent, only to pop up tossing blame again. That’s dysfunctional. Stop it.

    1. I showed that the US has refused to “brake” via increased vehicle efficiency and asked if you thought that made the US culpable. Crickets is NOT an acceptable response.

    2. How does the size of the country matter? What, you split China in quarters and it suddenly becomes Saintly?

    3. If you buy a 70MPG(?) microcar, you’re being a Climate Saint, but if an Indian villager buys one, he’s being Satanic. Explain the morality, the fairness, of your concept. Frankly, you sound like a greedy pig who wants to maintain his own unearned advantage. You were born with a carbon right? Naw, every time you fill that tank, it’s a brand new sin.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 27 Sep 2012 @ 12:05 PM

  521. Ah, I see Jim Larsen putting his revisionist history degree to work. Do you also blame Jews for the making of the atomic bomb–after all, it was the prospect of a Nazi nuclear weapon that drove Szilard to appeal to Einstein?

    Scientists do not stand apart from the world. They are part of it. They are buffeted by the same winds of history. So, Jim, I ask you first to place yourself in the shoes–and in the troubled minds–of Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein. You know that the nucleus has tremendous power when it fissions (Z>26). You know that a chain reaction is possible. This suggests–but does not prove–that it might be possible to build a nuclear weapon. You don’t know if it would be a practical weapon of war–Einstein’s original letter to Roosevelt speaks of a weapon carried aboard a battle ship into a harbor. You do know that many of the top nuclear scientists–including Heisenberg–are German, and that several are even party members of a kleptocracy masquerading as a political party that threatens western civilization in general and your people in particular.

    I ask you Jim, how would you have acted?

    And do you really think it brought any comfort to the people of Dresden or Tokyo to know that it was conventional weapons rather than nuclear weapons that destroyed their cities?

    “War is hell. You cannot refine it.”–William Tecumseh Sherman

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 27 Sep 2012 @ 12:13 PM

  522. SA, is there a situation where you can imagine a scientist saying, “I could make some important discoveries here, but the society I am in would use them to horrendous ends, so I will direct my interests elsewhere”?

    What about if you were a nuclear scientist under the Nazis? Would you just say, “Science is science, and we should pursue truth no matter what our social context, even if we end up putting incredibly powerful weapons in the hands of madmen”?

    Comment by wili — 27 Sep 2012 @ 1:06 PM

  523. What a great guess. First hit on Google is a 70MPG street-legal 3-wheel microcar. (NOTE: 3 wheeled vehicles are considered motorcycles and so do not have to meet crash standards)

    And only $6,999. Hard to imagine anybody who’s a reg here buying anything else….

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 27 Sep 2012 @ 1:35 PM

  524. 517 wili, virus lethality enhancement research is a good example.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 27 Sep 2012 @ 1:38 PM

  525. 521 Ray L asked, “I ask you Jim, how would you have acted?”

    Only a guess, but I’m pretty sure I’d have written more than one letter.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 27 Sep 2012 @ 1:42 PM

  526. I’ll repeat what I said above: there is no such thing as a monolithic “science” that can be blamed for doing this or failing to do that, as earlier comments by Chris Korda et al asserted.

    And I’ll note that the discussion has since shifted to the actions and decisions of individual scientists about how to handle particular scientific discoveries, e.g. nuclear fission — and with that shift, it quickly becomes apparent that those individual decisions were neither simple, nor morally unambiguous.

    But whatever one thinks about the particular decisions made by particular scientists regarding particular discoveries, to try to turn that into a sweeping indictment of “science” — as a way of knowledge, as a wide-ranging and varied human enterprise — is just silly.

    And in any case, as I wrote earlier — what’s the alternative? What’s the alternative to looking at the world and trying to figure it out? Shall we choose blindness? Shall we forbid inquiry into nature, and hide in fear of knowledge?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 27 Sep 2012 @ 3:16 PM

  527. Remember climate modeling has long been done by the petroleum companies, to know where the stuff formed before the continents drifted — so they can figure out where to look for it now.

    That was not likely the kind of modeling done now — smaller computers, and a need to know all about local climate in locations, not about atmospheric transmission and global change.

    Those scientists doing proprietary work for the petroleum companies could not have discovered — and told their managers about — global warming. They weren’t looking there.

    It’s not a tobacco/lead/asbestos industry situation.

    Compare that to the persistent organic chemicals situation.

    Public health scientists determine that some chemical has definite bad effects.

    Regulators push through years of work to get industry to control production and distrbution.

    Industrial chemists then can “substitute a bromine for a chlorine somewhere, so it’s an entirely different molecule” (paraphrasing a scientist interviewed on NPR last week) and the regulatory process starts over from scratch — as there’s no precautionary principle in the US for the stupidly obvious behaviors. You need to show damage before throttling them.

    That, as Robert Reich points out often, is the main reason why we have big government and detailed, ever-changing regulations — because they’re chasing the endless reinvention of loopholes and never catching up with them.

    You don’t need to invoke Godwin’s Law in this kind of discussion. Current issues are plenty.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Sep 2012 @ 5:25 PM

  528. 523 SecularA said, ” What’s the alternative to looking at the world and trying to figure it out? Shall we choose blindness? ”

    That’s the old Star Trek question. “Are we ready for whatever Knowledge?”. I didn’t make the connection to try to dissuade knowledge, but to point out that in times of crisis, a discovery which leads to a particular level of understanding 20 years sooner is potentially less important than activity which leads to a less/more destructive path now. Figuring out the ramifications of work such as viral transmission genetics or Bombs or even Geoengineering is what keeps those who engage in such work up at night – if they’re the good guys.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 27 Sep 2012 @ 6:08 PM

  529. Yawn.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Sep 2012 @ 6:19 PM

  530. Only a guess, but I’m pretty sure I’d have written more than one letter.

    Undoubtably, because unlike Einstein your first (and following) would be ignored … :)

    Comment by dhogaza — 27 Sep 2012 @ 6:35 PM

  531. will: SA, is there a situation where you can imagine a scientist saying, “I could make some important discoveries here, but the society I am in would use them to horrendous ends, so I will direct my interests elsewhere”?

    SA: as I wrote earlier — what’s the alternative? What’s the alternative to looking at the world and trying to figure it out? Shall we choose blindness? Shall we forbid inquiry into nature, and hide in fear of knowledge?

    Ok,say someone comes to you with a big grin on his face and says, I’d like to create a way to destroy all life on earth in ten seconds flat. Are you with me?” Would your answer would be “Just say know!”?

    Okay, then how about just a country. Would that be okay with you? I trust you can see where this is going. There are some things better left alone.

    About a ‘monolithic entity’ that speaks for science and scientists as a whole, yes it/they do exist. Think about it. That monolithic entity is using it’s influence to speak out against AGW. To peak out for evolution science. I’m saying that it should have used it’s influence and spoken out many years ago when it could see the destructive trajectory we are on. These are not stupid people. I fault them for not doing so.

    Comment by Ron R. — 27 Sep 2012 @ 8:38 PM

  532. Re 515 Secular Animist – “Yes, there were nuclear physicists who worked to develop nuclear weapons — and there are also nuclear physicists who have been outspoken leaders of the nuclear disarmament movement.” – and weren’t at least some/one of them the same people?

    Re 527 Hank Roberts – thanks.
    Re 526,528 – yes, we ate that fruit from the tree of knowledge. If you’re interested, see what Kushner had to say about that in “How Good Do We Have to Be?”

    Re Chris Korda 442 and earlier – of course, creativity is important along with analytical skills, etc. Both science and art use both in different ways. Art uses science, and sometimes maybe vice versa (psychology, archeology, but also … paleoclimatology? Ecology (is this cave painting evidence that these species were around … etc.)). Although, outside of surrealism, I’ve tended to draw/paint/photograph natural scenery (or spacescapes), I have also experienced beauty in buildings and urban landscapes, and technology.

    Re Ron R. (455?) – antibiotics – it made sense to use them. Then when we found out they could ‘were off’ (on an ecological/evolutionary level), we (at some point, don’t know when exactly this started) looked for new ones, and then we also figured out that doctors shouldn’t prescribe them for viruses just to appease patients, and patients need to take the full dose, etc, and also, there’s the livestock issue – which I wouldn’t blame on the discovery or original usage of penicillin. Also, GMO foods – they make me a bit uneasy – but there are people going around saying that they are risky with evidence that isn’t really good evidence for that (I read one or two entries at “Tomorrow’s Table” blog – one about a visit to Dr. Oz) – and lateral genetic transfers do occur naturally (by viruses, and ?) – I had thought not very often, relative to inheretance, but someone gave me the impression of otherwise (same blog – different or same post, not sure) – I’m not sure of the significance of that for this issue, but … anyway, this has all been covered now by others, including in various ways what I meant at 444, which I could make a bit more Shakespearean: The fault is not in our science but in ourselves (including scientists, sometimes).

    Anyway, I’ve been looking into that whole Nissan Leaf issue… more later…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Sep 2012 @ 8:51 PM

  533. Sounds like Work Avoidance Strategy #437 to me. Bottom line, nobody here can demonstrate that being logical (scientific, or whatever) turns people into unfeeling automatons or mad scientists. 

    The whole focus on the bygone (neo)classical/romantic thing is verging on the artistically suspect anyway, since for one thing, you could argue that you’re just talking about different phases of one essentially romantic movement. 

    So more recently, people get freaked out by a rapidly changing world they don’t understand, and end up resorting to unresolved 1950’s memes –that lurking somewhere in the shadows are the spawn of out-of-control scientists; giant radioactive spiders that will eat unsuspecting, feeling people who have feelings and who just mind their own business with feeling.

    Easier than trying to keep up, I suppose.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 27 Sep 2012 @ 8:55 PM

  534. ” in times of crisis, a discovery which leads to a particular level of understanding 20 years sooner is potentially less important than activity which leads to a less/more destructive path now.”

    So when a scientist is choosing his work, she might want to consider public opinion far more than would be scientifically appropriate.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 27 Sep 2012 @ 11:35 PM

  535. Patrick 027 27 Sep 2012 at 8:51 PM

    Resistance to antibiotics has been known at least since the 1950s. But it seems the dealing with the consequences of its use was a can kicked down the road. According to the following article antibiotic resistance wasn’t officially addressed until 1981. By then it was too late.

    I think people might have foreseen what could happen. If they could not then they should have held off until they did know, or at least actively tried to address the issue much earlier. Anyway, I am not against responsible antibiotic use, I’m only making a point.

    We jumped the gun with GMOs. Why were 90 day trials ever deemed acceptable? Why did the scientific community and government allow the biotech giants to police themselves? Why was it mainly activists that spoke out for more research before approval?

    We now know that the genome is highly networked. Next we may find that a network also exists across genomes, perhaps even across species lines. It could be that we really are all connected. Mess with one and you mess with us all.

    I hope people don’t get me wrong. I am of course not anti-science, just anti-irresponsible science. I’m just saying that scientists have made some horrible judgement calls in the past. We need to keep all this science veneration in perspective. And science as a whole needs to start speaking up and speaking out.

    Comment by Ron R. — 28 Sep 2012 @ 12:15 AM

  536. Science is all about understanding and discovery. Every modern weapon of war is a product of that science. But so is every modern medical breakthrough, technological advancement, and industrila process. Scientists uncovered these processes, but it was others who chose to use them for destructive purposes. When Alfred Noble patented dynamite, it was not intended for warfare, but that did not stop people from useing for such. Granted, some knew that their work would be used for warfare, but others did not. Nuclear fission has resulted in significantly more productive uses than destructive ones. Tabun was originally produced has an insecticide, but look what happened when the German army got hold of it.

    Scientists cannot control the use of their discoveries. The best they can probably do is to inform others as to the potential consequences of them. In the case where a scientist is working directly for a known evil empire, it would be wise to suppress such discoveries. Imagine what the world might be like if Einstein, Born, Bohr, Meitner, Frisch, Szilard and others had not emigrated.

    Comment by Dan H. — 28 Sep 2012 @ 7:05 AM

  537. [edit – OT]

    Comment by Superman1 — 28 Sep 2012 @ 8:13 AM

  538. Ron R.,
    OK, now let’s change your scenario a wee bit.

    Let us say you are approached by a concerned government official, who says, “We have evidence that ______ is engaged in research they claim could kill everyone on Earth in 10 seconds. Is this a credible threat? Would you be willing to carry out research to assess whether this is real?”

    You know that _______ is controlled by utter whackjobs. What would you do?

    Kurt Vonnegut told an interesting story. Shortly after writing “Cat’s Cradle,” he was at a party where he was telling people about the doomsday scenario in his book, where ice-9, a phase of ice stable above room temperature–freezes all the world’s water turning the planet immediately into a desert. One of the guests in the crowd was a crystallographer and so very interested in the concept. After discussing the idea for a while, Vonnegut didn’t see him for a couple of hours. Then the guy showed up with a napkin full of equations and diagrams and said to Vonnegut, “It’s impossible.”

    You cannot assess threats unless you understand how they might be realized.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Sep 2012 @ 8:15 AM

  539. Good point, Ray. I hadn’t heard that story.

    Hank’s point is good, too–there are lots of scientists now engaged in helping corporations continue to produce hazardous chemicals. I don’t know if they rationalize it in some way. They are certainly getting paid. Some probably apply the “If I don’t do it, somebody else will (and get paid for it)” (im-)moral argument.
    But I think most people want to believe that they are working in some way for the greater good.

    If they think the society and the institutions they are working for are essentially benign or better, I would think they would work harder for it. If they view those as essentially destructive, many will at least work less enthusiastically.

    It seems to me that this was the case with some of the scientists that were supposed to be working on Saddam Hussein’s weapons systems–they pretended to be working on things, but kind of dragged their feet on development.

    Of course, all of this ultimately applies to all of us. At what point do we conclude that the efforts we are making to contribute to society are actually supporting a monstrous system that is in the process of destroying much of the life (and systems that support life) on earth?

    Comment by wili — 28 Sep 2012 @ 9:51 AM

  540. I’d like to add something to a post I wrote yesterday which hasn’t appeared yet.

    From that last site discussing the H5N1 virus experimentation:

    The most important speech delivered at the Royal Society came from Dr. Paul Berg, the 89-year-old Stanford biologist who led the first great review of biology experimental safety back in 1975. That was at the dawn of the genetic engineering era, when scientists were just beginning to manipulate life forms and use viruses to carry genetic changes into cells.

    “Hubris runs high among scientists,” Berg sternly warned the London meeting via live videoconference from Palo Alto. “Scientists have an incredible ability to ignore the risks of our own work.”

    Hubris also pushes scientists to believe in self-regulation, excluding outsiders and demeaning the worries of the general public and political leaders. That is dangerous, warned Berg. “Not enough has been done to keep the public informed and aware,” in the H5N1 case. “A social contract between science and the public is great. But now it is under strain.”

    Ray, certainly doing calculations to determine the feasibility of a threat is one thing. Actually constructing said threat is another altogether. You know that when they constructed the bomb they meant to hold tightly onto that technology without letting it get out. Didn’t take long though did it? Now just about every cracker jack banana republic out there either has one, is on their way to getting one or wants one. Should we be experimenting with bio-warfare? Any objections to that?

    Remember Murphy’s Law.

    Remember Killer Bees.

    As I brought up upthread about geoengineering solutions to fight climate change, we ought not be building things with potential for vast harm if we cannot undo said thread, and in a hurry, if necessary.


    [Response:You appear not to understand the nature of the issue here. The work that the lab that your cited blog piece refers to, is designed to investigate the potential for naturally occurring genetic recombination to produce strains of the H5N1 (aka “bird flu”) with the capacity for aerosol transmission in humans (which does not currently exist and is the primary limitation to a global pandemic that would kill many millions of people), and to specifically identify what changes would be required to do so. The threat here is not human science/technology or whatever human-created bogeyman you have in mind, but rather the ability of natural evolutionary processes to produce the highly transmissable, and yet still highly virulent, form of the virus that does not currently exist. This kind of work is absolutely essential in effective vaccine development, and moreover, in even informing the likelihood that such vaccines are even likely to be needed at all. So when you say “doing calculations to determine the feasibility of a threat is one thing. Actually constructing said threat is another altogether” this is off base. In lieu of not being able to calculate the likelihood of recombination and/or mutation producing the transmissable strain, experimentation is essential, but it is very highly regulated, and the lethal H5N1 virulence genes are not included in the construct–they are replaced by non-lethal virulence genes from other viral families like H1N1, to which there is a large general immunity in the human population. Furthermore, the constructs are all tested in non-human systems, and it is not even clear that the transmissability that occurs in those organisms would in fact hold in humans. Furthermore, this type of research informs the question of just exactly how hard would it be for terrorists or whomever to create these kinds of strains in the laboratory. You can count me on the short list of those who are extremely grateful for the advanced tools and understanding that the molecular geneticists and cell biologists bring to bear on problems like this. Not to mention on cancer, AIDS and the whole rest of the suite of potential or actual killers–Jim]

    Comment by Ron R. — 28 Sep 2012 @ 10:09 AM

  541. Dan H, you know what they say about the road to hell.

    About the best laid plans.

    Maybe there should be some things that are just off limits.

    Comment by Ron R. — 28 Sep 2012 @ 10:41 AM

  542. Ron R. wrote: “Why did the scientific community and government allow the biotech giants to police themselves?”

    The “scientific community” is in no position to “allow” or to not “allow” giant corporations like Monsanto to do anything. Plenty of scientists have expressed concerns about GMO technology, particularly regarding the virtually unregulated release into the wild of genetically engineered crops. But there is no scientific entity that has the authority to “allow” or not “allow” that.

    The government — which certainly does have that authority — is another story, and the too-cozy relationship between Monsanto and the relevant regulatory agencies is well documented.

    Ron R. wrote: “And science as a whole needs to start speaking up and speaking out.”

    Again, there is no such thing as “science as a whole” that can “speak out”. “Science as a whole” is just an abstraction. It is not some real entity that can be blamed for anything.

    There are individual scientists, and there is a multitude of scientific organizations that focus on different fields of science, and many individual scientists and scientific organizations have in fact “spoken out” on all the matters of concern that have been mentioned here.

    [Response:Exactly–thanks for getting it.–Jim]

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 28 Sep 2012 @ 11:42 AM

  543. Sure. And the political/business PR types are _still_ maligning Rachel Carson, along with claims climate change is a conspiracy to control freedom. E.g. the nitwittery at thenewatlantis, you know how to find this stuff. But that’s not science. It’s a pretense to be scientificy-sounding, though. Familiar, eh?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2012 @ 11:51 AM

  544. For folks interested in tropical cyclones and the observational record you might be interested in visiting where you can help crowdsource intensity estimates for all tropical cyclone activity globally since the geostationary IR record began. These results will lead to papers so (no offense to the blog proprietors) this may be more scientifically productive in the long term than opining on a blog in pushing the science forwards …!

    Caveat emptor small print: I am a very junior member of the science group.

    Comment by Peter Thorne — 28 Sep 2012 @ 12:10 PM

  545. Hank: …political/business PR types are _still_ maligning Rachel Carson, along with claims climate change is a conspiracy to control freedom

    A conspiracy or plot or other form of collusion is the unavoidable bottom of the intellectual funnel that begins with “I doubt it but I can’t explain why.”

    Short of a truly functional means to dismiss the problem of AGW, an Earthly conspiracy is relatively more plausible than invoking cloaked aliens releasing C02 into the air to warm the planet or some other even more impossible “explanation” for what’s going on. Claiming the evidence is faked is the pragmatic but infinitely distant next best thing to a competent argument against facts; a vaguely imagined plot is explanatory magic of the most parsimonious variety.

    Conspiracy is the convergent minimally irrational solution to climate change for people who can’t or won’t deal with the problem.

    Comment by dbostrom — 28 Sep 2012 @ 1:15 PM

  546. > lots of scientists now engaged … corporations …

    Is it science if it’s not published in a peer reviewed journal?
    I’d think not.

    There are lots of industrial and nuclear chemists out there with scientific training and degrees — but the ones doing proprietary work that’s not in the journals are working as technicians.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2012 @ 1:52 PM

  547. Hank:

    (the NYT celebrates Talk Like a Pirate day?)

    When is it Swear Like a Sailor day?

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 28 Sep 2012 @ 2:22 PM

  548. Over at Sharon Astyk’s blog, a couple of DK-afflicted parties are propagating the “Rachel Carson is responsible for millions of deaths from malaria” meme. My own counter-efforts lack skill, unfortunately. More competent arguments are needed, futile though they may seem.

    [Response: Deltoid had many discussions on this: here, here, here for instance. – gavin]

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 28 Sep 2012 @ 2:31 PM

  549. Re Maladapted and the DDT shibboleth, that’s an exercise in futility. The argument isn’t about DDT at all, it’s about incompatibility of cherished principles of self-determination with living on a planet having a population of more than one person, fond wishes for a corporeal existence that is not shared.

    Comment by dbostrom — 28 Sep 2012 @ 3:25 PM

  550. Ron R. @ 540 Re: The quotes stating that scientists are [insert bunch of stuff here].

    Reminds me of those astrology thingies. You know, if you were born on such and such a date, then you are this, that, and the other; and mysteriously it always seems to apply if you think about it in a certain way.  Sort of like saying, if you’re born under the sign of the Scientist then you have the characteristics of a buthead (that would be a Bunsen burner representing the constellation Poindexter presumably).

    Ironically that stuff about hubris  seems to apply even more exactly to certain demagogues who make a living from FUD mongering, i.e., deliberately corrupting civil discourse by stirring up and misdirecting “the worries of the general public and political leaders.”

    Comment by Radge Havers — 28 Sep 2012 @ 3:40 PM

  551. 530 dhogaza playfully pondered, “Undoubtably, because unlike Einstein your first (and following) would be ignored … :)”

    Sure, I’ll play. Going general (ignore the Bomb), given your knowledge of my strengths, weaknesses and blatant flaws, would you consider that response wise?

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 28 Sep 2012 @ 4:17 PM

  552. I read the 2nd linked article from 548. Until the hack said that methyl bromide was used for refrigeration. (Very early in the piece.) Methyl bromide was used as a pesticide, but it was a dangerous chemical to come in contact with and was hell on the ozone layer. So, it was banned.

    If hacks can’t even read up on the chemicals they’re defending while smearing people, there’s no point in even reading their smears.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 28 Sep 2012 @ 4:45 PM

  553. Thanks for the Deltoid pointers, Gavin;
    I should’ve thought to provide those.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2012 @ 5:24 PM

  554. the road to hell.“…”About the best laid plans.

    I’ve never been fond of that phrase**, perhaps because I suspect it’s often misinterpreted – then again maybe I’m the one misinterpreting it.

    If it is emphasizing the distinction between a plan and the execution of that plane, okay (i.e./e.g. ‘I meant to do it’).

    Sometimes I wonder if some people mean it as a caution against doing something which seems like a good thing to do (somewhat similar to ‘no good deed goes unpunished’). Of course things can go awry, but you can’t go around avoiding what seems like the best course of action – that almost just ensures bad consequences.

    too-cozy relationship between“[insert business/industry/etc. here]”and the relevant regulatory agencies is well documented.

    It would be nice if people could get along, but perhaps it is best in some cases that people have an adversarial relationship – friendships are a conflict of interest. Oh well…

    **oops, that’s really two phrases – ‘The best laid plans (of mice and men)’… vs. ‘the road to hell (is paved with good intentions)’ – I was refering to the later.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Sep 2012 @ 5:37 PM

  555. Why oh why is PSU’s Marcellus Center listing a GWPF Matt ‘Northern Rock’ Ridley “report”, ‘The Shale Gas Shock (2011)’, on its resources page? Who slipped that in?

    Comment by J Bowers — 28 Sep 2012 @ 6:14 PM

  556. @ Mal Adapted, check out Bug Girl’s posts.
    DDT, Junk Science, Malaria, and the attack on Rachel Carson
    DDT, Junk Science, Malaria, and insecticide resistance

    Comment by J Bowers — 28 Sep 2012 @ 7:18 PM

  557. Mal Adapted,
    Every day is Swear Like a Sailor Day.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Sep 2012 @ 7:25 PM

  558. Ron R. quotes Paul Berg: ““Hubris runs high among scientists,”

    Oh, bullshit! Scientists are no more prone to hubris than any other group of people. In fact, I would say that it is precisely the scientists who best understand the risks of their research. It was the scientists who warned the military of the threats nuclear weapons posed. It was the scientists who figured out the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction–which has not only kept us from using nuclear weapons, but also getting into a conventional war among superpowers for nearly 70 years!

    Here is a clue: Shelley’s “Frankenstein, or The New Prometheus” is fiction. As a matter of fact, the greatest disasters have always occurred when someone other than the scientists takes control of what the scientists created–from dynamite to derivatives and credit default swaps.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Sep 2012 @ 7:34 PM

  559. Andy Revkin has also weighed in with an ambiguous (a specialty of his) report on Rachel Carson. I think Doug Bostrom ~549 nails it.

    Couldn’t resist weighing in partly because recaptcha includes “fasciculus” – huh?

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 28 Sep 2012 @ 8:33 PM

  560. Revisiting the DotEarth article, I think I may have overstated the ambiguity. In any case there are excellent as well as execrable comments there.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 28 Sep 2012 @ 8:44 PM

  561. “Should we be experimenting with bio-warfare?”

    If a nasty bug escapes containment, it’ll sure reduce the anthropogenic carbon footprint.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 29 Sep 2012 @ 12:23 AM

  562. Ray,
    I agree. While we have witness our share of dishonorable scientists (Josef Mengele comes to mind), overall, scientists are best able to ascertain the risks. Granted, scientists are not the most empathetic group (probable our genetic makeup – that is why we when into science, and not social work), but to lay the blame on manmade atrocities to the inventors, rather than the users, is misplaced. Most scientific discoveries where intended for improvement, not destruction.

    Comment by Dan H. — 29 Sep 2012 @ 7:52 AM

  563. Comments I have tried to send since yesterday are repeatedly refused by the spam filter. I don’t know why so I will try to be briefer.

    Secular Animist, please see these links. Especially part 2.

    Comment by Ron R. — 29 Sep 2012 @ 10:34 AM

  564. Jim, thanks. Actually I wasn’t confusing that work on H5N1 with bio-warfare. I was just asking if Ray thought that we should be getting into biowarfare (or chemical warfare for that matter. But on that note, no doubt there are/will be people in the military who will/want to use this laboratory construct for their own ends. Do you think the scientists who built it share any responsibility for it’s misuse? We’re not talking a new design of bicycle or dish washer here. If a parent buys a, AK47 and keeps it in a locked cabinet does he share any blame if his child gets in, whether intentionally or accidentally, and shoots him/herself?) I hope that you are right about the safety of these constructs. Given our history though I find them worrying so I can’t share your optimism.

    [Response:You are just wandering all over the place with this stuff, making rather wild generalizations, and it’s not even climate science-related. I explained why the issue with H5N1 research is much more complex than you assume or understand it to be. Please read Imai et al, among many others, if you want to understand the biological issues in detail.–Jim]

    [edit: way off topic]

    Comment by Ron R. — 29 Sep 2012 @ 10:52 AM

  565. Gavin and J.Bowers: thanks for the links. Responding to a gish-galloping denier like Neil Craig is always frustrating, even for a subject-matter expert. Although I’ve had doctoral-level training in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, I’d need to do a fair amount of research before challenging Craig’s factual claims in detail. Short of that, non-Dunning-Kruger-afflicted non-experts like myself should defer to expert consensus. At the moment, I’m looking for review articles in referred publications (this one looks good), formal statements by scientific bodies (here’s one from the Endocrine Society), and similar high-quality consensus documents. The next time I confront a Carson-hater online, I expect to be better prepared.

    Dbostrom: Neil Craig and his ilk are desperately defending a fantasy of personal freedom that’s unconstrained by the finitude of a crowded planet. It’s also clear that Carson-haters assign little or no value to non-human species. Reality-based arguments can have no influence them, but there are always the lurkers.

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 29 Sep 2012 @ 11:32 AM

  566. Mal Adapted:

    Dbostrom: Neil Craig and his ilk are desperately defending a fantasy of personal freedom that’s unconstrained by the finitude of a crowded planet. It’s also clear that Carson-haters assign little or no value to non-human species. Reality-based arguments can have no influence them, but there are always the lurkers.

    Nicely summarized.

    Comment by Ron R. — 29 Sep 2012 @ 12:45 PM

  567. Speaking of Mary Shelly, physicians doing harm, bad politics, and various pop attitudes towards science, it may be worth stoping for a moment to ponder how Michael Crichton’s perceptions led him down a path that eventually earned him a special monument in RC’s hall of shame:
    Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion

    Comment by Radge Havers — 29 Sep 2012 @ 1:04 PM

  568. Crichton had a prominent anti science/technology theme in his books throughout his career.

    Comment by Steve Fish — 29 Sep 2012 @ 1:50 PM

  569. Ron R. wrote: “Why did the scientific community and government allow the biotech giants to police themselves?”

    As others have said, “the scientific community” is not a decision-making collective. Many scientists speak out against specific unethical practices by various industrial concerns. The question why the US government allows so much self-regulation by the biotech(*) industry is likely evident in the fact that industry spends around $200 million a year on lobbying politicians and not far off $100 million a year on donations to politicians and their parties.

    All clinical trial data collected under NIH funding is made under regulations that assure scientifically (statistically) valid outcomes and the results made publically available independent of outcome, a practice that one might consider self-evident when assessing safety/efficacy of medicines. That biotech(*) companies are under no obligation to do so is largely due to their influence on government regulatory policy, and this leads to the sort of horrors that Ben Goldacre described last week in the Guardian.

    There is a continual tension between the desires of the corporate sector to minimize regulation and the role of governments to regulations in accordance with public wellbeing (defined in its broadest sense). So in Europe government regulations forbid the direct advertising of medicines(*) to consumers, and the use of antibiotics in foodstuffs as growth-promoters in animals, each of which is allowed in the US partly or entirely because of the lobbying of government by the respective industries. In each of these examples, the more highly regulated practice is the scientifically-justifiable one.

    So scientists can present their evidence and make scientifically-justified recommendations, but whether these are acted upon depends on politics and the strength of lobbying for opposing “views”. The parallels with the science on the dangers of massive enhancement of greenhouse radiative forcing and the impact on government policy (and public perception) are self-evident…

    (*) a. “biotech” and especially “medicines” aren’t really the correct designations but can’t get past the spam filter with the more appropriate ones

    Comment by chris — 29 Sep 2012 @ 4:45 PM

  570. Re- Comment by Ron R. — 29 Sep 2012 @ 10:34 AM:

    I have explained to you how climate scientists have been very responsible in getting the word out about global warming and how their efforts have been opposed by big money (25 Sep 2012 @ 10:04 PM, ~#500) which you haven’t contested. Instead you are now continuing your way off topic rants about other non-climate issues which you misattribute to scientists instead of big corporations and their friendly politicians.

    Most of your links are to opinion pieces, not to any science. The two part piece in the International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food by Don Lotter (‘09) is a review. How do these individuals know that something is wrong? What evidence do they have?

    If you answer is that support is in published scientific research that specifically tested for problems, then (real not biotech) scientists have been doing their job and you invalidate your claim that science as a group is the problem. Lotter even has a section describing a small part of the real issue in Part 2 of the article- Bias against and Mistreatment of Dissenting Scientists. This sounds like the same problem as for tobacco, environmental lead, asbestos, and global warming to me. Those who legitimately contest interests of powerful businesses are attacked.

    If your answer is that the conclusions of the commenters are just obvious, then you are trolling. In all of this I am not disagreeing about the potential problems of GMO foods, just your attribution of blame to scientists as a group. In any case, I think that you should take your arguments to a more appropriate website or just stick to climate. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 29 Sep 2012 @ 6:38 PM

  571. What is wrong with this idea?
    I can think of two things right off the bat.

    [reCAPTCHA thought of two more: transitivity rtakier.]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 29 Sep 2012 @ 6:50 PM

  572. Investigating the EV mpg (Cracking the Nissan Code), PART I: the electric power supply


    (PS my calculations were generally based on an earlier version (going through 2010) which was just recently replaced with updates going through 2011). (PS sorry for playing fast and loose with sig.figs):

    Electric power sector emissions:

    for 2006-2010, average emissions per unit net generation (from tables 11.3e and 8.2b): 589.04 g CO2/kWhe
    minimum (2009): 566.69
    maximum (2007): 605.69

    averages for
    coal: 995.90
    petroleum: 935.10 (might be a bit off – see note about natural gas)
    nat.gas: 451.13 (this may be an underestimate because of inexact matches of corresponding categories among EIA tables – see EIA’s footnotes)

    taking into account a 92.603 % efficiency in transmission+distribution:
    (From :
    2010:, quadrillion Btu
    Energy consumed to generate electricity 40.26
    Net generation of electricity 14.06;
    end use 13.25 (includes 0.15 unaccounted for and 0.09 net imports)
    T+D losses (occur before ‘unaccounted for and net imports’ ?) 1.04
    direct use 0.46
    (14.06 – 1.04) / 14.06 = 0.92603 = 92.603 %
    The 2011 values give 92.577 %)

    for 2006-2010, average emissions per unit delivered electricity: 636.09 g CO2/kWhe
    minimum (2009): 611.96
    maximum (2007): 654.07

    averages (for delivered electricity) for
    coal: 1075.45
    petroleum: 1009.80 (might be a bit off – see above)
    nat.gas: 487.16 (might be a bit off – see above)


    The efficiencies of net generation of the electric power sector (from tables 8.2b and 2.1f; see footnotes – natural gas and petroleum values could be off, etc.)

    average 2006-2010:
    coal: 32.72 %
    petroleum: 31.39 %
    nat.gas: 40.15 %
    Total fossil fuels: 34.65 %

    nuclear: 32.62 %

    hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, and wind primary energies were given in fossil fuel equivalent and their efficiencies calculated from that are each 34.69 % (See Table A6, also Table F1)

    (PS note from Table F3 that fossil fuel equivalent solar and geothermal primary energies “Transformed into Electricity” are 12 and 152 TBtu (maybe an improper use of metric prefix T, sorry) in 2010; this is about the amount that would account for electric net generation for both the electric power sector and all sectors. However, this doesn’t include direct consumption, which is the residential sector direct use of solar energy (including PV, and thus including some electricity) (several times larger than 12 TBtu) and geothermal heat and geothermal heat pumps (which is really either a storage or efficiency strategy, depending on how one looks at it). So there may be some solar electricity that isn’t being counted in table 8.2a (which is net generation for all sectors – but that seems to mean all of the electric, commercial, and industrial sectors).)

    Taking into account transmission+distribution efficiency of 92.603 %:

    coal: 30.30 %
    petroleum: 29.07 %
    natural gas: 37.18 %
    total fossil fuels: 32.09 %

    ( From Figure F1, electric power sector has 12.8 quad Btu sales and 26.8 losses , implies 32.3232 % efficiency
    see also )

    Although from the graphs at (Fig 2.1b),
    it looks like electrical losses (including transmission and distribution as well as generation) are roughly 2 times used electricity in the residential and commerical sector but (just eyeballing it) ~ 7/4 of used electricity in the industrial sector – well, maybe there are smaller T&D losses between power plants and industrial plants on average (wouldn’t surprise me), but I wonder if some of the difference is due to some industrial electricity being supplied by generators at the same location, with some of the heat also being used (thus not lost) (see Figure 8.3) – also, natural gas dominates the fossil fuel portion of generation in commercial and industrial plants (Fig 8.2b, Table 8.2d). The generation by the commercial and industrial sectors is a small fraction of that of the electric power sector (Fig 8.2b), and within the electric power sector, CHP plant generation is a small fraction of the total (Fig. 8.2b).

    thus if the T&D losses used were from all-sector electricity rather than just the electric power sector, it shouldn’t introduce a large error. (Maybe I should come back to that later?)


    Multiplying the net generation efficiencies by the emissions per kWhe of net generation to get g CO2/kWh primary energy:

    (multiplying the average values 2006-2010)

    coal: 325.90
    petroleum: 293.57
    natural gas: 181.11
    total fossil fuel: 288.36
    total electric power sector (fossil fuel equivalent primary used for some sources): 200.73

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Sep 2012 @ 7:41 PM

  573. 92.603 % efficiency

    wait. What, overall average?

    But the comparison should be to a local end user number for electricity efficiency.

    I had an ancient* gas water heater. When it finally pinholed though, the city would’nt allow putting in electric with the intention of adding solar — to get an electric permitted, the house had to be solar up front first.

    Reasoning given: gas was much more energy-efficient at this end user point than electricity — mostly I recall due to transmission losses. California was buying electricity generated a long way away at the time.
    *Ancient water heater: Do this: flush the silt out; replace the sacrificial anode. (When it leaks: have a LeakFrog.)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Sep 2012 @ 8:48 PM

  574. “How Rachel Carson Spurred Chemical Concerns by Highlighting Uncertainty”

    The intent is in the title. The argument is that RC could win on GW by handling uncertainty differently. I don’t believe it. Another Andrew Revkin quote: “both camps in climate debate” is obviously nonsense. See this book: “Nonbeliever Nation” by David Niose.

    There was respect for scientists in the 1950s and 60s. That is not the case now.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 29 Sep 2012 @ 9:06 PM

  575. Clarifications/adjustments:

    Minimum and maximum values refered to the time period 2006-2010. (Why such a short period? The average is moving and the part about car emissions (coming up) is based on ‘recent’ electricity supply).


    Taking the 2010 values from :
    quadrillion Btu , converted to trillion kWh
    Energy consumed to generate electricity 40.26 , 11.80
    Net generation of electricity: 14.06 , 4.364
    T&D loss: 1.04 , 0.305
    remaining after T&D loss, before adding ‘unaccounted’ and ‘net imports’: 13.02 , 3.816

    unaccounted for: 0.15 , 0.044
    net imports: 0.09 , 0.02(6)
    end use: 13.25 , 3.883

    direct use: 0.46 , 0.13
    end use other than direct use: 12.79 , 3.748

    From Table 8.2b, the electric power sector net generation was 3.971232939 trillion kWh, 0.149 less than the net generation given above (similar to, although somewhat greater than, the direct use value).

    If T&D loss were entirely from the electric power sector, the T&D efficiency for that sector would be 92.32 %, only slightly less than caculated for all-sector electricity. Setting aside the direct use, T&D efficiency would be 92.35 %.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Sep 2012 @ 11:28 PM

  576. There is no shortage of climate events going on right now;

    absolutely extraordinary low Arctic snow extent even though more than half the ice is gone:

    Washington Post giving a good presentation on Antarctica ice extent apparently high:

    The very same Arctic minimum claimed to be caused by a single Cyclone event on August 5, if you believe the contrarians. Yet there is evidence making the said cyclone event not very relevant to 2012 melt, except it may have been stronger by the open water and sea ice next to each other.

    And I am missing a lot of events. The record low snow extent exists despite the fact that its snowing!
    Clouds have recently made the Arctic quite warmer, the reason for the clouds should be discussed, especially
    since it lasted from the spring onwards to today. The study or presentation of cyclones being more numerous in the Arctic, the biggest feature of change in my estimation, being less visual than ice, has been largely ignored.
    The high probability that NW Europe will experience summer rains for decades to come because Greenland will be the only thing cooling the air and in effect steadying the jet stream over the UK. The US mega drought, and more…. So here we have it, lots of climate related stuff to discuss, so I rather want to read RC at it full blast. Science its at its best when people discuss all the details of a specific subject thoroughly. Being that all these events cited above are related to each other studying it openly a lot is crucial.

    Comment by wayne Davidson — 30 Sep 2012 @ 3:15 AM

  577. re 573 Hank Roberts – of course, but I have to use averages for what I’m doing (this will become clear later). Granted, average residential or residential+commercial would probably be the way to go for charging EVs, but the graphs of Fig 2.1b still seem to show that an overall conversion+delivery efficiency of ~1/3, so it’s not too far off.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Sep 2012 @ 12:51 PM

  578. It occured to me to try using table 8.4b instead of 2.1f to find net generation efficiency; I looked at it a bit; it seems (except where revised, as I am now looking at an updated version of 8.4b) to have generally similar values, but the fossil fuel inputs are a little smaller – especially natural gas; nuclear power input is about the same as are hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, and wind; biomass input is a bit less. Based on the footnotes, I would have expected the opposite difference for natural gas and no difference for biomass; thus, I suspect that the title of 8.4b may be meant to indicate it is not including inputs to CHP power plants.

    The most straightforward thing to do is just use Table A6 values (divide the “Heat Content of Electricity” by the “Heat Rates for Electricity Net Generation” (footnotes left out of quotes)…giving:

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Sep 2012 @ 1:28 PM

  579. Edward Greisch @574 

    “There was respect for scientists in the 1950s and 60s. That is not the case now.”

    Hard to quantify respect, but you have to wonder if respect in this case hasn’t become very soft and conditional in the popular mindset.  

    For instance, there doesn’t seem to be quite so much respect for scientists in science fiction which is now pretty much just part of the sci-fi/horror/fantasy lump.  Trace an arc from Frankenstein to Jurassic Park, and the window for even funky respect (like “The Brain of Morbius” 1976) seems to have all but closed. You get the feeling even Doctor Who only pays lip service any more. 

    Crichton’s “State of Fear” may have jumped the shark, however the nonsence goes on.

    [Response: There has always been nonsense. But scientists as a professional class are among the most respected professionals (doctors poll a little higher). It’s probably true that overall levels of respect in authority have declined from the 1950s, but that is on the whole a good thing. – gavin]

    Comment by Radge Havers — 30 Sep 2012 @ 2:06 PM

  580. decline of respect for authority – reminds me of something from Fareed Zakaria’s “The Future of Freedom”

    (from the updated version (September 2012)) Table A6 ):
    % efficiency

    average 2006-2010: net generation , net generation + T&D

    coal —-: 32.85 , 30.42
    petroleum: 31.29 , 28.98
    nat. gas : 41.09 , 38.05
    total fossil fuel, also used for “noncombustible renewable energy” (for primary energy in fossil fuel equivalent)
    ———: 34.70 , 32.13

    nuclear -: 32.63 , 30.21


    coal —-: 32.76 , 30.34
    petroleum: 31.06 , 28.77
    nat. gas : 41.69 , 38.60
    total fossil fuel, etc.
    ———: 34.97 , 32.39

    nuclear -: 32.64 , 30.23


    PS if you click (where available) on the link in the name of the table/graph on the left-hand-side, you get a version of the table that allows you to produce graphs within the website. Quite handy.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Sep 2012 @ 4:40 PM

  581. Wayne,
    Interesting thught. I am not sure that all the events are related, but possibly. There may be a relationship between low Arctic ice extent and high Antarctic, given that the previous Antarctic high was set in 2007.

    Do you have any backup for your European rains? This past winter sure saw enough snow, which many claim was a result od the same jet stream anomaly which cause the record-setting warm North American winter.

    I think you are jumping the gun on the mega-drought. The drought was relatively short-lived, and appears to be over in many places.

    Also, you missed the cold, wet land down under.

    Comment by Dan H. — 30 Sep 2012 @ 6:03 PM

  582. UK is literally being overwhelmed by Rain:

    There has to be an effort to officially clarify why, or at least an extensive discussion on this. Usually these events occur in isolation, small areas of the world get hit, now we have Drought in the US extensive rain in NW Europe, and more than half of Arctic sea ice extent gone if not volume as well. Now is the time to put the dots together….

    Comment by wayne davidson — 30 Sep 2012 @ 6:03 PM

  583. Hank Roberts @573 — CA still obtains lotsa electricity from up this way and also from AZ.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Sep 2012 @ 6:04 PM

  584. Gavin (in-line @  579), thanks.

    For the most part I can accept that, although I can’t help wondering if there isn’t more going on here. For example, I’m a pretty disrespectful person, but on the other hand I’m not especially inclined to make a virtue of my personal lack of rigor. Or perhaps the politics of giving priority to “faith based” approaches to problem solving has simply helped make it easier to play on peoples’ naturally mixed attitudes in order to gin up attacks on rational responses to selected problems like AGW.

    Something has changed, which makes me wonder, perhaps wrongly, if ideas about the role of science and scientists in society, which we take for granted, may not be as stable as they appear. 

    Or maybe things really are turning around.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 30 Sep 2012 @ 7:00 PM

  585. I’d like to second Wayne’s (@576) call for a full discussion of the recent dramatic events occurring in the Arctic and their immediate likely consequences. I tried to start such a discussion on another thread and got pretty well shot down. Here’s hoping that posters show more respect to Wayne.

    So, to follow up, Wayne @576 said: “The high probability that NW Europe will experience summer rains for decades to come because Greenland will be the only thing cooling the air and in effect steadying the jet stream over the UK. The US mega drought…”

    Could you or someone explain a bit more clearly how Greenland now being the only body consistently cooling the top of the globe is likely to steady (or has already steadied?) the jet stream over the UK? It seems to be what is happening, but is there now other configuration that the jet stream could fall into?

    And, Wayne, you mention the US drought in very next sentence. With the new configuration in the Arctic, are we likely to see highs park themselves over the central plains for months in the coming years as well. Are wet UK summers and dry (Midwest and Western) US summers linked to a cold Greenland surrounded by ever warmer and ever more ice-free summer waters?

    Comment by wili — 30 Sep 2012 @ 8:03 PM

  586. Thanks for noticing Wili! I deal with it on my blog a bit. Since its likely Arctic sea ice will not recover to its former extent and volume during summer , the only cool place in the Northern Hemisphere will be Greenland. This means about Greenland will have the lowest more compressed air mass facing much higher one towards its South , of course in between low cold and warmer higher air zones is the jet stream. In the recent past this cold point varied further due to a much colder Arctic having a coldest pole varying much more throughout the Polar Northern Hemisphere. In other words it gave a more variable summer everywhere. The only thing changing this permanent localized rain scenario should be largely ENSO and other factors, I am sure I missed. ENSO of course gives more clouds (rain), La-Nina gives less clouds, sunnier skies in most parts.

    These are some suggestions, it can be other things, other causations , this is why we should discuss what is going on since current events are quite startling . Perhaps so much overwhelming to even talk about? May be these events are too big to notice? A serious discussion about recent events are rare. Attribution aside, there is the basic weather and climate implications of vastly less Arctic ice to debate. We can’t possibly expect to project future outcomes unless the future projected 20 years ago is also examined. Did we see this coming?

    Comment by wayne davidson — 30 Sep 2012 @ 9:33 PM

  587. Re
    Karsten V. Johansen 55,95
    Susan Anderson 85,86
    wili 111,128
    (re my 64,69,78,114
    and maybe my 103)
    – I had meant to come back to that – with 1 more comment about the quasistationary pattern (pertinent to European warmth),
    – and then some more general info about atmospheric dynamics – which I like to explain in the context of everything else (brief comparisons to ocean, outer core, mantle, and if I knew enough about it, stellar and Jovian dynamics, and how vorticity and matter waves can both ‘tunnel’)
    (I had the idea of an aside about the thermodynamics of convection, and then, with phase changes or other changes and kinetics – Kohler curves, snow crystal habits, Bergeron process, etc, but analogously, also the partial melting of rocks, feldspar exsolution, the ~ 660 km Perovskite transition, metamorphic facies, subduction, martensite, cementite, tempered chocolate, salt rejection, azeotropes, rapakivi texture, rotten granite, compositional buoyancy in the outer core … yes, all these things really should be covered all at once, because it would be awesome and fun – unfortunately it could take awhile to double check some things…)

    … but I think I may want to get back to Earth’s precession, since I’ve already got a lot put together (or nearly so) for it. But first, Ev mpgs…

    Re my 89, Susan Anderson 94, Russell 113 – thanks. I saw part of a show on Boudicca on the History Channel – I was really hoping she would win that battle :).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 30 Sep 2012 @ 11:42 PM

  588. Stoat’s got a good topic on the changes _about_ the polar science in Britan — reorganization. I added a note about the change in the US polar science group, quoting briefly from the AGU’s weekly EOS newspaper article:

    Eos, Vol. 93, No. 38, 18 September 2012
    NSF Realignment Plan Includes Moving Polar Office Into Geosciences Directorate

    Most interesting if you want a glimpse of the realpolitics emerging as all that tedious ice melts, getting out of the way of Progre$$.

    It’s subscription time — $20 is the basic AGU membership; pay now for the next calendar year and get a price break if you want to attend the annual meeting in San Francisco. That gets you the EOS newsletter, and a lot of online abstracts. Full journal articles still paywalled.

    Nevertheless a deal, if you want to read stuff on point about what’s going on that’s mildly paywalled.

    Worth the $20 for us kibitzers, bystanders, and occasionally active citizenry I’d say.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Oct 2012 @ 12:03 AM

  589. Dan H @ 562,

    [edit – seriously OT]

    Comment by ozajh — 1 Oct 2012 @ 12:08 AM

  590. … but “Science of Doom” has a series of posts on atmospheric fluid dynamics already (someone upthread gave a link to it)…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Oct 2012 @ 12:25 AM

  591. … with updated data,

    electric power sector emissions g CO2/kWh net generation, delivered (using the same T&D efficiency used earlier), primary (using some fossil fuel equivalents in some categories)
    571.69 , 617.36 , 195.55

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 1 Oct 2012 @ 12:31 AM

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