It’s no secret to people who read this site that 2012 was a record breaker in terms of Arctic sea ice melt. I’m very curious to see what happens in the summer 2013.
One thing I have been trying to learn more about is the AMSR-2 climate satellite. My understanding is that it was launched in May of 2012 but that it is still undergoing calibrations and testing. No real info yet on when it “goes live” and starts sending back what is expected to be the most accurate data yet on polar ice. I went googling for info and came up with surprisingly little. This is the most recent article I could find, and it wasn’t very detailed:
At some point, the pace of doom will overtake this blog’s capacity to document it. In 2012, Desdemona came pretty close to this threshold, as a burst of extreme weather events battered civilization and illustrated the nature of abrupt climate change to the most obdurate of nation states.
In this presentation he points out that rather than a fall in CO2 emissions by the UK since 1990 as sometimes claimed (I remember 22%) that when the CO2 embedded in imports is counted there has been a rather large increase (I think 18%).
The UK imported goods more goods that were made abroad during this period – from countries like China. They emitted CO2 on the UK’s behalf. As Professor Watson says, the CO2 from the manufacture of these goods should really go on the UK budget.
I expect it will be much the same for the US.
Bob Watson does actually work for the UK government.
This may be a dumb question (please don’t lol) – where people NOAA, IPCC etc mention Ocean & Land surface temperatures are they ONLY speaking to the AIR TEMPS measured near the surface?
In that, when someone speaks about ocean temps, they are not actually talking about the average temp of the “water” but the air just above it.
iow in all cases where Climate Temps are discussed (historical and present) it is AIR Temps only.
Then maybe another dumb question: what public info data is there regarding average water temps in the oceans themselves? iow status or changes in the OHC, ocean heat content, i think it’s called. Is the research in this area still very limited, or are new things in the pipeline. THX
“Policies seeking to regulate emissions will affect not only the parties burning fuels but also those who extract fuels and consume products. No emissions exist in isolation, and everyone along the supply chain benefits from carbon-based fuels,” Davis said.
This is of course the Elephant in the room of every international meeting about CC, CO2 targets, and ETS. They do not want to deal with it, and thus avoid reality and reason, and so all agreements are flawed.
Australia is a good example, decreasing local manufacturing, increasing manufactured imports (eg China), already highest per capita GHG emissions, plus highest per capita exports of Carbon in Gas and Coal (eg to China). Both China and Australia are thus advantaged by avoiding this issue over the bulk of other nations, and neither wish to touch it with a ten foot pole. As Deep Throat wisely suggested to Woodward .. follow the money. :)
#16–Sean, it’s good to want to get clear on such issues. Short answer: in general, ocean surface temperatures are actual water temperatures in the surface layer of the ocean, not air temperatures. But it’s good to pay attention to the methodology used by each agency.
Land surface temperatures are available from the Global Historical Climate Network-Monthly (GHCN-M). Sea surface temperatures are determined using the extended reconstructed sea surface temperature (ERSST) analysis. ERSST uses the most recently available International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS) and statistical methods that allow stable reconstruction using sparse data. The monthly analysis begins January 1854, but due to very sparse data, no global averages are computed before 1880. With more observations after 1880, the signal is stronger and more consistent over time.
What is “ERSST,” you ask? Well, luckily the acronym is hot-linked, so if you click on the original you get to this page:
Bottom line is that for ERSST.v.3, you’ve got data from ships and buoys (just as in v.1 & v.2), plus satellite data as well.
(Some limited use is also made of weather station data; but that’s mostly (if I’ve got this right) to help ‘see’ relatively short-term (“high-frequency”) warmings and coolings, and so is not that relevant for climate change.)
I remember seeing that paper. I thought it a bit odd, they were measuring and increase in light transmitted into the water, but implying that reflected a significant loss of albedo. I was thinking, but isn’t the amount of sunlight that makes it through the ice into the water small enough that transmittance is a (very) poor proxy for albedo. But, I’m not in possession of any numbers.
#7 Candide: “Seems that NASA doesn’t have the funding to do anything similar, and the old Aqua satellite was allowed to die with no replacement planned.”
Rumors of Aqua’s demise may have been somewhat exaggerated. The AMSR-E instrument on Aqua failed in October 2011 — the other instruments on that Earth Observing System satellite are still functioning, AFAIK.
Welcome to 2013 Everybody! Just been reading an article by Coral Davenport in the National Journal re: putting money on adaptation measures now, rather than prevention. I couldn’t agree more!. Also looking at the usual ignorant comments posted at the forum at the bottom of the page. Siting that we are coming out of a little ice age..hence the warming and that it’s just the natural evolution of the climate etc. and that she’s pushing her own personal agenda by cashing in on the climate bandwagon. The denialists probably outnumber the people who ‘understand what’s going on’ by about 3-1. This is the the typical response by the public to these articles by what I’ve seen to date. Anyway she states that it’s too late aready to stop a 2C rise..fair enough! That it wont be until 2015 until the next round of talks and any laws or agreements that are passed wont need to be inacted for another 5 years after that. That President Obama can quite securely say that he has tried to do his best knowing full well that any proposed ammendments will be soundly defeated in the senate. Added to that the postponement of the double pike and somersaut off the fiscal cliff probably will spur a new spurt in growth in the industrialised countries with scant regard to the environment..up goes emissions..up,up and away! It now seems that Jim Hansen was too conservative himself when he pinned his flag to the benchmark 2C (400ppm) rise and in fact we probably have already zoomed past it years ago. The poles are melting just fine way below that mark. The jist of the article was that if we cannot make any headway in reducing emissions, let alone cutting emissions up to 2C we have virtually zero chance of achieving that after 2C and irreversable, uncontrollable and catastophic CC will enevitable follow. So c’mon guys take what we know out into the mainstream to counter the destructive lies by the denyalists with well thought out, factual and logical arguments. At work I’m known as Mr Climate Change and slowly but surely I’m turning my workmates uninformed veiwpoints around.
Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 4 Jan 2013 @ 1:05 AM
17 Sean: Yeah! I’m an australian and voted labor last election for the 1st time because I thought they had the best environmental policies..Boy! do I now feel cheated and betrayed. I still can’t vote Coalition because they still (apart from Mal Turnbull) don’t believe CC is happening. Labor knows it’s happening but they are firmly under the hold of big mining and oil. Rather frustating isn’t it!
Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 4 Jan 2013 @ 1:17 AM
STORM – Development of a high resolution climate model
Dr. Jin-Song von Storch, group leader in the department „The Ocean in the Earth System“ at Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M), and her colleagues have accomplished for the first time an estimate of the Lorenz energy cycle for the world ocean with a one-tenth-degree ocean model developed within the STORM project. Such an estimate has not been possible with a state-of-the-art ocean model and enables more detailed studies on the sensitivity and stability of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and more precise representations of climate and climate change. http://www.mpimet.mpg.de/en/communication/news/research-news-overview/storm-development-of-a-high-resolution-climate-model.html
Arctic Storms: A Climate Danger Nobody’s Talking About
Summer and fall are hurricane season, but for the storms known as polar lows, prime time falls in the dead of winter, when frigid air blows off sea ice to collide with warmer, moister air in the North Atlantic. Polar lows are a lot smaller and weaker than hurricanes, they’re generally shorter-lived, and the only danger they generally pose is to shipping and oil rigs.
However, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience, the dozens of polar lows that roil the Greenland, Iceland and Norwegian seas every year may have an effect on the climate of North America and Europe. And if polar lows move northward with the changing climate, as some studies have predicted, winters in both places could become colder, even as the planet warms.
As if that weren’t bad enough, a northward displacement of these Arctic storms could also raise sea level higher along America’s mid-Atlantic coast than the average increase of 3 feet or so projected for the world as a whole by 2100.
Well, there’s a known unknown. From the Climatecentral link:
“… what changes in polar lows might do to ocean temperatures … needs to be incorporated into climate models.
But …. “It will probably take 10 or even 20 years before we have the raw computing power to do that,….”
Maybe it’s time to turn some of those big Defense Department and petroleum-exploration computing systems over to the climatologists to hurry this along.
[Response: It’s one of my pet peeves that people say that something ‘has to be incorporated into climate models’ when it isn’t new physics at all. Climate models all have low pressure storms in the Arctic – so you might claim that you need very high resolution to better capture the subtleties or the impacts on upper ocean mixing or something, but you can’t claim they aren’t included. All too common a trope unfortunately. – gavin]
Using occultation from GPS Radio waves bending from many polar orbiting satellites to determine atmospheric densities. Damn good idea, simple enough and likely not requiring much greater computer capacity. However, I think we can use the sun (or other not so distant objects) optically in order to be vastly more precise, not using computers as much as telescopes, something to complement and check the models instantly. I know that GRIB can’t “see” or calculate some or most Arctic inversions, a key to understanding Arctic weather is routinely foregone. From there the computer long range forecast buildup of winter misses one of its biggest building blocks. In addition, I can easily say that I am completely puzzled by huge variations in sun disk dimensions in short time spans, when there seems to be no readily available explanations, I lack the understanding, just like models project without integrating or cross checking secondary observation sources, crucial in science, we estimate things without knowing all the mechanics. Like a car not quite tuned, a working vehicle nevertheless not as efficient as it can really be.
But progress is being made, for those familiar with refraction occultation from satellites, we can use lower tropospheric data, they deal with the surface to air interface, the two combined explain a lot.
My ellipsis took out too much, Gavin — that reference was about incorporating the possible effect of possible changes in arctic storms on ocean circulation — not about incorporating arctic storms per se in climate models. It was an “if this, presumably that” kind of story — and may be more attributable to the newspaper editor than the scientist it got hung on.
My bad, sorry.
A bit better, but still an excerpt:
“… if the ice migrates northward, these storms could migrate northward as well,” said co-author Ian Renfrew, of the University of East Anglia, in the U.K.
If that happens, their … effect on the AMOC would diminish and the current would presumably slow….”
[Response: I didn’t mean to be overly critical, but these are processes which already happen in coupled GCMs – though the connections are more complex than the quoted ‘presumption’ would imply. The neat thing about the work being discussed is that ocean eddies are included, and it is conceivable that this will change the nature of the response to forcings in a coupled system….. or not. But it is the nature of the an intermediate step (however necessary and interesting) to not be able to predict the end point (otherwise it wouldn’t be intermediate at all). – gavin]
I have a question for the experts. I’m investigating the temperature record for my local area and I’m not sure what length of time to use for the average temperature baseline. I have 64 years worth of data and so far my baseline period has been from 1951 to 2010. I’ve used various periods and it can mean the difference between a positive and negative trend. It’s obviously critical to the results.
#32–“I’ve used various periods and it can mean the difference between a positive and negative trend. It’s obviously critical to the results.”
Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, Tom, but baseline should not affect trend, as I see it. The trend is a property of the period analyzed–say, 64 years–which is independent of your baseline value (say, 1951-2001.) (Absurd example: you could baseline not to a mean of any set of years, but to absolute zero if you wanted to.)
But maybe you meant that the period analyzed affects the trend? (Certainly true.)
Clearly I didn’t think this through. I didn’t frame the question correctly in my statistically novice way. Baseline is probably the wrong term and my approach may be incorrect entirely.
Here’s what I did.
I wanted to see how the temperature has changed in my area over the years. So I calculated the average temperature for each year. Then I got the average temperature for the period 1951-2010 (60 years) as a “baseline” to derive the anomaly, i.e, the difference in the baseline average and the average for each year. I then plotted the anomaly vs 0 to see the points on a graph. Then I used a simple linear regression to determine trends.
My problem was that any period I used to calculate the baseline average temperature would be slightly different meaning a different anomaly.
I see now that what I called the baseline (avg temp for period) has no effect on the trend but the starting and ending points for the trend does.
Maybe that would have been the better question. I chose two 30 year periods to determine trends. One from 1951-1980 and the other 1981-2010.
Sorry for the confusion. Doesn’t matter anyway I guess. Very poor linear correlation.
What i find very worrying from the infos here is the mentioning of possible volcano’s beneath Greenland and Antarctica. Imagine we have somewhere a slip and one of the volcano’s wakes up. This could mean a potential feedback to accelerate ice mass lose more inland.
[Response: this is not something that is very likely to happen. Volcanoes under ice (as in Iceland) have big local effects, but are trivial across the whole ice sheet. – gavin]
Ray, because I was looking at local average highs, lows, extremes and so forth my units are Fahrenheit, so the 1981-2010 trend is about .0123 C for my area. When I run the global land data from NCDC for the same 30 year period I get 0.030 C. R^2 for that trend is 0.735 globally while locally it’s .0334. Solid linear correlation for the former but very poor for the latter.
So it’s not so much frustration as it is confusion. But, if I understand it correctly, most of the warming is being driven by higher latitudes so my trend for 36 north may be about what was expected despite the lack of correlation.
I have not yet been able to read the paper, but I understand it is based on a questionnaire to glaciologists and other experts. The statistical analysis of the replies yields a contribution from ice sheets in year 2100 of +29 cm (median) to +84 cm (95% percentile).
For a plausible “high end” scenario in 2100 add ca +50 cm for thermal expansion and +20 cm for small glaciers (see Table 1 in Katsman et al 2011).
The projection of +84 cm from ice sheets in 2100 is more than the Netherlands-based expert assessment (Katsman et al 2011) with +63cm, but less than Pfeffer et al (2008) with +116 cm.
Where is the estmate of 116cm from Pfeffer (2008) ? i am looking at table 3 in that paper, but i dont see the numbers add up to 116 cm in any one of his 3 scenarios. The numbers there for the low-1, low-2, hi scenarios are respectively
“This eruption occurred close to Pine Island Glacier on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. The flow of this glacier towards the coast has speeded up in recent decades and it may be possible that heat from the volcano has caused some of that acceleration. However, it cannot explain the more widespread thinning of West Antarctic glaciers that together are contributing nearly 0.2mm per year to sea-level rise. This wider change most probably has its origin in warming ocean waters.”
Volcanoes are an important component of the Antarctic region. They formed in diverse tectonic settings, mainly as a result of mantle plumes acting on the stationary Antarctic plate. The region also includes amongst the world’s best examples of a long-lived continental margin arc (Antarctic Peninsula), a very young marginal basin (Bransfield Strait) and an oceanic island arc (South Sandwich Islands). Many extinct volcanoes are very well preserved and others are still active (e.g. Deception Island, Mount Erebus, and the South Sandwich Islands). Volcanic eruptions were common during the past 25 million years, and coincided with the great period of climatic deterioration that resulted in the formation of the Antarctic ice sheet. Many of the volcanoes show the effects of interaction with ice. BAS has played a major role in describing these effects and modelling their influences on the resulting volcanic sequences. It is important to describe and understand these interactions in geologically recent times in order to predict future configurations of the ice sheet and its role in the global system. http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/press/press_releases/press_release.php?id=341
Melting ice caps may trigger more volcanic eruptions
The shifting stress might even cause eruptions in unexpected places. “We think that during the Gjàlp eruption, magma reached the surface at an unusual location, mid-way between two volcanoes, because of these stress changes,” says Pagli. McGuire thinks the Vatnajökull study is based on “perfectly reasonable” physics. However, he says that climate change presents an even more explosive threat. “It’s not just unloading the crust that triggers volcanic activity but loading as well.”
“Sea level rise could lead to a cooler, stormier world
A catastrophic rise in sea level before the end of the century could have a hitherto-unforeseen side effect. Melting icebergs might cool the seas around Greenland and Antarctica so much that the average surface temperature of the entire planet falls by a few degrees, according to unpublished work by climate scientist James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.
While it might sound welcome, the temperature differences produced by the “iceberg cooling effect” could lead to even more climate chaos in a world already devastated by extreme weather. Winter storms, for instance, are powered by the temperature differences between the poles and the equator, so there might be storms of unprecedented ferocity.
Most other climate scientists think the ice sheets will only melt slowly, largely because this is what happened at the end of past ice ages. Hansen, however, thinks this logic is flawed. The reason that sea level only rose slowly in the past, he writes, is because the planet only warmed slowly. After the last ice age, for instance, it took 10,000 years for the average global temperature to rise around 4 °C. Now the world is on course to warm this much in less than 200 years.”
Do we wait till the whole article comes out, or can we discuss what is presented here?
I am curious as to whether the scenario presented in the second paragraph seems plausible to people here. It seem counter-intuitive to me, but lots of things in physics are that way. Could enough icebergs really calve off fast enough to have that kind of global cooling effect? In principle, I guess if you could immediately pulverize the ice in the ice sheets and spread it around the oceans, a lot more cold mass would be exposed to the water and air than is there is now exposed in it’s ice-sheet state. But is still is hard for me to wrap my mind around the magnitude of the claim.
Well, would you not expect weather to dominate more locally than globally? Again, your results are not that far off. Remember we are looking for a relatively small but consistent trend in a very noisy dataset. The noise is weather. The trend is warming.
> if you could immediately pulverize the ice in the ice sheets
Well, as an amateur reader, I can speculate on some processes that might do that. Imagine a mass of crushed ice coming out of a valley, instead of a long tongue of intact ice being extruded and only breaking up at the tip.
I remember here at RC a few years ago someone (Mauri Pelto, perhaps?) the then thinking on this.
I’m going from memory here, someone please correct me if you can find his actual posts on the subject.
What I recall is someone telling us that the thinking at the time was that ice in the icecaps is plastic enough — flows slowly under pressure — that the ice sheets could not keep voids open internally through the wintertime, so the cracks and voids opening up during the summer through which meltwater could drain out wouldn’t persist. The ice would flow back together over the winter, once meltwater quit happening.
Perhaps this isn’t happening?
If glacial icecap retains holes from one season to the next, you can get air as well as water moving through the icecap.
I recall in the video Prokaryotes pointed us to, Alley says the old thinking on base temperatures for the icecap was it’d take ten thousand years for warming to penetrate down through the ice to reach the rock — and the new thinking is that with surface meltwater ponds and cracks carrying that water down to the rock layer, it takes ten minutes for warming to reach the rock base.
I was poking at all this stuff five or six years ago over at WMC’s site in his ‘Why do science in Antarctica’ thread. That was just about the time when the ‘ancient stable ice’ idea began to, er, show some cracks.
Hey, anyone here remember a 1950s idea that nuclear waste could be buried deep under the icecaps, where it would never go anywhere again? Now it’s starting to be clear that once pressure begins to be released the groundwater under an ice cap pushes back up and adds to the water flowing out under the ice. Hmmmm ….
“… Consolidation of glacial sediments that is less than expected from independent estimates of glacier thickness indicates that heads at the bases of past ice sheets were usually within 30% of the floatation value. This conclusion is reinforced by direct measurements of water pressure beneath portions of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which indicate average heads <7 m below floatation. Landforms of the Laurentide and Scandinavian ice sheets and recent observations in Greenland indicate that high seasonal discharges of surface water are conducted to the bed, despite thick ice at subfreezing temperatures. Therefore, in models of subglacial groundwater flow used to assess sites for nuclear waste repositories, a flux upper boundary condition based on water input from only basal melting will be far more uncertain than applying a hydraulic head at the upper boundary set equal to a large fraction of the floatation value."
I have now read the paper by Bamber & Aspinall, and these are my comments:
1. The study is based on a methodology for deriving subjective probability density functions (PDFs) by aggregating expert views. The methodology seems to be based on Cook (1991). They asked 26 experts to participate in the study and 13 experts answered the same questionnaire at two different times (2010 and 2012). Details about the methodology, including the list of the 13 participating experts are given in the Supplementary materials, which can be accessed free of charge here: http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/extref/nclimate1778-s1.pdf
I am not familiar with the methodology and cannot assess the validity. However, I do think that it provides an important alternative, and in many ways more transparent approach, to expert assessments compared to studies such as Pfeffer et al (2008) and Katsman et al (2011).
2. Increased uncertainty regarding the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS).
An important finding of the study is that the experts over the last two years showed a significant increased uncertainty over the contribution from WAIS to sea level rise during this century: “This indicates a growing view that a significant marine ice-sheet instability in the WAIS could initiate in the coming century.” (p 2).
Actually, each individual experts’ answers are provided in the supplementary materials. Looking at Supplementary Material Figure 7, one see that four experts changed their projections quite a lot. These experts now estimate upper limit of contribution from WAIS to be (30,20,15,10 mm/year in 2100), meaning “Upper and lower limits at the 95% confidence level, equivalent to the qualitative statement “virtually certain not to fall above/below these values””
I have not yet made my own calculation what this would mean for the total SLR projection, using the same method as in the paper. But given that the total SLR projection of +84 cm from ALL ice sheets (EAIS, WAIS, GrIS) for the aggregated upper bound is based on a total of 17.6 mm/yr in 2100, this number should be waaay much higher.
3. Another finding is the experts’ uncertainty of the underlying cause of the recent decades of accelerating mass loss of the ice sheets. It seems to be clear that much has to do with the ocean, but is caused by climate change or is it just a temporary phenomenon? The authors say that “Without a clearer understanding of the role and importance of internal variability in ice sheet-climate behaviour, predictions based on numerical modeling or extrapolation of observed changes are compromised” (pp 3-4).
This is yet another criticism of the reliability of present ice-sheet models to project decadal to centennial changes of mass loss from the ice sheets.
Cooke, R. M. Experts in Uncertainty-Opinion and Subjective Probability in Science (Oxford Univ. Press, 1991).
“Hey, anyone here remember a 1950s idea that nuclear waste could be buried deep under the icecaps, where it would never go anywhere again? Now it’s starting to be clear that once pressure begins to be released the groundwater under an ice cap pushes back up and adds to the water flowing out under the ice. Hmmmm ….”
I thought you might get a kick from the following link….if for some reason it doesn’t open correctly, I have an adobe version and would gladly email it to you.
Can we observe blocking patterns on the southern hemisphere, in regards to Australia’s heatwave (70% of continent affected)? What would be the Oscillation responsible, similar to the Jet Stream called? SAM? SOI?
Persistent Positive Anomalies in the Southern Hemisphere Circulation
journals.ametsoc.org › Monthly Weather Review › April 2005
by JA Renwick – 2005 – Cited by 29 – Related articles
A cluster analysis of monthly PPA counts shows two distinct patterns, one a zonal … For the Southern Hemisphere, the study of blocking began relatively recently …
You may remember that back in Q4 of 2012 I attempted to derive temperature projections for the AR5 RCPs, using methods described in Hansen et al.’s “Earth’s energy imbalance and implications”, i.e. Climate Response Functions and Green’s function. There’s been an interesting development in that story. At some point I happened onto the GFDL-CM3 page, which includes a graph showing RCP temperature projections (near the bottom of the page). The CM3 projections differed enough from mine to make me curious, so after failing utterly in my attempt to master the CM3 data interface, I contacted Larry Horowitz at GFDL. He kindly emailed me the corresponding data, so now I’m able to give more detailed results.
The RCP6 chart shows a near-perfect match between CM3 and the “intermediate” Climate Response Function. This makes it even more curious that the match is so poor for RCP4.5 and RCP8.5. Even if you ignore magnitude, the slope is obviously very different. I had assumed that this was because CM3 uses a different ECS. My projections used 3.0, but as Troy_CA brought to my attention (Nov. OT #123), according to Winton et al.’s 2012 Influence of Ocean and Atmosphere Components on Simulated Climate Sensitivities the ECS for GFDL CM3 is actually 4.6K. I can get a tolerable fit to RCP8.5 in the original CM3 graph by using ECS=4.0, as shown here, but this doesn’t make sense. How can it be that my ECS=3.0 projection fits CM3 so well for RCP6, but so poorly for RCP4.5 and RCP8.5?
[Response: Indeed. We ought to do a post on this. That we haven’t yet suggests not only that we’re all busy, but that there keep being records broken this year. It is almost getting boring. Look at the area of record-breaking drought, vs. that of record-breaking rainfall.–eric]
“record-breaking drought, vs. that of record-breaking rainfall”
To me, it makes sense to look at record-breaking heat vs. record-breaking cold… but for drought and rainfall, it isn’t clear to me that it should be a “vs”, but rather an “and”. Eg, we expect to see increases in rainfall in some areas and decreases in others… so for temperature, the sign of climate change would be how much increase in heat exceeds increase in cold, but for precip, it should be the sum of the area in which drought and precip exceed historical norms.
Re: colorful met maps around current events in Australia, Stephan’s video, Impacts of Climate Change, posted here 20 December will seem prescient to anyone not familiar in fact, or principle, with its content:
“Human greenhouse gas emissions have continued to warm the planet over the past 16 years. However, a persistent myth has emerged in the mainstream media challenging this. Denial of this fact may have been the favorite climate contrarian myth of 2012, first invented by David Rose at The Mail on Sunday with an assist from Georgia Tech’s Judith Curry, both of whom later doubled-down on the myth after we debunked it. Despite these repeated debunkings, the myth spread throughout the media in various opinion editorials and stunts throughout 2012. The latest incarnations include this article at the Daily Mail, and a misleadingly headlined piece at the Telegraph.
As a simple illustration of where the myth goes wrong, the following video clarifies how the interplay of natural and human factors have affected the short-term temperature trends, and demonstrates that underneath the short-term noise, the long-term human-caused global warming trend remains as strong as ever…”
It was for those very reasons I came looking for advice. I was looking for as an arbitrarily neutral investigation as possible. Just the correct methodology and then see what happens. So far, I’ve found that it’s warmed here in the last 30 years but not as much as the globe.
I’m currently parsing the temperature data for TYS since that data goes back over a hundred years. Later I’ll look at precip and some other fields.
Some good stuff on just which records have been set (highest national mean, numerous local records, longest stretch with highs above 39C, but not the highest station reading ever) and on potential effects. (Not to mention sociopolitical context.)
I’ve started a series on Visualizing Atmospheric Radiation, with a line by line model written in Matlab that uses HITRAN and the water vapor continuum from Pierrehumbert’s 2010 book. Some quick notes on the model assumptions and limitations in one of the comments.
I looked into whether the Voigt profile is needed given that so far the model goes up to about 50 hPa.
I’d appreciate technical comment on whether my assumptions and results are correct. I’m hoping to avoid using the Voigt profile for obvious reasons.
Then I can produce some results showing how TOA balance is changed with various concentrations of CO2 and why. Plus lots of other interesting stuff.
PS Pierrehumbert’s book is well worth reading (even though I have only read about 1/3 of it so far). He briefly stopped by the Science of Doom blog a while ago on his book tour and that’s why I ended up buying it..
Glum reading dept.: U.S. National Climate Assessment Federal Advisory Committee’s Draft Climate Assessment Report Released for Public Review. At a mere 1193 pages it’s average by federal standards. So far it seems mostly right on to me, though I notice that while it attributes 20% of current emissions to the U.S., discussion of our share of historical emissions and is notably absent.
As usual, the Ehrlichs are right on target, which is why the kill the messenger posse is in full bay with them.
Comment by Susan Anderson — 12 Jan 2013 @ 11:42 AM
Hank: “That was the usual bogosity being reported as though it’s news”. If you’re referring to your link to The Australian, it’s paywalled. I suppose that’s a good thing if the news is bogus; IMHO, truthful news should be free, but people who want to read bogus climate news should have to pay for it.
Susan @95: Thanks for the tip! I’ve been following the Erlichs for what seems like forever and I’m glad they’re still with us. This might be the best meta-analysis I’ve seen yet. A couple of paragraphs really stood out for me.
Unfortunately, essential steps such as curbing global emissions to peak by 2020 and reducing them to half of present levels by 2050  are extremely problematic economically and politically. Fossil fuel companies would have to leave most of their proven reserves in the ground, thus destroying much of the industry’s economic value . Because the ethics of some businesses include knowingly continuing lethal but profitable activities , it is hardly surprising that interests with large financial stakes in fossil fuel burning have launched a gigantic and largely successful disinformation campaign in the USA to confuse people about climate disruption [69,70] and block attempts to deal with it .
I’ve been thinking/saying something like this for a while now. It’s time to confront ethics, or the absence of them. “A society that values accumulation of wealth above all else isn’t a society at all, it’s a corporation.” (from me not Erlich).
There are great social and psychological barriers in growthmanic cultures to even considering [population reduction]. This is especially true because of the ‘endarkenment’—a rapidly growing movement towards religious orthodoxies that reject enlightenment values such as freedom of thought, democracy, separation of church and state, and basing beliefs and actions on empirical evidence. They are manifest in dangerous trends such as climate denial, failure to act on the loss of biodiversity and opposition to condoms (for AIDS control) as well as other forms of contraception . If ever there was a time for evidence-based (as opposed to faith-based) risk reduction strategies , it is now.
The endarkenment! The opposite of an enlightenment. I had never heard this term before but it turns out to have a long history going back to the Reign of Terror. “Growthmanic” is excellent too.
Serious global environmental problems can only be solved and a collapse avoided with an unprecedented level of international cooperation . Regardless of one’s estimate of civilization’s potential longevity, the time to start restructuring the international system is right now. If people do not do that, nature will restructure civilization for us.
This is classic Erlich! It’s almost a punchline, and makes me think of Oscar Wilde’s “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh…” But my favorite quote is this last one, which could be right out of Kaczynski’s “Industrial Society and its Future”:
The industrial revolution set civilization on the road to collapse, spurring population growth, which contributed slightly more than overconsumption to environmental degradation . Now population combined with affluence growth may finish the job.
I wonder given all the fuss about the Met Offices latest Decadal projections if anyone has got the raw data and has created yearly averages based on the ensemble averages.
IE 2013 = 0.49 C; 2014 = 0.52 C; etc.
Some people are making lots of fuss that the data “confirms” warming has “stopped”. That is very disengenous and being able to state what the yearly averages are going out – with an underlying upward trend – would be helpful, especially as these can then be compared with 1998 etc.
I can’t find the raw data to do this – anyone any ideas if it’s been published, or have the Met Office only published the graphs and not the underlying data?
“… a short film documenting astronauts’ life-changing stories of seeing the Earth from the outside – a perspective-altering experience often described as the Overview Effect…. first described by author Frank White in 1987 ….”
This “little animation” shows that the economic paradigm of convexity is “at the least…a multi-equilibrium landscape.” To the rest of us, that means factoring in the externalities–one of which is climate change.
I’m having a bit of fun with an occasional troll at CarbonBrief on the subject of Bob Tisdale’s 100%ENSO-0%AGW warming speculation. The reason I bring talk of such nonsense here (Tisdale describes his nonsense to Wattsupia here) is because I can see a way within this Tisdale scheme of setting a lower ‘back-stop’ limit for climate sensitivity.
Tisdale advocates that the recent global warming is in no way the result of energy being held back by increased levels of GHGs. Instead the entire warming is due to energy streaming through holes in the clouds into Pacific waters during a La Nina, then gathering together round Manila harbour for a few years until bursting forth in an El Nino to further warm the entire planet and keep it that warm until the next El Nino arrives. All rather nonsensical.
To bound the lower limit of climate sensitivity in such a scheme, if it is assumed that at the point of an El Nino starting, all the OHC outside the W Pacific is dropped to 1960s levels (having expended itself keeping the planet warm as Mr T says it does), the entire increase in OHC since the 1960s would be available for the impending El Nino to do its stuff. That’s about 200 ZJ and it cannot be higher than this.
If the interval between El Ninos can be 10 years, that means there is 20 ZJ or less per year available to keep the planet the 0.65°C above 1960s temperatures.
I was a bit niggardly here and knocked of 3% for melting a decades worth of ice and warming other stuff before converting into a 1.22 Wm^-2 energy flux, or 0.33 the size of 2xCO2 yielding a sensitivity (transient) of >>2.0°C.
Now such a number will be most annoying for denialists so I was wondering if it could be improved upon.
Is there anywhere an easy source of OHC by ocean basin? Or perhaps any helpful advice?
Many thanks. Knowing it was available, I tracked down the paper in full here along with appended ‘auxiliary material’. I also have the quarterly Levitus data by North & South & basin that I missed somehow on the NOAA website.
It should keep me busy for a while.
Re:OHC by basin
might wanna look at Koketsu(2011) reference in Levitus for OHC below 2000m. Contribution is substantial, esp. in the Southern Ocean.
“The HC increases in the deep layer (below 3000 m) are estimated at 5.0% of the full depth HC changes in the global ocean, 8.7% of changes in the Pacific, 0.4% in the Atlantic, 1.5% in the Indian, and 16.2% of the full depth changes in the Southern Ocean. ”
Does anyone know how the extreme pollution currently in China affect AGW? Does it lower surface temperatures by blocking the sun? Does it raise or lower albiedo of the planet in that area? Is the area affected big enough to affect global temperatures? Any references?
Two competing factors are at work here. First, carbon black deposition (from coal burning) acts to change the albedo of the surface on which it coats. This is especially concerning atop glacial and sea ice. Aerosols (particularly sulfur) from coal burning have a larger and an opposite effect, acting to suppress temperatures due to cloud formation.
Michael Sweet @109 — The aerosols from East Asia now routinely make it all the way to the Pacific Northwest and are obviously blocking sunlight. So over a rather large area these aerosols are reflecting sunlight back into space and so lowering temperatures.
There is a somewhat older paper about the aerosols from South Asia but I don’t recall any of the details.
Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Jan 2013 @ 5:52 PM
@ 109 In Melbourne (“Climate Change: the Critical Decade” 12 Jul 2011), after doing “the wiggly-line exercise” on warming and presenting the curve of CO2 emissions, John Schnellnhuber said: “Now the biggest volcano currently on earth is the Chinese industry. …You know burning coal…means that a lot of aerosols, in particular sulfur particles, are put into the atmosphere. This can create a temporary cooling effect. We don’t know yet whether this is true. But my friend…an eminent climate scientist…believes that we currently think we have a warming, a temperature increase on this planet, of .8 C above 1900…but…feels that this is masked by the inertia of the ocean…and, in particular, by aerosols…and he thinks that the true value, given the CO2 content of the atmosphere currently, is 2.4 C. …So, this is one factor that is not a good reason for optimism.” That’s at minute 20 here:
Ran some regressions on the annual Jan-Dec GISTemp numbers that were just released and lo’ and behold I find that “there has been no global warming in the past 16 years” is now not exactly true.
Basically, regressions up to 1997 lead to significance with trends ~.15 degrees/decade in the early 90s. The 1998 regression is still barely NS (trend=.09 degrees/decade, p <=.06), but warming "returns" in 1999 14 years ago (trend=.13 degrees/decade, p <= .02). It "disappears" again in 2000 only barely (trend=.10 degrees/decade, p <=.07).
Anyway, now the "correct" statement is that warming did briefly, but only barely "disappear" (now) 15 years ago, but it "returned" 14 years ago!
There is a foundational problem related to climate science that I have not seen addressed on this blog. There are many concepts that have been proposed for ameliorating climate change, most of which involve the transition to renewables-based energy. All of these concepts will require some fossil fuel expenditure, especially at the front end where our main energy source is fossil fuels. The implicit assumption is that this ‘good’ expenditure of fossil fuels will not drive us into ‘runaway’ temperature in the transition/conversion process, and will eventually allow us to eliminate most major sources of CO2 emissions.
Where is the evidence for such an assumption? Any useful prediction of how much leeway we have with respect to further allowable CO2 emissions will depend on a trustworthy model of climate that includes the known major positive feedback mechanisms. Such a model has to be validated to be credible. How are such validations done? For example, consider the Rowlands model, where we debated the issue of its temperature prediction in ~2050, 3 C or 4 C. From the Abstract in Rowlands et al paper: “We find that model versions that reproduce observed surface temperature changes over the past 50 years show global-mean temperature increases of 1.4-3 K by 2050, relative to 1961-1990, under a mid-range forcing scenario.” In the full paper, they state: “Towards the end of the century, we observe a similar relationship with the IPCC expert estimate, although by that time the uncertainty could be larger if carbon-cycle feedbacks were included in our ensemble”. They are using a model that excludes carbon-cycle feedbacks, gives good agreement with the past when there were little carbon-cycle feedbacks, and attempts to estimate the future with similar physics when there could be massive carbon-cycle feedbacks. So, it was validated after the data were generated.
That’s what will be required for any forward-going model that includes positive feedback mechanisms (which the Rowlands model did not). Here’s the problem. By the time enough positive feedback data has been accumulated and is available for validation, it is probably way too late for us to change direction to make a difference (except for the extremely low probability case that the feedbacks are shown to progress extremely slowly). So, even though we see these positive feedback mechanisms initiating and growing right before our eyes, none of the predictions about climate where positive feedback mechanisms could be important have any basis in evidence. All that we know is that the dire predictions of existing models (which don’t contain positive feedback mechanisms) are conservative and best-case assumptions, and reality will be worse, probably far worse. Under these conditions of uncertainty, it seems to me the only prudent step is to insure that we leave the maximum safety factor that we can, and hope that will be adequate. This means end fossil fuel use today, whatever the cost and sacrifice required, if we want to see our civilization continue beyond this century. First, insure we have a future; second, worry about the nature of the energy supply in that future.
I have been arguing in these posts that the relationship between CO2 growth and temperature growth is linear. Stefan argued that it is log-linear with CO2 logged. Here is a the case for linear: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6117/280.short
In the long run, it obviously makes a big difference.
“First, insure we have a future; second, worry about the nature of the energy supply in that future.”
It’s referred to as the “No Regrets” policy.
The no regrets comes about because if we reduce fossil fuel combustion to prevent AGW and it turns out to be a bust, we have solved the other problem of a finite crude oil supply. Therefore, we have No Regrets on making the decision.
It’s also killing two birds with one stone. Peak Oil and AGW are both solved by going to renewable or alternative energy options.
#118 & 121–That’s all very well, but most of the food eaten in the developed world (and, increasingly, the rest of the world too) is raised, processed, and transported in ways dependent upon fossil fuel combustion. End FF use tomorrow and most of us will starve by the end of the week–which is not exactly “ensuring that we have a future.”
We have a large and systemic problem, which can’t be walked back (forward?) easily. That’s one of the things that is so galling about our (now) prolonged failure to begin to tackle the issue.
Your “foundational problem” is not addressed here, because it is not climate science per se, but rather mitigation of warming. Yes, discussions often stray into mitigation, but the posts tend to be on climate science.
You also seem to be under the false impression that we will come to some cliff and then things will be as bad as they can get. Not true. We can continue to make things worse by following bidness as usual until we burn the last tree, and even then, we will have opportunities to make things worse.
The issue we face is how do we confront the fact that human population will crest around 10 billion people around 2050 under the best of scenarios, and that our energy infrastructure may significantly decrease the carrying capacity of the planet. It does not good to say simply that we must stop consuming fossil fuel. If we stop consuming fossil fuels abruptly, you will see billions starve–not millions, billions. And what is more, I don’t expect they will meet their fate stoically. So the answer has to include some use of fossil fuels so that we can feed, clothe and shelter around 10 billion people for the next century until demographics hopefully start to scale back our numbers. Put metaphorically, we’re gonna have to tap on the brakes and maybe even use the gas now and again to get out of this skid.
Yes, for the majority of the world, worrying about the supply of energy (and food) comes first. Any talk of near term cessation of carbon-based fuels, without adequate replacement, is absurd. Most of these people are worrying about today, not the future. For them, any potential change years in the future, pales compared to today’s basic needs. The best way to ensure their future, is to live through today.
“… lay the foundations by doing one simple thing — performing a broad-spectrum survey in order to find out who – in human civilization – happens to be right a lot.
Can you believe that there has never been a systematic effort to do that one, simple thing? Shine light on all the actuaries, horseracing touts, stock analysts, political pundits and so on who claim to have a handle on the future, with a clear and do-able aim – to appraise and score them, so that we can find out – at long last – who gets it right more often than others… perhaps anomalously often, far above chance? And in contrast, who is full of bull?” Inventing Hari Seldon’s psychohistory – and other science marvels
Actually I’d guess Google is doing that — looking for “The Sources of the Nile”
No one is talking about ending all fossil fuel use tomorrow.
There are, however, multiple realistic plans that have been put forward publicly for ending all fossil fuel use within a generation, with most of the reductions occurring within the first ten years.
I respectfully suggest that it is more helpful to discuss those plans than it is to debate strawman arguments about ending all fossil fuel use “tomorrow”.
I would, though, point out to the deniers who like to weep crocodile tears about the supposed impact of a rapid fossil fuel phaseout on the planet’s impoverished multitudes, that those folks use little if any fossil fuels already, and receive none of the benefits and much of the harm attributable to the ongoing fossil fuel gluttony of the rich nations.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 18 Jan 2013 @ 11:41 AM
In the comments to the soils article at Time, these links posted by reader erichjknight are climate-relevant:
Though the article acknowledges some developments but misses the bigger picture and is entirely build on this one argument in a report from 2008. Use google translate for a rudimentary translation, will post the english version once it becomes available.
Hank asked, “Wait, the _9th_coldest_of_past_17_ was above average? How many of the past 17 were below average? What average of what?”
Just a “debating” technique. Find a meaningless factoid, say, that 2012 was about median if you limit both the baseline and the data to 17 years and only use rank. Now state it so the listener gets a tad confuzzled (mostly cuz the factoid is meaningless) and comes to a totally wrong conclusion.
Reminds me of the ol’ “Doubt [and confusion] is our product.”
Up thread I was looking for OHC data that would allow the debunking of Bob Tisdale’s nonsensical speculation that recent climate warming was due to ENSO and nothing to do with GHGs. (Tisdale takes this mighty seriously. Not only a book, apparently there’s even a film. Could there be a musical in the offing?)
I did eventually happen upon a NOAA TOA Project site that gives OHC for the equatorial Pacific. Their T300 data pretty much shows that the energy flux from the 1998 El Nino cannot be big enough to warm the planet as Tisdale insists. The most generous quantity I can count would result in a very high climate sensitivity – about 10ºC/2xCO2 – for El Nino to power the surface warming of the last half century. And at such a level of sensitivity, it would take a lot to explain how anthropogenic forcings have been so well balanced so as to not significantly impact climate, as Tisdale asserts.
And it gets worse. I have yet to properly consider how the global rise in OHC will effect things. I think it will likely result in showing Tisdale broke thermodynamic laws in his quest to establish his rambling theory of climate.
#115–SA, I agree with you for the most part. However, someone is indeed talking exactly as I indicated. Specifically, superman1’s #118 says:
“This means end fossil fuel use today, whatever the cost and sacrifice required…”
So my comments were not directed a strawman argument (at least as far as I can tell, at least.)
Beyond that, I can only endorse the call for discussion of realistic plans for rapid emissions reductions. (Bearing in mind, of course, that RC is not necessarily the prime venue for such discussions.)
“Your “foundational problem” is not addressed here, because it is not climate science per se, but rather mitigation of warming.”
The foundational problem we face is the absence of a credible validated climate science model that incorporates all the major positive (and negative) feedback mechanisms in its outyear projections. Without such a model, any statements about rapidity of implementation of renewables and the accompanying expenditures of fossil fuels have no relation to what the climate will allow. I understand quite well the concerns that you and Kevin and Secular are expressing. But, we are talking about decision-making under a high level of uncertainty, in the context of a nonlinear dynamical system. If we guess wrong, such systems have the capability to take uncontrollable excursions very rapidly.
Let’s take a specific hypothetical example. Suppose, tomorrow, a research group comes out with a new climate model that includes these feedbacks, and the scientific community agrees that the assumptions seem reasonable. Suppose the most probable case is we have one year to phase out fossil fuels linearly, or the climate system goes into self-sustaining mode: the match ignites. Would you say, ‘well, we certainly can’t evacuate the residents of the Upper East Side of Manhatten to the countryside in one year, so let’s hold off for five years’. Obviously, these are far more acceptable statements than mine, but in effect you would be condemning seven billion people to an early demise. For all we know, this may be in fact the case we face. In the absence of more tangible knowledge, it seems the most prudent course would be to phase out fossil fuels ASAP. That’s the cost of our inaction for the past three decades.
Superman1 wrote: “Suppose the most probable case is we have one year to phase out fossil fuels linearly, or the climate system goes into self-sustaining mode: the match ignites. Would you say, ‘well, we certainly can’t evacuate the residents of the Upper East Side of Manhatten to the countryside in one year, so let’s hold off for five years’.”
What in the world does “evacuating the residents of the Upper East Side of Manhattan to the countryside” have to do with phasing out fossil fuels?
The per capita fossil fuel consumption of residents of Manhattan is already far lower than that of people living in the “countryside” (suburbs and rural areas).
If for some reason you wanted to reduce fossil fuel use by mass relocation, you would want to “evacuate” people FROM the countryside, TO the cities, and have them live in apartments and get around by foot or public transit.
To further amplify the points made in #137. Any of the proposals for how to implement renewables and reduce fossil fuel use can be viewed as project proposals, albeit quite ambitious ones. Successful projects I have seen tend to have three major characteristics: a clear Vision of what is the desired end point; metrics/targets/requirements that will enable the Vision; a detailed Roadmap that will show the temporal steps for reaching the end point, and will insure that no critical constraints are exceeded. Projects that are deficient in even one of these characteristics tend be disasterous.
Most of the proposals I’ve seen offered here for transitioning to a renewables-based economy don’t contain even one of these characteristics, much less all three. But, even if a proposer took the time to lay out a Vision and associated requirements, they still couldn’t satisfy the third condition: a Roadmap that insured none of the critical constraints were exceeded. That’s because we don’t have the credible climate model I have described above that would tell us what these non-negotiable constraints are. So, from my perspective, any proposals about switching to renewables in a generation may sound nice, but are meaningless in relation to what the climate will allow.
I support solar and the other renewables. In 1961, I worked on a solar concentrator-Rankine cycle converter combination for powering a Space vehicle. I noticed recently that such a system was being demonstrated for a power plant in Spain. We had this technology fifty years ago, and could have implemented it then! No fancy solar cell efficiency upgrades required; only reflectors, absorbers, and a working fluid. We chose not to, and are left with some grim choice alternatives.
Superman1: Do you imagine we suffer from collective amnesia? We’ve heard this argument from you countless times. Reduced to its bare bones: incompetent and/or corrupt scientists create flawed models, which engender false optimism and prevent us from ending all fossil fuel use tomorrow by declaring worldwide martial law. This is pure trolling and belongs in the borehole. I’m still waiting for some proof of your “well over two hundred papers in the peer-reviewed journal literature.” (November 2012 open thread @430)
You seem to have in mind models with an interactive carbon cycle, as opposed to those in which CO2 evolution is prescribed externally (in your case, to see the impact of emissions over some defined mitigation time period). This is becoming fairly standard. Really, I don’t see why such an experiment would need anything more than an intermediate-complexity model like UVic, coupled with some sort of simple model to allow for permafrost or other carbon feedbacks. This is also along the lines of the Coupled Climate Carbon Cycle Model Intercomparison Project (C4MIP), including both extended AOGCMS and EMICs. And for CMIP5, core simulations use prescribed Representative Concentration Pathways of atmospheric CO2 to encompass the envelope of issues like those you bring up. Then you have the paleo-community (see PMIP) looking at the prevailing mechanisms in the past…(
One MIP, two MIP, red MIP, blue MIP…how big is the climate blip?)
Carbon cycle feedbacks certainly affect the CO2 concentration, by e.g., 2100, and thus the global temperature evolution at some point in time. That can also impact the long term tail of global temperature, and perhaps bring something like the Greenland Ice Sheet to within a destabilization point. But I think you vastly overstate the importance of such feedbacks in your post, and the possibility that gradually increasing model complexity will suddenly result in a hidden and brand new catastrophic climate regime that has not been founded by the modeling or paleo community. I’m unconvinced.
Hey, look at the process as New York recovers from its last big flood and storm. The deniers (in the House of Representatives) don’t want any money spent to improve the infrastructure to anticipate different future conditions, because they don’t believe the future will be any different. Why waste money, they say, just put it all back like it was.
I have never seen, in the real world, a case where the phrase “it seems the most prudent course” actually described what all the people involved believe.
I used to play bridge. You, as declaring team, arrive at a contract. The lie of the cards is initially hidden, and reveals itself as the game proceeds. The contract is an estimate of what you can make, and you play each trick _as though your best current estimate of the card distribution were correct_
Are there possible distributions that cascade your losses ? Of course! But you must go with what you know, and your best informed guesses as play proceeds. Eventually you will know if the contract is horribly doomed, and then you will play accordingly.
But that time is not yet.
P.S. To be fair, the defender on the contract is Nature. You cannot hope for errors by the defense … and she has been known to sneak in a joker now and then …
129 Hank speculated, “(That may change the notion of burying longterm biochar (as stable carbon) — might be smarter to have it quickly feed soil microbes to turn it into useful soil)”
My speculation is that at all reasonable ratios biochar is better for plants and will last longer than the soil which would have resulted from the same amount of composting. Surely 50% biochar and 50% compost added to deficient soils couldn’t be too far off the mark.
Superman1 said, “Suppose the most probable case is we have one year to phase out fossil fuels linearly, or the climate system goes into self-sustaining mode”
Silly and impossible. We’ve been at this since the 1800s. What are the odds that 2013 is THE magical year?
But giving you that, with humanity having decided to phase out emissions over 50 years primarily because models aren’t quite ready, and neither is humanity. Say five years pass by. Guess what? We’ve added 10ppm. I’m pretty sure that being able to tell whether a specific 10 ppm will break the system would require a model superior to anything we’ll ever see in our lifetimes.
But giving you that, we have the ability to cool the planet, reduce ocean acidity, and draw down CO2 concentrations. The only things stopping us from doing all three are risk and expense. When the alternative is total destruction, we’ll probably vote to save our collective hides.
Superman1: “Suppose the most probable case is we have one year to phase out fossil fuels linearly, or the climate system goes into self-sustaining mode: the match ignites.”
Simple. Then we’re screwed and tatooed. Period. Next question. You seem to share a misapprehension with the denialists–the idea that if a model is not perfect, then it is worthless. To quote Richard Hamming:
“The purpose of computing is insight,not numbers.”
Positing speculative, low-probability scenarios on the negative side is every bit as worthless as positing unreasonably rosy scenarios. Hell, it may be worse as it tends to demoralize the general public.
Look, we had our chance to avoid significant consequences without severe hardship. That boat sailed. Now we need a much more severe program. We also have to hope like hell that we are going to be damned lucky. Otherwise, we are simply screwed.
I’m engaged in a discussion at SkepticalScience, about whether replacing fossil fuels with renewables can be done without reducing average global buying power (what’s usually meant by “standard of living”) or GDP. The “con” argument is formulated as:
CO2 limits will harm the economy
“Legally mandated measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are likely to have significant adverse impacts on GDP growth of developing countries […] This in turn will have serious implications for our poverty alleviation programs.”
The “pro” position is stated thus:
Economic assessments of proposed policy to put a price on carbon emissions are in widespread agreement that the net economic impact will be minor. The costs over the next several decades center around $100 per average family, or about 75 cents per person per week, and a GDP reduction of less than 1%. Moreover, the benefits outweigh the costs several times over, as real-world examples illustrate.
My non-expert opinion is that the transition clearly must be made soon if climate catastrophe is to avoided, but that for thermodynamic and/or political reasons the economic impacts may be greater than is optimistically projected. IOW, there’s no easy way out. I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, though.
The larger question is whether halting the liquidation of all natural capital, as must occur if global human society is to be made sustainable in the long term, is possible without major social and political changes. I say no, but defer to Naomi Klein because she writes way better than I do.
You say “The only things stopping us from doing all three are risk and expense.”
Risk and expense don’t mean squat if about half the voters can’t be persuaded from following their elected officials who, in turn, follow their campaign finance nose rings that are, in turn, yanked on by fossil fuel interests and their pet think tanks. First things first. I don’t know how to do this, but I admire and support those who are trying.
Superman1 wrote: “Most of the proposals I’ve seen offered here for transitioning to a renewables-based economy don’t contain even one of these characteristics, much less all three.”
With all due respect, I have yet to see you offer any substantive, serious analysis of any of the multiple proposals for transitioning to a renewables-based economy that are readily available in the public domain. You just dismiss them out of hand, offering little but unsupported generalities as your reason for doing so.
” You seem to share a misapprehension with the denialists–the idea that if a model is not perfect, then it is worthless. To quote Richard Hamming:
“The purpose of computing is insight,not numbers.””
Au contraire. In all the models I have developed, the greatest benefit was what I learned in constructing the model. As should be obvious by now, unlike the computer-bred generation, I place far more value on intuition than numbers and charts coming out of a computer (although I certainly don’t discount the latter). When I started focusing seriously on the Arctic during the massive ice melt last Summer, I drew a simple model of a body of water covered by a thick layer of ice. I looked at the gradients of the major variables and the fluxes of mass, momentum, and energy. I then allowed the ice to start melting and expose open water. Beyond some critical amount of open water, the various fluxes, especially across the interface, underwent dramatic changes, in both lateral and vertical directions. All these changes essentially went in one direction: accelerate the ice melt! My interpretation was that Mother Nature was doing whatever it took to eliminate the ice, and these new mechanisms were acting synergistically. It also seemed to me this was a microcasm of the larger positive feedback mechanisms operating in the total biosphere. We are getting a similar synergism, and that’s why I don’t believe the comments of those who downgrade the importance of climate models that incorporate all the feedback mechanisms, positive and negative.
” Positing speculative, low-probability scenarios on the negative side is every bit as worthless as positing unreasonably rosy scenarios. Hell, it may be worse as it tends to demoralize the general public.”
Agreed. But, how do you know the scenario I have posited is low probability, without having the full model to provide some insights? Kevin Anderson states that 2 C limit is the entre to Extremely Dangerous, which includes the possibility of runaway to a much higher equilibrium. He posits 1 C. Why do we believe that is safe? Here we are at 0.8 C, and we’re about to lose the Arctic ice cap for at least part of the Summer. That will allow solar insolation 24/7, and dangerous heating of the ocean. It doesn’t require a great leap to understand the danger of this warming water relative to releasing the methane to the atmosphere. It may very well be the margin of temperature safety is really about 0.5 C, before we lost the ice cap, and we’ve been led down the primrose path with talk of 2 C or even 1 C. So, any scenario on the road to renewables that allows for additional fossil fuel combustion only places us further in the dangerous pre-runaway regime.
> I place far more value on intuition than numbers and charts
> coming out of a computer …
> … how do you know the scenario I have posited is low
> probability, without having the full model to provide
> some insights?
> … 2 C limit is the entre to Extremely Dangerous,
> which includes the possibility of runaway to a much
> higher equilibrium ….
Wait, is that runaway and higher equilibrium intuitively obvious?
And does “runaway and higher equilibrium” emerge from a model?
Citation would be useful if some exist.
“With all due respect, I have yet to see you offer any substantive, serious analysis of any of the multiple proposals for transitioning to a renewables-based economy that are readily available in the public domain.”
Somehow, you’re not getting the message. The first step in generating a proposal to solve a problem is to define the Requirements for solving the problem. I have no problems with the technologies being offered to transition to a renewables-based economy. I believe you when you state the possibilities of solar replacing fossil fuel, as you have done many times. But, one of the Requirements is that the critical constraint on temperature during the transition process not be exceeded, lest we enter the regime of ‘runaway’ temperature to a much hotter equilibrium. Until you can show that any of the proposed scenarios satisfy this constraint, how can any serious analysis be performed on the proposal? In a sense, I’m posing an unfair question. Until we have credible and validated climate prediction models that incorporate feedback mechanisms, positive and negative, you or any other proposer can’t say whether your proposal will violate or satisfy the critical temperature constraint. Climate science is central here, not just a peripheral item.
But, to me, this debate is equivalent to two assistant surgeons discussing the merits of which precision scalpel to use in the upcoming operation, when the Chief Surgeon is coming into the room with a meat axe. As I stated in my previous email, I believe we’re in the danger zone at 0.8 C. Compared to the mainstream approach of our government, the fossil energy companies, the fossil energy-producing countries, and other fossil energy related entities, where they are pulling out all the stops to extract and burn as much fossil fuel as they can, either of our approaches would be like a breath of fresh air. That doesn’t mean they would be safe on an absolute basis; they would only be far better than the present suicidal approach, but may still lead to catastrophe.
We know the scenario is low-probability based on the preponderance of evidence. It hasn’t happened even though the temperature has warmed more than we are likely to see by 2050. That is not to discount the severity of the effects we are likely to see. They are bad enough. They would be made worse by a sudden crash of productive capacity that prevented us from supporting current populations. You need to remember that climate change is but one of the threats we face. True, all of them require us to invent a sustainable economy if something resembling modern global civilization is to persist into the next century.
For those of us who prefer measurements and analysis (as opposed to intuition, no matter how divinely inspired) here is a paper by Alexeev et al. in cryosphere discuss about the influence of Atlantic water (AW) on sea ice melt north of Svalbard all the way to Severnaya Zemlya
for the modellers here, they use NorESM, which includes CICE4 for sea ice
” … recent AW warming episode could have contributed up to 150–200 km^3 of sea ice melt per year, which would constitute about 20 % of the total 900 km^3/yr negative trend in sea ice volume since 2004.”
depiction of extent of sea ice decline is quite shocking. They cannot resist pointing out that AW has enuf heat to melt all the ice several times over. And at 900Km^3/yr sea ice minimum is zero in 3-4 years…
” … quite unexpectedly, the expedition entered an open water area where surface water measured about 1 to 2 C while the outside air temperature was −10 to −15 C. Ocean temperature reached almost 5 C at 100 m depth (Fig. 1).”
The Alexeev and other descriptions of recent voyages in the High Arctic reminded me of an excellent book, “Farthest North” by Fridtjof Nansen. I heartily recommend it, and I am re-reading it now.
The contrast between the condition of the ice in the late nineteenth century, as contrasted to the Alexeev account is startling.The book is on Gutenberg. Be warned that the slaughter of wildlife is prodigious, and at times the tale is ruthless.
“It was sad to think we could not take our two last dogs with us, but we should probably have no further use for them, and it would not have done to take them with us on the decks of our kayaks. We were sorry to part with them; we had become very fond of these two survivors. Faithful and enduring, they had followed us the whole journey through; and, now that better times had come, they must say farewell to life. Destroy them in the same way as the others we could not; we sacrificed a cartridge on each of them. I shot Johansen’s, and he shot mine.”
I do believe the ship “Fram” (Forward!) was reused by Amundsen on his conquest of the South Pole…and I see that the Amundsen narrative is on Gutenberg also.
“AW has enuf heat to melt all the ice several times over. And at 900Km^3/yr sea ice minimum is zero in 3-4 years… ”
You are correctly describing a very ominous situation. McPherson refers to the lateral convective transport of energy (warm water) from the Atlantic as one reason for his belief that the ice cap will go sooner rather than later, and there will be increased stress on the clathrates. I suspect the desperate nature of this situation is what drove Wadhams to join the AMEG effort. However, as I pointed out in a previous posting I have serious reservations with the three remedial approaches AMEG listed in their Strategic Plan, and as your reference implies, lateral water convective energy transport from outside the Arctic would have to be reduced as well.
@138 Secular Animist: “The per capita fossil fuel consumption of residents of Manhattan is already far lower than that of people living in the “countryside” (suburbs and rural areas).”
Sorry, pretty much incorrect. Though I know nobody here accepts intuitive knowledge or logical reasoning, this was intuitively and logically obvious. But, then. I think of things in terms of patterns and sustainable design and have studied climate, energy, economics and sustainability in equal measure, because we must to understand the system.
One point that even the link below doesn’t seem to consider is embedded energy. E.g., the people dwelling in the city are responsible for a prorated portion of the emissions that created the built environment. And to extend the thought experiment, the future city, the one two hundred years from now that will actually be, much like our skin, will be an entirely different city as buildings crumble and are replaced and repaired. All of this has to be considered. When we look at climate, we are talking about emissions going far, far into the future to keep cities alive in their current states. Where do the resources come from for NY to go through it’s never-ending molt?
A second point, covered in the link below, is the point of use of products vs. point of production. Who is responsible for the impact of a TV, the maker or the consumer? Just as people rightly point out much of China’s FF use is actually shifted consumption that rightly is attributable to the customers, the consumption of the city is the correct accounting, not the production location.
It is virtually impossible for a city to be considered sustainable. Regions, yes. A city? No way, no how, and to continue speaking of “sustainable cities” is to me a moral and ethical failure, just like saying NG is “clean” and electric cars, massive windmills and solar PV are all sustainable. No, they are not. Electric cars are a joke in terms of carbon footprint from reduced fuel use (most electricity in the US is generated from fossil fuels) and ecological impact (batteries) vs. keeping an older car and its higher FF use. Greenwashing is possible because the trick is to call efficiency sustainability, and the public – and most activists so far as I can tell – have little idea that these two words mean completely different things.
Cities are utterly unsustainable without being thought of as part of a region, or even a continent, in current form. Rural living, however, can be sustainable without cities existing at all. Ergo…
And, really, what are cities of millions going to *do* in a sustainable future? People seem to have little idea how far consumption must fall to not only get to emissions neutrality, but actually go in reverse for 20 – 100 years, then maintain emissions – with at least 9 billion people on the planet! – at pre-industrial levels so they do not start rising again. What are those city folk going to do with no banking as it is now? With nobody to buy whatever gadgets they might make? Much non-essential work will be gone. Simplification is a foregone conclusion and absolute necessity (Limits to Growth, Catton, Tainter, Diamond) to achieve a sustainable society.
The city of the future will be much like Detroit will likely be in 20 or 30 years: a patchwork of rural-like areas and little dense neighborhood/community clusters, all running on mass transit – most logically trolleys and light rail, and human powered machines and animals. Small communities will pop up in areas now currently rural. Basically, most cities will see depopulation as a logical consequence of living sustainably.
And all with roughly the same FF footprint. This bias towards cities being more carbon efficient is going to result in the continued urbanization of the population. This is a very dangerous prospect for the planet.
139 Superman1 says,”That’s because we don’t have the credible climate model I have described above that would tell us what these non-negotiable constraints are.”
I think there is a logic error here. Risk assessment does not require a perfect model. Risk assessment is virtually never done with perfect knowledge. Proper risk assessment is based on the worst case scenario as balanced by the risk. If the worst risk is more sunburns, well, heck burn all the FFs you want. If the risk is extinction, or at least collapse, stop ASAP.
We already know the worst case scenario is already at the highest possible level. We do not need better models. All they can do is tell us how much more certain extinction is. What we need is rapid decarbonization. And, yes, there are very workable outlines for how to do this. People already are.
Generally speaking, studies have shown that city dwellers, who frequent public transportation, occupy smaller-than-average and multiunit living spaces, use less energy to heat and cool, tend to have lower carbon footprints than their suburban or rural counterparts, who often have bigger homes, use more energy to heat and cool, and typically drive themselves to and fro.
A 2008 report by the Brookings Institution, for example, found that the average American in a metropolitan area has a carbon footprint of 8.21 tons — 14 percent less than the average American living outside the city.
And Edward L. Glaeser, an economics professor at Harvard, reached a similar conclusion in a study he conducted along with Matthew Kahn, a U.C.L.A. environmental economist. “Cities generally have significantly lower emissions than suburban areas, and the city-suburb gap is particularly large in older areas, like New York,” the authors found.
A new study appearing in the April issue of the journal Environment and Urbanization looked at cities in a variety of countries, and for the most part, it affirms these findings.
Analyzing the per capita emissions from 12 major cities in Europe, Asia, North America and South America, the study’s author, David Dodman of the International Institute for Environment and Development — a London-based sustainable development research group financed by a variety of public and private donors — found that per capita emissions from cities were typically smaller than their nation’s averages.
Using data collected from a variety of sources, including several previously published studies and commissioned reports, Mr. Dodman found that, of the cities studied, Washington ranked the highest in terms of per capita carbon dioxide levels, with 19.7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emitted, compared to 23.92 tonnes nationally.
For its part, New York City, which in 2007 conducted its own greenhouse gas study, registered 7.1 tonnes per capita.
Please note that I was not addressing the long-term “sustainability” of “cities”.
I was specifically addressing Superman1’s assertion (#137) that if we had “one year to phase out fossil fuels linearly” to avoid a runaway greenhouse scenario, that we should “evacuate the residents of the Upper East Side of Manhatten to the countryside in one year”.
My point was that a mass evacuation of New York City to “the countryside” makes no sense at all as a way to rapidly reduce fossil fuel consumption or GHG emissions, since the GHG footprints of New Yorkers are already among the lowest in the nation, right where they are. And I believe the studies mentioned above support that view.
In #139, I stated: ” Most of the proposals I’ve seen offered here for transitioning to a renewables-based economy don’t contain even one of these characteristics, much less all three. But, even if a proposer took the time to lay out a Vision and associated requirements, they still couldn’t satisfy the third condition: a Roadmap that insured none of the critical constraints were exceeded. That’s because we don’t have the credible climate model I have described above that would tell us what these non-negotiable constraints are. So, from my perspective, any proposals about switching to renewables in a generation may sound nice, but are meaningless in relation to what the climate will allow.”
You have taken my third sentence completely out of context. The context is that it is the responsibility of the proposer to show his/her concept is ‘safe’, and will not violate temperature constraints. If the proposer is not able to demonstrate safety, then we cannot assume it is safe and move forward. You then go on to say: ” We already know the worst case scenario is already at the highest possible level. We do not need better models. All they can do is tell us how much more certain extinction is. What we need is rapid decarbonization.”
Well, yes and no. Depends on what is being proposed. Many proposers, including myself, propose a combination of CO2 emissions reduction, atmospheric carbon recovery, and some interim geo-engineering to help insure the temperature does not go beyond some critical level during the interim transition process. I rule out nothing; everything is on the table. While I might prefer the most radical CO2 emissions reduction, with its attendant pain and sacrifice, I am open to combination schemes that could ease the transition process. Maybe there is an interior optimum. All I require is that the proposer demonstrate we don’t go over the temperature cliff during the transition process. I don’t see how one can do that without a climate model that includes the feedback mechanisms. More broadly, given the point that McPherson makes and Sidd has amplified further today about warm Atlantic water entering the Arctic and contributing to ice melting and beyond, we need a coupled atmospheric-ocean model, and if we want to ascertain the risk to releasing methane from the clathrates, we need these models coupled to a sediment model as well. There is too much at stake here for our civilization to base some proposal for transition to renewables on essentially what is feel-good arm-waving.
In #137, I gave a hypothetical example to illustrate a point: ” Suppose the most probable case is we have one year to phase out fossil fuels linearly, or the climate system goes into self-sustaining mode: the match ignites. Would you say, ‘well, we certainly can’t evacuate the residents of the Upper East Side of Manhatten to the countryside in one year, so let’s hold off for five years’. Obviously, these are far more acceptable statements than mine, but in effect you would be condemning seven billion people to an early demise.” You state, in relation to the evacuation sentence in my example: ” My point was that a mass evacuation of New York City to “the countryside” makes no sense at all as a way to rapidly reduce fossil fuel consumption or GHG emissions, since the GHG footprints of New Yorkers are already among the lowest in the nation, right where they are.”
i would have to see every assumption made in any study that came to that conclusion. New Yorkers living in fifty story high-rises on the Upper East Side would be dead in one week without fossil fuel. Everything they get has to be imported, including their food. They don’t even walk to their units; they are transported today by fossil fuels. They make essentially nothing in that community. In my mind, that is the exact opposite of sustainability. And, do these computations include the cost of all the fossil fuel that was burned in order to create that infrastructure? I’ve known people who lived in communal arrangements in places like New Mexico who were completely self-sustainable, by design. Night and day, compared to the Upper East Side. I would appreciate a link to that study, so I can see what assumptions were in fact made.
[Response: A completely un-novel result published in the first volume and first issue of a journal I’ve never heard of before. No wonder. Any good reviewer would have said “the paper should be rejected for its lack of new information”. Muller is quoted as saying the results are “more rigorous than the IPCC”, which makes no sense on several grounds, starting with the fact that the IPCC doesn’t do research; it just collates published findings of others. Wow. Maybe I should write a paper “discovering” E=MC2 and publish it in issue 2 of this journal. Sorry to be so cynical but.. I remain amazed at the arrogance of the Berkeley group. I suppose it is a good thing this was published, but I am sure it will be ignored both by the reality-based community who knew it already, and by those who don’t want to know it.–eric]
SA said, “Please note that I was not addressing the long-term “sustainability” of “cities”.”
You were. Perhaps you didn’t realize it, but they are one and the same discussion. As someone else pointed out earlier, the thought experiment of a one-year evacuation is moot, so not worth the time. The point about city vs. rural FF footprint/efficiency is a vital one. The city being more efficient is false according to the link I provided. That is the only germane point worth responding to, so I did. Responding with an older study that did not apply the updated and seemingly much superior methodology doesn’t make much sense.
But let us play with your thought experiment. First, let us appropriately dismiss the “cities are more efficient/have a lower carbon footprint” thesis. Still, the new study does not say rural dwellers are less carbon intensive, rather they are roughly equal, so shifting would appear to be a wash. However, the original condition of a single year is beyond pointless, so we summarily dismiss that, too. For the thought experiment to be more than a Middle School debate topic, it must be extended to a time period that actually allows for a solution, and that is likely somewhere between 100 and 200 years, and that in a rather perfect response paradigm.
With an extended time line, a significant portion of the population shifting out of the city is a necessity because, again, few cities have the land area to even begin to approach anything like self-reliance in… anything. Depopulation creates space needed to create a broader economy that at least edges toward sustainable, reduces the number of people with virtually nothing to do as consumption plummets to a very small fraction (maintenance of sub-300ppm CO2 production levels) of current levels, and reduces the burden on the surrounding region in supporting the city in areas it cannot produce in large quantities, such as food.
I see pretty much zero chance of this scenario not playing out, else, how do you reduce consumption to such low levels with 9 billion people?
Sorry if you feel I have moved the goal posts, but we are years past the point where we should be engaging in meaningless hypotheticals. Meanwhile, a very important point has been clarified, which cannot but be good for future discussions.
In #139, I stated: ” Most of the proposals I’ve seen offered here for transitioning to a renewables-based economy don’t contain even one of these characteristics, much less all three.
Perhaps you have not read mine, or been exposed to permaculture design principles?
But, even if a proposer took the time to lay out a Vision and associated requirements, they still couldn’t satisfy the third condition: a Roadmap that insured none of the critical constraints were exceeded.
You don’t lay out the vision. That’s the first error. Sustainability is what it is. You design for it or you don’t. The nature of sustainability is that it is ultimately local, and all sustainable design is based in what the ecosystem *can* provide rather than what we wish it did. This is based in a resource inventory and a needs analysis. The parameters are defined by local conditions, solved at local levels, likely with some bio-regional cross-support, and in the early stages some national support (as a region or ara, not a socio-political structure.) If you want it more detailed than that, you are already failing to design within the principles that guide us to sustainability.
Second error is repeating the original error of requiring perfect knowledge and failing to accept that proper modality is not perfect constraint of future possibilities, but risk assessment based on the worst case scenario that has more than a tiny chance of occurring. We already have that. We know continued emissions = massive degradation of the ecosystem and some level of collapse. It’s already starting in the form of eutrophication, acidification, mass extinction, ecosystem disruptions, food production falling below consumption this year and other recent years ( http://sustainablog.org/2013/01/global-grain-stocks-drop-dangerously-low-as-2012-consumption-exceeded-production/2/ ), and on and on. We also know the Arctic began losing ice around 1953 when atmospheric CO2 was only around 310 – 315 ppm. The parameter you seek is simply this: we are headed for collapse, so we must radically decarbonize. Period.
That’s because we don’t have the credible climate model I have described above
And likely never will. We don’t need it. Policies are not based on scientific results, they are based on risk assessment sussed from those results. Policy is far broader than the science in scope. We have more than enough science to know the cliff lies ahead and must brake, if we are not too late.
that would tell us what these non-negotiable constraints
I repeat: the Arctic started melting at 310 – 315 ppm. Factor in ocean lag time of thirty years and it’s… fairly certain to be sub-300 ppm. That’s your limit. You do not need to know anything else.
So, from my perspective, any proposals about switching to renewables in a generation may sound nice, but are meaningless in relation to what the climate will allow.”
Given renewables aren’t renewable, you have a point. But this is why simplification is so important. It means transitioning homes and buildings to hyper-efficiency and reducing consumption via a build-out of mass transit magnified by a massive reduction in the need for any transit, etc. The real problem most “planners” have is they want to preserve the structure of society that is. They do not want to consider simplification even though it is blindingly obvious there is no choice. (See Tainter and Diamond.) This requires a super-massive “renewables” build out. Reduce consumption by something like 80 – 90 percent and you suddenly do not need anywhere the build out of renewables currently assumed.
There is a saying in the literature, “The problem is the solution.” I hated it when I first encountered it as a Mobius strip of empty rhetorical flim-flam. But it is true. Sometimes it’s along the lines of the old joke about telling the doctor it hurts when I do that and the doctor telling you to not do that. If, e.g., current farming practices are destroying the soil and emptying aquifers, stop doing that. Sometimes it’s more subtle. If, e.g., you are growing cattle (based on a true design story) and keep getting swarms of locusts that eat their grass, well, you don’t have an overabundance of locusts, you have a lack of turkeys, which love to eat locusts. (Hope I’m not mixing up the biota!) And, rather than being a beef or dairy farmer, your environment is telling you to be a turkey farmer. Design is local, and the problem is the solution.
What is the parameter? What Nature told you it was: sub-300ppm. What’s the solution? Produce no more GHGs than the planet can sequester to stay below 300 ppm (and for a while produce little enough to allow rapid sequestration.) How? Simplify. Localize.
You have taken my third sentence completely out of context. The context is that it is the responsibility of the proposer to show his/her concept is ‘safe’, and will not violate temperature constraints.
Don’t think I did. I just know sustainable design and that what you want to do is rather completely irrelevant. Nothing is perfectly safe. It’s about risk levels and error bars and adjusting if errors are made. Nothing I would suggest is really all that scary. You could change a rain pattern in a way you didn’t anticipate by reestablishing a large area of forest, but trees can pretty quickly be cut down, if so, e.g. You go trying some dopey technofix adaptation and it goes wrong, you are very possibly in deep trouble. Natural fixes, not so much. And given solutions are local, any given design element is highly unlikely to affect the globe – unlike seeding the ocean or space mirrors or what have you.
We do not need better models. All they can do is tell us how much more certain extinction is. What we need is rapid decarbonization.”
Well, yes and no. Depends on what is being proposed. Many proposers, including myself, propose a combination of CO2 emissions reduction, atmospheric carbon recovery, and some interim geo-engineering to help insure the temperature does not go beyond some critical level during the interim transition process.
Yes, actually. Principle: Natural before mechanical, mechanical before hi-tech.
The only good geo-engineering is natural geo-engineering and the only good carbon capture is natural carbon capture. Sequester carbon in soils (Rodale study), reforest (James Hansen), afforest, farm regeneratively (Rodale), bio-char (Albert Bates), but mostly slam the brake on consumption (Tainter, Catton, Diamond, Limits to Growth and most recently http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1754/20122845.full.pdf+html )
All I require is that the proposer demonstrate we don’t go over the temperature cliff during the transition process.
Well, I have stated above how to reduce carbon significantly without changing society much at all (reforestation, afforestation, food forests, regenerative farming) and larger changes that would be transformative. All a bit simplistic, but unavoidably so as sustainability truly is primarily local. An area I truly do not wish to get into here is sustainable governance. It is beyond important, but would not be a discussion welcomed here, I do not think.
Everything I have suggested only pulls us back from the temperature cliff. These responses are necessary, imo, and will be an important part of an ultimately sustainable design, but if only some are done in isolation they are little bandaids. What they importantly would be, are buyers of time (if key tipping points with the oceans and the Arctic have not been passed.)
Ideally, these things would happen in concert with full-blown, rapid decarbonization which just might step us back from the brink of tipping points and end in a sustainable societies globally.
I don’t see how one can do that without a climate model that includes the feedback mechanisms. More broadly, given the point that McPherson makes and Sidd has amplified further today about warm Atlantic water entering the Arctic and contributing to ice melting and beyond, we need a coupled atmospheric-ocean model, and if we want to ascertain the risk to releasing methane from the clathrates, we need these models coupled to a sediment model as well.
I’m not sure why you are repeating this. The climate models are not how risk assessment is done and we know more than enough to act without them. We must go backwards. How much more do you need to know? The clathrates are already melting. How fast? Who cares! Because we don’t know where the tipping point is, the only sane response is to pull back ASAP, and faster than that. The only safe assumption is it is happening as we speak, but rapid draw down of carbon will prevent it from become self-perpetuating. Narrowing the error bars does not change any of this assessment an iota. The risk is an ELE, and the trigger is already being pulled back.
The problem we have here is I cannot write ten pages to explain what a sustainable society must look like, at least in its basic characteristics, so I have no means to show you why your call for perfect modeling is irrelevant. The short answer is, simplification literally cannot lead to *greater* carbon use unless it devolves into warfare. But, then, it’s no longer simplification, right? My point thus holds: if we simplify, and thereby reduce consumption to a level that will allow 9 billion people to produce no more GHG’s than allow the planet to stay below 300 ppm, we can stabilize climate. None of the solutions increase carbon output:
* Localizing reduces transport energy, energy transmission losses and more.
* Simplification, aka consumption reduction, helps every metric.
* Reforestation supports bio-diversity and mitigates extinctions, increases oxygen, sequesters carbon, provides raw materials and food stuffs, improves and allows some manipulation of water cycles and rainfall patterns, reduces air particulates, allows management of air flows, sequesters water in the soil, builds soil, and more.
* Food Forests do all that reforestation does while stabilizing the food supply significantly.
* Agroforestry, sustainable farming, et al., will build soil, sequester carbon, sequester water (refilling aquifers as carbon content of soils grows and retains far more water in the soil to make its way into the aquifers), maintain and/or increase food production, reduce waste (thus “increasing” food production by up to thirty percent or so.)
Which of these do you see as increasing carbon emissions?
And don’t come back with any of this being politically impossible. Irrelevant because there is quite literally no choice. It’s sustainability or bust, pure and simple. People can gnash their teeth and shake their fists all they want, but they still will not be driving individual vehicles by mid-century. Well, not unless we have chosen sui-genocide by then.
The problem is the solution: Politically impossible? Change the political structure. Change to sustainable governance. Can’t be done? Too bad. You have no choice.
Choose: sustainability or ELE/collapse. And please do note Mollison’s words: While the problems are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.
Inline Response to #169 “Any good reviewer would have said “the paper should be rejected for its lack of new information”.” — Eric
And probably did (I doubt that GIGS was their first choice), but I don’t recall seeing this result before, perhaps it’s new: (?)
“The behavior of the diurnal range is not simple; it drops from 1900 to 1987, and then it rises. The rise takes place during a period when, according to the IPCC report, the anthropogenic effect of global warming is evident above the background variations from natural causes. Although the post-1987 rise is not sufficient to undo the drop that took place from 1901 to 1987, the trend of 0.86 ± 0.13°C/century is distinctly upwards with a very high level of confidence. This reversal is particularly odd since it occurs during a period when the rise in Tavg was strong and showed no apparent changes in behavior.”
“Second error is repeating the original error of requiring perfect knowledge and failing to accept that proper modality is not perfect constraint of future possibilities, but risk assessment based on the worst case scenario that has more than a tiny chance of occurring. We already have that…… The parameter you seek is simply this: we are headed for collapse, so we must radically decarbonize. Period…..We don’t need it [credible climate model]. Policies are not based on scientific results, they are based on risk assessment sussed from those results. Policy is far broader than the science in scope. We have more than enough science to know the cliff lies ahead and must brake, if we are not too late…..You do not need to know anything else.”
Right. Forget about climate science. Just keep adding and removing substances to the atmosphere and ocean without understanding the downstream consequences. That has certainly served us well.
Here’s the context. There have been a number of proposals for ameliorating climate change on this blog and many other climate blogs. I offered one, consisting of extremely rapid elimination of fossil fuels, rapid removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, and some interim geo-engineering to ‘quench’ the positive feedback mechanisms before they lead to ‘runaway’ conditions. I realized there was zero chance of this happening voluntary, so I suggested the only way it could be implemented was by involuntary means, and offered some possibilities. In the interim period, as the temperature profile is (hopefully) turned around, living would have to be quite austere by today’s mainline standards; e.g., Pennsylvania Amish or perhaps even indigenous Native Americans.
None of the respondents liked the ‘involuntary’ aspect; they wanted to retain democratic approaches. In my view, if survival is compromised, that’s an irresponsible constraint. None of the respondents was comfortable with extremely rapid decrease of fossil fuel use. Most of the proposals that tend to appear on this and other climate blogs tend to involve perhaps a one or even two generation transition to renewables, with modest changes in living standards, and minimal discomfort.
Now, we have to keep our eyes on the goal post. The end target needs to be survival of our civilization, with the definition of ‘survival’ having a broad range. It seems to me that proposing a ‘sounds-good feels-good’ approach might be good for political objectives, and might have an acceptable end product, but it does us no good if we go off the cliff in the transition period. That’s the value of a credible climate model; it provides some indication of whether any proposal is viable.
Harsh as it is, I don’t know whether my proposal is viable. Cutting out fossil fuels has two consequences. It does not add any more CO2 to the atmosphere, which is good. It also does not add any more short-lived fossil sulphates to the atmosphere, which is not good. The Albedo is reduced. As a consequence, if we were to cut fossil fuel use ‘today’, we would see a temperature increase to ~1.5-3.0 C over the next 30-40 years, according to estimates I’ve seen, with some outliers even higher. That may be enough to put us over the cliff. That’s why I recommend rapid CO2 drawdown and some geo-engineering in parallel, to do some temperature profile tailoring to hopefully stay within acceptable limits during the transition. Any CO2 drawdown and geo-engineering will require some fossil fuel expenditures for implementation, and this has to be taken into account as well. So, even my harsh proposal needs to be validated by some credible climate model with feedback mechanisms, to insure that we violate no constraints.
The other proposals are less harsh, and would take us even closer to the cliff. All I’m asking for from the other proposers is to demonstrate that their approach will not take us over the cliff during the interim transition. I don’t know how they can do this without a valid climate model.
You also state: “And don’t come back with any of this being politically impossible. Irrelevant because there is quite literally no choice. It’s sustainability or bust, pure and simple. People can gnash their teeth and shake their fists all they want, but they still will not be driving individual vehicles by mid-century. Well, not unless we have chosen sui-genocide by then.
The problem is the solution: Politically impossible? Change the political structure. Change to sustainable governance. Can’t be done? Too bad. You have no choice.”
Now, your proposal is not much different from mine. Both are rather harsh compared to how we live today. When you state that there’s no choice, it’s sustainability or bust, that’s hard medicine for people to swallow. If we had seen a decade or two of people going, say, 40% of where they needed to be in terms of fossil fuel use reduction, or 60%, then we could envision that with a little more coaxing and incentives, we could get them to give 100% all-out effort. But, looking at the record of the past thirty years, we see people going 0.0% of where they need to be. What do you think the odds are of their doing a 180 degree turn-about, especially in the near-term where it’s needed? Politically impossible; you bet, at least from a voluntary perspective.
I’m not sure we haven’t passed the point of no return, but I would like some confirmation of that with credible models. If we still have some breathing room, and can accommodate some of the more politically-acceptable proposals made on this site, great. But, the proposers need to demonstrate no temperature constraints violated in the interim, and I don’t see how that can be done without credible models.
“The United States economy has tripled in size since 1970 and three-quarters of the energy needed to fuel that growth came from … efficiency advances—not new energy supplies…. the United States economy remains about 13 percent energy-efficient…. such investments can provide one-half or more of the needed greenhouses gas emissions reductions most scientists agree are needed between now and the year 2050.” http://www.aceee.org/blog/2010/08/america-s-anemic-13-energy-efficiency
Your opinions that none of this is happening must rely on information you consider reliable. But I can’t figure out what you’re looking at.
Try a plot of global CO2 emissions for the past three decades. Or, if you want USA numbers, add together what we’ve actually emitted and the emissions from industries that used to be in this country are now generating overseas. Keep your eye on the ‘pea’ (CO2 emissions) not the shell (additional sources we’ve added). The ‘pea’ is what’s doing us in. The only people I know who are burning less fossil fuels are those who never recovered from the recession, and who take less trips, keep their homes cooler in Winter and warmer in Summer, etc. That’s all Kevin Anderson is really recommending. Let’s have ‘planned austerity’, and there will be more of these types of conserving people around, using less fossil fuel-based products because they have less to spend.
I don’t really see that much difference between Sup and Brian’s positions (to the extent that I’ve followed it)–both seem to grok the basic fact that we are too far along for half-way measures (even if those seem to be the best the current political situation seems to offer, if that). To the extent there is a difference, I tend to side with Brian, particularly with nature-based ‘geo-engineering’–using plants and trees to do what sequestration they can do. One point on that, though–iirc, in upper (and mid?) latitudes, new trees can actually enhance warming by shifting albedo.
Hanks point about the possibility of economic growth without equal levels of ff use increase is perhaps even better made by looking at Germany, though I don’t know how much manufacturing has been off-shored there.
Long-term, though, I still think economic growth will not be possible over decades with a rapid draw-down and eventual elimination of fossil fuel use (unless ‘economic growth’ is redefined in such a way to make it essentially meaningless).
Basically, we need a new ideal economic lifestyle to aim towards, rather than the high-consumption one of the West, and now of much of the rest of the world. People can have high levels of both subjective and objective levels of well-being without engaging in obscene levels of consumerism. But this sweet-spot of low-consumption matched with high levels of well being is now not in evidence on a national basis in any country that I know of, though Bhutan has at least explicitly set this as their national goal, iirc.
By the way, Brian is also of course right about cities. Much as I love them, they are by definition not sustainable within their borders. Historically, there were pretty much no cities larger than one million people before the industrial revolution unless they were the centers of empires–that is, unless they exploited many resources from far beyond their spacial municipal borders.
Fossil fuels can be seen as temporarily allows exploitation of resources beyond temporal borders of the city–robbing from both past and (more essentially) future.
150 Steve Fish said”..half the voters.. their elected officials..by fossil fuel interests..their pet think tanks”
All of the above are people or groups of people. Their aggregate honor, morality, ethics, and other characteristics is average. You surely can point to major bad apples, but that’s what exists in an average group. By the way, this is axiomatic per “We the people..” and related documents and religions. Yours?
By and large they all have children or otherwise think of posterity with great interest. By and large they have convinced themselves that you are the evil which must be stopped in order to save their children from ruin.
But once things get a little worse and science pins down sensitivity better and Lindzen et al go quiet or quietly join the mainstream and renewables drop in price – you know, all the stuff that we KNOW will happen over the next decade – well, their aggregate intelligence is average too. They’ll change their minds. After all, their motivation is to protect their children.
And you don’t have to convince many. Skeptics are an older demographic. Ten years will kill off quite a few. And once you’ve got 60-70% of the electorate, resistance becomes futile.
“… 89% of the [geologists surveyed at two annual meetings] respondents believe that climate change presents a significant risk to the public, whereas only about half the general population is concerned.”
Right. Forget about climate science. Just keep adding and removing substances to the atmosphere and ocean without understanding the downstream consequences. That has certainly served us well.
Why pretend this is what I said? What does that get you, or anyone else?
consisting of extremely rapid elimination of fossil fuels, rapid removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, and some interim geo-engineering to ‘quench’ the positive feedback mechanisms before they lead to ‘runaway’ conditions.
Until you specify how this might be done, you aren’t really saying anything. (Any geo-engineering when all we have to do is grow food differently and plant forests makes no sense at all.) My proposals are fairly specific. Reforestation, afforestation, food forests and regenerative farming alone would equal somewhere in the neighborhood of > 150% of current emissions. That includes no attempt at localization whatsoever. Current emissions are equaling somewhere north of 3 ppm CO2/yr when you count both atmospheric increase and the 25% or so going into the oceans. So by this count we should be able to start reversing CO2 at around 4ppm/yr, with no broad social changes at all. Reduce consumption to 80% of current and you’re now going backwards at, what?, around > 7 ppm? Realistically, can we expect better? We can realistically be below 300ppm within 20 years. Well, realistic would probably be closer to 50 years. Regardless, we are talking a global mobilization, or, rather, demobilization.
I’m not sure we haven’t passed the point of no return, but I would like some confirmation of that with credible models.
Show me a group of scientists willing to model significant CH4 destabilization and significant ice sheet disintegration within 100 years, and you might get that. I don’t think either of those things are included in any current models, are they? You want your credible model? It has to include those possibilities.
Here’s something I toyed with back in 2008-9. Still valid, and what you are actually trying to get to. We know more than enough about the climate science to make changes. We should continue the research by all means, but not for policy so much as awareness and reinforcement of just how close to the cliff, or over it, we are. The changes we make will be the same regardless of any new information if we are moving to sustainability.
What actually needs modeling are the solution responses, not because we don’t know what to do or how to design sustainable communities, but to convince people to do it!
From the post: …envisioned something with the following components or characteristics:
– It would be huge, along the lines of MMPRPGs, but necessarily bigger than any before it. This needs to be international in scope since any solutions must also be, and must offer realistic simulations.
– It would include participation of individuals from all levels of society, i.e., gov’t. officials and orgs, non-profits, NGO’s and, most importantly, the public.
– It would preferably have an interface like [a] virtual reality game.
– It would have real climate models attached…
– It would would include energy decline reality.
– It would include other resource constraints (water, fisheries, farming, etc.)
– It would include real-world economic data.
– It would allow for new models of governance, economic systems and societal structures to be tried and tested, such as Steady State economic models (1, 2, 3), barter economies, etc.
– Perhaps multiple runs/games going simultaneously, much like Global Climate Models. Maybe individuals could start up their own runs and people could jump in if they liked the parameters set by the originator?
– Perhaps dummy nodes/agents coded to model the averages for given regions/cities/countries to get the numbers up as high as possible.
I’d still love to do this. There are a couple games out there kind of like this, but none so grand in scope or realism. In fact, I suspect one may have been developed after someone read about his idea on theoildrum.com, which is where I first proposed it. I think something like this could actually help us model a pathway.
Note: I developed this idea and wrote the blog post before I studies sustainable design, so the sophistication of my knowledge level now is significantly higher and would affect my suggestion if re-written.
clathrate gun didnt go off in the Eemian so why now?
2)ice sheet disintegration in 100 yr
How will you get a mole of joules into the ice sheet ? For WAIS i calculate that the 1/2 Sverdrup influx of CDW measured under PIG (Jacobs et al. 2011, DOI: 10.1038) for example, would have to be multiplied into something at least two or three orders of magnitude larger. I suspect that half a mole of Joules into GRIS and WAIS each in 100 yr might be feasible, but show me the math, and more important, the physics. Until then I prefer a millenium rather than a century for those time constants.
Comment by David B. Benson — 21 Jan 2013 @ 10:38 PM
“Skeptics are an older demographic. Ten years will kill off quite a few. And once you’ve got 60-70% of the electorate, resistance becomes futile.”
I tend to think that the general thrust of this is correct: another ten years will make a big difference. Of course, we really don’t have another ten years to initiate effective action…
But is there a cite on the ‘older demographic’ bit? I’ve seen a few anecdotes to that effect (and the video of the Monckton Pomposity Tour showed a lot of older folks in the crowd), but you know what anecdotes are worth.
188 Kevin M said, “But is there a cite on the ‘older demographic’ bit?”
I’ve read a few, but polls are what they are. Pick a position and you can find a poll to support it.
The absolute strongest link is “conservatives tend towards climate ignorance and denial”. They don’t care and are always wrong. Everything I’ve read said Obama won amongst younger voters. Everything I’ve read says old conservatives are the core demographic of skeptics.
Sure “everything I’ve read” could be totally wrong, but anecdotal and polling data does build up after a while. It’s evidence, not proof.
So we are about to go over the cliff, unless we drastically cut ff use. Given the long lag between CO2 increases and temperature increases, it’s possible that we are already over the cliff.
Only an extreme optimist can believe that the world’s governments will get their act together and reduce ff use for many decades. Conservation efforts have not slowed energy use, and it’s silly to think it will.
We have to get ready for a “hail Mary” – something drastic and something that has not been thought of or has been viewed as totally unacceptable.
There are two areas where a hail Mary might come from. The first is a new energy source that would replace ff. But nothing is on the horizon. Sun, wind, tidal, atomic, etc., are hardly making a dent. We have to consider other ideas, even wacko ideas, and maybe something will come out of the blue.
The second is reducing the earth’s albedo. A little less heat from the sun will go a long way. Geo-engineering has a bad name and fierce opposition from environmental groups, but going over the cliff is worse. Seeding the atmosphere (and above) has especially been considered risky and unfeasible. I have long tried to wip up interest in requiring commercial airlines to spray cloud-seeding molecules on their regular trips(in the morning, at mid to low lattidudes, and seasonly), but the opposition by environmentalists has been large.
The best place to look to counteract global warming is the ocean’s small albedo, about 7%. Even a tiny increase would quickly cool the earth. As far as I know, this has received little attention (other than the water/ice albedo difference). It is likely that a thin surface film (oil, soap, etc) would increase the albedo because there is double-reflection (off the top of the film and off the top of the water) and because there are more whitecaps. But there will be less evaporation and other countervailing forces. Again, this is a hail Mary.
Basically, the environmentalists and almost all others who oppose AGW have put their eggs in one basket – reducing ff use. It’s time to face the obvious: they have failed to make progress, and the evidence is that they will continue to fail. Their fall-back position seems to be that, when we go over the cliff, they can say “see, we told you so” and be smug about their wisdom.
Second INAUGURAL ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. (Applause.) Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
There it is, the break we have been waiting for. Let’s hold him to it.
“191.So we are about to go over the cliff, unless we drastically cut ff use. Given the long lag between CO2 increases and temperature increases, it’s possible that we are already over the cliff.
Only an extreme optimist can believe that the world’s governments will get their act together and reduce ff use for many decades. Conservation efforts have not slowed energy use, and it’s silly to think it will.”
What a breath of fresh air, especially compared to the well-meaning but completely unrealistic proposals we see propounded here day after day.
We have two real options for attempting to avoid the cliff, assuming we have not gone over already: voluntary and involuntary. I view the involuntary option as the only one that will eliminate the foundational causes of the problem, and lead to long-term survival. I have no idea of its probability of occurrence. The voluntary option will not address the foundational causes; it has not, and there is zero evidence that it will. The best we can hope for is what we get in elective medicine today; some exotic treatments that do not address causes, but focus on attenuating symptoms and allowing the patient to survive a few more years.
The only approach I can see gaining wide acceptance among the electorate is the climate change equivalent of chemotherapy: geoengineering. Risky as it is, it could probably be sold as an Apollo-type effort: high tech, job expansion, large profits for many, no changes in lifestyle required. Highly acceptable politically, unlike the approaches that require foundational changes. Geoengineering will certainly have its side-effects, but it may delay the inevitable until the final bills come due.
So let’s talk about the science.
Got citations, it’s worth discussing.
Killian’s got the politics, PR, policy, and permutations thereof on his own blog (no real need to extensively quote yourself here, pointer works).
T. Marvell and Superman1,
The metaphor of a cliff is inappropriate. It is not as if we will reach a certain level of emissions and things will be as bad as they can get. Each additional ton of CO2 will make things incrementally worse. Not that all increments will be of the same size. Some will trigger additional feedbacks.
Both of you seem to favor geoengineering. I have also come across folks in the last day or so advocating nukes, reforestation and migration off of the planet. All of these suffer from the same shortcoming–there is no viable plan translating the idea into effective remediation/solution. It is not enough to say we will inject aerosols into the atmosphere. How much? Where in the atmosphere? What aerosol and how will they be stabilized? What will be the side effects and how will we counter them? And the ultimate problem is that aerosols are among the forcings we understand least in the climate. In contrast, reducing CO2 emissions has an effect we can calculate with fairly high confidence. Want to dump iron into the oceans–again, the effects and side effects are highly uncertain.
Because the carrying capacity of the planet is strained to the breaking point if not beyond, we cannot afford mistakes that further damage the planet’s fragile environment. Remember, climate change is only one of many threats we face–and the ultimate solution to all of them is the development of a sustainable global economic system including energy infrastructure. Anything that stops short of that is merely postponing the inevitable crisis.
Do I reject geoengineering. No. We are in desperate enough straits that we cannot afford to reject anything that buys us more of that precious commodity that we have up to now squandered–time. I suspect we will have to avail ourselves of geoengineering, nukes and many more unpalatable and controversial measures to avoid the worst effects of the current crisis. We should not, however, mistake such expediencies for actual solutions. We must keep our eyes on the prize–sustainability.
Instead of looking for ways to get away from the present danger zone as fast as humanly possible, the authors seem to be looking for ways to excuse our profligate behavior for longer periods of time. At some point in kicking the can down the road, we’re going to run out of road. I’m surprised this five year old paper even got five cittions.
T Marvell wrote: “Only an extreme optimist can believe that the world’s governments will get their act together and reduce ff use for many decades.”
The world’s governments did not mandate the use of personal computers or cell phones. Yet somehow, virtually overnight, we went from no one having them, to everyone having them, and the whole fabric of our society being transformed by them.
Electricity from rooftop photovoltaics is already cheaper in some places than the retail cost of grid power. Do you think “the world’s governments” will need to force people to reduce their electric bills?
Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 Jan 2013 @ 11:07 AM
Jim and Kevin,
While the demographics may show that the skeptics are older, that does not necessarily correlate with their levels diminishing significantly in a decade. In general, conservatives are older, but their numbers do not shrink as time goes by. Rather as people age, liberals become independent, and independents become conservative, keeping the relative percentages intact. (Social movements have tilted the percentages toward one side, such as the 60s anti-establishmentism, and 80s Reaganism, but these have been short-lived). Therefore, if climate skepticism is a conservative political trait, then I do not see the numbers shifting much over time. Massive changes will only come from scientific research and observations.
So, all the old denialist politicians and fossil fuel leaders are eventually going to die and then everything will be fine. You know that there is always a new crop coming up don’t you? What you say here sounds like denial by delay.
You say- “Conservation efforts have not slowed energy use, and it’s silly to think it will.”
Conservation is essential for sustainability and it is silly to think otherwise.
You say- “Sun, wind, tidal, atomic, etc., are hardly making a dent.”
Alternative energies hardly make a dent because there is not enough will to do so. Do you think that there will be a will to blow big bucks on geo-engineering projects that have so many negative effects? Realistically, the worst effect of geo-engineering is that it gives fossil fuel interests an excuse to continue polluting and this will insure that ocean pH will continue to decline.
If you wish to be taken seriously you will have to provide credible scientific evidence that cloud seeding would actually increase clouds, and if any clouds produced would have a cooling effect. Also, do you know of any substance that would make the ocean more reflective without damaging marine ecology like oil or soap would. There is a reason that environmentalists are opposed to such silliness, they actually know something about the environment.
191 T Marvell says: “Basically, the environmentalists and almost all others who oppose AGW have put their eggs in one basket – reducing ff use.
Thanks for lumping everyone concerned about climate into one, homogenized group with one label and way oversimplifying the situation. I don’t consider myself an environmentalist, for example, but a designer and pragmatist. For me, the motivation is simple: we don’t change, my son has little chance at a quality future, and perhaps none at all. A surprising number of environmentalists (anecdotal) ironically often see the environment as something “other” or to some degree separate. To my mind, a systems thinker will reject this way of thinking, speaking and acting and realize a washing machine is as much the “environment” as a pine tree. Some environmentalists also tend to think of the “environment” as this untouched, unspoiled place when in reality we have been terraforming the planet from the very beginning. The Amazon with all its hidden earthworks and villages that got swallowed by the jungle after most of the population (est. at up to 5.5 million pre-contact) died off after first contact with Europeans is an excellent example.
We have always and will always affect the environment, but how we do so is important.
It’s time to face the obvious: they have failed to make progress, and the evidence is that they will continue to fail.
I think you’ve got this wrong: they have made progress and made some difference. It seems you and others may not have, however. I reject the idea that because it wasn’t said how people want to hear it, it’s the speaker’s fault. The listener has a mind and a brain and should be held accountable for not using them. The facts are plainly before you and them. The question is, how did the rest of you *not* see the need for change?
Their fall-back position seems to be that, when we go over the cliff, they can say “see, we told you so” and be smug about their wisdom.
Oh, yes, extinction is something to be smug about.
That geo-engineering without any techno wizardry is simple, effective and cheap should not be lost on you. Blaming the “enviros” for you sitting on your rear is hardly fair.
To be a bit more technical, the common failure to integrate the whole system into solutioneering is a big problem. Failing to factor in unintended consequences is a big problem. Failing to account for economics is a big problem. Etc. And this is why your call for techno-based geo-engineering is a big problem.
I find myself thinking, what happens to life cycles, bio-rhythms, reproduction, etc., when you start cutting off access to light across large swaths of the planet to fix a problem with resource use and depletion? The more we learn about how connected the ecology is, the more we realize how little we know. Why play with that when you do not have to?
Is it not better to stop insulting the “enviros” for taking action, and blaming them for others’ inaction, and get moving yourself planting a garden and some trees? You know what a food forest is? A more complex orchard with guilded trees. But just a bunch of guilded trees will do. Anybody can do that, pretty much anywhere. Maybe $200, $500 if you go all out, or larger, for a 20-tree food forest and a fifty year food supply.
Or you can put a bunch of mirrors in space.
Up to you.
As for one basket, I think you are pulling that out of your rear. However, really, what other basket is there? At the end of the day, it does come down to that. It doesn’t matter what else you do, ultimately, if on-going exponential rises in consumption is the end goal. Ask Albert Bartlett.
But it’s not only FFs. And, the current systems in place are not designed to work with low energy intensity, so changes will have to come. Choosing to not collapse will involve whole-system change, like it or not. This should be self-evident. No?
194 Hank Roberts says: So let’s talk about the science.
I think the science was successfully covered with Limits to Growth. The update demonstrated clearly among their various scenarios, they’ve hit the nail fairly well on the head because they looked at the whole system. And that accuracy was without any global warming component. The update done back in ’04 or so is worth a read.
The problems with relying on the “science” is that the science is always behind the curve and doesn’t include various elements that are not considered to be scientifically rigorous, yet have been shown to be effective problem-solving. This is why, in fact, discussions of solutions have to be based in science, risk analysis, and areas of knowledge not yet given the resources to be studied to a degree that will make them scientifically robust. That is, we have to shift to policy-making. Personally, I think it is well past time for the scientific community to be fully engaged in this, and it is great to see many more scientists doing so.
It was interesting for me to read a recent story on how scientists are just now figuring out just how connected and integrated an environment the soil is because Bill Mollison wrote a book thirty years ago that talks about the soil exactly as this great new research does. You just have to shake your head…
Re the paper you linked to, what is interesting is what is *not* in it: permafrost, clathrates, reforestation, localization…
Such studies are not of much use in discussions of solutions.
” Both of you seem to favor geoengineering……All of these suffer from the same shortcoming–there is no viable plan translating the idea into effective remediation/solution…..In contrast, reducing CO2 emissions has an effect we can calculate with fairly high confidence.”
How you can construe my statement as ‘favoring’ geoengineering is beyond me. To me, geoengineering is a last resort. First on the priority list is severe fossil fuel reduction, second is severe carbon recovery, and third, if we are sufficiently far into the danger zone, some mild geoengineering may be required for the interim, to help tailor the temperature profile.
Then, you state there is no viable plan for translating the idea into effective remediation, and in the next breath talk about reducing CO2. Where is your plan for that? Any credible plan requires three legs: technical/scientific, economic, sociopolitical. No one questions the technical/scientific component. What is the plan for handling the economics? Kevin Anderson states the required CO2 reductions will require ‘planned austerity’; the numbers he gives for the more advanced nations, who for purposes of equity will have to do more than the global average in CO2 reduction, will result in ‘planned Depression’. Tim Garrett states ‘ climate catastrophe is unstoppable unless the economy collapses.’ How will your credible plan for reducing CO2 sell that outlook to the American public? If we have to go into recession or depression or economic collapse, many people will be thrown out of work. How will your credible plan sell that?
Again, the only approach that seems salable to the American public is an Apollo-type geoengineering project, for more or less the same reasons the original Apollo was salable. But, when I compare geoengineering to chemotherapy, don’t interpret that as my favoring it. And, I certainly agree with all the reasons you put forth in what’s wrong with geoengineering.
Progress is indeed being made in the US in reducing fosssil fuel use. Granted that no new legislation has been passed reducing greenhouse gases, but the EPA has the authority to reduce them. The EPA is currently setting up regulations to do so.
From the FCNL Washington Newsletter, November/December 2012: Legislation to Watch
Here are some of the bills we supported in the 112th Congress that provide models for what we are looking for in the 113th Congress.
… Save Our Climate Act. Introduced by Rep. Pete Stark (CA) as H.R. 3242 in the 112th Congress, this bill would impose a tax on primary fossil fuels based on their carbon content in an effort to reduce domestic carbon dioxide emissions. End Polluter Welfare Act. Under current budgets, oil, coal and gas industries will receive more than $113 billion in federal subsidies — a rate nearly six time greater than renewable energy sources. This legislation, introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (MN) as H.R. 5745 and Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) as S. 3080 in the 112th Congress, would end many loopholes and specific financing mechanisms that give fossil fuels and economic advantage over renewables.
Comment by David B. Benson — 22 Jan 2013 @ 5:44 PM
205 Superman1 says, “Then, you state there is no viable plan for translating the idea into effective remediation…”
Yeah, I meant to comment on that. Transitions Towns (TT) is an international effort at localization. They are doing pretty much exactly what every community needs to do. So, yeah, there is a plan. The problem is Ray isn’t involved in it. And likely very few others who post here.
My PermOccupy suggestion is based on the fact TT has no political or governance aspect. This limits its ability to spread and it’s impact outside of the direct work groups do in their specific towns. If you couple TT with a mass movement like Occupy…. Done. Completely freaks me out I have not had success getting this into the heads of either TT or Occupy.
But then, I thought my World Simulation idea pert near perfect, too, and that’s not gone anywhere, either.
Hank Roberts @210 — They state some extreme events indices are needed. I agree.
Comment by David B. Benson — 22 Jan 2013 @ 9:34 PM
Do any of the climate scientist here who can see easily behind this paywall have any comments about this paper:
Variability of the surface radiation budget over the United States from 1996 through 2011 from high-quality measurements
John A. Augustine*,
Ellsworth G. Dutton†
Article first published online: 16 JAN 2013
 Sixteen years of high-quality surface radiation budget (SRB) measurements over seven U.S. stations are summarized. The network average total surface net radiation increases by +8.2 Wm−2 per decade from 1996 to 2011. A significant upward trend in downwelling shortwave (SW-down) of +6.6 Wm−2 per decade dominates the total surface net radiation signal. This SW brightening is attributed to a decrease in cloud coverage, and aerosols have only a minor effect. Increasing downwelling longwave (LW-down) of +1.5 Wm−2 per decade and decreasing upwelling LW (LW-up) of −0.9 Wm−2 per decade produce a +2.3 Wm−2 per decade increase in surface net-LW, which dwarfs the expected contribution to LW-down from the 30 ppm increase of CO2 during the analysis period. The dramatic surface net radiation excess should have stimulated surface energy fluxes, but, oddly, the temperature trend is flat, and specific humidity decreases. The enigmatic nature of LW-down, temperature, and moisture may be a chaotic result of their large interannual variations. Interannual variation of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) ONI index is shown to be moderately correlated with temperature, moisture, and LW-down. Thus, circulations associated with ENSO events may be responsible for manipulating (e.g., by advection or convection) the excess surface energy available from the SRB increase. It is clear that continued monitoring is necessary to separate the SRB’s response to long-term climate processes from natural variability and that collocated surface energy flux measurements at the SRB stations would be beneficial.
155 S1 said, “Somehow, you’re not getting the message.”
Amazingly egotistical statement. Dude, we all get your message. You should be made world dictator. In that capacity you will decide which 20% of the population will survive and how much gruel they get to eat.
171 Killian O’B quoted and said, “In #139, I stated: ” Most of the proposals I’ve seen offered here for transitioning to a renewables-based economy don’t contain even one of these characteristics, much less all three.” Perhaps you have not read mine, or been exposed to permaculture design principles?”
Or mine. Or Secular’s. Or any of the many others, all of which are far more likely to succeed than S1’s. S1’s would result in worldwide famine. In a human famine, everything we care about loses first.
Killian: “Given renewables aren’t renewable,”
Eh, they depend on raw materials, of which there are finite amounts, but there’s no reason that I see that renewables can’t do whatever their raw materials allow for as long as the sun doesn’t eat us.
“The only good geo-engineering is natural geo-engineering and the only good carbon capture is natural carbon capture.”
Or, as Marie said, “Let them eat cake.”
” Because we don’t know where the tipping point is, the only sane response is to pull back ASAP”
Pure-T-crap. Because we don’t know where the tipping point is, the only sane response is to NOT kill off 1/4 (or 1/100000) of humanity by slamming on the brakes, but to brake as prudently as possible while clarifying the issue.
173 S1 said, “Right. Forget about climate science. Just keep adding and removing substances to the atmosphere and ocean without understanding the downstream consequences. That has certainly served us well.”
Actually, yes. Very little harm has resulted from our willy-nilly use of the atmosphere as a garbage dump. That we’ve probably reached our limit, well, you can’t say diddly about past results, eh?
“looking at the record of the past thirty years, we see people going 0.0% of where they need to be. What do you think the odds are of their doing a 180 degree turn-about,”
Pretty good bet. People are basically good, basically love their children, and basically want life to continue after they’re gone. The debate is winding down even as we lament. Just as in WW2, the Sleeping Giant is about to awake.
180 wili said, “Long-term, though, I still think economic growth will not be possible over decades with a rapid draw-down and eventual elimination of fossil fuel use ”
Robotics will change that. When 90% of everything everybody can do can be done cheaply by a self-replicating piece of machinery, economic growth becomes limited solely by raw material. And the Earth is big. When “labor” and energy are nearly free, digging deep for low grade ore is very profitable. But then, there’s only so many joules that can be spent on a human. We’re getting more about data and processing rates than energy.
191 T Marvel said, ” Given the long lag between CO2 increases and temperature increases,”
No, that’s much too tame. The problem is that CO2 emissions come with aerosols that mask temperature increases. Thus, by definition you’ve got a grand chunk of instant warming in store once you quit.
198 S1 said, ” I’m surprised this five year old paper even got five cittions.”
When making disparaging remarks, it is wise to not make spelling errors.
200 Dan H said, ” if climate skepticism is a conservative political trait, then I do not see the numbers shifting much over time.”
Good point. I think the answer is that climate beliefs are more fixed than political persuasion. A young liberal who believes in mainstream climate science may just age into a conservative who believes in mainstream climate science.
“Massive changes will only come from scientific research and observations.”
Yep. That’s why I put a 10 year limit on this debate. The question is whether we get way serious this year or in five years or in ten. Lamenting about anything beyond that is silly. Do the math. Ten years is 20 PPM, but no year is totally wasted – R&D always happens.
201 Steve Fish said, ” What you say here sounds like denial by delay.”
I disagree (I would, eh?). It is wise to plan with reality in mind. Wind is still a bit expensive and solar way too much so, but falling rapidly. Public opinion in the US is split and wishy-washy. The arctic ice is on a trajectory to zeroish in a few years. The economy is depressed and improving. In a few years folks should be feeling a bit flush. Temperatures are depressed. In a few years we should crank out a serious new record. Everything points to a new awakening.
All in all, I see 5-10 years being the end of this whole sorry chapter in Cigarette Climate Diplomacy. I also see it as fortuitously being the time when renewables actually make economic sense even when ignoring all environmental issues. It’s ever so much easier to convince a man when it’s beyond blatant that he’ll save money by being convinced.
You’re kidding, right? Do you really think the Transition Towns scheme as it is currently constituted is a viable plan? Jebus! We have Superman1 who thinks the whole thing can be solved by fiat and you who think a decentralized, obscure plan on a drawing board is the solution. No wonder we’re f***ed!
“155 S1 said, “Somehow, you’re not getting the message.”
Amazingly egotistical statement. Dude, we all get your message. You should be made world dictator. In that capacity you will decide which 20% of the population will survive and how much gruel they get to eat.”
If you’re going to quote my statements, at least do it responsibly. Here is the context:
“Somehow, you’re not getting the message. The first step in generating a proposal to solve a problem is to define the Requirements for solving the problem. I have no problems with the technologies being offered to transition to a renewables-based economy. I believe you when you state the possibilities of solar replacing fossil fuel, as you have done many times. But, one of the Requirements is that the critical constraint on temperature during the transition process not be exceeded, lest we enter the regime of ‘runaway’ temperature to a much hotter equilibrium. Until you can show that any of the proposed scenarios satisfy this constraint, how can any serious analysis be performed on the proposal? In a sense, I’m posing an unfair question. Until we have credible and validated climate prediction models that incorporate feedback mechanisms, positive and negative, you or any other proposer can’t say whether your proposal will violate or satisfy the critical temperature constraint. Climate science is central here, not just a peripheral item.”
What, pray tell, do you see in that statement that can in any way be construed as egotistical?
” We have Superman1 who thinks the whole thing can be solved by fiat”
Well, I’m open to alternatives. All you need to do is provide a Roadmap and a Strategic Plan with your specific proposal that conforms with the requirements of a three-legged stool: technical/scientific feasibility; economic viability; sociopolitical viability. And, in your demonstration of projected scientific feasibility, show (using a credible climate model including feedback mechanisms) how the temperature increase does not violate any ceilings that would lead to unwanted upward excursions. If all the above can be done democratically and voluntarily, I’m all for it.
Superman1 wrote: “What, pray tell, do you see in that statement that can in any way be construed as egotistical?”
The assertion that others must not be “getting the message” because they reject your “message” may be construed as “egotistical”. It says, in effect, “the only reason you could possibly disagree with me is because you are too stupid to understand me”.
I “get your message”, Superman1. I totally do.
I just think your “message” is based on unfounded assumptions and opinions rather than facts, that it makes no sense, that it offers nothing of value, and that it seems to arise from a grim determination to insist on the hopelessness and futility of any and all approaches to solving the problem, which leads to rejecting contrary facts out of hand, and to embracing whatever baseless assumptions or sophistry support your a priori gloom-and-doomism.
I just think your “message” is based on unfounded assumptions and opinions rather than facts, that it makes no sense, that it offers nothing of value, and that it seems to arise from a grim determination to insist on the hopelessness and futility of any and all approaches to solving the problem, which leads to rejecting contrary facts out of hand, and to embracing whatever baseless assumptions or sophistry support your a priori gloom-and-doomism.”
Your response convinces me that, in fact, you’re not getting the message. You have proposed numerous times that we can implement solar and other renewables rather inexpensively, in a moderate time period, and that will allow us to avoid the climate cliff. All I have asked is that you demonstrate that claim, which proposers for any project are required to do. Show me that the total scenario in which your proposal is imbedded will not lead us over the climate cliff. In your world, is asking for facts gloom-and-doom? I would think if your approach could truly be implemented without driving us over the climate cliff, you would be highly motivated to demonstrate that. The fact that you have repeatedly refused to show the scenario in which your approach is imbedded will not lead us over the climate cliff does make me very suspicious of your claims. But, prove me wrong; in this case, given what is at stake, I would be glad if you did.
About going over the cliff – I see a lot of squack here, but not a whole lot of disagreement.
Past trends are obvious. For a long time FF use has been increasing at the expodential rate, as evidence by the increase in CO2. It’s going down in the US, but that is counterbalanced by big increases in developing countries.
It would be nice to reduce FF, but given past trends, it seems like wishful thinking. Obama can make no appeciable difference because he lacks influence over Congress and other countries on the issue.
Geoengeering is iffy and risky. Its a bad option, but it might be the least-bad option.
New power sources need more attention. Historically, there have been radical changes in power sources – e.g., from animals/wind to combustion. They can be sudden, like from charcoal to coal when wood gave out.
I don’t know where a new energy source would come from, but the search should be ecletic. My own crazy idea is that we look into areas where nobody has looked because the math breaks down – e.g., singularities and simultaneity. There has been a lot of work trying to develop known ideas and technology, and it hasn’t produced much. Going outside the envelope probably won’t get us anywhere either, but it should be tried.
That paper is interesting but probably not very important. It’s spatially constricted to a small region (and not many stations) and a short time period with lots of variability. Also, the physical interpretation of the changed surface fluxes likely doesn’t have much to do with the enhanced greenhouse effect.
You say- “Show me that the total scenario in which your proposal is imbedded will not lead us over the climate cliff.”
This, along with many repetitions of unaccounted for positive feedbacks, is a repeated message of yours. Show the scientific evidence (peer reviewed and replicated) that supports a plausible cliff that is threatening by 2050 or 2100. You can’t claim there is no definitive evidence because something isn’t included in models. Most forcings are well known even if their exact physical interactions can’t yet be modeled. Clouds are an example of this.
Superman1 wrote: “You have proposed numerous times that we can implement solar and other renewables rather inexpensively, in a moderate time period, and that will allow us to avoid the climate cliff.”
We may have already gone over a “climate cliff” for all I know, and I’ve never said otherwise.
However, at least some mainstream climate scientists believe that it is still possible to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of global warming if we rapidly phase out greenhouse gas emissions.
For example, a recent study published in Nature Climate Change found that “the most stringent emissions policy considered here—which gives a 50% chance of remaining below a 2 °C temperature rise target—reduces impacts by 20–65% by 2100 relative to a ‘business-as-usual’ pathway which reaches 4 °C, and can delay impacts by several decades”.
That “stringent emissions policy” is one in which global GHG emissions peak in 2016 and then reduce at 5 percent per year through 2050.
What I have indeed argued is that such a “stringent” path can, in fact, be attained far faster and at much lower cost than most people imagine — and certainly with none of the “painful sacrifices” that you keep talking about — by rapid deployment, at all scales, of today’s powerful and mature solar and wind energy and efficiency technologies. We should, for example, be able to eliminate nearly all fossil fuel use for the generation of electricity MUCH sooner than 2050 — we could easily do it by 2025 if we choose to do so.
Thanks Chris @ 227. That was my guess…but not 1) seeing the original paper and 2) not being able to trace the background of prior studies and arguments, I was at a loss. As you’re probably aware, there’s a school of skeptics (and here I mean people who are arguing about ECS and not the basic notion of AGW) who still fall into the “anything new or unexplained at the moment” is proof that contention X of standard climate science is wrong. There doesn’t have to even be a direct connection…just more uncertainty monster drivel.
Kevin my hmmm was about the Captcha (cntsys correction) not the abstract.
Comment by David B. Benson — 23 Jan 2013 @ 7:21 PM
221 S1 asked, “What, pray tell, do you see in that statement that can in any way be construed as egotistical?”
The correct question is to ask yourself why several strangers felt the word was appropriate.
225 S1 said about SecularA, “You have proposed numerous times that we can implement solar and other renewables rather inexpensively, in a moderate time period, and that will allow us to avoid the climate cliff.”
Are you nuts? SecularA is famous for his One-Decade-To-Zero plan. The only faster way is to enact, well, I guess your Master Plan.
226 T Marvel said, “Geoengeering is iffy and risky. Its a bad option, but it might be the least-bad option”
Eh, they depend on raw materials, of which there are finite amounts, but there’s no reason that I see that renewables can’t do whatever their raw materials allow for as long as the sun doesn’t eat us.”
How do you resolve non-renewable with use them forever? Makes no sense. 1. Scale. Not enough of… pretty much anything.. to make energy for 9 billion people, all of them wanting to exist at US consumption levels, which would require 4 or 5 planets.
“Because we don’t know where the tipping point is, the only sane response is to pull back ASAP”
Pure-T-crap. Because we don’t know where the tipping point is, the only sane response is to NOT kill off 1/4 (or 1/100000) of humanity by slamming on the brakes, but to brake as prudently as possible while clarifying the issue.
First, you are either ignoring what else I’ve said on these topics or not noted it. Nowhere did I say do anything in such a way that millions or billions would die. You obviously did not read PermOccupy. I.e., your point is way off-base, thus moot.
Second, the general logic of your comment is backwards. If you pull back too slowly, everyone dies. Pull back too quickly, perhaps many die. The latter is preferable to the former, obviously. However, see #1.
Yep. That’s why I put a 10 year limit on this debate. The question is whether we get way serious this year or in five years or in ten. Lamenting about anything beyond that is silly. Do the math. Ten years is 20 PPM,
We agree on the gist of this statement, but I think your math is off. Current emissions are averaging more than 2ppm, and adding increasing emissions from fracking, Arctic degradation, and rising population makes it fairly certain it will be significantly above 2ppm/yr.
More importantly, if this debate is still going on in ten years, I see zero hope of any victory that would not be defined as Pyrrhic. Most people don’t seem to have noticed the Arctic Sea Ice extent started falling in @ 1953. CO2 was @ 310 – 315. Ocean lag means warming would mean CO2 would need to be even lower than that, likely 300 or less – the level above which the planet did not go till we overloaded the atmosphere. We are sixty years past the tipping point that set ASI melt in motion. How many bifurcations can we pass before we have passed too many?
The clathrate and permafrost melt is accelerating. Much of it is experiencing temperatures at or above freezing either directly or in the vicinity. Bottom waters in the Arctic Ocean have been measured at above freezing and permafrost in Siberia measured at or above freezing in places.
Also, this is a point I have made before, one of the reasons we so such rapid change is the interaction of already-degraded systems. We don’t just have warming and higher CO2, we have dead zones due to runoff, which make oceans more vulnerable to rapid changes. We have deforestation so less CO2 is sequestered, and more runoff, etc. We have urban heat islands, and FF-based farming that has, and continues to, move carbon from the soil to the air, waterways and oceans. Every ecosystem on the planet is being changed and generally made less functional. Bark beetles destroying forests, and all the attended feedbacks.
I fully expect the next ten years to see a large, measurable spike in methane emissions, the end of the ASI in August/Sept. Did a recent estimate not find that the extra energy into the Arctic Ocean over the last 20 years might equal the effect of FF emissions over the same time period? If accurate, we are grossly underestimating the Earth System Sensitivity, aren’t we?
Besides, it’s the food supply, Stupid. I realized 1.5 to 2 years ago that the weather extremes made food production the primary first major disruption from climate change. I think it will outstrip the direct effects of extreme weather in very short order.
Last Spring we saw a very warm May followed by a normal April. The warming followed by cold killed of large percentages of various flowering/fruit crops in the Midwest and Northeast. In areas of Michigan, 95% of the grape crop was lost, e.g. I know I lost most of the fruits on my own trees in Detroit.
You’re kidding, right? Do you really think the Transition Towns scheme as it is currently constituted is a viable plan? Jebus! We have Superman1 who thinks the whole thing can be solved by fiat and you who think a decentralized, obscure plan on a drawing board is the solution. No wonder we’re f***ed!
Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Jan 2013 @ 9:13 AM
First, TT is not “on a drawing board.” Second, don’t recall saying, “as constituted,” and actually very clearly stated it could be coupled with something like Occupy. Does that not inherently require changes to TT?
And, yes, sustainability is mostly local, pretty much by definition. Given how argumentative you are being, and your obvious lack of interest in reading what ideas I have offered, it isn’t worth going into this with you. Let me point out simply: massively reduced carbon consumption is non-negotiable. Ergo, localization is non-negotiable. Ergo, sustainability is mostly local.
And, I agree with Einstein’s observation you cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it. Ergo, the current socio-economic-political structures cannot create a sustainable society.
Further, I also agree with Buckminster Fuller’s observation that you do not defeat an old paradigm by fighting it head on, you build a better one and watch the old one wither away. It seems you are trusting of the current paradigm being capable of fixing things; I am certain it cannot.
Also, regarding “renwables” as currently designed, no, the resources for them to be used for 2 – 3 billion years do not exist. A society existing almost exclusively on truly renewable resources (which wind generators can be made out of) and very, very carefully using non-renewable resources can do quite well and for quite a long time. I could even see getting to the point we can mine the moon or asteroids for non-renewables and extend things pretty indefinitely, but it is poor planning to rely on, “What if.”
What we can do is live in a sort of Hobbiton-with-a-Hi-Tech-Backbone motif where very little is used for daily life and non-renewables are husbanded for things such as communication, transportation, medical care and R&D.
1)CH4 destabilization > clathrate gun didnt go off in the Eemian so why now?
1. Measurements from various scientific papers indicate an age for the CH4 at @ the 30 – 40k ya range. Do the math: it wasn’t there in the Eemian, but was laid down after during the intervening cooling.
2. Do we know that ocean temps and geography were similar enough to today to have encouraged such degradation? Didn’t the paper just out say the Eemian peak melting on Greenland’s ice cap span only about 2k years? Were there deposits in the Arctic to go “clathrate boom?”
3. Have emissions during the Eemian been quantified?
4. Eemian warming occurred over much longer times frames, thousasnds vs. 100’s of years. If I’m not mistaken, clathrate sensitivity is partially down to speed of change.
5. Mostly #1.
2)ice sheet disintegration in 100 yr
I’ve never been able to find it again, but I read an article/paper on a European ice sheet, perhaps from British isles up into Scandinavia?, that showed evidence of significant (not complete as you implied) destabilization in the 100-200 yr time frame. Other analyses since that time have also found sub-millennial time scales very possible for significant degradation.
And do note I did say not say full disintegration – that was your take, not mine – but significant disintegration. A meter is significant. Two is extremely significant.
Interestingly, It’s hard to find an estimate for SLR by 2100 that is under 1M now. I said in 2007 it would be *at least* one meter, and most likely over 1.5 and likely as much as 3M.
Things that make you go, “Hmmmm…” Just a good guess? Enquiring minds want to know!
At this point, yes, I expect more like at least 2M as Greenland and West Antarctica both start to tumble/melt into the sea. Rapid decarbonization might reduce those numbers, but the literature would seem to suggest 1M is a done deal.
“More importantly, if this debate is still going on in ten years, I see zero hope of any victory that would not be defined as Pyrrhic. Most people don’t seem to have noticed the Arctic Sea Ice extent started falling in @ 1953. CO2 was @ 310 – 315. Ocean lag means warming would mean CO2 would need to be even lower than that, likely 300 or less – the level above which the planet did not go till we overloaded the atmosphere. We are sixty years past the tipping point that set ASI melt in motion. How many bifurcations can we pass before we have passed too many?…..I fully expect the next ten years to see a large, measurable spike in methane emissions, the end of the ASI in August/Sept. Did a recent estimate not find that the extra energy into the Arctic Ocean over the last 20 years might equal the effect of FF emissions over the same time period? If accurate, we are grossly underestimating the Earth System Sensitivity, aren’t we?…..If we are still having this debate vs. measurable change in ten years, I see zero hope of it happening in a time frame that can leave us with meaningful control over our fate.”
You make some excellent points. Unfortunately, I see no reason why we will not be having this debate in ten years or twenty years. For serious change to happen in this politically sensitive area, there needs to be a large, highly motivated, and well-organized constituency willing to do whatever is necessary to insure we have a chance for civilization to survive. I do not see any constituency with those characteristics on the horizon today. Even on RC, there’s little agreement on end point or approach or level of sacrifice required; in the general population, forget it! The only projection that I suspect will come true is BP’s Energy Outlook 2030, published a year ago (http://www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/globalbp/STAGING/global_assets/downloads/O/2012_2030_energy_outlook_booklet.pdf). On p.10, they lay it all out: in 2010, the combined oil/gas/coal consumption is about ten billion toe; in 2030, the projected combined oil/gas/coal consumption is about thirteen billion toe, an increase of about thirty percent. If we have not gone over the cliff yet, and the points you raise above show we are treading on extremely dangerous ground now, in twenty years of increasing CO2 emissions we will be spending our time as a civilization fighting one ‘extreme’ event after another.
First, you are not going to be able to support a global population of 10 billion people with purely “local” solutions–particularly in a world with climate rendered unpredictable by anthropogenic warming. Yes, local solutions are essential–in fact the only path forward in the absence of a natinal and international will to face reality. They are not, however, in themselves a solution. The problems are global warming, global overpopulation, global environmental degradation and global resource depletion. Methinks global coordination will be required.
A few years ago , a chap commenting here at RC did not believe in Full moon Arctic sea ice tidal events, Alistair thought it was right and observed it on local UK rivers by another means of confirming its existence. There was more than one chap who couldn’t not fathom such an event, so I am quite fortunate to show the latest full moon lead formations a few hours fresh, especially to all who don’t believe in a true physics folklore about the full moon not quite fiction like werewolves or other superstitions. http://eh2r.blogspot.ca/
‘Prof Davies said: “It is clear that we might not ever see global warming, the apocalyptic scenario is that when I need a new hip in 20 years I’ll die from a routine infection because we’ve run out of antibiotics.”‘
Is Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, a political hack or just grossly ignorant? Or, possibly misquoted? Anyone?
Sally Davies is one of the most respected medical professionals in the U.K. and around the world. She is neither a political hack nor grossly ignorant. The quote is accurate. She is trying to highlight a potential serious condition (drug-resistant bacteria), that could have world-wide ramifications. The development of anti-biotics tranformed medicine in the 20th century. Without them, the world would face a much more serious threat than could ever be imagine from global warming. She is just putting this in perspective.
#242–I’m guessing a misquote, since her purpose in invoking global warming at all is apparently to emphasize the serious nature of the problem of anitbiotic resistance, and it doesn’t make good rhetorical sense to do so and then minimize the comparator. But people do misspeak sometimes (as I can testify from the first person perspective.)
The BBC report begins “The rise in drug resistant infections is comparable to the threat of global warming, according to the chief medical officer for England.” One sentence is quoted from the interview.
I read it as
“we [alive today] might not ever see global warming”
“the apocalyptic scenario [for us now living] … in 20 years I’ll die from a routine infection because we’ve run out of antibiotics.”
That’s realistic. The rate of change is far higher for microbes.
“We” won’t see much climate change — everyone now alive will have died a century from now. When it’s starting to get serious, others will blame us.
We are seeing serious, rapidly increasing antibiotic resistance in our time. We can blame our parents’ and grandparents’ generation — the warnings were even then as clear and the evidence as apparent.
“”There is a broken market model ….”
There’s no way yet found to make a financial killing in the public health marketplace — all that investors can accomplish is making _everyone_ healthier, as a population. And where’s the profit in that?
Hank Roberts wrote: “… ‘We’ won’t see much climate change …”
Um, “we” are seeing plenty of climate change already.
I certainly expect that food shortages caused by global warming will be every bit as much a “serious, rapidly increasing” problem as antibiotic resistance in my lifetime (which is to say, another decade or two if I live the current average lifespan of an American male).
Yup. I don’t expect to see the warming signal emerge from the weather _in_my_personal_experience_ — I know it’s happening because I read, not because I’ve had first hand experience attributable solely to climate change. That will emerge — and I only know even about natural variability of the weather by reading, after all. One life’s too short to experience a climate trend and know for sure. It’s coming hereabouts for the grandchildren. It’s already happening for those living near the Arctic, so I read.
Anyone who cares to read about this stuff knows about it — long before it’s going to be apparent to the average reader — but we see far more by reading and watching video than by looking in our own back yard over the years.
We’re several generations into overusing antibiotics (mostly on agriculture). That problem’s emerged from the range of natural variability — and it’s going to be part of most people’s individual experience if it hasn’t already cropped up for someone they know.
Re: 240 Ray Ladbury said, you are not going to be able to support a global population of 10 billion people with purely “local” solutions
Good thing I have never ever said solutions are only/solely/can only be local with no global coordination.
And, yes, local solutions are the ONLY solutions, but, of course, the design principles must be applied globally. Think in terms of nested systems.
242 S. Molnar says: From the BBC:
‘Prof Davies said: “It is clear that we might not ever see global warming, the apocalyptic scenario is that when I need a new hip in 20 years I’ll die from a routine infection because we’ve run out of antibiotics.”‘
Is Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, a political hack or just grossly ignorant? Or, possibly misquoted? Anyone?
Sounds to me like she is saying destabilization may well lead to other things knocking us off before climate does, per se. Plausible.
246 SecularAnimist says: I certainly expect that food shortages caused by global warming will be every bit as much a “serious, rapidly increasing” problem as antibiotic resistance in my lifetime (which is to say, another decade or two if I live the current average lifespan of an American male)
Dan H wrote: “The development of anti-biotics tranformed medicine in the 20th century. Without them, the world would face a much more serious threat than could ever be imagine from global warming.”
Nonsense. Antibiotic resistance won’t cause several billion people to die from starvation and lack of drinking water. And it certainly won’t cause the mass extinction of most life on Earth. Global warming could easily cause both of those outcomes.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 25 Jan 2013 @ 11:19 AM
Yes, the food price spikes were caused by the oil price hikes, not by food shortages. That is seperate from Secular’s contention that food shortages will be caused by global warming. Global food production has increased several fold over the past 40 years, during a period of rising temperatures.
Killian, my apple and pear trees suffered the same fate last year, due to the early warmth and late freeze (also in Michigan). This comes a year after a bumper crop. However, this one year does not necessarily constitute a trend.
There have been three international food price spikes in the last five years. Weather has been among the drivers of each. Droughts in some part of the world have impaired global grain production virtually every other year since 2007. Elsewhere, major floods have also caused severe damage to crops …
Until we find the way to shock-proof and climate-proof our food system, the danger will remain …
We are vulnerable because even in a good year, global grain production is barely sufficient to meet growing demands for food, feed and fuel – this, in a world where there are 80 million extra mouths to be fed every year.
I think your response more adaptly describes your own position. Neither event would cause mass starvation or lack of drinking water. Politics might, however.
If the worst forecast of global warming come to pass, it would result in much hardship, but not mass extinction. Widespread disease would not either, but its effects could be much more widely felt. Look back to the flu epidemic of 1918. This pandemic killed more people in a few months (est. 50 million), than any other disease in history. Compare than to today’s biggest killer – malaria, which cause ~1 million deaths annualy.
PS, I do wonder, that Nature link is to a 1988 Letter:
Nature 332, 63 – 65 (03 March 1988); doi:10.1038/332063a0
Mass extinctions, atmospheric sulphur and climatic warming at the K/T boundary
Michael R. Rampino & Tyler Volk
no citing papers subsequently. Have climate models reached the point yet of dealing with phytoplankton population changes?
“… marine primary productivity as a whole was drastically reduced …. The elimination of most marine calcareous phytoplankton would have meant a severe decrease in DMS production, leading to a drastic reduction in CCN and hence marine cloud albedo. Here we examine the possible climatic effects of a drastic decrease in CCN associated with a severe reduction in the global marine phytoplankton abundance. Calculations suggest that a reduction in CCN of more than 80%, and the resulting decrease in marine cloud albedo, could have produced a rapid global warming of 6°C or more.”
“… We focus on one important functional group—photoautotrophic microbes (phytoplankton), which are responsible for ∼50% of global primary productivity. Global climate change currently results in the simultaneous change of several conditions such as warming, acidification, and nutrient supply. It thus has the potential to dramatically change phytoplankton physiology, community composition, and may result in adaptive evolution. Although their large population sizes, standing genetic variation, and rapid turnover time should promote swift evolutionary change, oceanographers have focussed on describing patterns of present day physiological differentiation rather than measure potential adaptation in evolution experiments, the only direct way to address whether and at which rate phytoplankton species will adapt to environmental change….”
I don´t know whether these points falls under the “No comments” embargo on AR5, and I absolutely don´t buy the “no warming since 1997/2002/last summer” rhetoric, but does the relatively low warming in the latest +/- 15 years not warrant a commentary here? Eg. when the multimodel mean trend appears to be quite a bit higher than the actual trends:
Does this have any implication for the long-term sensitivity (even allowing for a substantial ocean lag)?
[Response: The reason for the no-comment on the draft is that the final version (after much reviewing) will be different. Concluding anything based on the SOD is premature. I will have an update to model/obs comparisons up soon, and we can discuss then. – gavin]
Comment by Marcus Grünewald — 25 Jan 2013 @ 6:35 PM
Dan H. said Yes, the food price spikes were caused by the oil price hikes, not by food shortages.
Yeah… and no. It has, in fact, been both, and most recently due to weather. The Russian heat wave caused them to stop exporting. Flooding/severe weather has caused a few countries Asian nations to stop exports at various times. In the US, the current drought is driving up prices, particularly for people in 3rd World countries due to federally mandated ethanol production. Price rises cause shortages even when total stocks are sufficient, no? Local and regional shortages create physical shortages.
That is seperate from Secular’s contention that food shortages will be caused by global warming.
Did SA say that? If so, I am of the same opinion. Thought I’d posted on that here…
Ray Ladbury said I disagree that the only solutions are local. The entire problem of energy infrastructure is one that absolutely must be solved, and the solution cannot be local.
Nitpicky. Logic should lead you to understand my intent, but shame on me for being lazy and not saying, as I more typically do, “sustainability is *ultimately* local.”
What’s not sustainable are energy systems that use massive amounts of resources to generate and move energy, at losses of up to 75% or more of original production, over long distances. Now, if one builds an extremely efficient house (Strawbale, PassivHaus, e.g.) does not one end up far ahead? Until I can sit you down and walk your through the principles of sustainable design, you are never going to agree to anything I say. You want to discuss parts, but these problems are systemic and you apparently have pretty much zero knowledge of the design principles I’m always referencing.
Consider for instance the situation we are in now with transport–whatever happens, be it electric cars or fuel cells, the solution has to extend across borders–indeed, across oceans.
But that is irrelevant if local sustainability does not exist. Also, I’ve stated elsewhere medicine, knowledge and communication and minimal transportation probably need to remain global.
A smart grid is essential to capitalizing on renewables, but a smart grid cannot be local.
Yeah…. maybe. Not convinced a smart grid is required to support a consumption level that is 10% of today’s. And, with local production, any extra-regional grid would be minimal. Also, don’t know the components of the machines that make up the smart grid, but I’d bet at least some of them are unsustainable, which would meant a smart grid is unsustainable. Pony Express and telegraph (half of which was powered by ground batteries!), anyone?
And as I have pointed out–trying to support 10 billion people as locivores is a recipe for starving half of them.
Only if one contends people with legs, feet, wheels and boats are immobile, and if you don’t know how to grow food intelligently.
@ 234 Thanks, Hank, for the cartoon. I laughed so hard I decided to call geo-engineering: GeeE. It’s part of the problem. Lasting solutions require designing-in prevention at the beginning, rather than tacking on something at the end. It’s a matter of mental slots: remove it from the ‘mitigation’ slot and revision it as low- lower- and lowest- carbon design. That’s the only geo-engineering worthy of the name. The mental inertia shown in the cartoon is an ironic image of cultural inertia. Antibiotic resistant microbes are a good example of what such inertia produces. Even when their use is scientifically invalid and suboptimal they are used anyway, just for the sense of satisfaction about doing something. The next industrial revolution requires a fundamental recognition of mutualism. The only final (globally optimal) answer for unfriendly micro-organisms is friendly ones. The vast majority are friendly. Value friendly microbes. Don’t dignify GeeE as engineering.
You expand your principle of “sustainability is *ultimately* local.” suggesting this is due to transmission losses.
So if (as some are attempting to realise) solar PV power from the Sahara can be transmitted to Europe, you would brand it “unsustainable” because it has high transmission losses.
Why is that? Even if the transmission losses are great, they may not be prohibitive because of the vast availability of solar PV power in the Sahara.
Does your principle of “sustainability is *ultimately* local.” also applied to the transport/transmission of other things? Or is it just energy?
Regarding the discussion of “local sustainability”:
One of the leading organizations that studies and promotes local sustainability as the basis for, and a path to, attaining sustainability for the overall human enterprise, is the Institute For Local Self-Reliance.
Note the use of the term “self-RELIANCE” — not “self-SUFFICIENCY“.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “A smart grid is essential to capitalizing on renewables, but a smart grid cannot be local.”
With all due respect, of course a smart grid can be local. And so can renewable energy.
There’s no reason that a local, municipal utility, for example, might not put up enough solar panels and wind turbines to generate as much electricity as an entire town or county uses, along with a local smart grid to connect those resources to the local consumers (who might themselves have rooftop PV).
Add some storage capacity to that, either at the municipal generating sites or distributed at the end-user sites, and you’ve got a highly self-reliant local power grid. Which of course can be connected to the wider, regional grid, from which it can purchase electricity when necessary.
Also, I’d point out that much of the ongoing R&D for smart grids is, in fact, focused on local grids, and even “microgrids” — in particular, the US military is putting a lot of resources into creating smart microgrids to provide self-reliant power from “renewable distributed energy generation” (RDEG) for both US and overseas bases.
I would add that imagining there is a dichotomy between “local” on the one hand, and “large-scale centralized” on the other, is not necessarily helpful. A key word here is “distributed”. The essence of a “smart grid”, in fact, is that both generating capacity and the “smarts” to manage electricity generation, consumption and distribution is highly distributed, so that both centralized and local components of a large-scale grid can interact optimally.
265 MARodger says: Killian @261 You expand your principle of “sustainability is *ultimately* local.” suggesting this is due to transmission losses.
No. Losses in and of themselves may or may not tip one into a negative return (we get closer to this every day with fossil fuels; net energy per capita is on a long-term downward trend. Tar Sands/Oil Shale, etc., have very low EROEI.) It’s more the resources needed to build and maintain the grids. Losses are part of the equation, not the whole equation. Solar energy is theoretically limitless in relation to human needs, after all.
(Important to keep in mind when discussing resources that replacement rate of fully renewable resources is as important as limits to non-renewable resources. Consumption is consumption. See Oglala aquifer. This is why even in a society that is otherwise solely built on totally renewable resources, population matters. At the end of the day, sustainability is about population. Nothing is sustainable beyond a given rate of consumption.)
So if (as some are attempting to realise) solar PV power from the Sahara can be transmitted to Europe, you would brand it “unsustainable” because it has high transmission losses.
See above. I’m not inherently against anything with the exception of nuclear (and non-mass transit; should be obvious to any and all that we can’t have cars much longer, and certainly not for 9 billion people), and that because it doesn’t meet the criteria of principles of sustainable design. A thing, process or system is either sustainable or is not, but the accounting has to be done, and it has to be endlessly reproducible. Is solar? I doubt it as currently produced, but I suspect there is a low-tech way to make solar cells that can support an extremely low-energy society.
A simple test for sustainability is to do this simple thought experiment: Can it last as long as humans might? Can it be scaled to the size of our eventual minimum population of 9 billion? If either answer is no, it doesn’t work. You can choose to assume we will eventually find gentle ways to reduce population massively, thus reducing the demand in the second criteria, but the first is non-negotiable at any scale.
Does your principle of “sustainability is *ultimately* local.” also applied to the transport/transmission of other things? Or is it just energy?
Everything. Logically impossible for it to be otherwise. However, we may choose to do things not strictly necessary, such as continue to share info and coordinate sustainable practices via an internet, transport goods and people extra-regionally, but it’s not necessary once sustainability is a fully assimilated way of life, much like some indigenous societies.
(BTW, not my principle. One can only design sustainably if one allows the location to guide design. When we impose ideas on a site based on want, we fail to acknowledge what can be supported vs. what we wish to have supported. Ex. It is possible to live in deserts. It is not possible to sustainably live in locations such as Las Vegas and Pheonix with the infrastructure and populations they now have. Those cities will be much, much smaller some day, just as happened with the Anasazi collapsing back into the Pueblo system.)
“According to EIA data, national, annual electricity transmission and distribution losses average about 7% of the electricity that is transmitted in the United States.”
Seems like an order of magnitude slip.
Open to correction. I didn’t question the source of the info. Also don’t trust EIA data, though. That number seems very low, regardless. Perhaps there’s an engineer who’d know lurking about? I should say, also, I think of this from source to light switch. How much would that change the EIA numbers, I wonder? Energy accounting also has to include embedded energy. D owe get 93% of the energy of the water falling at Hoover to the final destination? Or even 93% of the energy we get out of the generators less embedded energy for construction, maintenance, repair, upgrade, management and use?
BTW, haven’t located that source for the age of methane yet. Seems it was from one of the well-known Arctic scientists.
As near as I can tell, the meaning is the same, unless that is, the word “ultimately” is introduced as a modifier meaning “I really have no idea what I am saying, so I’ll insert a modifier so I can move the goalposts and never get pinned down.”
A word of writing advice from Mark Twain, Killian: “If you see an adjective, kill it.”
Perhaps you would like to tell us how the UK will develop a purely local energy infrastructure, by, say 2030?
Your long response makes matters less clear rather than more clear. Assuming such a transformation is not sustainable, I will attempt to get to the bottom of your arguments with further questions to you.
You appear to be saying that society’s use of transportation and its transmissions are not in themselves unsustainable but do impact on sustainability. Okay. But then you also say that the transmission of data and the transport of goods & people extra-regionally (whatever that may mean) is “not necessary once sustainability is a fully assimilated way of life.” Could you explain the implied incongruity?
And you certainly paint a very restrictive picture for sustainability. Have I got this right? If the whole world (every man, woman and child now and in the future for ever) cannot be provisioned with a wonderful turbo-widget designed and created using present day technology, I should not be contemplating acquiring such a device because it would be unsustainable.
Does such a diktat still hold if I forgo my future second-helpings of pudding and chopped extra firewood?
The 7% number is correct for the North American grids. The data are excellent, and the calculations straightforward, though complex. Real money depends on this. Try selling power made in Quebec off James Bay down in Philly thru the PJM. Or worse yet, across a grid boundary. You will get up close and personal with a concept known as “wheeling loss.” And of course, the FERC/NERC regulations and such.
In places like, say, South Asia, where power theft is rampant, the figures are much worse. It might make actual sense to put in solar panels in villages. And guess what, it’s happening…some call it tech leapfrog…
Hmm. If I’m reading this right, Killian is probably thinking about corn ethanol.
Honestly, I was thinking primarily of electricity with the original, but I alwats think in terms of deep sustainability. WRT corn ethanol, there are some who account it as being no energy gain at all, and likely an energy loss. The socio-economic losses alone make it a very bad idea. Whole system.
Overall, life cycle accounting is a must, so all efficiencies are much lower than virtually all typical economics accounts them.
Your rudeness and knee-jerk dismissal of things you do not understand is not impressive. If you aren’t going to make an effort, your comments aren’t worth the time. This is your last response from me to a rude comment you make. Capiche? Next time, please be patient and wait for those asking pertinent, engaged questions to answer if they see the need if you have no more intent than to insult.
All of this is directly connected to environmental issues – very glad to see more leeway with these conversations on this site – and deserve better.
I don’t know how to help you with not understanding a modifier or context. I said, quite clearly, without local systems being sustainable, having larger systems be sustainable is moot. While we do not *need* any global systems to achieve global sustainability, we do need *all* local systems globally to be sustainable. Clear enough for you, no?
275 MARodger says: Killian @271.
Your long response makes matters less clear rather than more clear.
Well, I thought it was clear!
Assuming such a transformation is not sustainable
Why can’t we get to sustainable?
You appear to be saying that society’s use of transportation and its transmissions are not in themselves unsustainable but do impact on sustainability.
Did not say that. I actually answered that everything must be sustainable. However, some of the nested systems of global sustainability are very long loops and the sustainability may not be obvious if the accounting is not appropriate to the particular subsystem in question. Ultimately, all loops must be closed and/or regenerative, by definition.
You have to note the use of modals and adjectives. I don’t know if we can make long-distance transport sustainable as currently engineered, but I doubt it. I am certain we can’t make cars sustainable unless we start making them out of hemp or something silly like that. Rubber band motors? ;-) No problem to go back to modernized sail, e.g. (already being added to tankers to improve efficiency.)
But then you also say that the transmission of data and the transport of goods & people extra-regionally (whatever that may mean)…
“Extra-regional” is better stated as “inter-bio-regional.”
is “not necessary once sustainability is a fully assimilated way of life.” Could you explain the implied incongruity?
I’ve clarified above, but for sustainability to be achieved, a system cannot exceed use of resources available to that system. For example, we know sailing ships can be sustainable. (We can grow trees after all. I’m not suggesting that is the only way to make ocean freight sustainable, it’s just a fer instance…) So if there were a locally sustainable tech or hi-tech doodad, part, whatever, then it could be transported globally, right? Or, perhaps some form of sustainable hi-tech transport can be come up with (doubt it, but that’s what R&D is for. Regardless, global transport will be greatly reduced both due to lack of need for it and inability to support resource-intensive systems.)
And you certainly paint a very restrictive picture for sustainability.
It’s not restrictive, it’s simplified and more rewarding. Study after study has shown simpler societies are more content. Think more in terms of stuff and distractions becoming activity and interactions. Sustainable governance and organization is quite time-consuming. Aboriginal cultures, pretty much the only sustainable societies, spend huge amounts of time sitting and talking through problem-solving.
Have I got this right? If the whole world (every man, woman and child now and in the future for ever) cannot be provisioned with a wonderful turbo-widget designed and created using present day technology, I should not be contemplating acquiring such a device because it would be unsustainable.
I don’t see where that conclusion comes from. Is the turbo-widget sustainable? Will R&D all come to an end? What is true, is that you don’t count unhatched chickens. You design for what *is* sustainable and adjust in the future if and when new knowledge comes to be. Designing now, for example, as if fusion will be a reality in twenty years is likely suicidal. Design for what we can do now and you leave yourself the possibility of a future innovation.
Does such a diktat still hold if I forgo my future second-helpings of pudding and chopped extra firewood?
Why can’t you have pudding and firewood? What is true is that you can only have “extra” firewood if you can grow the replacement wood at a rate that does not deplete the forest.
The key here is to not assume anything is or isn’t unsustainable without looking at the resource base vs. use. Some things are obvious, though. We can on;y grow so many rubber plants for tires, make so much copper, steel, aluminum, plastic, etc., so cars are unsustainable both in terms of finite resources and finite rates of consumption of some sustainable resources, right? Cars are toast. Trolleys? Now that we can probably figure out how to do sustainably.
Some things we have to get better at using. Many people still do not know phosphorus supplies will last a century or less, e.g. If farming/gardening does not move to regenerative practices we are looking at a mass die-off no matter what else happens. All else could be perfect, but that one resource limit would lead to a collapsed society. (Thankfully, regenerative food production is simple.) This is an example of Maunder’s Law of the Minimum. In lay terms, it’s as simple as the weakest link or last straw. You don’t need every resource to be limited, just one that is irreplaceable. This is part of the reason we have to get used to think of the entire system and every resource and element in the system.
I realize not all of this is obvious to everyone. How many people posting here know the list of principles of sustainable design off the top of their head, e.g.? I hope this helps clarify what I have said.
Hank, well-read on overshoot. Have cited Catton, LtoG, Tainter (whom I have spoken to personally) and Diamond many times here and elsewhere. Have cited permaculture and sources thereof numerous times. Have referenced Jevons, Maunder, theoildrum.com, Gleick on Chaos, multiple climate scientists and their works, and on and on. I lost all my bookmarks the last January with a computer crash, so very hard to rebuild that database and thus reference stuff I’ve been reading for over seven years.
It is important to note this all really is exceedingly simple. Seems counter-intuitive unless you take Diamond (crucial to understanding simplification as a choice) and Tainter (crucial to understanding diminishing returns to complexity, thus the need for simplification to successfully transition from overshoot) seriously, which I do. Their work fits perfectly with what we know of resources and designing sustainable systems.
I have at various times mentioned not only the extent of resources, their sustainability and their rates of use, but also their fungibility. Nothing, e.g., can actually replace crude oil. Nothing. There is nothing that even comes close to matching it in terms of its combination of energy content and fungibility. Most discussions of petroleum resources are framed in barrels of oil and barrels of other stuff. It is rarely discussed in terms of energy equivalents. 100 barrels of oil is far more energy than 100 barrels of LPG or coal-to-liquids. Them even if you equate them energetically, they still cannot be used for all the same processes and materials that oil can. They are even less often discussed in terms of Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) or Net Energy. Total net energy is well below a 10:1 (oil) return. Oil was at 100:1 at the beginning of the previous of the century.
If you hold on to neoclassical economics, all of this will seem hair-brained to you, which is why I also refer to Steve Keen and Herman Daly. But so long as one refuses to, or is unable to, at least suspend disbelief long enough to look at these ideas and concepts objectively, them making sense to such persons is very, very unlikely because neoclassical economics is irrational.
If you think I am missing something, state it explicitly. Your implication is clear as mud. Direct is good.
A list of things one might read (Not necessarily in order, though if you must choose one, find a way to get educated about the ethics and principles of permaculture even if you don’t study any methodology or techniques):
1. Permaculture: A Designers Manual. (Sustainable Design)
2. Other permaculture books.
3. Everything and anything on soil biology
4. Rodale’s thirty year study on farming methods (regenerative farming comparison w/ “Green Revolution” methods; carbon sequestration. http://rodaleinstitute.org/our-work/farming-systems-trial/farming-systems-trial-30-year-report/ )
5. Mollison’s Global Gardener series. (Broad perspective on/intro to possibilities for sustainable food production over the four major climate types)
6. Jeff LAwton’s Intro to Permaculture video.
7. Brad Lancaster’s books on water.
8. Edible Forest Gardens, Jacke and Toensmeier
9. Collapse, Catton.
10. Limits to Growth – Update.
11. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Diamond (collapse as choice)
12. The Collapse of Complex Societies, Tainter (diminishing returns on comlexity)
13. Chaos: the Making of a New Science, Gleick (nature of tipping points, cascading failures, unpredictable sequences, resiliency )
14. Non-linear systems theory (tipping points, cascading failures, resiliency)
15. Herman Daly (steady state economics)
16. Steve Keen (steady state economics)
17. C.A.S.S.E. (steady state economics)
18. http://www.theoildrum.com – energy (really important to understand energy issues)
19. Any climate science that interests you.
20. Maunder’s Law of the Minimum
21. Jevons’ Paradox
22. Anything on aboriginal societies WRT being sustainable and (egalitarian) decision-making. (This essay and most of the essays in this series is an excellent CliffsNotes-type shortcut)
23. BBC’s Lost Pyramids of Caral (Evidence original (@4,500 ybp) large-scale/urban civilizations were more likely peaceful than war-like, indicating we can choose large-scale cooperation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMacuGusmeg )
24. Prof. Albert Bartlett on exponential growth. (YouTube)
25. BBC Secrets of our Living Planet (3of4): The Magical Forest (Complexity and fragility of ecosystems)
26. Forms of egalitarian decision-making.
27. Risk assessment methodologies.
28. Shameless self-promotion: PermOccupy. (Rough sketch of pathway to sustainability https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YicmOh9NKXs73jE3hqWYJISNXXDOYQe1p8KPYpBzDZM/edit?pli=1 )
29. Localization of production/consumption (local energy, re-skilling, mass transit, time banks, tool banks, co-ops, local currencies, CSA’s, experiential education)
31. Massively distributed energy production (more self-promotion via old, very, very rough sketch of such: http://aperfectstormcometh.blogspot.com/2008/03/build-out-grid-vs-household-towards.html )
32. Renewable Energy – Without the Hot Air, David MacKay
33. VERY basic thermodynamics, unless a physicist or something.
34. “You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” R. Buckminster Fuller
35. “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein
Whew! Yes, many links long gone via that crash. Sorry.
Thank you for annotating my comment @275 so copiously.
As communication is by its very nature a two-way street, perhaps I should cliarify my use of pudding and chopped firewood @275.
What I was presenting with the pudding was an example of ‘choice’.
I don’t want my pudding. What I want instead is a turbo-widget. Let us say that turbo-widgets are unsustainable in that if everybody had one we would run out of biofuel. But I’m a turbo-widget freak and I want one. If I give up my pudding, that will reduce biofuel use which will go a long way to meeting the biofuel use of my turbo-widget.
But let us say turbo-widgets-minus-pudding are still not quite sustainable.
What I was presenting with the firewood chopping was an example of ‘reward for work’. I work harder chopping more wood and so can expect more reward, access to more of the biofuel. So now my turbo-widget ownership is sustainable.
Do you envision that ‘choice’ and ‘reward for work’ would be part of a society where sustainability is a fully assimilated way of life?
(I am conscious that long discussions about sustainability are pretty much off topic for a climate science website, even in an open thread. Given that sustainability has yet to be usefully defined and thus discussing the likes of “principles of sustainable design” would be a little messy, I can imagine the moderators deciding that a sustained dialogue on sustainability is unsustainable here!)
First, as I recall it was you who called me out for leaving out your all-important and meaningless modifier. Second, if you’re gonna go all gangsta on us, at least get the frigging Italian right.
Third, I note that you conveniently forgot about the substance of my query–to wit, how do you meet energy needs in a purely local manner. FWIW, I agree that part of the answer is local. That’s the easy part–at least in those locales where they realize they need sustainable. For those locales that still think everyone can have a Hummer, that won’t work too well.
Ultimately, we are going to need an infrastructure capable of supporting a global population of about 10 billion people by mid century. I do not see how that infrastructure can be developed purely locally.
Killian, your “shameless self-promotion” link is helpful.
I think if you use pointers instead of rewriting or pasting here, people will see your writing in context. It may make more sense to them.
Your site is the productive place to further your discussion, I think.
As it says there: “Any one of these assumptions being incorrect likely invalidates the entire model.”
Argue your assumptions there, citing the climate science here.
Point to the discussions there, where you can be read in context.
Arguing individual assumptions here isn’t interesting people who come here for climate science. Brief pointers work far better than long chunks of text out of context.
Killian wrote: “Is solar [sustainable]? I doubt it as currently produced, but I suspect there is a low-tech way to make solar cells that can support an extremely low-energy society.”
May I respectfully suggest that rather than “doubting” and “suspecting”, you could be informing yourself about the sustainability of solar energy technology. A good place to start is the CleanTechnica.com site which does an excellent job of reporting on developments in the solar industry as well as other renewable energy and efficiency topics.
One thing you’ll find is that “as currently produced” is a very rapidly changing state of affairs for solar, both as to the manufacture of conventional silicon PV panels as well as the development of newer thin-film and organic PV materials.
The solar energy that reaches the Earth’s surface in one hour is more than all of human civilization uses in a year. A society powered by solar is not “an extremely low-energy society”. On the contrary, it is a society which enjoys an abundant, ubiquitous, endless supply of clean energy, provided by technologies that can be safely proliferated to people everywhere, at all scales from rural off-grid villages in Africa to centralized utility/industrial scale power plants in the USA.
Comment by SecularAnimist — 28 Jan 2013 @ 12:52 PM
Ray Ladbury wrote: “how do you meet energy needs in a purely local manner”
How do you define “purely local”?
According to the Energy Self-Reliant States project of the Institute For Local Self-Reliance, “more than 40 states plus the District of Columbia could generate 25 percent of their electricity just with rooftop PV”.
And using today’s generation of wind turbines, 27 states could generate 100 percent (or more!) of their electricity, and 30 states could generate at least half of their electricity, from in-state wind power alone.
MARodger – Your turbo-widget can never be “sustainable” because they’re all made in China using coal power. And if your pudding is Tapioca, you can only have it to give up if Cassava is grown for biofuel in your locavore permaculture. [how come my spellchecker doesn’t include either of those words??]
Killian has presented his case for ‘sustainable local permaculture’, again, as in threads past. The concepts are beautiful, and on a large scale very impractical, Americans in particular are addicted to a wide variety of imported foods, both out-of-season and exotic – I don’t think they grow many bananas or pineapples in Detroit, or Cassava for that matter.
So we’re all aware that human civilization as presently constituted is unsustainable, particularly the high-tech aspects of it, now lets get back to figuring out what the climate is doing
“The 2013 Late lessons from early warnings report is the second of its type produced by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in collaboration with a broad range of external authors and peer reviewers. The case studies across both volumes of Late lessons from early warnings cover a diverse range of chemical and technological innovations, and highlight a number of systemic problems. The ‘Late Lessons Project’ illustrates how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be, using case studies and a synthesis of the lessons to be learned and applied to maximising innovations whilst minimising harms.”
“When the first volume of Late lessons from early warnings was drafted there appeared to be too much legitimate controversy about climate change for the issue to be included. … despite the then widespread acceptance that ‘the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate’….
Over a decade later and after two more reviews by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of a much greater volume of climate change science it seemed appropriate to include climate change in this volume, despite some continuing controversy. The evidence that human activities are having a dangerous impact on the climate has strengthened since 1995.
… Given the size and irreversibility (on human time scales) of many of the harmful effects of human-induced climate change, there is an urgent need for action to reduce CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases. Some contrarian views persist, however, as the authors illustrate. …”
@285 Thanks for that wind power link/map. I’ve thought so, without the numbers. Too bad more of America in prime average wind speed locales is not already on the blades.
On advising a leader who is also a physicist, Dr HJS says of Angela Merkel: She’s a physicist: she knows what a pdf is…a probability density function.
I’m not just interested in wind power (as it um, stands). I’m interested in motion capture–applied to the inherent generating capacity of all the mass that is always already-in-motion on and around this planet. When big wind hits its limits, many pathways remain. In solar there are linked heliostats, and whatever is next, along with photovoltaics.
If the style of generation represents a least bad idea, I am happy to live with it, rather than being, um forced to put it ‘away’ somewhere.
“If you don’t delete or disemvowel inappropriate comments, people will
think you are not even reading the comment threads. If you don’t show up
in person, nobody will know you are even interested in their thoughts. If
you don’t delete the trolls, the trolls will take over and the nice people
will go somewhere else.”
A bit of a quote from the SciAm article linked above:
“There is more and more evidence that a small subset of trolling posts (e.g., those aggressively promoting climate denialism) may be paid for by astroturforganizations funded by some vested interest groups. By peppering every article and post that can remotely have anything to do with their topic of choice, they provide an illusion that their pet movement is bigger than it really is, or that support for their position is more widespread than it really is (which then, if it works, results in the actual rise in the support for their anti-science positions). This then encourages the others (after they got persuaded quickly, without having their own sufficient knowledge …) to keep posting additional comments for free. The first troll comments are supposed to be seeds for more trolling. Which is why it is essential to cut them at the root. You do not want to provide a free platform for a paid political operation….”
There is a great ongoing 9-part series of articles in a Vancouver newspaper explaining the basics of climate change. They are some of the clearest explanations I have seen…I highly recommend taking a look and forwarding to family and friends. I don’t know how to make an active link, but here’s the link to one explaining the difference between weather and climate:
I’m in need of some clarification on what we should be now using as a GWP for methane.
From Archer 2007:
…..so a single molecule of additional methane has a larger impact
on the radiation 5 balance than a molecule of CO2, by about a factor of 24 (Wuebbles and Hayhoe, 2002)……
…..To get an idea of the scale, we note that a doubling of methane
10 from present-day concentration would be equivalent to 60 ppm increase in CO2 from present-day, and 10 times present methane would be equivalent to about a doubling of CO2. A release of 500 Gton C as methane (order 10% of the hydrate reservoir) to the atmosphere would have an equivalent radiative impact to a factor of 10 increase in atmospheric CO2……
…..The current inventory of methane in the atmosphere is about 3 Gton C. Therefore, the release of 1 Gton C of methane catastrophically to the atmosphere would raise the methane concentration by 33%. 10 Gton C would triple atmospheric methane.
Here also GWP methane is taken as 24. As we know 20yr GWP methane is commonly stated as 72 (IPCC) or 100.
Factoring in findings of :
Large methane releases lead to strong aerosol forcing and reduced cloudiness 2011 T. Kurt ´en1,2, L. Zhou1, R. Makkonen1, J. Merikanto1, P. R¨ais¨anen3, M. Boy1,N. Richards4, A. Rap4, S. Smolander1, A. Sogachev5, A. Guenther6, G. W. Mann4,K. Carslaw4, and M. Kulmala1
-That previous GWP methane figures need x1.8 correction factor….
We should be using 20yr GWP methane of 130 or 180. This is 5.4 or 7.5 times the 24 GWP that Archer 2007 appears to be using.
So maybe the above should say, looking at a 20yr period(using the 100 becomes 180 gwp):
…..To get an idea of the scale, we note that a [100% increase/7.5= 13% increase] of methane from present-day concentration would be equivalent to 60 ppm increase in CO2 from present-day, and [10 times/7.5= 1.333times] present methane would be equivalent to about a doubling of CO2. A release of [500/7.5=66.7] Gton C as methane (order [10%/7.5=1.3%] of the hydrate reservoir) to the atmosphere would have an equivalent radiative impact to a factor of 10 increase in atmospheric CO2……
Comment by Aaron Franklin — 30 Jan 2013 @ 11:46 PM
Study Rebuts Hypothesis That Comet Attacks Ended 9,000-Year-Old Clovis Culture http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131095314.htm
claims that the tektites are not 13,000 years old. However, not only did Clovis culture disappear but many species of large mammals simultaneously became extinct. Finally, there is a potential impact carter of Holocene age at the bottom of Lake Ontario.
So the mysteries surrounding the beginning of Younger Dryas remain…
Comment by David B. Benson — 31 Jan 2013 @ 7:05 PM